Norwegian Prima’s next stop after crossing the Atlantic was Cobh (Cork) Ireland. Since we had to get back to the states for a destination wedding, we cut our cruise short and disembarked in Cobh. We had a full day to explore the area, because our flight back to Detroit didn’t depart Cork, Ireland until 6 am the next day. So, we decided to cram as much “luck of the Irish” as we could into a few hours. I have been to Ireland before, but it was my husbands first visit.
We hired a private car and driver to pick us up at the ship and take us sightseeing for the day. We booked our tour with “Tours by Locals” and our driver, Paul, was a real character. He was an aggressive driver with a passion for the sport of hurling (which is kind of like lacrosse, but full contact). Because of Paul’s heavy accent I could only understand about half of what he was saying, but the half I understood was laced with F bombs and “friendly banter”. Paul decided that our day in Ireland should start with Whiskey tasting at Jameson’s for breakfast. Frankly, I was a little scared of Paul so I wasn’t going to put up much of a fight. “When in Ireland…”
Jameson Distillery Tour
We left the quant little seaside town of Cobh (where the Titanic sailed it’s first and last voyage from) and drove for 20 minutes to the original Jameson Distillery in Midleton, Ireland. We paid for a tour of the facility followed by a whiskey tasting. It was a very interesting and informative tour. For the tasting we did a blind taste test of Jack Daniels, Johnny Walker Red and the Jameson Irish Whiskey, which is triple distilled. There was no comparison…The Jameson was much smoother.
My husband Tommy added a deluxe tasting, so he was able to try 4 different premium Jameson pours. His favorite was the Black Barrel, which had a smoky flavor. It is only available to purchase there at the original distillery.
There is another Jameson location in Dublin available for tourists to visit, but the Midleton location is the original distillery. Our tour lasted approximately 1 hour and cost around 20 Euro per person. It included the tasting at the end plus a Jameson beverage of your choice from the bar. I opted for Jameson and Ginger Ale. They also have a nice gift shop and a food truck available for snacks. It was an interesting and very Irish way to start the day for sure!
From there, we headed West to visit Blarney Castle. Most of the cruise ship tours start the day at Blarney Castle, so we lucked out with our timing and the crowds were manageable. Paul dropped us at the front gates and showed us where to meet when we were done. We walked around the grounds a bit and then headed to the castle. Paul had warned us to expect at least an hour wait, but we were done within a half hour. Pro Tip: You must be able to walk up and down a steep, uneven stone spiral staircase to get to the roof of the castle where the Blarney Stone is.
Kissing the Blarney Stone is said to give you the gift of gab, so if this blog post is a little long and rambley you will know why! Lol! They do clean the stone with disinfectant in between kisses. They also take a photo that you can purchase but allow you to take your own pictures as well.
When we came down from the castle there was a bag piper playing which just completed the whole experience perfectly.
From Blarney Castle we headed into downtown Cork to see the sights. We visited an old fort with an amazing rooftop view of the city. We strolled around the English Market which was filled with traditional Irish food stalls, so we sampled some local delicacies for lunch. Paul’s friend owns a handmade confectionary shop where we picked up some candy treats. Paul suggest a quick drink at the Mutton Lane Inn, the oldest pub in Cork, but I was still burping Jameson from breakfast.
Cork International Hotel in Cork, Ireland
At that point I was wiped out (which is what happens when you start your day with Irish Whiskey for breakfast). I was ready for a nap, so Paul dropped us (and our luggage) off at the Cork International Hotel. It was within walking distance of the airport, but they do offer a complimentary shuttle service as well. They had a restaurant on site for dinner called The New Yorker Bar, which was just ok. It was an early bedtime since we had to get up at 3 am to catch our 6 am flight to Amsterdam. We connected from there to Detroit. We arrived home on time and exhausted from all our adventures. 😊