Back from Orlando - boooo

Discussion in 'Walt Disney World Trip Reports and Itineraries' started by keith, May 31, 2015.

  1. keith

    keith Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    So some brief notes on the most recent trip...

    Thomas Cook Premium v Virgin Premium Economy

    We travelled from Manchester to MCO using Thomas Cook's new premium service. This turned out to be considerably cheaper than Virgin's premium economy and has only started operating from may 1st 2015.

    It flies into MCO just like virgin (so no long sanford trip) and departs from Manchester Terminal 1 v 2 for virgin. A note on that, Terminal 1 manchester is bucket/spade territory. There were kids everywhere and it felt busier, more random and cluttered. We didn't enjoy T1 V T2 (which is not to say T2 is anything great but it's less packed).

    CHECKIN
    There was no online checkin but I always struggle to think what online checkin with virgin really gives us anyway? You can choose seats on thomascook of course, you just can't do the actual checkin but then we have to go to the virgin desk on the day even though we've checked in and they still seem to type an essay. Thomas Cook DID have sundown checkin though the previous evening and we used that to get rid of the cases and report straight through to security on the flight day. Virgin doesn't have anything like this at manchester though they do in London I believe. Sooooo point for Thomas cook on that one. Unfortunately the checkin desk was manned by a zombie who was half asleep and despite there being 6 or 7 passengers milling around trying to find where to check in, he just sat there, head on the desk without waving to say OVER HERE! There was also a hastily written notice on a piece of paper "if no ones here call ....." in other words, it's staffed by whichever poor sod is most junior. We got checked in ok but he neglected to give us any premium perks like security fastpass or mark the luggage as priority. Soooooo full marks to thomas cook for providing the service, 0 to the dozy staff member we had to deal with.

    Virgin could do with a similar thing at Manchester (and a lounge etc as well!)

    PLANE
    TC used a newly refurbed a330 v the 747 Virgin use. I really love the 747, I guess it comes from growing up being amazed at the 747 rather than these new fangled airbus things :) In fairness, the thomas cook a330 couldn't be faulted. It looked like new, the seats were great, spacious and not at all shabby like some of the older virgin planes can look like. Interestingly at Manchester, they used a double airway to board so premium had its own boarding gateway and the economy people had theirs. Cute!

    The premium cabin had rows 1-7 in a 2-3-2 arrangement. Plenty of room really for a premium cabin, I'd say at least as good if not better than virgin.

    One thing to note, the tray tables come out of the left hand side seat arm rest and a) they're small and b) they won't be comfortable if you're on the larger size of things. I don't count this as a huge criticism, looking around no one else seemed to be having any trouble but certainly it was effectively useless for me (my fault not TC really).

    SERVICE
    The premium service from TC allowed 2*23KG bags, 1*10KG carry on
    fastrack security
    priority baggage

    • Complimentary welcome drink and snack prior to take-off
    • ✔3 course James Martin premium meal service plus light meal/snack prior to landing
    • ✔Complimentary drinks (not including Champagne)
    • ✔Amenity Kit
      • Cool bag with eye mask, socks, toothbrush and toothpaste, head set and ear plugs on the outbound journey and a felt folder for Ipad Mini or E-reader on return
    • ✔Premium pillow and blanket
    • ✔Head-set for the in-flight entertainment system
    • ✔Complimentary activity for kids under 7
    • ✔Newspaper or magazines
    • ✔Additional content on the in-flight entertainment system

    So, pretty much what you'd expect from virgin PE including the complimentary drinks. Note you dont get those in TC economy so virgin economy still scores on that economy level.

    CREW
    I've found virgin staff getting increasingly snotty :( not all, definitely not all, but some have this "I'd love my job if it wasnt for passengers" attitude. Thomas cook were great. All very down to earth, polite, friendly, helpful... just couldnt fault them.
    Even the flight crew, when they turned the seatbelt light on, they'd apologise and say it'll just be 10 mins.. unlike virgin who once just left the light on for 2 hours and snarked at anyone getting up to use the restroom.

    (cont....)
     
  2. keith

    keith Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    THOMAS COOK PREMIUM - FOOD & DRINK

    The food is advertised as being designed by James Martin who I think is brill at basic, nicely put together dishes and though I dont know how much he really had to do with it, the outbound food was actually very nice indeed. A nice chicken curry, hot and tasty. A vegetarian dish and plenty of extras. There were several different types of cheeses and so on. I did feel the whole thing was a bit more cramped than virgin because of the small tray and amount of items but still nothing to moan about really.

    Drinks were plentiful, proper brands and the cans were full size not like the tiny virgin ones that we sometimes get. Ask for a beer and you'd likely get two. All sorts of wines and miniatures available. In short, very well done indeed.

    On the way back from the states the food was less good. They gave us the impression that they had problems sourcing in the states because they had to use a certain vendor. Anyway, there was a definite difference. However, even the way back was no worse than standard virgin food.

    In flight Entertainment

    Very good indeed... LOTS of tv and movies all current and all free for premium (extra charge for economy) on nice sized and responsive LED screens. Again, can't fault them at all although this is another plus for virgin economy since you get the same stuff as everyone else v TC where economy has a lesser service unless you pay more.

    Disembarking and luggage

    Well disembarking is a free for all. Virgin do at least try and let the premium cabins off first, no such luck with TC :( and likewise I cant speak for the priority baggage since the zombie at checkin didn't mark our cases but I didn't see any evidence of it either at orlando or manchester.

    OVERALL
    I'd recommend thomas cook from manchester, especially premium. For the little extra, you get everything thrown in and a smaller cabin. Certainly if you can get TC cheaper than virgin, it's a bargain and you shouldn't worry about it at all. At the same price, well, they're both very similar.
     
  3. Tink

    Tink Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    That's a great report! I wonder if TC flies from MCO to Ireland?

    So then? How was the rest of the holiday?
     
  4. Clarkkent

    Clarkkent Well-Known Member

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    Excellent report there. We were wondering if TC premium was worth considering.
    If you could fly from Gatwick using either TC Premium or Virgin PE and you had to choose (on pain of death!!) which would it be?
     
  5. keith

    keith Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    Well I'd have to ignore any Gatwick specials because I've only ever tried TC from manchester but based on Manchester experience

    The short, but accurate, answer is go with whichever is cheapest :) They're so similar as to not make any difference IMHO. I do REALLY like downtown disney checkin... I hated going straight to the airport even though there was ZERO queue at thomas cook when I got to MCO. Still, I just like sorting everything out earlier on in the day.

    I guess if you collect virgin airmiles, they can add up so that could skew things even if the base price were the same.

    I think personally my default would be virgin but for *NO* good reason, and if TC were cheaper by even a couple of hundred, I'd say go with them with no worries.

    Economy though, I think the usual TC "pay for drinks, pay for movies" etc. would be quite annoying and in that case, virgin economy probably has the advantage
     
  6. keith

    keith Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    Great! very relaxing :yes:

    We got the car from Dollar this time, having used alamo in the past. Purely on price. The car, a jeep cherokee, was waiting for us at the garage with all our paperwork in it already thanks to Dollar Express. I'd definitely recommend doing the express stuff it saves quite a bit of time. The car itself was very nice and we enjoyed it.

    We stayed at the villa in Davenport as usual and well, just perfect IMHO. I think it's a perfect location. It's close enough to Disney to get there quickly but far enough that we can feel relaxed. There are more and more shops/services springing up around the area which is just down the road from Champions Gate. One junction down the i4 there is posner park which just last month got a lovely new cinema with IMAX screen as well as bestbuy, target, jcpenny etc. without going to the large malls. We truly love it there

    What else did we do erm....

    hoop dee doo revue : we love it but the cast isn't currently the best. You wont notice if you're a newbie but there's less feel
    luau : exactly the same as ever :) turn off brain, ask for more wine, relax
    (I recommended these to 4 people who were going in May... 2 came back gushing about how they loved it, 2 absolutely loathed them both and 1 person said (jokingly I hope) that the shows were SO bad, I should refund them for having recommended them!!! so goes to show you, it's a love/hate thing with those shows I guess)

    Medieval times : a lot of fun actually! Ticket office staff were useless and grumpy but once we were into the show we had a great time! One of DW's favourites from the holiday. Again, don't expect too much but fun.

    Restaurants:-
    Victoria & Alberts - just sensational as always. I'm a picky eater but they've always been 100% for ensuring I was happy with the courses. Service perfect, food to die for. Worth every penny.

    Shulas Steakhouse: we hadnt been here for years but really loved it. Probably the best steak of the holiday and again, excellent service. Really enjoyed this one and will be going back for sure.

    charlies steakhouse: again brilliant. huge steak but perfectly cooked, lamb was excellent

    Longhorns: bleurgh :/ cheap/cheerful but low quality. I know loads of people like it and I've tried to, but there just seems so many better places to eat

    Berns @ Tampa: well Im always amazed by this place. Cheap I mean less than half the price of Disney, excellent choice, excellent food and service.

    Disney monsieur paul in epcot: I truly disliked it :( Didn't like the smug server, didnt like the cost, didnt like the food.. utter waste of time and money. no way I'd return

    Le cellier epcot: bit of a long wait for the ADR and felt a little rushed but I can ignore that ;-) The food was excellent actually. Suffered a little from small table for two which meant it was a problem fitting everything on, but that aside, it was a positive experience.

    Be our guest MK: I really do rate this place highly. Getting an ADR can be very problematic :( but once in there, it's very nice especially in the west wing. The steak was very tasty and the lamb/salmon were great too. Nice selection of wine and good service. Definitely the best in the MK.
     
  7. Slowhand

    Slowhand Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    A great report on the VA/TC issue Keith, but as you have mentioned I reckon that we will carry on using our FC miles to "do the UC thing" if only so we can get a good night`s sleep on the way back.
    Yeah Berns is fantastic isn`t it? It`s just a pity that it involves quite a long drive to get there and for me that means no vino with my dinner!
     
  8. Isafari

    Isafari Well-Known Member

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    Great detailed reports Keith .... very helpful
    I'm off to check out the menu at Berns @ Tampa as we visit Tampa at least once a week while we are away.
     
  9. keith

    keith Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    They do have their own hotel right opposite the restaurant ;-) and very nice it is too! http://epicureanhotel.com/
     
  10. Tink

    Tink Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    I've wondered about the Epicurean. That might make a fun weekend.

    I'm with you on M'sieu Paul. SO disappointed. Not pleased that you had a terrible time, but feel justified in our dislike!

    You missed the hey-day of Longhorn's. Come and gone, I'm afraid. It used to be a decent place for a supper, never a grand place for an important meal. Nice to pop in of a weeknight and just have something serviceable. Things have changed though. It was bought by Darden, and that was the end of that.
     
  11. Wendy

    Wendy A hui hou kakou Makuakane Staff Member Administrator

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    It sounds like you had a good time :smile: I loved reading about your comparison between TC and VA.
     
  12. piglet

    piglet Well-Known Member

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    The comparison was really good to hear. We're hooping to use our FC miles to upgrade to PE on Virgin but if we can't sounds like TC would be a good alternative.
     
  13. Slowhand

    Slowhand Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Crikey, that hotel does look nice.
    It has obviously been built after we were there as I can`t recall seeing it.
     
  14. keith

    keith Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    yeah I believe the story is that they always wanted to do a hotel and so they bought the land but with the economic downturn etc. they couldn't really see their way to completing it. So they started it up again a couple of years ago and very recently completed. They're very proud of it
     
  15. Wendy

    Wendy A hui hou kakou Makuakane Staff Member Administrator

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    I know where Terry is staying the next time he goes to Berns :lol:
     

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