Blarney Castle…We visited the Titanic’s last port of call…

A better view of Cobh, Ireland, and St. Coleman’s Cathedral.

As it turns out with our limited ability to get online, there will only be one post for the Blarney Castle and visits to the towns of Cork and Cobh, Ireland.

The private tour for eight of us left the ship around 10:30 am on Wednesday, with an expected return time of 3:30. The ship was scheduled to leave the port of Cobh, Ireland at 4:30. 

Us, in front of the Blarney Castle.
The Blarney Castle.

Many ship’s staff warns cruisers not to take private tours. If an unforeseen incident occurs and the driver doesn’t get the passengers back to the ship on time, the ship won’t wait. 

We entered caves on the property walking to the end, requiring we turn around, going back the same way we entered.

If passengers decide on a ship-arranged tour, the ship’s departure will be dependent upon the return of all passengers. We’ve heard nightmarish stories about passengers not making it back in time who’d ventured out on private tours and the ship left without them when they ran into unexpected delays.

Alternate view of the Blarney Castle.

With only five hours for the Blarney Castle and surrounding area tour, we all kept a watchful eye on the clock during the last few hours to ensure we’d depart on time when we’d stopped for lunch and beer in the quaint village of Cobh (pronounced Cove).

As we entered the castle, it was so packed with tourists, our group decided to back out when the narrow rock walkways offered no room to maneuver.

As many are aware, the sinking of the Titanic occurred with a tragic loss of 1500 passengers on April 15, 1912.  The Titanic’s last port of call was Queenstown, to be later renamed Cobh. 

One would have to climb to the top of the castle, lay on their back, and hyperextend their neck to kiss the Blarney Stone. After the stories we heard, we decided to forgo this event.

Having anchored briefly at the entrance of Cork Harbor to transfer passengers and mail to and from Cobh, the Titanic, a huge ship couldn’t fit in the pier. Passengers were “tendered” on smaller boats to enjoy the charming Irish village.

We wandered through this cute chocolate store but Tom didn’t buy a thing.

The last 123 passengers to board the ship for the intended journey to New York boarded in Queenstown, (Cobh) which we visited on Wednesday. Of those 123 passengers, only 44 survived when the Titanic sank. 

Tom had visited the Blarney Castle on two separate trips to Ireland. He was excited to visit the woolen mills store to see the Irish sweaters, one of which he’d purchased years ago. He didn’t bring it with him in his suitcase.
This wool sweater is similar to Tom’s old sweater. I always told him looked like an old man wearing this. Now it was priced at US $189, EU $139. He paid approximately US $49, EU $36 back in the late 1980’s.

Today, the original buildings, streets, and piers of a century ago are still standing with respect and reverence for the tragic story with a museum containing artifacts and memorabilia. 

Irish mailbox.

With little time, we had to forgo the museum to ensure we’d return to the ship on time. As we sailed away on the narrow passageway, hundreds of local people waved to us as we watched from our balcony, joyfully returning the enthusiastic waves.

Irish pub.

Tom had visited the Blarney Castle twice on two separate trips to Ireland, the home of his ancestors, once when he took his mother to Ireland and to see the Pope and another with an ex-girlfriend. I appreciated that he was happy for a  third visit with me.

The Old Oak pub where our group of eight stopped for lunch and beer.

We didn’t kiss the Blarney Stone which Tom had done on his prior visits. One, it required hyperextending one’s neck which held little appeal to me and, we’d heard stories about certain people entering the castle at night and urinating on the stone. 

Here are the boys!

Whether this was a fable or not, with rampant illnesses aboard ships, we opted out entirely. From those who did partake, they said the stone was cleaned with disinfectant from time to time. Surely, not often enough to our liking.

Here are the girls!

Tom is 99% Irish which was recently confirmed by a DNA test he’d ordered through As we walked along the streets of Cork, Tom spotted a homeless man begging for money with a liter of beer tucked inside his jacket. 

Tom’s peculiar lunch called “tacos.” Actually, it was ground meat and melted cheese atop a bed of fries. He said it was good. I cringed.

Tom reached down and handed him a few dollars, afterward turning to me and saying, “For all I know, he’s a relative of mine.” I chuckled and squeezed his hand as we returned to the awaiting van and our driver.

Tom’s Irish beer.

In no time at all, we returned to the ship, through security, and back to our cabin. With ongoing WiFi problems while out to sea, I hadn’t uploaded a post yesterday other than a short blurb and photo of us at the Blarney Castle.  

St. Coleman’s Cathedral in Cobh, Ireland.

Today, with the ship docked in the Faroe Islands we finally have a good connection and the time to post since we’re able to use the rented MiFi. The ship’s WiFi won’t work for my computer when we’re out to sea. Figuring out a major workaround, we’ll be able to post for the remaining time on the ship until we arrive in Boston where we’ll have WiFi in the hotel, continuing to post each day. No post will be missed over the upcoming days.

Actually, we’re having a blast on this ship. We’ve met more fabulous people than we’d ever imagined possible.  Tom’s frequent visits to CruiseCritic has provided us with an opportunity to meet many passengers from the site with whom he’s communicated back and forth over the past 18 months. 

The ladies of Cobh dress in clothing typical of the days of the Titanic.

With several activities scheduled with CruiseCritic followers orchestrated in advance of the cruise, we found ourselves with a busy schedule, loving every minute of meeting new people every day. 

Tonight, we’re trying one of the specialty restaurants with a lovely couple Tom met on CruiseCritic who kindly spent time looking for us at the party.

To review the past few days, we’ve been on tours of the following:

  1. Monday: Normandy, France to the US military cemetery and both Omaha and Utah beaches.
  2. Tuesday: Stonehenge, UK to visit the mysterious rock formation, ending the day in Salisbury, UK to see a charming village on the 13th-century church, the Salisbury Cathedral.
  3. Wednesday: Cork, Ireland, and the Blarney Castle and exquisite ground which photos I’m sharing with you today in Part 1.
  4. Thursday: Sea Day, Meet and Mingle for CruiseCritic, a Cabin Crawl (groups of eight visiting varying classes of cabins), and a Poker Run (receiving a playing card at five of the cabins, the best hand winning at the end of the event). We didn’t win but, had a great time interacting with our group of eight. Tom was the designated leader of our group and did an excellent job of navigating through the ship. As the youngest of 11, Tom said, “I’ve never been at the head of any line. I’ve always been at the tail end.”
Gorgeous flowers on the grounds of the Blarney Castle.

Also, for the remaining days on the cruise, I’d like to review the topics of our future posts at sea:  

  1. September 5 – Part 1, Cork and Cobh, Ireland and Blarney Castle
  2. September 6 – Part 2, Normandy, France
  3. September 7 – Part 2, Stonehenge, UK
  4. September 8 – Activities  and how we spend time aboard the ship
  5. September 9 – Reykjavik, Iceland and Northern Lights Tour
  6. September 10–Reykjavik, Iceland tour
  7. September 11-Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas photos and review of amenities
  8. September 12-Dining aboard Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas including specialty restaurants and adaptations made for my special diet
  9. September 13-Benefits of booking future cruises while onboard the ship as opposed to later and our total expenses for the cruise
  10. September 14-Disembark the cruise starting at 8 am, our arrival in Boston on US soil for the first time in almost 18 months, picking up a rental car and checking in to the hotel for a three-night stay in Boston. Once we’re checked into our room with WiFi up and running, we’ll post in the afternoon on eastern time prior to 6:00 pm when we’ll excitedly meet my dear cousin for dinner.
Row houses in Cobh, Ireland.  (Photo was taken from the van).

While in Boston, we have several activities planned including necessary shopping for the first time on US soil, a trip to the cemetery where my father is buried, visits with my 95-year-old uncle, and hopefully, if time allows, seeing a few historical sites in the area.

View as we drove away from Cork, Ireland.

On September 17th, we’ll fly to Vancouver, British Columbia, where we’ll spend six nights in a hotel with ample time to check out a few sites most of which are readily accessible by the nearby train.

Gorgeous fern in the gardens.

We’re busy, loving every moment as we continue on this exciting leg of our travels.  Our only issues are the WiFi problems that continue.

Photo from one year ago today, September 5, 2013:

Hesborn, our wonderful houseman at the house in Diani Beach, Kenya. We couldn’t have appreciated him more during the three months we spent in Kenya. For details from that date, please click here.