We chose this Disney Cruise because of the itinerary and the opportunity to take advantage of a seldom-offered good rate by this company. Traveling as two adults, we were not overly interested in the character greetings etc. but it was ... Read More
We chose this Disney Cruise because of the itinerary and the opportunity to take advantage of a seldom-offered good rate by this company. Traveling as two adults, we were not overly interested in the character greetings etc. but it was charming nonetheless. Disney does make a great effort to provide adult-only areas, which was appreciated.
We arrived at London Heathrow two days prior to embarkation day. We took the tube to Kings Cross/St. Pancras tube station, where we picked up prebooked train tickets to Canterbury using the ticket machines. At the same time, we picked up our prebooked tickets for the onward journey Canterbury to Dover (for embarkation day) and Dover back to St. Pancras for our trip home. The tube fare each way (using previously purchased Oyster Cards which we topped up using the ticket machines at Heathrow) was about 3GBP. The fares London to Canterbury and Dover to London were around 13 GBP when booked in advance. Certainly we were taking a chance that we might miss our train from London to Canterbury if our flight was late, but it all worked out smoothly.
We chose to stay the 2 nights ahead of the cruise in Canterbury as it seemed quainter than Dover and was only a 20 minute train ride away on embarkation day. We've been to London before so we decided to skip the hustle and bustle. At the Canterbury West train station, we took a taxi to our hotel (8 GBP.) We had prebooked the Premier Inn for around 54 GBP per night. Well worth it as it was a short, pleasant stroll to the pedestrian area of town and conveniently has a Tesco Express for food, sundries and wine/beer (great prices we thought) and also a Pizza Hut next door. As Disney allows 2 bottles of wine per person/per port, we bought 4 bottles to take on board with us.
On embarkation day, we took the train from Canterbury East train station (walking distance from hotel if you don't have a lot of luggage) to Dover Priory station, then a taxi to the port (10 GBP I think.) The lines were quite long at 1pm but we were soon through security and went on to the ship. We made our way to our room, an inside cabin on deck 6. Our bags arrived a few hours later. The muster drill was pain-free, and the sail away quite lovely with the white cliffs of Dover as background. Unfortunately it was cool and cloudy so we didn't linger outside too long.
The ship itself is lovely. However, with the majority of days having cold, cloudy weather (even in July) there seemed to be very little public space for sitting, reading or just hanging out unless you were in a bar or restaurant (the buffet restaurant did not usually remain open between meals.) As a result, adults without kids were jammed into the adults only Cove Cafe, resulting in standing-room only a lot of the time. We certainly spent most of our leisure time in there. Coffees in the morning, wine etc. the rest of the day. This is the best place on the ship in our opinion. Croissants served in the morning, pastries in the afternoon, charcuterie in the evening.
Although I would say that the quality of food on the ship is good, it unfortunately wasn't to my taste. The dining room menu was overly fancy, to say the least. So many sauces and strange (to me) pairings of main food and accompaniments. I'm used to less fussy, West Coast menus I guess. The breakfast buffet had many great choices of fried foods, tasteless omelettes (maybe made with liquid egg substitute or dried eggs??). I ended up eating Raisin Bran or making the odd bacon sandwich. Lunch was the best offering of the day, with an ethnic food choices as well as the expected food. Lots of macaroni and cheese for some reason. Desserts were okay to good. Definitely try the sticky toffee pudding. In the evening, you could attend your assigned dining room sitting (rotating through 3 different dining rooms) or go to Cabanas (buffet by day, waiter service from a limited menu by night.) Because we had been assigned the late seating of 830pm, which is quite late for us, we chose to go to Cabanas several times (open 630- 830.) The head waiter from the dining room left not 1 but 2 messages on our cabin voicemail, concerned that we hadn't chosen to eat in the dining room for a few meals. We prefer to choose where and when we eat. You can get chicken strips and pizza on deck as usual.
Our inside cabin was the lowest category, so it did not have the separate toilet/bathtub that other categories have. It was just fine, still one of the biggest, nicest bathrooms I've had on a ship (and still had a bathtub, not just a shower.) There is a queen bed and daybed, which was made up every evening by housekeeping. The housekeeping was great. The TV had Disney tv shows. Or, for variety, Disney movies. You get the drift. The clock radio has 2 usb ports (how civilized!!!) and available outlets next to the bed and above the dresser. There were 2 hair dryers, a mini-fridge, safe etc. All fine for 2 people.
We went to all the Disney-type production shows (all excellent) but skipped the magician and violinist kind of shows. The shows are held in the very large Walt Disney Theatre - come at least 15 minutes early if you have a large group, as many people tend to have. We also attended all the port-lecturer talks, which were given by a college professor who delivers interesting material with deadpan humour.
The service was excellent everywhere. The only exception being Cabanas restaurant in the evening, which seems to be a training ground. For example, instead of "what would you like to order?" we were asked, "ready?" Just make it a limited buffet in the evening, please.
The ports were exceptional, all places I've never been before: Stavanger, Alesund, Akureyri, Reykjavik, Invergordon (for Inverness.) We booked no ships tours, preferring to make private arrangements.
Stavanger: we walked around to the other side of the port and booked the Lysefjord tour for 490 Norwegian Kroner each. The trip lasted about 3 hours and was beautiful. Stay outside on the deck for the best views, obviously. While waiting for the trip to start (10 am) we used the free wifi at the most beautiful Starbucks (sorry) I've ever been in. Afterwards, we strolled around the old town, had coffee and skol brot at a lovely cafe, and then walked around the pedestrian shopping area behind the Starbucks. It was one of very few warm sunny days.
Alesund: we bought tickets for the little train, and went for coffee while waiting for our assigned time. The train goes on a lovely tour around town and up to a lookout ( I don't remember the exact price but it was expensive.) The lovely art nouveau buildings are so interesting. Afterwards, we went to a brewpub at the pier and had the best hamburger I've ever had (not very Norwegian, I know, but remember I didn't really enjoy the food on the ship but I loved this hamburger!). A cool, cloudy day.
Day at sea: Cove Cafe, the Irish Pub with the Gothard Sisters playing Celtic music, the odd trivia game.
Akureyri: I got up at 2 am hoping to see the sunrise but I was too late, It was already up although it was grey and cloudy too. The sail in/out of the fjord at Akureyri is not to be missed - it's stunning, and is the best opportunity to view wildlife such as whales and dolphins. We had prebooked a tour through Fab Travel (discounted as we booked with them for both Akureyri and Reykjavik.) It is the same tour you can book through the ship at substantially less cost. They were waiting at the pier in both ports. I highly recommend them. We went to a geothermal area, a crater, a lookout, a waterfall and the Myvan nature baths (you can go in this hot spring if you want but we were saving ourselves for the Blue Lagoon.) Several people on our tour did go in the water here (at a cost) but it is really nothing compared to the Blue Lagoon imho. A long day on the bus, but the spectacular scenery is worth it. Nothing to see in the little town itself, book a tour. Other passengers on the ship booked whale watching tours at the port. Free wifi in the port gift shop.
Reykjavik: again we had the prebooked tour (the Golden Circle) with Fab Travel. Do not hesitate to book them. It certainly is a long day on the bus, but with spectacular scenery again. We went to the geyser area, the place where the 2 continental plates meet, a spectacular waterfall, a lovely rest stop, a farm. Our ship docked around noon, so after the tour we just went back to the ship and rested up for day 2 and our Blue Lagoon adventure. We booked through Reykjavik Excursions for the first entry of the day (7am.) They were waiting for us at the pier at 530am as promised. We were driven to the central bus station where we boarded a larger bus at 6am to take us on the 45 minute drive to the lagoon. They opened promptly at 7. We were the first ones in the lagoon, and the first ones at the bar. We had to have our iconic Blue Lagoon photo with a glass of prosecco (well it's 5 oclock pm somewhere, right?) At that hour there were few people in the lagoon and we paddled about happily for an hour. The hordes of buses were just pulling in as we got out. The only hiccup was that the first bus back to town wasn't leaving for an hour or so later so we had excellent coffee in the cafe. We took the Reykjavik Excursion bus back to the main tourist area of town (they will drop you where you want) and then took the free port shuttle back to the port for departure. Free wifi at the port and in most cafes.
Day at sea: as above. Too cold for the pool
Invergordon: Took the local bus to Inverness for the day as we had already done Loch Ness etc. on previous trips. If you want to see the highlands, battle fields, Loch Ness etc. book a tour maybe through the ship for this port. We just shopped in Inverness and had a great lunch. Free wifi in Marks and Spencers.
Day at sea: as above Read Less