Posted by: mfoz1 | July 21, 2009

Day 1 Wednesday 8th July

Best laid plans… i.e. twilight check-in the night before didn’t happen for a couple of reasons, the main one being that Deb managed to fit all of the luggage in our car which meant that we would only need to take one to the airport. The other reason was that the thought of spending a couple of hours at least on the M25 in rush hour traffic filled me with more dread than the idea of queuing at the Virgin check-in desk tomorrow morning. So we did online check-in instead and hoped for the best. Just like the night before Christmas when I was a kid I found it difficult getting to sleep and when it did finally happen it wasn’t quality (deep) sleep. Consequently I woke up feeling awful which wasn’t the start I wanted. I wasn’t alone as Charlotte (21) who isn’t a morning person at the best of times had hardly slept either. Not the happiest bunch then as we loaded the car and headed off to Gatwick.

The traffic this morning isn’t bad at all and although we poodle from the M26 onto the M25 and all the way round to the Gatwick junction we are moving at least. We decided to park in the airport as Deb managed to find a deal online before we left that was even cheaper than using one of the off-site parking services. This was a breeze as we simply parked in Car Park B I think and then made our way into the terminal in the same way as if we had been visitors or were meeting someone at arrivals. It also meant that when we arrived back we wouldn’t have to queue for a bus with our luggage or wait for someone to deliver our car, we could just go to the car and go home. I have very little patience on the return journey as I am usually half asleep and not happy about being back so anything that can make that experience easier is a big help. The first thing I notice when arrive in the South Terminal is the queue of people. S*** this is exactly what I head feared and why I always like to check-in the night before. I am instantly regretting our decision to stay home yesterday but it turns out that the queue wasn’t for the check-in desks at all, it was for passport control or whatever it is they call it. I ask one of the people at the Virgin desks what the problem is and they tell me that someone set off a fire alarm in the departure lounge earlier and they had to evacuate it so the queue was for everyone trying to get back in. By this time the queue stretched right round the entire terminal and looked like it would take hours to clear. Thankfully there is no queue at the bag drop off for Virgin and we are processed quite quickly. The guy I spoke to earlier suggested we went upstairs to get a cup of coffee rather than joining the queue so we headed towards the escalator where there was a member of staff who seemed like she was turning people away. Luckily she was dealing with someone else so we were able to walk past and head up. I was hoping that the upstairs entry to the departure lounge was less busy than downstairs and sure enough there was only a small queue which we were happy to join. 20 minutes later and we were airside and ready to go. Charlotte, Nicholas and Lucy decided to have McDonalds for breakfast but Deb, Alex and myself had eaten cereal before we left and weren’t hungry. Deb and the girls went into the main duty free shop looking for Birthday presents for my in-laws while Nick and I went magazine hunting. Soon enough our flight was called and Gate 13 it was again. Cripes. The only upside was the walk would be relatively short. It was now time for my obligatory pre-flight ablution so I decided to use the facilities in the Departure lounge which turned out to be a good choice as they had been refurbished and were extremely clean. Gate 13 was pretty quiet and I thought the flight would be about half full judging by the empty seats waiting to board. Our section was completely full though so perhaps I misjudged it. We were flying on Barbarella which I am told we have flown on before but I can’t remember when. I think she has had a seat upgrade and she also has the entertainment system that includes games even though none of us would take advantage of it on this particular flight. We take off around twenty past eleven so only a few minutes late. Our journey time is 8 hours and 50 minutes which is a little longer than I had expected so there must be quite a strong head wind today. The flight is uneventful for the first 3 and a half hours and I check the air map as we are passing below Iceland. Then, just as we are below Greenland there is annoucement asking for a Doctor, Nurse or Paramedic to make themselves known to a member of the crew. A few minutes later and there is another annoucement that I can only remember being some kind of code that I think meant something like “S*** we have a problem” as every member of the crew rushes up both aisles towards the front of the plane. If we weren’t worried before I think it is safe to say we all are now. They all gather around the far galley area which is next to the plane’s entranc/exit door. A man who I believe to be a paramedic joins them and then there are what looks like first aid kits of some sort being gathered and taken up to him. After a while some of the cabin crew make their way back down the plane and I ask one of them if everything is ok. She tells me that an elderly gentleman has had a suspected heart attack and that they are working on him at the moment. I look at the map and see where we could possibly divert at this point and the closest location is Gronthab but God knows if that has an aiprort that could take a 747 or a hospital. A little later I ask another crew member if we are going to divert and she says that she doesn’t think so. I don’t know what Virgin’s policy is regarding people being taken ill onboard planes but I am guessing that if it is life threatening they would divert woouldn’t they? Everything goes quite and the Captain comes on the intercom and apologieses for the lack of service due to a medical emergency. He shouldn’t have to apologise but I wonder if he did because people further back are complaning. Who knows? I am just worried about the poor man and his family. Eventually a member of the crew tapes up the curtain around the galley area and it remains like that until we land. The next few hours seemed to take forever even though the plane had sped up and hour flight time was now just over 8 hours. There were a few storms as we came in to Orlando and it seemed very grey and miserable. The Captain asked everyone to remain in their seats when we reached the gate as there was a team of paramedics waiting to come on board. As we taxied towards the gate their was a fire track and two ambulances with their lights flashing waiting for us. I doubt we were waiting for more than five minutes before we were told that everyone could leave the plane with the exception of the people who are required to stay behind (the families and paramedic I presume). The rest of us are ushered off quietly and quickly. I pass the taped up galley and wonder if the man has passed away. Judging from the look of the cabin crew it isn’t good news. I check on the internet over the next couple of days but I can’t find anything so we just don’t know. I do hope he is ok. As is our tradition we ch0ose the wrong immigration queue and stand around for ages to be processed. The upside of this is that our bags are ready and waiting to be collected. For some reason we are also not required to give them back for transport over to the main terminal, we are simply instructed to take them with us. The queue for Dollar is horrendous. It’s not helped as we have come to the wrong place as Virgin Holidays have moved their Dollar desk from A to B or vice versa. Deb decided it would be qicker to queue here than make our way back across the terminal and she is probably right. We landed at 15:18 and eventually are in the car by 17:40 which is at least an hour longer than I expected. We are all in a bit of a daze at this point but at least the car stereo has an auxialliary out for the ipod (thanks to the person who told me it would have when I asked a few weeks ago by the way). The hotel is easy to find as it is right next to the Crossroads entrance to Disney. Check-in hotel is painless and we are in our suite in a few minutes. The rooms are clean and modern which is what we had hoped prior to booking (currently the highest rated hotel in Orlando by Trip Advisor). Deb and Charlotte or Alex head to Quiznoz to get us all soemthing to eat. I think the mahjority of us have the meatball sub which is tasty but not as nice as the traditional pizza that we usually have on our first night. I hit the pillow around 9pm and fall into a deep sleep.


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