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Monday, 31 December 2012

A Trip to Antigua

A Trip to Antigua

We all met at Gatwick airport South Terminal in Front of the Virgin Airlines check in area, where we were met by a Virgin Airlines Rep, who assisted us with our check in, which all went very smoothly. (Sarah the ITC rep had her name spelt wrong on her ticket and they were very quick and very efficient in getting this sorted for her) Once we had all checked in we had to take our bags to the end of the check in desk to be deposited with the baggage handlers. We went through the Fast track area which we had been given a pass for from the check in staff, and went up to the departure area where we were again met by the Virgin Rep, who took us to the Lounge for breakfast, which was amazing!

Departure Facilities- Restaurants/Shops/Lounges/information ETC
After going through the Fast track area which we had been given a pass for from the check in staff, we went up to the departure area where we were again met by the Virgin Rep, who took us to the ‘Clubhouse’ Virgins Lounge area where we enjoyed breakfast, which was amazing! We didn’t have any time to hit the duty free shops unfortunately, as we had spent a bit extra time at check in waiting for Sarah’s ticket to be reissued. The Rep from Virgin Airlines, did give us information on the aircraft that we would be travelling on and advised us that by the middle of next year they should have all new aircraft flying out of Gatwick on their Caribbean routes.
General Facilities for disabled/children: Gatwick airport South terminal itself have many facilities for disabled traveler including the following
• Ramps , Telephones at a height accessible to wheelchair users Disabled toilet facilities, reserved seating for disabled people in check in areas and wider access pathways.

As we proceeded through the Fast track area we did see a wheelchair user being assisted through by a member of staff from Gatwick Airport, and found them very courteous and attentive.

Type of Aircraft and configuration: Boeing 747 400 series

Economy configuration 3 /5/ 3
Premium economy 2 /2 on upper deck
Upper Class 2 /2 upper class suites which convert to flat beds

We were lucky to be given Premium economy seats on the way out, which were extremely comfortable and what I liked, was that they had a storage box area to the side of the pair of seats at the window, where you could store your blankets bag etc, with easy access so you didn’t have to get up and down all the time to get thing from the overhead lockers.

On our return journey, premium and Upper class were both completely full, so we were given economy seats, which gave us a chance to sample this service also. As the aircraft had 55 empty seats in economy, after take- off we were able to spread out and get 3 seats to ourselves so we could lie out and get some sleep, so that worked out very well.

On board Entertainment/Meals/service on board:
Virgin Airlines have a fantastic onboard seatback entertainment service including
Kids channels
News channels
A choice of movies which run on a loop
Music channels
TV channels
Find yourself map which logs the journey so you can keep up to date with where you are on your flight.

The staff in the Premium cabin and also in the Economy cabin were very attentive, and nothing seemed too much trouble for them, although on the return as it was a night flight, we were left more to ourselves as most people were sleeping.

Again meals in both cabins were lovely, portion sizes were just enough, and there was plenty of water soft drinks or alcoholic beverages served throughout the flight services in both directions.

Information Given And Length Of Journey:

Approx 9 hours flying time between Gatwick and Antigua.
There was plenty of information given by both the pilot/copilot and also the in flight entertainment system had a find yourself map which kept you up to date with where you were how long to go how high and plotted the journey on a world map for you also.

The Arrival

We spent approx 10-15 minutes getting through immigration, which was not bad, although in the heat it sometimes can feel longer. 1 of our party had a walking stick due to a foot injury, so immigration allowed her to have 2 people accompany her through a fast track area, so by the time we got through immigration they rest of our party had started to take our bags from the carousel, so there was no hanging around waiting once we were through Immigration.
Entry paperwork for Antigua was handed out by the staff on board the aircraft and was all completed, so the time taken to get through immigration, was purely just waiting for other travelers to get their passports stamped and papers checked.

Luggage Retrieval: as above


All signage was in English and was very clear. There were also a lot of staff on hand to point you in the right direction. We were met by the local ITC rep Cathy, Who along with Sarah, could not have done enough for us. We witnessed Cathy in action at a few of the hotels throughout our trip and her working day never seems to be done. Transfers were by private minibus (which had the same driver all week and took us to all the hotel visits and transfers between hotels etc.) on the way from the airport to the hotel, but on the way back to the airport I TC provided us with a Stretch Limo.

Carlisle Bay 2 nights
The room I had was a beachfront Suite, located on an upper floor overlooking the beach and was in the adults only area of the hotel. The family rooms are all located at the opposite end of the beach and are all together, keeping the adult area quieter for those not travelling with families.
In my room was a kingsize bed, a large bathroom which was open at each end and had a large bath with a window to the side overlooking the mangroves, a separate shower and separate toilet. There was plenty of storage space provided and the room had a sitting area and large balcony with a daybed on which looked out over the beach. State of the Art Coffee machine (fantastic coffee hot chocolate milk warmer etc, but it did take me until day 2 to get the hang of it) and fresh water were provided in rooms and there was fresh fruit of the day delivered to your room daily.

The restaurants were both fantastic and served lots of local produce and many things from their own garden too! One of the restaurants served fantastic Asian themed food. Afternoon tea was served throughout the property each day, and we enjoyed afternoon tea on the beach which was something else. There was a pool onsite, which was mainly used by families with children. Gym, Yoga, Tennis clinic, Library with internet access, free wifi throughout the property, water sports from the beach
Although my room was not Accessible for disable people as it was on the top floor so had 2 flights of steps to get u0p to it, the property does provide disabled rooms. Most public areas are accessible too.


Galley Bay 2 nights

The room I was allocated at Galley Bay was a premium Beachfront Suite, which as its name suggests opened out right in to the beach, which became my back garden for the next 2 days! My room was on a lower floor, and although it would have been accessible for a wheelchair user to get into the room, as it was on 2 levels with a step down into the living area, it would not have been suitable and had not been adapted for wheelchair users. Again I have a kingsize bed in this room with a similar set up to Carlisle bay with a sitting area with table and plenty of storage space in the room. The shower was huge with 2 different shower head at each side of the shower at different heights. There was a large corner bath and I could walk out from my room directly on to the beach, where there were 2 loungers and a small table provided for each room along with many other lounger available on the beach. Mini bar was stocked with soft drinks are beers, and there was a small coffee maker in the room provided (although not to the amazing standards of the Carlisle Bay coffee machine, was easier to understand how to work!)
There is wifi access throughout the property again, lovely pool area, bike hire (yes we made use of this) Tennis courts. Tennis clinic, spa, lawn croquet (again yes we made use of this, with a croquet tournament on our arrival) 3 Restaurants although we only sampled 2, both served lovely food, we had lobster on the first night which was to die for. There are a few bar areas on the property so it is never too crowded, there are also rocking chairs provided along a veranda looking out to sea if you wanted more peace and quiet. The beach area was clean although it had quite a slope to the sea, there was also a gift shop onsite, watersports etc.


Curtain Bluff 2 nights

I was provided with a Junior suite overlooking the beach at Curtail Bluff, which was on an upper floor, so again did not have disabled facilities, nor was it accessible for a wheelchair, although the hotel do offer disabled rooms. My room had a kingsized bed sitting area and had plenty of storage space, large Bathroom with separate shower and again a large corner bath. A balcony looked out over the beach area. The atmosphere in this hotel is very relaxed, so much so that the doors to the bedrooms do not have external locks or keys, as nobody uses them, the doors can be locked from the inside however. There is a very large wine cellar at this hotel where they give wine tasting lessons, and have a very vast stock of wines, from all over the world. ( I noticed they did have a VERY large lock on this area however! Probably wise…..)
Although things do move at an even slower pace at Curtain Bluff, they have many facilities. There is a lovely spa , and other facilities include , squash court, Swimming pool, watersports, Fitness Tennis courts and tennis clinic. Water aerobics, yoga, pilates, putting green, half basketball court 2 computer rooms, one for children one for adults, Childrens playground, There is a gift shop in the hotel and also several on the beach. There is one main restaurant at the hotel and a beach bar, serving drinks and snack during the day. Food was fantastic once again at this hotel and as you would expect their wine list was out of this world!

Sugar Ridge 1 night

When we arrived at Sugar Ridge we were not sure what to expect as there was no beach at this hotel, which is not usual in Antigua.
The actual bedrooms were smaller than we had been used to, but they all have very large balconies with day bed tables and chairs and overhead fans. So in effect, this act as an extension to the room. There were 4 rooms per block, and All downstairs rooms (even numbers) have a small plunge pool on their balcony also. The rooms have a mini bar /fridge, iron, ironing board, wardrobe, four poster beds with mosquito nets, small bedside tables and small desk area. Bathrooms have shower only We were shown some other larger rooms near the top that had interconnecting doors and had a twin at one side and double at the others, so could be used as 2 bed roomed family unit.
The food was Amazing and catered for all pallets, everything from sushi (made to order) through to burgers, steaks salads, chicken, fish, club sandwiches, etc. (unfortunately we didn’t get to eat at the hilltop restaurant, but we got to go up there and try out the pool, bar etc!) the restaurant staff were very efficient and very friendly. The infinity pool at the top is quite small but always seemed quite quiet during the daytime so there was plenty room, and the views were fantastic from up there! The pool down by the restaurant area again was quite quiet, and always seemed to have plenty of beds available, there was also a lap pool in the area, and staff were round regularly taking orders from drinks
We did a lovely tour at 7.30 am with Vaughn, who walked us round the whole grounds, and gave a very informative tour and info on all the local vegetation, what different plants are used for etc . He also included a walk through the village beside the hotel grounds. For transfers to the beach, the use 3 different beaches each with restaurants on them which are all included in the All Inclusive package. (Turners, The Nest and Gibson’s) All the beaches were beautiful and Turners was the furthest transfer at around 7 mins. When you have had enough at the beach, you get the restaurant or bar to call the hotel and they have someone pick you up again. The 3 beaches all had guests from the hotel either there before we arrived, or they arrived just before we were moving on to the next beach, again there were plenty of room on the beaches and plenty of beds available, so it seems to work very well, and of course you get a choice of 3 different hotel beaches with facilities rather than just one!! Vaughn dropped us off at Jolly Harbour on the way back for a run round the shops, although you could walk easily to Jolly Harbour area from the hotel. The hotel is quite popular with locals at the weekends and gets very busy in the bar area downstairs where they have live bands playing, and also the Hilltop restaurant which has amazing views gets booked up quite a bit in advance for most nights of the week.

This was my second visit to Antigua, and although we squeezed a lot into our trip, I felt I had enough time to take everything in, without one hotel blending into another. Antigua is suitable for all client types singles, couples and families, there is lots for everyone to do in Antigua from watersports, deep sea fishing, sunset cruises, Zip wire experience, Antigua is packed with history and a trip to English Harbour is a must. Shirley Heights a weekly hot spot popular with tourists, there are many sugar plantation tours, and of course with 365 public beaches there is always the ever popular sunbathing.
Crime in Antigua is very rare and I found the majority of the locals very helpful and kind and they always have an amusing story to tell. The hotel staff are multi cultural with many coming from other Caribbean Islands and there is a large expat population on Antigua.

I look forward greatly to my next visit to Antigua in the future.

A Trip to Oman

A Trip to Oman

Time to Check in Procedures and Attitude of staff:

Departure Facilities- Restaurants/Shops/Lounges/information ETC

Type of Aircraft and configuration:2 4 2

Information Given And Length Of Journey: 7 HOURS

The Arrival



Names of Hotels: Shangri - La

Getting from Airport to Hotel

Accommodation- Check in service
Check in service was very good, welcome drinks and cold towels on arrival.

Room Size And Facilities (what is the bedding for a family room)
Deluxe rooms are very spacious in all 3 hotels – Al Waha , Al Bandar and Al Husan
Bathrooms also very large with bath, separate shower room and toilet .

Accommodation Facilities (taking grade into Consideration)- Restaurant/Bar/Pool/Gym Facilities for Disabled and Children Please list all accommodation and use separate sheets if necessary or web links to the accommodation)Facilities include – Spa called Chi , children’s play area at the Al Waha, Lazy river (al waha / al Bandar)pool for each hotel. 18 restaurants between all 3 resorts . Shopping Village including a soft play area for small children. Private beach offering Camel rides.

Things to consider for the Disabled
1. Is there a roll-in shower.YES
2.Is the room accessible YES
3. Are the public areas accessible.YES
4.Is the surrounding area accessible YES

Give Examples of local Excursions and cost (do they need to book in advance)

Dolphin watching / Souks inc silver/ mosque/ Nizwa. I would advise to pre book these trips.


This resort would be suitable / not suitable for: SUITABLE FOR FAMILIES / COUPLES

Sunday, 30 December 2012

New Year

Only one more day of 2012! Where will you visit in 2013?

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Family trip to Australia

Trip to Australia - part 1

Day 1-2
Flight from EDI to LHR, booked early flight to ensure that I had plenty of time to cover all eventualities! Transfer from T5-T3 pretty seamless and well organised, took train between terminals. Meet up with 3 others from the group at check in, informed that flight has been delayed 2 hours Proceed through security to departure lounge where we meet up with Daniel who had gone through earlier. A bit of bonding then we meet up the crew from MAN so we are now 1 team! Go for dinner as a group. After dinner we kill time in lounge, more time than we previously thought due to flight delay-all shops shut apart from Starbucks, this flight is seemingly notoriously late, Starbucks must make a killing!
Boarding the flight not a great experience, seem to be waiting about for a long time and all seems to be a bit chaotic. Eventually arrive onboard and experience the A380 for the first time, very impressive! Seats are very comfortable and decent leg room, handy as we have a rather long 13 hour initial flight! Inflight entertainment is excellent aboard Qantas, lots and lots of new and old movies to choose from plus loads of TV shows, certainly makes 13hours flying a lot easier. Group getting on very well, everybody seems to have a very similar sense of humour!
Arrive into Singapore, various differences with sleeping patterns with some of the group members sleeping for the whole flight and some not at all!! Originally meant to have 3 hours in transit in airport but due to delay we are whisked straight onto the connecting flight-really strange as plane seems rather dated in comparison to the A380! Sit back down for final leg of journey for 7 hour flight.

Day 3
Arrive into Brisbane airport rather bleary eyed, and go through what can only be described as endless security through Brisbane airport, warned not to use mobile phone until out of security or could face $1000 fine, can’t see Gold Medal stumping at that cash!
We all pile into minibus transfer and proceed on our 2 hour transfer to Noosa. Group bonding very well and everybody in good spirits.
Arrive into Noosa at about 9:30am where we arrive at the Outrigger Little Hastings. First impressions are that its a very modern hotel with a strange rather harsh appearance to it. Rooms are not ready so we head down to town to have a look about. WOW. Beach is incredible, lovely views with big waves and golden sand. A lot of surfers about and a few people taking in the sun. Decide to go for coffee and sit in the sun and take in the atmosphere. Work out that I have forgotten sun glasses and flip flops, or thongs as the Aussie’s call them, so purchase the essentials to try and blend in with the locals. Doesn’t work as I soon realise that i’m not tanned and don’t possess a six pack.
Go for hosted lunch with Juanita at the local Surf Club. Amazing views and incredible food, very relaxed atmosphere and immediately you can see the appeal that Noosa has. Go back to the hotel to check in and put cases in rooms. Rooms are very spacious and have a very modern look to them, huge balconies. The boys decide to hit the beach and attempt the waves. Fail. Waves are deceptively strong! Good fun though.
Back to hotel for quick shower and change before we go for a hosted dinner in the hotel. Lovely food and great company and everybody is getting on great, although we are all shattered and end up in bed by 9:30pm!

Day 4
The alarm is not my friend. Manage to peel my eyes open at 5:30am to get ready for pick up at 6:15am. A rather large 4x4 bus pulls up called The Warrior. We wonder why we need such a powerful vehicle, we soon find out.
Driving along the main road we take a turnoff down a dirt track to have the view of the beach in front of us. My initial thought was that we were stopping for a photo, but no, the beach forms part of their road system so we end up driving along the beach. Very surreal moment to be honest driving along the beach right next to the sea with the sun just coming up. Amazing. We stop further down the road for coffee and explore the large sand dunes.
Back on the Warrior we take a car ferry over to Fraser Island which is the largest sand island on the world. Again the road is the beach so we drive for miles admiring the beautiful scenery. We then find out why such a large and powerful vehicle is required. I will never complain about another pothole in the UK again! The road is very, very bumpy and we are thrown about all over the place. After what feels like an eternity of bouncing about, we arrive at the summit of the island and at Lake Mackenzie which is spectacular. A very large , blue freshwater lake which lures the boys in for a swim for the next hour! The girls sunbathe on the beach. Afterwards we are treated to a lovely BBQ and rainforest walk.
Back on the Warrior for the bumpy ride home! Most people end up having a bit of shut eye at some points though and we arrive back at the hotel to get ready for our hosted dinner at Cafe Le Monde. Again the food is amazing and the group is gelling very well. Instead of names, nicknames have been generated which make for some very entertaining moments!!!! Early to bed again.

Day 5
Again the eyes have to be peeled open for a 730am meet where we are picked up for our transfer back to Brisbane. We arrive at Brisbane port to be met by a very enthusiastic Craig who is the Director of Sales at the Tangalooma resort. After a mini brief we board the ferry over to Tangalooma which takes about an hour. Craig talks about the history of the island and listening to him makes me look forward to our day ahead.
Upon arrival onto the island we are greeted by Pelicans on the beach which was lovely! The island is contains just the one hotel and resort which we will be staying at. After a quick look about we are treated to another amazing BBQ. The Aussies really know how to put on a BBQ! After all that food I could do with my bed, but judging by Craig’s energy I don’t think that’s on the cards.
We have a site inspection and what strikes me is the different levels of client that they are targeting ranging from mid level to fairly high standard. After the inspection we once again go into a large 4x4 vehicle, we all pray that it’s low key this time! Ends up just as bumpy but the trip only last 10 mins. We stop again at the summit where we are presented with huge sand dunes and are told that we will be surfing down them on our fronts! Brief explanation then we have to climb up the dunes to the top, not as easy as it sounds and I can only imagine how difficult it would be in 40 degrees heat in the middle of the summer! It was worth it though, travelling down about 30kmh an hour on your front is fun! Group picture then head back down to the resort.
We all meet to go Quad Biking-highlight of my trip so far! Brilliant fun, split into 2 groups-men and women, although I think a few of the girls would have preferred to be in our group as they seemed to be a little more subdued! Sun was just about setting coming back down into the resort and the view was amazing. Quick drink at the bar to then feed the Wild Dolphins at the beach, could this day get any better?
Yes is the answer. After a lovely hosted dinner, we end up going to the resort entertainment which was a race night. After a few races we are left the finale which is the opportunity to buy a horse and as a group we club together to buy Crocodile Snatch. With a name like that how could we lose?? We leave as a group $90 up!