The Shannon Princess cruises the Shannon River from Athlone (east of Dublin) to near Limerick. We locked through two locks on the river and enjoyed cruising past many castles, monastery ruins, round towers, and great houses dating from the 6th to the 16th century.Touring the Irish Heartland On Board the luxury hotel barge, the Shannon Princess

  c Pat and Richard Middleton, please request permission before utilizing text or photos in any way.  Thank you!

 "For one week we experienced a private Chef and a private Chauffeur ... on land and on the River Shannon. Cruising value doesn't get any better!"


We traveled on the Shannon Princess II, which is the second Shannon Princess owned and operated by Captain Ruairi  Gibbons and Chef, Olivia Powers. The Shannon Princess II was designed by Ruiari as a hotel barge some seven years ago by refurbishing a coast guard approved 200 passenger day cruiser into a 20 passenger luxury hotel barge.

   There are a few things you should know before committing to a week's luxury cruise on board the hotel barge, Shannon Princess.  

The concept of a small boat cruise might cause you to think of the 400 passenger Mississippi Queen, or one of the boats cruising the Northeast and West coasts of the U.S. Or you might think of bountiful rich foods and that extra ten pounds the trip will cost. 

     Think again.

                The Shannon River is Ireland's longest river. The Shannon Princess is the only hotel barge operating on the river from Athlone to Limerick and, for us, it joins an elite group of small boat cruises that cater to fewer than 45 passengers ... in our experience, only our wilderness cruise of Alaska's Prince William Sound, and our cruise on an historic French canal barge,  provided the same intimate cruise experience.

   We found the Shannon Princess to be the most luxurious of even this elite group of very small hotel barges. And while the ruins of the 6th century Abbeys, castles, towers, peat bogs, and archaeological sites were a delightful setting, in choosing the Shannon Princess I was quite intentional about choosing a gourmet cruise.  

 I had never forgotten how privileged I felt to enjoy a six passenger gourmet cruise on an historic barge in France. For all France’s reputation as the premier destination for “foodies,” I could have looked to Ireland first!! (And weight-wise, it only cost me an extra +.4 pounds!)





A small portion of our breakfast buffet always features homemade yogurt, artisan meats and sausges, smoked fish, and fruits.






   You must come to the Shannon Princess expecting regional Irish foods, and the presentation of those foods to be a highlight of the cruise. Chef Olivia Powers has appeared on cable food channels around the world. In Ireland she trains a new generation of Chefs. We found, however, that not every travel agent is aware that talk of great food on the Shannon Princess is not a sales pitch, it is a passion!!!



Our recession-impacted cruise of summer 2010 included four guests and three staff. Normal, 100% occupancy is only 10 passengers. The bottom line is that every meal and snack, right down to Olivia’s own marinated olives was a treat for the eye as well as the taste buds. All four of us felt pampered and well served throughout the cruise.


I’m an early riser who loves a great cup of coffee and a fine cheese and protein before heading out for a morning walk. Chef Olivia Powers would pop out of the galley every morning with a fresh brewed coffee for me. The early morning buffet was replete with grains, cheeses, smoked halibut, salmon, and Olivia’s pastry and breads... all prepared right in the galley. A travel mate with a gluten allergy was delighted to find individually prepared breads, deserts, and main courses, to suit her specific need.


Our cabin was bright, roomy, with luxury dressings on the bed. The bath room was sparkling clean, and roomy by any cruise boat standard. Our stewardess made up our room during our morning walk. Before every meal, she laid out lovely regional Irish tableware, and introduced us to the menu items and wines. She was there whenever we wandered into the lounge.

“May I get you something to drink? Something to eat?” We also had a self-serve refrigerator in the lounge filled with Irish ales, Guinness, a rack of wines beside it.

                  The Shannon Princess experience is the result of a dream, a vision and a design that has driven Capt. Ruairi (pronounced Rory) Gibbons for over 17 years. Both Ruairi and Olivia grew up along the Irish coast.
    "More than anything, I wanted to find a way to live and work on the water," he told me. The current Shannon Princess is only seven years old. Its interior was designed by Ruairi, after 10 years experience on his first hotel barge.

Photo Albums
Navigating the Shannon River on the Shannon Princess

Arriving Dublin and the Aberdeen Lodge

Itinerary for the Shannon River Cruise, with included shore trips


TRAVEL INSIGHT TIPS for the Shannon Princess


Click for specific Album 
Cruising on the Shannon River, Shore Trips, Arriving Dublin, Irish Road Trip



                 Our vacation actually began in Dublin, where we stayed at Aberdeen Lodge, the passenger meeting point for the cruise. We have learned from previous river cruises that it is wise to plan to arrive two days early. In the event of flight delays, it avoids having to find local transport and rendezvous with your boat up river!Aberdeen Lodge, Sandymount village of Dublin.


    Given the passion we saw reflected from Olivia’s web site for the Shannon Princess, I fully expected Aberdeen Lodge to offer us a comfortable landing spot in Dublin. It did! With easy taxi access from the airport.

                “This is your village,” the taxi driver said about Sandymount. “You’ll like the Aberdeen Lodge. It’s such a nice residential area.” We really felt like we were coming home to Dublin!!


    Public transport (bus or metro train) was located near the Aberdeen Lodge, so we took good advantage of our early arrival to see the Book of Kells and a display of other beautiful illuminated books at Trinity College. We visited the National Archaeological Museum which provided us with some key background to our upcoming cruise. The “peat men” were on display at the museum, and we received a quick introduction to the Monks, the monastery ruins, the Vikings, the clans, and British oppression which forms a recurrent theme in Irish history. We even found music and tourists galore at the Temple Bar area near Trinity.

After a sumptuous introduction to Irish breakfasts at the Aberdeen Lodge, we walked through our little village of Sandymount to Dublin Bay. Here the locals walked their dogs, walked with friends, or jogged along with i-pods, all set along the vast beach area. We returned to coffee and warm cookies in the garden of the Aberdeen Lodge in advance of meeting Ruairi and our travel mates.

Athlone was about a two hour drive east from Dublin, in Ruairi’s new passenger van. We used the two hours to get our first view of Ireland, with Ruairi fielding our questions right and left. We met Chuck and Ann, our shipmates and table partners for the coming week.


Click for specific Album 
Cruising on the Shannon River, Shore Trips, Arriving Dublin, Irish Road Trip
Return to Waterway Cruise Reports


The Shannon Princess cruises the Shannon River from Athlone (east of Dublin) to near Limerick. We locked through two locks on the river and enjoyed cruising past many castles, monastery ruins, round towers, and great houses dating from the 6th to the 16th century.




  Daily life along the river  included morning walks on shaded country roads meandering out from the harbors. Often, country lanes featured thatched cottages, rural vistas of cattle along the Shannon, every-present stone walls, and occasionally a stone fort or medieval ruin. One village offered an elaborate labyrinth and a "fairy hole!"

Long relaxed hours of cruising, with stops in small villages alternated with our included shore trips. Navigating the Shannon princess through locks, docking, or refueling added interest to our journey.

I was tickled to find Ruairi steering the wheel with his toes... a sure sign of an experienced river pilot!


 Shannon River swans (mute swans) with their grey signets were everywhere on the Shannon. Families often arrived to beg a little dinner or breakfast from Olivia.








(Right) The Captain must be on deck observing the locking process. We went through two locks on the Shannon River.

Ross is the 10 year old son of Ruairi and Olivia and is an experienced deck hand on the Shannon Princess.

Ross and Ruairi are "best mates." Ross is home-schooled by Olivia and Ruairi during the cruising season.

Above, the satellite dish and the pilot house are collapsable for a tight fit under a bridge.



Recreation along the Shannon River included canoeing,
fishing, and many sailing regattas.









Rural villages were picturesque.
We learned to recognize business by their brightly painted


The ruin of a square tower guarding a portion of the Shannon River. We enjoyed learning about the progression from round towers, to square towers to castles formed from FOUR square towers!




A privately owned historic barge with unusual side wings (rudders?) was one of many we passed on the Shannon River. We were lucky enough to harbor overnight at a regatta of these unusual and historic vessels which were generally used as freight barges. One of those we harbored with was an historic Guinness barge.




    We found a great variety of landscapes along the Shannon River... from high glacial "eskers" which often provided "pilgrim roads" well above the bogs to the "callows" ... a major flood plain just above Limerick.

    "I've cruised this section (the 'callows') when the flooded Shannon was miles wide," Ruairi pointed out. "Mostly it's pretty easy navigating, but it's a whole different experience for me when the whole region is underwater and finding the main channel is critical."

Irish Heartland PHOTO ALBUMS
Click for specific Album 
Cruising on the Shannon River, Shore Trips, Arriving Dublin, Irish Road Trip
Return to Waterway Cruise Reports