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Lisbon, Layovers and London
After a rocky evening (that I loved) aboard Silversea’s elegant Silver Spirit as she made her way up the Atlantic Coast from Portimao, Portugal, we finally arrived at our final disembarkation port of Lisbon.
Our arrival was slightly delayed due to the heavy seas last night, which by good fortune allowed me to capture the beauty of our sail-in during the early dawn hours. The Silver Spirit sparkled in the glow of the pre-dawn light in Lisbon, a city that reminded me quite a bit of my trip to Budapest in December.
As we disembarked the Silver Spirit, guests were bidding each other tearful goodbyes as they parted with newfound friends on both the passenger and crew sides of the spectrum. Silver Spirit’s extremely capable Hotel Director, Paolo Percivale, was stationed by the gangway, warmly wishing everyone a pleasant journey onward. It was my third Silversea disembarkation, and easily the toughest one yet.
But if disembarking the Silver Spirit made me feel a little teary-eyed, the adventure to come would make me bawl like a little child.
I’ve often written that one of the hardest aspects of leaving any cruise – particularly one operated by Silversea – is the supreme shock of having to adjust to the “real world”; a world where your wishes aren’t anticipated, or even merely accommodated. Today, I was thrust back into the uncaring arms of reality in a way that makes me long for my friends aboard the Silver Spirit like never before.
A wildcat air traffic controller’s strike this morning plunged Lisbon’s International Airport in to chaos. Compounding those problems, our inbound British Airways flight from London Heathrow was delayed by mechanical issues, meaning we were bound for the British Airways ticketing desk, pointed there by a kind Silversea rep who knew what the score was.
To their credit, British Airways was great, rebooking us immediately on a TAP Portugal flight to Heathrow, where we could still make our connecting flight to Vancouver. But upon check-in with TAP, we were informed our outbound flight would now be delayed by almost two hours, making our connection at Heathrow impossible.
So, it was back to the BA Ticketing Counter, which by now had a lineup snaking around the airport filled with passengers (many of whom we knew from the ship) trying to make alternate arrangements. After 90 minutes, we reached the head of the queue, where British Airway staff re-booked us again on BA 501 from Lisbon to Heathrow. Instead of leaving at 11:00 as scheduled, our new departure time was 2:50PM. BA also went out of their way to place us on an Air Canada flight to Vancouver early tomorrow morning, which was very welcomed.
BA staff gave us meal vouchers and informed us that hotel vouchers for the night would be provided in Heathrow. It wasn’t Silversea, but it was efficient and friendly.
That stopped once we landed at Heathrow.
While the flight crew on our British Airways flight were amazing, the ground staff at Heathrow seemed lost, confused and generally uncaring. In order to get our vouchers, we had to make a 20-minute detour through Flight Connections, re-clear security, and stand in a queue at the BA ticketing desk – again. I’ve been on a few delayed flights before, and this was the first time we didn’t have someone meet us at the gate with vouchers and onward information.
It got worse going through customs, which had the longest lineup I’ve ever seen. No one knew where we should go, or if we should pick up bags first, or get the vouchers first. In the end, the ten of us who were on the Silver Spirit stuck together and managed to make it work, but it took all of us to get through it.
More decidedly un-Silversea-like experiences abounded. Our hotel shuttle bus, once it came, dropped us off at the wrong Premier Inn. We then had to take a taxi back the way we came to the proper Premier Inn, also located on Bath Road. £16.
At the hotel (which is lovely for a comp`d airline hotel), our food vouchers didn`t include drinks. £20. And the shuttle is useless, necessitating a taxi back to Heathrow in the AM. £16 again.
It`s as if the travel gods were determined to show me the inverse of Silversea.
But we`re here in London, enjoying ourselves. I`m a tad disappointed we don`t have time to go into London proper, but, as I always like to say, the adventure continues.
Next time, I just wish it could be like Silversea all the way!
Our Live Voyage Report from aboard Silversea’s elegant Silver Spirit has sadly come to a close as we fly from London Heathrow to our homebase in Vancouver, British Columbia. But we will return on Monday with a complete photo-recap of this amazing journey, right here on From the Deck Chair.
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