By Tori Ward, Cruise and Resort Specialist, ROX Travel & Christopher Warren | Photos by Tori Ward
When I invited my grown son to celebrate a mommy and me milestone birthday cruise in Northern Europe this spring, I asked myself if I could be a traveling partner and not a mom.
The answer was “yes,” except for the one time in Culzean Castle, Scotland when I wanted to shout, “Hands in pockets, hands in pockets!” That child has to touch everything.
When we returned I asked him to share his memories of the trip. This is our story.
Christopher: May is a perfect time to visit the UK and Ireland. The skies are blue, the sunsets magnificent and the shades of green highlight the sturdy Hawthorne bushes bursting in soft white blooms.
If the natural beauty, the bobbing fishing boats and the rocky harbors weren’t enough to make you fall in love with the area, the locals were the main attraction. Friendly, helpful and relaxed with a yarn to spin about every mile we traveled.
Tori: The aforementioned Culzean Castle was just one of many castles we visited on our itinerary that included Guernsey, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and France. While a tour of Stonehenge was essential, my favorite moments were the little surprises we didn’t plan.
The antique book store casually supervised by two elderly men in rocking chairs. They seemed to exist on book dust and tea. Their shop was a treasure trove of Queen Elizabeth commemorative thimbles, literature from the Nazi occupation of the island during WWII and ancient nautical handbooks.
And, while we couldn’t not see Edinburgh Castle, the sprawling fortress that dominates the town, the port city of Queensferry and the morning we spent exploring and locating a forested hiking trail that parallels the harbor, was mysterious and energizing.
Christopher: Many of our excursions were pre-planned and shared. However, as a Navy veteran my most profound tour was a solo trip to the beaches of Normandy.
On Arromanches Beach, where the Canadians came ashore during the D-Day invasion, I broke from the group and considered how I would approach such a long, flat, desolate beach. Compared to this Gold’s Beach landing area however, our next destination, Omaha Beach, overwhelmed me with sorrow.
I witnessed countless white crosses at the battlefield grave complex that represented just a small number of the many sons and daughters that were lost during the war. The silence was respectful providing this shore with a blanket of peace for the souls lost there.
Tori: An unexpected treat, about mid-way through our cruise was a trip to Alloway, the childhood home of Robert Burns, Scotland’s famous poet who many of us know from the song, Auld Lang Syne. We stopped at the Brig a’ Doon’s Coven Restaurant where the door was staffed by a gentleman in full Highland Dress, bagpipes rattling. Soon the entry was flooded by men in kilts and ladies in fascinators who were assembling for a wedding reception.
Christopher: As a novice pleasure cruiser, I was fascinated by the technology on board this Princess ship. It took me a while, though, when I got home to remember the little medallion I wore on my wrist to summons a waiter wouldn’t work with my spouse.
Tori: I was feeling a bit sad as I packed on our final day, but cheered myself that in only two weeks I would be packing again for a Greek vacation with Christopher’s daughter, my oldest granddaughter.
Christopher and Tori: When people asked what the best part of the cruise was it was spending time with each other, great conversations and new memories.
More families are exploring multigenerational travel. Cruising is a good way to “dip your toe in the water,” because ships and their venues are large and diverse enough to allow each person or generation to find something that appeals to them while still allowing you to share mealtimes or quiet moments.
Currency. If you are traveling to both the UK and Ireland, remember to bring both pounds and euros. I heard more than one person exclaiming with disappointment when they couldn’t use euros in Belfast, Northern Ireland and Scotland when they had been able to use them in Blarney and Cork, in the Republic of Ireland.
Even if your all-American son looks appalled, try the high-tea on sea days. It’s a cruising joy and something we rarely have time for at home. He discovered he enjoyed it.
Bring wet-weather gear. Sudden showers and foggy mists are very common, although we were blessed with wonderful weather. Layers are the best form of dress.
Navigating London Heathrow or any large international airport can be overwhelming if you aren’t a frequent traveler. When making flight arrangements for any cruise, it’s safest to build in “a day before boarding” arrival to avoid the panic of thinking you are going to miss your departure.