Sunday July 18th
I had arranged for Alan [a friend of mine who owns an executive taxi company who we use whenever we go to Florida] to collect us at around 7.30 am to take us to Dover, aiming to board the Disney Magic after the initial rush to get on board yet still in time for lunch.
Alan actually arrived at 7.00 am so after loading up his Mercedes 7 seater with our luggage that was ready and waiting, we had a cup of coffee in the kitchen while waiting for everyone to surface! The vehicle easily swallowed up all of our bags together with all 5 of us along with Alan as we set off finally at around 7.45 am.
The traffic was fairly light as it was a Sunday, and after a restroom/coffee stop at the motorway services [yuk!] near to the Dartford Crossing on the outskirts of London, we finally descended the hill down to the Port of Dover at around mid-day where we caught our first glimpse of the ship gleaming in the sunlight in the harbour.
We seemed to have timed things perfectly as there were no queues at the dockside and I was very surprised that we didn`t even have to show our documents to the official who simply directed Alan to the drop off point.
No sooner had we unloaded our bags than they were whisked away by a porter as we said our goodbyes to Alan and made our way into the Cruise Terminal where a one man band welcomed everyone inside.
The boarding process was a breeze.
After putting our carry on items through the x-ray scanner and signing a couple of health forms confirming that we were not suffering from anything contagious, we were directed to the check-in desk to complete the boarding paperwork.
As we had all already taken a minimum of 5 previous DCL Cruises, we were given Gold Castaway Club lanyards to house our “Key to the World” cards.
After checking that we all were assigned the same dining arrangements we then went to where the ship`s photographers took our pre-boarding photos after which we walked directly onto the gangplank and into the ship`s atrium.
Noticing our Gold lanyards, a crew member asked our names and said “Welcome back aboard” as our names were announced to applause from two lines of crew members in the atrium.
We were told that our staterooms would be ready by 1.30 pm so Doug, Michelle & Dani headed up to Topsiders on deck 9 while my DW and I went immediately to Rockin Bar “D” to make our dining reservation for Palos.
Doug & Michelle had already made their Palo reservations on line and we had agreed that we would dine there on a different evening to them so that we could accompany Dani for dinner while they were at Palos as she was not classed as an adult….even though she could easily pass for an 18 year old. I also wanted to make our reservation for one of the evenings when we were assigned Parrot Cay [our least favourite of the regular restaurants].
From here we made our way up to Topsiders where we joined our friends for an excellent buffet lunch sat at an outside table which was quite an experience in itself as it had become very windy!
From here we made our way to our staterooms [we on deck 6, and our friends on deck 2], to find that two of our cases were already outside the door waiting for us in the corridor. No sooner had we unpacked these cases than our final two cases arrived which was perfect timing.
Waiting for us on the bed was our Castaway Club gift, this time a [very useful] tote bag containing drinking mugs, a key ring a few snacks.
The Personal Navigator was also there and I immediately noticed how more colourful it was that those we had seen previously, a definite improvement.
Alongside the Personal Navigator was a letter invitation to join the ship`s officers for a “Gold & Platinum Castaway Reception” at 11.00 am tomorrow.
Following a brief [and breezy!] walk around the outside decks, it was time for us to return to our stateroom and don our life jackets and go to our assembly point on deck 4 for the mandatory safety drill before we set sail.
Once this was over we all met up on deck 10 to view the "Adventures Away" party with a glass of Melonvine, the cocktail of the day. Although it was a sunny day it was a darn sight colder than when we cruised before and it seemed odd to see the passengers in sweaters and trousers instead of shorts and tee shirts!
Doug and I hung around deck 10 while my DW, Michelle & Dani went down to check out the on board shops as Michelle wanted to buy some remedy in case she had a bout of sea sickness during the cruise.
After a while they reappeared and my DW said to me “I`ve just earned a $25 credit”. She then went on to say that she had just bought a DCL Dooney & Bourke handbag and Gold Castaway members were entitled to this credit when they spent over $100 in the shop! When it was described by this method I think that I saved some money!
After a while the countdown began and after a blast of “When you wish upon a star” from the ships horn we slowly moved away from the dock and made our way towards the English Channel.
The Captain [an English guy named John] came over on the pa system and told us that he was taking the “Cliff View” route out of Dover, keeping the coast in view for as long as possible.
As we made our way along the coast of Dover, he pointed out several places of interest as we passed by.
At one stage we passed a small community called St. Margarets where Peter Ustinov and Ian Fleming used to own beach side houses. The local pub was named Moonraker and the bus service into Dover was number 007 which was rather apt!
After soaking up some more coastal views we all headed off to our staterooms to get ready for dinner.
On entering our stateroom I noticed that some slips of paper had been placed on our bed by Sean, our stateroom host.
These were confirmation of the on-board credits that we were entitled to.
Before our cruise, I knew that these were forthcoming, however the actual amount totalled $1,000 which was rather more than I had expected, but naturally it was very much appreciated!
While my DW was getting ready I made my way down to Sessions on deck 3 to say “Hi” to Tim Moss, the pianist there with whom we have become close friends.
As soon as Tim saw me enter the bar he waved, stopped playing, and then re-started playing “Wonderful Tonight”. Tim knows that I am Eric Claptons` no.1 fan and he normally plays this for me each time I enter Sessions, if not, then he plays a tune from Phantom of the Opera, another of my favourites.
I ordered a Tom Collins from Benita [the bar tender] and after a while, Tim came over for a chat….little did he know about the surprise that we all had in store for him later during the cruise…more later.
After a second Tom Collins my DW finally joined us, just in time for us to go to Lumiere`s for dinner.
There we were reunited with our friends from LA, and we shared a table with Robert and Margaret from Edmonton and their three children, Christopher and Joshua [teenagers], and their lovely 10 year old daughter Rebecca, and soon we were chatting away like old friends. So yet again we had some lovely dining partners for the cruise.
We were also introduced to Oppie [our server], Isaac [asst. server] and Zan [our head server], who all promised us a great cruise.
I ordered a wine package for the cruise so my DW and I shared our first bottle over dinner. The “share” was actually 75% for me and 25% for my DW as I soon discovered when we left the restaurant! :p010: The combined effects of a long day, two very strong Tom Collins and several glasses of wine kicked in so rather than topping up even more by returning to Sessions, I said my “Goddnights” and headed back to the stateroom.
On entering the room I noticed a card telling us to turn our clocks forward one hour tonight. Just what I needed right now [NOT], losing an hours sleep tonight!