Joanie and Tony’s latest escorted group adventure saw them travel to Costa Rica in Central America for a simply amazing 12-day cruise and stay tour of Costa Rica and Panama. This blog is their recollections of an incredible journey and the firm friendships made along the way.
Our original flight was cancelled and so after weighing up our available options, we opted to fly out a day earlier than originally planned. Planning the new schedule was complicated by the fact that British Airways had only cancelled our outbound flight, and as such we were now flying out of Heathrow but, at present, would be flying back into Gatwick – not ideal but after everything that has happened in the last few years, not a major issue either.
Our latest Star Clipper adventure started on Friday evening when we met the first twelve passengers in our group at the Sofitel at Gatwick airport, where we were all overnighting before our flight to Barbados. The Sofitel is the perfect choice for an overnight stay, with an attractive atrium, a choice of three restaurants, and a smart bar. However, as England were playing we decided to take taxis to a local pub where we enjoyed a lovely meal and, surprisingly, an easy England victory!
Up at 3.00 am to catch a flight from Newcastle down to Heathrow. Sat in terminal 5 waiting for my second flight I already started to feel tired, today is going to be a long day! I'm sure some of you reading this will be thinking 'that's fine, you can just sleep on the plane', unfortunately I am a nervous flier so no sleeping for me!
Upon arrival in Athens I met Emma Moody (Sales Support Executive), Sarah Garnham (Marketing & Design Executive), and David, my companions for the next few days. We exchanged introductions and then made our way out of the airport, where our transfer was waiting to take us to Piraeus.
When we arrived at the port I was hot (it was 28 degrees and I am more accustomed to the cool Newcastle climate) and tired but seeing the Royal Clipper for the first time made it all worthwhile!
We boarded the Royal Clipper and got ourselves all checked in. After a quick tour of the ship we grabbed our life jackets and headed to our muster stations to partake in the compulsory safety drills. The other three are all muster station A and I'm B so if there is an emergency I'm on my own!
After a wonderful welcome dinner we made our way up to the sun deck for the first sail away. It's hard to explain the feelings this evokes but anyone who has experienced it themselves will know how magical this first night truly is!
When I had first received my invite in April to attend this amazing trip, it seemed so far away and now the day had finally arrived!
As I wasn't meeting the group until 5pm I decided to fly down to Heathrow. I figured it would be easier to change terminals rather than get the train and have to carry my suitcase across London!
I met the group (escorted by Fay McCormack, General Manager and Danielle Dudley, UK Sales Manager) at the Etihad check-in desk. We were all excited to be visiting Thailand and especially spending time onboard Star Clipper as she returned to Thailand after a 6 year absence . After the introductions we checked in and were delighted to be told that we had been upgraded to business class for the first leg of our flight (at this point I just had to ring Tony and Sam and tell them the good news, they were both very jealous!!). We made our way to the lounge where we celebrated with Champagne and got to know each other better. It was then time to board the flight and our journey began.
The flight from Heathrow to Abu Dhabi went very quick, more champagne then dinner with wine, a chance to sample the flat beds Amazing!! Then before we knew it we had arrived at Abu Dhabi where we were to connect with our onward flight to Phuket. Transit went smoothly and we were on our way again. The flight from Abu Dhabi to Phuket was slightly shorter than our first flight and even in economy we did manage to get some sleep. We filled in our tourist entry cards ready for arrival.
On arrival at Phuket, immigration was very slow, however by the time we got to the baggage carousel our cases were all there ready to collect. We were then escorted to the Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas where we were to stay for the first two nights.
We received such a fabulous welcome, we were given flowers, juice and warm towels before being escorted to our own private villas. The villas were amazing, I was so tempted to jump straight into my huge pool but decided to wait until the next morning. After all, we had arranged to freshen up and then meet for dinner. Dinner was a buffet with a wide choice of curries, rice and salad. Mindful of the 7 hour time difference and our long flights we decided to call it a night after dinner and all retired back to our own villas.
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