August 13 – 14 – Chicago to London
I worked a half day then got home in time for Georgia and I to take our prearranged cab to O’Hare. We were there the required two hours before our flight, cleared the security checkpoint relatively quickly, sat in the gate area for an hour and boarded our flight to London Heathrow on time. Our flight was right on schedule until we were almost to London. ATC put us into a holding pattern so, by the time we landed, we were 45 minutes late.
We had a car waiting for us at the airport and the driver was a little upset that we were late. He had checked on the flight before leaving for the airport and, at that time, we were still supposed to be on time. I’m sorry he had to wait but, there was nothing we could do about it. It was now about 9:30 AM on the 14th and we had missed the worst of the morning traffic making for a fairly quick ride to the Park Plaza County Hall Hotel. It was well before check in time but, our room was ready, so we were able to get in early. We got our luggage up to the room, unpacked what we would need for the next couple days and then went out to look around the area.
The first thing we saw when we stepped out was the London Eye, just a couple blocks away. We walked that direction and found a strip of restaurants between us and the Eye. After a little more exploring, we had some lunch and went back to the room. We had gotten very little sleep on the flight over so we decided on a short nap in the afternoon.
We woke up in time to get dressed for the evening out we had planned. Back downstairs, the doorman got us a cab to take us to the Hesperia Hotel where we had dinner reservations as part of a dinner/theater package. Dinner was very good and, it was just a short walk around the block to the Apollo Victoria Theatre were we saw an excellent production of Wicked. Then it was another brief cab ride back to the hotel for some much needed real sleep.
August 15 – London
Today, we had a London city tour scheduled. The tour company had a pick up right at our hotel which made it convenient for us.. This was a full day tour with stops at the Household Cavalry Museum, the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, a tour of St. Paul’s Cathedral, lunch at a pub and shopping at Covent Garden, The Tower of London, a Thames River cruise and ended with a ride on the London Eye. Since we were staying almost next door, we just walked back to the hotel from there – stopping for dinner along the way.
August 16 – London
We used the hop-on/hop-off buses to make our own way around the city today. We rode the line’s full route with our main stop being at Harrod’s department store. After a walk through the remarkable food halls, we had a Lebanese lunch at the Ishbilia restaurant on the 2nd floor. After more shopping in the rest of the store, but very little buying, we got back on the bus and finished the route to the stop near our hotel. These buses are a great way to get around and see the city. The tour is narrated by a live person on the red routes and by listening to headphones on the blue ones.
August 17 – London
London had terrible weather for most of August but we had a couple nice days while we were there. Sunday, our last full day in the city before our cruise, was one of them. The Park Plaza is very well located for walking tours to many city attractions so, we took a leisurely stroll across Westminster Bridge to Parliament Square. We were able to get great photos of the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey ( we couldn’t go inside since it was Sunday), the clock tower of Big Ben and the other sights along the way. We had an ice cream cone in front of the abbey before walking back across the river.
August 18 – London to Dover
The cruise begins today. We had purchased a transfer from the hotel to the cruise terminal at Dover. The ride was about an hour and a half getting us to the Carnival Splendor at 11:30 AM. We couldn’t get into our cabin until 1 PM so we went to the Lido deck for lunch. We had great views of the famous white cliffs from there too.
When we did get into the cabin, our luggage was already there. We met our cabin steward Juan and did most of our unpacking before the lifeboat drill. We had a balcony cabin so I was able to get some more photos of the cliffs from there. After the drill, we watched the shore go by as we sailed out of the harbor then went down to our first dinner aboard. We were seated at a table for eight but, only one other couple joined us that first evening. We hit it off with Mike and Debbie right away.
After dinner, we went to the welcome aboard show in the Spectacular lounge and then back to the cabin to finish unpacking and get to sleep.