Sailing The British Isles with Ed Buchholz on Cunard’s Queen Victoria | All About Stornoway, Scotland

Hosted Cruise – Cunard Queen Victoria – 12 Nights
June 7 – 19, 2020
British Isles

Port of Call – Stornoway, Scotland – June 12

Located in the Western Isles of Scotland is a fascinating town called Stornoway. With a history dating back many centuries, a beautiful setting and much to please the eye, Stornoway of Lewis is well worth a visit.

Stornoway is said to have begun as a Viking settlement that progressively grew in a lovely natural harbor. The town’s name is believed to come from the word ‘Stjornavgr’, which means “Steering Bay” in Norse. Sometime in the 1100s a castle was built proudly overlooking the town by the MacNicol family. Stornoway Castle was annexed by Leod, predecessor to the MacLeods of Lewis. The Middle Ages saw much fighting amongst Scottish clans and the MacLeod family was much despised by the government in Edinburgh. King James VI attempted to remove their influence in 1597, but did not succeed. In the 1600s the castle of Stornoway was crushed by forces led by Oliver Cromwell. The town came under control of the MacKenzies.

As time progressed, Stornoway town saw the rising of buildings, a port and other developments. In 1844 the area of Lewis, including Stornoway was bought by Sir James Matheson. Matheson was responsible for the construction of Lewis Castle. Then in 1918, Lewis was sold to Lord Leverhume.

Today, Stornoway is a popular tourist destination. A busy little town with a bustling harbor, visitors to Stornoway will have a delightful adventure. The town is a doorway to the island of Lewis and its many attractions dating far back in history. Stornoway itself offers sightseers plenty to view including the Stornoway Town Hall, Lewis Castle, the arts center and Lewis Loom Center. Many streets have been made available only for use by pedestrians. Around the town center, visitors will discover pleasant stores including those which sell Harris Tweed.

Located on the castle grounds you will find Stornoway Golf Club. Interestingly, this is the only golf course in the Outer Hebrides with 18 holes.

Top Attractions:

The Narrows:  Start in the centre of town and stroll these pedestrian streets.  There are plenty of shops to browse here, as well as pubs, butchers, the local art gallery, and the Stornoway Town Hall.  On a sunny day you could be mistaken for thinking you were somewhere more tropical, thanks to the brightly painted facades of the buildings!

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Lews Castle:  The Castle started life in the 1680s as Seaforth Lodge; it wasn’t until Sir James Matheson bought the land in 1840 that construction began on the building that we image004know today, using the fortune Matheson had amassed through his role in the opium trade. (In short, the Castle was basically built with drug money from China – how’s that for a bit of scandalous local history?)

Lord Leverhulme bought the island in 1918, modernizing the Castle further, before the building and the land surrounding it came into public ownership in the Twenties. Since then it’s been a WW II naval hospital, student accommodation, and even lain derelict. After extensive renovations, the Castle reopened this year, providing a home for the local museum, a café, shop, and the latest addition to the luxury accommodation line-up of Natural Retreats: it’s now a must-see on any visit to Stornoway.

Castle Grounds:  Outside the castle, you’ll find sprawling grounds that are ideal for taking a stroll.  You’ll find many people taking their dogs on woodland walks around the vast 270 hectares of trails and pathways that follow the River Creed as it winds its way down towards the mouth of the harbour. Listen for the sound of herons and if lucky, you will also spot seals in the waters.

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Museum Nan Eilean:  A modern extension built to the back of Lews Castle holds the Islands museum which, is funded by Western Isles Council (Comhairle nan Eilean Siar) among others. The museum offers an interactive insight into the culture, history and diversity of life for those living on the Islands, from prehistory to present day. The museum also features artifacts from history, some of the infamous Lewis chessmen, to more the current Nike and Vivienne Westwood tweed collaborations.

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Ready to dive in and join this amazing sailing through the British Isles?  Reach out to the team at UNIGLOBE Carefree Travel Group in Saskatoon at 306-242-TRIP today!

Sailing The British Isles with Ed Buchholz on Cunard’s Queen Victoria | All About Dublin

Hosted Cruise – Cunard Queen Victoria – 12 Nights
June 7 – 19, 2020
British Isles

Port of Call – Dublin, Ireland – June 10

Dublin has been in the news since the 9th century, and while traces of its Viking past have been largely washed away, the city is a living museum of its history since then, with medieval castles and cathedrals on display alongside the architectural splendours of its 18th-century heyday, when Dublin was the most handsome Georgian city of the British Empire and a fine reflection of the aspirations of its most privileged citizens. How power was wrested from their hands is another story, and you’ll learn that one in its museums and on its walking tours.

The pub remains the alpha and omega of social interaction in Dublin. The city’s relationship with alcohol is complex and conflicted but, at its very best, the pub is the perfect social lubricant and one of the highlights of a visit to Dublin. Every Dubliner has their favourite haunt, from the never-changing traditional pub to whatever new opening is bringing in people. With more than 1000 of them spread about the city, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

For as long as it’s been around, Dublin has looked beyond Irish shores for inspiration. Once the second city of the (British) Empire, Dublin has always maintained a pretty cosmopolitan outlook and in the last three decades has conspicuously embraced diversity and multiculturalism. You’ll hear languages and eat foods from all four corners of the globe.

Top Attractions:

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Irish Pubs:  With over a thousand pubs in Dublin, it’s not hard to find one and you’ll enjoy the warm Irish hospitality.  A couple famous pubs include:

  • John Mulligan’s – This brilliant old boozer is a cultural institution, established in 1782 and in this location since 1854. A drink (or more) here is like attending liquid services at a most sacred, secular shrine. John F Kennedy paid his respects in 1945, when he joined the cast of regulars that seems barely to have changed since.
  • The Hairy Lemon Pub – Traditional Irish music, or trad, is one reason many people visit Ireland. And The Hairy Lemon Pubis certainly unconventional… you never know what you’ll find in this aptly-named green and yellow 19th-century house. One thing is for sure, The Hairy Lemon does the best Trad Sessions in Dublin! If you have never been to an Irish Trad Session, prepare yourself for an unusual experience, it can get pretty wild especially when the Guinness is flowing. The Hairy Lemon is also known for their traditional Irish food like Dublin Coddle, Cottage Pie and Irish Stew.

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Trinity College:  Created in 1592, Trinity College is Ireland’s oldest university, hosting students such as author Bram Stoker, poet Oscar Wilde and Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels.  The building has also been home to the ancient Book Of Kells since 1661. The Book of Kells Exhibition in Trinity College is a must-see in Dublin.  The Old Library houses 200,000 ancient books in beautiful oak bookcases, which is why J.K. Rowling used it as inspiration for Hogwarts in Harry Potter! The library is one of the most popular Instagram spots in Dublin too.

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Guiness Storehouse:  The most popular visit in town is this multimedia homage to Guinness in a converted grain storehouse that is part of the 26-hectare brewery. Across its seven floors you’ll discover everything about Guinness before getting to taste the brew in the top-floor Gravity Bar, with panoramic views. The floor directly below has a very good restaurant.

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Kilmainham Gaol:  If you have any desire to understand Irish history – especially the long-running resistance to British rule – then a visit to this former prison is an absolute must. A threatening grey building, built in 1796, it’s played a role in virtually every act of Ireland’s painful path to independence, and even today, despite closing in 1924, it still has the power to chill.

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St. Patrick’s Cathedral: Founded in 1191, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest church in Ireland, and the National Cathedral. It has been said this is where St. Patrick himself baptized Christian converts over 1500 years ago.  Unusually, St. Patrick’s isn’t the only Cathedral in Dublin. It’s a “two-cathedral” city, sharing the title with Christ Church Cathedral nearby. The writer Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels, was once Dean of the cathedral. He’s buried there too.

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Glasnevin Cemetery: Built in 1832, Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery is surrounded by seven watchtowers which were home to armed guards. Ireland’s most famous cemetery was a key target for bodysnatchers!  It was also the final resting place for many historical figures like Michael Colins, a soldier and politician who played a key role in the struggle for Irish independence, Brendan Behan, Irish poet, novelist, and playwright who was imprisoned for IRA activity and Luke Kelly, vocalist in one of Ireland’s greatest bands, The Dubliners.  Nowadays, Glasnevin Cemetery Museum has vowed to tell the stories of over 1.5 million people, the people who helped to shape the Ireland of today. They also have the best tools for your family’s Irish genealogy search.

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There are many more wonderful sights to see in Dublin, including the Ha’Penny Bridge, Oscar Wilde Statue, Howth Cliff Walk, St, Michen Church Mummies and so much more.  This will be a magnificent port of call on this cruise!  Don’t miss out!


Ready to dive in and join this amazing sailing through the British Isles?  Reach out to the team at UNIGLOBE Carefree Travel Group in Saskatoon at 306-242-TRIP today!

Sailing The British Isles with Ed Buchholz on Cunard’s Queen Victoria | All About Ringaskiddy

Hosted Cruise – Cunard Queen Victoria – 12 Nights
June 7 – 19, 2020
British Isles

Port of Call – Cork (tours from Ringaskiddy), Ireland – June 9

For the first time ever, the Queen Victoria will be docking in Ringaskiddy, Ireland.  Ringaskiddy is a village in County Cork, Ireland. It is located on the western side of Cork Harbour, south of Cobh, and is 15 kilometres from Cork city, so it makes a perfect jumping off point to visit Cork.

According to Lonely Planet, Ireland’s second city is first in every important respect – at least according to the locals, who cheerfully refer to it as the ‘real capital of Ireland’. It’s a liberal, youthful and cosmopolitan place that was badly hit by economic recession but is now busily reinventing itself with spruced-up streets, revitalized stretches of waterfront, and – seemingly – an artisan coffee bar on every corner. There’s a bit of a hipster scene, but the best of the city is still happily traditional – snug pubs with live-music sessions, restaurants dishing up top-quality local produce, and a genuinely proud welcome from the locals.

The compact city centre is set on an island in the River Lee, surrounded by waterways and packed with grand Georgian avenues, cramped 17th-century alleys, modern masterpieces such as the opera house, and narrow streets crammed with pubs, shops, cafes and restaurants, fed by arguably the best foodie scene in the country.

Top Attractions – Cork:

Cork City Gaol:  This imposing former prison is well worth a visit, if only to get a sense of how awful life was for prisoners a century ago. An audio tour guides you around the restored cells, which feature models of suffering prisoners and sadistic-looking guards.

image001The tour is very moving, bringing home the harshness of the 19th-century penal system. The most common crime was that of poverty; many of the inmates were sentenced to hard labour for stealing loaves of bread. The prison closed in 1923, reopening in 1927 as a radio station that operated until the 1950s. The on-site Governor’s House has been converted into a Radio Museum where, alongside collections of beautiful old radios, you can hear the story of radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi’s conquest of the airwaves.

English Market:  With its ornate vaulted ceilings, columns and polished marble fountain, scores of vendors set up colourful and photogenic displays of the region’s very best local produce, including meat, fish, fruit, cheeses and takeaway food. The envy of foodies throughout Ireland, the English Market has been around since 1788. Far from being English (it’s named for its Protestant origins), this is the place to pick up traditional specialties like drisheen and pigs’ trotters, although the 55 or so stalls also stock bread, fish, cheese and fruit and veg. The market has survived fire, civil war and an attempted name change, but it took a failed bid to replace it with a car park in the 1980s for the people of Cork to realize that their culinary capital was worth saving! Today hailed as the “best covered market in the UK and Ireland” by chef Rick Stein, the English Market is thriving.

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Elizabeth Fort:  Originally built in the 1620s, and serving as a garda (police) station from 1929 to 2013, this small star-shaped artillery fort once formed an important part of the city’s defenses. Newly opened to the public, it offers an insight into Cork’s military history, and there are good views across the city from the ramparts.

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St Fin Barre’s Cathedral:  Spiky spires, gurning gargoyles and elaborate sculpture adorn the exterior of Cork’s Protestant cathedral, an attention-grabbing mixture of French Gothic and medieval whimsy. The grandeur continues inside, with marble floor mosaics, a colourful chancel ceiling and a huge pulpit and bishop’s throne. Quirky items include a cannonball blasted into an earlier medieval spire during the Siege of Cork (1690). The cathedral sits about 500m southwest of the centre, on the spot where Cork’s 7th-century patron saint, Fin Barre, founded a monastery.

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Across the bay, is another potential tour.  Cobh (pronounced ‘cove’) is a charming waterfront town on a glittering estuary, dotted with brightly coloured houses and overlooked by a splendid cathedral. It’s popular with Corkonians looking for a spot of R&R.  It’s a far cry from the harrowing Famine years when more than 70,000 people left Ireland through the port in order to escape the ravages of starvation (from 1848 to 1950, no fewer than 2.5 million emigrants passed through). Cobh was also the final port of call for the Titanic; a poignant museum commemorates the fatal voyage’s point of departure.

Top Attractions – Cobh:

Titanic Experience: The original White Star Line offices, where 123 passengers embarked on (and one lucky soul absconded from) the RMS Titanic, now house this powerful insight into the ill-fated liner’s final voyage in 1912. Admission is by tour, which is partly guided and partly interactive, with holograms, audiovisual presentations and exhibits; allow at least an hour. The technical wizardry is impressive but what’s most memorable is standing on the spot from where passengers were ferried to the waiting ship offshore, never to return.

Spike Island: This low-lying green island in Cork Harbour was once an important part of the port’s defenses, topped by an 18th-century artillery fort. In the second half of the 19th century, during the Irish War of Independence, and from 1984 to 2004 it served as a prison, gaining the nickname ‘Ireland’s Alcatraz’. Today you can enjoy a guided walking tour of the former prison buildings, then go off and explore on your own; the ferry departs from Kennedy Pier, Cobh.

The guided tour takes in the modern prison, the old punishment block, the shell store (once used as a children’s prison) and No 2 bastion with its massive 6in gun. Other highlights include the Gun Park, with a good display of mostly 20th-century artillery; the Mitchell Hall, with an exhibit on the Aud, a WWI German gun-running ship that was sunk in the entrance to Cork Harbour; and the Glacis Walk, a 1.5km trail that leads around the walls of the fortress, with great views of Cobh town and the harbour entrance. You’ll need around four hours to make the most of a visit.

Cobh, The Queenstown Story:  The howl of the storm almost knocks you off-balance, there’s a bit of fake vomit on the deck, and the people in the pictures all look pretty miserable – that’s just one room at Cobh Heritage Centre. Housed in the old train station (next to the current station), this interactive museum is way above average, chronicling Irish emigrations across the Atlantic in the wake of the Great Famine.

Other exhibits include some shocking stuff on the fate of convicts, shipped to Australia in transport ships ‘so airless that candles could not burn’. Scenes of sea travel in the 1950s, however, might actually make you nostalgic for a more gracious way of travelling the world. There’s also a genealogy centre and a cafe.

St. Coleman’s Cathedral:  Dramatically perched on a hillside terrace above Cobh, this massive French Gothic Cathedral is out of all proportion to the town. Its most exceptional feature is the 47-bell carillon, the largest in Ireland, with a range of four octaves. The biggest bell weighs a stonking 3440kg – about as much as a full-grown elephant!

image009Blarney Castle:  Built nearly six hundred years ago by one of Ireland’s greatest chieftans, Cormac MacCarthy, and has been attracting attention ever since. Over the last few hundred years, millions have flocked to Blarney making it a world landmark and one of Ireland’s greatest treasures.

Now that might have something to do with the Blarney Stone, the legendary Stone of Eloquence, found at the top of the towerKiss it and you’ll never again be lost for words.

Ready to join me on this amazing sailing experience?  You can find the full cruise details here or just call the agents at UNIGLOBE Carefree Travel at 306-242-TRIP today!

Sailing The British Isles with Ed Buchholz on Cunard’s Queen Victoria

Hosted Cruise – Cunard Queen Victoria – 12 Nights
June 7 – 19, 2020
British Isles

Welcome to the first blog for our upcoming Cunard Cruise aboard the beautiful Queen Victoria.  We will be sailing from and returning to Southampton, England.  This means you can easily add on time in the UK either before or after the cruise and return airfare will be easy to arrange from several airlines.

The purpose of this blog is to provide you with some information about the ship, Queen Victoria.  Subsequent blogs will highlight some of the wonderful ports of call we will have on this voyage.  First, here are some details:

Length294 m

Construction startedMay 12, 2006

LaunchedJanuary 15, 2007

Capacity2,081 passengers

Crew900

Retrofit: 2017

Tonnage: 90,049

So, that’s the technical data but what about Cunard and the ship experience?  Click on the link below and you will see a wonderful YouTube video about the Queen Victoria.  Check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=667AqY0b6QU

Lovely ship, isn’t it.  Since I haven’t sailed on this ship before, I thought some independent reviews might be important.  The following descriptions are courtesy of “Cruise Critic” and really give you a good idea of what to expect:

“Queen Victoria is elegance personified. In typically understated British style, the ship doesn’t do glitzy or loud, so ambience overall is modest rather than striking. Do not expect even the slightest hint of neon or glitz nor — perish the thought — rock climbing walls or bumper cars. Luxurious furnishings and eye-catching features lend an air of extravagance to the onboard atmosphere with muted colors and lots of dark wood. Architecture is in keeping with the ambiance of Cunard ocean liners of times past while the interior design offers the contemporary elegance of a modern luxury hotel.

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Cunard cashes in on its impressive heritage, sense of occasion and somewhat old-fashioned pursuits including ballroom dancing and bridge. An outdoor Games Deck harkens back to the days of the ’20s and ’30s with croquet, shuffleboard, hoopla, deck quoits and paddle tennis. No hint of brashness here. Loyal followers also totally approve of the fact that the cruise line employs a stricter dress code than that followed on other mainstream lines.

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Queen Victoria is almost a replica of her bigger sister Queen Elizabeth, at least as far as layout, cabins and enrichment programs go. One difference is that the decor throughout the ship is darker Victorian rather than Queen Elizabeth’s lighter Art Deco-inspired interiors, but the public areas of the ship are every bit as splendid with an earth tone color palette of creamy beige, chestnut brown and gold, with mahogany walls, circular hand-woven area rugs and intricately designed marble floors.

Everywhere you turn there is a treat for the eyes, from the glittering chandeliers and white gloved waiters serving scones at afternoon tea to elegant restaurants and deep, rich carpets. One of the ship’s signature features is the stunning three-tier Grand Lobby with its unique artwork, sweeping staircase and sculpted balconies. With a dramatic triple-height ceiling, the lobby serves as a majestic focal point and is the center of onboard activity. It forms the core from which the ship’s other public rooms flow. A bronzed-effect sculptural representation of the cruise ship emerging from a sun motif coordinated with a marquetry relief depicting a map of the world graces the staircase landing and is visible from nearly every part of the Grand Lobby.

The 4,000 square foot Royal Arcade on Deck 3, inspired by the Royal and Burlington Arcades in London, features a grand staircase at the forward end. Light wood paneling contrasts with green marble and gold and white stone textures. The centerpiece of this area is a custom-built, chiming pillar clock by English clockmaker Dent & Co., clockmaker to Queen Victoria and whose most famous work is Big Ben in London. The clock housing is black with gold-leaf lettering and backlit dials are opal acrylic with black Roman numerals.

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The 830-seat, three-deck Royal Court Theatre on Deck 3 was designed to emulate the grandeur and luxury of the spectacular designs of architect Frank Matcham, whose dramatic multi-tiered theatres made him one of the most prolific theatre designers, with over 80 venues to his name. The ambience is similar to a 19th-century theatre with lots of rich brocade fabric, deep red velvet curtains and murals framing the walls.

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However, while all of this may sound very posh, this ship is not just the preserve of the wealthy. During the day you can relax and unwind in the Royal Spa while at night there are live theatre shows, music and dancing in the bars and lounges. The ship has enough classy, small to midsize public rooms and various nooks and crannies for guests to relax, read or enjoy a drink and a chat.

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Like the other Cunard ships, Queen Victoria operates a class system in which the cabin grade you choose dictates where you eat. This means for those who want to splash the cash, the Queens Grill and Princess Grill provide top notch accommodations and more upmarket dining options. Having said that, around 80 percent of passengers are happily ensconced in Britannia-grade cabins and dine in the stylish Britannia Restaurant.

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Passengers’ peace is not disturbed by multiple announcements either — there is just one announcement a day — at noon, by the captain, telling of the ship’s progress.

To sum up, Queen Victoria is a comfortable, graceful cruise ship best suited to couples, single travelers and mature cruisers.

For first-timer cruisers, Queen Victoria is a good choice. It isn’t one of the huge cruise ships so has a more intimate, friendly feel. Also a plus point for those new-to-cruising is that they won’t get lost trying to find their way around. Cruisers — especially those who enjoy dressing up for dinner — can expect an elegant experience on this well laid out ship.

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We hope you will consider joining us on the amazing voyage.  For additional information, please contact UNIGLOBE Carefree Travel at 306-242-TRIP (8747) or if you are out of town 1-800-565-6562.  Watch for the next blog, focusing on one of the many interesting ports!

You can find out more about this sailing by clicking here.  

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