CRUISING ON THE SHANNON
"I miss the River Shannon and the folks at Skiberdeen, the
moorlands and the meadows and their 40 shades of green".
When Johnny Cash wrote these words he was flying into Ireland and they became
part of the lyrics for one of his most famous songs. Paddy, our singing driver-guide, who
has met us in Dublin and is driving us to our destination, entertains along the way. Forty
Shades of Green is his opener and he follows up with an enthusiastic rendition of Sweet Molly Malone. It's a great introduction to the Shannon Princess II, our luxurious home
for the next week.
This isn't our first voyage on the Shannon. We have fond memories of sailing on the
original Shannon Princess, replaced by the current vessel two years ago. "You're most
welcome", says Owner-Captain Ruairi (Rory) Gibbons as he greets each guest debarking
from the Mercedes bus that's brought us to Killaloe.
Every week, between April and October, Capt. Gibbons pilots the barge, alternating
between the ports of Killaloe and Athlone. Killaloe is the southernmost point on the
Shannon for cruising and yachting and Athlone, our terminus point to the north, is just
south of Lough Ree.
The Shannon River, longest in Ireland and the British Isles, flows through the
country's central plain beginning on the slopes of Cuilcagh Mt. in County Cravan and
ending 230 miles further as it empties into the Atlantic Ocean near Limerick. Joined by
a number of lake and river systems, the Shannon extends over an area of 1262 miles. Our
voyage will cover some 125 miles of bucolic scenery, pass through two lakes and two
locks and under magnificent centuries-old stone arch bridges. It's a wonderful adventure
that goes by all too quickly in a part of Ireland most travelers never see.
Ruairi's wife and co-owner, Olivia, is one of Ireland's most talented chefs. If the
Shannon Princess were landlocked, it would have a Michelin star. She welcomes us
aboard and introduces other crew members - Marina, her sister, Monica from Poland,
who is pursuing a master's degree in hospitality, and Shanna, an enthusiastic Irish
university student. Within minutes we have champagne glasses in hand and are joining
in a toast to a successful voyage.
The passenger manifest includes a minister and his wife from Canada, executive
secretary from a Fortune 500 chemical company, retired couple from Michigan, Harvard
instructor-psychiatrist, and two self-employed executives. It's a typical cross-section of
barge enthusiasts, though these cruises are also popular with families, some of whom
charter the entire barge. Sandra Bullock brought her whole family aboard, including her
mother, a trained opera singer, who wowed a pub crowd when she sang Danny Boy.
Ruairi reviews safety measures and outlines our general schedule for the week, which
can be amended to suit the majority of passengers. Continental breakfast is served from
eight until nine; lunch is usually served at 12:30 and dinner at seven. At night we tie up,
then sail during the morning and have an excursion in the afternoon, sometimes followed
by a short sail to our mooring.
Visit Shannon Princess II