Disney Magic 12 nt. British Isles Cruise 2017

Discussion in 'Disney Cruise Line Trip Reports' started by poison ivy, Aug 3, 2017.

  1. poison ivy

    poison ivy DIS Veteran

    Mar 3, 2010
    I'm glad you liked it. I'm smiling just typing this. That billboard campaign is promoting Virgin Rail - Edinburgh to London. Those red signs really caught the eye and they were getting larger and louder, especially on our way to Edinburgh which is where I snapped that photo. I never saw the "London is in London" competing ads.

    That Heathrow airport experience was like nothing we've ever encountered before. I have no idea where everyone on our flight went. Nobody was walking with us almost the entire time - you only see other travelers as we are leaving passport control but none of them were headed to the baggage reclaim with us.

    That's interesting about USA Homeland Security. I didn't realize they did retinal scans and fingerprinting. Heathrow was nothing compared to that. But the questions do catch you off guard. Once we started acting like Disney cheerleaders, plugging the DCL with a lot of yada :cheer2:yada :cheer2:yada :cheer2:the agent chuckled and waved us on. What can I say? Disney brings happiness. You can't escape it.

    That's really good to know regarding DCL airport transfers. I had a tough time finding information on this. I

    Can you believe how empty that airport was? I don't think this was an exception. I think we were definitely in the minority booking the first flight out of JFK with Heathrow being our final destination. We had a lot of passengers on our flight catch connections to travel on to other destinations throughout Europe.

    OMG. It was so crazy - down up _ up down. "Do we take this train? who knows? Keep looking for a yellow sign."
    And we were literally all alone. Picture this song playing in the background....

    or of course, who can resist this classic remix version -

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  2. Johnny Quest

    Johnny Quest DIS Veteran

    Apr 27, 2005
    The best airport in the world is Atlantic City. Pull up curbside, unload and park in the lot that's 500ft. away. Too bad they only have Spirit Airlines to Florida. It's worth it when you get $56.00 one way fares.
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  4. JenTen1585

    JenTen1585 Earning My Ears

    Aug 4, 2014
    Excellent points! We flew into Gatwick, and took the Gatwick Express to Victoria Station. This was extremely easy and fairly cheap (38 pounds for all 3 of us I think). Then we caught a black cab at Victoria Station to our hotel for 15 pounds. The streets weren't yet closed when we arrived on the 7th. They closed on the 8th and 9th. The hotel stored our luggage, but we didn't have a club option or I'm sure you are right, my husband would be vegged there! I just kept us walking until we could get into our room at 2pm. We were so excited, I think it helped us through our morning! But by 8pm that evening we were zombies for sure! If I ever go back (I hope so!), I'm going to look into the Softeil! Sounds like a wonderful hotel!!! I really liked the Thistle too. Great location and comfortable! Nice staff!
  5. KnK

    KnK Mouseketeer

    Aug 15, 2015
    Can't wait to read more.
  6. Grumpy's Wife

    Grumpy's Wife Dollar Tree gal here

    Jan 28, 2005
    Joining in. :wave: I'm really looking forward to hearing all about your cruise.
  7. poison ivy

    poison ivy DIS Veteran

    Mar 3, 2010
    Frontier is equally worth it when you get $24.00 one way fares phl to mco. news flash - we're not flying spirit out of AC for the Member Cruise coming up. we're flying Spirit out of PHL.
    sorry. But I need to let you down easy :tiptoe: after that big sales pitch for Atlantic City airport.

    really can't beat that price getting from the airport to your hotel.

    I had forgotten about the rerouted traffic on the 8th and 9th. The street closures were a complete surprise to us. This was not something we knew about in advance and we were right in the middle of it on Saturday July 8th. In fact our tour bus wound up dropping everyone (including us) at select Underground stations to find our way back. I urge anyone planning a trip to London next year to check what's happening in and around the city well ahead of time. The Pride in London Parade is a really big event.

    Would you mind posting a link for the Thistle hotel? I think it would a great help to showcase as many hotel and room options as we can.
    The Sofitel was excellent and the added club amenities made it even more so. I'll post a lot of information and pics in the next round. maybe even a video if I can figure out how.

    Thanks. That update is on its' way.

    Thank you and welcome. Yes, wait til we get to the cruise! Hope you enjoy it.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2017
  8. poison ivy

    poison ivy DIS Veteran

    Mar 3, 2010
    Travel Day 1 continues - July 7, 2017
    Heathrow Arrival / Sofitel London Heathrow Hotel (2nt. stay)

    Before we get to the Sofitel, let’s recap a few Heathrow Airport Travel Tips:

    Tip #1: Follow the YELLOW SIGNS upon arrival and the PURPLE SIGNS for departure to navigate where to go.


    Tip #2: YouTube is your friend.

    Find out what to expect upon entry into the UK with these fun easy to follow official “Once You Have Landed” mini-clips on:

    UK Border Control

    and How to Clear UK Customs

    Tip #3: Have the following ready to present to the Border Force Officer at the Passport Control area:

    1) All passports

    2) 1 completed customs declaration form per family (distributed in flight on the plane)

    customs form.jpg

    3) Each scanned passport printed receipt (1 for every individual) – generated at the Passport Control kiosks which all passengers automatically walk to when exiting the terminal gate area and entering Passport Control.

    Tip #4: Heathrow airport has complimentary luggage carts ready and waiting inside the baggage reclaim area.


    You are permitted to wheel them thru customs and throughout the airport. This includes all the way to the Sofitel Hotel - which has a free drop off / pick up cart area conveniently set up right next to their registration desk.
    (You can’t take them on the Underground or Heathrow express)

    Tip #5: Gatwick airport had a somewhat different luggage cart setup. We had to insert 1 British pound (coin) into the trolley’s handle to remove the cart from the wheel locking bar. The coin pops free when you return the cart to the rack. So make sure you save a pound or 2 if you’re flying out of this particular airport.

    Ok. Now where did we leave off?


    Right. We’re in Terminal 5 looking for the Sofitel Hotel.

    This should be easy. More yellow signs to follow. and it's conveniently there listed - Sofitel Hotel.


    Turn left here.


    Take the lifts marked Sofitel on the right up ahead.
    Notice the clock? It’s almost 8:25 pm. The entire gate to baggage process took a good hour to get to this point and that’s off peak in a cleared out Heathrow airport.
    So plan accordingly.




    One quick point before we continue on in the next post -

    To the left of that whole area leading to the elevators etc. Is the entrance for the Heathrow Express & Underground Rail lines. It was literally right at our hotel airport elevator. You can't get more convenient than that. This photo was taken the next day as we exited the Underground station.

    underground to sofitel.jpg

    Next up: Is this the Sofitel?
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  9. poison ivy

    poison ivy DIS Veteran

    Mar 3, 2010
    Travel Day 1 continues - July 7, 2017
    Sofitel London Heathrow Hotel (2nt. stay)

    As soon as those elevator doors open we are greeted with this


    Is this the Sofitel?

    Not quite. Walk down this hallway (grab another cart if you need one)


    turn left to a 2nd hallway (I detect a pattern here)


    cross the overpass. JQ, what are you stopping here for?


    This is what you are looking at? Not much of a view out the window of the pedestrian overpass to the hotel


    Down the elevator or escalator


    Finally! Welcome to the Sofitel London Heathrow.
    Drop your bags with a friendly bellman straight ahead,


    and return the luggage trolley here. (to the right of the reception desk - next to the escalator you just came down on)


    Done. Let’s check-in
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2017
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  10. BadPinkTink

    BadPinkTink DIS Veteran

    Mar 13, 2015
    omg, this is all too funny, having experienced Heathrow many many times, I kinda forgot that first time walking walking walking and hopefully going right way.
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  11. Mathmagicland

    Mathmagicland Disneyland - the original since 1955

    Jul 26, 2014
    Agreed, I keep thinking I'll need snacks & water, a compass, & etc for the hike through the airport, :dumbo: Or else Dumbo to guide me LOL
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  12. Mathmagicland

    Mathmagicland Disneyland - the original since 1955

    Jul 26, 2014
    Seriously, though, this is such valuable info, Poison Ivy - all of us who take this cruise in the future will owe you a huge debt of gratitude.

    PS I also like how JQ & IM keep popping up in your pics :)
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  13. Johnny Quest

    Johnny Quest DIS Veteran

    Apr 27, 2005
    It was a very long process. However when you're arriving in a place you've never been with the expectations of a 12 night cruise ahead of you, the excitement carries you right through...and the free baggage cart is a necessity.I
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  14. brewcrew

    brewcrew Mouseketeer

    Apr 25, 2009
    Great trip report so far and you're not even on the ship yet, lol! Great information for us future European cruisers
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  15. poison ivy

    poison ivy DIS Veteran

    Mar 3, 2010
    I know. it seemed like such a maze and you can't ask the English if you're going the right way. They won't talk to you. Plus we were lucky our flight landed right at Terminal 5 - where the Sofitel is located. Imagine if we arrived at terminals 1-4. Crazy!

    Omg. too funny. yes, all of the above. just follow those yellow signs. unless you happen to be color blind - then you might be in some trouble.

    thank you. :worship: thank you. :worship: I really hope this helps future cruisers. Info is not easy to come by for the British Isles so I'm packing in as many details as I can.

    Yes, I love that JQ and IM appear in random shots. Most of the time, they are unaware or caught off guard since I'm just shooting stuff as we go along, but they do pose every once in a while. JQ has a habit of stopping mid stride to check something out while Iron Man usually keeps walking and you'll see him way ahead.

    So true. I can't believe it's over. I wanna go back!

    Thanks so much and welcome! Yes, wait til we get on the ship. The Disney Magic was a big tourist attraction in a lot of ports and we felt like celebrities on board.
  16. poison ivy

    poison ivy DIS Veteran

    Mar 3, 2010
    Travel Day 1 continues - July 7, 2017
    Sofitel London Heathrow Hotel (2nt. stay)

    We've arrived at the Sofitel, having just come down the elevator (between the 2 escalators) and are checking in at the front desk. (straight ahead)


    It is a beautiful modern upscale hotel with a nice casual feel to it. Perfect.


    lots of places to eat, drink, sit & relax





    Before we get to the room, here are a few key points worth noting about the official Disney Cruise Line sponsored hotels for Dover, England:

    There were 4 options for 2017: (Check with DCL for 2018)

    1 at each Airport

    Sofitel London Heathrow - http://www.sofitel.com/gb/hotel-6214-sofitel-london-heathrow/index.shtml
    Terminal 5

    jpeg walking map london0002.jpg

    Hilton London Gatwick - http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/united-kingdom/hilton-london-gatwick-airport-GATHITW/index.html
    South Terminal (#6 blue on the map)


    And 2 within the London Marble Arch District

    (This map is just a quick overview - not to scale. Notice the symbols for the Underground station. You'll also see Trafalgar Square and the Victoria Station mentioned by @JenTen1585)


    The Disney London hotels were:

    A. Grosvenor House, A JW Marriott Hotel (London) https://www.marriott.co.uk/hotels/travel/longh-grosvenor-house-a-jw-marriott-hotel/

    B. Hyatt Regency London - The Churchill https://londonchurchill.regency.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html

    (Both are located very close to one another - as seen on this google map more to scale & in proximity to several popular London attractions)

    jpeg walking map london0001.jpg

    FYI: The Airport hotels were the cheapest.

    DCL rate for The Sofitel = $267.00/nt. for a standard room with 2 adults. (US $)

    Also, there were pros & cons with booking thru DCL:


    - No room deposit requirement. (the price is added to the cruise balance, due by the pay in full date)

    - The DCL booking and cancellation policies will apply, not the hotel's. (cancel up to 14 days prior to arrival for a full refund, without penalty)

    - Guests are automatically granted the option to purchase transfers to the port, including transportation from the airport to the London hotels.
    Price in 2017 = $67.50 each way.


    - You can only reserve the standard room category.

    - You could be limited to 2 adults per room (not sure about children)

    - DCL may limit to only booking 1 night - the night before or after the cruise.

    And there were DCL transfer guidelines as well

    The Disney transfers were easy and convenient, but they came with their own set of rules:
    (Note: this was for 2017. Check for future cruises out of Dover)

    Any guest could add them on with no problem for same day travel between both airports and the Port of Dover. (we did this from Dover to Gatwick / @85glht shared their experience from Heathrow to Dover)

    Any guest could add them on (subject to availability) when staying at either of the 2 airport hotels – Sofitel Heathrow or Hilton Gatwick - and without having to book the hotel portion thru Disney.

    But, you could only add them on condition when staying at either of the 2 London hotels - the Grosvenor House or Hyatt Regency - The Churchill.
    These guests, had to book their 1 nt. pre-cruise stay directly thru DCL in order to purchase Disney transfers to the port. You could not add transfers to any private hotel reservations.

    So why the Sofitel and why not thru Disney?
    The answer was simple: convenience, quality and price. (Disney was inflexible and charging too much so we dropped them)

    But at first, we booked everything thru DCL – a 1 nt. pre-cruise for 2 + transfers to/fr the port. The initial plan was to arrive early the day before the cruise, stay right at the Heathrow airport, ride the transit system back and forth to visit a few London attractions, and take Disney transfers to the port. Very easy and neatly packaged.

    Everything was set……….. or so we thought………then a couple of things changed in Jan:

    1. Iron Man decides to jump in on the cruise.
    No problem. He’s paying his way. We add him in.

    2. Airfare to fly out Fri had gone way up and was too high, which meant we now had to fly in on 7/7/17 & add a 2nd night to our stay.

    3. We book a Stonehenge Inner Circle Access at sunrise tour for Sat 7/8 – day before the cruise so we can walk among the stones. Their bus pickup is 5:30 am – way too early for a redeye arrival that morning.

    London Touring Tip #1: Finalize your itinerary before booking any airfare & hotel.

    Disney emailed a revised confirmation to include Iron Man: (this was for a cat 9B Deck 2 - priced in Jan 2017)

    3rd guest fare: $1740.00
    Addt’l trip Ins: $ 139.20
    Roundtrip transfer increase: from $270.00 (for JQ and I) to $405.

    (all this was to be expected)

    Then we notice the pre/post land charges are double & for only 1 night: from $267 to $534.
    We call DCL and quickly learn they will only reserve the one night & we have to book 2 standard rooms for the 3 adults.

    So I start to add it up. That’s right. It would now cost $ 939.00 thru Disney for just a 1 nt. pre-cruise stay at the Sofitel with transfers for 3. And we’ll still have to add the cost of a 2nd night ourselves.

    To me, $939 was a lot of money. Especially when compared to the $537 initially billed when there were only 2 of us. Pretty hard to justify wasting $267 for a 2nd room for just Iron Man, vs putting it toward that 2nd night we now needed at the hotel.

    We decide to hold everything with Disney (hotel & transfers) while we go back and re-work this entire logistical quandary all over again.

    What a mess. It’s January 2. The PIF date is March 11 and we’re right in the middle of booking airfare and reserving private excursions.

    To have to go back now and research area hotels is a ton of work. You’re talking: location / price / quality / room configuration / deposit & cancellation policies; etc; etc. Plus figuring out how it all impacts our 1 day touring plan and getting to the port if we venture outside the DCL.

    As I said: booking this cruise was the easy part.

    To be continued........
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2017 at 11:33 AM
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  17. tink1970

    tink1970 DCL Platinum

    Dec 29, 2012
    You were smart :)

    We were at the JW Marriott, Grosvenor House and actually could book 2 pre days (cruise after you). I wonder if it was a space available thing since most people weren't falling for the overinflated DCL prices? If you don't have two elderly parents you're trying to herd and really wanting/needing the DCL transport, I wouldn't recommend the pre cruise hotels. Since I have Marriott status DH and I had a nice sized room but my father is still complaining (not quietly, either) about their small room. Sigh.

    Really looking forward to more of your trip!
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  18. poison ivy

    poison ivy DIS Veteran

    Mar 3, 2010
    That's interesting that they allowed the 2 nights at the Grosvenor on your cruise. Now I'm curious if it was just us. They did state they were sold out everywhere when we inquired about switching to one of the London hotels. That was back in Jan. So they made some money on our group.

    I'm sorry your father wasn't happy with his room, especially given what they charged to stay there.

    I don't know what I would have done if travelling with my parents. Most likely, same as you. Paid the upcharge to the DCL to handle this. But unlike us, my parents have been to England a few times and may not have wanted the Marble Arch/Hyde Park area. who knows?

    Hindsight is 20/20. But knowing what we do now, if I ever go again, we'd definitely reserve a private vehicle to the port and I'd love to stay within London to switch things up. Those DCL transfer busses provided at the Sofitel would have been a problem for my father. They were not very accommodating for those with mobility issues. There was a steep set of steps to contend with.
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2017 at 12:10 PM
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  19. tink1970

    tink1970 DCL Platinum

    Dec 29, 2012
    Definitely live and learn! I'd do the same-book private and leave Mr Grumpy Pants at home :)

    Sorry you father had trouble with the DCL bus. Our bus was fine (well they wouldn't stop 20 min outside of Dover for someone who had to use the restroom but I figured that was company policy) but our transport from LHR to the hotel took us to the wrong hotel (although I had told him where we were going and he told me where he was going...sadly neither of us understood the others' accent) and he was angry with me because of it. Awkward.

    I didn't really enjoy the Marble Arch area, I've stayed closer to Victoria and prefer that. Another strike against DCL hotel accommodations for this year. Maybe in the future they'll have different vendors.

    Did you enjoy your Stonehenge trip?
  20. Johnny Quest

    Johnny Quest DIS Veteran

    Apr 27, 2005
    That's ridiculous for them not to stop for a bathroom break on a long bus ride. Our transfer to Dover made a 30min. stop at a rest area with facilities, fast food and a convenience store.

    Our Stonehenge tour was fantastic. To be able to walk the inner circle is worth catching a 4am private car to london and the weather was perfect.
  21. poison ivy

    poison ivy DIS Veteran

    Mar 3, 2010
    yes. Live and learn indeed!
    I have to agree with JQ. Why would there be a different set up for the transfers from these hotels? We had 3 busses leave the Sofitel and they all met up at the same rest stop.

    That's not good that the driver took you to the wrong hotel. I wonder if that's common. We needed to get to the Millennium Gloucester for the bus pickup to Stonehenge and the transportation desk kept going back and forth on exactly which Millennium hotel it was.

    quick question: were you charged more than $67.50 for the LHR to hotel / hotel to port transfers? My reservation stated LHR to hotel was included with that price but we didn't have a need for it.

    How did they find you at the airport?

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