We woke on Sunday to grungy grey skies and rain. What?!? This was a British Isles cruise. We were prepared for rain, but we weren’t supposed to get any!😂 Oh well, rain or shine the show must go on!
We grabbed a quick bite to eat, packed our rain gear and other assorted supplies for the day, and met the rest of our group (8 of us from the Royal Princess) at Vines at 7:30. I had read enough scary reports about tendering in Guernsey that we wanted to ensure we had plenty of time to make our tour. In fact, we had a plan for both directions. We were going to return early in the afternoon to avoid the horrible waits that had been reported. You know what they say about plans, right? But I’m getting ahead of myself…
The morning plan worked like a charm. We never even made it into the Symphony Dining Room for tender tickets — we were early enough we walked right on to a boat! I would say the tender ride took about 15 minutes, and there we were in Guernsey with almost an hour before our walking tour. Thankfully the rain had given way to clouds, so we stowed the rain gear and amused ourselves with free WiFi. Well, most of us did. Jim had to live vicariously through the rest of us since his phone had gone where all overpriced Apple products seem to go on a regularly scheduled basis!😳
Our plan for the day was a morning walking tour with Annette Henry, some quality shopping time, lunch at one of the delicious looking restaurants we had found on Trip Advisor, a walk over to the castle, and an early-ish return to the ship to beat the late afternoon tender lines. The first part of our plan went off without a hitch. We found Annette Henry to be an extremely knowledgeable guide. She is a Guernsey native, so in addition to using props and engaging her audience to tell a story, she also has first-hand knowledge and can convey the information as only someone who’s lived it can do.
We wandered through the beautiful streets and up and down the many stairs of Guernsey, with Annette telling the story of her home as we went along.
We learned about the vennels that were built to provide a fast route from the shore to the center of town. These dark, narrow passageways/staircases provided a quick route for everyone, including pirates, prostitutes, and unfortunately rats carrying the Bubonic Plague. Even today, some of the vennels don’t look very appealing…I decided I didn’t need to explore.
Queen Victoria is revered in Guernsey, as she was the first reigning monarch to visit in 1846. Although Victoria and Albert were already married when they visited, Annette included the story of Victoria’s many suitors, and she used props and some of us to tell the story. Apparently one of Victoria’s would-be husbands didn’t suit her because he had too much facial hair and acne (that was Jim’s role!), and another was dismissed because he was partially blind. I have no way of knowing if that’s fact or fiction, but it was fun, entertaining, and kept everyone engaged.
While we walked, we learned about the cost and availability of housing in Guernsey. Housing in Guernsey is divided into two types…local market and open market. Local market housing is restricted to those who are natives of Guernsey, have at least one parent who falls into that classification, or have a partner who is a native. Open market housing is available to anyone, regardless of their citizenship status. It is much more limited than local market housing, and as a result is extremely expensive. Since Guernsey is a relatively small island with limited housing, the rules help control the population at a level that gives all a high quality of life.
We also heard about some of the darker times in Guernsey’s history. On a steep staircase Annette told the tragic story of three women. Catherine Cauches and her daughters Perotine Massey and Guillemine Gilbert were convicted of heresy and sentenced to death by hanging and burning. During the execution Perotine gave birth, and even though the baby was rescued from the flames the bailiff ordered the baby to be burned along with his mother. The memory of these women is represented on a plaque and serves as a glimpse at a dark period in history.
This was another event where Annette called on us to play the parts of the three women, and I’ll be honest…it was a little over the top for me. She even had a noose she used as a prop. I took a photo of the scene complete with the noose around a lady’s neck, but I’m not going to post it because the thought of being burned alive and having a newborn thrown in the fire freaked me out. I enjoyed almost everything about our tour, but that audience participation segment gave me the creeps.
At the top of a hill overlooking the town and the harbor, we heard the story of the German occupation of Guernsey during WWII. 5,000 children were evacuated from the island, among them Annette’s mother and uncle. Other family members stayed behind and endured the hardships of life on an occupied island with dwindling food supplies and increasing tension between the islanders and the occupying forces. Annette shared the story through her relatives’ experiences, photos, and artifacts from the time.
Our tour ended with a demonstration by Annette…she showed us how they used to deal with thieves “back in the day.” I have to admit, if I had been walking by I probably would have done a double-take.😳 I could tell Annette is extremely proud of her home and enjoys helping visitors get to know Guernsey. Her tour would appeal to people of all ages, and it was a great introduction to Guernsey.
Our time with Annette ended about 11:15, and we walked down to a place called Tea & Co. for some genuine Guernsey ice cream. Remember, this is a vacation story, so dessert before lunch is allowed! We decided on a place called Dix Neuf for lunch, and since there were two ships in port we thought it would be best to be there when they opened. We would have been right on time any other day, but this particular day was a Sunday, and Dix Neuf wasn’t open for lunch. As a matter of fact, lots of places — most places — were closed. The husbands were probably more than a little relieved, but Deedee and I were disappointed to have our shopping plans ruined.
We walked back down the hill to the Ship & Crown pub, which was right next door to our ice cream stop. We got there and grabbed a nice table just as they opened, but the seats filled fast. If we had waited to eat I’m not sure we would have found a table. I had a great burger. I don’t remember what the other choices were, but I think everybody enjoyed their lunch.
*The Tea & Co. pictures and the Ship & Crown pictures were downloaded from the internet.
Sometime while we were in the pub it started to rain. Hard. We didn’t think much of it at the time, because we were inside where we were dry and had plentiful food and drink to keep us busy. Unfortunately, the thousands of other people who were walking past the shuttered shops and restaurants of Guernsey decided the rain meant it was time to return to the ship. We had no such sense of urgency and took our time. Once the rain let up we thought it would be a perfect time to head back. We scrapped the idea of walking over to Castle Cornet and went straight to the tender dock. It was then that we discovered the perfect torture that is tendering in Guernsey. The Disney-esque line mostly stood still while hundreds of Royal Princess passengers and hundreds of Brilliance of the Seas passengers slowly shuffled along. The “fun” was doubled when it started pouring again.
All told, it took us about 2 hours from the time we left the pub until we stepped back on the ship. Totally unacceptable, but at least it wasn’t broiling hot, and there were employees walking around making sure things didn’t get out of control. When we finally got to the gangway we discovered part of the problem is that Guernsey really doesn’t have the infrastructure to handle 2 big ships at once. The two ships had to share one dock and one gangway down to that dock, hence the long periods of no movement.
I thought Guernsey was beautiful and interesting, but I would think twice about spending a long day on shore from a ship if it meant standing in line for hours again just to get “home.”
Back on the ship, we hung up our rain gear (preview…we wouldn’t really need it again!😁), and I did a quick load of laundry. We hung out on the balcony and relaxed for a while before dinner. Sunday was the first of two formal nights. We started the evening in Crooners with beautiful scenery and fun martinis, then ate in the Symphony Dining Room about 7:30. I remember dinner was good, but I couldn’t begin to tell you what I had!☺️ I know the dessert had peanut butter in it and it was so good I could have made room for another!