If there ever was a time when Bill and I badly needed a vacation, I think September 2017 might go down as one of those times. I can think of a few other times when we needed a break. Oddly, they were also in September. I remember September 2008. It was the first time we lived in Germany together and Bill had been working very hard on some stuff for EUCOM. Later, he was surprised by a mandatory trip to the Republic of Georgia. He was burned out and pissed off and he sent me an email that read simply, “I think we should go to Belgium and see Mannekin Pis.” And we did. We went to Brussels and spent that Labor Day weekend completely loaded on Belgian beer and we visited Mannekin Pis.
The other trip that comes to mind happened over Labor Day weekend in 2005, right after Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans. Again, Bill had been working hard and was totally exasperated with his job. He decided to take me on my first (and at this time, only) trip out west. We worried that the trip would have to be cancelled due to the hurricane and the fact that Bill was in the National Guard at the time. Fortunately, we were able to go on our brief trip to Anacortes and Seattle in Washington State and we had a fantastic time.
2017 is different. Bill has been working very hard. It’s been a pretty stressful summer. Lately, we’ve had to travel with our dogs because it’s hard to find good doggie care nowadays. Over a year ago, I booked us a cruise on Hebridean Princess, a wonderful Scottish luxury cruise vessel that we have had the great pleasure of sailing on three times before. For months, we’ve been wondering if Bill would get to go on the trip, since his company changed and he hasn’t built up any leave yet. We’ve had a number of other recent nuisances and mishaps that made us yearn for a vacation. It was with great pleasure that we boarded our British Airways flights to London and Glasgow for this year’s cruise, which will take us round trip from Oban to Northern Ireland. Neither Bill nor I have ever been to Northern Ireland, although we did visit Ireland last year for our anniversary.
Hebridean Island Cruises owns just one ship, the tiny Hebridean Princess, which hosts just 49 passengers at a time. Hebridean cruises are quite expensive, however; once you have paid your fare, you don’t have to pay for anything else. You don’t pay for booze, excursions, entry into attractions, or tips. You can spend money on something from the ship’s tiny shop or if you want an expensive wine or something, but really, once you’ve paid, you’re done worrying. They even pick you up in Glasgow and either take you by coach to wherever Princess is leaving from or fly you to where you need to be on a chartered flight.
I should mention that Hebridean also leases the Royal Crown river boat and they offer several river boat cruises in the summer. But, for the most part, the Princess, which was built in 1964 and was originally a car ferry, is where the action is. The staff on the ship consists of many Scots, along with crew from Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and the Czech Republic.
For this trip, I decided to go all out and booked business class air on British Airways. It was our first time flying on British Airways, so we had no idea what their business class would be like. After experiencing the hell of Heathrow Airport, I will say that it’s probably worth it to shell out the extra bucks, if only because you can use their lounge. The lounge is probably going to be crowded, but it won’t be as bad as the rest of the airport.
We are currently staying in the Carlton George Hotel in Glasgow. We have stayed here twice before. I keep coming back because the rooms feature “free” minibars. I got us an executive “Club” room, which allows access to the hotel’s executive lounge.
We have been in Glasgow for three days now and will leave for our cruise tomorrow. I already have lots of material for posts to come. I look forward to writing the story of this trip. For now, I just want to say that my posts may or may not be regular since we will be on a ship. When we get back to Stuttgart next week, there will be plenty of updates. Stay tuned!