August 1, Portree, Isle of Skyee, Scotland
Our first port of this cruise was Portree, Scotland, where we anchored in the harbor and used the tender boats to get ashore. Since this was our first port in the UK, they required a face to face passport check which would be done as we were passing thru security on the way to the tenders. This would go very fast and ended up not causing any additional delays. Sometimes you have to go to one of the lounges to see the immigration officials and when this is the requirement, getting the ship cleared can sometimes take much more time.
At 9:30 AM the ship started to pass out tender tickets which were a small, square piece of plastic, with a color and a number. This allowed guests to wait in any public area and then proceed to the tender platform once their color and number are called. Sometimes guests will keep an extra tender ticket in the hope of using it in a future port to avoid having to stand in line to get a ticket. This strategy is often thwarted when the ship changes the colors used or the starting numbers. Your Green Number 1 may sound really good today, but in the future, they may declare that the first number will be 100 – and any tender ticket 99 and below is invalid.
The ship was cleared a little after 10 AM, the first wave of tender tickets was called and the guests started to stream down the stairs in the middle of the ship. Four and Five Star Mariners don’t need a tender ticket, but simply present their cruise card at the checkpoint and proceed to the next tender.
Loading the tenders went quickly and we were soon on our way. The tender took about 10 minutes to arrive at the pier, followed by a short walk up a ramp. The HAL Tour buses – big 40 passenger ones – had special permission to park right next to the top of the ramp. One advantage of going on the ship tour is that sometimes the busses will be closer than other private tour busses. The street to the tender pier was narrow and the only vehicles allowed were taxies and smaller busses less than 16 passengers or so. There were taxis on the pier but they were all for prearranged tours It’s easy to book a cab online – no upfront fees required – pay in cash at the end.
Judy went with a group of knitters from Craft Cruises on a private tour. They visited Eilean Oir Croft, a small farm raising Hebridean & Black Chevoit sheep. HERE They continued on to Shilasdair to buy yarn dyed with mostly local plants and to see the where the yarn is dyed. They had time to squeeze in a quick stop at Skyeskyns to check out the sheep skin rugs, clothing and footwear. They all had a great time, bought lots of yarn and enjoyed the beautiful scenery on their 20 minute ride out to the other side of the island.
I went with a group of 3 other guest to visit the Talisker Distillery about 12 miles away. We took a prearranged taxi and bought our tour tickets online. In about 30 minutes we arrived at the Talisker Distillery and since we were about 1 hour early we walked a couple hundred yards to a pub where we had a beer and soaked in the local ambience. This pub was not visible to the guests who came on the ships tours so the pub was not crowded and was only being patronized by locals and tourists who had rented cars and drove here from other parts of the UK.
Our tour started at 1 PM and took about 45 minutes. We were surprised that it only takes 9 people to operate the actual distillery. The tour was interesting and we enjoyed an opportunity to taste their “Storm” scotch afterwards which has a very smoky flavor. I am not much of a scotch drinker, but the Storm was very nice so I picked up a bottle to take home.
Once we were back in Portree we had about 90 minutes until the all aboard. We stopped by the tourist information centre, browsed a few souvenir shops and looked up our favorite fish and chips spot from last time, “The Chippy”, but it was closed – I think they ran out of food, because I can’t imagine them closing early on a cruise ship day otherwise. There was another fish and chips shop on the lower road leading toward the tenders called “The Harbour Fish Shop” and we gave them a try, but it wasn’t quite as good as we remember it was at “The Chippy”.
After a short tender ride we were back on the ship and we turned in our bottle of scotch for safekeeping until the end of the cruise.
The show tonight was one of our favorites – Jesse Kazemek “A Tribute to the Beatles”. Jesse is an amazing performer who puts on a fantastic show along with his wife, Colleen. She sings a few songs by herself and teams up with him on some others. We have seen his show 4 times on various cruises and it never gets old and we never miss a chance to see it again.Uncategorized