Ireland Beer & Whiskey tour - day 5 Dingle
The Dingle Peninsula was our focus for today, our fifth day of the Joe Sixpack Ireland Beer &...
This post offers some conclusions of our Joe Sixpack Irish Beer and Whisky Tour. To read our first post, click here. After another hearty Irish breakfast in the Trim Castle, we bused to the airport for our flights back home. This gives me plenty of time to talk about some of the features of the tour we took.
One of the biggest decisions a tour operator makes is which hotels to use. Nothing affects the price of the trip more than the hotel. And few other things have a greater impact to the tourist experience. So I am very happy to report that the hotels we stayed in were great. Here's a little summary:
Personally, the thing I was most concerned about was the bus. specifically, could I stand being on a bus for hours at a time. It turns out this was not a problem at all. The longest single stretch we drove was about 2 hours. The bus was comfortable. The fact that the bus held 45 people and we had 24 helped a lot. So there was plenty of room to spread out. We bought a couple cases of water which we put in refrigerator up front. This made hydration much easier. Finally, the WiFi on the bus worked great - for the most part. There was one or two stretches it wasn't coming in, but 90% of the time, it was plenty speedy.
I was also a bit concerned about luggage. What would it be like packing / unpacking and moving the luggage from bus to room? Again, nothing to be concerned about. Packing was relatively easy - we basically put the next days' clothes in an easy to access location. And we never had to carry bags at all - CIE took care of all this. Check in / out of each hotel was very easy. In fact, it was much easier than doing it yourself. Room keys were handed to us as we walked in and (as long as we didn't charge anything to the room) we simply walked from hotel to bus - no check out required.
Have you ever been on a mass market ocean cruise like Royal Caribbean, Norwegian or Carnival? Every feel like you're being nickeled and dimed to death? It turns out that this was not the case at all on this tour. Almost everything is included. Plus we were never offered options which cost more money. I really appreciated this. The only thing we spent money on were the meals that were not included (which were clearly identified ahead of time) and shopping. it also focused the job that Frank, our driver/guide) had to do. He didn't have to worry about selling or collecting money. I really appreciated this.
We drank a lot of beer and a fair amount of whiskey. But of course on a Beer and Whiskey tour of Ireland that was the plan. But what surprised me was how much we learned about Ireland - about the people, the history, the geology and the culture. We saw both gorgeous green fields as well as areas devoid of vegetation. We saw rolling hills dotted with sheep as far as the eye could see. But we also saw dramatic cliffs and rock outcroppings jutting into the sea. We heard plenty of English, some Irish, but plenty of Irish brogue and colloquialisms. We had to be "on the hammer" and we had plenty of craic.
Ireland is a beautiful place. And it was so fun to be around a bunch of people that just want to have fun enjoying and exploring. Our group had it's share of beer geeks to be sure. But no one took themselves too seriously, everyone respected everyone else and we had some great beer and whiskey based experiences.
So to conclude. We had great: beverages, venues, hotels, group, country, driver / guide, itinerary. What more could you ask for?
Here's a little summary in pictures of our Irish Beer and Whiskey tour.
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We decided to try Aer Lingus for our flight home. Big mistake. The operations were disorganized (we were three hours late taking off. The first 2 hours were some sort of mechanical issue, the last hour was the inability of the ground staff to account for all passengers on the flight). Boarding was haphazard - we were called by row but it was unclear where to queue up (we ended up in the business class lane for some reason).
The service on the plane was poor (for example: we were never once offered water between meal services). And the food portions were much smaller than other airlines and quality was pretty bad. With United and Delta, not only was water continually offered but wine and beer were complimentary. Not so on Aer Lingus. The entertainment /movie selection was in a word - poor.
Negotiating through the Dublin airport was not trivial either. There was a long line to check bags. We then waited in a long line to go through Irish Security. We saw no signs indicating rules (computers out and in a separate try?, shoes off or on?, belts off?, bags on belt or in container?). We then headed to US Pre-clearance where we had to get a picture of ourselves and then wait in a line for TSA security. This was a completely redundant security check - though more thorough than the Irish security. Next we waited in line for passport control. We finally were able to proceed to our gate. Including a short stop to buy duty free Irish Whiskey, it took almost 3 hours from the time we entered the airport to the time we arrived at our gate. So beware.