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Travelling through the pandemic – A first-hand experience. Date of Travel 10th of October to 17th of October 2020
I am currently travelling back from Kalkan in Turkey and am reflecting on a week of sunshine and relaxation. We had only booked this trip a month ago due to 3 overseas trips being cancelled due to the pandemic.
- We chose Turkey for several reasons including:
- We had travelled to Kalkan before
- We booked a package with our local Travel Agent to travel with Simpson Travel
- Turkey was initially on the air corridor list and had low number of Covid 19 cases
- It was going to be warm enough to sit outside, enjoy the sunshine and relax
2 weeks before we were due to travel Turkey was removed from the Government air corridor list. Our Travel Agent were in touch within minutes of the FCDO advise changing to discuss options, highlight that we would need to reassess our travel insurance cover and the requirement to quarantine on our return if we decided to go ahead
With a new travel policy purchased and flights cancelled 48 hours prior to departure, we were rebooked with British Airways to fly to Dalaman, and were finally on our way.
Was I anxious? I wasn’t until the week we were due to travel. I questioned whether we were doing the right thing. Having boarded planes and travelled frequently for work and leisure I had never given this a second thought, but this time I knew it was going to be different
Arriving at a significantly quieter LHR T5 2 ½ hours prior to flying we were met with lots of signage and hand sanitizers. So, what had changed since I had last travelled?
- It was easy to find a car parking space at T5
- You couldn’t enter the terminal unless you were flying
- We couldn’t check in online due to extra checks
- Check in didn’t open until 2 hours before departure
- Mask wearing in the terminal was compulsory
- Not everyone practices social distancing especially in queues
- Limited food outlets and retail outlets were open
There were more people in the terminal than I expected to see but significantly less for a Saturday morning in October
Our experience with BA was also very different to when I last flew. In a good way!
- No one rushed to the boarding gate when the flight was called
- A personal protection pack was handed out on boarding the aircraft, this consisted of an antibacterial towelette and some hand sanitizer gel
- You had to wear your mask for the entire duration of the flight unless consuming food/drinks
- We were adequately spaced out on the flight
- No one queued in the aisles for the toilets as requested
- There was limited walking around the cabin
BA are currently not offering a pay service refreshment trolley, this has been replaced by a complimentary snack bag containing biscuits, crisps and bottle of water. Your own food could be consumed on board. Tea/Coffee, Water and juice was also served.
On landing you disembarked by row number and the usual chaos was a thing of the past – a pleasant experience!
And now onto the Turkish experience, starting with Dalaman Airport
- Locator forms dropped into a box
- Temperature spot checks in place
- Passport control speedy and efficient
And finally, onto the Simpson Travel and Kalkan experience
- Met by a driver from Bravo Tours, who was wearing a mask.
- The vehicle had signs to confirm it had been disinfected by ULV technique
- A well being pack was provided that contained: Mask, antibacterial wipes, and bottle of water
- On arrival at our hotel , The Kalkan Regency, our luggage was taken and sprayed with disinfectant
- Our temperature was taken on arrival and every 2 days
- We were briefed on the measures they had taken due to Covid, so we knew what to expect
- All staff were wearing masks
- Social distancing signs around the hotel
- Breakfast buffet was now served by the staff
- Hand sanitizers dotted all around the hotel
Essentially all precautions had been taken and enforced and this was replicated when we walked into Kalkan. Restaurants, shops, and bars all following the rules. Police were out patrolling, reminding people to wear masks when walking around and providing free ones. Failure to wear a mask could result in a hefty fine but they were very polite about the enforcement and people that weren’t aware were responsive.
Looking back this year I have done lots to work on my mental well being as we all adjusted to this new way of living. These included exercise, losing weight, watching lots of Netflix, eating a healthy diet with treats thrown in, keeping in touch with family and friends through 100’s of zoom calls and visiting when I could but I was desperate to travel overseas.
I feel very fortunate and privileged to be able to travel. It’s one of my many passions.
I am lucky enough to work for a Company who have always supported flexible working and have enforced it from a safety aspect too since the start of the pandemic. They fully supported me travelling knowing that I would have to quarantine on my return. Working remotely has never been an issue for them and without this flexibility we would not have even thought about travelling.
In closing I want to share some final thoughts:
We felt safe travelling from an end to end perspective
Having a change of scenery has done our mental well being no end of good
Booking a package through a reputable agent and travelling with a trustworthy company Simpson Travel ensured we were looked after from start to finish ( Malvern World Travel also know the owners of the Hotel as good friends, and we were pleasantly surprised to be offered an upgrade to Suite with Private pool)
We forgot about Coronavirus and relaxed, our only reminder was the hand sanitizers and mask wearing (this wasn’t a hardship)
So, would I do it again, yes in a heartbeat! I wait eagerly to see the more countries reopen so I can start planning and booking trips again. After all, if you can’t travel what is life about!
Dear Mr and Mrs Taylor
Many Thanks for your very informative reflections on your Travels to The Kalkan Regency in Turkey. As you know we are great friends with the Tomanbay family, and so pleased to hear you were so well looked after by Nuri,Masuda,Dolunay,Askinay and the rest of the team.
I,m sure your comments will also be a great help to others who are wondering what travelling through Covid might entail. It is comforting to know, that great measures are being taken by eveyone, to look after Guests from start to finish, and that even local Police Authorities are helpful and friendly, without being to Authoritative
COVID TRIP FROM BALI
This is to give a big thank you to Lee for getting my wife and Niece safely home from Indonesia. The itinerary and journey was complex with several flight changes and hoops to jump through. In fact there was an immigration problem (nothing to do with the booking) that Lee sorted out at 3am in the morning. What other travel agents will cheerfully get out of bed at that time !!!
I am delighted to recommend Malvern World Travel and give them a well deserved *****
Many Thanks for your kind words. One of the main reasons for booking through an Independent Travel Agent, is that where we can, our aim is to offer a 24 hour service. We were sorry to hear that your Wife and Niece had a problem with Immigration personnel, and Very pleased, even at a very early hour in the morning, we were able to make sure your Wife and Niece were allowed boarding without further problem.
Thank you for taking the time to put your kind message on our Website Review page.
DALYAN REGION OF TURKEY
With all the uncertainty of Covid, we left it to the last minute to book a week’s holiday for our large family group (2 parents, 3 grown up children and 2 younger children) - we gave Lee and Hilary the dates and our (relatively limited) budget and asked them to find something for us. They worked their magic and found us a holiday in Turkey based on their own personal recommendation. The hotel was exactly as promised and just right for our mixed group - we had a great time and would certainly have no hesitation in returning there again. The service from Lee and Hilary was very responsive with plenty of information provided on travel arrangements and helpful reminders particularly in relation to new Covid-19 requirements in relation to leaving and re-entering the country. I would have no hesitation in recommending their service and would certainly use them again.
Dear Sarah and Steve
Thank you so much for your kind review. In what can only be described as the most horrific year to be a Travel Agent, it was a pleasure to receive your Holiday request and to offer you the suggested Holiday to Turkey, especially as you hadn't travelled there before. We're very pleased to read that you had a great time, and that you wouldn't hesitate to return again.
We look forward to looking after your next holiday arrangements, and hope that a remedy for Covid makes it easier for everyone to travel around the World Freely again, with minimum concerns.
Hi Lee and Hilary
Thank you for all the efforts by yourself and team to put together our Sicilian holiday. We thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of our weeks in Palermo and Taomina and no hassles whatsoever.
All aspects were well organised (airport pickup, apartment greeting, Hotel etc) and trouble free and this made the holiday highly enjoyable as we explored Sicily.
Malvern World Travel seems to be able to produce these fabulous holidays at will. However we don't think that you have managed to prevent Mt. Etna spewing forth clouds of volcanic dust and debris yet (we were only delayed by an hour).
Three separate holidays booked over the years and three great holidays that we have had with Malvern World Travel.
Thank you once again.
Andy & Ann
Dear Andy and Ann
Many Thanks for your kind words and your feedback regarding your Two Centre trip to Sicily. We still have horror memories of the nightmare of No flights in Europe caused by volcanic ash ejected during the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland . So We are pleased to hear that Etna only caused you an Hours Delay
Just a quick note to thank you very much for putting together the itinerary for our tour of New Zealand and Australia and also for keeping us in touch, whilst away, about the Bush fire Situation around Sydney.
The lounge you provided at Heathrow got us off to a very good start. The holiday has gone very well with both islands of New Zealand being of great interest.
We drove the RV for about 4500 kilometres. We even managed two sailplane flights into wave conditions at 20000 feet at Omarama.
We were upgraded by the Hilton at Queenstown to a ground floor room featuring a garden, hot tub and view over the lake.
We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves with all stages going according to plan (bush fires not withstanding in Australia around Sydney).
I should also point out the all the hotels were well placed with respect picking-up / dropping off the motor-home in New Zealand and the rental car etc in Australia.
I hardly need say that the Ghan Train and Field of Light experience, with a walk around Ayers Rock the following morning was amazing!
We particularly liked the the Holiday Inn in Old Sydney which gave us walking access to everything we needed.
Temperature encountered ranged from about 4C at night in Queenstown to 37C+ at Ayers Rock. Louise swam in the sea at Abel Tasman National Park but said it was fairly cold (no wet-suit)
As requested by Hilary here are a few minor points which may be of benefit to your future customers going down under:-
1/ All passengers arriving at Auckland airport will have their baggage x-rayed again prior to leaving the departure hall even if they are not going to be doing 'outdoor activities'. If you have any boots / walking poles etc. the bags will be hand searched. We were both searched but encountered no problems as we had scrubbed all our outdoor equipment.
2. The instructions for finding the mini-bus to take us to the hotel in Auckland are out of date. The internal layout of the terminal has changed recently. A phone call to the hotel sorted things out in our case.
3/ We used a combination of commercial and Department of Conservation (DoC) camp sites for the motor-home (+ one night at a 'freedom' site). There appeared to be WiFi at all the commercial sites which was generally pretty good until the early evening when the sites filled up and the data speed slowed down considerably. Still OK for e-mail / Facebook but would probably not be up to watching a film. The DoC sites were often quite 'out of the way' in National Parks and generally did not have WiFi, and quite often no phone signal. The Freedom site happened to have a good phone signal as it was on the opposite side of the lake from the town of Cromwell (NZ South Island).
4/ Travelling in October / early November meant that for the most part we did not have to book campsites in advance. The only exception was Milford Sound where there is only one campsite. It is also to be noted that it costs about £5 / hour (yes 'hour') to park in the car park at the Milford Sound boat terminal. There is a free car park about half a kilometer away but it is quite small.
5/ When travelling on the GHAN you will not be allowed to have your 'hold' luggage with you in your compartment as there is insufficient room. We were not aware of this as it is not mentioned on the GHAN website (as far as we could tell) or the Tour Operators information. However the staff at the station we obviously used to this and whisked us off to a private room where we could re-pack some of our belongings into overnight bags.
6/ Flies were occasionally bothersome when walking in the Australian Outback if there was little wind. We undertook the 10Km walk around the base Ayers Rock and used a midge net briefly on one occasion.
Once again thank very much for all your hard work.
I hope this is of assistance.
Best regards, Mike and Louise.
Many Thanks Mike and Louise for the great feedback on your trip to New Zealand and Australia. We're glad that you enjoyed the Itinerary and Suggestions we put forward to you for your trip, it certainly looks like you covered some mileage on your trip, but still found time for the extra activities.
Thank you also for the 6 Tips at the end and I'm sure other clients will find this useful. We will also pass this feedback onto the Tour Operator.
Hi Lee and Hilary.
Sorry about delay but as promised here's some feedback on the Sapphire Princess cruise.
Arrangements for travel to docks and parking by CPS went well.We've used CPS before and can recommend them.
Everything on board Sapphire was excellent.The stateroom you suggested,food.entertainment and leisure facilities were first class.
Would you believe we saw the Northern Lights.What a thrill
Thanks for your usual efficiency in booking for us.We feel much more comfortable with you than going it alone.
We'll be in touch for our next adventure.
Alan and Lyn
Many Thanks for your lovely feedback Alan and Lyn.
We are so pleased that you got to see the Northern Lights, it must have been a real highlight for you. We're also Pleased that the Sapphire Princess met your expectations and provided a first class service.
Thanks for the courtesy call of yesterday. As I said, I did have it on my radar to write to you regarding how successful my stay in Seville was.........flights very punctual, hotel well located and easy to get from/return to /room spacious and quiet. The guided tour was good and saved me hours of queueing . I had a really positive experience so thanks for the excellent organisation!
Mrs Emily McDermott
Many Thanks for your Comments. It was lovely to talk to you yesterday, and thank you for your comments. We're glad you enjoyed the Hotel location and the Cathedral and alcazar of Seville Guided tour. Pre-booking a Skip the line tour with us obviously paid dividends.
22nd OCTOBER 2019
I do hope you are keeping well.
I just wanted to say thank you for organising our recent trip to Norway; we had the most wonderful holiday! The Hotels in Oslo, Kirkenes and Bergen were all well located and the City Explorer passes were an unexpected Bonus.
The suite we stayed in on the ship was exceptional, with panoramic windows providing fantastic views out to sea! The food and level of service provided was of a very high standard and we would highly recommend it!
Once again thank you for all your hard work in organising this, it is much appreciated!
With kind regards
David & Karen Adams
Dear David and Karen
Thank you for your lovely comments following your recent Holiday to Norway . It's always lovely to hear that things have gone as planned, and we are glad the Suite you had you rated as exceptional. We will be pleased to pass your comments on to the Tour Operator and Hurtigruten.
15 OCTOBER 2019
Dear Lee and Hilary
Just thought we would let you know that we have had a fabulous holiday with Titan on the Danube Waltz Itinerary on the MS Bellejour. Everything was very good, food was amazing, organisation was good too. We so enjoyed the whole experience and the Strauss concert in Vienna was amazing.
We would definitely go with them again. We missed out on seeing Melk as a lock was closed overnight, we also had to be bused to Bratislava and Passau due to being behind, and having to dock somewhere else but this didn’t affect our enjoyment of our holiday.
Thanks for organising this holiday for us we will definitely be river cruising again !
Hope you are both well ?
Deb and Dave XX
Dear Deb and Dave
Thanks Very much for your lovely comments and We're glad that your first River Cruise with Titan Holidays seemed to be amazing and that you enjoyed your Vienna Evening Concert. River Cruising is really becoming very popular, so it's lovely to hear that you will be river Cruising Again.
Hello Lee and Hilary
12th Sept 2019
The Norwegian Fjords cruise with Fred Olsen was excellent. Firstly, Boudicca was still painted on
her bow with the British Legion symbols and the poppy from her voyage with the Veterans to Normandy.
As always on Olsen ships, the crew were, without exception, very efficient, friendly and kind and always smiling. The waiters in the main restaurants now wear smart light grey suits which look very nice and
they always seemed to genuinely enjoy singing happy birthday or happy anniversary to the guests who were celebrating.
Boudicca was very nicely appointed and the automatic doors a great help. They have them to the toilets in the public areas too. The public areas had been very nicely decorated and some in particular I found appealing. The small Indian Ocean Restaurant displayed some wonderful artefacts in glass display cases on the walls which they changed during the voyage, and the furniture etc was most appropriate too, as was the Oriental Lounge. As always, the food was excellent.
The Captain was excellent too, with a great sense of humour. He was about the ship a lot, talking to
passengers and supporting the Show Company who gave their own small cabaret events in one of
the lounges. He is the only Captain too (we’ve now made nine voyages with Olsen) who stood at the
head of the gangway and said goodbye personally to every passenger as they disembarked.
We thought the itinerary excellent. Being a smaller ship and perhaps fortunate with dates, we were
the only cruise ship in the various ports of call. We were also able to negotiate long and narrow fjords
and the small places we moored for our day trips out, were small villages with only a few hundred
inhabitants. The trips were expensive but then everything in Norway is expensive. It cost me almost
£11 to buy three postcards and stamps for the UK. Prices were the same everywhere we went. The
excursions were very good and there was a big enough selection to suit all tastes and interests. A new innovation were the RIBs (rigid inflatable boats) and they were very popular for exciting and fast trips
in the fjords where we were moored and in one area even when we were sailing with them circling the
ship and moving on down (or up) the fjords.
Their inclusive drinks package which we had was wide enough and the house white and red were very
acceptable wines. All in all, a very happy eight days which more than met our expectations.
Lyndsay and Ian
Many Thanks Lyndsay and Ian for letting us know that you enjoyed another great experience on your Fred Olsen, Boudicca Cruise. Fred Olsen do have a great reputation for their loyal staff, some who have been with Fred Olsen for many years. The personal touch by the Captain is to be commended.
We do love the smaller ships ourselves, and we look forward to making your next arrangements with Fred Olsen Cruise Lines.