We woke on Saturday morning to brilliant blue skies and bright sunshine…do you sense a pattern here? Everyone we encountered throughout the cruise said this was the best summer in decades. One person said since 1976…the same year I moved back to the states. I was sixteen. You can do the math!
After a quick breakfast with a waitress who seemed irritated by our presence at 7:00 on a Saturday, we retreated to 219 to pack up our last minute items, and it was cruise time! It took us a few minutes to schlep our bags down a half-flight of stairs and through the maze of carpeted corridors to the elevator, but we made it and were in the lobby at exactly 7:45.
We were one of three couples who travelled together to the port by way of Stonehenge and Salisbury. Woodford Cars/Cruise Connection was our car service, and they were excellent. We had a very comfortable vehicle, an excellent driver, and best of all a loot hauler (luggage trailer) so we had plenty of room to spread out.
The ride to Stonehenge was uneventful. We were early enough on a Saturday that traffic wasn’t bad at all, and we were easily at Stonehenge in time for our 10:00 admission tickets (purchased on-line in advance). I was the only one of the six of us who had been to Stonehenge, and I would be lying if I didn’t say I was shocked by how much it’s changed. Not un-like the popular London attractions, as the site became more visited/crowded it also evolved and became more commercialized. Granted, it’s been at least as long as the last summer with weather like this one since I had been to Stonehenge, but I remember a (dirt?) road leading to a very small parking lot. From the parking lot you could walk to, among, and even on the stones! There was no visitors’ center, no shuttle bus, and if I recall correctly, there were no restrooms! There definitely wasn’t a gift shop!
Obviously, the stones themselves haven’t changed, but the number of visitors certainly has! Jim snapped this picture on my phone. It reminds us of the caravan in Field of Dreams…If you build it, they will come! I’m not sure that’s what they had in mind several thousand years ago, but they built it and now they come!😂
You now take a shuttle from the Visitors’ Center to the stones — drop off is where the old parking lot was. The stones are viewed from a path surrounding them, and the stones themselves are roped off to keep visitors away. Understandable, given the number of visitors and the need to preserve the ancient site. I tried so hard to get a couple shots without people in them, but it was a difficult task!
Putting aside annoyances with how much the experience of visiting the site has changed, it is fascinating. The earliest wood temple on the site dates back to 5,000 B.C., with the installation of large stones starting around 2,500 B.C. It really is incomprehensible to try to picture how the stones were brought to the site and erected.
So, what was Stonehenge used for? A temple? A burial ground? A calendar? The answer is yes to all of those to various degrees. There are probably many more uses that we’re not aware of, and many historians, scientists, and archaeologists have put forth theories of the purpose of Stonehenge. We may never know the answers to many of the questions that still surround the site.
Our visit wasn’t a long one…we were headed to Salisbury and wanted to be at the ship early in the afternoon. We had enough time to walk slowly around the stones, explore the Visitors’ Center sights, and we were off. It was quite a bit more crowded by the time we left, so we were glad we had gotten an early start and purchased tickets in advance. The stream of cars creeping towards Stonehenge was seemingly endless.
Everybody goes to Stonehenge, but from my perspective virtually nobody visits Salisbury, and I’m not sure why. The village is charming, the cathedral is stunning, and then there’s the Magna Carta.
The main section of Salisbury Cathedral was built between 1220 and 1258, with the cloisters, chapter house, and spire added later. The flying buttresses were added some years after the spire to prevent the collapse of the cathedral under the enormous weight of the steeple.
While the architecture inside the cathedral retains its classic style, there is a very notable modern addition. The stunning baptismal font at Salisbury Cathedral was installed in 2008 to commemorate the 750th anniversary of the consecretion of the cathedral.
The Magna Carta is housed in the Chapter House, an octagonal building that was constructed in the years after the completion of the cathedral.
The next 2 pictures are stock images I found on the internet:
There are four surviving original copies of the Magna Carta, and the one housed at Salisbury Cathedral is considered to be the best. The Magna Carta originated in 1215 as an attempt to bring peace between royalist and rebel factions. Although the (quite radical) document didn’t have an impact when and as it was written, it eventually became part of statute law in England. Although the original document concerned the relationship between a monarch and barons, the Magna Carta is also significant in U.S. history as it profoundly impacted the original colonists and influenced the U.S. Constitution.
Photography of the document isn’t permitted, but I found this image on the internet. I was stunned at the intricate penmanship…a lost art these days!
After we left the cathedral, we made a quick stop at a grocery store for some allergy medicine (I’ve never encountered so many things blooming at once anywhere!) 🌺🌿🌻 and we were off to Southampton! It wasn’t a long drive at all, and we were soon pulling up to the Royal Princess!
We dropped off bags, were upstairs in the terminal quickly, and we were met with CHAOS! There were people everywhere, and as it was after 2:00 we couldn’t figure out what the problem could be.
I’m so thankful that we had priority boarding. For us there was no real wait, We checked in, slowly made our way through security (we were stuck behind some of the people you never want to be behind in a security line🙄), and we were on the ship. For those without priority, the wait was substantial. We found out the gangway had been out of commission for over an hour, and check-in had come to a complete stop. I’m glad we had been out touring, because it saved us an uncomfortable wait in a crowded terminal!
Our cabin was C429, a mid-ship mini suite with an extended balcony. This wasn’t the first cabin I chose for this cruise, or even the second, third, or fourth! I originally booked a deluxe balcony, but after our cruise on the Regal last fall we decided we wanted more storage space and moved to a mini-suite. After that, I changed decks and sides of the ship several times until I finally landed in a great location. The mini suites on the Royal class aren’t huge, but the storage was more than adequate for us, and I liked being able to put everything away. Obviously these pictures were taken later in the trip when we were well settled in!
Just a side note…when we got home we had a message on our answering machine from Princess. They called after we left for London because they wanted to offer us a complimentary upgrade. We missed it because they had our home number and not my cell number.😢 Lesson learned! In the future, I will make sure my cell phone is the primary contact number!
A quick look around, a couple dinner reservations, and it was time for lunch with Deedee and Chip. We went to Alfredo’s and enjoyed salads, Calzones, personal pizzas, and Eggplant Parmigiana. And Sangria. Lots and lots of sangria!🍹Somehow we all ended up with our own carafe because we were told it was a bargain! Oh well, we didn’t have to drive!
Muster was next, and it was reasonably painless. We were assigned to the Concerto Dining room, so since we didn’t have to bring life jackets 👏🏻 we went straight there from Alfredos. After muster I ran to our cabin to do a quick freshen up and grab my camera, counted suitcases (yay, everything was there!), and headed up to the Outrigger Bar for our Cruise Critic Meet & Greet/Sailaway Party.
We had a good turnout, but we also encountered a problem. There were several no-shows. Unfortunately, two of the no-shows were sisters who had very enthusiastically volunteered to make name tags.😰 It really was difficult to put names with faces without the tags, but we did the best we could. I was also a little worried because the sisters and their husbands were on two tours I had arranged and at least one more from the roll call. The next day I called the name tag volunteer who said she went to the wrong place. I had my doubts, because the day/time/location were well publicized, but decided to believe her. Sadly, my doubts would prove to be well-founded, but that’s a story for another day.🤔
Jim and I didn’t do much else on boarding day. We stayed at the Outrigger for quite a while. I wanted (needed) to get unpacked and put everything away, and by the time that task was finished it was getting late. We ran up to Horizon Court for a dinner snack, and went to bed early. We had six more days of touring before a “day off” and I knew from experience I would need all the sleep I could find!
I seldom sleep better than I do at sea, and June 30, 2018 was no exception. I attempted to type notes for my blog, but after falling asleep at the keyboard three times I gave up and called it a day!