Senior retail consultant at our travel agents in Felixstowe, Madeleine Mayes, visited the city that never sleeps. Here's how she did it her way...
Destination: New York
(Hotel names/Ship name): Hotel Wellington
Airline: Virgin Atlantic
Duration: 3 Nights
I travelled to Heathrow with Alison from Jetset, we used the Meet and Greet, I would highly recommend this service, as within 5 minutes of arriving at the airport the car was taken away and parked for us.
Once everyone had arrived we met Janine Walsh, a sales executive from Virgin Atlantic, she advised us that we had all been upgraded to upper class; what a fantastic start to our trip.
I enjoyed every moment of being upgraded, right from check in everybody was so friendly and helpful. When we had all checked our bags in we made our way through to the upper-class lounge. Once you walk through that door it is as if you are in a boutique hotel, we had our own security check which was very quick, Janine advised us that anyone living within 75 miles of the airport can have a limousine transfer included in the fare and that any extra mileage can be negotiated with the driver. Passengers wouldn’t even go through the main terminal building as the upper-class passengers have their own entrance.
The departure lounge was something else! We sat in an area called the Sky lounge, an elevated area with glass panels in the ceiling, sumptuous white leather chairs and ultra-modern soft furnishings. The waitresses approached us immediately to ask us if we would like drinks, snacks or afternoon tea. There was no shortage of choice; if we had preferred we could have gone to the Sushi Bar, the Deli or had a meal in the Brasserie, all complementary.
Other departure lounge features were Bumble and Bumble (of New York) hairdressers, with basic things like a trim or fringe cut being complementary, as well as a spa offering manicures and massages. There was a gigantic TV screen surrounded by comfortable sofas, there were IPads dotted around for people to use, a children’s room with play area and X boxes for older children. There was even a bespoke shoe making service for men. A machine takes a 3d scan of the feet, the shoes are then made to measure and the sole is inscribed with the date of the flight and the Virgin logo.
When we boarded the staff stewards and stewardesses couldn’t have been friendlier, we were shown to our seats and asked if we would like champagne for takeoff.
The in-flight entertainment was excellent with a choice of over 40 of the latest films and the seats were so spacious with each one converting to a 6’ 6’’ flat bed for added comfort. We had duvets, pillows and they even supplied a sleep suit which you get to keep. Once the seat is upright, if you are travelling with a partner or friend they can sit in the seat opposite so that you can dine together. The menu offered good choices. It was a three-course meal and I found it so comforting to have nice linen, cutlery and, of course, a choice of fine wines. There was also a bar on board and so after dinner, I joined a few of the others for a drink. It was strange sitting at the bar; I almost forgot I was on a plane.
On arrival at Newark, we made our way through security. The checks were very thorough but not too time consuming. We took a taxi from Newark to the Hotel Wellington; the fare was about $70 so it would be worth pre-booking transfers as they are cheaper. The Wellington is a fairly basic hotel, but it was very clean and in an excellent location, next door to Carnegie Hall and a short walk from Broadway and Times Square.
After a few hours’ sleep, we all met in the lobby and made our way to the Holiday Inn (a short walk from The Wellington). Here, we had a hosted breakfast which reminded me just how generous the American portions were. The menu was varied and the food was very nice. We were then taken on a tour of the hotel by the manager who was very friendly, the extra star made quite a difference; the rooms were large and nicely decorated.
Later, we had lunch in The Waldorf Astoria, home of the famous Waldorf salad. I just had to have this eponymous dish for my starter and, as expected, it was delicious; much like the rest of the meal. Afterwards, we were taken on a tour of this Grand Hotel which occupies a whole block and can be accessed from four different entrances, one of them being the entrance to the Waldorf Towers where some people live. The suites were beautifully decorated but the highlight for me was looking around the Presidential Suite. Every US President has stayed there since 1931 and there was a rocking chair in the lounge area that had been donated by JFK.
After a quick change, we made our way to Central Park to meet our ‘Bike and Roll’ guide. We were all issued with brand new bikes and a bottle of water before we commenced our 10k ride around this magnificent park. The guide pointed out lots of landmarks along the way such as the John Lennon Memorial and Strawberry Fields International Peace Garden, from which you could look across to the Dakota Apartments where John Lennon was tragically shot. We also saw The Bethesda Fountain and The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. The bike ride was a real highlight for me and I will definitely be recommending it to my clients as a good way to travel around the inside loop of New York City.
In the evening we had a leisurely meal at TGI Fridays, hosted by Alison from Jetset. It was a lovely relaxing evening during which we all got on so well as a group and we just about managed a nightcap back at the hotel before turning in after such an eventful day.
The next morning was free on the itinerary so a few of us decided to go on the grey line hop on and hop off bus tour. We went as far as ground zero, where there is now a beautiful memorial dedicated to everyone who lost their lives in 1993 and 2001 respectively. We then went shopping for a bit before taking the subway back in time for lunch at The Helmsley Park Lane.
This was my favourite hotel, the rooms were quite large and very tastefully decorated and we had a delicious lunch whilst overlooking Central Park. We got to look at a suite on the 34th floor of this forty-six storey building; it had terrific panoramic views of the whole of Central Park and the iconic New York skyline.
After lunch, there was time for a little more shopping and so we made our way to Macey’s. If we had more time it would have been dangerous as I love shopping, but we needed to get back to the hotel and get ready for dinner on the World Yacht Cruise. This is a definite recommendation for anyone going to New York to celebrate a special occasion. It was daylight when we departed but as it got darker and all the city lights went on, it was breathtaking to see the Brooklyn Bridge and the familiar skyline lit up in all its glory. I had only ever seen this view on a postcard or print before but it was stunning to see in real life.
We also sailed around the Statue of Liberty and I couldn’t believe how close we were. During the evening we were served a delicious three-course meal and were entertained by very talented musicians. It’s important to point out that there was a dress code in place which stipulated suit jackets for gentlemen and evening or business attire for women.
Reluctantly, I finished the rest of my packing and met up with the group to make our way to the airport. We all waited with baited breath to see if we had been upgraded and it was good news; there was enough availability in upper class for all of us to be upgraded, a perfect end to a perfect trip.
I would just like to thank Kerrie and Louise for allowing me the time off to go on this fabulous trip and a big thank you to Alison from Jetset for being a great host and to Adrian from Jetset for arranging such a fabulous itinerary for us. I would also like to thank Janine Walsh from Virgin for arranging the upgrades to upper class and allowing me to experience something so special.
New York is my favourite city now and I will now have a lot more confidence in selling this wonderful destination.
Must see? The 9/11 Memorial
Must do? ‘Bike and Roll’ tour of Central Park, Would Yacht Cruise dinner
Must try? A Waldorf salad at the Waldorf
New York is an iconic destination for a city break and a great way to get a taste of America's east coast. Visit one of our shops, such as our latest travel store inside Cambridge airport, today to plan your bite of the Big Apple.