In early June we visited Dublin, Ireland while sailing Holland America’s 14-Day Celtic Explorer Cruise on board the ms Prinsendam.
Within an hour of our departure out of Amsterdam, Captain Smit made an announcement over the ship’s speaker system: due to a weather forecast with extremely high winds, our planned itinerary would have to be altered. We would skip the ports of St. Peter’s Port in the Channel Islands, as well as Milford Haven, in Wales. Instead, we would speed ahead of the storm to Dublin, Ireland, a port call originally planned for day 5 of the cruise. Instead, we arrived in Dublin on a sunny but windy morning that was day 3 of the cruise.
The Prinsendam docked in Dublin at a working port area not suitable for walking. The cruise port did, however, provide free shuttles to transport cruise passengers from the port to a drop off location by Merrion Square in central Dublin. At the drop-off spot, there were folks handing out local maps, and others trying to sell Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tickets. With a quick glance at the map, we saw that we were within walking distance of Trinity College, so we set out in that direction.
Trinity College — founded in 1592 — is the sole college of the University of Dublin, Ireland’s oldest and largest research university. Located on 47 acres on College Green, opposite the former Irish Houses of Parliament, Trinity College is now surrounded by the city of Dublin. Many of its buildings are situated around large quadrangles; these open areas of cobblestones and green lawns are inviting for visitors to walk through.
The Old Library of Trinity College — pictured above — is Ireland’s largest library with a copy of all material published in the Republic of Ireland. Visitors to Dublin purchase tickets and wait in long lines to see the library’s spectacular Long Room, and to catch a glimpse of the famous Book of Kells — created around 800 AD and considered as one of Ireland’s finest national treasures.
We were not up for the long queue, so we continued onward in our exploration of Dublin.
As we headed toward the main entrance to Trinity College, we took in the view of the 98-ft. tall campanile, or bell tower, and the open area known as Parliament Square.
After departing from the college compound, we made our way to Dame Street, where, just past City Hall, we turned into Castle Street, walking to Dublin Castle.
In 1204, King John of England ordered the construction of a castle. For eight centuries Dublin Castle became the seat of English rule in Ireland, as well as the social stage for Ireland’s ruling class.
Visitors can take tours — we chose the self-guided version — of the luxurious State Apartments. These rooms served as home to the British-appointed Viceroys of Ireland, and still have important ceremonial uses today, such as the inauguration of Ireland’s President every seven years.
The drawing room (shown above) was often the center of the eighteenth and nineteenth century social events such as the Grand Ball, held each March 17th to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Ladies attending balls would socialize here between dances in the ballroom.
In the Throne Room, we got a close-up view of the large throne made for King George IV’s state visit to Ireland in 1821.
Another key site at Dublin Castle State Apartments is St. Patrick’s Hall. Formerly the ballroom, it is used today for state banquets and the inauguration of Ireland’s President.
After exploring the history of Dublin Castle, we were ready for lunch.
We headed to the narrow, cobbled streets of Dublin’s Temple Bar, an area known for its art galleries, theaters, pubs and nightclubs popular with tourists.
In the heart of the Temple Bar neighborhood is the iconic and often-photographed Temple Bar pub that dates to 1840. We had low expectations for lunch, given the high “touristy” factor, and we were pleasantly surprised. While popular with tourists, the Temple Bar pub offered an extensive menu of creative and delicious sandwiches, perfect with a pint or two of Guinness or Harp. Of course, the bar serves an overpriced Irish Coffee, but the service was terrific.
Filled and rested, our group set out to visit Dublin’s Smithfield neighborhood, across the River Liffey.
We were on a mission to reach the Jameson Distillery on Bow Street. We had pre-booked the Bow St. Experience several weeks prior to our cruise. Because of the high winds forcing a change to our cruise schedule, we were showing up on Tuesday with a ticket booked for Thursday. We headed to the restored part of John Jameson’s distillery and hoped for the best.
As soon as you enter the Jameson Distillery from Bow Street, a glance at the chandeliers eliminates any confusion as to your location. Although Jameson Irish whiskey traces its beginning here back to 1780, production ceased here in 1976, moving instead to the New Midleton Distillery outside of Cork.
Realizing a missed opportunity with visitors to Dublin, a $12.6 million refurbishment of Dublin’s iconic Jameson Distillery Bow Street was completed in March of 2017. We are happy to report that the Jameson Bow Street Experience accommodated us on a tour, even though our tickets were for two days later. Learn more about our Jameson Bow St. Experience here. Click this link if you want to buy a ticket for the Dublin: Jameson Whiskey Distillery Tour and Tastings
Following lunch and the Jameson whiskey experience, we set out on foot to see more of Dublin. We crossed back over the River Liffey and walked on Patrick Street until we reached St. Patrick’s Cathedral.Dublin is unique in that it has two Protestant Church of Ireland cathedrals — Christ Church Cathedral and St Patrick’s Cathedral — both within a short walk of each other. Some of our group paid the admission to go inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral. In addition to being Ireland’s largest cathedral St Patrick’s is also the final resting place of Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels and Dean (head of the Cathedral) from 1713 to 1745.
We didn’t go inside, choosing to buy some water at a store nearby and cool off. St Patrick’s Cathedral is next to a park containing the famous well where Saint Patrick is said to have baptized converts on his visit to Dublin. There is also a cemetery outside of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where the photo above was taken.
As we made our way back to the cruise ship shuttle pick up spot, we walked through St. Stephen’s Green, a 22-acre park landscaped with trees, flower beds, fountains and a lake. It’s a beautiful place to take a summer stroll. We exited the Green on the north side, near the historic Shelbourne Hotel that dates to 1824. (SIDE NOTE: During a 2011 Prinsendam British Isles cruise with an overnight in Dublin, we got off of the cruise ship for one night to stay at the Shelbourne Hotel. If you have an overnight in Dublin, we highly recommend staying at the hotel, or at least having a drink in its famous Horseshoe Bar.
Back to Merrion Square, we caught a shuttle back to the cruise ship.
We used this book to help plan our day in Dublin, as well as our days in other Irish ports:
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Ireland
If you prefer a tour in Dublin, check out these options (and many more) from Get Your Guide:
Have you visited Dublin via cruise ship? If so, what was your favorite activity?
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