On May 24th, 2012 - the same day that Virgin Atlantic ran their inaugural flight from London Heathrow to Vancouver - I attended a Breakfast Seminar on Virgin Atlantic Airways. This is a common place aspect of a Travel Agent’s agenda since this is how I gather information to pass on to my valued clients.
What wasn’t common place to this event is that they awarded all attendees two complimentary roundtrip seats on their Summer 2012 Vancouver - London Season! It is from this fortuitous event the experiences I wish to tell you about came from.
Because I have so much to share with you, I have decided to tell my story in several parts, the first of which is to follow, describing my experience on board Virgin Atlantic and my first day in London.
On October 11th, 2012, my good friend and I ventured to the Vancouver International Airport and proceeded to check in for our transatlantic flight. This is when we learned that our reservations had been upgraded to Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class cabin. I will be the first to admit that my past travels in anything above the Economy Cabin has been rather limited so, I knew this was to be the start of a quite amazing adventure!
Upon being fast-tracked though security and boarding our aircraft and shown to our pods, we were greeted with a glass of champagne. The usual hussle and bussle of a boarding aircraft was kept to a minimum as we enjoyed the upbeat music playing gently in the background and got comfortable in our home for the next 9 hours.
Shortly after take-off and reaching our cruising altitude, our dinner service began. We were asked what we would like for a pre-dinner drink and handed a little bowl of crisps along with a menu which showed our selections for the 3 course meal service (Starter, Main & Dessert) and wine selections (3 red and 3 white to chose from). The foot rest on our pods are also a seat. If you are travelling with a companion, you have the option of dining together. Once our orders were taken, our table was set up which included a tablecloth, bread, salt & pepper shakers and proper silverware. As a lovely surprise (as this was not listed on the menu) the most lovely Mint Pea Hummus was delivered to us, followed by wine service, our meal selections and finally a Port & Cheese service.
Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class Cabin comes with an added feature of a complimentary bar, solely for our use. With our adventure just beginning, the call of the bar soon became irresistible after our meal service. Serviced by our Upper Class Stewards, the bar area is a small but friendly area where fellow guests and air crew alike can mingle, chat and enjoy the limited, but satisfactory, spirit selection. After some lively conversations and beverages, we returned to our pods. After converting them into beds, we snuggled in for a few hours of sleep utilizing the sleeping mask, earplugs and “Sleep Suite” from our care package given to us at boarding.
Approximately 2 hours prior to landing into London Heathrow, Breakfast service began. Once our orders had been taken from the menu given to us at the start of the flight, we enjoyed the final hour of our flight. Clear skies gave us some magnificent views of London as we passed overhead.
Upon arrival into London Heathrow, we were fast tracked through customs and we headed in to the rabbit warren that is the London Underground. We pulled out our London Oyster Cards that we had pre-purchased and pre-loaded through RailEurope. This card is used by touching the pad at the entry gate and exit gate to the Underground system and upon entering their busses. Your transit fare is then automatically deducted from your balance on your card. As you use the system, your fares are deducted until you reach the cost of a day pass. Once you have reached this, your card can be still used but no further fares will be deducted. Having this card upon arrival into London saved us valuable time by by-passing the ticket windows for fares and credit loading.
We boarded the busy Piccadilly Line at London Heathrow which gives direct access to central London. Depending on your destination, travel time is approximately 45 minutes. Once we arrived at Green Park Station, it was a quick walk through Green Park itself and along the “Queen’s Walk” to our first property in London, The Stafford.
The main building was originally built in the 17th Century and was once the home to Lord and Lady Lyttleton. It was in 1912 that three adjoining buildings were purchased and converted into a hotel. Now run by Kempinski, The Stafford consists of three buildings surrounding a courtyard - The Main House, The Carriage House and The Stafford Mews. Only a couple of steps away from the Underground and walking distance to Piccadilly Circus and Buckingham Palace, this Virtuoso property with 107 rooms and suites is ideally located for those who like to explore using transit and feet.
We were given a Jr Suite in The Stafford Mews for our two night stay. At 45sq m (484 sq ft), this suite had a Virtuoso rate of GBP 571.50 per night and comes with a sitting area, King/Twin beds, separate shower/bathtub and complimentary mini bar & WIFI. Our exclusive Virtuoso amenities for this property consists of a complimentary upgrade at time of arrival (subject to availability), complimentary daily Continental Breakfast for two and complimentary Lunch or Dinner for two on property once during stay.
As the hotel was fully booked during our stay, I was unable to view other categories of rooms at this property but, if the standard of our suite holds true for the remainder of the rooms, you will not be left disappointed!
Once we were shown to our suite, we settled in and began planning our explorations of London.
In my next entry, I will talk about our experiences in London and our second property we stayed at, The Egerton House.
Shane Maddaford is a Cruise & Travel Consultant at Renshaw Travel in Vancouver, Canada.
Should you wish to find out more about Virgin Atlantic, the London Underground Oyster Card or The Stafford, please don’t hesitate to contact him at:
Phone: 604 733 1010
Toll Free: 1 800 745 7753
Agency Website: www.renshawtravel.com
Cruise Website: http://selectthecruise.com