I have some quite unusual eye disorders so I have always trusted my optical care to a local optician. However, they closed and I ended up visiting a national high-street optician. The test was fine and the prescription was issued as normal. But then I was taken to see the 'range' of frames they had to offer. My situation allows me to have free lenses and NHS frames but, as the only frame on offer was not to my liking, I opted for replacement lenses in my old frames. The assistant then tried to sell me a UV coating, an anti-scratch coating, a non-reflective coating and a 'loyalty card' for a discount on the £100+ bill. Seeing right through that obvious rip-off, I went for the standard lenses only, but had to leave my glasses with them for the lenses to be fitted up..
When I got home I thought I should look for a second pair of glasses as a back-up pair. I was lucky to find Select-Specs on the internet. They had frames that appeared to be very similar to my own, at a very reasonable price of £10. The process of putting my prescription into their site was very easy. Everything I needed to enter was on my copy of the prescription from the optician. 2 minutes later I was even more happy to find that the lenses were included in the price, as were all 3 of the coatings that the high-street optician tried to make me pay for! The only extra was the postage, and that was reasonable too.
So, in about the same time as it took the shop to call and say my old glasses were ready for collection, my new ones arrived from Select-Specs. They were so similar that my family didn't even notice that I was wearing the glasses from Select-Specs, yet they had cost a total of £16 compared to over £100 in the local shop.
My son is just about to order his first pair from Select-Specs now, as he is amazed at the service and choice available. He's 20 and far more worried about how his glasses look than me too. His recommendation probably bears more weight than mine in the style stakes.
We had heard about Holidays Please in the past. My mum (who was wheelchair-bound) and my dad had used the agent to book a trip to Singapore and Australia some years ago and a good friend used them many times for cruises all around the world.
Our 25th wedding anniversary is coming up and we wanted to mark it by doing a cruise, something that we had never done before. The down side to this might be that we would have no real idea of what we should expect from doing something new. I have recently become very restricted in my mobility so this added some important things to the list of considerations.
I called our local Holidays Please agent (Philip Grout-Smith) who remembered me from his time working in a high street travel agency. He was only too pleased to visit us at home to discuss our requirements. We hoped to do a 7 day stay at Walt Disney world with a 7 day Disney cruise after that. Another well known travel firm, starting with a "V") were offering a "Disney Stay & Cruise" package but they have stopped using Disney Cruise Line boats (making it a Disney stay, with a cruise supplied by a cheaper cruise company), which seemed a bit of a let down to us. Philip looked into this and worked out a tailor-made package working with different operators, but put together under the Holidays Please ABTA guarantee, that included:
V*rg*n return flights,
Transfers to the resort
7 nights in Disney's Old Key West Resort,
7 days on Disney's Fantasy in the Western Caribbean.
To this he arranged for local taxi transfers to and from the resort and ship and then to the airport on our return to port. He also made sure that ALL the transport would be disabled friendly and that disabled access rooms were booked at each point, even calling the Disney Company in the US to confirm every aspect..
I was particularly impressed with his knowledge of each of the areas the ship is due to dock in. He could confirm that the local areas were easy to get around in a wheelchair and advised us on which activities and excursions would be suitable or not. His whole attitude was completely professional throughout the process. The icing on the cake was the fact that the whole package came to a price that was considerably less than the flight operator quoted, yet it is made-to-measure rather than what they want to sell you. We are very impressed with the whole experience and can't wait to go on what we expect to be a worry-free trip of a lifetime.
We have travelled to Florida and Walt Disney World many times in the last 20+ years, so we consider ourselves "amateur experts" when it comes to knowing what to do, where to go and how to do it all. But for this last trip, things needed to be a bit special, as it was for our 25th wedding anniversary. We wanted to do a week in Disney followed by a cruise on the Disney Fantasy. The biggest concern was how we would manage, given that this would also be our first trip since I had my leg amputated. We knew that the WDW parks wouldn't be a problem, but we needed the help of a professional expert for the cruise side of things, having never done that before.
Philip Grout-Smith had arranged an Australia and Singapore trip for my parents some years ago when my mum was using a wheelchair. She was highly impressed by Philip's knowledge and ability to arrange suitable assistance then, so he was the obvious choice for us. The fact that he would come to our home to arrange the whole trip was also a big bonus, meaning that I didn't have to go into town, either fighting through crowds or getting wet in the rain.
Well, he didn't disappoint. In fact, he went in to every detail of the trip and made sure that every person who was likely to be dealing with us was fully aware of our situation.
Starting at the Virgin check-in, the assistant was aware that I would need my wheelchair up until stepping onto the plane which, in turn, meant she was able to give us a voucher for faster security checks - a real bonus when using a prosthetic leg and wheelchair. Seats with suitable leg room had also been pre-arranged for us by Philip.
At Orlando, the Virgin staff were aware that I may need a transfer coach with wheelchair access and so that meant no delays there. On arrival at the Disney resort we had a room that was bigger than I have ever used. It was fully accessible and on the ground floor, just as we had asked for.
The day of the transfer to Port Canaveral, everything was just as well planned too. The right coach, all check-in staff were aware of the situation and we were very confident that we would be able to enjoy our first ever cruise. We knew the location of our stateroom some months before our trip so we headed off to the stern of the ship. However, as we passed the cabins on our way to ours, I had noticed the fact that the doors were very narrow, none of them would allow a wheelchair through...then we reached ours! A quick swipe of the room key-card and the extra-wide door automatically swung open to reveal extensive luxury and space. Philip had done it again! The room was huge, the roll-in shower/WC was huge...and the verandah was just amazing, at some some 6ft deep and 30ft wide - plenty of room to enjoy without rolling on people's feet.
Before leaving home, we had looked at the Port Adventures (excursions in non-Disney language) and noted that many could not accept guests in wheelchairs. Having never been to any of the ports ourselves, Philip's local knowledge had already helped us decide how we could best enjoy what was on offer and, because of that, we were able to fully enjoy our days ashore, seeing and doing all that we wanted to at every port.
Doing a trip like this requires confidence and trust in your holiday plans. I'm confident that I can trust Philip Grout-Smith and HolidaysPlease to arrange my trips right down to the finest detail.
Then there are the nice little touches such as including the Aspire lounge at Gatwick on our departure day and a 'welcome home' gift on our return (and the great value of the holiday compared with high-street or internet prices). These things all add to the overall enjoyment and the perfection of the service that he provided. We can't wait to call him for our next trip...
Tobias Malmo found this review useful
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