The United Kingdom was always one of those destinations we wanted to visit but until recently had not had the chance to. The main reason we booked this cruise was because compared to travelling by land it worked out far more economical to book a cruise to see the same locations. We have travelled many times with Oceania Cruises and once before on Marina so we were looking forward to getting back on board.
Day 1: London, UK - Marriott County Hall Check In
After our excellent business class flight with Etihad Airways from Brisbane to London via Abu Dhabi we met our driver from WeKnow London transfers and made our way to our hotel for the next few nights, the Marriott County Hall. We choose this hotel as it is one of the few hotels in London where you can get a room with a balcony and its is located next to the London Eye opposite The Palace of Westminster and Big Ben so it was in a great central location as well, you can read more about the hotel in our review here. On arrival we were welcomed with a glass of champagne and then informed that we'd been upgraded to the Westminster Suite one of the hotels best rooms, however as it did not have a balcony which was one of the main reasons we booked this hotel we had to turn down the upgrade but it was nice to of been offered the upgrade. As the room was not yet ready for us we headed down to the London Eye where we had pre purchased a Champagne flight experience, after a drink in the eye bar we were escorted with our host to the capsule and taken on a trip around the eye complete with another glass of champagne, the view was amazing and as we only had a small group there was no problem getting near the capsule windows. After the London Eye we then headed back to the hotel to check out our room, we had booked one of the hotels balcony suites which featured amazing views over the River Thames to The Palace of Westminster and Big Ben and included access to the M Club lounge included in the room rate. After freshening up we took in the view while enjoying a drink on the balcony before we headed out to go on our pre booked dinner cruise with City Cruises. We had a three course meal with drinks as we cruised the Thames enjoying the view of London at night. As it had been a big day of travelling and exploring we decided to head back to the hotel and get some well needed rest.
Day 2: London, UK - Exploring On Foot
On our second day in London we had breakfast in the club lounge before heading out to explore this iconic city, we first headed to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard and then walked to Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square. We decided to walk back to Westminster for lunch so we headed to the Red Lion Pub for a 3 pie 3 beer tasting board before wandering past 10 downing street on our way back to the hotel. In the evening we visited the hotels club lounge for drinks before heading to the Savoy Theatre to see Dolly Parton's 9to5 The Musical, it was an amazing show and we would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves the movie.
Days 3: London, UK - Cotswolds & Blenheim Palace Tour
This morning we caught the tube train to Victoria Coach Station where we met our guide from Evan Evans Tours for our pre booked tour and then boarded our coach for the long drive out to the beautiful Cotswolds. First we visited Bampton which is the village featured in the show Downton Abbey followed by a lunch break to explore Bourton On The Water where stopped at a local cafe to try grab some food and try the local Cotswolds craft beer. After lunch we travelled to Blenheim Palace which was built to rival the Palace of Versailles in France. We loved our tour of the Cotswolds with its honeycomb coloured buildings, the enormous Blenheim Palace and the beautiful countryside. Before long it was time for the long trip back to London and the tube ride back to the hotel. In the evening we had dinner at Gillrays Steakhouse which is the hotels in house restaurant (you can read more about the restaurant in our hotel review here) before getting some much needed rest.
Day 4: Southampton, UK - Stonehenge Tour & Embarkation
Today we spent our last morning having breakfast on our hotel balcony before meeting our guide from International Friends for our transfer to Southampton via Stonehenge. We loaded our luggage in to the coach and met the other people who were also on their way to our ship before we set off for Stonehenge. Our guide, a historian informed us of the history of the area and of Stonehenge and upon arrival travelled with us up to the ancient monument. After an hour or so we boarded our coach again for a picturesque drive through the countryside complete with wildflowers to Southampton where we boarded our ship Oceania Marina. When we arrived at our stateroom there was a welcome bottle of champagne from our concierge waiting for us so we sat back on the balcony with a drink as we sailed away from Southampton, several other ships were also departing including Oceania's Nautica and Cunard's Queen Mary 2. In the evening we visited the ships on board grill restaurant Polo Grill where we had the Surf & Turf (Lobster & Fillet Mignon) which was delicious.
Day 5: English Channel, UK - Sea Day
Today after having breakfast served in our stateroom we went for a wander around the ship before settling down in the ships beautiful library for the morning to catch up on our reading, in the afternoon we attended the Old World Wine Tasting Masterclass where we sampled 6 old world wines with paired food. In the evening after watching a beautiful sunset we headed to Jaques the ships onboard French restaurant for a lovely dinner of escargot and lobster thermidor.
Day 6: Edinburgh, UK - Exploring On Foot & Food Tour
Today the ship anchored at Newhaven near Edinburgh where we tendered ashore and visited the nearby Royal Yacht Britannia where we had pre purchased tickets to tour the ship which is the formal yacht of the royal family. We then caught a cab to Edinburgh Castle where we had pre purchased skip the line tickets, we wandered the castle and took in the views over the city of Edinburgh before heading down to parliament square for our pre booked Secret Food Tour. Once all the group had arrived we walked to our first stop which was a seafood restaurant to try a local specialty which was Cullen Skink a dish of fish and potato stew served with home made bread. Our next stop was to a restaurant that specialises in modern versions of Scottish classics where we enjoyed a modern take on Haggis, Neeps & Tatties and tried a local whisky barrel cider. Our guide then led us through the city to a whisky store where we tried local scotch whisky and whisky cream before heading to a fudge shop to try locally made fudge and then a pub to try local Scottish cheese. Finally we visited a tea shop for afternoon tea with home made scones. All of the food and drinks were excellent and we loved experiencing the city this way and walking through the streets with a local. After our tour we walked the royal mile to The Palace of Hollyrood for photos before heading back to the ship, it was a long day with lots of walking and eating but it was definitely the best way to explore this amazing city.
Day 7: Invergordon, UK - Highland Castles & Loch Ness Tour
Today the ship docked at Invergordon where we headed ashore on our ship booked tour to see the highland castles and Loch Ness. First we were taken in to Inverness where we had lunch accompanied by local beer before visiting Cawdor Castle with its beautiful gardens. After a few hours at Cawdor we travelled to Urquhart Castle located on the edge of Loch Ness, the castle is a ruin these days but the scenery of Loch Ness was stunning. We then travelled the 2 hours back to Invergorden through the beautiful countryside with its wild heather and thistles. Once back on board the ship the local pipe band played amazing grace as the ship pulled away from the dock. It was a a fantastic end to our time in Scotland.
Day 8 & 9: Irish Sea, UK - Sea Day & Cancelled Port
Today after having breakfast in our stateroom we wandered around the ship and settled down next to the pool to do some reading, in the afternoon we attended the New World Wine Tasting Masterclass where we tried 5 new world wines with paired food. In the evening we attended an amazing Dom Perignon champagne degustation dinner, we were lucky to be one of only 3 couples in attendance. We had 5 chefs looking after us including the ships head chef and 3 wait staff including the ships head sommelier, we were served 3 different vintages of Dom Perignon matched with 6 courses including scallops, lobster, truffle risotto, wagyu beef, French cheeses and ice cream. All of the food is personally matched by Dom Perignon to ensure the ultimate experience, Oceania only offers this dinner on 2 ships, Marina and Riviera so if your ever on these ships and get a chance to attend this dinner its definitely worth doing. The next day our stop at Glasgow was cancelled due to rough weather in the Irish Sea so we continued to Dublin where we docked at 8pm.
Day 10: Belfast, UK - Exploring On Foot
Today we travelled by train from Dublin to Belfast where we explored the cathedral quarter on foot to see all of the painted murals in this part of the city. It was unfortunate that it was bucketing with rain but that meant that all of the colourful murals stood out more on this dark and grey day. We stopped in to the Dark Horse pub where we enjoyed a local beer while we checked out all of the political murals in the pub courtyard and then walked through the central part of the city exploring and visited a roof top bar for a glass of wine until it was time to catch the train back to Dublin. It was a quick visit but worth it as Belfast is a unique city.
Day 11: Dublin, Ireland - Exploring On Foot & Food Tour
Today we caught the shuttle bus from the ship to the centre of Dublin to do some exploring on foot before our food tour, we walked through Trinity College and central Dublin before meeting our guide from Secret Food Tours. Once our group had assembled we walked to our first stop, a local pub where we had an Irish breakfast of white pudding, pork sausage and hash browns with a mimosa cocktail. We then walked through the city to our next stop which was a gourmet deli where we were able to sample locally made salami and cheeses. Our guide then led us to the next stop which was another pub for lunch where we tried a local specialty, Dublin Coddle which is a type of stew made from offal and we also tried steak and Guinness pie. The food was really tasty and we got to enjoy a pint of Guinness with our lunch. After lunch we walked through the city to a whiskey shop for an Irish whiskey and whiskey cream tasting, finally we visited a local ice cream shop that makes their own ice cream using local milk and cream. It was a lot of fun and a fantastic way to experience the city through food and drink with a local guide. After farewelling our guide we walked to the Dublin Castle and then did a little more exploring of some of the remaining intact Georgian squares before heading back to the ship for departure.
Day 12: Cobh, Ireland - Blarney Castle & Cork Tour
Today the ship docked in Cobh where we boarded our coach for our ship booked tour to visit Blarney Castle. After the hour long drive we arrived at the castle where we explored the beautiful gardens and Blarney House, afterwards we were taken to a local pub for Irish coffee before going for a panoramic drive through Cork and then back to Cobh. In the afternoon we walked around Cobh and sat down for lunch at a local waterside restaurant where we enjoyed a lunch with the local Murphys ale before reboarding the ship for departure. Cobh is a beautiful part of the world and definitely the highlight of Ireland.
Day 13: Portland, UK - Dorchester & Athelhampton House Tour
Today the ship docked in Portland where we boarded our coach for our ship booked tour to Dorchested and Athelhampton House, after travelling through the seaside town of Weymouth we arrived in Dorchester where we had free time to explore so after walking the town we sat down at the Old Ship Inn to try the local ale. We then boarded the coach to travel to Athelhampton House a beautiful 700+ year old Tudor manor where we explored the manor and its beautiful gardens, it was our favourite stop in England.
Day 14: Southampton, UK - Disembarkation, Bath & Windor Castle Tour
Today the ship arrived back in Southampton where we disembarked the ship for the last time and met our guide and historian from International Friends. He assisted us with our luggage to the waiting mini van and once the other couple who was joining us arrived we headed off to Bath where we visited the Roman Baths. Afterwards we visited the Coeur De Lion pub which is over 700+ years old and the smallest pub in Bath where we enjoyed the local Bath ale. Our guide then took us to Windsor where we visited Windsor Castle and enjoyed a pie and chip lunch at the local Prince Harry Pub before our trip to London. We checked in to the Shangri La at The Shard London and were blown away with the amazing view from our level 36 room of Tower Bridge and The Tower of London. As we'd had a late lunch and were tired after a full day of travelling we headed to the hotels bar on level 52 for a nightcap, you can read more about the hotel and bar in our review here.
Day 15: London, UK - Exploring Borough Markets & Tower of London
Today we visited the nearby Borough Markets where we enjoyed trying the local produce for brunch including salt beef bagels, black pudding and scotch eggs before walking to St Pauls Cathedral for some photos. In the afternoon we visited the Tower of London, walked over Tower Bridge and enjoyed a pint or two by the side of the Thames at the summer stalls they had set up there. In the evening we walked to Brick Lane, Londons home of Indian restaurants were we enjoyed a tasty dinner before meeting our guide for our Jack The Ripper Tour. The tour was really cool with their proprietary ripper vision (a hand held projector that shows you photos of what the streets looked like back in the day). We had always wanted to do a ripper tour and were so glad we did, afterward we headed back to the hotel for a nightcap before bed.
Day 16: Paris, France - Eurostar Arrival & Food Tour
Today we left our hotel and caught the train to St Pancras International Station to board the Eurostar to Paris, once in Paris the train had organised a taxi for us and we headed to our hotel for the next two nights the Shangri La Paris. The hotel was absolutely incredible, its the former royal palace of Prince Roland Bonaparte who was Napoleon's nephew. The building and its public rooms were beautiful and our room which was a terrace room with Eiffel Tower views was equally impressive (you can read more about the hotel in our review here). We didn't have much time to take it in as we had booked a Secret Food Tour of the Montmartre district of Paris so we jumped in a cab and went to meet our guide, once our group had assembled the guide took us to several artisan shops including a Boulangerie (Bakery) where we sampled bread, Fromagerie (Cheese Shop) where we sampled cheese, Boucherie (Butcher) where we sampled cured meats, and a Chocolatier where we sampled macaroons. Our guide purchased goods from all of the shops and then took us to a secret underground wine cellar where we were served the food that she had purchased accompanied with paired wine from different regions of France. We have done several Secret Food Tours on this trip and we enjoyed this one the most and would recommend anyone visiting Paris to do it.
Day 17: Paris, France - Palace of Versailles Visit
Today we travelled to the Palace of Versailles, it was a long wait in the rain to get in (approx 1.5hrs) but once inside you see why its known as the most beautiful palace in the world with many beautiful paintings, wallpapers and decoration. We went out to see the musical gardens but didn't get too far due to the rain, we instead decided to head to a local restaurant for lunch. In the evening we decided to have a night in as we had our own private view of the Eiffel Tower, we had drinks in the hotels lounge bar before having a room service dinner on our private terrace while the Eiffel Tower sparkled in the background. It was a once in a lifetime experience.
Day 18: Paris, France - Check Out & Flight Home
On our last morning in Paris we checked out of the hotel and took a taxi to the airport, taxis in Paris have a flat rate to and from the airport so its a good quick option. When we arrived at the airport we were informed by Etihad staff that we had been upgraded to first class which blew our minds, we had always wanted to experience first class and it was an amazing experience. After a day and night of flying we finally arrived back in Brisbane. So that ends this travel story, if you have any questions about the trip feel free to comment on the blog, Until next time!
Want More Information?
If you would like more information about Oceania's destinations, staterooms, dining options and fares you can visit their website www.oceaniacruises.com
For more information about Etihad Airways services you can visit their website www.etihad.com
For more information about the Marriott County Hall you can visit their website www.marriott.com
For more information about the Shangri La at The Shard London you can visit their website www.shangri-la.com
For more information about the Shangri La Paris you can visit their website www.shangri-la.com
For more information about the Secret Food Tours we did in Edinburgh, Dublin and Paris you can visit their website www.secretfoodtours.com
For more information about the Cotswolds tour we did you can visit Evan Evans website www.evanevanstours.com
For more information about the cruise transfer/tours we did you can visit the International Friends website www.internationalfriends.co.uk
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About The Author
Rob has been passionate about cruise ship holidays and exploring the world since the first cruise he went on when he was only seven years old. Since then Rob who is a Photographer and his partner Mike of 18 years have travelled the world on over 25 cruises with over 10 different cruise lines visiting every continent across the globe as well as many remote tropical islands along the way. In addition to cruise holidays they enjoy relaxing at beach side holiday resorts and first/business class air travel as well as transcontinental rail journeys. Between them both Robert and Michael have worked out the best way to maximise frequent flyer reward points allowing them to travel first/business class at economy class prices or in some cases travelling first/business class for free.