“ Balloon flights, rally driving and pamper days. „
What should have been a fun birthday treat, turned out to be a disappointment all round.
Firsly we were unable to book due to the venue being water logged, fair enough you can't predict the British weather.
Then our booking was cancelled one week prior to the event, due to grounds work being carried out.
Another date was arranged for August and we waited for e-mail comformation of this, only to be sent new dates for September.
After numerous phone calls with no response i sent an e-mail querying why we were being offered alternate dates to the one agreed.. I was then imformed it was an oversight and we could still attend in August as arranged..
Great i thought......
but then, one day before the event i received a phone call to say the venue had now changed and we would need to travel to a different location, which was out of our way....
Finally the day arrived....
The event lasted ONE hour and this included the introductory briefing.
The quads are fun but you only get to follower the instructor around the course and she seemed more interested in the time than anything else. (A feeling of, Job & finish)
My sister bought me a Virgin Experience day voucher to drive a supercar.A complete waste of money, infact all the money was lost!The voucher only had 2months validity, don't use it in that time then loose it! Only a couple of days to choose from and sky high charges to change dates in the validity period! It would cost more to change the dates than to re-book directly!Never Buy from Virgin Experience!
The worst gift you can give anyone is the virgin gift experience! well if you want to give you nemesis a gift, it would be perfect!! The Virgin experience customer service is one of the worst customer service ever and very rude people who are not helpful at all. I was gifted the afternoon tea and river thames cruise, when i called to book at the hotel they were fully booked for the next three months. I called up Virgin to try and change this. after the numerous calls (to an 0845 number), I was told that I can't go ahead with a number of experiences that I chose, I have to pay extra to have it changed and have to send it all back to them my secure trackable post. In the end of it, I gave up and decided to not do it!! Its ok if you have a lot of free time but if you are a working person, virgin experiences is not for you!
Purchased two vouchers for two friends as birthday gifts and paid postage for 1st Class Delivery. None of the vouchers were delivered even after two weeks; it's been the most awkward experience for me to keep asking my friends if their vouchers arrived. As it happens, there's no email notification to confirm if the vouchers have been despatched or delivered!!
Following the first phone compaint two weeks after placing order, no action was taken with the response that Royal Mail was responsible and nothing could be done about it other than follwoing Royal Mail procedure to track/report lost mail.
After sending a fax outlining an official complaint, a voice message was left on my mobile informing that the new vouchers will be issued and posted through Royal Mail Special Delivery and the original vouchers will be made void.
One of the friends received the voucher 3 days later, but through regular post. Niether he nor I have any idea if this was the original or re-issued voucher; and hence whether valid or not.
The other friend is still waiting for the voucher!!
Oh and by the way, the money was debited from my account the same day I placed the order!!
Virgin Experience?? Some experience!!
And if this ever gets resolved, I wonder what other terrors are in store for my friends :-(
I booked a surprise helicopter ride for my wife's birthday, both OAP,s 3 days before the event I received a phone call to say the venue had been moved to another location which I accepted, I phoned the evening before to confirm all was OK and the weather was fine as you are requested to do and was told do not forget your camera.
As we approached the airfield I told my wife what was about to happen she had tears of joy in her eyes, 5 minutes later and handing my voucher in at the barrier I was told the event was cancelled as the organisers did not have the required paper work there was no representative from Virgin to explain my wife was devastated a total cock up and I had a 60 mile round trip for nothing.
Thank you VIRGIN for ruing my wife's big day, This was certainly a VIRGIN experience.
Voucher I received was only valid for 3 months and on certain Fridays (every other Friday at 10am). This was not clear when they were purchased and this detail was hidden away in the small print. Furthermore, most of these slots were already booked meaning there were only about 3 dates remaining I could choose from when I came to book (this was 2 months in advance).Worse still, I subsequently found that buying the experience direct from the company fulfilling the experience was significantly cheaper (the Vouchers were £65 from Virgin but direct from the Zorbing Company were £40 and worked any time). So you pay a premium of over 60% buying via Virgin plus they severely restrict when you can use the voucher.
Dont waste your money on this - its time consuming and complicated - basically the places that carry out these shoots are few and far between - you have to wait 30 days to get an appointment - (how hard is it to book an appointment!) you are then told you have to pay a £30 deposit to secure your booking even though the experience is already paid for !!! Then you are told after you have travelled miles for the photo shoot you have to come back to view the photos then you get your £30 returned....a complete waste of time and money - instead give the mum to be vouchers for something useful! Virgin customer services couldnt care less once they have your money so dont bother wasting more time complaining because their robots at the call centre can only read from a script....!
I was given a luxury theatre break for two as a gift and found Marriott were outright awkward when trying to book the hotel room. I tried several times to book my room and show, 6 months in advance but Marriott refuse to allow booking stating it is too soon! The problem is the show i want to see is almost booked up now so by the time Marriott finally allow me to book the room the chances are wont be able to book the show i want.
I e-mailed customer services who in all fairness did respond quite quickly but unfortunately i was asked how flexible i could be re the hotel i wanted and the show i wanted!.
When i could not get the actual date i wanted i offered the hotel a a date range covering any Saturday over a 8 week period, i would say this is fairly flexible! Basically it looks like i am going to have to settle for a hotel and show of their choosing just to get it booked.
Dont waste your money because what it states on the tin is not what you find inside. I am so appalled with the service offerred i am now making complainst to trading standards and the office of fair trading because some of these experience are not exactly cheap and booking is made as awkward as possible.
As with some other reviewers i too have been offered a booking right away if i pay to upgrade.
Don't touch Virgin Experience Days Paris break. You can't get a weekend - ever - unless you go at 6:00 am on Saturday (i.e. get up at 4 am or earlier even if you live in London) and come back at noon the next day (Sunday) and you book exactly three months ahead. This would mean you are exhausted from an early start and travel on the Saturday plus you then have to leave Paris early on Sunday so you don't even get a second day in the city. Not a decent break at all.
Acorne (who run the experince) won't give you your money back if you do not claim within a week of buying it - which is difficult if you receive it as a present and even more difficult if you do not forsee the multiple problems with trying to book. We have tried about six times, phoned several times with Acorne and the booking office and got absolutely nowhere. they refuse to refund the money. We have to take the days by the 15th december or lose the whole thing.
it is not clear at all from the web site that you effectively can't get a decent weekend break away. The whole thing is a disasterous waste of money. Buy the train ticket, the hotel and anything you want to do online - it is much cheaper, much less hassle and much easier!
I bought a Virgin Experience Day at Christmas. It was a weekday single seater drive at Silverstone. I spent the following weeks and months phoning Silverstone to book a date. Whilst they had a few weekend dates (which I would have to pay more for) they did not have weekday availability. They told me several times to phone back in a couple of weeks but every time they did not have dates. Eventually they took my number and offered to phone me back when they had dates... that was 2 months ago! I phoned Virgin for a refund but they told me they only give these within 7 days. I explained that I wanted to use the voucher but they would not extend it or help me find a date (they offered a weekend date at 2 days notice!). They offered an exchange but there are virtually no experience days at that value so I either lose money or I have to pay more. I have told them they are no getting one more penny of my money. This is a con. Virgin Experience have taken my money and not let me have what I paid for.
My advice is not to buy anything from Virgin Experience Days/Acorn PLC. We bought an experience day for Junior 4x4 for our 12 yr old son's birthday, then when we tried to book the day we were told they weren't running another Junior 4x4 for a month or so. After a month we rang the centre again and were told they wouldn't be running another course until March (6 months from the original purchase), which obviously isn't relevant to our son's birthday any more. In the meantime, he's been driving quads and landrovers on his friend's farm, so it's no longer an unusual experience for him.
I rang Virgin Experience days to get a refund and was told I can't have one -- you can only get a refund within 7 days of purchase. Apparently it says so somewhere deep in the small print. I feel like I've been conned. I spent £140 on my kid's main birthday present, and yet he's had nothing from us to show for it. In addition, there's no junior experience days available that he would like within a couple hundred miles of our location. And what's to say we can get him an experience day before the voucher expires in June? All I want is a refund so I can buy my kid the present he deserves.
Don't make the same mistake I have.
Book with caution. Web site is maintained by one person, so if they're off work it may well be out of date.
We bought a voucher, only to later find out that two of the three venues were no longer available. The web site still showed three options on the day the voucher arrived.
Virgin Experience Days (operated by Acorne PLC under licence) is wholly unhelpful. We have to return the voucher, at our cost, before any refund will be made. No other offer of compensation or discount on another product.
I'm prepared to seek action in Small Claims to come to a resolution with which I'm happy. So far we've been let down while organising the perfect event for a friend's 50th birthday, and VED/Acorne, frankly, doesn't care on iota.
Avoid at all costs, or at least ensure that you pay by credit, not debit, card to secure your payment if they don't come through.
Give 1/5 because I can't score zero.
theatre and dinner for two london dont bother this is a bad experience, we received promotional brochure showing six shows when booking only one of the six offered have written to acorne twice and still have received no joy customer services say they will sort problem but never return callsif you like hastle then the virgin experience is for you im writing again but this time im asking for my money back
Virgin Experience Days started life in 2001 as the slightly dubiously named Virgin Experiences, a company created to provide unusual incentives and activities for the corporate world. While it still offers a corporate branch, it is now predominantly aimed at the consumer marketplace as an answer to the question "what do you get for the person who has everything?". They joined up with Acorne Sports, the original gift experience company, in 2003, which gives Virgin Experience Days access to a wide range of different activities around the UK, and plenty of knowledge and expertise to fall back on. For those of you unfamiliar with the gift experience concept, it is truly an excellent idea: it makes all sorts of activities you wouldn't normally dream of trying easily accessible, in several locations around the UK, at a uniform price. The variety of experiences they offer is impressive, divided into eleven categories and ranging in price from £15 (adopt a reindeer) to £12,370 (a holiday on Richard Branson's private island, where I doubt any of us will be going any time soon):
- Drive (e.g. 4x4 off road driving, drive an Aston Martin)
- Fly (e.g. gliding lesson, hot air balloon flight)
- Pamper (e.g. photo shoot, makeover)
- Adrenaline (e.g. bungee jump, paintballing)
- Discover (e.g. cowboy adventure, big cat encounter)
- Splash (e.g. learn to surf, coasteering)
- Virgin World (e.g. Virgin active, Virgin wine)
- Gourmet (e.g. chocolate making workshop, cookery course)
- Culture (e.g. dinner on the Thames, murder mystery)
- Junior (e.g. fairy school experience, first drive)
- Unusual (e.g. ghost hunting, name a rose)
My experience with them falls into two perspectives: I have both given and received an experience day.
*Buying an Experience for Someone Else*
Back in early 2007, I was struggling to find a birthday present for Other Half. I was browsing through the list of gift retailers on Greasy Palm as a source of inspiration, when I struck upon one of the many "gift experience" companies listed. I had never considered using such a company before (I think I just assumed everything would be vastly expensive) and what immediately leapt out at me was a falconry experience, something that I was sure would appeal to Other Half. The only problem was, this particular gift cost somewhere in the region of £120, which was rather more than I was able to spend at that point. Not to be put off, I tried several other gift experience companies, and found just what I was looking for on Virgin Experience Days - a half day falconry experience costing £76, available close to where I was living, and which I would also get Greasy Palm cash-back with (this is now £79 and does not appear to be listed on GP any more, although you can still earn ipoints at a generous rate of 12 per £1 spent). Although this was still an expensive gift, when it was split between me and my parents, it became affordable. I was also happy to choose Virgin Experience Days because I trusted the brand, having had previous good experiences with various sections of Sir Richard Branson's empire, and because it had good nationwide coverage (some companies I looked at had quite a limited range of activity centres outside of Southern England - hardly useful when you live in Newcastle upon Tyne).
Once I had chosen the experience I wanted to buy, it was simply a matter of going through a simple checkout operation to order it, and then waiting for the gift pack to arrive (delivery costs £1.75 for ordinary Royal Mail delivery, or you can pay an extra £6 to have it sent out by Special Delivery). I received my gift pack less than a week after ordering; it comes in a smart silver A5 sized wallet containing the gift voucher, a brochure describing the experience and how to book it, insurance information, and a list of all centres offering that particular experience. You just give the wallet to the lucky recipient and it is up to them to chose their centre, book their experience directly with the centre at a time that suits them, then turn up with their voucher on the day. The voucher is valid for 9 months from the date of issue, so there is plenty of time for the recipient to be able to book their experience; should any problems arise though, the date on the voucher can be extended for a further 9 months for a fee of £20. There are some minor restrictions on some experiences (e.g. age or height restrictions for legal or safety reasons), but these are made clear when you purchase. If you have any questions about the suitability of an experience for someone, you can phone customer services on 0845 330 5115 to discuss it.
The day itself was actually around 6 months after his birthday due to us only being able to go at the weekends, a hectic social schedule, heavy booking demands at the chosen centre, and one cancelation due to bad weather conditions. This might be something to keep in mind if you are choosing an experience for a child - while (most) adults won't mind in the slightest having to wait to have their experience some weeks or months after the occasion they were given it for, some children may find this frustrating. I accompanied Other Half to the bird of prey centre in Kielder forest, Northumberland, hopeful that I would be able to observe and take a few photos, but unfortunately that was not possible for that particular experience at that particular centre - although the staff did take some wonderful photos for me of Other Half holding and flying a variety of the centre's birds. He thoroughly enjoyed himself during his experience, and I was very happy that we got good value for money from this present. As long as you know someone well enough to choose something they would enjoy doing (and if you are spending this sort of money, I doubt it will be for someone you barely know) then it is highly recommended as a special gift.
*Receiving an Experience*
Having enjoyed his Virgin Experience Day so much, Other Half kept it in mind to give me something memorable for my 30th birthday last September. It is quite exciting to be given one of the silver wallets, then opening it up to see which experience you have been given - and in my case, it was a trial flying lesson (I won't be rude enough to look up the cost on the website, so if you want to know, just go to the web address at the bottom of this review and search for "discovery flying lesson"). He had remembered that I had always fancied learning to fly, and this taster session would give me a 60 minute introductory lesson that included 30 minutes flying time - brilliant! As luck would have it, the nearest flying school on the activity centre list was at Gloucestershire Airport, which was just a 15 minute drive from where we live. I phoned them a couple of days after my birthday to arrange my experience and found it a very easy process; I explained that I had been given a Virgin voucher, gave the voucher number and my details, and was given a date on a Sunday morning about 6 weeks later. As we discovered earlier, if you are limited to taking up your experience on a weekend, then you might have to be prepared to wait a while to have it. Due to the nature of the experience, the flight was also weather dependent, and so I was asked to phone the flying school about half an hour before my lesson began to check it was good enough to fly.
On the day itself, I was up early and eagerly checking the weather, hoping that it would be OK to fly. It was an overcast day, but the cloud level was high and it wasn't windy so I felt hopeful when I rang the flying school - and got the OK to come in. I arrived at the school shortly before my lesson began to fill out the requisite paperwork and hand over my voucher, then I was introduced to my instructor. The lesson began with her taking me into a quiet office and going through some of the basics with me. She first established what experience I had of flying (well, I had been on holiday abroad a few times...), so she knew at what level to pitch the lesson at. As a complete novice, I was taken through the basic controls of an aircraft, using a model to illustrate the effects of the main control stick and pedals, so that I understood what we would be doing when we got in the air. She told me not to worry about the switches and dials in aircraft, and instead get a feel for moving it around by looking out of the window and referring to the horizon. When she was happy I had got to grips with this, she went to complete the necessary paperwork for taking the plane out, while Other Half and I watched planes taking off and landing on the runway outside. This was the first time I had been near small aircraft, and I began to feel slightly nervous when I saw just how small, well, flimsy they looked!
As Other Half had come with me, my instructor was happy to let him come down and have a look at the plane, a Cessna 152, while she prepared us to fly. I thought this was a nice touch, and helped make the whole experience friendly and enjoyable. Once he had retreated back to the car park, I clambered into the tiny cabin and was shown how to adjust my seat and strap myself in - as this was only a two-seater aircraft, it was one of those rare occasions when it is an advantage to be short, LOL. The cabin really was far smaller than I had imagined: imagine yourself inside a small car where you both have pedals and a steering wheel, and you will get some idea of what I mean. The engine was also really loud, so you need to wear a headset to both protect your ears and to be able to communicate clearly with the other person in the cockpit. The instructor did all the pre-flight checks, explaining to me what she was doing and why, and double-checking that everything was ready before we got onto the runway. A warning had come over the radio that a weather front was approaching the airport, but she decided from what we could see on the ground that it would be fine for a 30 minute flight. She gently pulled the throttle out and we began to race along the runway before pulling up into the air.
As we took off, my nerves at being airborne in something so small came back once more, especially the great sensation of movement you get in such a small aircraft, but that soon eased when I started enjoying the view - we could actually see the wall of cloud that formed the weather front moving slowly in, which is apparently very unusual, and certainly a dramatic sight that I won't forget in a hurry. It was still calm and clear enough for us to continue enjoying our flight, and we began to fly over Cheltenham and the surrounding countryside. Once we were settled onto a flight path, it was my turn to take the controls. First, while carefully noting our position against the horizon, I descended and then ascended again to get the hang of the first aspect of controlling the plane. Levelling out, I then was asked to turn to the right. This sounds easy, but when you turn in a plane, the plane banks and this feels really weird the first time you do it, a bit like being on a rollercoaster - so you soon learn to keep it slow and steady so you don't leave your stomach behind! We practiced making turns and then coming back to a straight line until the instructor told me to look outside...where we were flying over my block of flats, a very nice touch indeed. With rain now starting to fall, we finished the lesson and headed back to the airport. My instructor landed the plane, explained about taxiing, then gave me a chance to try it out. This is done via the pedals, which can move the plane left or right, and also brake it on one side or the other, and I was allowed to do it up to the final parking of the plane, where she took over again. We returned to the flying school and this ended my experience....with a big grin on my face.
Virgin Experience Days are both wonderful to give and receive. To be on the receiving ended of such a gift experience is nothing short of fantastic - it was the chance to try out something I had long wanted to do and might not otherwise ever have actually done. The thought of making an approach to a flying school about trial lessons and costs is a bit intimidating (and I wouldn't really know where to begin if I were to book a falconry session independently), but Virgin Experience Days make it easy to access these things, with quality experiences at a range of prices (a lot of which are under £100). Their range of activities and centres offering them is huge, and both our experiences were so positive that I can do nothing but highly recommend this company to anyone wanting to give someone the gift of memories or treat themselves to something they will never forget. The only downside I can think of is that I want to fly again and can't afford it!