Norwegian Fjords Disney Cruise Line Report – Day 1
Welcome to the first installment of our Disney Cruise Line Norwegian Fjords Report. This recaps our experience in Norway aboard the Disney Magic, and will be something of a hybrid trip report and planning guide. Actually, I’m going to try doing something different with this cruise report–I’ll be pulling out the portions that are relevant for planning, and adding them to a makeshift Disney Norway Planning Guide at the end. So, if you’re planning your own Disney Cruise Line Norway adventure and don’t care to read me blather on about other stuff, you might wait for that.
For starters, background. Even as of earlier this year, we had no intentions of doing Disney’s Norwegian Fjords cruise. A trip to Norway has been on my bucket list, and it’s actually something we started planning earlier this year for this Christmas-time, as airfare from Los Angeles to Oslo is absurdly low (~$250) that time of year, and hotels are similarly low.
After finding the airfare deal, I had done a ton of research into the Norway in a Nutshell tour, and also how to incorporate Stockholm and Copenhagen into our itinerary. We had held off booking that trip, primarily due to some hesitations about the amount of daylight, cold weather, and other potential schedule conflicts, but were still pretty confident it was going to happen. That is, until we inadvertently stumbled upon a deal for Disney’s Norwegian Fjords cruise a little over two months ago…
As we mentioned in our 101 Disney Cruise Line Tips post, we routinely scour DCL’s site for last minute deals, and we found one such offer for an IGT rate. After crunching some numbers, it was only slightly more expensive to do this cruise than to pay for hotels, meals, and rail tickets out of pocket. On the plus side, this would allow us to visit in summer, which seemed much more desirable than winter. On the downside, no Oslo.
Airfare was prohibitively expensive, but there were two workable options with miles, so we decided to go for it. My preferred option was arriving several days early, and actually flying into Stockholm before taking the train to Copenhagen, the port city for the cruise. However, due to other travel plans, we deemed that a bit excessive, and scaled back, arriving directly into Copenhagen a day before the cruise was to begin.
We did quite a bit of research for this trip, reading a ton of blog posts and checking out several books from the library (the best ones were Rick Steves Snapshot Norway and Eyewitness Guides Norway). Even though the vast majority of Norwegians have fluency in English, we also learned a few key phrases of Norwegian, such as “hei” “tusen takk” and “Vi stemte ikke for den oransje buffoonen, men vi ber om unnskyldning for Amerika.”
Fast forward to the day of our flight. I’ll warn you in advance: this is a long story about our mis-adventure in getting to Copenhagen, the conclusion to which is foregone given that you’re reading this report. (There are also almost no photos in that story.) If it does not interest you, please click here to skip ahead to Page 2, which starts out with day 1 of the Norwegian Fjords cruise.
We had used United miles to book via LOT Air, which is a Polish carrier. We were checking out flight status and discovered that our flight from LAX to Warsaw had been canceled. Neither United nor LOT had provided notice to us.
In a panic, Sarah called United, explained the situation, and was told that LOT would have to rebook us. Sarah is really adept at dealing with airlines, and didn’t settle for this ‘passing the buck’ response (it’s almost always the default answer you’ll get when dealing with Star Alliance, and is rarely true). After a few transfers and maybe 30 minutes on the phone, United rebooked us for another flight flying Lufthansa through Frankfort.
While initially disconcerting, this was no big deal. Thankfully, we live near-ish LAX, where there are hundreds of flights to Europe everyday, because we had plenty of alternative options (albeit nothing nonstop). If we were still in Indianapolis, I would’ve been a bit more worried.
It also got us off of LOT and onto Lufthansa, an airline we’ve both generally liked in the past. The initial downside to Lufthansa was at LAX when they weighed our carry-on bags and made us check them. We are big proponents of traveling only with carry-on luggage (a “philosophy” we espouse in our Luggage Tips & Recommendations post), and normally don’t check bags both for the sake of convenience and simplicity.
This whole weight limitation was a curveball, but no big deal–the bags would be checked to our final destination. I was just glad they didn’t weigh my camera bag and try to make me check that, too!
After an uneventful flight, we arrived in Frankfurt, Germany (stock photo above…although perhaps somewhere in Frankfurt looks like this too). As we stepped off the plane there, the scene was chaos. The flight board immediately outside the plane showed dozens of flights canceled (I heard someone near me say 33), which was supposedly due to lightning. These cancelations included our flight.
We promptly headed to the customer service line, which already was quite long. As we did, Sarah called United to be rebooked. Same stock answer as before, that Lufthansa had to rebook us. With a bit of persistence and transfers, Sarah was able to get United to rebook us while we waited in the physical line.
We stayed in this line anyway, as United was only able to get us a flight the following morning, and we wondered whether the in-airport reps might be willing to put us on another airline. By the time we got to the front of the line, everything for that evening was full (which was why we called in the first place–to “beat” the physical line).
Our fear was that if our flight to Copenhagen was canceled the next morning, we would miss the cruise. We quickly analyzed some options via train, and decided that would be the safer bet, even if it would take through the night to get to Copenhagen.
With the decision made, we had to request our luggage from Lufthansa. We did this, and were told the bags would arrive on carousel 16 within 30 minutes.
This is the point in the story where you’re going to have skepticism. I know I would–wondering whether there are just too many coincidences for them to be coincidences, and perhaps the person sharing the experience made some gaffe or brought some of the troubles upon themselves. Assume what you will, I suppose…
After about an hour of waiting down at carousel 16, we inquired with the Lufthansa baggage services desk about the status of our luggage. We were told to keep waiting. Shortly after that, we were told there was a part broken in the tunnel that delivers the bags, and they couldn’t be manually off-loaded because it was in a spot where no one could fit.
In the interim, our window for taking the train (at least, a route that was not incredibly convoluted) closed. Once that occurred, I headed upstairs to the Lufthansa customer service desk for a hotel voucher. This area of the departures terminal was even more chaotic than where we’d previously waited in line, presumably because new customers kept arriving to the airport and Lufthansa was not staffed to handle 30+ flights of passengers with issues.
I was directed upstairs to claim a hotel voucher. Upstairs, I was directed back downstairs to a different line. That line snaked through much of the departures lobby. As I waited in line, I kept overhearing stories about how other guests had waited in that line, only to be told to go elsewhere for the vouchers. No Lufthansa reps were on the floor handling crowd control, which exacerbated the confusion.
As I waited over 2 hours in that line, I was rehearsing in my head what I was going to say if I got to the front and was told to go to a different line. I try to be polite (but assertive) in these situations because I’m sure the rep is having just as poor of a day as me, and it’s not as if they created the situation. I’ve worked in customer service, and it sucks. Truthfully, I’m not sure if I could’ve waited in another line after this. I might’ve just melted down on the spot. Thankfully, receiving the voucher was “painless” (if you exclude the 130 minute wait for it).
Back downstairs, what had been a modest crowd at baggage claim before now was a horde of people. Apparently, whomever was in charge of baggage at Lufthansa had not communicated to someone else that the “tunnel was broken” and more baggage had been added to said tunnel. (This does not even make sense to me–I’m just repeating what we were told.)
Suffice to say, there were a lot of unhappy guests in that baggage claim area.
Sarah had staked out a spot on some nice chairs inside Lufthansa’s baggage office. I joined her there, prepared to wait until midnight (when the office was said to close) to see if our luggage would arrive. As we waited, we heard some interactions that made us say “wow.”
In the past, I’ve generally associated Lufthansa with quality customer service. What we witnessed in Frankfurt was anything but. And it was not because customers were being unreasonable or unpleasant. It was incredibly disappointing.
After overhearing an interaction with other guests that led us to believe our luggage was not showing up that night, we went up and spoke with a CSR who seemed to be one of the “good” ones. He was polite, filed a report and took our flight info down for the following morning, assuring us that our bags would be on that plane…but also that we should come check their office before our flight the following morning just to be sure.
We took a taxi to our hotel in downtown Frankfurt, and got around 2 hours of sleep before heading back to the airport at 4 a.m. We had to wait for Lufthansa’s office to open, but once it did, a very nice CSR informed us that he had traced it to being “en route” to our plane.
At that point, there was nothing we could really do aside from hope for the best. We boarded the plane, both assuming there’d be a 50/50 shot that our luggage was waiting for us in Copenhagen. At least the weather was looking good that morning…
Lufthansa’s in-flight magazine included a pitch for All Star Sports, home of Dynamic Duck. Seems odd given that Pandora is the big marketing push right now, but perhaps the Germans really like sports and cheap motels?
We arrived in Copenhagen (small victory!), and that 50/50 prediction was more or less right. Sarah’s bag arrived, but mine did not. Unfortunately, we did not follow the basic (and very wise) advice that you should mix up your clothes among multiple pieces of luggage in case a piece is lost. Normally, it’s a non-issue since we carry-on everything.
We followed up on our lost luggage claim there, and the CSR in Copenhagen was incredibly friendly and helpful. She promised me that they’d do everything they could to deliver the bag to the Disney Magic in Norway, and even showed us the book of cruise itineraries (unprompted) and their port cities, presumably to allay our fears that the promise was total B.S.
This is actually a somewhat condensed version of the events, but it’s already pretty long and I’ve probably lost most of you by now. Ultimately, it did sour us on Lufthansa a bit (particularly the interactions we overheard at the baggage desk), but we also understand that it was a pretty chaotic day for the airline. Some of the accommodations made and interactions were great, others…not so much. This also wouldn’t be the last of our canceled flights for the trip (if you can believe that!). Okay, enough travel problems…let’s get to day 1 of the Norwegian Fjords cruise on Page 2!
Yay! I love reading about your cruise and the travel misadventures. You really got to put into practice the “buy yourself out of emergencies” packing philosophy! We’re spoiled flying nonstop domestically; I would need to rethink everything I’ve grown comfortable with to fly international. I haven’t packed emergency clothes in my carry-on in years! Looking forward to reading more about this trip!
Due to the combination of only packing a carry-on and my personal item being my camera bag (and hence not capable of holding clothes), I’ve become pretty adept at packing lightly.
If you head abroad, you’ll definitely have to rethink how you pack. Few things are more unpleasant than dealing with luggage while navigating a foreign city’s public transportation!
Our Norwegian cruise is planned for next August but out of Dover. I’m so paranoid about lost luggage that your article has definitely cemented my fears. Will try to pack light enough to carry on everything!
If you fly an international carrier (be mindful that this might be the case even when booking through a U.S. legacy carrier–a lot of those flights are codeshares), as some weigh your carry-on and force you to check it!
Look into wearable luggage. I have never bought any but it seems to work for those that have tried it.
I have no love for United, and also always travel carry-on, but once had to check a bag because we were bringing a gift of champagne to a family 50th anniversary party. Even though the flight was nonstop, my bag didn’t make it. My bag arrived the next morning; but the anniversary party was that same evening and so United reimbursed me something like $200 for 100% of clothes and toiletries (and even jewelry) that I needed for the one evening. I kept and still own the two dresses that I bought! Even though you used miles for your trip, I might consider pushing harder on that 50% policy. What does that even mean? How can they know if you keep the clothes or not, and why shouldn’t you be entitled to them? Glad the rest of your trip proceeded well!
Oh, we will push back on the policy. I didn’t purchase much, so I’ll definitely try to get a full reimbursement.
With regard to the 50% v. 100% reimbursement, you send the clothing to them in the latter case. Hope they like dirty dollar store underwear! 😉
Do you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve? It will reimburse you 100% for clothing.
Thank you for sharing your experiences. I can’t wait to read more. We are doing a DCL Mediterranean cruise next summer. I hope our travel goes smoother. We are planning on arriving probably 3 days early though.
I do think one of the best ways to deal with terrible travel situations is to be as positive as possible and realize (as you did) that the customer service people you are dealing with did not cause the problem and are probably trying to do their best to help. Yelling at them or losing your temper certainly doesn’t help the situation. (I just witnessed all of this at the Orlando airport on my way home on Saturday).
Agreed. Not only is yelling inappropriate, but it’s counterproductive. No one is going to go out of their way to help you if you’re an ass to them–that’s simply not how it works.
Thank you for sharing your travel adventures. We have had a few airline mishaps and from a “misery loves company” perspective, it is fun to read that it can happen to even seasoned pros like yourselves.
I’m sure Disney csrs after dealing with airline csrs was a welcome relief!
Unfortunately, lost luggage does not discriminate based on whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a novice! 😉
I have to ask what is the blue captain Mickey in the picture? Is that a nut cracker?
Yes, it’s a nutcracker.
“Vi stemte ikke for den oransje buffoonen, men vi ber om unnskyldning for Amerika.”
Thank you for making me laugh. Oh, and for the trip report.
Agreed, on both accounts!
It sounds like you had a nightmare getting to the Magic, but once onboard, it’s, well, amazing! I did a Disney Magic cruise last August, down the coast of Italy, and it was fantastic! The shop is gorgeous, we did excursions at each port, and everything ran so smoothly. I’d love to do another one day.
From the Brit who met you in WDW’s MK once, a few years ago.
We are Norwegian and live near Stavanger . We love Orlando and go almost every year and I have been following your blog for several years. Lots of young people from this area have worked at the Norwegian pavillion in Epcot and it makes me very proud and happy that Americans like yourself want to visit our country. I really look forward to reading this trip- report. And as for your Norwegian line in the beginning of the post: We salute you! I always knew your were a sane person
I’ll have some thoughts on the Norway pavilion, including Spirit of Norway, Maelstrom, and Frozen Ever After in one of the later parts, so stay tuned for that. I’ll be curious to hear what Norwegians think about the pavilion there.
I’m not sure to which Norwegian line you’re referring. I tend to always say hello and thank you to people. 😉
I am guessing she is referring to the Norwegian phrase about the orange boffoon…! I was going to answer that same sentence with “Tusen takk for at dere ikke stemte pÃ¥ ham.” 😉
Looking forward to your next installment!
I was kidding.
And to your comment, the majority of us Americans didn’t!
I know… I just really wanted to use the word bufoon for the first time…! (turns out I misspelled it, so I had to write one more comment here to make it right) That word definately wasn’t part of the English curriculum in Norwegian schools in my time, but it may be now 😉
You still didn’t get it. Third time’s the charm? 🙂
Depends on which online dictionary you consult… I guess I chose the wrong one…! English as a foreign language is not for the fainthearted 😉
Hi! This sounds like a trip of a lifetime (despite the rocky start). Quick question in regards to finding good discounts. Do you search for them directly on DCL’s website or do you use another search engine? Thanks and can’t wait to read the rest of your trip report!
Despite the headline, I _think_ this is part II, not I, based on the link in the “other” part I.
This is part 1–it’s two pages, so maybe that’s where there’s confusion?
If Sarah can get airlines to be reasonable then we need to have her come talk to the next hurricane we have here.
Love the contrast of experiences between page 1 and 2. My jaw dropped when I read how well the DCL cast members helped you out upon arrival. That kind of stellar service alone makes me want to go on a Disney cruise now!
I don’t know if you’ve talked about your credit cards much, but some of the premium cards offer some nice baggage insurance policies. Some of them will reimburse you for purchases you have to make if baggage is delayed only 6h.
Yeah, we have cards that do that. The problem is that we used miles to book the flight and it was tough to find the policy for our card via the slow internet at the airport in such a situation. I think I should be good one way or the other with the reimbursement.
What a start to the trip. It seems like it is up from here. I can’t wait to hear the rest. This cruise is on my bucket list. Perhaps I will start looking at the last minute deals. Our work is flexible and the kids are grown. I am jealous about that Norway Tervis and must have one for myself!
If your travel dates are flexible, these last minute cruise deals are particularly attractive. We’ve gotten to the point that we can almost predict which cruises will end up having a discount based on their travel dates and pricing trends.
It’s a good idea to start watching now–even if you have no intention of traveling–so you can get an idea of what prices are “good” for when it does come time to book…
Enjoying it so far! When I saw the title, I assumed you had been on the Adventures by Disney Norway trip. Did you look at that? We did it last summer and thought it was fantastic!
No, we did not. Those Adventures by Disney trips abroad are way too expensive for us, and not quite as appealing. I’ll cover that in greater depth in a future post.
Thank you for sharing your travel (mis)adventures! As someone who also travels a lot I find it really interesting to read about the roadblocks others encounter and the ways they handle it. Maybe Sarah should share her tips for dealing with obstinate airlines in a post? 🙂 Glad you made it to the ship; looking forward to reading more.
We have a couple of go-to lines when we’re told they “can’t” do something: 1) we’ve done it before, or 2) we know this can be done and if you are not willing to assist us, we will take our future business to another airline.
Failing that, calling back and getting a different CSR (sometimes they simply don’t know what they’re doing) can work, too.
Thanks for the excellent trip report so far!
I always thought Lufthansa were pretty good, shame you had SUCH a nightmare.
Disney Magic docked in my hometown in the UK on it’s way to Norway, I did wonder what it was like inside and on deck, so thanks for the photos and for sharing your adventures 🙂
Looking forward to Part 1: The luggage reunion (I hope!)
Our experiences with Lufthansa have been excellent in the past, so I’m not sure I would avoid them as a result of this. We do, however, plan on avoiding United going forward. Too many problems with them–we’d rather fly Delta and its partners.
Thank goodness for Disney Cruise Cast Members. I think I would have cried in relief just at the site of the ship. What a tiresome experience you had – this ‘passing the buck’ business seems all too common with the airlines. How disappointing about the merchandise – I would have thought there would be a myriad of merchandise, as that’s where so much money is made. Looking forward to reading Part 2. We are doing our second cruise in December and enjoy reading about the experiences you and Sarah have.
It’s really shocking to me that the airlines are so blatant with their poor customer service–especially in light of recent high profile events.
I can’t believe you had so much trouble with your trip at the beginning! I can’t even imagine how I’d handle all of that…probably just start to cry. Sometimes I think you should do a general “travel tips” blog post with things like ‘what to do if you’re stranded in a European airport and need to be in another city for a cruise the next morning.’ Glad it worked out (somewhat) and looking forward to the rest of the report!
I agree with L’s comment! I am so sorry you had to deal with all that on your trip, but thankfully I think you were well positioned to! I’d love to have some of your wisdom in how to deal with airlines and rebookings and lost luggage.. I’m so curious as to how Sarah got them to stop “passing the buck!” I think that would make an excellent (plus incredibly helpful) blog post!
I’m so glad the DCL treated you so wonderfully, though, and I am so excited to hear about the rest of the cruise! This might just be the thing that makes me book one for myself!
Thank you, as always, for sharing! 🙂
Experience is a big part of it, but if you don’t have that, Google the situation. No doubt someone else has been there, written about what they did and their results.
It’s also a good idea to be familiar with passengers’ bills of rights for different countries. (Again, this can be found via Google.)
Experience: that thing you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.
Hats off to you both for handling situations that would have had me a sobbing heap on the floor. It puts the difficulties I’ve had traveling in great perspective.