Cambrian From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2003, 619 posts, RR: 4 Posted (7 years 9 months 2 weeks 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 23608 times:
As the weather had been so dismal all summer in the UK and I hadn’t had a holiday yet, I decided to take a cruise from Tower Bridge, London, all the way to Barbados. I have been on lots of transatlantic crossings by sea and I have always enjoyed them so much.
Going on a cruise is not everyone’s cup of tea, and the larger ships that seem to dwarf every port that they visit are my idea of hell. There are smaller ships around, and Silversea cruises offer a really excellent product, albeit at a premium price.
As I live in the West End of London, what is easier than taking a 15 minute cab ride to get on a ship that will take me all the way to Barbados? No Heathrow and no hassle.
When Silversea ships come to London, they moor next to HMS Belfast in the very heart of the City. The ship left at 7pm and we enjoyed the spectacle of Tower Bridge opening for us on our journey of just under 4,000 miles to Barbados.
The Silver Wind would call at Vigo, Lisbon, Funchal, Gran Canaria, Sao Vicente (Cape Verde) en route to Barbados.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Sao Vicente, Cape Verde Islands
Our last sight of land for 5 days, leaving Cape Verde to cross the Atlantic to Barbados
When we were crossing the Atlantic we saw lots of flying fish. One morning I woke up to find that one had landed on my balcony. I am not sure if someone ate this fish, but they do taste nice.
The cruise lasted for 2 weeks until we arrived in Barbados, where I spent a few days before flying home.
Ok, finally we get to the aviation part of the trip report…
9th October BA2154 BGI- LGW
Departs Bridgetown 16.40
Arrives London Gatwick 05.45
First Class- Seat 1K
I checked in online the day before at the hotel and chose 1K. I like this seat as it offers a lot of privacy and I find that the noise/ light from the galley and toilet is not too bad.
I had arranged a car from the hotel to Grantley Adams airport. British Airways First passengers can bypass the airport terminal completely and use the private jet centre to check in. This is very convenient and offers a very personalised and hassle free service.
Jet Centre at Barbados
Upon entering the Jet Centre, my bags were whisked away from me. My boarding card was waiting for me and I was first passenger to arrive for today’s flight. The staff take great care to give excellent service, addressing the passengers by name, and the security check is very efficient, allowing for maximum time in the lounge upstairs. I remembered some of the staff from my previous visits and we spent some time chatting.
The lounge is very spacious for the maximum First cabin load of passengers, and offers good views of the apron.
Snacks were nothing to write home about, although some excellent sandwiches were served later.
Virgin, Caribbean Star, Air Canada and American
Our incoming BA flight from Gatwick arrives
Soon joined by a Caribbean Airlines 738
I think that it is a real shame that Beewee rebranded into Caribbean Airlines. The new branding was rather hastily applied to the steel drum livery of Beewee.
After a while 4 other passengers arrived at the lounge. Has anyone else noticed the transformation which perfectly normal people seem to undergo upon entering an airline lounge? Suddenly people come over all very posh and develop a sudden interest in the Financial Times. Does this just happen in Barbados, I wonder?
If passengers want to go duty free shopping in the main terminal, they can be bussed there and back to the jet centre. I didn’t bother this time, but some of my fellow passengers did.
At around 16.15 we were called for boarding. We went through customs and immigration at the Jet Centre and board a minibus to be taken to the plane steps.
So far the process was hassle free. As there were only 6 of us on the bus, I wondered if there would be a light load in First, especially as this is not peak season for the Caribbean in the UK.
I always get a kick out of boarding via steps!
When I entered the cabin, I realised that the upgrade fairy had been working her magic once more, as the First cabin was entirely full. This seems to happen a lot on the Barbados route. I was greeted by a rather stressed out flight attendant who apologised for not being able to show me to my seat, but she had to stay at the door for security reasons.
I settled into my seat. The First cabin still looks good on BA, although the forthcoming revamp is much needed. I then decided to sit with my travelling companion to enjoy some pre-flight champagne.
Soon washbags and sleep suits were handed out, along with a list of dvd’s to watch on personal players that were also given out during the flight.
I think that the quality of the washbag has really gone down recently. Now all you get is the usual eyeshade and socks with a toothbrush and 2 small bottles of Kiehl’s products. There used to be all sorts of goodies in the BA bags, but this is obviously the result of cost cutting.
We were also given the Menu and the Wine List for this evening. I do enjoy having a pre-flight champagne and poring over the menu!
I returned to my seat for the safety briefing and soon we were pushing back past the VS 744 which would shortly follow us to Gatwick.
We made the usual powerful take off to the north east, leaving Barbados behind very quickly. We would next make landfall over south west Ireland. I have never taken a flight that leaves so early from Barbados (except for Concorde), so it was quite a novelty to enjoy daylight for the first 45 minutes or so of the trip.
The Cabin Manager came around to introduce herself to the passengers. At this point I noticed that few people had decided to make up the bed and sleep. As this is a relatively short transatlantic flight and we left Barbados in the afternoon, I find it very hard to sleep on this flight.
Aperitifs were offered with some delicious canapés.
Then it was time to take dinner orders. I find that the quality of the food and menu choices have improved of late and being in the first row, all of my choices were available.
Tomato and Fennel Soup
This was really good, and nicely presented, washed down with an excellent Mersault. On this flight all of the wines and champagne were really really cold. There is nothing worse than room temperature white wine or champagne on a flight.
Chicken and Leek Pie
This was also excellent- but I was surprised that this was the “wellness” option!
I find that a choice of 2 desserts is quite limited in First, but I opted for the Lemon Meringue pie, which did not disappoint.
Now a few words about the service. Of course it is lovely to be able to fly First Class, and who is complaining! But the service was rather erratic. Other airlines manage to make First class passengers feel that they are experiencing exclusivity and luxury. The BA product does not achieve this, unfortunately.
Wines were not topped up and I had to ask for a refill. In First on other airlines this would simply not happen. Also the IFE can only be described as lamentable. From the outdated tiny screen, to the awkward personal dvd player, it is simply fourth rate. The first dvd player I was given did not work. The flight attendant even suggested that I use my MacBook to play a dvd!
The selection of channels is poor. It is bad enough that there is no on demand, but the selection of films and programming is very uninspiring. This is especially annoying when I know that I am not going to sleep. At one point I ended up watching “Location, Location, Location”! However the audio channels were quite good and the noise cancelling headphones make for good listening quality.
Personal dvd player and coffee
I settled down to watch a film and enjoy a coffee. The first mug that I was given had a massive chip in it, so I asked for a fresh one. Again, I find gaps in service standards. What has happened to the chocolates that are served with coffee? I wasn’t offered any. Nor was I offered a dessert wine. On Swiss these are offered as normal.
When the meal service was over the lights were dimmed and the crew literally disappeared until breakfast. There was no attempt to hand out water and I even had to ask for a bottle of water.
Now a few words about the seat. When BA introduced the First suite, it was a ground-breaking product. Now it is showing its age and there is going to be a revamp. But as the flight attendant admitted, it won’t be appearing on flights out of Gatwick for many years. I find the seat uncomfortable in most positions and it is certainly not so good for sleeping when compared to the Virgin Upper Class suite. Having said that, I wasn’t going to sleep anyway.
The flight passed quickly enough and as we were over western Ireland, the lights came on, denoting the start of the breakfast service. As I mentioned earlier, the food has improved in BA First and this also extends to the breakfast, which has often seemed like something of an afterthought in the past.
Pancakes with caramelised bananas
These were really excellent. I also had the smoothie, which was very good.
It was still dark as we flew over Devon on our easterly track into Gatwick. I could see towns such as Exeter and Southampton, still asleep down below.
The crew prepared the cabin for landing, and gave out details of the Arrivals lounge at the Sofitel, available to First passengers. I have never used this as I tend to want to get home and just go straight to bed.
We had a smooth landing in the dark at Gatwick at 05.32 and soon we arrived on stand. I said goodbye to the crew and made the bleary-eyed trek to immigration and baggage reclaim. For once, First bags actually came off first. Then my holiday was over!
All in all it was a good flight. BA got me back on time and in comfort. There are some inconsistencies in service standards, and to be honest BA’s first class product does not compare with major Asian carriers, or European carriers such as Swiss. But these are minor gripes. It seemed like the crew were also unfamiliar with service standards in First. Is this because the European and long haul fleets have merged at Gatwick?
Thanks for reading my trip report, and any questions or comments are welcome as usual.
Albird87 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 2, posted (7 years 9 months 2 weeks 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 22986 times:
i think you must be the first person i have ever heard that seems to be dissapointed with first on BA!! Not trying to rip you here i just want to know if anybody else has this experience..... Normally people i hear from are praising it but this seems to be the fly in the oinment!!
Cambrian From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2003, 619 posts, RR: 4
Reply 3, posted (7 years 9 months 2 weeks 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 22875 times:
Quoting LAXorLGWonDL (Reply 1): I did not know you could cruise from London to Barbados...something to consider in the future!
Thanks. Quite a few ships come right into London during the Summer and then do cruises around the British Isles or the Baltic. Most transatlantics to the Caribbean tend to leave from places like Barcelona or Lisbon. This cruise was something of a rarity, which is why I jumped at it.
Quoting Albird87 (Reply 2): i think you must be the first person i have ever heard that seems to be dissapointed with first on BA!! Not trying to rip you here i just want to know if anybody else has this experience..... Normally people i hear from are praising it but this seems to be the fly in the oinment!!
Actually, I wasn't disappointed, as my expectations were pretty much met, having flown BA in F before. All in all it was a good flight, just not on a par with other carriers like Swiss or Singapore. Also the BA First product is pretty tired and due for a revamp soon. I always find service levels and the attitude of the crew to be something of a lucky dip on BA, but in the end I arrived in one piece, as did my bags, so I don't have a lot to complain about. Also BA out of Gatwick tends to be somewhat below the offering from Heathrow.
BFS From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2001, 744 posts, RR: 2
Reply 4, posted (7 years 9 months 2 weeks 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 22883 times:
With regards to your opinions on inconsistent standards in First, you should be aware that whereas at LHR the crews selected to train for First have been flying for years and are very experienced in the role and in the First service, LGW crews have only been working long-haul for a year and for many, have only been flying 6 months before they are trained to work in First. I believe there are plans in place to select dedicated First crews at LGW - I know many crew are very experienced in working in this cabin and chose to work in it time and time again, whereas others prefer the familiarity of World Traveller and Club World.
SQ_EK_freak From United Kingdom, joined Dec 2000, 1686 posts, RR: 21
Reply 6, posted (7 years 9 months 2 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 22209 times:
Thanks for a great report with nice pictures. I dont know - there's just something about BA crew that I really like. They all look so professional, and I have only had the best experiences with them. I love their uniform - very classy, though I wish the women wore those hats more often...it seems very distinctly British to me! VS crew to me seem a bit more erratic. Maybe this flight was a one off with the stressed out crew trying to deal with a last minute op-up filled cabin?
OA260 From Ireland, joined Nov 2006, 28656 posts, RR: 60
Reply 8, posted (7 years 9 months 2 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 22149 times:
Hi there , your TR was so interesting to me as I was on Silversea a few years back !!! I had heard that things have changed and Silversea is not as good as it used to be . They did away with the Moet and got a cheaper brand and also got rid of the Bvlgari toiletries!! Also I see that the veranda looks like raised nails on the wooden boards and they look a bit worn?? Was this the case???
I have to say I loved Silversea and it was a real experience for me . Id appreciate your views on it??? Do they still have afternoon tea with a guy playing a piano???
Now for the BA bit lol.... I have to say I wouldnt be too happy being brought chipped mugs in F !!! Also not being offered chocolates when its part of the offering is a bit bad. BA should pride itself in attention to every detail. Maybe you just got a one off bad experience. I have never heard a bad BA First class experience.
A340600 From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2003, 4107 posts, RR: 51
Reply 9, posted (7 years 9 months 2 weeks 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 22068 times:
Good trip report. Unusual to have a mixed report on BA F, guess you can put the service down to bad luck and the more inexperienced crew at LGW with this cabin compared to LHR. The catering is really getting better too which is excellent,
[Edited 2007-10-16 16:08:56]
Despite the name I am a Boeing man through and through!
AirlineBrat From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 662 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (7 years 9 months 2 weeks 5 days 14 hours ago) and read 21711 times:
Very nice trip report. The journey across the Atlantic Ocean by ship must have been a great adventure. My grandmother crossed the Atlantic by ship several times when she was little. She most enjoyed the opportunity to meet people from all over the world.
The BA First meals looked rather skimpy and uninspiring compared to what I have seen in TR's covering Asian airlines such as CX and MH.
I'm leavin on a jet plane. Don't know when I'll be back again....
Cambrian From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2003, 619 posts, RR: 4
Reply 15, posted (7 years 9 months 2 weeks 5 days 8 hours ago) and read 21425 times:
Quoting BFS (Reply 4): With regards to your opinions on inconsistent standards in First, you should be aware that whereas at LHR the crews selected to train for First have been flying for years and are very experienced in the role and in the First service, LGW crews have only been working long-haul for a year and for many, have only been flying 6 months before they are trained to work in First. I believe there are plans in place to select dedicated First crews at LGW - I know many crew are very experienced in working in this cabin and chose to work in it time and time again, whereas others prefer the familiarity of World Traveller and Club World.
Thanks for the clarification, and I did wonder if the merging of crews from short and long haul fleets had something to do with it. There were some inconsistencies, but overall it was a good flight.
Quoting SQ_EK_freak (Reply 6): I love their uniform - very classy, though I wish the women wore those hats more often...it seems very distinctly British to me!
Yes, I also like the uniforms. I think that the hats are only worn for VIP flights or PR events. It is a shame as they look very classy and distinctive, and hark back to the days when flying was really special.
That is also my experience- very up and down on VS and the food in Upper Class is not too great. Having said that, I much prefer the Upper Class Suite from a comfort/ sleeping perspective.
Quoting SQ_EK_freak (Reply 6): aybe this flight was a one off with the stressed out crew trying to deal with a last minute op-up filled cabin?
Yes, the upgrade fairy always works wonders on this route, again undermining the exclusivity of the product.
Quoting OA260 (Reply 8): Hi there , your TR was so interesting to me as I was on Silversea a few years back !!! I had heard that things have changed and Silversea is not as good as it used to be . They did away with the Moet and got a cheaper brand and also got rid of the Bvlgari toiletries!! Also I see that the veranda looks like raised nails on the wooden boards and they look a bit worn?? Was this the case???
I would agree that things are not as good as they used to be. I have been a regular traveller with Silversea since they began operating, and standards have fallen a bit since their heyday. Having said that, it is still a rather special experience. They are using Mumm and Pommery at the moment- both grandes marques, so I have no real problem with that. They started using Acqua di Parma toiletries, which is also a very good brand, but they have gone back to Bulgari now. I actually don't like the Bulgari stuff- it smells like my granny! The Silver Wind is showing its age somewhat and it really cannot compete with the newer, larger Silversea ships. But then again, the larger ships can't dock at Tower Bridge, so they have to go to Greenwich. I hear that the Silver Wind is going to be taken out of service for 6 months, for a full interior refit. It needs it. Silversea has also just bought an Antarctic explorer ship that they are refitting that will take only 120 passengers and they are having another new build ship in 2009. I think that Seabourn has a slight edge over Silversea.
Quoting OA260 (Reply 8): Now for the BA bit lol.... I have to say I wouldnt be too happy being brought chipped mugs in F !!! Also not being offered chocolates when its part of the offering is a bit bad. BA should pride itself in attention to every detail. Maybe you just got a one off bad experience. I have never heard a bad BA First class experience.
Yes, I wouldn't say that I had a bad experience. In fact the flight met my expectations as BA First is patchy and the product is now old. If I had been travelling on Swiss, then my expectations would have been a lot higher. Also Gatwick is always the poor relation to Heathrow flights.
Quoting A340600 (Reply 9): Good trip report. Unusual to have a mixed report on BA F, guess you can put the service down to bad luck and the more inexperienced crew at LGW with this cabin compared to LHR. The catering is really getting better too which is excellent,
Yes, I thought that there has been a marked improvement in the catering.
Quoting Semsem (Reply 12): Where did you stay in Barbados? Thanks for sharing the Silversea pictures. Is it really such a great cruise line and is it worth what they charge?
I stayed at the Fairmont Royal Pavilion. I have never stayed there before but I was very impressed with the hotel, staff and service and it is on a great beach. I am already planning to go back.
Silversea remains one of the top cruise lines. I think that only Seabourn is comparable. Is it worth it? Well, for me what made the trip special was having the opportunity to travel from London to Barbados. Given that everything is included in the fare, I think that it is not such bad value for money, but if you were to take Silversea for the first time, then I would recommend the larger ships (still not very large) for the experience.
Quoting AirlineBrat (Reply 13): The BA First meals looked rather skimpy and uninspiring compared to what I have seen in TR's covering Asian airlines such as CX and MH.
Of course, the whole BA offering pales in comparison with Asian carriers. Having said that, the food was pretty nice and has actually improved significantly of late.
Quoting CV990 (Reply 14): Excelent report indeed! Great pictures of Lisbon 25th. of April Bridge ( Portuguese Golden Gate!!! ) and also an amazing picture of a Peugeot 404 in Cape Verde Islands!!!
Thanks. What a beautiful city Lisbon is! We also went to Sintra and Cascais. Portugal is truly blessed with a wonderful climate, natural beauty, and wonderful people! Also where the ship docks in Lisbon, there are great spotting opportunities with planes on approach to Lisbon. What more could anyone want?!
Cape Verde was also an experience. Of course it still has strong links with Portugal but there is high poverty and unemployment. I wonder if the Portuguese miss their colonies? Also what would have happened if Cape Verde had remained part of Portugal- perhaps it would have enjoyed prosperity like Madeira has?
CV990 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 17, posted (7 years 9 months 2 weeks 5 days 5 hours ago) and read 21268 times:
Thanks for your words...yes we feel blessed by the weather down here, for example right now we have around 25/26 degrees, a very nice weather for this Fall, quite unusual but at the same time great.
Regarding Portugal missing their colonies, well infact I don't think so, maybe some people that lived there and had to return quickly after the "coup d'etat" on the 25th. of April 1974, unfortunately many people lost all they had at that time. But the big issue was the war in Africa; Guinea-Bissau, Angola and Mozambique, the political people here in Portugal wanted to stop that at any price, so that's why Portugal left really fast these colonies. Regarding other ones like Cape Verde, S. Tomé and Principe and East Timor it was a matter of coherence but probably they could have better conditions if Portugal ruled but that was not possible.
RoseFlyer From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 10415 posts, RR: 52
Reply 20, posted (7 years 9 months 2 weeks 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 19886 times:
Thanks for the trip report. I have never had the opportunity to fly BA in first class. I've only flown in Club World, which is what they use to BLR which is where I last flew them.
Out of curiousity, what needs to be improved? The IFE seemed bad. I don't like the portable DVD players at all since there is no where to put them. Most of my flying in first class is on UA or LH, so I'm wonder what BA is up to. They do have a pretty good reputation.
If you have never designed an airplane part before, let the real designers do the work!
Comeflywithme From Argentina, joined Sep 2006, 265 posts, RR: 2
Reply 21, posted (7 years 9 months 2 weeks 1 day 20 hours ago) and read 19270 times:
Nice trip report.
Mostly all the bad reports I have heard in BA FIRST seems to be of the ones that are LGW based and especially the ones to/from the Caribean.BA need to sort that out as it reflects badly on all their routes.
You are correct that their Amenity Kit does seem to be rather sparse considering for an extra few quid they could make it far better although it's nice of them to hand out pyjamas and slippers which you don't always get with some airlines.
The chipped mug is an embarrassment and also the disappearing crew which is rather all too common with most airlines but not in First Class.
Lets hope BA's new First product gets rolled out sooner rather than later as it clearly needs a revamp.