The central part of our trip was an amazing wedding present - a 12 day cruise around the UK. We were both a little dubious - not being great sailors, not being "cruise age" - but it was wonderful!
The boat docked in a new port everyday, so it was like doing a whirlwind coach tour across Europe, except we got to sleep for most of the traveling time, in a beautiful stateroom, with lovely lounges, pool decks and 24 hour food. Tours in each place we docked were available, or we could just go for a wander ourselves.
Our boat, the Ruby Princess, was enormous, with some 20 decks and 2-3,000 passengers on board. Mini golf, a basketball court, four pool decks with spas and one with a massive movie screen over it, a child care centre, a youth centre, two child free zones, an enormous beauty spa complete with teeth whitening, acupuncture and Botox services, various lounges, cafes, restaurants, bars, food courts, a live theatre venue, an atrium with street performers and live music, numerous gift shops, a photographic studio, an art gallery... Amazing! We barely scratched the surface of the things to do.
Admittedly, being in our 30's, we were a lot younger than many of the cruise passengers. The cruise offers great travel services for wheel chair bound and other mobility limited folks, many of whom were in their late 60's or older. On our first couple of days we seemed to be the extreme youngest people in our group but gradually we realized that there were many folks closer to our age, usually traveling with kids of various ages.
Culturally, the bulk of the passengers were from the US - New York, New Jersey, Idaho, Oregon, Arizona and Florida were all well represented. There were other Aussies, Canadians, English and Western Europeans amongst the passengers, as well as a smattering of Asians and African-Americans. The staff and crew were overwhelmingly Philippino, Eastern European or Caribbean, but most of the entertainers and MC's were British. All the staff were very very friendly, greeting every passenger with a chirpy "good morning/good afternoon". This helped create a village atmosphere - by the end of the cruise, we were being hailed with greetings from other passengers at every meal, every trip in the lift, every time we walked through the atrium.
Far and away, the best bit of the cruise was that we got to see so much of the UK so easily. Our itinerary included a day in the Channel Islands, two days in the Republic of Ireland, a day in Northern Ireland, four days in Scotland and a day in France, as well as our own time in England and Wales. In most ports it was hard to choose what to see, with many great shore excursions to the tourist hotspots and further afield, as well as the option of sightseeing independently.
Would we go cruising again? I think the answer is yes. Although we won't be signing up for the Princess Cruises 100 day cruises any time soon: by the end of twelve days I was done with buffet food and consciously seeking deserted parts of the deck to get away from everyone. As a way to see places as far spread out as the Channel Islands and the Orkneys, without having to drive or take red eye buses or trains, it was definitely cool!!!
thankyou to our friends and family who helped us have a truly memorable honeymoon!