You have been warned. This is my first time doing a trip report. Overall, I had a great time. Grab a drink and a snack, please keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times, and let the magic begin! Part one Arriving Aug. 08. Were scheduled to fly out today. The cruise does not begin until the 18th, but we are flying first to Hamburg, Germany, to meet up with my DSS (Disney Step Son), who has been spending the summer with his father. We will be staying for a week at my mother-in-laws house. This plan accomplishes three goals; 1. Pick up DSS 2. Visit with DWs mother 3. Get over jet lag The day does not start out well. I needed to drive the DW to work (she worked today, as we have a late flight. About five miles from the house my engine light comes on. We take the next exit and make it back to the house. Change to her car, and I drive her up. Figured we would just wait until September to get the car looked at. Morning goes by quickly. We have a Towncar coming at 2:15 to take us to the airport. As we live about 60 miles from the San Francisco airport, we give ourselves plenty of time to get there. Theoretically, we are already checked in with Boarding Passes printed. We just need to drop off the bags at British Airways and go through security then wait for our 18:50 (6:50 p.m.) departure. The Towncar is nice, and shows up right on time. Fits our four bags plus carry-ons in the trunk and we are off. Its nice to be able to relax. The driver makes good time and we pick up the DW at work and make the airport in record time. We still have a good three and a half hours until departure. .or so I thought. The line to just drop off the bags is long and slow. They are also still processing people for the earlier flight (Our routing is San Francisco London Heathrow- Hamburg, and there are two flights daily to London). The bad news is that our late flight is delayed. By two hours. This means we now are landing right about the time our connecting flight is departing (sigh). We finally get to the counter after about an hour waiting in line. The reason the line has been slow is because they are rebooking connecting flights for people. So, now having been handed a new ticket for the London to Hamburg portion of our flight (on a competing airline, no less!), we breeze through security and go have a bite to eat, as we now have a long wait in front of us. We finally board at 9:00 p.m. Get cozy. And sit. And sit. They announce the reason. There is a motor scooter in the hold to which they cannot find the documents for at the moment. Finally, after a hour sitting in the plane, we take off. British Airways is trying a new entertainment system in Coach. This increases your entertainment choices no end. One problem. It is new, and is powered by Windows Vista. Nearly every time they pause the system to do an announcement, the system freezes or crashes, and takes about 25 minutes to reboot after a crash. Still, I was able to take in a couple of programs. We get to London about 4:00 p.m. London time Aug. 09. Plenty of time to go through Security and find Terminal 4. I wish we had stayed in terminal one for awhile, for it definitely has the better shops. Still, found a bookstore and bought the new Harry Potter book for the boy and made the late plane to Hamburg ( I say late because our connecting flight was also delayed, this time only a half hour). My wife has tried to call her mother, but apparently missed her. We are in line at the Hamburg passport control before she finally reaches her. Seems she has been at the airport all this time and has just got home. It is now 11:00 p.m. German time. We grab our bags (they all made it!) And take a taxi. We arrive just before Midnight. Of course, my mother in law has a light dinner for us waiting. A quick bite and then bed. For some reason I am tired. August 15th Im now skipping forward to our arrival in Barcelona. DSS showed up in Hamburg the day after we arrived looking well. We went into town for shopping only once, which was enough, as we actually sent a large parcel home from there containing most of the DSSs clothes that he will not need for the cruise, plus a few other items. We take an early Air Berlin flight from Hamburg to Barcelona, which means we are up around 5:30 a.m., picked up by Taxi at 6:00, and at the airport at 7:00. The flight takes off only five minutes late, and we arrive in Barcelona just after noon. All our bags arrive (yes!) and we exit the baggage claim. Now, I have paid for transfers along the way. This is the first one, and I wondered what we should be looking for on our way out. Easy to spot, as the woman there has a large clipboard with Disney Cruise Line on it. We walk up to her and she says You must be the von Tagens, welcome! She introduces us to Sonya, who will be driving us to the hotel. We follow her outside where a nice Mercedes Benz Classic Car is waiting. We manage to get all the luggage inside, as well as all of us, and we are off into town. Sonya speaks excellent English, having lived a year in London, and gives us helpful tips as well as explain that we shouldnt be surprised to see so many shops closed, as it is major vacation time for the townspeople. We are staying at the Hotel Hesperia Presidente, on the Avenue Diagonal. It is one of the Disney recommend hotel, and we chose it from the list of five for two main reasons it is fairly close to bus, subway, and tourist sites, and most important for the DW, it has a hair dryer. We are able to check in right away to room 1001, a lovely modern room with some nice views, especially from the very large shower window (loved the shower 3 different combinations for how the water hits you). Once we get settled in, the DW announces we are going to take a walk to lunch. Three hours of walking later ..seeing most of the sites on and around the Passeig de Garcia, we have lunch. Then another forty five minutes walk back to the hotel for a nap. I do have to point out I got a bit of a kick out of this one traveling fair located at the intersection of the Passeig de Garcia and the Ave. Diagonal. They must have known Disney was in the area, as almost all their rides were Disney themed, including this one ride titled Euro Disney. We nap fairly late, then walk to the Passeig de Garcia (it would become our main hangout for the next two days) for food and ice cream. I should mention the weather. Warm, not as humid as I expected, usually cloudly with a bit of rain in the mornings, then clearing in the afternoon. August 16th. Breakfast is typical European breakfast buffet, served in the first floor restaurant. We inquire at the desk about the tourist bus, and are given maps and told that the bus stop is about three blocks to the right. The Barcelona Bus Turistic covers three routes, Red (North Route), Blue (South Route), and Green (Forum Route). Here you can ride to various tourist spots where you can hop off for awhile before getting the bus again. With your ticket, you get a small guidebook about what you will see and a pair of headphones. As they are Double Decker buses, you can go on the uncovered top or stay below. The headphones plug into a box where you can select the language you want to listen to the tour as you ride. I cant swear to it, but the voice sounded a lot like Jeremy Irons on the English tour. The Red and Blue connect over a couple of points, as do the Blue and Green. Tickets are good for one day (or you can buy a two day ticket, as we did) and can be used for any of the routes. We take the Red Tour first, which covers first most of the route we had taken the day before on foot, before heading towards the famous Sagrada Familia Cathedral and a northern route through the city until we return two hours later at our stop at the Francesc Macia Diagonal. We shop at a nearby department store for snacks for lunch plus a few other things we are running out of, then walk back to our hotel. We nap, then walk back to catch the southern Blue route, which takes us around the waterfront and up the Passeig de Garcia where we got off for dinner. Be aware that the buses have varied operating hours, and these are listed at each stop. We werent, and thats why we had a nice walk back to our hotel. The next morning (Friday, Aug. 17th) we were at the bus stop and found out we had an hour before the bus would start arriving and I want to add here that the wait for buses was generally short, no more than ten minutes apart. Since the purpose of our early rising was to get to the Sagrada Familia before it got really crowded, we decided to take a taxi. I could not believe it what had taken over a half hour on the bus to get to turned into five minutes by taxi. Add to that taxis are a very cheap mode of transport in Spain. We tipped generously and went into the cathedral. I cannot describe my feelings looking just at the outside of this magnificent building. The mix of architecture, the history and beauty of this project. We rented audioguides that gave the history (you had to leave either a picture ID or 50 euros as a deposit), and spent the next two plus hours in, around, and under the church. Leaving here, we picked up the bus at the stop across the street (we had to wait for a couple of buses, as this was one of the busiest and most popular stops). We rode to the stop for the Park Guell, where we wandered and took time out for a snack. You have to walk uphill (with a steep climb at one point) for about three to four blocks from the bus stop, but at least its all downhill when you exit. : ) We got back to our hotel in time to check in at the Disney desk. The purpose of this would allow us to forego lines at the terminal and get onto the ship quicker. I was able to sign in right away after filling out a couple of forms that werent included in the documents either online or delivered (more on this in a moment). However, upon finding that DW and DSS were not US citizens, we were informed that we would have to check in at the cruise terminal. This is because they need to take the DWs and DSSs green cards for the duration of the cruise. We take this in stride, nap and go for our last dinner on land for the next two weeks. Consider the following a sidebar rant. 1. We were encouraged to use the online web site (which was very good) to take care of documents and provide flight information for transfers. The site did not take into consideration that passengers may be flying in from International Airports besides London and Charles DeGaulle (The airport closest to Disneyland Paris). As we were coming into Barcelona from Hamburg, I needed to call for help on this (they basically took the information and overrode the system) 2. I know that there are many Disney cruisers who are not U.S. Citizens. Disney, IMO, should consider and make plans to allow these cruisers the opportunity afforded to U.S. Citizens for preboarding as I was able to do at the hotel. 3. Not covered in my commentary yet, but we are Castaway Club members, this being our third cruise (the last one being the first Panama Canal crossing, with the infamous pin incidents). At the port, there are Castaway Club lines, which we could not use. Why? Because they do not have a desk for non U.S. Citizen travelers. Again, I think this service should be considered in the future. 4. One more thing delivery of documents. We had booked the cruise via the Disney Vacation Club back in April of 2006. Would it kill them to get our documents out a bit early? I knew that they said we would get our documents 21 to 10 days before the cruise. But I was leaving the country 10 days before the cruise. The day before we left at four p.m. I was on the phone to DCL explaining I had not yet received my docs when my doorbell rang. I asked the person at DCL to hang on a moment. It was the docs. Cutting it close is not conductive to being relaxed at the start of vacation. End of sidebar rant. August 18th Having had our packed bags properly labeled at waiting for pick-up at 8:00 a.m. They were picked up promptly on time. We presented ourselves in the lobby at 10:15 for an 11:30 bus. The bus showed up early so we were allowed on board early. Everyone checked in, the Disney employees waved goodbye as we set off for the port. We got to the port, waited for about an hour in line (see sidebar above) Once done with that, we found out our Boarding number was just being called and we could board right away (it was now nearly 1:00 p.m.). We got our picture taken, handed over our Key to the World cards for the first time, and boarded the Magic for our first Transatlantic voyage. End of part one.