Sunday, 4 December 2011

Our cruise – part 1

Thursday 19th May 2011

Today was the day we set off to Lisbon for our nine day cruise. This was the first holiday we’d had since having my hip removed. And boy were we looking forward to it.

Getting up at an unspeakable hour to get the taxi at 4.30am to take us to Newcastle Airport wasn’t the most pleasantest part of our holiday. However we were prepared to suffer seeing as it was Silversea !!!!!

One of the advantages of being in a Wizzy is you get fast-tracked though airport security. Newcastle Airport’s security staff aren’t the friendliest or nicest you could come across. However today they were the complete opposite. Just goes to show what a Wizzy can do….

Along with other ‘Wizzy’s’, we were taken to the departure gate in a specially designed van, then lifted up to the aircraft doors. As we were the first passengers to board, there wasn’t the normal hustle and bustle of finding your seat. Sadly Wizzy wasn’t able to be stored in the cabin, as we had been told by BA he would be, so he had to go into the hold.

“Don’t worry, it will be waiting on the tarmac at Lisbon for you”, I was assured.

When we got to Heathrow we had to be taken off the aircraft by one of ‘special assistance’ purple buggies. We were told by one of the ‘special assistance’ little men that there were not enough buggies to transport all the passengers who required help, so we were told to wait in a corridor while they organised another buggy.

We explained to the little man that our connecting flight left in 90 minutes in Terminal 3 – we were in Terminal 5.

“Another buggy has been arrange. That’s all I can do”, said the disinterested little man.

After fifteen minutes of sitting in a deserted corridor waiting for someone to come and collect us, John went to find a BA customer service desk. They contacted ‘special assistance’, to which John was told ‘someone was on their way and would be there shortly’.

Ten minutes later and still no one appeared……

Five minutes later we saw a purple buggy coming along the corridor. At last we thought. Err, no. It wasn’t for us, said the little man.

It was now, as we’d had enough. We explained to the little man that we had been waiting thirty minutes for someone to come and collected us, and that we were on a very tight time schedule for our next flight. He took pity on us and escorted us to the ‘special assistance’ area in Terminal 3.

We explained to the ‘special services’ little woman that our flight was leaving soon and she assured us that someone would come to take us to the departure gate shortly.

Several minutes later and ‘Anthony’ arrived. He asked if he could have our boarding cards then started fiddling with the computer. The little woman advised him that our flight was now boarding and he should take us to the departure gate. He ignored her.

“ANTHONY. THEIR FLIGHT IS NOW BOARDING. WILL YOU GET A MOVE ON !!!!”, she screamed. He still ignored her and continued typing away on the computer.

It had now been one hour since we had landed and we were still no closer to boarding our flight. To say we were a little annoyed, would be an understatement…

John grabbed our boarding cards from the computer desk. “As you are refusing to take us to the departure gate, we were going to make our own way there”, he yelled, and started pushing me (who was still in their purple buggy) and our hand luggage away from the special assistance area.

It was only then that ‘Anthony’ decided to help us. We eventually made it to the departure lounge with just ten minutes to spare. The ground staff were not happy with ‘Anthony’ as we were holding up the rest of the passengers as we had to board first..

British Airways staff are always friendly, however they were even more so as we were travelling business class as part of our cruise deal. What a difference !!!

Instead of three by three seats in pleb class, it was two by two with loads of leg room. Once we were in the air the cabin crew brought round the drinks. Normally we just have diet coke, but as we were on holiday we had a bottle of wine, with glasses made from real glass….

Lunch was amazing. Real china plates and china teacups. Proper metal knives and forks, and fabulous food. One of the cabin crew came round to take away our empty plates and she noticed that my coffee hadn’t been touched.

“Is there is problem with your coffee, Madam”, she asked.

“It’s just a little too strong for me”, I replied, if you know me you will understand this…

“I’ll make you another one”, she said, whisking the cup away.

A minute later she returned, “is this one better”, she asked, handing me the cup. I took a taste from it.

“Perfect”, I replied, “exactly how I like it. Thank you”.

“My pleasure”, she beamed.

You don’t get that kind of service in pleb class….

When we arrived at Lisbon airport, their ‘special assistance’ were ready and waiting for us. They were so much better than Heathrow ‘special services’. They even spoke better English than the Dipsticks at Heathrow… Unfortunately Wizzy was not ‘waiting for me on the tarmac’ as I had been assured. I was told it would have to be collected at baggage reclaim.

So with the help of the friendly Lisbon special assistance crew, who put Heathrow to shame with the help and service they gave us, we went to baggage reclaim to collect Wizzy and our luggage.

At Newcastle airport’s check-in desk our luggage had been tagged ‘priority’ so all three cases were the first off the luggage belt. However there was no Wizzy.

“Don’t worry”, said the lovely ‘special assistance’ man, “sometimes they put them with the bicycles”

We went to the reclaim area for bicycles but no sign of Wizzy.

“Don’t worry”, he said, giving my shoulder a reassuring pat, “we’ll will find it”.

After asking several of his colleagues Wizzy was eventually found, abandoned in the middle of the arrivals area, and damaged. Thankfully it was only minor and John was able to repair it there and then.

I was a little concerned we might get stopped at Customs as some of my painkillers are controlled drugs. I had to get special permission to take them in and out of the country – at cost of £14.50…. However we sailed though (excuse the nautical pun…).

We met the Silversea representative outside arrivals – it’s a lovely feeling to see someone holding up a card with your name on it – and she insisted on pushing Wizzy to the car which would take us to the ship.

Our chauffeur was lovely and friendly. So much so that we gave him a good tip when we arrived at the port.

Once our holiday documents had been checked, it was only a short walk/wiz along the port to the ship. Although I have difficulty walking upstairs, I was determined to climb the steps to board the ship. With John behind me to help, Wizzy carried by a member of the crew, and an officer walking in front of me to help if I needed it, I very slowly ascended the stairs.

I was shattered when I got to the top but I made it. Our holiday had begun…..

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