Day 1 of Our First Disney Cruise 2021, the latest of my Disney Trip Reports, is here! Today is my birthday and we board the Disney Magic for a UK Staycation!
The Index of Our First Disney Cruise 2021! Disney Magic At Sea (UK Staycation) tells you a bit about the planning of this trip, as well as some info about us – me, Michelle; and my husband, Steve. It also, of course, has the full list of days for the trip.
Day 1: Embarkation Day
Stateroom Tour, Ship Tour, Lunch from Cabanas, Dinner at Lumiere’s
September 14, 2021
Disney Cruise Line UK Staycations 2021
Steve and I have wanted to go on a Disney cruise for a while but a few things have stopped us from going on one: the cost, the worry about seasickness (me), and if we would actually enjoy being on a cruise, as it is a very different kind of vacation.
Disney announced a series of UK Staycations – Disney Magic at Sea – for UK residents, back in the springtime of 2021, to coincide with the lifting of pandemic restrictions of cruise travel.
There was to be 2, 3, and 4-night cruises to and from various ports around the UK without any ports of call (just sea days) as well as reduced capacity on board. They would sail from July to October.
Disney Cruise Line usually sails from ports around the USA, and then comes to the UK to sail to the Mediterranean and Europe.
For DCL, we want to be able to visit their Caribbean island in the Bahamas – Castaway Cay – so adding on the cost of a cruise to flights, and a stay at WDW, it costs a lot of money.
These UK staycations would be the ideal chance for us to try out a cruise and see if it was the type of holiday for us. So we booked a 3-night cruise from Tilbury – a port less than 30 minutes drive from us – and started to count down the days to our first Disney cruise!
After watching some of the vlogs that appeared after the first few staycations, we decided to book a second Disney cruise, as a back-to-back on our existing reservation, giving us 6 nights in total for this trip.
Thanks to the pandemic, it’s been 2½ years since our last trip to Walt Disney World (WDW). As self-confessed Disney addicts, this is the longest time we’ve been without a Disney trip since we first started visiting WDW in 2011.
But today we are driving to Tilbury Cruise Terminal for our very first cruise on the Disney Magic!
To say we are excited is an understatement – we are self-confessed Disney addicts, and love all things, Disney! It also happens to be my 45th birthday today, so boarding one of the Disney Cruise Line (DCL) ships is an awesome birthday present!
Our day started with birthday presents. Steve bought me an Apple Watch – something I’ve been wanting for a long time. I was not expecting it, so that was such a lovely surprise! I just had time to get it charged and synced with my iPhone (and put on a Minnie Mouse watch face!) before we had to pack up the car to leave.
Before boarding the ship we had to log our vaccination status to the Prenetics website (who would also be taking care of the lateral flow tests at the port). This was 35 days before embarkation.
Then 30 days before cruising, we had to do online check-in and receive our Port Arrival Time (PAT). If you have children, it was also the time you could book them into the kid’s clubs.
On the morning of the cruise, we got an email with a health questionnaire to fill in and present at the port.
Our PAT was 12:15 and we gave ourselves 45 minutes to get to the port as we had heard that protestors were blocking the M25, and we didn’t want to fall foul to the traffic build-up.
As it so happens, this was a perfect time as we reached Tilbury Cruise Terminal at about 11:50, but there was a line of cars going into the car park. [We hoped that] by the time we got to the front it would be our PAT. We had heard (via Facebook Groups) that people arriving too early for their PAT were being turned around and told to come back…
We both exclaimed “there she is!” when we realised the Disney Magic was in the near-distance as we pulled up into the line. SO EXCITING!
By the time we reached the gates to the car park, it was about 12:05. We were guided to wait in another line of cars, before being motioned towards a big building to drop off our luggage.
We received language tags in the mail, about a week before, which we attached to our suitcases, but if you don’t receive them in time, there are plenty spare at the port.
Once our bags were offloaded, we parked the car and asked about any accessible help (we had specified needing it when booking), but no one seemed to know, and we just keep getting passed along to the next person.
My understanding, on these cruises at least, was that it was an outside firm organizing the parking, etc., and not Disney themselves. This was the first cruise from Tilbury, so maybe this was the reason for the lack of information?
Regardless of the lack of help, Steve and I made our way to join the line into the lateral flow testing tent. This part was the most nerve-wracking – we had to make sure we were negative before boarding the ship. It was almost like we couldn’t let out a breath until we knew.
Once the test was conducted we had to wait for the results – up to 45 minutes – before being allowed to board the ship. Our results came through after about 15 minutes, and we breathed that sigh of relief!
We could now make our way over to the cruise terminal.
It was a long walk from the testing area to the terminal and then on to the ship, so for any future cruises that may happen here, it is something to bear in mind if you have mobility issues.
I am so glad that we hired a wheelchair for me because I would have struggled a LOT.
At Walt Disney World I hire an ECV – an electric mobility scooter, to get me around the parks without pain, as I can’t walk long distances. But trying to hire one in the UK was nigh on impossible. Because of my size (I’m a UK size 34 at the moment), I need a larger “bariatric” scooter, and for some reason, companies in the UK don’t hire this kind for short periods, like a week. This made me so upset, and I did nearly cancel our holiday because of it. But Steve insisted he would be okay to push me in a wheelchair, so we hired a large manual wheelchair instead.