#TravelTuesday – Review Edition – Virgin Atlantic Airlines

Finding flights to Mexico from Northern Ireland seemed like it would be quite a challenge, but, SkyScanner came to the rescue and suggested a great deal with an Airline we had never travelled with before – Virgin Atlantic.

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All in all, it was an excellent experience. The price was great, booking was easy and the flights themselves were wicked. What I only knew as “first class” luxuries, such as complimentary headphones, blankets, pillows, “comfort kits” (including toothbrush/paste, eye mask, socks and ear plugs) as well as an open Bar (!), were all included in the economy price.

The flight attendants were friendly and quick, in-flight entertainment was almost exhaustive and even the pre-flight safety video was not only informative but hilarious!

You can find the video review that I created for this flight, on my YouTube Channel, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQacWKMEj3E 

There were, however, a few not so great points, that in all fairness for a good review, I need to bring your attention to also.

Connection in London – Outbound 

Because we had to get from Belfast to Cancun, and Virgin only fly from London, our ticket included a transfer from Dublin to London, operated by British Airways. (Which turned out to be an AerLingus plane… very confusing…) However, once we got to London Gatwick (at T1) there were signs by British Airways (who technically provided our first flight) saying that passengers heading to Cancun, Mexico should please proceed to T2. Once we got to T2 however, we were told that this was wrong, since our connecting flight was Virgin Atlantic and that we needed to get back to T1. #HeartAttack

By the time we finally got back to T1 and through the second batch of security, we were run ragged and I was in quite a huff by the time we finally reached our plane.

Security Embarrassment 

Long story short, on the flight home, the gentleman in the seat in front of me appeared to be smoking an electric cigarette. I kept seeing puffs of smoke appear above his head, it smelt like the fruity e-cig filling, and so I was in a pickle. Would I tell the flight crew? Smoking e-cigs was prohibited, but more so for me, it’s punishable (if discovered) if you do not report an infraction. So, on my way back from the bathroom I decided to pop into the galley (which was in front of where we sat) to mention my suspicion to the crew. The lady whom I spoke with, was very reactive however, and rather than waiting to let me return to my seat, waiting a couple of minutes (and maybe even watching the Gent for a while to see if he really was using an e-cig) she just marched toward him, right ahead of me. She asked him to raise his hands as she searched his seat and belongings for the device. I was mortified! I specifically told her that I didn’t want to say anything to her because I hadn’t seen the device as such, just the smoke, and didn’t want to make false accusations… but she basically just charged at him! I slithered back into my seat, put on my eye mask and earplugs and tried not to listen to anything, because I was afraid that the man in front of me would know it had been me who said something and would get angry with me.  That was definitely the number 1 way to make sure that people like me are uncomfortable ever reporting anything.

Connection in London – inbound 

On the way home, we ended up with a 6 hour layover in London Gatwick, this wasn’t tragic since we found the Yotel Airport Hotel Service, which was an excellent way to rest and spend time at the airport, but it was just a shame, given that with all the flights going from London to Ireland daily, there was no better way for the combination ticket to get us home; especially considering that we had an additional 2 hour bus ride back to Belfast on the other end.

Conclusion

All in all though, it was an excellent experience, and we would be very happy, not only fly with Virgin Atlantic again in future, but to also wholeheartedly recommend them to others.

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First Time at a Resort – #TravelTuesday

In February of this year I had the distinct pleasure of being invited on a family holiday with my husband’s family, to their favourite resort in Mexico. 🙂
This encompassed several firsts for me, and so I was quite excited at the prospect. It was my first time:
– flying to central America
– going to Mexico specifically
– being in a Spanish speaking country (after having studied/maintained (my) Spanish for almost 9 years)
– going on a “resort vacation”
Growing up in Germany, with an Irish Mammy, our family vacations were almost exclusively to Ireland, so see our family. Now don’t get me wrong, growing up spending your summers travelling to and being in Ireland was EPIC. I loved the ferry rides, and the long drives being my dad’s “co-pilot” and of course there’s nothing like playing with your cousins whom you only get to see once or twice a year while getting spoiled rotten by your Grandparents. #FondChildhoodMemories
It just meant that we never went on the “traditional” family vacations, such as to resorts, beaches or what ever other people did, so I reached the age of 25 not having any idea what it means to go to a resort (or how to behave in one 😉 ).
IMG_6643I was nervous… it was to be “all inclusive”, but what if I didn’t like the food? What’s the protocol on tipping? Are the drinks really “limitless” or is there an unspoken rule of cut-off? What about clothes? Do I have to go back to the room to change before every meal? And most importantly, how do you entertain yourself when you’re in a new country for 7 days but aren’t planning on “exploring” anything? (All Derek and my joint vacations since we got together have been “adventures”; backpacking around Europe, getting to know the inner workings of London, crazy weekend bursts to Scotland… and now I’m supposed to “relax” for seven whole days? How does one do that exactly?)
Well, let’s just say I learned relatively quickly how to cope. 😀
We had an amazing time! There was so much food, and so many drinks; there was lots of lying in the sun, lots of swimming and loads of laughter (especially after a rather unsuccessful attempt on my part to partake in a sail-boat ride… *>_<* )
On one of the days, Derek and I left the resort to go on a day trip to get to know the area better. We got to swim in an underground Cenote, try some different flavours of Tequila at a Tequila Museum, got our wedding date written out in the Mayan Calendar and then got to explore the amazing sites around Chichen Itza!! ❤
Apart from that awesome day out though, and the amaing quality time that we got to spend with our family one of my favourite parts of the whole experience was the unparalleled service. Everyone at this resort was nothing but helpful, forthcoming, attentive and mindful of your preferences. I felt like they really got to know us, by day three they knew our coffee orders and general drink preferences, from the breakfast buffet to the pool. Everyone smiled and was very happy to accommodate us.

Here’s an excerpt from my Trip Advisor Review of this amazing place:

“Service: The service was easily the best bit. The staff were always smiling, friendly and ready for a joke. Rosa, who took care of us by the pool, was an absolute star! The staff in the buffets, and the themed restaurants were also always fast, wonderful and even offered to take several family photos of us at the tables.”

You can find my full review, of the the Barcelo Maya Palace Deluxe.

That being said, I did emotionally and intellectually struggle with the idea of an all inclusive, fully staffed resort. Now, I am accustomed to staff in restaurants, bars and even on board flights, bringing food and drinks, but lying by the pool side, enjoying the sun while these friendly, hard working people sweat buckets to bring me and other guests, cocktails, beers, peanuts, towels and what ever else was asked for, was just so alien to me. In the beginning I wanted to go to the bar myself, because I felt so guilty, but of course I then realised that if everyone did that, the staff around the pool wouldn’t have a job to begin with, which was again counter intuitive. That was surprisingly tough for me.

I also noticed, that a lot of the other guests in the resort, from all around the world, took this friendliness for granted and seemed to have an attitude of “it’s their job to do this”. I witnessed a lot of people just barking their orders at staff members, not bothering to say please or thank you, never mind engage in the small talk “how are you today” and even just waving them away!!

On top of that, the amount of food that got wasted almost made me sick. Mexico is not a rich country, not by a long stretch of the imagination, and to watch how a ludicrous amount of people from almost every table, stacked their plates mountainously high with food, just to then decide they didn’t actually want it and leave, made me indescribably angry! Especially when the staff, who were working very hard all day long, had to take that food, including luxuries like steak, lobster, fresh fruit and home baked bread, and had to then, of course, throw it away. I got angry at the wastefulness of people, and I can only imagine that that anger or disappointment must have been even worse for the staff members, who probably couldn’t afford  to bring such foods home and now had to throw them away. I genuinely wish that resorts like this one, had a no waste policy, in the sense of “you’re welcome to the buffet as often and for as much food as you would like, however, if you take it please eat it. There will be surcharge for excessive wastage.” which I have seen many local buffets do around the world.

All in all, it was an amazing experience, which I would be very very keen to repeat. The resort was luxurious and adventurous, had many more attractions and activities than I even knew about, so I would love to go back and try them all out and of course, I would love to book another day trip, to get to know even more about beautiful Mexico.

Thanks again to my husband’s wonderful family for the amazing experience. ❤