Cheers! Our five-hour drive from Dover to Southampton is complete, with no hair-raising incidents. Steve did a great job, easily jumping into the scary world of right-hand drive (his first time since 1988); we had a little Mercedes diesel compact, which was crammed with our stuff. Our Hilton hotel is north of the Southampton city center. We did the scenic route, driving from Dover through Hastings and a few other coastal towns. We are now relaxing in a pub, which has free and fast wireless (huzzah!).
The Mouse cruise was quite enjoyable, but not without its major annoyances, which was a first for a Disney cruise. Apparently, all four of the Baltic cruises are seriously undersold and it is unlikely they will repeat this itinerary soon. As long-time Disney fans, we know that the downside of devotion is the fact that everything authentically Disney is certainly not cheap. This cruise was very expensive and the economy surely factored into the reality that our cruise was at 60% capacity, which made the delays on getting our room changed on the first day all that much more aggravating. The food quality was wildly variable and often quite disappointing. The shore excursion staff was genuinely clueless at times about the content of the excursions and accessibility. We also noticed that the Magic looks a bit worn out, although it was supposedly in dry dock last year. Knowing Disney, they will take any and all criticism very seriously.
On the upside, the bar staff was excellent, drink prices were reasonable, we enjoyed the characters and their antics, we had a few good conversations with other passengers, and the ports were totally fascinating. Our shipboard account was not as bad as expected, which was a relief. Our weather was fantastic, with smooth seas throughout the entire cruise, except for the first day. We also watched Toy Story 3 twice, just loving the story.
Well, tomorrow we begin the Queen part of the saga. We will enter the world of fancy-schmancy, afternoon teas, an authentic pub at sea, three thousand passengers and a labyrinth of decks and activities. We will probably have terrible Internet service again, but will keep you posted.