Yesterday morning about 3:30am, my alarm went off and I awoke with a single, perfect thought: Holiday! I got myself ready, and about 3:45am woke Andy. We were in the car and on the motorway heading for Gatwick, by 4:10am.
I always worry about the car breaking down on these trips to the airport. What if we don’t get to the airport in time to make our flight? What if we had to trudge home, miserable and depressed if the plane went without us? Hence, I always insist we get there a lot earlier than we really need to. My theory is, if we break down and we are early enough, we still have time to get the car towed and call a taxi. I like to cover all the possibilities!
I have flown long haul lots of times on trips to the USA and more recently the Dominican Republic, but I have never flown on a Virgin plane, had a Virgin holiday or been to St Lucia, so I was very excited about the whole prospect.
Mr Branson has done such a wonderful job of marketing his Virgin brand, that I was expecting something quite special and a cut above our usual packages with TUI or Thomas Cook.
Thankfully, the car made it to Gatwick with no problems at all, and being very early Sunday morning, there was very little traffic. We parked the car at Gatwick (Summertime Special, very reasonable) and, via a short shuttle bus ride, made our way into the North Terminal.
Virgin had very helpfully been sending me little messages for a few months, telling me how far our holiday was away (as if I didn’t know, I was counting the days!), culminating in their finally advising me to check in online (which we did the day before), and print out all the necessary documents.
So why then, (and this is my only gripe at Mr B) do we have to do it all again when we get to the airport? Virgin don’t operate the zig zag queuing system that Tui do, so when queuing for your check in, you pick a line and hope for the best. We always, of course, pick the line that doesn’t move. The other lines are speeding along, while ours is stationary. People start looking around and you can see them thinking ‘Is it worth ditching this line and trying that one?’ A extremely cheerful Virgin representative walked up and done the rows, apologising for the wait, explaining that they weren’t expecting us all to be checking in this early (?), and apologising for a temporary system crash. We were in the check in queue for an hour, which wasn’t ideal, but I’m not going to moan as everything else went pretty swimmingly. One woman did moan however. And how! She was shouting at a very cool, blonde, Virgin representative, who eventually hustled her off to book in elsewhere. A solution that must have appeased her, as we didn’t see her again.
We breezed through security, I say ‘breezed’ though of course, I got stopped again. I get stopped every time I fly. I must look a bit dangerous I suppose. I was frisked, patted down and zapped in the scanning machine, and then thankfully we were through to airside. I would never complain about the level of security though, the fact that they are so thorough, makes me feel very safe.
Due to the delay checking in, there wasn’t going to be a lot of time before boarding, so I practically flew around duty free, buying things that had been too heavy to pack, notably perfume, shower gel and my favourite L’Occitane body oil. It always amazes me how many staff are in the duty free shop to help you, even at 06:30 on a Sunday morning.
We grabbed a quick bit to eat and then the gate opened and we headed down to meet our plane. I took a picture as we rounded a corner and saw her out of the window. Isn’t she beautiful!
On the plane, we were greeted by cabin crew who directed us to our seat. We were located in Economy Delight which actually, was a delight, as we had plenty of leg room. As we took our seats, the couple who were next to us were looking very agitated and kept standing up and trying to get cabin crew attention. They obviously were a lot less happy with these seats than we were. Believe me, when you fly every month with a much smaller domestic airline, these seats seemed like luxury!
I couldn’t quite believe our luck when Mr and Mrs Agitated were ushered off to another part of the plane leaving Andy and I with two seats each! Result! I had more Virgin blankets and pillows than I knew what to do with! And 2 screens in front of me, so could have watched 2 films at once, (had I been so inclined).
The plane, I’m reliably informed by Andy’s dad, was an Airbus A330, and felt and looked, new. I love taking off and we were soon up and away, cruising at 35,000 feet, heading toward our 2 weeks of much needed relaxation in St Lucia.
We hadn’t been in the air long before the staff started their cabin service, which, to be honest, never seemed to end. We were offered constant drinks free of charge, and although I couldn’t face alcohol at 10am, plenty of other passengers were obviously up for getting into the holiday spirit, excuse the pun, as soon as possible.
A really nice lunch followed, we had a choice of 3 options, Andy had a chicken and mushroom dish, I had Chill Con Carne and there was a vegetarian pasta option. All the meals came with a rocket and cucumber salad and a delicious Gu dessert.
I sat back to watch the impressive inflight entertainment which really does cover all the bases. There were approximately 50 films to choose from, plus all sorts of television shows, box sets (such as Taboo and Fleabag) and music. I watched Mortal Engines and Creed II. Andy watched Artic, Bohemian Rhapsody and Predator 4.
More drinks followed, and then another meal. This time a High Tea comprising of a seeded roll with pesto, mozzarella and tomatoes and a scone with clotted cream and jam. Blimey! By now, I was wishing I had worn trousers with a looser waistband!
And then it was over, all 8 hours and 50 minutes, gone in an instant, because it really is a absolute pleasure flying with Virgin. The cabin crew were faultless and the plane was clean, comfortable and new looking. No one can do enough for you, and I was almost sad to reach our destination and get off. Almost.
We whisked through immigration at St Lucia airport. We were the first plane of the day arriving, so it was very quiet, and due to a very short taxi transfer, we were sitting on the beach within an hour of landing.
My next post will be on our holiday destination, the Coconut Bay Beach Resort and Spa. But up to now, Mr Branson, I salute you ❤️