The best way to get a feel of a UK or European city when you are only there for a few hours is on the city’s Hop on Hop Off tour (fondly referred to as the HOHO), and most cities here have them. You get a great overview and can get off or on wherever you like, all for one low price. In this case, the green Dublin Bus offered a 15% on-line discount for purchasing in advance, and who am I to refuse a discount – on line, or otherwise. This is a very pleasant and less expensive alternative to the overpriced and sometimes overcrowded ship’s shore excursions.
For the life of me, though, I can’t understand why cruise ships can’t provide a complimentary shuttle to the city. Like many cruise ports in Europe, the major city on the itinerary can be 20-90 minutes away, or more, requiring cruisers to either pay big bucks for the ship shuttle or find your own transportation. Average Joe Cruiser doesn’t even realize that there are other convenient and less expensive options, and the cruise lines would just as soon keep it that way. Savvy travelers like myself know better, and we will often find a taxi, share a ride, or book a private tour for far less money. So how did we get to Dublin today, you ask? We rode the ship’s shuttle, of course. In this particular case, there were five of us in our group. It would have required two taxis to get us into Dublin, and from what I could tell, there were no larger taxis at the pier which could hold all of us. So the price actually evened out, and the ship shuttle proved to be both pleasant and convenient.
We arrived safely in Dublin, found the HOHO bus, and rode on the top of this doubledecker vehicle, providing a great view with some awesome photo ops. Unfortunately, as predicted, it began raining pretty steadily requiring the rain gear and then ultimately moving to a covered spot on the bus – definitely not as much fun as being out in the open air.
When touring in a city for just a few short hours, it’s always a good idea to choose one or two must-see places. For us it was – the Book of Kells at Trinity College in the Old Library, followed by a pint of Guinness at a local pub, of course. We hopped off (ok, we didn’t exactly hop) at stop #3, and queued up at Trinity College for the Book of Kells. For those who aren’t familiar with this attraction, the Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript that contains the four gospels of the New Testament, along with various supporting material. They are famous for their art work, an “insular” form, depicting plants, animals, people and geometric designs, along with calligraphy, flourishes and bold coloring. It was stunning to see! Also of interest was the “Turning Darkness into Light” exhibition which explains the background of the famous gospel manuscripts and other related documents, along with large colorful displays of the artwork.
After viewing the exhibition and the Books, the line of visitors continues upstairs to the Long Room of the Old Library, filled with marble busts of great philosophers and writers of the western world and also of men connected with Trinity College. You will also find books, of course - over 200,000 of them – the Library's oldest books. If you go, be sure to look for the harp, the oldest of its kind in Ireland and probably dates back to the 15th century. Made of oak and willow with 29 brass strings, it is the model for the emblem of Ireland.
If you do plan on making the Book of Kells a priority on your next trip to Ireland, be sure to queue up first thing in the morning before it opens, or save it for later in the afternoon. It is one of the most popular attractions in Dublin. Our wait in line was just 30 minutes, but once inside, patience will be your friend as you await your turn to approach the glass to view the Books. Unfortunately, photos are not allowed at the Book of Kells or in the Old Library, so I have no images to display of these areas.
The skies opened up as we left Trinity College on our way to find a pub. I pulled up my handy TripAdvisor map on my iPhone, which pointed to several restaurants on nearby Grafton Street. We found a pub, rested our weary feet and filled our bellies with a fine bowl of Irish stew and a pint of Guinness, the perfect solution to a cool, rainy day in Dublin.
Our time in Dublin was over, and it was time to head back to the ship. We stopped at a few shops on the way, one of which was a hat shop, where David viewed a fine collection of woolen caps and hats. He couldn’t decide between two, so he purchased both, which he proudly wore for the rest of the cruise.
We loved the city of Dublin, and when comparing it to Waterford the day before, Waterford seemed to be more of a typical working class city, whereas the city of Dublin had more of an Irish flavor and character.