Today we are back in England with a visit to Liverpool. There is a big excursion to the Liverpool Cathedral tonight, so we decided to make this our sea day and stay on board. Other than being the home of the Beatles, there wasn’t much about Liverpool that interested me. We slept in, had lunch, and went to the library to read. Just outside the library we ran into an English couple from near Stafford-on-the-Avon who we had had dinner with an earlier evening; they had just gotten back from the hop-on, hop-bus and were done for day. I highly recommend this tourist mode of transportation when offered. The buses are a great way to orient you to a city and an easy way to access various tourist sites. (Best place to take one is Barcelona.)
We had been in the lounge about 15 minutes when Jane came back and found us, handed us their bus passes and encouraged us to go. She told us that if we stayed on we could make the whole circuit in an hour. We looked at our watches; it was two pm. Ok, lets go for it. Thanks Jane.
It was a short walk to the first stop not far from the sea terminal (where the passenger ferries depart from and where our cruise ship is docked). No rain today, but it is windy and cold. The morning rain had passed, so we braved the open-air upper deck of this two-level tour bus. Just across the street from our stop were the three main buildings that dominate this Mersey River Waterfront. The Royal Liver Building is classically designed and topped with the mythical Liver Birds from which the city derives its name. The middle structure is the Cunard Building built in Italian Renaissance/Greek Revival style. Prior to moving their headquarters to Southampton, the Cunard Cruise Company was headquartered here. The third building is the Customs House, the most ornate of the three, and built to impress the transatlantic cruise passengers that departed from Liverpool.
Liverpool really is a maritime city. A 7-mile brick wall, parts of which remain, at one time walled the waterfront area from the city. The cargo portion of the docks is now about 5 miles from the passenger terminals. The area near the sea terminal (passenger area) has really been revitalized with former warehouses becoming apartments and amusement venues.
Liverpool is our next Titanic connection port on this cruise. Although the ship never stopped here, Liverpool is the city of its registry. It was conceived and its plans finalized in the White Star office just across the street from the Mercy Waterfront. Captain Smith and most of the crew made their homes in Liverpool. There is even a dockside memorial to the Engine Room Heroes of the Titanic.
Liverpool is the third largest city in England and dates from 1207 when it received its Royal Charter. Leaving the docklands, we began our tour with a stop on Chapel Street where history buffs could exit the bus and visit the headquarters of the Western Approaches. Next was Liverpool One Shopping Complex for major shopping. I was immediately struck by the fabulous buildings in Liverpool, too many to take pictures of. There was a great mix of architectural styles and periods representing the long successful history of this city.
We passed Mathew Street and the original home of the Cavern Club where the Beatles played almost 300 gigs between 1961 and 1963. You can visit the Beatles Shop and the Beatles Story, a walk-through audio-visual presentation on their history. There is another Beatles Museum on the Mersey Waterfront. The Beatles weren’t the only famous group to play the Cavern Club; The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Stevie Wonder (ok, not a group) and Queen all performed there.
Jane was right; the tour took about an hour. We went by the impressive library and St. George’s Hall, train and bus stations, shopping centers, and entertainment venues. Liverpool might be the only city to have two Cathedrals. The Roman Catholic Cathedral was completed in 1967 and is shaped like a funnel. It is renowned for its organ (4565 pipes). It may be the ugliest church I have ever seen. In contrast is the massive Anglican Cathedral, completed just over 30 years ago. Its sheer size is awe-inspiring. We will visit the interior tonight for a special evening performance.
We ended up back in the dock area, cold and wind-blown, but happy we had gone on the tour. Lots of museums to visit here-a branch of the Tate, a Maritime Museum, the Beatles Story. You can even walk down to the Albert Dock from here. We wanted to warm up and get dinner before the show so we headed back to the ship glad we had not just sat in the library.
After a grand buffet dinner and a change of clothes-too cold out to wear the original outfit planned-we took buses to the Anglican Cathedral. Rocky said the interior was breathtaking. The light streaming in through the stained-glass windows created the most incredible effect. Azamara Club Cruises has created these unique evenings on longer cruises, always different. They design an over the top event in a unique venue. Our cruise director greeted us at the church entrance as a Beatle. Once inside, a town crier and the captain grabbed you for a photo. That is while you were trying to pick your jaw up off the floor after catching a look at the interior.
A quartet played chamber music as people filtered in and looked around, took photographs, and found a seat. After introduction of various Liverpool officials-the Lord Mayor, the Dean of Liverpool, Harbor Master, etc.- the captain welcomed us to the show. Two operatically trained performers sang and the organist played a full range on the impressive Cathedral organ. The accompanying light show was spectacular.
At the conclusion of the classical performance section of the show, there was a champagne reception while the stage was reset. The second half of the show was by the Cavern Club Beatles, a local cover band who even made a trip to New York in 2014 retracing the visit by the Beatles in 1964 to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show. That music in this venue stood out in marked contrast. They weren’t the best, but we enjoyed the show.
The double-decker coach we returned to the ship on was much fancier than the one we rode over on. We were told that it was outfitted for the local football (soccer) team. We were riding in style. Everyone had enjoyed the show and were excited; we were told there would be a surprise when we got back to the ship. As we walked on, we were handed a cup of hot chocolate to which rum was added (not the surprise) and went upstairs for a late night sandwich buffet. Then there was a fireworks show on the River along side the ship. Fabulous. It was a spectacular evening.