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cvabishop

The Decline of the Travel Experience

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Some posts on here and continuing reports in the press have prompted me to reflect on the decline of the travelling experience over the last few years which seems to be a general trend over all types.

To wit:

Ferries.

Brittany Ferries.

Unreliable sailing schedules and disruption caused by unrest in France. Will your sailings run to time and will you be diverted to and from unexpected ports with all the inconvenience that entails?

Decline in on board standards with inadequately cleaned cabins, soiled mattresses and variable catering standards.

Wightlink

Timetable cutbacks resulting in hourly rather than half hourly services to suit the company’s convenience and dependent on two ship operations leading to excessive vulnerability in case of breakdowns. All of which degrade customer service perceptions.

Red Funnel

Propensity to collide with various floating objects and even run aground for no apparent good reason which should not happen if professional standards are being observed.

Trains

Excessively unreliable services due to mismanaged engineering works and union inspired industrial action that is inevitably doomed in the long run as anyone with any sense can see.

Over complex ticketing arrangements designed to fleece customers to the greatest possible extent without them being aware of it until afterwards.

New rolling stock with cramped and uncomfortable seating (assuming you can actually get a seat) with timetables that appear to be works of fiction.

Air Travel

A race to the bottom to provide air passengers with the most uncomfortable travel experience possible consistent with screwing maximum additional revenue out of their airborne captives for ‘optional extras’ which are nothing of the sort.

Air fares that offer amazing bargains on your outbound flight only to totally shaft you on the return leg.

Conclusion.

Travel used to be quite fun once – where did it all go wrong?

I’m sure our members can add to the list.

 

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Road travel ,

average speed cameras everywhere (in Scotland anyway ) and the introduction of smart motorways which just seem extremely dangerous way to cut costs .

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The only thing spoiling travel for me is old age - I can't go again to some of the places I loved.

 

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Edited by wortley

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Indeed, most certainly, standards have declined and not just in the travel industry. But focusing on that , the blame lies entirely with both the suppliers and the consumers. The latter, whether by land, sea or air, demand cheaper and cheaper fares. That in turn feeds through to the supply chain. The trains are an anomaly, the cheaper price demands are ignored, by incompetent management, in favour of non productive shareholder benefits. 

  By air though, Ryanair led the way of nailing costs to the floor. The ground handling companies agree to the airline`s payment terms (very low) which means the service they provide to you the passenger is limited. Jet2 have bucked the trend and now handle passengers with their own, trained and more expensive staff. That`s why they are still booming when others are`nt..The longer haul airlines, to a degree, whilst better, still lack the finesse of old. Equally the airport experience,everywhere is dismal. Airlines won`t pay increased landing fees. Security queues are long and overly officious by poorly paid and undertrained staff. It is to be endured and thats it.

  By sea??..Dover also comes into the category of the Dark Arts of the M25 and best avoided..The experience is similar to that of a cattle barge or you can go on the `Underground`..Freight are the Gods on that one, passengers and their holiday jobbies are merely jam on the bread and butter. That also falls into my `endured` category..

   Brittany??..yes a lot wrong but we are back to contractors and price again. BF used to have their own shore staff years ago and went to contractors to save money. Again pressure from customers. Passengers, not freight, are the Gods on BF..leaving aside the issue of cleaning, you have to admit that check in through the ports (Pompey in my case) is a nice relaxed experience. We pay the extra and go via St Malo. You can have dinner, drinks, entertainment(?) and after a reasonable sleep a good brekkie before your journey. What price do you put on that?..Sure not every route is that good but the ships are staffed by well trained Officers and crew who do their jobs safely and competently (and far better trained than Air France pilots!)..There is a certain Gallic chic that rubs off from the crew. Other routes are staffed by the League of nations because they are cheap and it shows.

  Hope I haven`t bored you all...you get what you pay for..but I think there are chinks of daylight, its just that in today`s world you have to seek them out more than you did.

Edited by Paully
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Air travel has always been something to be avoided for me. As for rail where I live Southern perform rather better than the old Central Division and certainly far better than the appalling Network Southeast brand. Out of the immediate area by and large things are OK and compared to the days of BR certainly cleaner. Yes the industrial action was a pain - but the guards were doing so little work that sooner or later someone was going to get amongst things. When the pax can tell on sight who they will not see doing a ticket check, and we could, things have go to a pretty pass.  As for ferries frankly we use them little these days since the fares are made up as they go along and the on-board accommodation charges are so preposterous. A pity but there is only so much money I am prepared to pay to go to France and Eurostar/SNCF give me rather better value. 

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Hope I haven`t bored you all...you get what you pay for..but I think there are chinks of daylight, its just that in today`s world you have to seek them out more than you did.

Yes, that is true but there are fewer options than there used to be.

With short haul air travel, just about all the companies are piled up at the bottom now instead of offering a spread of services. You used to have a choice of 'bargain(!)' prices with Ryanair or Easyjet or pay a bit more and travel BA for a more civilised experience but that is no longer usually the case.

Mrs B and I have three sets of flights booked this year, one to Italy and two to Greece, Crete and Mainland. They are all with BA simply because, having reached a certain age, getting up at 1am for a flight at 4am no longer appeals and BA seem to have all the best flight slot combinations. I much prefer Aegean Air who are like BA used to be but a 7pm arrival in Athens (assuming no delays) is not good if you then have a 2.5 hour drive to half way down the Gulf of Corinth via the mountains and Delphi. We don't mind paying extra for the flights, especially when the hotel is only costing around £55 per night B&B with a balcony sea view room and local car hire is reasonable. The overall cost of the week is very acceptable but you still have to sit for 3.5 hours (4 hours to Crete) on a really cramped and uncomfortable Airbus A320 which makes getting there and back something to be endured rather than enjoyed.

Dover Ferries, can be OK if you can choose your time and only have part of the M25 to negotiate (we join at Reigate). Not really bothered about the ships as they are just floating motorway service stations really. By the time you've had a coffee and a snack, scouted out the shop and managed to find a scrap of open deck for a bit of fresh air, it's almost time to get off again.

The BF underlying experience is still good but fraying around the edges. I'd take them over an airline anytime but not much prospect of them going to Greece or Italy etc.

We hardly ever travel by train these days except up to London very occasionally where there are far too many people....😁

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I must admit I still enjoy the Brittany Ferries experience on the whole even if with the few niggles we have, having the decent rest after a long drive is what makes us choose them and the discounted cabins with club voyage help , after trying the tunnel once I couldn’t do the M25 again , cost is of course a consideration but we like it in Lesconil and find the accommodation very reasonably priced €700 for 2 weeks at the end of August beginning of September that helps offset the cost of the ferry with the cost of staying in Scotland.

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Trains are interesting we’ve had loads of cancellations on the new Borders railway although ScotRail are full of promises once the train drivers are trained on the new rolling stock as for Scottish Ferries well that’s a big old mess.

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When have any of the BF fleet had a major refurbishment, Bretagne 10 years ago?

It seems to me that BF's philosophy was to replace rather than renovate or rejuvenate. Many carrier's spend million upgrading their existing tonnage. Take DFDS' Crown Seaways, arguably of the same vintage as Normandie, internally she younger than Pont Aven having been rebuilt in 2005. When has Normandie ever had her guts rebuilt? We probably have forum members younger than the bathrooms they use aboard her.

Maybe it's why the new livery has been received a bit like marmite, the issues raised regarding cleanliness and the shoddy state some of the cabins now appear to be in may give  rise to thoughts of silk purses and sows ears?

I still enjoy sailing on all of them, I prefer the older style of cabins found onboard BF ships compared to the colder and more modular IKEA themed accommodation we'll see in Honfleur, Galica and Salamanca. Thing is though the modern stuff is maintenance light, composite flooring and stiffer more repellent fabrics don't require the same attention and are far easier to keep clean.  

 

Personally I would have spent the Honfleur money on a Bretagne replacement and when the 2nd E-flexer arrived put the Cap' on the Le Havre route.

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It seems to me that BF's philosophy was to replace rather than renovate or rejuvenate.

I think you are right there. I always thought Bretagne's refurbishment was a bit half hearted and with the sad loss of the original elegant Salon du The.

It is perfectly possible to carry out fundamental updating to completely rejuvenate older ships if well built originally as some cruise lines have demonstrated. The alternative is of course replacement with new but a half way house approach doesn't give real longevity and can leave ships looking tired and outdated.

Normandie was state of the art when introduced and is still a quality ship but I think might have benefited from a thorough mid life rejevenation. Bretagne's update didn't go far enough. Her cabins are basically below par although still OK for a night if properly cleaned.

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Bretagnes club cabins are terrible in my opinion compared to Armoriques and Ponts , you’ve got a tv that you can only really watch from one bed and a window that’s hardly worth bothering about it’s that small plus they seem a lot more cramped than the other two ships I suppose that’s an age thing it’s worse as the overnight to StMalo is unless I’m mistaken the most expensive french crossing BF offer, we voted with our feet and I’m grudgingly only using Bretagne on a day crossing, we were talking about going over to bring in the new year in Brittany and the wife was adamant she would only go if she got to travel on Pont Aven as it’s a “classy ferry to travel on overnight “. I would hope they spend a good few €€€€ on reffiting her once the eflexers are in full flow to make her fit for the next decade.

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We’re the same Neil.  We’re a family of four and we like to travel using the relative comfort of Commodore cabins.  Bretagne does not have quality cabins for a family of four, which means that, for us, St Malo is a daytime-only route until a ship with adequate overnight accommodation gets deployed onto it.  By night, we would take Armorique from Plymouth to Roscoff (in one of her lovely Club Plus cabins and having eaten in Plymouth before departure) any day over Bretagne to St Malo.  By day we would take Bretagne from St Malo every time, and enjoy lunch in Les Abers as a fitting end to the holiday.

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However....the logical follow-through of that argument is that the travel experience is getting better, not worse.  My observation about Bretagne (from the point of view of overnight accommodation for a family of four) is nothing new, is has been with her since launch.  Only the more modern members of the fleet (from MSM onwards) adequately provide suitable cabin accommodation.  From that, the logical conclusion is that the travel experience is getting better, not worse! 😉

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I say that with a slight tongue in cheek.  I get the wider issues that this thread is about.  Bottom line is, you get what you pay for.  If you want to travel in comfort (whether by ship, train or plane) you have to be prepared to pay for it.  BA business class is a pleasant way to travel.  Ryan Air is not.  Virgin trains first class is great.  Etc.  Travel is now a mass-market commodity and if you want to do it on the cheap, you have to accept what you pay for.

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Gareh,

BA Business Class short haul uses exactly the same seats as Economy except that in a row of 3 the middle seat is unused and has a tray clipped over it. No additional legroom or seat width at all. A farce really.

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Colin, you missed out cruises. They’re on a race to the bottom in terms of standards whilst prices rocket, charging for room service, increasing gratuities (which is always a con anyway, especially Carnival who have just increased theirs from 15% to 18% of which only half the increase goes to the crew and the company pockets the rest - although P&O are getting rid of theirs since they have Iona to fill and New to Cruise Brits just don’t understand why they need to pay again for the service they were shown they were getting when buying the ticket). No longer 24 hour buffets and rarely any midnight buffet events. Toiletries replaced with cheap gunk in dispensers like a budget hotel. Balconies get narrower and narrower on new ships. Chocolates on the pillow went years ago, no time for towel animals even as a one off for formal night. Partly because most formal nights have been dropped.

I’m lucky to be able to take a couple of cruises per year, I know others are not so, but the prices are increasing and the service is decreasing so it’s no longer the same good value it once was.

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2 hours ago, Gareth said:

 Only the more modern members of the fleet (from MSM onwards) adequately provide suitable cabin accommodation.  From that, the logical conclusion is that the travel experience is getting better, not worse! 😉

Yes I'd agree with that. If you take a look at the post 2000 fleet the capacity hasn't really increased although public spaces and cabins have grown, stair cases are mostly wider and shallower too. It's the reason the ships are longer and have a greater GRT meanwhile dead weight's remain comparable.

It's been said by many on here, compare the MSM to Normandie. The next build phase now offers more internal space again, the GRT of Honfleur compared to Pont Aven is a perfect example.

It seems now that the customer is paying a premium for internal space rather than a greater level of luxury. My only gripe is that now external promenades are being sacrificed... If your in one of P&O's suites (they're ok for a night... pokey little windows and useless if you have kids) you have to walk the full length of the ship to get outside above the stern, Honfleur and the two Senorita's will be similar.

It's interesting as apart from age and obvious wear and tear the commodore cabins across the fleet in the ships of all ages are modelled in a very similar manner. The same can be said for the deck 10 premium cabins on BDS. The concept has aged well, shame about the upkeep.

 

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13 hours ago, jonno said:

When have any of the BF fleet had a major refurbishment, Bretagne 10 years ago?

Barfleur had that premium lounge sort of thing fitted, didn’t she, and NEX had a similar private area fenced off from the hoi polloi.

Not used the one on Barf yet, have to admit.  It has replaced one of my favourite spots by the window...😕

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11 hours ago, cvabishop said:

Gareh,

BA Business Class short haul uses exactly the same seats as Economy except that in a row of 3 the middle seat is unused and has a tray clipped over it. No additional legroom or seat width at all. A farce really.

The use of the lounge is an added bonus (well, at Heathrow anyway - many of the overseas ones are rubbish), and the recent changes to the onboard catering mean it's actually very nice. That said, it's not worth a significant premium just for those and an empty middle seat (I only know the above due to free upgrade vouchers with my credit card and wouldn't pay the farcical premium they sometimes command).

Malev (Hungarian Airlines) before they went bust used to have proper business seats fitted in the first few rows with the added bonus that often the divider between business and economy wasn't placed far back meant that in reality, you could have a massive armchair seat on a cheap ticket. Thems were the days.

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15 hours ago, jonno said:

When have any of the BF fleet had a major refurbishment, Bretagne 10 years ago?

It seems to me that BF's philosophy was to replace rather than renovate or rejuvenate. Many carrier's spend million upgrading their existing tonnage. Take DFDS' Crown Seaways, arguably of the same vintage as Normandie, internally she younger than Pont Aven having been rebuilt in 2005. When has Normandie ever had her guts rebuilt? We probably have forum members younger than the bathrooms they use aboard her.

Maybe it's why the new livery has been received a bit like marmite, the issues raised regarding cleanliness and the shoddy state some of the cabins now appear to be in may give  rise to thoughts of silk purses and sows ears?

I still enjoy sailing on all of them, I prefer the older style of cabins found onboard BF ships compared to the colder and more modular IKEA themed accommodation we'll see in Honfleur, Galica and Salamanca. Thing is though the modern stuff is maintenance light, composite flooring and stiffer more repellent fabrics don't require the same attention and are far easier to keep clean.  

Personally I would have spent the Honfleur money on a Bretagne replacement and when the 2nd E-flexer arrived put the Cap' on the Le Havre route.

5

It's been a while - but I recall the Duc De Normandie had a substantial refurb when the Normandie came in. The Bretagne's only extended to the cafe/lounge area which made it more open plan. Barfleur had her self-service re-done a few years ago too. Overall though, I'm not aware of anything being done in its entirety - perhaps with the exception of when the VDL joined the fleet and was thorough 'BF-ised' in the public areas. These days I'd settle for a concerted effort to deep clean. 

The way I see it, once the E-Flexers arrive we're likely to see Bretagne leave the fleet and PA become the St Malo vessel. 

Interestingly, in the world of cruising, Celebrity are taking their older ships and refurbishing them to the standard of the newer members of the fleet which involves 'taking the cabins down to the metal'. But this kind of activity is surely very expensive.

 

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Much of the BF related things are either to do with age of the vessels, weather or industrial action.

The fleet is slowly being replaced or at least heavily invested in, and the other two factors are out of their control, so it is a little harsh to blame BF. I don;t think that standards have actually dropped - don't forget the fleet has thousands and thousands of beds being made every single day - sometimes more than once per day, and the attitude/ethic of the vast majority of staff onboard is good.... there will always be the few exceptions but I don't think it's fair to generalise with "soiled matresses"! 

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A valid point on the beds being made, but how often are things like the extractor vents cleaned? How often are the mattresses lifted and the beds cleaned underneath? Those seem to be what people are starting to notice. It doesn't need doing every crossing/turnaround, but it seems to not be happening at all. There are, as you say, always exceptions - but it does seem that the little things which are being forgotten are starting to add up... particularly when you're chucked out of the cabin 30 minutes before arrival for 'cleaning'!

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34 minutes ago, hf_uk said:

Much of the BF related things are either to do with age of the vessels, weather or industrial action. 

Those are certainly factors, hf, but I don’t think they are the only ones.  There does seem to be widespread, and increasing, dissatisfaction with the effectiveness of the outsourced BF cleaning teams.  Seems to me that the outsourcing of this service is something that BF needs to review in its business model.  Spending vast sums of money on a cosmetic re-branding exercise does not go down well with the consumer when, at the same time, it is seen that the money would be better spent on a more satisfactory approach to keeping the ships clean.

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I think cleaning standards have dropped and by a fair bit , it used to be a rare exception that you got a cabin that wasn’t immaculate now you have badly hoovered or not hoovered at all rooms and various stuff left by the previous occupants left behind more often than should be the case I pay a 3 figure sum to ensure that I have a clean cabin with a well made bed and I expect that they know well in advance how many staff that they will need to provide and should factor what portion of my money goes towards that and yes the staff onboard are usually good.

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