We never know quite what to expect when we get the notion to take a trip, but John and I are happy we’ve reeled you in to join us on this next adventure via the Norwegian Star. (I’m referring to the seven couples who have signed on to the trip, but anyone else who happens upon this blog page can travel with us vicariously.)
We’ll muddle our way through eight countries, six languages, and five currencies including three different Kronen, all in about two weeks.
We’ll encounter blood sausage, spectacularly stinky cheese, crepes drooling with caramel sauce, remarkable Belgian and German brews, and other amazing taste sensations.
We’ll undoubtedly encounter some crazy cruise characters, but we’ll also make acquaintance with people from other parts of the world who are very much like us—just plain curious about what lies beyond the places we all know as home.
This page is still evolving as we make decisions about excursions and learn about our flight arrangements. Use the Page Jumps below to help you find your way through my long and windy squirrel chatter. Hopefully, the information and web links will help you plan ahead, making efficient use of your travel time and dollars.
- Traveling in an Era of Covid
- Other Travel Safety Concerns
- Packing for the Trip
- What’s “Free at Sea?” Are There Additional Charges?
- Best Credit Cards for International Travel
- Traveling with Local Currency
- Regarding Travel Insurance
- Regarding Flight Upgrades
- Regarding Cabin Upgrades
- Arranged Ground Transportation for our Group
- Hotels in Winchester and Copenhagen
- Our Day in Winchester
- What to Expect on Embarkation Day
- What to Expect on Disembarkation Day
- Our Day in Copenhagen
- What about the NCL Excursions?
- Maps for each Port
Preparing for Departure
Traveling in an Era of Covid
It’s likely Covid will be a prevalent concern for the remaining travel years John and I can still get around on two legs; but fortunately, the world is adjusting to a new normal and the travel protocal for Covid will get easier. It already has in the few months since we cruised in November, if I am reading this document correctly, posted February 1, 2022, by the Council of the European Union.
Instead of completing documentation for the UK and all six countries we passed through in the EuroUnion last autumn, it’s my understanding we’ll need to complete a form for the UK, but only one for the seven EuroUnion countries we’re visiting on this trip. (We’ll also likely have to complete a form for the airlines in addition to arriving got out flight with our vaccination card.)
Although the protocal may change before our departure, we currently need the following if we were leaving today:
- A vaccination record showing we’ve completed our first Covid shots no more than 9 months before departure OR a record of a Covid booster at least 14 days before our departure
- A PCR test within two days of our embarkation, arranged for free at Walgreens or CVS, and scheduled the day of our departure from Kansas City.
- Completion of the requested Passenger Locators explained above
- An n95 mask for the flight, also free at various locations
Other Travel Safety Concerns
Yes, some crazy things are going on in the world right at this moment, but in my adult memory, it’s always been that way.
I spent an interim semester in the United Kingdom in 1979 when Irish Republican Bombings were commonplace. My daughter and I signed up for a two-week trip to Germany and Austria one month after the 9-11 terrorist attacks and had a fantastic time in June of 2002. And, in spite of the devastating bombings that rocked London in July of 2005, we still carried out our plans for a great trip to the United Kingdom nine months later in 2006.
However, John and I are older now and a little more worried about taking risks. That’s why when we resumed our travel planning back in February of 2021 we chose to travel with Norwegian Cruise Lines rather than venture out on our own as we have done in the past. We trust NCL’s team of informed advisors to monitor our safety.
At this writing, John and I have no fear of traveling in Europe. Based on our experience cruising with NCL in November, we are confident that if the Norwegian Cruise Line company foresees a danger to their passengers’ well-being, they will cancel the trip and offer us the option of a refund or a credit for another trip.
Packing for the Trip
We prefer Norwegian Cruise Lines primarily for its FreeStyle approach to a cruise vacation. We’ve booked with Celebrity and and Holland America and had to take an extra bag for “evening wear:” John’s suit, my dresses, and his size 13 “evening shoes.” Furthermore, on cruises with these companies, we were assigned a time each evening for our meal and placed at tables with people we didn’t know. For this, John had to wear a tie and he complained every evening, all evening.
But Freestyle cruising with Norwegian means that the guests make the rules. You get to choose when and where you want to eat, with whom, and dressing like Fred Astaire (or Fred Munster with size 13 shoes) and Ginger Rogers is strictly optional. Business casual or nice jeans are the norm with a collared shirt for men and a nice top for women. (I never even packed a skirt for this last trip.)
This post from NCL defines casual dress, but requests that men refrain from wearing tank-tops and ballcaps and that no one wears flip flops or “overly faded jeans with rips and holes” in the main dining rooms or specialty restaurants.
Now, if you want to bring your tux and your evening gown complete with feather boa, please bring them. That’s perfectly acceptable, too. We saw people dressed to the nines as they arrived for meals or sang around the piano bar.
Just make sure your “evening wear” fits in the one checked bag and carry on alotted each person. These are the requiremets for our chartered transportation and when we disembark.
Also bring along an all-weather jacket that will shed water and a sweater to layer under it for cooler days and evenings on the deck and on excursions. It appears the farther north we go, the September temperatures may dip down in the the 50 degree range.
What are our Free at Sea Perks? Are There Additional Charges?
Once you have paid for your trip by May 19, your package includes the following Free at Sea perks; of course, we all know no perk is actually free, but we’ll happily go along with NCL’s marketing ploy.
- One partner flies free
- Three free meals at specialty restaurants
- Unlimited drinks, $15 or under, all day long, including soft drinks, wines, beers, and a number of spirits and cocktails; download the menu here. (Note this only includes brewed coffee and teas and no specialty coffees like cappuccinos or lattes, probably because a Starbucks cafe is usually on board.)
- 250 minutes of free on board Wifi
- $50 credit per cabin, per port for excursions.
- Plus, a $100 onboard ship credit for being a part of our group
In addition to these perks, the following is also included in your payment on May 19:
- The gratuities for the specialty meals and the drinks
- All you can eat from early morning to midnight at any of the complimentary restaurants.
- Complimentary entertainment along with numerous musicians who perform nightly at their little bar niches on the ship.
What additional Charges Aren’t Included?
Once you have paid for your trip in full and a few weeks before departure, you’ll notice a charge for approximately $139 per person or $15.50 per person, per day; this is a gratuity that is shared with your cabin stewards and all of the waiters, waitresses, hostesses, and dining attendants who have served you for the nine days you are on board.
It’s an optional charge and you can ask to have it removed at the service desk the night before our departure, especially if you are unhappy with the service you have received. Some guests do this.
On the contrary, John and I have always been extremely pleased with the attention the cruise staff has provided on previous trips and believe the service on our upcoming trip will be no exception.
We find the staff to be quite deserving of this gratuity.
Best Credit Cards for International Travel
It’s likely if you already have some form of Mastercard or Visa in your wallet. We’ve taken our Capitol One to Europe multiple times. Double-check, but these cards carry no international transaction fees and this is ABSOLUTELY the cheapest way to make purchases with the best rate of exchange.
Please note: American Express is not used in as many places because merchants pay a heftier for its use in their establishment. Discover Card is even less common.
Traveling with the Local Currency
Most establishments in Europe take our American credit cards; smaller vendors and some taxis may not.
We prefer to have some local money in our pocket; on an unplanned day trip through Northern Ireland in 2006 with CIE tours, none of the merchants we encountered would take the Euros in our wallet due to Ireland’s political divide, let alone a credit card. Since then, we get local cash if we’re spending at least one night in a country.
On this trip, if you hope to use the toilet when we’re meandering about for our three stops in Germany, you’ll have to have a few Euros on hand.
Of course, if you aren’t planning on traveling to Europe again, you don’t want to be left with useless cash. Converting currency back once more to U.S. dollars loses 12 to 20% yet again. It’s possible your $100 could eventually be worth as little as $60.
For our 13 day NCL trip in November of 2021 we converted $400 U.S. to about 350 Euros and brought back 150 Euros. Then, as is the case for this upcoming cruise, we’d already paid for the lion’s share of meals and drinks. We only spent cash on taxis, t-shirts for our grandkids, a pizza, gelato, a museum entrance, and the local coffee and draft beer.
We’ll likely take the following currency for this trip:
- at least 50 GBP for our two days in England,
- at least 300 Euro for our nine days in Europe
Although we’ll be in Copenhagen for 24 hours plus, we won’t purchase Danish Krone (DKK). Instead, I’ll purchase Copenhagen cards for John and me online about 8 weeks before departure (more details to follow). They’re $65 which covers all ground transportation (a metro station is approximately one block from the hotel option I have arranged), canal tours, entrance into the approximately 40 attractions open on a Monday as well as discounts at shops and restaurants.
Keep in mind the fluctuating exchange rate for the GBP and the EUR as well as the following Kronen. There are some neat apps for your phone.
Note that although the Scandinavian countries we visit are in the Euro Union, they don’t use Euros as currency and aren’t obligated to take them. However, the tourist places we will visit in these locations will most likely take Euros as well as credit cards.
- Danish Krone (DKK) currently worth .15 of the U.S. dollar
- Norwegian Krone (NOK) currently worth .11 of the U.S. dollar
- Swedish Krone (SEK) also currently worth .11 of the U. S. dollar,
We always arrange the purchase of this currency at our US Bank at an exchange rate of 10-12% a few weeks before departure–far better than the 20+% we’d likely encounter at an airport.
And, here is some additional advice about traveling with credit and debit cards from Travel Bee.
Regarding Travel Insurance
This is your decision. Many people never buy the insurance and have no issues.
We have purchased travel insurance for every trip in which we’ve invested a sizeable dollar amount since 2004 and we’ve had to make four claims for reimbursement for the following:
- The remainder of a European coach tour in 2004 when John’s mother passed away
- 15 hotel rooms and meals for about 20 students and staff when storms delayed a flight across the Irish Sea–can’t remember which year
- A portion of our large vacation home rental in 2018 when our son and daughter-in-law got pregnant and she couldn’t travel
- A week of vacation home rental in 2021 when our brother-in-law passed away
In each instance, our investment of $150 to $300 for the two of us combined returned many times that to our pockets when the unexpected occurred. All four claims were handled through CSA first and later Nationwide and we were happy with their customer service.
We are probably all at a stage in our lives that we could afford a few unexpected nights in a hotel room; however, we purchase the insurance for the following reasons:
- to cover the cost of an unexpected next-day flight home ($4800 for the two of us in 2004 in addition to reimbursement for the cost of the interrupted tour)
- to cover the cost of the trip if one of us is called up for jury duty and can’t beg our way out of it
- the outside chance we have to be medically evacuated across borders/ocean to be returned home, (various sources cite $100,000 – $200,000 from Europe and at least the latter if you have to be transported from a cruise ship)
- the chance we contract Covid after final payment and need a full refund
- the chance we contract Covid on the ship and need to quarantine on land (although NCL will apparently assume some responsibility)
- the chance we contract some other ailment that would prevent us from last minute travel.
For this trip, we’ll wait until the day we make final payment and purchase our insurance through the search engine provided toward the middle of this link on the Forbes website.
Tips for Searching for Travel Insurance
- When the search engine asks for country of destination, it is fine to choose United Kingdom. It’s the first destination and the region in which we will spend the most time. )
- In the filters, choose both Covid and Cruise
- Scroll down through all of the companies’ offers; the more expensive offers seem to appear first
- When you find a premium offer that interests you, make sure you click on Details for an overview, but more critical, look for the View Certificate option in the upper right-hand corner. Read the specific coverage in detail.
- Choose a policy with $250,000 coverage or more per person for a medical evacuation
Through this Forbes website, John and I will likely purchase Trawick Safe Travels First Class currently $300.12 for the two of us at this writing. We anticipate the premium for the two of us will cost slightly more in May.
Its coverage actually includes $1,000,000 in medical evacuation–much more than we need. And we especially appreciate the coverage for a missed connection this premium offers:
The Company will reimburse You, up to the Maximum Benefit shown on the Schedule of Benefits, if You miss Your Cruise or tour departure, scheduled during Your Trip, that results from the cancellation or a delay for between three (3) and twelve (12) hours of all regularly scheduled airline flights due to the following event: (a) Documented weather condition preventing You from getting to the point of departure for Your Trip. Benefits are provided for: (a) additional transportation expenses needed for You to join Your departed Cruise or tour; (b) Reasonable Expenses up to the Maximum Benefit per day shown on the Schedule of Benefits; (c) pre-paid nonrefundable Payments or Deposits for the unused portion of Your Cruise. Coverage is secondary to any compensation provided by a Common Carrier. Coverage will not be provided to individuals who are able to meet their scheduled departures but cancel their Cruise or tour due to Inclement Weather.
Our only recommendation is that you don’t buy Norwegian Cruise Line’s standard or platinum policy (or one from any cruise line or airline). These are usually “one size fits all” for all the trips they offer domestic or international ; if you read the fine print in NCL’s policy you will see you will be paying over $600 a couple for less coverage for the platinum policy.
Upgrading Flights and Cabins . . .
Once the final payment is made, we should each receive an email from Norwegian with our flight details arranged by the cruise line. As a rule, this will be an overnight flight with early morning arrival at Heathrow.
Regarding Flight Upgrades
After we learn on which airline we’re flying, we can allow the company to choose our seats, or it’s an easy task to create an account with the airline and choose our seats ourselves. (Please note: this may first require contacting a Norwegian customer service representative to get the locator ID).
In the past, we’ve been able to choose the domestic flight seats for free. The overseas flight has different levels in coach class for leg room and “fanny width” for about $50-$150 increments per seat. I can make due no matter where I sit on a plane, but with John’s 6′ 3″ frame and old geezer hips, we upgrade to keep him from getting too crabby.
Regarding Cabin Upgrades
We have booked both ocean view and balcony rooms on cruises before and we’ve been comfortable in both. On this particular cruise we have booked an ocean view cabin with a picture window; smaller, but cozy. (We have many more plans for travel in the years to come, so we’re stretching our travel dollar); however, we understand that sharing the 159 square feet of an ocean view cabin space with your partner for ten days might be too cozy, and certainly understand why some travelers prefer a balcony.
For our NCL cruise last November, we were offered the chance to upgrade our balcony room to Club Class about two weeks after full payment, (a common practice, but I can’t guarantee we’ll have the option on this cruise.)
Here’s how it works: the passenger is invited to “bid” for a chance to upgrade two levels higher than the current cabin level. The bids range from $100 per passenger to $1000 per passenger with the suggestion that the higher bids have much brighter prospects for the upgrade. We’re cheap skates. On our last trip, I bid $125 for an upgrade which we won for $250. However, at that time NCL ships were not yet operating at full capacity.
Ground Transportation and Hotels, Pre- and Post-cruise
Every trip brings at least one flight delay. For that reason, we always arrange one day deviation when booking a cruise. This avoids the frustration of making new travel arrangements when original plans can easily be derailed.
In the instance of this trip, we’ll spend a pre-cruise day in historic Winchester, England, with the option of traveling back to London on your own and a post-cruise day in Copenhagen. If you read the single excursion option for Denmark, you’re aware the return flight NCL would book for us probably wouldn’t alow time to explore this phenomenal city.
(You’ll find more details about each city farther down.)
About Ground Transportation for our Group
Booking transfers through the cruise line itself are likely as much as $400 a couple; however, I estimate the cost for all ground transportation in England and Copenhagen to be approximately $130 per couple or $65 per person. This includes the tips.
Numerous articles including this one posted on the Cruise Critic website, alert travelers to the premium cost involved getting travelers from the airport to the cruise ship and back to the airport days later. On at least three of the cruises we’ve taken, the cost per person for airport transportation was as much $100 one way for a few miles’ distance. We saved significantly by grabbing a taxi on two occasions and prearranging our own transfer when a longer distance was involved.
The distance from Heathrow to the Southampton terminal is about 66 American miles and the distance from the Copenhagen port to the airport is about 15 miles. In addition to the cost involved with the cruiseline arranged transfer, travelers are often at the mercy of other travelers’ arrival time to ensure the cruise line’s shuttle has a full load of passengers.
I’ve scoured a number of websites and received quotations from a number of reliable companies who have agreed to transport our group: Here’s what I think is best for us.
Dave with Arrowline Minibuses in Salisbury, England, has provided the best quotation for our transport from Heathrow to our hotels in Winchester. In turn, Tessa with Wintex Taxi Service in Winchester which will transport our group the distance of 13 miles to the Norwegian Cruise Line Terminal in Southhampton.
And, once we arrive in Copenhagen, Chantale with Volubus has sent me the best quote to transport our group to our airport hotel. Although these companies are tentatively holding a spot for us, we can’t confirm the precise cost until we have the details of our air arrangements.
Currently, however, with the Euro and GBO conversion rate figured in, I estimate the cost for all ground transportation in England and Copenhagen to be approximately $130 per couple or $65 per person. This includes the tips.
These companies request that one payment is made on behalf of all. Once I have the specifics, the Homans will cover the cost for the group in June and ask that you reimburse us in the month following.
I need to note here that although our cruise consultant has requested all 16 travel on the same flight, there is a possibility we may be divided into two groups. In this instance, Dave with Arrowline Minibusses is prepare to send two smaller vehicles for the same price.
I’m happy we can save a few dollars on transportation, because hotels are little more costly than I anticipated. Although September falls in the “shoulder” travel season, hotels in the heart of big city destinations still carry a premium prices.
Hotels for Our Group in Winchester and Copenhagen
If we were all 20 years old again, it might be fun to backpack through Europe and stay in hostels. Accommodations in these economical options currently run approximately $50 per person in England and Copenhagen. We can share bathrooms with strangers and bunkbeds with weird stains on the sheets. Add to the mix the gamble of whether there will be hot water for a morning shower or toast left in the breakfast room—it’s all part of the adventure. However, this isn’t on our bucket list at age 63 and I doubt it is for you, either.
I have sent over two dozen inquires to hotels in Winchester where we spend our first night and Copenhagen where we’ll spend our final night. I searched not only for hotels with good reviews, breakfast, and a convenient location, but in the rare instance a couple must cancel, I made sure there is a reasonable window for a full refund and each couple can pay with their own credit card–key factors involved in filing a travel insurance claim.
If a refund is needed, travel insurance companies require not only a receipt or invoice from the hotel, but proof that the name listed on the insurance policy is actually the person who paid for the room with a check, or a credit card from his or her personal account.
Consequently, these are the best accommodations I can find for our travel dollar. Couples may choose between two hotels in Winchester and two hotels in Copenhagen. We’ve worked out the travel arrangements with our transportation folks in each city for both of the hotels.
More details about each hotel follow the table. Please let me know your preference:
|Winchester Hotel Choice #1||Winchester Hotel Choice #2|
|The Old Vine |
18th Century restored and listed Inn
Deluxe Ensuite rooms with breakfast
Across from the Cathedral
170 GBP or app. $230
Couple reserves room online themselves with credit card
Full payment upon arrival
7 days cancellation window
|The Winchester Royal |
16th Century Building
Standard and Deluxe ensuite rooms
Double and Queen Beds
151 GBP or $200 for Standard
175 GBP or $240 for Deluxe
Homans hold rooms with one card; couple pays upon arrival
2 days cancellation window
|Copenhagen Choice #1||Copenhagen Choice #2|
|NordicChoice Airport Comfort Inn|
Standard ensuite twin rooms with breakfast
Next to Airport Entrance and Metro
1145 DKK or $172
Homans hold rooms with one card and the couple pays upon arrival
2 days cancellation window
|NordicChoice Airport Clarion |
More upscale ensuite rooms with breakfast
Next to Airport Entrance and Metro
1550 DKK or $235
Homans hold rooms with one card and the couple pays upon arrival
2 days cancellation window
Two Hotel Choices in Winchester
In Winchester, even the popular mid-level chain Mercure Winchester commands a higher price, offering accommodations with breakfast for $201.66 per night for a compact room, but mixed reviews about staffing and cleanliness. Sadly, due to many months in lockdown without revenue, many hotels haven’t been able to maintain the premises or the staff to resume pre-pandemic standards.
I found a hotel room without breakfast for the equivalent of $130 USD with good reviews, but it’s in an establishment called The Black Hole, and I just can’t get past Rat decor. There are also some third party websites that offer “deals” without breakfast for approximately $150, but we’ve had one too many bad experiences with arrangements like this and now in our old age, always book directly through the hotel itself. If any problem arises, the hotel itself rarely has a sympathetic ear for guests who have booked through a third-party entity.
So, in Winchester, I have found two hotels with satisfactory reviews; both include breakfast and promise larger rooms, private bathrooms, and comfy beds.
The Old Vine
The Old Vine Inn, is a restored and listed 18th-century bed and breakfast establishment in the heart of Winchester city center and footsteps from Winchester Cathedral. The rooms rent for 170 GBP or about $230 a night; you’ll feel like you’re a character in a quirky Britbox show.
Proprietor Marcelo shared by phone that there has been a tavern on this site for nearly 600 years. Several Trip Advisor reviews speak of this establishments quaint and quirky charm with its many unique details. The ceiling beams in the dining room were repurposed nearly two centuries ago from old dismantled ships from nearby Southampton and the “old grape vine” itself, has crept along the exterior wall of the inn for over a century. Marcelo noted the vine should be loaded with grapes when we arrive in September.
No two of the Old Vine’s deluxe, ensuite rooms are the same, but all include comfy beds, large bathrooms, sumptuous furnishings, fluffy towels and robes, luxurious toiletries, a Nespresso machine, Twinings Tea and biscuits, a refrigerator with milk and juice, and a full English breakfast added into the cost.
Because it’s a small inn with just six rooms, Marcelo can’t allow me to book all rooms as a group unless I may one payment in full by August 9 with no refund after; this arrangement also compromises each couple’s chance of getting a refund with travel insurance on the rare instance someone has to cancel; John and I will have the necessary credit card documentation for our reimbursement. No other couple will.
For that reason, if the description above sounds appealing, you will need to go online yourself with this link, choose a room with breakfast for September 15, and hold it with a credit card. The room is refundable 7 days before arrival.
The Winchester Royal
This 16th-century hotel with its authentic Tudor architecture was built in the reign of Charles the II and was known for many years as the Bishop’s house; during the reign of violent religious persecution in the 1580s it was the hiding place for many Catholics. Upon its sale in 1784, it became a convent for Benedictine Nuns for 150 years before it was sold yet again in 1858 to C.W. Benney. The establishment has been known since that date as the Royal Hotel and has established a solid place in the Winchester travel industry for over a century and a half.
The hotel is approximately two blocks farther north from the Old Vine and the cathedral, but still centrally located within close range of city attractions, shopping, and pubs.
The rooms range from a comfortable but modest standard double ensuite room with a double-bed and breakfast for 151 GBP ($200) to a Deluxe room (only four available) for 175 GBP ($240). The deluxe rooms are large ensuite with queen-size beds, bathrobes, comfortable chairs and sofas, sparkling water and fruit, and upscale toiletries.
If you are interested in a room at the Winchester Royal, it’s more convenient for the hotel if you let me know the room level in which you are interested and I will reserve the rooms under one card. Then, each couple pays with their card upon arrival.
Two Hotel Choices in Copenhagen
I am sorry to report there are no hotels with decent reviews in Copenhagen’s city center under $300 per room; however, I have found comfortable rooms with breakfast with good reviews with the help of Tina, the reservation manager for two NordicChoice Hotels situated on either side and within a block of the Copenhagen Airport ranging from $171 – $240. Let me know which accommodations you would like. It’s more convenient for the hotel (and for you because the website is in Danish and their currency is scary) if I hold the rooms with a credit card and you pay when you arrive.
In fact, I am currently holding 8 rooms at the Comfort Inn, but it’s absolutely no issue to shift any couple to the Clarion with Tina’s expert help.
The Airport Comfort Inn
One night in a twin standard room at the Airport Comfort Inn in Copenhagen runs $172 including tax and breakfast with free cancellation up to the week of our arrival. Typical of many European chain hotels, the rooms and bathrooms are small, but the reviews reflect many happy customers.
The Airport Clarion
If you are concerned about cramped quarters, it’s also an easy task to stay at the Comfort Inn’s sister establishment, the Clarion Hotel on the other side of the airport entrance. Standard rooms here appear to be larger with larger beds and upgraded amenities. One night in this hotel with breakfast runs for approximately $240.
The best perks about these two hotels are the many reviews from customers who praise the convenience of walking to the airport’s entrance with their bags, walking to Terminal 3, or hopping on the Metro for a 12 minute ride into the Copenhagen Old Town.
It’s a 60 American-mile ride through the Hampshire countryside from Heathrow after our chartered coach picks us up. It’s likely we’ll arrive in Winchester, England, before lunch with an afternoon to explore this little city, which once served as the capitol of a vast Roman settlement nearly 2000 years ago.
Although we won’t likely be able to enter our rooms until mid-afternoon, we’ll drop off our luggage and look for a place for lunch. John and I love hardy and cheap pub food and in addition to the historic pub within the Old Vine Inn, there are at least a dozen pubs within close walking distance including the William Walker, or The Bishop on the Bridge, or The Eclipse Inn, or The Crown and Anchor, or The Wykeham Arms.
We’ll likely have an afternoon and a morning to spend in Winchester, a destination that’s been on our bucket list for many years. If you’re a Downton Abbey fan, this city is just 18 American miles from Highclere Castle where many of the scenes have been filmed. If you are a Jane Austen fan, Winchester is only 16 miles from her family home and museum in Chawton. However, there is more than likely far too much to see in the city itself in one afteroon and a morning.
If you’re old enough to remember 60s singer Petula Clark, you undoubtedly remember her rendition of the song, “Winchester Cathedral.” The 900+-year-old cathedral itself, which is footsteps from our hotels, is one of the largest Gothic churches in Europe and holds the record as the longest medieval church in the world at 558 feet. With its 78 foot ceiling and soaring 150 foot tower, this church has as much mystery as it does tradition. It’s the burial place of a nine British monarchs, not to mention Jane Austen. The cost to enter is approximately $13 during regular visiting hours from 9:00 to 5:00; or all are invited to attend the daily services, free. According to the cathedral calendar at the time of this writing, an Evensong with a men and boys choir is scheduled for that Thursday of our arrival at 5:30 pm.
Also of interest and close to our hotel is the 13th century medieval Great Hall which features the legendary Arthurian round table (merely a replica, but its 700-year-old history is shrouded in mystery) as well as numerous exhibits regarding the tempestuous history that has taken place here. Also open from 9 am – 5 pm, a two hour visit is recommended with an entrance fee of approximately $6 for adults.
And if you’re a shopper, well, there’s ample opportunity to find all kinds of wares from tourist fare to home goods and fashion. More details about Winchester will follow soon.
What to Expect with Embarkation in Southampton
We won’t know what time to arrange for our taxi service from our hotels (included in the $130 transportation arrangement per couple) until we complete our online check-in several weeks before departure. We’ll likely leave for the 15 mile trip to the NCL Terminal in the late morning and with a hearty breakfast under our belts, we can wait to eat lunch on the ship . . and eat, and eat, and eat . . . .
It’s a shame we won’t have more time to explore the city of Southampton, but at the very least we should see remnants of the medieval wall that has surrounded the town since 1180 and the massive Bargate at the entrance of the Old Town. Southampton has been noted throughout history for its busy seaport industry. The pilgrims set sail from Southampton in July of 1620 and Southampton was the last stop for the Titanic on April 10, 1912, before the ship began its ill-fated voyage for the United States.
At the terminal, the crew will take our baggage to our roomswhile we wait in line. We’ll present our passport and vaccination card in order to be administered for a quick and painless Covid test. Then, we’ll be directed toward the ship’s entrance and wait in line again to confirm our reservation with a ship representative.
Please note that during this process we will be asked to forfeit our passports for the cruise. This is a time-saver for us for quicker access to ports on excursion days; Make sure you’re given a “receipt” and keep it in a safe place so that your passports can be returned to you the day before disembarkation.
Once on the ship, a rep will likely guide us to a designated point on the ship so that we know where we are to meet for quick evacuation if an emergency arises. Then, we’re free to find our rooms and lunch.
What to Expect with Disembarkation in Copenhagen
On our November cruise, our disembarkation couldn’t have been easier. Because we chose our own transportation to a Piraus hotel in Greece and the airport the next day, we were classified as “walk-offs;” we left the ship at 8:00 am and avoided the crowds. Our Greek taxi driver drove like a maniac, but we got places quicker. To save time, we’ll be “walk-offs” on this trip, too.
The day before disembarkation, NCL will likely assign an appointed time for a PCR test for each cabin that won’t conflict with any excursions we have booked; at the present time, a PCR test is required for all flights back to the US and we will need this documentation for our flight home.
We need to pack our bags the night before and each couple needs to notify their cabin steward that they will be walk-off passengers. This means that rather than having the crew bring our luggage to our room as they did when we arrived, we will need to literally walk off the ship with our checked bag and carryon in tow because we haven’t booked a transfer through NCL.
Then, that morning we need to meet for breakfast about 6:30 am in the upper deck cafe and prepare to walk off the ship at the designated time, into the cruise terminal. Our chartered mini-coach, for which you have paid in advance, will take us and our baggage to our hotel in Copenhagen, your choice of two Nordic Choice Hotels, either the the Airport Comfort Inn or the Airport Clarion.
Our Day and a Half in Copenhagen
What’s so great about Copenhagen, Denmark?
National Geographic recently ranked it as “the happiest city in the world” and for our 24 hours +, we’ll put it to the test. Copenhagen is one of the cleanest and aesthetically pleasing destinations on the planet with phenomenal food and fresh smog-free, city air. Many families don’t even own a car. Instead, most Danes ride bikes–everywhere, and without a helmet. Some Danes apparently frolic about in the nude after a swim in the crystal clear canals. Who knows what new experiences we might encounter.
Whether you choose to stay in the NordicChoice Comfort Inn or the Nordic Choice Clarion (please let me know; I will hold your room with a credit card and you pay upon arrival), you will have the most convenient location for our time in Copenhagen.
On our free day, either hotel is within a block to the MetroStation that takes travelers to the heart of Old Copenhagen in less than 15 minutes. And, on the following day for our departure home, each hotel is footsteps from the airport entrance. It appears the NordicChoice hotels are closer to Terminal 3 than Terminal 2; we won’t know our departure terminal until May. Each terminal might be within walking distance, but by the last day of the trip, some might hire a taxi to travel the very short distance to Terminal 2, if that is the point of departure.
As in many places in Europe, some Copenhagen museums and attractions are closed on Mondays, the week day that we arrive. This is the case for some sites in Copenhagen including the world famous amusement park Tivoli Gardens which closes for the season the day before we arrive. Fortunately, there are 40 highly recommended attractions that will be open on that day—more than we can experience in our short time in Copenhagen.
NCL’s one Copenhagen excursion costs $99 a person and involves a three hour coach ride around the city, with some photo stops. The excursion description warns travelers that they are responsible for making sure the excursion time doesn’t conflict with their flight out.
Our best option, however, is to select the 24 hour Copenhagen Card for about $65 U.S. dollars. This card will cover the entrance fee to many more attractions than anyone can visit in a day and it includes all ground transportation (train, subway, bus, and canal boat) from the Metro outside our hotel to Old Town, as well as a canal cruise. In addition, the card offers discounts to restaurants like the Hard Rock Copenhagen and shopping experiences.
Although the option exists to order online and pick the card up at a destination in Copenhagen, we’ve done this before with the London card and wasted half a day looking for the location. I plan to order John and my cards, online about 8 weeks in advance, have them delivered to our home along with the accompanying guide book , and tuck them into our document folder for the trip. The option also exists to have the card delivered to your smart phone.
What about the NCL excursions?
On our November NCL cruise through the Mediterrea, we booked more excursions than any trip in the past, primarily because the $50 excursion credit a day made them a little more affordable. That same perk is included on this trip, too.
Consequently, we discovered that the guides on these excursions all appeared to be natives of each region we visited and we came to appreciate the additional bits of information they could provide. And, in most instances on that trip, the old city centers and their culture were usually several miles from the port. We appreciated that booking an inexpensive excursion got us into the heart of a destination’s cultural center.
Sometimes, though, the “unstructure” of a port is just as fun; it appears that there are at least four ports in which a cultural or historic area are within comfortable walking distance, (or maybe a quick cab ride for some) from point where our cruise ship docks. And, in some instances, the cruise ship provides complimentary shuttles to and from the port to the old town. These ports include Le Havre on our first day, Oslo on Day 7, Warnemunde on Day 9, and Keil on Day 10. And, it’s likely there is a complimentary shuttle on Day 8 to Gothenburg even though it’s a farther walk into the town center.
However, even though Le Havre appears to have easier access, we recommend you book an excursion for that day instead.
The city itself was bombed heavily during WWII, and the rebuilding–though beautiful, will probably not have the Old World charm or the history you need to see if you have only one chance to experience France in your lifetime.
We have two recommendations:
- The “Normandy Landing Beaches” with the American Cemetery excursion, a place we’ve visited three times and could easily visit again. If your grandparents shared stories of WWII with you or you watched Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, you’ll understand how there are no words to describe the experience you’ll visit on this NCL road trip.
We also recommend the “Colorful Honfluer” excursion, a city that came through WWII relatively unscathed and inspired many of the classic French Artists including Renoir and Monet in the century before.
We also recommend you book excursions for Day 3 in Zeebruge, Day 4 in Amsterdam, and Day 5 in Hamburg. The city centers here are a significant distance from the cruise port, and its unlikely a free shuttle might be provided. (We will also dock Kiel on Day 10, another port in the Hamburg area, but it seems the city centre may be closer from that particular port.)
Here is some things to keep in mind as you decide which excursions are right for you.
- You can book your excursions online with the NCL app.
- Make sure you choose a time that works best for you if multiple times for departure are offered.
- Also, make sure you choose the tour with an English-speaking guide.
- If you change your mind about an excursion, no problem. Call the NCL excursions extension and ask to cancel. Your card will be refunded in about 10 days. You can cancel up to 48 hours beforehand.
- Note the exertion level for each excursion; for the most part, unless a person is in a wheel chair or a walker, a level 2 excursion seemed to be manageable for most people.
- Once you book an excursion for a particular port, you will no longer see any other excursion options for that port that have a time conflict with the excursion you have already booked.
- When you arrive in your room on the day of embarkation, you will find an envelope with your booked excursion tickets. These tickets will state the meeting time and place on the ship for your departure point.
- You MUST be back on the cruise ship at least one hour before the ship pushes away from the port.
We are still making decisions about our excursions and you are welcome to come along with us, but no one will be offended if you want to venture out on your own.
On this particular trip, it appears that several of the ports have plenty to see within walking distance of the ship and we are still exploring the options. Note the printable maps for each port below to conduct a bit of research on your own. Please share any insights you discover with others on our group page in Facebook. You’ll also find more information under this heading in the weeks to come.
Excursions we won’t book:
If you want to trust our recommendations, three excursion destinations we wouldn’t book are those for Paris, Berlin, and Brussels. These trips will take approximately six hours round trip. We’ve been all three places, Paris multiple times, and neither one are a place we prefer to go again.
Paris is a smelly, crowded, fickle city full of people who enjoy being rude to Americans–and those are the good things about Paris. If you have your heart set on seeing the Eiffel Tower, you will undoubtedly see it, but if you read the descriptions, the excursions seem to underplay the fact that you will not be able to ride to the top. The ticket line for the Eiffel is long and Notre Dame is under construction since large portions of it were destroyed by fire.
However, is Paris is on your bucket list and you want to SEE the city icons from a coach window and have a chance to roam about for an hour, you should definitely sign up for this experience.
Regarding Berlin, it’s a beautiful modern city. Much of it has been rebuilt since the war. If you are a history buff expecting to explore the Nazi Germany you’ve seen in documentaries, your experience will only be as good as your guide and his or her ability to recreate the past. Many remnants of this city’s association with the Nazi party are wiped clean. It’s illegal to fly the swastika anywhere in Germany. What’s left of the Berlin wall and the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, I found quite interesting when I visited with our daughter years ago. Judging from my two days in Berlin, I believe I would find the sites in the city uneventful after enduring a six hour round-trip train ride.
Brussels has beautiful architecture, but if you have to choose between its bustling city vibe and the slower pace of medieval Bruges, Bruges won’t disappoint.
And, two excursions you won’t regret: Omaha Beach Museum with the American Cemetery and, of course, Bruges, Belgium.
To date, John and I have booked Bruges on your Own, Hanseatic Lubeck and Brewery in Hamburg, and Colorful Honfluer.
More to come in this section.
Download the Following Maps:
Click on each link and once open, click again to enlarge the map. You can download the map on your phone, print the entire map as a PDF, or take a screen shot and print a specific area.
- Le Havre
Le Havre, France
Bruges, Belgium. Since many have seen this blockbuster movie, this map might have a bit more relevance.
Amsterdam (click the image at the link to enlarge)
Oslo, Norway Once you have accessed the link, click on the image to enlarge.
Warnemunde (Rostock), Germany
Copenhagen Subway Map; note our hotel stop is circled in Purple