This was my third time in Portsmouth, actually the fourth if you consider an embarkation and disembarkation of the same cruise as two visits. It never occurred to me that there was anything worth seeing here, but that's why you travel with Tauck. They know stuff.
Disembarking a ship, even a "small" ship with only 200 people, can be stressful and chaotic. Tauck did an excellent job of splitting the disembarkation process into three separate groups, each with their own disembarkation time slot. It makes things go much smoother. We had until 6am this morning to put our checked/large bags out in the hallway for collection. By 8:30am, our group was heading down the gangway to the port shuttle waiting to take us to the terminal building.
Once in the terminal, we identify our pieces of luggage, and take them to a nearby truck where they are loaded to be delivered to our hotel in London. The entire process is very efficient. Motor coaches outside the terminal are labeled based on the Tauck Tour Director to which you are assigned. Tauck could not make it any simpler!
After boarding our coach, we are introduced to Jean, our local tour guide for the morning. As the coach meanders through Portsmouth, Jean educates us as to why this is such an interesting place, and why it is worthy of a longer visit.
Soon we arrive at Portsmouth Historical Dockyards for our morning excursion. We are each given tickets and are basically on our own to explore the dockyards. There are a lot of different exhibits here, restaurants and gift shops. I wasted no time in heading straight for the HMS Victory.
The ship was launched in 1765 and is famous as Lord Nelson's flagship. Perhaps she is best known for her role at the Battle of Trafalgar on October 21, 1805. With 104 guns, this ship was built to do some serious damage. And, she has been immaculately preserved. The ship has been through multiple repairs and restorations over the decades. It was fascinating to walk through the decks to see the cannons, and how the sailors live, all 850 of them!
I found it interesting that the cannons got larger as you descended into lower decks, with the largest being on the lowest cannon deck. I cannot even imagine how loud it must have been with all of those cannons firing. After touring every deck of the Victory, I walked through the Mary Rose exhibit.
The Mary Rose is a warship of the English Tudor navy of King Henry VIII. After serving for 33 years in several wars, she saw her last action on July 19, 1545. While leading the attack on the galleys of a French invasion fleet, she sank in the straits north of the Isle of Wight. The wreck of the Mary Rose was rediscovered in 1971. It was raised in 1982, in one of the most complex and expensive projects in the history of maritime archaeology.
Trying to imagine more than 500 men on a ship that size is mind-boggling. When she sank, 500 men died, only 35 survived. The presence of both the Mary Rose and the HMS Victory make a visit to the Portsmouth Historical Dockyard a must. If you are cruising into or out of Portsmouth, plan an extra day or two as there is a lot to see here.
After our time at the dockyards, we re-boarded the coaches for a short drive to our lunch destination. Tauck arranged for a group lunch at The Still and West, a Portsmouth pub located right on the waterfront.
My traditional pub dish, a meat pie with gravy, mashed potatoes and cabbage was very good. And, the pint of Guinness made it even more enjoyable! As with all Tauck arranged events, everything is included in the price, even gratuities.
After lunch, we once again boarded the coaches for the two-hour drive to London. We arrived at our hotel, the Churchill Hyatt, at around 5pm. Again, Tauck has thought of everything. Instead of having to stand in line to check-in, our Tour Director brought our room keys to the coach and handed them to us as we disembarked. Nice.
Tomorrow, we will be exploring London.