Greetings from Barb! This post is the first trip blog entry for our upcoming European cruising adventure that includes a night in flight, a night in London, a 12-day Baltic cruise on Disney Magic from/to Dover, a night in Southampton, and a six-day transatlantic voyage on the Queen Mary 2 to New York. We depart on June 10, flying non-stop from Denver to London (Heathrow) on United Airlines in first class (love those Mileage Plus miles). We are then magically transported by the happy Disney folks from Heathrow to the Grosvenor House Hotel (JW Marriott) in the posh Mayfair district of London. After a fun evening exploring good pubs in the area, we jump on the buses again the next day and are transferred to Dover to board the ship, which we affectionately call the “Mouse”.
We booked this Baltic cruise in October, 2008 when it first was announced by Disney cruise lines. Our Disney Magic cruise in the Mediterranean in June 2007 with Barb’s Dad was so delightful that we couldn’t pass up this opportunity and we knew that the Disney fanatics would jump on the limited opportunities to see these northern European capitals. Our Disney Magic cruise , which will be the inaugural Baltic cruise for Disney cruise lines, will visit Oslo, Copenhagen, Warnemunde (Germany), St. Petersburg, Helsinki, and Stockholm and we will also have four days at sea. Five new countries for our travel map!! Woo-hoo!
Our original plans had us returning back home the day after disembarking from Disney Magic, flying non-stop again from London Heathrow to Denver. We became concerned, however, with the recent volcanic eruptions from that pesky unpronounceably-named volcano in Iceland that kept shutting down airports across Europe, wreaking havoc with air travel. After a second series of interruptions occurred in mid-May that affected Heathrow, we looked at alternatives and found, to our delight, that the beautiful and gigantic Queen Mary 2 ocean liner sailed for New York from Southampton on June 25, the day after we disembarked from Disney Magic. This timing was incredibly fortuitous!
We pondered the alternatives very seriously; an interruption on the way over was easier to deal with, because we had good travel insurance with Disney cruise lines. However, getting stuck trying to get home was not appealing at all, and could lead to some serious expenses and anxiety because our Disney travel insurance stops when we disembark. On the other hand, we would not be able to use the insurance to get our money back for the QM2 cruise if we don’t get there because of an interruption. We finally determined that best thing we could do was book the cheapest inside cabin we could get at a “guaranteed” price on the QM2. This option might result in an upgrade to a better cabin and if we had to cancel due to a major interruption or other issue that keeps us from getting over there, the amount of money lost was not TOO significant. Other factors also had to be weighed, including my vacation time and the time away from work and Steve’s business, not to mention leaving family and our elderly dear cat for three weeks.
Well, you know what happens with people that like to travel – we simply had to book the QM2, just to have the experience. So now that we have done this, of course the unpronounceable volcano has settled down, although there have been some recent rumblings from its giant sister, Katla (fingers are crossed as we get closer and closer to departure that this monster doesn’t blow its top). We were able to work the Mileage Plus miles, still retaining our first class seats on the way over and settling for economy plus from LaGuardia to Denver and gaining back 100,000 miles as a bonus. Steve also used his Hilton Honors points to move a booking from a Hilton at Heathrow to a Hilton in Southampton and we already had a car rental from Dover to Heathrow that we easily changed from Dover to Southampton. I have already been investigating the pub situation in Southampton and am pleased to report that we will have ample opportunities to sample real ales before we join up with the Queen at the Mayflower docks.
The QM2 booking was not without its added expenses. Many cruise lines now are opting for fewer and fewer formal nights (Disney is even optional now), but Cunard has maintained the old luxury line traditions of formal, mostly formal, and “elegantly casual”; in fact, they still have classes of service. The six-day transatlantic crossing has THREE formal nights (egads), plus an informal night, which is cocktail attire in their jargon. Steve’s tux was in poor repair, so off we went to Men’s Wearhouse. He picks up a new suit and tux the day before we leave and the credit card is the poorer for the experience (guess that means watching our shipboard accounts…..ha, ha, ha, what a knee-slapper!). Fortunately, I had a couple of formals that still fit (glad I lost forty pounds), so I think I’m ok.
So there you have it – stay tuned as we update this blog regularly during our preparations (hate that packing) and our amazing journey.