Getting to Bridgetown
We avoided a very short night’s sleep and the unpredictable pleasures of the M25 and M23 during the morning rush hour by taking advantage of a “stay, park and fly” deal at the Gatwick Hilton which offered one night plus parking at the Airport for the time we would be away for less than the cost of purchasing parking only. Quite how anyone makes a profit with this type of deal, I do not know but we were more than willing to take advantage of it.
Check-in for our flight from Gatwick to Barbados was at a rather unsociable 8 a.m. in the morning
and therefore we were tired before we had even set off!
In the gate area, we were able to see that our fellow travellers looked much the same as us and hence our slight worry of being the odd ones out was unfounded.
The flight was progressively delayed and we did not take off until 1330. Swan Hellenic had chartered a plane ostensibly from a Spanish airline called Privilege Fly to take us and 200 others to Bridgetown but in reality it was an old B767 (only ¾ full) from another airline called euroAtlantic.
Once airborne, the Pilot announced that the flight would take about 10½ hours because of strong headwinds and
operational reasons. Virgin & BA did the same distance that day in 9 hours so why our flight took so much longer is a bit of a mystery.
Eventually, much to our relief, the moving map showed that we were approaching Bridgetown. Barbados is 4 hours behind GMT and so with the delayed departure and the long flight, we arrived at about 8 pm local time.
I cannot think of anything good to say about the outbound flight. There was no attempt to keep us informed about the flight and the growing departure delay, boarding was chaotic, the entertainment system was out of the ark and showed films which no one in our age group would be interested in, the food was mediocre at best and lunch was not served until two hours after departure, the coffee was the worst I have ever drunk, some of the toilets were out of action, the plane ran out of drinking water …….. and there was no comment of regret or expression of sympathy from anyone when we eventually arrived on the ship.
I will leave it there other than to say that we were very disappointed with Swan Hellenic’s handling of the flight at Gatwick and choice of airline.
Getting to and boarding the Minerva
Normally when you arrive at a foreign airport, you have to queue up to go through Immigration, Baggage Reclaim and Customs. Much to our surprise, for us it was off the plane and onto a bus and we were driven straight to the
harbour and the Minerva (moored adjacent to the empty quay in this photograph) which was the only cruise ship in port. Our luggage was collected for us by Swan Hellenic and eventually delivered straight to our cabin.
The actual process of becoming a Minerva passenger was relatively easy but very slow because we were on the last of 6 coaches.
However, waiting at the foot of the gangway as we boarded was the ship’s Captain who shook hands with everyone. Paperwork required us to handover our passport, yellow fever certificates and medical declaration
in return for a Passenger ID Card (plus a photograph being taken) and we were then escorted to our cabin (A49).
This was larger than we had imagined it to be and awaiting us on the bed was a variety of paperwork including the programme for today and tomorrow. Dinner had been delayed to accommodate our arrival and afterwards it was some quick partial unpacking and bed.
Our first impressions of the ship and its crew were extremely favourable. Our views on the process of getting here the exact opposite - a view shared by everyone we have spoken to who was on this flight. A letter of comment / complaint will get sent - will it get an adequate response?