SAILING THE BRITISH ISLES CRUISE--WITHOUT THE KIDS! 2018

Discussion in 'Disney Cruise Line Trip Reports' started by disneymomto5, Sep 23, 2018.

  1. disneymomto5

    disneymomto5 DIS Veteran

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    So, I've never written a trip report before, but I thought I'd give this a go! We sailed on the British Isles Cruise, Sept 2-9, 2018. It was a bucket list event for hubby and myself and we had a great time. We did miss the kids (18 and 14), but they had high school and school had just started, so they had to stay at home under the care of their older brother and grandparents.

    The beginning will be a little different. My son and daughter in law are stationed in England, so it gave us a chance to visit with them and do some local sightseeing. We flew British Airways from Washington, Dulles, non stop. Left on the 26th at 10:30 and arrived at Heathrow at 10:00 am the 27th of August. The flight was good, we tried to sleep as much as possible, but that is so difficult, mostly we dozed on and off.

    Made it through customs without incident and my son was there to meet us and off we went to his home in Bicester, England. It's about an hour from the airport and sitting in the back seat watching him drive was an experience!!! There are very few roads with speed limits and many, many roundabouts. Even my son said he's not sure when you're supposed to go! When we arrived at his house I let him know that I would be traveling in the back seat wherever we went!

    Once we arrived we visited, walked around their town and neighborhood, got our first taste of fish and chips, and made it till about 7 until we had to crash! I thought all things considered, that was pretty good.

    Now, cell phone service...I had Virgin Mobile so I knew I wouldn't have service but would have to hook up with the wi fi. It wasn't necessarily a problem, but there were many times when I had no ability to send messages, and other times when I would received a message and I had no idea why. It was challenging to stay in touch with home base but luckily I had prepared them for that possibility.
     
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  2. disneymomto5

    disneymomto5 DIS Veteran

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    DAY 2: STONEHENGE

    So today we woke up early (still have jet lag), and around 8 am we head out to Stonehenge. From Bicester it's about a 2 hour drive. As we approach from our direction you can actually see the stones so it's a little anti-climatic, however, we park our car and head to pick up our tickets. Because we reserved tickets online, we didn't have to pay to park, but I'm assuming if you don't then you would. We then go to the ticket booth to pick up our tickets and hit the bathrooms.

    We take the shuttle bus from the visitor center to the ruins which was about a five minute trip. You can also walk if you want, but it was uphill and we're lazy. Pass the sheep (there are sheep everywhere in the British Isles), and walk up as close as we can to the stones. In the sunrise and sunset the view must be amazing, but in the afternoon it was a little disappointing. I think similar to the pyramids, you expect them to be huge but they're just not as large in person. However, it is an impressive bunch of rocks. We walked all around and took photos from several different angles. There were families having a picnic and sitting around and I thought that was nice. On the way out we got our first taste of British ice cream made with clotted cream, and it's delicious!

    As we're heading back we ran into several accidents, which causes problems. There are few sh View attachment 353975 View attachment 353976 oulders and the roads are frequently narrow, so traffic backs up and there's nothing to do but wait but we eventually make it back.

    When we arrive in Bicester, we stopped off at Bicester Village which is a new outlet mall that caters to tourists. It was packed and my son told me that they bus people in from London to shop. It was mostly high end stores, but very beautiful with flowers and a country garden theme View attachment 353975 View attachment 353975 View attachment 353976 everywhere.

    Finally, dinner was in a little town called Dennington to a restaurant called "Puddyface" that has nothing but puff pastry type pies. It was quite tasty.
     
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  4. MasonDuo

    MasonDuo Mouseketeer

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    I'm following :rolleyes1 We were on this cruse too and I'll enjoying reading your experiences. I've always been curious about Stonehenge but have not made it there - it was interesting to hear your take.

    Looking forward to reading more.
     
  5. FSU Girl

    FSU Girl DIS Veteran

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    Reading along! I currently have the British Isles cruise booked next year so can't wait to hear how your cruise was. I can't view your pictures though :(
     
  6. mmmears

    mmmears DIS Veteran

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    I'm following along, too. We got off the Magic around a week before your cruise started and I curious about how the British Isles cruise went. Great start!
     
  7. disneymomto5

    disneymomto5 DIS Veteran

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    Yeah, I messed up the pictures. I might have to work on that a bit!
     
  8. disneymomto5

    disneymomto5 DIS Veteran

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    DAY 3: HIGHCLERE CASTLE

    So being a huge fan of Downton Abbey, I really wanted to see Highclere Castle, so my daughter in law got us tickets around April of this year. It does sell out, so unless you go with a tour you need to buy your tickets when they open up for the season. It was about an hour from Bicester and is the current home of the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon and the seat of their family for the last 300 years. The castle was designed by Sir Charles Barry in 1842 and Barry also was the architect of the Houses of Parliament and you can certainly see the similarities. The castle has 200 rooms and 40 bedrooms. There are no pictures allowed in the house, but they give you a good tour of the downstairs and a little of the upstairs with photos from the tv show in different rooms so you can see where things were filmed.

    In the basement of the castle there is an Egyptian Exhibition which celebrates the story and achievements of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon. He along with Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun. After touring the house, we went outside to a "cafe" and got some refreshment. I had the gluten free chocolate cake, which was quite good. While standing in line, a English woman asked me what was on the menu because she couldn't see. After I read it to her she made a face and asked me where I was from. When I told her Virginia, she said she didn't know where that was; so I told her the States. She told me that she couldn't tell, which I thought was quite funny because I definitely have a southern accent. But she was sweet.

    We toured the gardens for a bit, and although the wild flower fields were dead, the kept gardens were lovely, with roses and peonies and all kinds of beautiful flowers. That's one thing I noticed, the flowers everywhere we went were spectacular.

    For dinner we went to a restaurant in a neighboring town (of which I've forgotten), called The Muddy Duck. I had a lobster and shrimp pasta and hubby had a steak. My son and his wife are vegetarians, so I never pay much attention to whatever they have.
     
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  9. carrielouhoo

    carrielouhoo Earning My Ears

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    Loving your report so far! I had to laugh at this comment - I'm in Virginia too and ALWAYS have people commenting on my accent. Even when I went to a client meeting in deep East Texas, they thought I was the one with the southern twang!
     
  10. FSU Girl

    FSU Girl DIS Veteran

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    Where exactly is this located? Is it near London? I love Downton Abbey and would like to visit here, just would need to figure out the logistics of getting there
     
  11. disneymomto5

    disneymomto5 DIS Veteran

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    I think it's about 1 hour from London. They do have bus tours that go there.
     
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  12. FSU Girl

    FSU Girl DIS Veteran

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    Thanks! I'll look into that.
     
  13. disneymomto5

    disneymomto5 DIS Veteran

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    DAY 4: LONDON

    So today was London day. After much research and debate with my son, we decided to ride the train from Bicester to London. We left about 9:30 am which was off peak and cost about 15 pounds. That also included return fare and the ability to ride the underground all day for free, which I thought was extremely inexpensive. I had originally thought we would take the hop on hop off bus once we got to London, but my son thought he could get us wherever we wanted to go with the underground easily. I don't know if it's the same at all train stations or not, but my daughter in law told me that every time they ride the train there's a different special, this time it was buy 2 tickets get 2 free. The train took about an hour, getting on the initial train was a little tricky because we only had a few minutes to spare but we made and off we go! The train was very efficient and pretty easy to get around all day.

    I have to preface by saying that I didn't do tons of research before we went. I knew there were things I wanted to see and things hubby wanted to see and we figured we'd figure it out as we went. First location was the Tower of London. I thought it was an actual "tower", but the reality is that it's a castle and there was alot to see. In fact, we didn't get to see the crown jewels which I would have liked, but the line was 2 hours long and we had a long day ahead of us. It was very interesting to read about the history of the Tower and explore. You could spend several hours there.

    After touring the Tower we walked FOREVER across the Tower Bridge (which I always thought was the London Bridge) and over to Burroughs Market. This was something that hubby wanted to see. I thought it was more of a flea market, but it was really many vendors (50 ish?) selling food. By this time we were hungry and some of the stalls smelled wonderful, but there is no place to sit down. The streets were dirty and the thought of sitting on the curb and eating were too much for me. I have a bit of a sensitive stomach and sometimes get sick at normal restaurants so I just didn't want to risk eating street food with no bathroom in sight. Instead we went to a Pizza Express and that was good. It also felt good to sit down for awhile.

    After we left, we crossed the London Bridge and underneath there is a pub with the classic song, London Bridge is falling down....playing. That was neat. We hopped back on the tube and went to Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Parliament. Westminster was beautiful, Big Ben and the Parliament are both being worked on so we only saw the outside of those, and the scaffolding certainly takes away from the beauty.

    We then walked to Buckingham Palace to see that in person. Didn't go inside but took some photos of the guards and the outside. There was a man screaming at the guards outside and at the tourists, so we didn't linger there.

    Then we walked back to the tube to Harrods so I could say we'd been, but it was super crowded and intimidating. It took half an hour to find a restroom and that's with help from the employees. However, it was a very impressive place and I'm glad we went to see it.

    Then back on the tube to Picadilly Circus-something hubby wanted to see. However, it's just a circle in the middle of the road, some neon signs and people sitting around it smoking pot. We didn't linger there.

    Finally, back on the tube to the train for Bicester. The train was crowded going home so our group couldn't sit together-we were actually lucky to get seats at all. It had been a long day and we walked 8 miles. For me, that's something.

    I will say that for people worried about taking the underground, it was fairly easy. If you get a map beforehand it can take you where you want to go quickly and inexpensively. I have no doubt we could've figured it out.
     
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  14. BadPinkTink

    BadPinkTink DIS Veteran

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    following, loving your report so far. Im from Dublin and have lived in London and visited Cobh, so Im always fascinated by first timers reports of places I know so well. :)
     
  15. disneymomto5

    disneymomto5 DIS Veteran

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    DAY 5: WINDSOR CASTLE

    Today we drove to Windsor Castle. The town is adorable; lots of shopping, side streets, shops, very walkable, not that easy to find a parking space, however. Windsor is where Harry and Meghan got married, there was still lots of flags and posters adorning the area, and again, daughter in law purchased the tickets ahead of time, so we were able to walk right in.

    The castle is the weekend home of the Windsors, there was quite a bit of scaffolding on the buildings and unfortunately the Queens Dollhouse was closed for that day (which I've heard is fantastic). But we saw the Queens apartments, which was mostly hallways with a great many paintings of ancestors. I don't think anyone actually lives in the rooms that we saw, but maybe I'm mistaken. It was very beautiful.

    We went into St. George's Chapel which was also beautiful and rich in history, but for me personally, a little creepy. There are many tombs in the chapel, some of them directly under your feet. I personally don't like to walk on top of the dead and try not to do it if possible, but in this chapel it's pretty hard not to.

    After we had toured the Castle and all that we could, we got ice cream (which was amazing). I found the ice cream to be very yummy in England. I think it's the clotted cream. Anyway, we were standing on the side looking for a place to sit, when right by us marched the guards, to change places down the hill. I could've reached out and touched them-that's how close they were. I did get a picture, but with ice cream in one hand it wasn't that easy to do.

    After the castle we walked around the town for a bit, then back to Bicester for dinner at a local pub.
     
  16. FSU Girl

    FSU Girl DIS Veteran

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    It's so smart buying tickets ahead of time. I'm such a planner so I usually do that and my family is the opposite so they always run into issues when they get places.

    It must have been so pretty!

    Do you remember where the ice cream place was?
     
  17. disneymomto5

    disneymomto5 DIS Veteran

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    I think it was called the Queens ice cream and it was a booth inside the castle walls. The ice cream was awesome, but I'm an ice cream gal, so....
     
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  18. FSU Girl

    FSU Girl DIS Veteran

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    I love ice cream too, I'll definitely check it out when I'm there.
     
  19. disneymomto5

    disneymomto5 DIS Veteran

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    DAY 6: OXFORD

    Today we drove to a park and ride lot and took a double decker bus to Oxford. There is no place to park near the college so I think most people do ride a bus there. Hubby by this time is really sick and stayed in bed all day since we have to be well to cruise tomorrow. I sat on the top of the double decker bus, you can't go to England and not do that at least once! From Bicester, Oxford is about 1/2 hour away, and by the University and in the middle of town there were shops, restaurants, street musicians. Hubby would've really loved the whole atmosphere, I could've lived there easily. After walking around for awhile, we decided to go to tea since we hadn't done that yet either. Hubby doesn't like tea and son and daughter in law don't drink tea, so it was tea for one....sad but still, again, you can't go to England without tea. I wanted to see the hall where some of Harry Potter movies were filmed but the line to get in was quite long and I think everyone was too tired to wait.

    Headed back home and decided to eat in tonight, so we stopped at a TESCO grocery store. It was a huge store, kind of comparable to a Super Walmart, they pretty much had everything. Picked up food for dinner and then headed back to the house to check on hubby. Luckily the rest had done him good and he was feeling better, and of course, now I have a cough and congestion! It never fails.....
     
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