- Premium reviews
- Express reviews
- Reviews rated
- Ratings received
OK, I admit it, I was never one of the glam girls spending £££ on make-up. If I wore foundation it was either a cheapy one, or one of the many freebee sachets I get through working with magazines. I would NEVER consider spending more than a fiver on make-up but now I am converted. One day before my wedding, I realised I had done nothing at all about make-up except have a very dubious makeover from another company that made me look like a cross between a china doll and a LA hooker. I thought my best bet was to get some decent quality stuff and do it myself, but what to choose?? Entering the beauty section in Debenhams there was a wide choice of companies offering an even wider array of products. I went to the Estee Lauder counter since I love their Idealist product (another conversion!) and the counter staff were real people with nice make-up, not stick insects with orange faces. I explained my main requirement was for a foundation that would last, and give a smooth coverage, but not make me look china-doll like. After trying a couple of others, the girl tried the Doublewear on me, and it was brilliant. It goes on very smoothly, although you do have to be very careful to blend it in FAST since once it dries it is on for good. Luckily it is easy to blend in, and doesn't streak or leave "tidemark" lines. When dry, it gives a smooth natural finish but is heavy enough to cover any blemishes or irregularities in skin tone without clogging your pores. It gives a "made-up" look so is not necessarily the right choice for someone with naturally perfect skin who wants the nude, un-made-up look. However, my grandmother once commented to me that I had lovely skin - I was wearing the Doublewear but she thought it was natural! Doublewear comes in several shades, and it is definitely worth getting an expert to choose the right shade for you since I can imagine that since it's quite a heavy foundation, it would look awful if you
used the wrong shade. The advantage of the heaviness though is that it really does last all day, and doesn't come off easily. The packaging is very upmarket - a small glass bottle with a gold cap and the Estee Lauder logo in gold on the bottle. This is then sold inside a dark blue box to add to the "luxury" feel. At £20 it certainly isn't cheap, but it does last since a small amount goes a long way. I would definitely recommend Doublewear for someone willing to spend a bit more on the right product.
What can I say - it's wonderful! my husband took me to Claridges a couple of years ago when we had just started seeing each other, for my birthday. Arriving in a cab, we were met by an impeccably turned out doorman and our cases were whisked away out of sight (they later turned up in our room) The reception staff were courteous, efficient and friendly, and we were soon in the lift (with a sofa in, no less!) to our room. It was very Pretty Woman!! As a special surprise, hubby had booked a suite, so we had 2 rooms, a bedroom and a sitting room, as well as a huge bathroom. To save time, here's a brief run down of what we found: Sitting room: antique furniture, exquisite decor, widescren tv, choice of magazines, fax, phone, laptop plug-in point, huge fridge / mini bar stocked with everything from biscuits to choccies and champagne. Bedroom: bed the size of texas, enormous wardrobes, dressing gowns and slippers laid out for us, another tv bathroom: shower head about a foot in diameter, huge sunken bath, 2 basins, loo, cabinets, dressing tables etc, etc All rooms had little control points which, although high-tech, are built into the classic decor. Therefore by pressing buttons you can send messages such as do not disturb, please make up room, etc. We also had a valet and maid who came into the suite to sort things out for us. Now, as I said, the service was fabulous, and although we couldn't afford to eat in the main restaurant, the art-deco bar was fine, and the barman a complete star. One evening there were no tables since the bar is open to non-residents, but within 10 seconds of me asking for a table, he had removed some non-residents to make room for us! The location is also great - it's just round the corner from South Molton Street and Bond Street, so of course there were some fab shopping opportunities. Within the hotel there is also a hairdresser, gym, and a h ealth suite. All the usual 5 st
ar stuff. In general, it was a weekend where we didn't have to think. The staff think for you! Drinks are topped up, lifts called etc without you having to worry. Even the ashtrays are permanently clean since as soon as any ash is dropped, a staff member is there to replace it. The moment you step outside, you are asked if you need a cab, and you are generally treated like royalty. If you go to the loos in the lobby you are haded a warm towel to dry your hands, which is then thrown in the laundry as soon as you have used it. Breakfast is huge, includes almost anything you want, and you can easily eat enough to last until the evening! Most of the staff come from generations of Claridges staff, so it's very much a family culture with no inverse snobbery or resentment as you get in some other establishments. 2 minor niggles: 1. The bar serves only VERY light snacks at extortionate prices (£17 for a mini-burger and chips, anyone?) 2. We wanted to do afternoon tea on the Sunday, but were told we should have booked as there were no tables. Since we were residents we were surprised, and slightly annoyed at this. It would have been nice to have been warned! Would I go again? Oh yes, in an instant - just waiting for that lottery win!! Price quoted is approximate cost for 2 night stay in the suite, including breakfast, excluding other meals and drinks
My first experience of Crocus came when my father requested a Japanese Maple for Christmas 2001. Not being one to trudge round garden centres or lug a tree around in my car, I did an online search for garden centres, and lo and behold, up popped Crocus. The celeb gardener Alan Titchmarsh has a hand in this site, which gives it a certain amount of credibility, and the layout is very simple. You can search by the plant’s Latin name (for serious buffs) or by its common name (for plebs like me), and search results include a picture of the plant, best growing conditions (soil type, light conditions, planting seasons). Details on availability (to save the hassle of going through the whole order process before you’re told that it’s not in stock) and expected delivery times. If your plant is not available, it tells you roughly when it will be, although sadly there is no provision for email alerts about this, and you can’t place an order unless the goods are in stock. I suppose this does prevent money being taken from credit cards until they know they can deliver. In addition to the plant ordering service, there are also sections on plant care, general gardening tips, garden accessories (e.g. they were selling fireworks for November 5th), and advice sections. I haven’t used these sections, so I’ll leave those and go back to the ordering section… So, having found the site, located the sort of tree I wanted for my father, chose a variety from the pictures (so helpful!) and placed the order, I relaxed. Until I noticed that I was ordering about a week before Christmas, and the delivery time on this plant was 10-14 days. Oops! I phoned their helpline to see what could be done, and they were fantastic. The call was answered immediately, the staff knew exactly what they were talking about (apparently they are all garden experts too and you can phone with any query on plants or for garden advice), and although they
said it probably wouldn’t arrive until after Christmas, their attitude and professionalism impressed me. Best of all, on Christmas Eve, the tree arrived! Now, here is a small word of warning if you are giving plants as gifts. I had a peek in the box, expecting to see a leafy thing, and all there was was what looked like a twig in a pot. Not very impressive. Luckily my father knows his plants and when I gave it to him he knew it would grow into a leafy tree, and explained that it was logical that it looked like a twig since a) it was December, and b) it was far less likely to get damaged like this. However, if I had asked for a maple tree and was given a twig, I may have been a bit disappointed, hence the warning! Fast forward to August 2002. I had almost forgotten about this site when I decided to get my father a “wedding day rose” to thank him for helping me with my wedding this year. Sadly, they weren’t in stock until autumn. This is where email alerts would have been extremely useful to save me having to check back regularly. I did email the customer service team, and got an immediate reply apologising for the fact it was out of stock, and advising me to try in October. Sure enough, it was in stock in October, and ready to order. They already had my details from the last order (accessible by password log-in) so all I had to do was confirm them. Whereas I had had my first order delivered to my house, I wanted this sent as a present, and this is where it got expensive. By the time I added gift-wrap and delivery charges (each about £4-5), these extras added up to more than the cost of the plant! The total cost is still pretty reasonable since the plants aren’t really any more expensive than in garden centres (£10-ish for a tree, £7-ish for a rose) and the service is very good and the extras aren’t hidden in any way. They have now added an extra facility whereby they email you when the goods have left their stores, so it&
#8217;s a bit more precise then the 7-10 days, or 10-14 days quoted on the site. In general, I like this site a lot, but with a few tweaks it could be even better. Email alerts for when your chosen product comes in stock would be appreciated, and even a whole roll of wrapping paper doesn't cost £4! If bought in bulk and charged at cost, they could get this down to £1 or so, which would be a nice touch!
*****UPDATE ***** Well, the problems continued! I have been married 2months and still not had my last 2 gifts. Debenahms keep pressing me to accept vouchers instead, but I won't, I don't see why they should pass the buck to me. A delivery DID arrive, but was wrong, and we think they probably just put some stuff in a box and hoped we'd accept it. We are keeping it "hostage" until we get the correct gifts! The helpline is just as useless as ever, and no-one ever phones back when they promise to. As I write, it is a Tuesday. 10 days ago I spoke to someone and they promised to call me back within 5 days. No such luck. I have sent 2 complaint letters, one to the store, one to the head office, and we'll see what happens. Rating now = 1/5 (they get a point for the funky scanner and the online updates, and that's about it) *****UPDATE ENDS***** Experiences as a wedding guest: My first experience of Debenhams wedding service was last year, when some friends of mine told me their Debenhams wedding number, and mentioned it could all be sorted online. Working full time and having web access but not allowed personal phone calls at work, and working a long way from the nearest store, this was ideal! Logging on to www.debenhams.com, the link to wedding services is clear, and from their there is a specific site for wedding guests. I really liked the fact that you don’t need to know the wedding number, or even the surnames of the couple. You can either input the names, number, or simply the wedding date (if you’re feeling rather clueless!). Once the list appears, it is split into columns of item, quantity required, and price. Another great feature is that ticks appear alongside the couple’s favourite items, so you can be sure you are buying something they really want. Ordering is simple: just tick the relevant box, state how many of the item you wish to purchase, dec
ide if Debenhams can substitute the gift if it’s out of stock, and whether you want it gift wrapped (a small extra charge), any message you want to add, and proceed to checkout. The checkout is pretty standard: name, address, card number, email etc. Once you have ordered, you receive a confirmation email, and that’s it! It is also possible to order over the phone, access the lists via touch screens instore, or simply look at the list and go in to buy the item personally. Problem free, many ways to order, and it saves time and hassle or transporting gifts on the day. Perfect! Experiences as a bride-to-be: We have always thought that Debenhams represented good quality, if not always the best value, so when we were asked to register for a wedding list at a wedding fair a year before the wedding, we thought “why not?”. After all, if we didn’t want to actually use it, we didn’t have to, it was only giving basic details. About 6 months before the wedding we decided that we would use the service, and I popped into my local store (Coventry) to ask about it. They had all my details on computer from before, we had been allocated a wedding number already, and no need to re-register. First point to Debenhams – good customer relationship management there! This meant that even though we hadn’t selected our gifts, we could include the list number with our invitation to save the endless “what gift do you want” questions. 3 months before the date, we were asked to go in and choose our list. We were told 3 months since it was long enough for guests to have time to choose, and near enough the date that our choices would not go out of stock or be discontinued. (More on this later!) Choosing was great fun – we were given a barcode scanner and the run of the store! It took us the best part of 2 hours, but with the scanner we had also been given vouchers for free coffees
, and a 20% off coupon for the coffee shop valid every visit until the wedding. Again, nice touch, and the coffees were certainly welcome that day! (Second brownie point to Debs there) Also in the pack were vouchers for free makeovers and information cards to send to guests (although I didn’t use these since I thought it came across as a bit money-grabbing), and a note saying that we would receive 5% of the total value bought as “cashback” vouchers. Another nice touch. On returning to the wedding service department, we were handed printed lists showing items and costs, (and a rather scarily large total list value), and told that we would be able to update our list online. We confirmed 2 delivery dates, one before the wedding, one afterwards, and (Brownie point number 4) you can specify ANY delivery time! I asked for after 7pm and lo and behold, the pre-wedding delivery arrived at about 9.1 5pm. Well done Debenhams, flexible delivery times really are key these days! A few days later I logged on to check, and there it was! I marked a few items as “favourites”, checked the quantities of things, and settled back to see what would be bought. And then the problems started! The first few gifts bought appeared on our list as “sold”. Fine, no problem. Then a few started appearing as “requested”. When I checked what that meant, I was told that the items weren’t in stock and they were trying to order them. A couple did then go to “sold” status, but as I write this, 4 days before the wedding, many items ordered weeks ago are still “requested”. I have 2 major gripes with this: First, we were told to make our list at a certain time to avoid this situation. It doesn’t seem to have helped since we have more “requested” than “sold” items and although I can see what is happening through the list site online, guests will think tha
t we have received their gift already. Secondly, and probably more annoyingly, in the case of some items of which we have requested more than one, when a guest has ordered online it has come up as “requested” but another guest has been able to go into the store and collect the exact same item! Grrr! If I were talking solely about seasonal items, I would be slightly more inclined to understand, but the item in this case is pillows!!! A second problem is their “wedding customer service” phone line. Now, this is relating to the Coventry store, so it may be different at other stores, but I found it is totally geared towards sales and profits rather than customer service. Example: “Thank you for calling the wedding service. Please press 1 to buy from a list, or 2 to speak to a customer service advisor about your list”. (I pressed 2). “ Thank you. Unfortun ately we have no advisors available at present. However, if you would like to buy from a list, please press 1”. Aaaargh!!!! No option to hold, and when I did once manage to leave a message, no-one called me back. I do have a feeling that even though I called a Coventry number, it was a central system I was put through to, so I suspect this may be a national problem. So, to sum up. For guests, the service is great. For couples who may not be too interested in what arrives and when, it’s great. BUT, the mass (and contradictory) unavailability and useless “helpline” let it down badly. On the plus side, the list choosing process is great and the delivery flexibility can’t be faulted. If they could sort out the hiccups, they’d get 5 stars. (I will update after the second delivery in October!)
When my friend told me she was taking me to Brighton for my hen weekend, my heart sank. You see, I’m just not the type for plastic souvenirs, the “British seaside” and kiss-me-quick hats. However, the main thing I would advise anyone is “Leave your preconceptions at home”!! Brighton is far, far more than the pier and the souvenir shops, and in fact there are very few souvenir shops at all! These days, the city is used as a major conference centre and has got very trendy, more upmarket, but still retains its sense of fun. I actually tried to be tacky and buy a kiss me quick hat, but it took me the best part of 2 days to find one! Here is a quick run down of what else is there… 1. Accommodation. The main hotels are all along the seafront, with B&Bs up the side streets going backwards from the coast. The most imposing hotel is the De Vere Grand (formerly just the Grand) which looks stunning with it’s white flower covered balconies jutting out towards the sea. However if your budget doesn’t quite stretch to that (£275 per night for a sea view room!), you still won’t be stuck for somewhere to stay as long as you book a bit in advance. With only about a week’s notice before August bank Holiday we were in a small B&B about 2 minute’s walk from the sea, but it was perfectly clean and comfortable, and £100 per night total for 4 people sharing. Be warned though – many hotels offer low rates, but equally the majority insist on a booking of at least 2 nights, and often 3 at Bank Holidays! Brighton and Hove tourist office issue an accommodation guide which is useful for planning where to stay. www.tourism.brighton.co.uk is a useful online resource as well. 2. Shopping. Brighton has 3 distinct areas for shopping. The Lanes, North Laine, and the main shopping centre. The Lanes is a jumble of tiny back streets, many of them too narrow for traffic, in which you will find jewellers,
upmarket clothing and craft shops, and some of the nicest restaurants and cafes. North Laine is a very long street with mainly ethnic / surfer type shops. Great if you want cheap t-shirts, but nothing really stands out, and this type of shop can be found in areas of most cities. The main shopping centre has all the major chain stores and department stores, but is very much aimed at residents not tourists, and unless you want to do very general shopping, I don’t think it’s worth a visit since there are so many more unique places. 3. The seafront. This is probably what impressed me most. I was expecting cheap, tacky, hundreds of deckchairs, lobster red brits and men with hankies on their heads. Instead, there was a wealth of facilities for all ages. The seafront “promenade” is set down from the road, so there is no traffic and you are more or less walking on the beach. The road above is supported by arches at sea level, which house shops (mainly local crafts, beach clothing, and souvenirs), bars and restaurants, as well as the fishing museum and some loos! The nearer you get to Palace Pier, the busier it gets, but even on a sunny bank holiday, I was amazed at the amount of space and it could have been the end of the season for the lack of hustle and bustle. Also at the seafront are many sporting facilities such as a beach volleyball court, a basketball court, a skateboard area and a pitch for playing boules. Although I haven’t been there, the general feel of the place was like the Los Angeles beaches I’ve seen on TV (although admittedly the people aren’t as glamourous!) 4. Eating out. The seafront bars are perfect for whiling away a sunny afternoon drinking cocktails and eating pizza / salad etc. For something a bit more substantial in the evening, The Lanes has everything you could ask for, from the chains like ASK and Pizza Express to French Bistros, Tapas Bars, Mexican restaurants, steak houses. You name
it, it’s probably there! However, almost every street you walk up will have some sort of bar or restaurant so you won’t get hungry! 5. Nightlife. This is where we went a bit wrong! We picked up a guide from the hotel and went to what as billed as a “80s and disco” night. It wouldn’t fail the trades description act, but the flyer portrayed it as quite a large club whereas in fact it was very small, very dark, and not as much fun as we thought (this was Club New York). What we should have done is head back to the seafront where the daytime bars turn into night-time clubs, and where the atmosphere is a lot more light-hearted and carefree. If you go to Brighton for the gay scene, the clubs are up by the Palace Pier, and easy to spot since nearly every building is flying the rainbow banner! 6. The Pier. This is where we decided to forget about images of the typical British seaside and just have fun! The first time we went, we went simply because it had started to pour with rain and we thought that eating chips on the pier in the rain would be rather fitting and traditional! As you walk along the pier you pass several souvenir shops, funfair games, the Brighton Rock shop, and lots of food stalls. There are 2 fairly large penny arcades, but these are extremely noisy and busy. The one bonus is that the second arcade has a cashpoint inside – useful to know. Carrying on up, there is a good fish and chip shop, and a couple of pubs, and finally the funfair. I’m pretty sure the only reason they make you buy tokens for rides rather than just pay cash is that “5 tokens” sounds a lot less than £2.50 for a 30 second rollercoaster ride. However, when we went back at a sunnier time we forgot about the expense and went on a few rides, before collapsing in the free deckchairs In conclusion, whether it’s wet or dry, there is plenty to do in Brighton. The sea is clean and clear, and well policed by life
guards if you are worried. Hotels, bars and pubs are plentiful, and the amount of attractions means that there appear to be far fewer people around than there are, and no queues for anything. My one complaint is that it was expensive. I’m not sure if this was more a matter of spending a lot since there was a lot to do, or whether things were generally overpriced, but to make the most of a weekend there, don’t do it on a budget!
Now this is a strange little hotel. All the rooms are named after various philosophers, as the name would suggest, and each room is themed to that philosopher. So you end up with rooms with stars painted on the walls, or grecian columns painted either side of the doors. Not surprisingly, it hosts discussion groups etc, and is very popular with academic groups as well. However, I was travelling on business and it was my first trip away in my job, and so the hotel had been booked for me by a colleague. Once you get over the rather obvious theming and the fact that you sometimes feel like you should be studying, given its air of seriousness and the feeling that you are in a posh university library at times, it is a perfectly well equipped small hotel. Rooms are ensuite, with a TV, although they are not particularly modern and therefore some guests may prefer to stay elsewhere. I had no experience of any evening catering, but the breakfast was informally served as a buffet on a sideboard, which made me think more of a B&B than a hotel. My fellow guests included very few businessmen, a couple of ladies who were in town for an academic lecture, a small study group, you get the picture. The main problem is also the location. The street is, indeed, a quiet backstreet, as the literature proclaims. What it doesn't tell you is that it is a bit of a walk to the nearest tram stop, and nowhere near the heart of the city. It would be convenient for holidaymakers / weekenders with a bit of time on their hands and who do not wish to stay in the bustling centre, but if you are in town for a meeting, or need fast connections to the trains / airports, there are better, more central hotels for the same price.
I have used Kwik Fit a few times over the past couple of years, with varying amounts of "kwik-ness". The most annoying thing is that you can try to make an appointment with them, only o be told that they don't use an appointment system, it's "while you wait". OK, but what if you turn up, only to be told there is a 3 hour wait and to go back some other time? Not much use if you've travelled several miles to get there is it? Some of their garages are OK - they are near town centres, restaurants, cafes etc (example - Stratford on Avon), and therefore you don't have to sit in their miserable waiting rooms reading leaflets on tyre care and what wonders they can work with your brakes. Others, out on industrial estates or in insalubrious areas are just mind numbingly depressing (example - Coventry). If you do have to take your car there, and they won't tell you when they are likely to be free, it would be worth finding out exactly what you can do to pass the time. A better system would be to have one technician available to take bookings, and one or two available for short notice "while you wait" customers who just want to drive in. However, this may adversely affect the prices they offer which, while maybe not being the cheapest around, are at least far below the manufacturer's garage prices. The actual service can seem sloppy - I waited while they changed 2 of my tyres, and the lads seemed more interested in talking to their mates who had dropped in than in stopping my wheel nuts rolling across the tarmac. The manager on duty didn't seem to notice / care. The area where Kwik Fit get top marks is for their customer service. A few years ago, my exhaust broke on the motorway. It was 4.30pm and I was about 10 miles from the nearest KF. I phoned them to tell them I was coming in, and they waited for me so they could fix it there and then. Their normal closing time is 5pm and
I was still there at 5.20. Another example took place only 3 weeks ago. A service report had shown that there was a nail in one of my tyres. Being a very non-auto minded female, I assumed I would need a new tyre, and possibly 2 new ones so they balanced. A colleague advised me that it may be possible to repair for about half the cost of a new tyre. When I took it on to KF, they had a bit of a wait (surprise surprise) but since it was a town centre branch, I went off for a coffee to pass the time. When I got back, the guy handed me the keys and I got out my debit card and asked how much. He said not to worry, he had fixed it in about 10 minutes and was prepared to pass it off as goodwill. Nice bloke. So, yes, I'm sure there are horror stories, but my personal experience has been positive on balance. But come on Kwik-Fit, give your customers a better environment to wait in!
Having just bought a DC05 I wanted to give my initial impressions. My carpet suffers an awful lot of wear and tear, and usually has crumbs, hair, dust and various unsavoury bits embedded in it. When moving into the house my initial reaction was to save money and get the cheapest vacuum cleaner possible. When it finally exploded last week (OK, OK well I didn't know I needed to change the motor filter!) I decided that I had had enough of economy, and it was time to invest in something that worked! So, back home I went proudly clutching my new Dyson! Luckily, as a child I was always partial to jigsaw puzzles, so putting it together only took a few minutes (while my other half looked on making sarcastic comments about flat pack furniture!). I ran it over the sitting room and stairs, and quite honestly in that time, the container was about 1/3 full! All this was gunk and dust that my previous cleaner hadn't even touched for years! My landing is now clean and tidy for the first time in months, and the very powerful suction (at times a little OTT!) means that it can also be used more or less for dusting (just don't leave any lightweight small ornaments around or they will vanish!). The next job was working out how to clean it (since I thought I better had!) and again, the jigsaw training was invaluable. Whether or not it is value for money, time will tell, but it certainly lives up to its reputation
Before making any judgement on Easyjet, I think it is important to sit back, take a deep breath, and realise that a low cost no frills airline means exactly that. NO FRILLS. So don't expect them! If you want to be pampered, have free food and drink, arrive bang on time, and see cabin crew in designer outfits, you don't fly with Easyjet. Or any low cost airline. So there is absolutely no point complaining about it! I fly with Easyjet a few times a year, mostly to Amsterdam on business, so none of these comments relate to one flight only. First of all, booking the flights. I must say that the online service is probably about the easiest thing in the world to use - type in your dates and where you want to go, and you are shown a selection of times with the corresponding price. Popular times are more expensive, but only because they book up first and the airline has a policy of selling the first set of seats at price x, the next set at price y etc. Fair enough, it's supply and demand. My one gripe would be that, as with many such sites, the final price is NOT the sum of your outward and return flights - they add on a small amount for tax and their "fat cat" charge. It's only a small thing, but really, to include it right from the start would make the pricing a bit more transparent. The ticketless idea is great, although I can't see how it really speeds anything up. I can, however, understand how it cuts down on costs - no paperwork, everything computerised, and re-usable boarding cards. Unlike many low cost airlines, at least Easyjet doesn't tell you it's taking you to a city and actually fly you to an airport 2 hours bus ride away from that city (believe me, this happens, as you will know if you have ever flown by Ryanair to "Stockholm"). I suppose I can't blame Easyjet for the terrible name of "London Luton" but at least it is clear it is Luton in the name!
Their policy of "get there 30 minutes before you fly or we leave without you" is, in my mind, perfectly fair. The whingers on the tv docusoaps never cease to amaze me - do they think that a train should wait for them until they decide to arrive, or that a rail company would compensate them for missing the train? On board, the facilities have improved a bit over the last couple of years. After changing their contract publishers they now have a pretty good in-flight magazine which you may now take with you if you wish. The staff have a great sense of humour, and some of the wisecracks they come out with over the tannoy would probably result in sackings by the straight laced folks at national airlines, but at least they bring a smile to your face. I wouldn't want to use their planes for anything much more than 3 hours, but for a very short hop across the channel it just doesn't make financial sense to pay any more.
I travel frequently to Amsterdam for business but rarely require accommodation. However, a morning meeting at the airport meant an overnight stay. I found the Ibis on a general accommodation website (hotels.nl) with a good price offer. The first thing I noticed was that when I contacted the hotel direct, they were reluctant to honour the offer until I pressed them to do so. However, after some faxed negotiation they agreed I could have the price, and all seemed well. I was sent perfectly adequate information in advance as to where to catch the free shuttle bus from the airport, and felt confident that there would be no problems. My one fear was that for the low price and the fact it was part of the Accor Hotels group, known for basic, value hotels, it would end up being a mattress-and-lightbulb sort of place with no facilities. On arrival via the efficient shuttle bus, I was amazed at how big it is. I think there are over 600 rooms, and it is used by coach parties as well as business people. This was unexpected, but given the small relative size and higher price of hotels in the centre, I suppose it makes sense for larger parties. Checking in took a long time. There were several desks but only 2 were open, and at my arrival time (about 7pm) there had been many flights arriving so it was busy. They should really have opened the others to speed up the queue. The size of the hotel means it is separated into about 5 wings on 3 or 4 floors, connected by a series of escalators. On reaching my room I was pleasantly surprised. I had booked a value single room, but it had a double bed, large ensuite bathroom, tv, magazines, and plenty of seating space and desk space to prepare for meetings. Catering facilities are of a good standard - not overly fancy, but still with plenty of choice. You can choose between an American diner, an Italian restaurant, a French restaurant, or a pub. A 3 course meal with wine in the Itali
an restaurant cost me only about 30 Euro, and the choice and quality of the menu was far, far above the Pizza Hut end of the market. Breakfast is a buffet as in many European hotels, and again, there was plenty of choice. The staff throughout the hotel, including the restaurant staff, were friendly and helpful, although some at times were a bit over-friendly! Checking out was faster than checking in, although the fact that the shuttle runs only every 15-20 minutes may mean you would wish to take an earlier one if you have a flight to catch. Overall, this hotel is perfect if you just need somewhere convenient to stay near the airport. The other options (Hilton, Sheraton, Crowne Plaza) are at least double the price, and being actually at the airport, suffer more from noise pollution than the Ibis which is about 2 miles away. I would also recommend it to anyone needing to be in the city, as long as time is not an issue, since you won't get anything as good for the price. Since the shuttle bus is free, and trains from the airport to Centraal station are only a couple of Euro, it may well be considered worth the effort. It would not be a suitable venue for meeting clients / holding breakfast meetings etc due to the fact that the lobby has little seating and is full of people coming and going at all times. Please note also, at the time of writing (August 2002) I was offered a rate of 99 Euro initially. The standard rate is only 87 Euro, as you would find out upon arrival, and cheaper deals are available if you shop around then confront the hotel with your findings!
I hate to be negative, I really do. In fact, if I didn't know any better, I probably wouldn't even be writing this. But I do - I flew the same route on BA! I'm talking about a longhaul flight back from Bangkok to Heathrow. The outward leg was BA and brilliant. Strangely enough I had heard that BA was awful and Qantas was great, so after my BA heaven I was expecting great stuff. Sadly, it was not to be... Instead of individual video screens, we were forced to crane our necks to see over the people in front to a small screen several rows away. Worse - since there was only one screen, there was only one channel, and therefore no choice of entertainment. The food was fine, but I felt that drinks were almost rationed! There were no self-service water coolers, but instead the cabin crew would come round at rare intervals offering drinks. Similarly, when requesting wine with my meal, it was carefully measured from a large bottle rather than handed over in a mini bottle as with most other airlines. By far the worst aspect though was the near-freezing temperature on board. We had left temperatures of about 30 degrees, but the aircon on board was on full. I, and several other, passengers were shivering, and I was wearing a pashmina as well as the airplane blanket. When asked for an extra blanket, I ws told "I'm sorry, the plane is full, we don't have any spares". Now, not for one minute do I believe that they have no spares! What about spares kept in case of passenger illness? I explained that the temperature was so low that many of us were very cold, and was told "Research has shown that 16 degrees is the optimum ambient temperature for travellers". OK, well maybe so (although I find this claim rather dubious), but my goosebumps were showing that it was clearly not the case! I'm trying to think what annoyed me more: the bad facilities and the cold, or the attitude of the staff. Probably the l
atter, but I would never use Qantas again.
First of all, apologies to everyone for this being changed - I got into a bit of a mess and now this reads as it should! LONGHAUL (Please note - all experiences below relate to an economy class flight on a plane with not one spare seat!) I recently flew out to Bangkok from Heathrow with BA. (12hr+ flight) I had had some dire warnings from a colleague who makes frequent inter-continental flights with them, about poor customer service, lack of in-flight facilities etc. However, I was very pleasantly surprised. We were about the first to check in, so found that very straightforward with plenty of desks open and no queuing. Once on the plane, the good atmosphere continued. The personal tv screens in the seat backs made it possible for myself and my companion to choose which films to watch, rather than having to peer over heads and round seats to watch one single screen up front. In addition to the films, there was also a "GPS" channel where you could see the position of the plane as it flew in relation to a world or area map. On board catering was brilliant, with a selection of menus, and frequent top-ups of drinks. The "water stations" dotted at intervals along the length of the wide aisles meant that it was easy to get up and stretch weary legs, and of course avoid dehydration. The traveller packs included eye masks, socks, toothbrush, blanket, headphones, in fact everything necessary. During the night, feeling peckish, I wandered up to the galley area where I was immediately offered sandwiches and cakes. The cabin crew were generally very pleasant and accommodating. All in all, considering the truth that there were a couple of hundred people sitting in a metal tin many thousand feet above the earth, everything that could reasonably be expected to be provided to ensure comfort and entertainment was indeed provided. My return flight was with Quantas since they share the route with BA, and
that comparison alone reinforced my opinion that flying BA really was the best option. Price: £420 return SHORTHAUL After posting a report on BA’s long-haul offering, I thought I’d follow up with a review of the short-haul service, in this case a day return flight from Heathrow to Copenhagen. Normally I would never use BA for a short European trip, purely due to the cost, but since I had to be in Denmark for mid morning, and didn’t want to stay later than early evening, the flights were far more convenient than Go, which was the other option. In fact, Go were offering much cheaper flights (about £120 return, but this was with less than a week’s notice) but in addition to the inconvenient timing, I find their main airport, Stanstead, a complete nightmare to get to. Even the BA flights weren’t that convenient and I did have to put my meeting back a couple of hours, but to arrive at my “ideal” time I would have had to pay over £400, which I wasn’t prepared to do. Sadly on this route there is very little effective competition from the no-frills airlines, so I think there could definitely be a gap in the market there for them. In the end I decided on £245 return with BA flying from Heathrow, booked through an online ticketing company. Upon arriving at the terminal, I was immediately impressed by BA’s automated check-in option. For anyone travelling with hand luggage only, this is a brilliant innovation. I don’t know how long they have had it, since as I say, I rarely use BA for short day return flights. Let me explain… Assuming you have paid for your ticket with a credit card, all you do is insert your credit card in the slot (it’s a bit like a cashpoint with a LCD display). (If you didn’t pay with a credit card you just tap in your confirmation number). The machine immediately displays the names of all passengers booked with that card,
and allocates seats, which are highlighted on a plan of the plane so you can see where you are sitting. If you don’t like the seats, you can change them using the touch screen, and when you are happy you just confirm them. I was slightly disappointed that when I used it, I was unable to change the seats my colleague and I had been allocated since the plane was already virtually full, but we did arrive with less than an hour before the flight, so I can’t complain too much. In general, these automated systems save so much time queuing, and so much hassle, they should be more widespread and used on more airlines. Another advantage is that you can also check in for your return flight and get the boarding passes for both, so in theory you don’t need to be at the airport for the return flight until the plane is boarding, thus saving valuable business time. I have experienced this with Lufthansa before, but not on an automated system. Security questions are asked on screen, and since you still have to go through the scanners into departures, I didn’t feel security was compromised in any way using this system. The flight was punctual, the cabin crew friendly, and above all I was astonished at how much legroom there was. I’m pretty sure it was about the same as on some of the long-haul planes. One let down was the food – OK, I know it was only a 2 and a half hour flight, but on BA, when you are paying a premium price, you expect more than a sandwich and cake. It may not have been as bad but for the fact that we could smell the hot breakfast being served a few rows up in Club Class. I do like the fact that BA give you the daily papers to read as well as their own magazines, but why oh why do they think that 3 people all sitting side by side can really all read the broadsheets without continual whispered apologies?? I can’t think of a solution to this one unfortunately, since I understand that the morning
commuters aren’t all partial to the Sun, but it is annoying when the Guardian sports pages fall into the book you’re trying to read! The flight arrived ahead of time in Copenhagen with no problems at all. In the evening, things ran even more smoothly. Since we already had our boarding cards (and, having checked in in the morning we had been able to choose our seats for this one), we didn’t need to worry at all until they called the flight for boarding. Plus and minus points on the return leg were pretty much the same as before, but we had anticipated the sandwiches and eaten at the airport instead. Punctuality was equally good and again, the plane did seem a lot more spacious than the Easyjets and Ryanairs I usually use. So, was it worth it? Well, no, not really. Yes, the check-in procedure is brilliant and innovative, saving time and hassle. Yes, the staff are smart, courteous and attentive, and the planes are much more comfortable than the cheaper competition. But does this justify over £100 per person more than a comparable no-frills flight? Probably not. The thing is, on a short haul flight, I don’t need supreme comfort, or to choose my seat. I can buy a sandwich and a newspaper at the airport for less than a fiver, (although even a gourmet meal with wine wouldn’t have justified the cost) and even the flight times weren’t that much more convenient. I don’t care if the cabin crew are wearing smart uniforms or orange polo shirts, as long as they do their job. All these would become much, much more important factors if I needed to be on a plane for four hours or more, but for just over 2 it just doesn’t matter to me. So come on EasyJet, BMIbaby and the rest, sort yourself out and get a route to Copenhagen from a Midlands airport – there’s money to be made there! (Since this op related to 2 very different journeys, I've had to leave the comments below mostly blank, b
ut I think I've covered all the points above)