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Lord of the Glens Cruise Review

Itinerary: Lord of the Glens - Scotland Highlands and Islands - August 2014

Lord of the Glens

My husband, Bill, and I just returned from our Lindblad-National Geographic cruise on Scotland’s Highlands and Islands and I wanted to tell you what a wonderful experience this was. Since the itinerary was so well described on the website, I’ll not bother telling you about the marvelous places we went. Instead, I’ll try to touch on things I wished I had known before going. Perhaps this will help the people who are thinking about this cruise.

Edinburgh. We flew to Edinburgh, Scotland three days early in order to get over jet lag. While there, we stayed at the Royal British Hotel on Princes Street, breakfast not included (this was our choice) not Linda’s; not Lindblad’s). Not a good choice in terms of quality. What the hotel did have going for it was location-location-location! We were right across the street from the Waverly Train Station, and that was just about worth it. (I’d try the Waverly Hotel down the block as another possibility.)

Inverness. We then took the train from Edinburgh to Inverness, about a 3 hour trip. We stayed at the MacDougall Clansman Hotel, with breakfast included. Again our choice. The room was large and airy, the breakfast was delicious, within walking distance of the train and bus station. We only had one night in Inverness, but we had the best Indian food we have ever had at the Rajah Restaurant, 2 Post Office Ave, just 2 blocks from our hotel. The next day, we met our Cruise group at the bus station and were taken by bus across the the width of Scotland where we embarked on the Lord of the Glens at Kyle of Lochalsh.

The Cruise. The Lord of the Glens is a very elegant, narrow little ship, one of few designed to fit through the canals. Only 48 passengers were aboard, with 19 staff. Thanks to you, Linda, we had cabin #301, excellent location. The program was well designed, organized (we always knew where we were going and what programs were available) and fun, with lots of diversity in terms of scenery (beautiful!), history, or culture. We learned a LOT about Scottish history, culture, and current events, including the upcoming Referendum on whether Scotland will vote to become independent of the United Kingdom.

We toured the various Islands for the first 2/3 of the cruise, docking several times on the Isle of Skye, Isle of Mull, Isle of Eigg, as the itinerary described. One of our favorites was Iona, described as the ‘Cradle of Christianity.’ This had an abbey for monks and a nunnery for women. Elsewhere, we visited the Oban Distillery for a wee bit of Scotch tasting. The Clan Donald Center at Armadale was very informative. We found a number of references to my family ancestors there.

During the last 1/3 of the cruise, we entered the Corpach Sea Lock to begin our trip up, then down the locks through the Caledonian Canal. This was exciting! The ship was just a few inches on either side in going through these locks, and the Captain was very masterful in guiding us smoothly through. We docked at the end of the Canal in Inverness and spent the next to the last day going through the Culloden Interpretive Center and Battlefield. This battle, in 1746, was between the Royalist forces and the Jacobites fighting for ‘Bonnie Prince Charles.’ The Jacobites were defeated, massively, which led to the destruction of the Scottish Clan system, and their culture, including their use of bagpipes, wearing of kilts, their homes, and for many, their lives. The battle itself lasted only one hour, and the Interpretive Center provided a very clear description of what happened.

The fellow guests on our cruise were from many different places in the US, and one couple from Australia. They were all very engaging! There were no younger children or teenagers on this trip, as there were on the Galapagos cruise. While we missed their energy and curiosity, we could understand how exciting animals would top beautiful scenery and history. At meal times, we had open seating, always served by the wait staff for lunch and dinner, and a buffet at breakfast.

Perhaps a word about dress: casual. The operational definition of ‘dressing up for dinner’ might have been changing to a cleaner shirt, but sometimes not. Many of us wore those L. L. Bean fly fishing shirts, long sleeves rolled up, and many pockets.

Specialists on the Cruise. Two of staff I wanted to describe really added greatly to the quality of this cruise. We especially enjoyed David Cothran, the Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor. David gave talks practically every day on topics such as the National Geographic’s emphasis on photography by the guests (not just experts like himself), architectural photography, the role of light in good photographs. He also held impromptu sessions on how to set up your photograph, which F-stop to use, and how to improve your photos with post processing programs such as Lightroom. He also held Bring-Your-Camera-and-we’ll talk- about-your-options sessions. We docked often to explore a site for several hours and on one of those, I saw a fellow guest stop David on the sidewalk to help her set up a shot. He engaged in on-demand tutorials whenever and wherever anyone was using a camera. David was a masterful teacher, and we all appreciated his being there to help us. He was also just a delightful guy to get to know! In the future, given two or more Lindblad-NG cruises to go on, I would pick the cruise that had David as the Photo Instructor over the others. Although all Lindblad-NG cruises have a photo instructor, not all are as good as David nor as willing to share his or her expertise.

The other staff person who added greatly to the quality of our experience was Konia Tack, the ship’s cultural specialist. Konia was born in Germany, but moved to Scotland and has become deeply emerged in the culture and history of the people and places. While we were in cruise mode, Konia would perch on a bar stool in the lounge and tell us about the history of a place we were going to, or describe the background of the castles we were passing by, or tell us about the Scottish clans and what life was like during the periods of the Clearances. It was like floating along with a master storyteller. Konia also led groups on land together with Steve Blamires, the Expedition Leader, and David, our Photo guy. They worked well together as a team.

A Few Details. I had a dietary requirement that you and I talked about before going. Because of a medication, I have to eat one cup of a leafy green vegetable high in vitamin K on a consistent basis, i.e., every day. Although I specified which vegetables would qualify in my profile, I was still concerned that this request was so odd that the restaurant staff would not fully understand or comply with my medical need for these greens. By experience I should have known not to worry! The Lord of the Glens Restaurant staff understood completely and provided a fresh vegetable in this category every day, just as the Endeavor staff on the Lindblad-NG cruise to Galapagos did two years ago. I also know that there are many people on these cruises who need a special diet (diabetes, gluten-free, Celiac disease, vegan, etc.). On the basis of our 2-cruise experience with Lindblad-NG, I should know by now that the restaurant staff are sympathetic experts in coping with dietary needs. Thank you.

Bottom Line. In conclusion, my husband and I really, really enjoyed this cruise and would choose Lindblad-National Geographic again for future experiences. They are the best, they take care of you, and they want you to have a good time! I also appreciated Linda’s services in making reservations, reassuring me about the dietary issues, and assuring me that we would enjoy the cruise. We did!

—Judy Garrard, Minneapolis, Minnesota