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Old 08-16-2019, 05:16 PM   #41
jmark
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London Day 3 Part 3

While we had wanted to show some of the historical highlights of London to the kids, I also wanted to plan at least one fun activity. After learning that the tallest and longest slide in the world was in London my kids were totally on board. BH not so much. The slide is located at the ArcelorMittal Orbit which was a tower built for the London Olympics at the Olympic Park. The park was a bit of a ride on the tube from central London but you only live once. Luckily when we left the pub, the rain stopped and it was becoming a beautiful afternoon.

The ArcelorMittal Orbit:


At the top is an observation area and the start of the slide. You can kind of see the slide better from this picture- itís the grey tubing in the center:



Bro was excited to see that the tower was right next to West Ham stadium.



After seeing Stamford Bridge and how compact it is, I can understand why West Ham fans were less then excited to call this stadium there new home as it is huge. There was actually a track and field meet at the stadium which we could hear as we went to the tower.

Again we had pre-purchased tickets with a set time. They were running late however and we were told to go up to the observation area for a bit before our time would be called for the slide. There were also some people repelling down the side of the tower which was a big nope for us. The slide was the limit for our daredevils.

A view of London:



The kids enjoyed killing time waiting to be called:



The boy watching someone getting ready to go down:



To ride the slide, you are outfitted in a helmet and arm pads. You are also provided with a toboggan like sled. I kind of felt like an old time football player with the leather helmet and bare bones padding. After getting dressed, the kids couldnít help but slap each other in the head while in their protective gear. I actually wish I could keep the helmets for the next time the kids decide to fight. Since you have to leave everything including phones in your locker, I didnít get a photo of us all decked out in our gear which is a shame because we looked absolutely ridiculous.

Being that high up, I will say I was a bit nervous going down. I was the first victim (I mean Guinea pig). I was also the idiot that got to wear a go pro.

Contemplating my life choices:





The slide was actually was not that scary once you were on it although it was a little claustrophobic. On some portions of the slide light came in and other portions were completely dark. Depending on the turns, there were some portions of the slide that were pretty fast but then you would hit a slower section and would slow down to prevent you from building up too much speed. All in all, everyone liked it and it was not as scary as it initially looked. Compared to our experience at Tivoli Gardens later in the trip, it was a breeze.

As we were heading out, the track and field event at the stadium let out and we were in a proper English mob heading back to the underground. They actually had stewards out with big signs saying ďSTOPĒ and ďGOĒ for crowd control walking back to the underground. I canít imagine this working in the United States as no one would pay the stewards any attention. I did appreciate the crowd control as it allowed the mob to be dispersed a bit. We then headed back to our hotel briefly before dinner when we walked right past when Mama Mia was letting out. Apparently, whatever we were doing for the day, we were going to run into mobs of people.

In addition to lunch at a pub, we knew we would have to eat at an Indian restaurant at least one night in London. While I wouldnít say we eat Indian food to often (although Sanaa is a must do when we stay at Kidani), one thing I learned from my previous trips to London is that Indian food tastes better in London. We went to Marsala Zone in Covent Garden which is a mini London chain that seemed like it would be a good choice with the kids.

private image upload

We really enjoyed everything at this restaurant and I would totally eat here again. Luckily for the boy, he was not kissed by anyone for cleaning his plate.

After dinner me and DD headed out to the West end while BH and the boy went back to the hotel to pack and get ready for the cruise the next day. As the boy wanted to see a football stadium, DD is a Broadway fan and a visit to a west end show was a must. BH originally wanted to take DD to Les Misťrables which is not playing on Broadway anymore. Unfortunately, we literally arrived a week too late as Les Mis was moving to a new theater and was dark. Many of the other shows were inappropriate or DD had previously seen. Ultimately, we decided on Phantom of the Opera. Since my BH is not a fan, I took DD.



DD was surprised that there were no free playbills in the West End but I bought her a guide anyway since they were not too expensive.



The show was good although Iím not the biggest Anthony Lloyd Webber fan. DD loved it and proclaimed that it was one of her favorite plays. After the play we went back to the hotel as the London portion of our trip was over. After three days of London, I was ready to start the cruise (as Iím sure some of you following along are too).

Next up: We start the cruise (Finally!) after a quick stop in Dover (). If you've hung in so far, hang in a bit longer-Scotland, Iceland and Norway were amazing.
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Old 08-16-2019, 05:23 PM   #42
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Originally Posted by erikthewise View Post
Great trip report!
(And surely you mean "chips", right? )
Thanks! Thinking about it we got the "loaded" variety and I don't remember them being called "loaded chips" or I think I would have made a dumb drunk Erik Estrada joke (no one ever remembers the other guy). Maybe since they were loaded they were fries? But your probably right.
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Old 08-22-2019, 03:49 PM   #43
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Day 5- Dover/Embarkation Day- Part 1

ďIíve seen the whole world six times over
Sea of Japan to the Cliffs of DoverĒ

Too Much Information- The Police

Well I never have been to Japan, but after three days in London, it was finally the day to get to Dover to start our cruise. After getting up early and enjoying our last breakfast at the Hilton Waldorf (we started noticing a few adventures by Disney lanyards), it was off to Dover. Again, we really liked everything about the Hilton Waldorf (room, location, breakfast) and would stay there again if and when we return to London.

We had arranged travel through International Friends and our experience was much better than our initial drive from the airport where we were fearing for our lives. It was an uneventful two hour journey which is all you can ask for. We had also booked a two hour stop at the Dover castle before we boarded the ship and I am glad that we did. The castle was close to the port (if you were a bird-it was not walkable) and we had a great view of the Magic from the castle which confirmed the cruise was about to start (I bet some of you following along were doubting Iíd ever get to this point). It was also nice at this point that we finally ran into some nice weather which was welcome after our London experience (Iím happy to say we were blessed with good weather for the next few days).



The Union Jack (our time in England was about to end):



View from the top:


A view of Dover proper:



First sight of the Magic from the castle (proof we actually went on a cruise):



The castle was fortified just in case the Magic tried something funny:



The kids were willing to join in on the defensive front if needed:



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Old 08-22-2019, 05:36 PM   #44
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Your trip looks amazing!! I want to go to London. I'm into the all the history. Did you feel safe while you were there?
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Old 08-23-2019, 01:16 PM   #45
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Your trip looks amazing!! I want to go to London. I'm into the all the history. Did you feel safe while you were there?
Thanks! I honestly felt completely safe in London but then again I've lived in NYC and are used to urban areas. Before we left, BH was concerned of the reports of knivings and acid attacks but we didn't see or really hear of anything there. BH commented when we left that she felt very comfortable in London and it felt safer and cleaner then NYC. I will definitely say that London was definitely cleaner then NYC and we didn't see the usual stuff you see in NYC (homelessness, begging, etc.) on the streets or in the tube. We basically were in the touristy nicer ares of London so perhaps there is more of that in the dodgy sections.

The only incident that happened was that one morning going to the underground, a drunk guy saw that I was holding my son's NYCFC hat and started talking to me about football in America and then tried to segue into other discussions. He was clearly not picking up on my social cues that I was not interested in the discussion and I confused him by making a turn when my family went straight to avoid him (I caught up to my family on the next block). But after living in and visiting NYC numerous times thats not something that out of the norm. But I would say I felt completely safe throughout our time in London.
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Old 08-23-2019, 03:03 PM   #46
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Embarkation Day Part 2

The castle itself was very spread out and hilly. Since we only had two hours, we did not have time to see the old medical infirmary or the exhibition on Dunkirk since those opened later in the day. That said, the castle grounds were well maintained, and it was nice not having to fight through throngs of people like we had experienced in London. The castle itself was less like a museum like the London Tower but It also had more hands-on stuff for the kids even though some of it was a bit hokey. It was almost like a kids museum located in a castle:

Anyone want some gruel:




Pig on a plate:



Of course, the Boy found the weapons:



The butcher:

upload pic url

The baker:



The woodcutter (what you thought I was going to say something else):



Working the grist mill:



Ye old royal area:



You should see dd in a crown:



Looking out we saw goats grazing on the roof of a small building (I hate it when goats come on our roof to graze):



There were also some old WWII tunnels the kids enjoyed exploring (and screaming in):



post pics



Scenes from inside the castle church:






The kids enjoyed exploring the Dover castle more than the Tower of London. If you like crowds, stories of torture and you want to see the Queenís crown jewels, the Tower of London is probably for you. However, Dover Castle appealed more to the kids as they could run around and act out castle life. I do wish we had a little more time to see the Dunkirk exhibit but since our two hours were up, we met back with our driver to take us to port. It was time for the cruise.
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Old 08-23-2019, 03:32 PM   #47
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Thanks! I honestly felt completely safe in London but then again I've lived in NYC and are used to urban areas. Before we left, BH was concerned of the reports of knivings and acid attacks but we didn't see or really hear of anything there. BH commented when we left that she felt very comfortable in London and it felt safer and cleaner then NYC. I will definitely say that London was definitely cleaner then NYC and we didn't see the usual stuff you see in NYC (homelessness, begging, etc.) on the streets or in the tube. We basically were in the touristy nicer ares of London so perhaps there is more of that in the dodgy sections.

The only incident that happened was that one morning going to the underground, a drunk guy saw that I was holding my son's NYCFC hat and started talking to me about football in America and then tried to segue into other discussions. He was clearly not picking up on my social cues that I was not interested in the discussion and I confused him by making a turn when my family went straight to avoid him (I caught up to my family on the next block). But after living in and visiting NYC numerous times thats not something that out of the norm. But I would say I felt completely safe throughout our time in London.
That's good to know. We were thinking about going next year. And I was worried. Guess the key is to stay in the touristy areas. I live in a small town. So not used to the urban hustle and bustle. Thanks
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Old 08-23-2019, 05:43 PM   #48
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Embarkation Day Part 3

The car ride from the castle to port was only about five minutes where we met BHís family who were joining us on the cruise. The terminal was not very large and after going through security we were herded into the main room to check in. The thing that immediately stood out was that 90 percent of the cruise was comprised of silver and gold castaway club members. Just about everyone checking in was on the silver and gold line and I actually envied the line for new cruisers which was almost completely empty. After a bit of a wait, we checked in. One odd thing with check in is that they seized everyone passports which were held until we left Iceland which is apparently required by Iceland immigration. We were given copies of our passport in the meantime. We were able to pick up a navigator in the terminal but as is the new policy they would not be left in our room and would only available at guest services. (I really dislike the new policy as I find its much easier to read the paper navigator over the app.) Since it was already well into general boarding, we took the obligatory picture, and were on line shortly after that to have our name announced, The cruise was officially on.



This was our first cruise on the Magic although we have been on the Wonder and the Fantasy before (one more for the grand slam). Other than some different themed areas it felt nearly identical to the Wonder.

After boarding my first task was to see if I could reserve a Palo brunch and/or a drink tasting. Even though we are silver members, by the time I could make on-line reservations all Palo brunches and drink tastings were booked. I was able to book a Mixology for day four but was only able to put our name on a wait list fort the Palo brunch. (Spoiler alert- the wait list never came through). I then joined everyone for lunch at cabanas.

After lunch, as is tradition, I went with the kids to get them set up in the kids clubs and explore them a bit while they were in open house mode.

Iron man:



Thorís hammer:



Toy story area (which my kids had outgrown):





The Club and Lab were definitely smaller than the Club and Lab on the Fantasy. While the Boy liked the club, by the end of the trip he was getting a bit tired of it. I will say though that there appeared to be fewer kids on this cruise as the Lab and Club never seemed too busy. DD was able to go to the Lab/Club and Edge. Considering herself too cool to be in the Club or Lab (especially since the Boy was there), she spent almost all of her time at Edge or hanging with friends around the ship. As this was the first time she had self-charging privileges, she was enjoying the freedom.

We walked around the ship some and like the other ships, the Magic was in tip top shape. I dare say it was in better shape then the Wonder when we were last on the Wonder (which admittedly was right before a dry dock). I also immediately realized that I much prefer the smaller ships. The proportions of guests is just much better and its easier to get around on the smaller ships. Nothing ever felt too crowded which I have felt at times on the Fantasy. Even with the bells and whistles the newer ships have, I much prefer the smaller Disney ships.

We had a seventh floor veranda room and BHís family was in the veranda next to us as well as an inside room diagonally across the hall. The boy was ready to relax:



After unpacking and the muster drill (I personally believe that the cruise does not officially begin until after the muster drill), it was time for the sail away party. It was the ďnewĒ sail-a-wave party which I found to be as annoying and as clawingly corny as the old sail away party.

Perhaps Mickey wants me to get to the cruise portion of this TR:



Well played Mickey. Well played.

The only reason we went to the party was that I wanted to see the cliffs of Dover when we sailed away and our veranda was on the opposite side. The party ended, the horn blared and then. . . . the ship just sat there. While you could see the cliffs from shore I was hoping we would get to see more of the cliffs as we sailed away:





From the other side you could see France off in the far distance. We waited a bit but then we realized they were still loading the ship so we went back to our rooms before dinner.

Even as we went to Lumiereís, the ship had not moved. We met our server team of Suttipong and Jose who were great. We also met our head server Krasimir who was by far the best head server weíve ever had. On past cruises, Iíve wondered what exactly the head server does and why I had to tip the head server when all they seemed to do was say hello every night and linger at the table during the last night waiting for their envelope. Krasimir would go above and beyond asking if he could get something from a menu being served in a different dining room and going out of his way many times over during the cruise. That guy was awesome. I wonít say much about the cruise food going forward because to me itís the same as it always is- decent food you would get at a wedding (with the kitchen apparently adverse to adding salt, pepper or any seasoning) but nothing earth shattering. Lumiere's was pleasant but as it was the only restaurant that did not have any show elements. It felt pretty basic.

One thing that was neat about the cruise was at the start we could see that many of the crew were particularly jazzed about this cruise as many of the stops were new or they had visited only a few times before. We would have conversations with several crew members and entertainers who told us what they had planned to do in Iceland (especially with an overnight). By the end of the cruise I really started to get the feeling that many of the better crew members are on the Magic. I get the feeling that new crew members usually start on the newer ships and the better ones ask to be transferred to the Magic (and to a lesser extent the Wonder) which have more diverse itineraries. Most of the crew told us they had been on other ships and had asked to go to the Magic. It really showed in the general overall service during the cruise.

During dinner, we finally passed the famed cliffs:



We also passed by a solar wind farm, which we saw plenty of during the cruise (Europe is definitely ahead of the US on this):



We got away from shore and were out on the open sea pretty quickly. After dinner we fell into our typical cruise routine. The Boy went to the club, DD went to Edge and we went to trivia and/or enjoyed a drink at Keys. In the past, we usually spent more of our time at OíGills but on this cruise we really enjoyed the piano players at Keys (especially Tom Sartori). We never make it to the first night show as it never interests us, so after hanging at Keys for a bit it was time to call it a night.

Next up: Our first sea day before we get to Scotland (which was amazing).
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Old 09-04-2019, 11:15 AM   #49
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Cruise Day 2- Sea Day

"We are sailing, we are sailing
Home again
'Cross the sea"

Rod Stewart-Sailing

Iíd like to say something really profound happened this day but frankly it was mostly a day to relax after running around England. Instead, it was a pretty relaxing sea day. After a late wake up, some exercise with a jog on the jogging track, it was already late morning by the time I had breakfast.

We donít usually decorate our doors for the cruise but BH wanted to commemorate the countries we would be visiting:



We had a veranda room on the seventh floor which was quite convenient to everything (frankly on the smaller ships I think most rooms are convenient). One thing I was presently surprised to learn is that if you have two adjourning veranda rooms they will remove the barrier between the rooms to make one long veranda. I had no idea they did this and it was really nice to hang out with BHís family without having to shout over the divider. Most of the day was spent hanging out on the veranda or in the adult section of the pool deck where there was a barrier to protect from the wind. While it was still in the upper 60s-lower 70s, there was a bit of a wind and it was chilly. The boy didnít care and he was intent on riding the Aquadunk. (DD was off enjoying her freedom in Edge). Since this was the first time on the Magic, it was new to him.





He guilted me to going on the Aquadunk which I did. The water was heated but once it was time to get out, it was miserable. The ride itself wasnít too bad- Iíve done the floor dropping tube slides before and the vertical part is not too long. After that we relaxed on deck and watched a little funnel vision.





Up at signals, I noticed that they had some interesting Norwegian ciders (Rekoderburg) Ė Raspberry, Passion Fruit and Pear. These were really good ciders that Iíve never seen before and Iíd totally buy them if I saw them in the states. They also had some Norwegian beers that I donít think they normally serve. I think we also did Disney tunes trivia at some point but it was really just a low key afternoon.

Dinner was at animatorís and it was the Mickey show. The Mickey show never gets old (although the drawing show is my favorite dinner show). As per tradition, I can never get a good picture of Mickey during the show:



It was formal night but since we were pacing for two weeks, we were at best semi-formal. After dinner we grabbed some drinks at Keys and listed to the piano player which became our almost daily routine. Since the sun stayed out pretty late, it was still petty sunny which we had to get used to. Our typical evening view:



Again, we really enjoyed the piano players. It was a nice way to wind down the evening and they played a pretty good assortment of songs from the 60s to present. In honor of visiting Scotland, and in honor of Scotland I ordered a Rob Roy. I canít say Iíve ever had one before but it was pretty good.

For FREEEEDOOM:




We did see the Twice Charmed show. At the beginning I thought it would be hokey but it actually wound up being pretty good. It may have actually been the best Disney show we saw on the ship. After the show we went to the stores to see if they had any cruise specific merchandise. I kicked myself for not going on the first evening as the Iceland cruise shirts were already sold out except in the Small and Triple XL sizes. They did have a cute Tevis tumbler which I wound up buying.



After that, we called it a day. The sun was still shining but we would not have the midnight sun yet.



Next Up- Day 7 Kirkwall/Orkney Islands Scotland- the kids first fear factor food challenge and easily one of the most unique port stops.
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Old 09-04-2019, 11:23 AM   #50
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Cruise Day 3- Kirkwall/Orkney Islands Scotland

ďIn a big country
dreams stay with youĒ

In a Big Country- Big Country

When we first booked the cruise, Kirkwall didnít jump out at us as a port that excited us other than the town cathedral and a Highland Park whiskey distillery just outside of town. The prior yearís cruise had stopped at Ivergorden (Lock Ness) instead of Kirkwall and initially I wished our cruise would have went there so we could say we tracked down Nessie. But after some research, I realized if we got out of Kirkwall proper and saw the rest of the Orkney was going to be interesting and unique.

Outside of town, the Orkney Islands have one of the highest concentration of pre-historical archaeological sites in all of Europe. While Disney had some excursions to some of those sites, the excursions they had only visited one or two sites and were expensive. Since the sites were not in town and Orkney, for all intents and purposes is a rural island without much of a transportation system, we set out to find a tour guide/private driver to take us around for the day. Well, that was easier said then done as we learned that there were approximately 25 licensed drivers/tour guides on the whole island. Although we looked for a guide very quickly after booking the trip after a tip from the cruise facebook group, most of the guides were already booked. We did find one guide but literally a few weeks later we got a message that she was ill and canceling all future tours (so maybe now there are only 24 tour guides) After a few leads from other drivers/guides (I must say everyone we dealt with in Orkney was super nice and helpful), we had stumbled onto Mary Durr and her husband Mark who were gratuitous enough to show us around their great island. They were great to deal with and if anyone is visiting Kirkwall, Iíd be happy to pass along their info. Iíd also recommend to anyone visiting Kirkwall to use a private driver as it was completely worth it. On the ship I overheard others who only visited Kirkwall on their own who were quite underwhelmed as while itís a nice little town, there isnít that much to it that canít be seen in an hour or so.

It was a comfortable 60 or so degrees and we had some morning haze as we pulled into port. It was pretty clear that Orkney was going to be a bit more rural. Luckily as the day progressed, the haze lifted and it became a beautiful sunny day. Apparently, it was the first sunny day in quite some time which led to some great touring and pictures as the day went along.

The rolling hills looking out from where we were docking:



Europeans love their wind power:



After a quick breakfast, we were one of the first few off the ship. We were greeted by some bagpipe players as we left the ship:



We got a warm welcome most of the rest of the day from the locals. Our guides mentioned that they have one to two cruise ships visit most days in the summer but locals get excited when the Magic comes as its Disney and only visits once a year. (They also mentioned that locals like the Magic since it is typically more family oriented and apparently families typically spend more money.)



The port area was on a side of the town so it kind of looked like the Magic just docked next to an empty field:



We quickly drove through Kirkwall and passed the cathedral:



We were planning on visiting the cathedral at the end of the day but we wound up not having enough time. It looked nice- maybe next time. Literally a minute later, we were driving past the open fields of Orkney. Not a bad morning commute:




Our first planed stop was the Italian Chapel. However, on our way we made a detour to meet some Hungarian pigs. Although they are not native to Scotland, Iím not planning on any visits to Hungary anytime soon. If there is anything I could describe as cute and revolting at the same time, it would be these guys.





After watching the pigs for a little bit we continued on and passed by scarpa flow which was a big naval base for England during WWII.



We also passed a Churchill barrier which was bridges linking some of the islands made after a German U boat infiltrated the area and sank some British ships during the war.



The Italian chapel was just past the Churchill barrier.



Next up- our visit to the Italian Chapel. 
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