When I was just a boy of 11, I was lucky enough to get my first chance to go to sea on the old school cruise ship SS Uganda. It’s tiny by today’s standards but at the time, it was full with just a few hundred children on board, sleeping in holds that had been converted into dormitories.
However, this cruise gave me a taste for life at sea and I promised myself to take a real cruise one day. My cruise on the Uganda ended at Greenock, near my home in Scotland. Having seen ships docking in Greenock and working in the town on odd jobs over the years, I thought it would be nice to cruise up the Clyde in a modern cruise ship. The first Princess ship I ever saw was Golden Princess and the following year, I took my first Princess cruise aboard this very ship. While relaxing at home a few months later, I was pleasantly surprised to see Golden Princess was doing a Northern Europe cruise and she was docking at Greenock. So without delay, I booked it.
Now my friends thought, “why take a cruise to your own country and to a port only a short drive from my house?” Well, not only did I do the cruise (and a great cruise it was), but I even booked a tour out of Greenock called “A Taste of Scotland.”
So I joined my fellow cruise mates from all over the world and headed off for the coaches. As we drove out of Greenock I listened to the familiar lilt of our local guide as she filled us in with background about the area. Our first stop was at the Sheep Dog School at Aberfoyle. A fun stop it was with the sheep dogs working not with sheep … but with ducks!
We then went on a tour through the Trossachs and landed up at a fine castle for lunch. We were greeted by a piper, and served local Scottish fare. The castle sits on the banks of a loch and we enjoyed outstanding views. After my meal, I started to chat to the piper and the shock on the man’s face was incredible. Here was a tourist speaking in his own tongue among the many U.S. accents. He was so impressed a local had decided to take a tour of his own country.
We then drive to Loch Katherine and took a trip on the very old paddle steamer, the Sir Walter Scott. A few more hours traveling through fantastic scenery and we were back at Greenock. Getting off the coach I took time to thank our tour guide and again she was speechless to find there had been locals on the tour.
Our day ended with an amazing sailaway and the highland dancers and bag pipes were appreciated by all onboard. As we were sailing away in early evening in summer, we still had some sunshine and we were followed by loads of small boats down the Clyde. They waved flags and blew their whistles and our captain played along and replied to all with a blast from the ship’s mighty horn. This got a cheer from the hundreds of onlookers lining the main road along the shore line.
So I had completed a long held wish to return to the Clyde and dock in Greenock on a real cruise ship, but more than that I had a great day. I had visited places close to home that I had never thought of stopping, and really enjoyed myself.
How many of us travel the world in search of new experiences and things to see, and forget to look around our own homelands, and what better way to see them than from a Princess ship.