Escorted Tour - Coach
Venice Christmas 2015 with Shearings & CroiseEurope
118 people found this review helpful
I work full time and decided to use my Christmas annual leave as a holiday. Chucking my son at his Grandmother, I legged it to Italy. When booking the holiday I checked for reviews as to Shearings Coach Holidays and to the MS Michelangelo. I decided to book the coach options to Venice rather than the alternative flight option offered, reasoning that the coach trip would add to the experience. I noted that this appears to be a new holiday offering by Shearings as there were no reviews about the holiday from past holidaymakers.
I found the booking online experience fine, I was contacted by telephone to confirm details of my passport in advance of the trip; the young lady I spoke to was very good indeed. Pick up from Victoria was OK, (I’m a London gal) although I’m aware that one person was nearly left behind as the telephone number was the same as another lady travelling on her own. The changeover went well. I had researched the Shearings Folkestone coach changover and could see for myself (having checked reviews online) that there certainly were not enough seats provided for those waiting to be called to coaches. Eventually I was called to my coach and settled in for the first leg of the journey. I note there were only 21 passengers on board, 22 if you include the wife of one of the drivers.
And here, unfortunately, we run into problems. We were introduced to the two drivers. Bear in mind my seat was at the front behind the driver so I was in a prime position to comment on the issues below:
Driver A wasn’t at all well – taking copious amounts of Benylin© – leaving the bottle on display on the dashboard. Driver B politely enquired if it were “non drowsy”, Driver A snapped at him. I wish I’d videotaped Driver A’s cough, it was really very bad and I have concerns he should not have been working whilst so ill.
Driver A took a hands free personal telephone call during the late evening while Driver B was resting at the back of the coach – talking at length about his cough.
Metz overnight stop. 22.00 arrival, no idea of whereabouts in City we were, no explanation as to what might be good to see for those who might want to venture out. Travelling alone I decided the best option was to go to bed early. I was told the next morning there was a nice display of Christmas lights in the City.
The MS Michelangelo – CroiseEurope
Superb! We arrived at 20.00 in thick fog, cabins allocated quickly and we sat down to dinner which had been held for us. It was clearly explained to all that the Port of Venice was closed to all boats due to the fog and that we would move into Venice as soon as it was allowed. We moved later the next day.
I truly cannot say enough good things about the MS Michelangelo. Food, staff, cabins. I was very impressed by everything. Having read reviews I understood whereabouts we expected to moor in Venice (at the Arsenale area). It was a short walk to San Marco square (10-15 minutes) and to the usual tourist attractions, the Arsenale Vaporetto stop is almost next to the Michelangelo.
This Christmas (2015) a small fair opened right next to the Michelangelo aimed at little children, rides and amusements. It closed quite early each evening and didn’t cause any problems that I’m aware of.
Trips to Padua and Murano and Burano were offered. I went on these and enjoyed the Burano immensely. Very much quieter that in the Summer, I was told. The shops were open, as were the cafe’s. More time should have been given at Padua to see the lovely Christmas Market, with less on the guided tour (there is just so much dates and history one can take in). The Doges Palace excursion, however, wasn’t offered to me, or any of the Shearings group. It was offered however to the other travellers on-board – maybe numbers had already been filled before our coach arrived?
Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve at San Marco’s – this was a big pull for me to book this trip. The main group made arrangements to leave the Michelangelo at 22.15 – I thought that a little late and left on my own at 22.00 and got a seat quite easily. The Church was absolutely full to the brim with people! Overwhelming impression of too many Japanese tourists taking photographs and, through the sermons, chatting. Some of the service was given in Italian, English, German and French. Finished around 01.00, I returned to the Michelangelo at 01.30 for mulled wine and traditional Panattone (fabulous)!
Being a French ship the food was universally excellent – although I wouldn’t eat the Fois Gras and there was veal on the menu which I would normally avoid. Wouldn’t recommend this trip for vegetarians, although I know that the staff went all out to attend to the one of our party who had a dairy intolerance.
Again, I was very impressed with everything about the MS Michelangelo. I intend to post favourably on Trip Advisor and elsewhere.
Saturday 26 December leaving Venice:
Back on the Shearings coach. We stopped – twice – for lunch, utterly chaotic. All passengers disembarked and walked into what can only be described as a garage, with very little food available and nowhere to sit. Driver B walked in behind us and said we would go on and find another stop. The next stop was almost exactly the same, with two bistro style tables and six seats, already occupied. Again, Driver B said it wasn’t suitable but pointed out there was a Pizzaria at the bottom of a long flight of exterior stone stairs. Being the youngest on the coach I asked another passenger to hold the rest of the people at the top of the stairs while I checked it out – it was shut. The drivers would have had all those people walk down stairs in icy conditions to a closed restaurant! My lunch was a bag of crisps.
Annecy overnight stop:
Arrived in time to unpack and meet for dinner, arranged for 7pm. Again, not told where to go for anything, not informed as to what part of town we were in. A basic map would have helped a great deal. I found out the next morning there was a nice Christmas market quite nearby – however, as a lone traveller I didn’t feel confident about going out and not getting lost.
Very, very bad organisation. We left Annecy early because, as the drivers informed us, there could be bad traffic around Paris. During the drive towards Paris Driver B said that, as they (the drivers) hadn’t had much to do with us during the trip, they would offer to drive the group into Paris and book a boat trip along the Seine, with the Christmas lights on display. It was stressed that it would need the majority of passengers to go along with this to meet the costs, given at 30€ each. Driver B came around the coach and took numbers; after our lunch stop we were told there weren’t enough numbers to make the trip. I overheard (my seat at the front of the coach)! the two drivers saying that 2 passengers had opted out. I would suggest that the majority, being 19 (20 if the drivers wife were included) would have tipped the balance. As I told Driver B it makes absolutely no sense to rush to a Hotel on the outskirts of Paris (we arrived at 16.30), the dinner arranged (at drivers instruction and convenience) for 19.00 and no reasonable way of getting in to Paris itself. Driver B told all passengers he would give everyone details of how to get into Paris, which I took note of. On enquiry at Reception at the Hotel, however, I was told that a cab into Paris would be between 45€ and 55€ – one way. On my enquiry as to public transport, I was told that it was a 20 minute cab drive TO THE STATION and trains into Paris ran once an hour!
It is absolutely and utterly ridiculous for Shearings to offer this as a “Paris overnight stop”! Further, with the drivers needing an obligatory 9 hours break, dinner arranged for 19.00 and breakfast arranged for 07.30 they could realistically have given us their time until 10pm and a late dinner arranged. It was unanimously agreed between passengers that the trip into Paris was mooted only to excuse the Drivers from later questions as to why we were sat around for six hours with nothing to do and nowhere to go! Very poor indeed. Another lady travelling on her own was reduced to tears – I’m not exaggerating, she was very upset indeed, having counted on seeing Paris as part of her trip. Poor, Shearings, very poor!
Monday 28 December, last day:
Early start at 7.30 and even with two coffee stops we were at Calais for 12 despite drivers expecting to travel on the 14.20 train. I heard Driver A say to get an earlier train as they (the drivers) could be finished earlier in Folkestone. Driver B said to Driver A that it didn’t give “us” (passengers) any time at the shop in Calais, requesting the passengers to be back on board for 12.30 – no response from Driver A.
Interchange at Folkestone:
OK on way out although I can now understand why there are so many complaints on the internet about the lack of seats, dreadful experience on the way back. I went to the coach early as one of my companions from my trip had concerns as to her destination – the coach was ready to go, he’d asked for a call out twice, but we were the last to leave the terminal, over 40 minutes late. One elderly lady had to use the toilet facilities at the changeover which resulted in another delay of 20 minutes. While the driver of the changeover vehicle went in search of her someone, not connected with Shearings or the group travelling with us, leaned in to ask me (at the front of the coach) to inform the driver his back tyre was very low. I got out, checked, and in my estimation as a driver of some 30+ years I would say the back tyre certainly needed air. Driver came back, I informed him, he dismissed it, saying the tyre was fine. We hit the most dreadful traffic coming in to London in rush hour. As such my anticipated 17.30 arrival at Victoria was actually 19.30! At least my suitcase made the journey with me, unlike one party (grandmother, son and granddaughter), who were missing a suitcase when the driver unloaded everything.
Driver A was rude on more than one occasion to the passenger in seat opposite me. Another lady travelling alone. When travelling alone, which I have on many occasions, I presume I can depend on the driver(s) to be approachable and informative. From this first day I decided that I would not put myself in a position whereby Driver A could speak to me in the same obnoxious manner, and as such I avoided him and directed any questions to Driver B. From my observations most other people did the same. It’s very disappointing that Driver A felt the need to be rude to a lady travelling alone. It was very clear he wasn’t feeling well, but regardless, you shouldn’t work if you can’t give 100% commitment to the role. Poor ambassador for Shearings.
Overall, I found the part of the holiday that had no involvement with Shearings, aboard the MS Michelangelo with CroiseEurope, to be exceptional. I would very happily give that a 5* rating. However, on all points the Shearings Coach trip was very poor indeed. A belligerent driver, stopping at overpriced motorway cafes (which actually were so much better than the two dreadful stops on the return journey on Saturday); 3 overnight hotel stays that added nothing at all to the experience. I’d struggle to give it one star, truthfully. My recommendation would be to book this trip with the fly option, definitely not the coach option, and to price it against www.vjv.com – Voyages Jules Verne Travel.
*This is my first review here, hope it’s easy to read and follow.
118 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.