It was mid August 2012, my girlfriend and I were sat in the garden with some friends having just had a BBQ (and a few beers, I should add!) when the conversation turned to where we were going on holiday - we hadn't really thought about it that much up until that point - so, in a fairly reduced state, we decided to have a look at Virgin holidays on my iPad.
Scrolling through a few deals, there were some really good prices for a week in various Caribbean locations. Less than 15 minutes later, we were booked to go away towards the end of September.
Fast forward to September 26th 2012:
We arrive at LGW to stay at the Hilton the night before we're due to fly out.
I won't go into too much detail about this one - as it could consume it's own TR! Needless to say, I had paid for an executive room, which was nice - but the service in the restaurants and bars was abysmal - I will never return.
September 27th 2012:
We arrived nice and early for our flight and checked in at one of the kiosks that VS have dotted around their bag drop areas. They're very simple to use and it was nice to see that it had remembered the seats I had previously chosen online. It printed our boarding cards within a matter of minutes and then proceeded to the bag drop.
The girl at the bag drop kiosk was a little grumpy - barely said anything to us when putting our bags on the conveyor belt. No chance of getting a cheeky extra legroom seat here!
Meandering upstairs, we proceeded through security. Owing to the fact that we had access to Virgin's V-Room, we had a couple of passes to fast track through security. They call it Premium Gatwick, and wow, it is brilliant. The security staff are very friendly and efficient and there is barely any queues - it did give me a very warm fuzzy feeling that I'd raced through security, given the size of the queue for the regular channels.
I would strongly recommend to anyone that you use the fast track security lanes if you can - they're well worth it!
Across the departure lounge we went, which was surprisingly busy, to the lift on the far side of the hall which takes you up the the level where the V-Room is.
Entering the V-Room, my eyes were instantly transfixed on the massive viewing window that runs the whole length of the lounge, 'brilliant!' I thought as we had an hour or so to kill.
The Virgin Holidays staff provided us with a very warm welcome and explained all that there was to do in the V-Room, what was for breakfast, where everything was and so on.
More information on the V-Room is available on the Virgin Holidays website, here:
View from my sofa in the V-Room, right over the runway:
We settled down into a full English breakfast with coffee while watching the early morning arrivals coming in from all over the place - there were a good few BA triples and VS 747's to watch landing - all in all it made for a very pleasant wait for our flight.
Just before the signs changed for "final call", a steward in the lounge came by to inform us that we should start walking to the gate and wished us a happy flight and a great holiday - again, a nice little touch!
The gate was a fairly long walk away, but I did get to take some nice pictures of some company birds along the way:
G-VROY, she was flying as VS15 to Orlando MCO
At our gate stood our aircraft - G-VAST aka 'Ladybird':
Here she is touching down in MAN exactly a month later, and snapped by someone who knows what to do with a camera!
Photo © Darren Wilson
We took our seats, sadly in economy, and buckled up ready for departure. Much to my amazmement, the aircraft parked next to us was a Monarch A300 - which I'd never seen before, so was a nice touch.
I was instantly impressed with the newly refitted 747's, the seats were quite comfy, the whole cabin looked very nice and the seat back IFE (similar to AC's offering) was brilliant.
We taxiied out for a runway 26L departure. We had a good few minutes waiting at the holding point as there was a US A330, an EasyJet A320 and a BA 734 a head of us.
The captain made his initial address at this point, which was littered with all the sort of information that an enthusiast/pilot like me could want - route details, weather, he even mentioned how light we were! He then mentioned that we will have a little bit of chop as we head south over the pond, but nothing out of the ordinary. He said he would speak to us again later in the flight and with that, we started to depart Gatwick!
Part 2 to follow.
[Edited 2013-01-03 10:35:49]