Francesca Barone is one of our Brilliant Travel Homeworkers who specialises in cruise and luxury holidays. She was recently invited on board the Silver Muse, the newest ship in the SilverSea fleet. Here’s her blog on the ammenities found on board.
Recently I was one of the fortunate few to receive an invitation onto one of Muse’s ‘shakedown’ voyages. Mine commenced on the 5th April - just 3 days after she had left the Fincantieri shipyard in Genoa and we travelled just 539 nautical miles from Marseille via Tarragona to Barcelona.
Silver Muse is now the largest of their nine strong fleet. She accommodates just 596 guests and has 411 crew who comprise more than 40 nationalities amongst them. Her tonnage is 40,700 which means the space ratio is very generous.
Dining on Board
The first thing you need to note on Silver Muse is that they have done away with the main open seating dining room that can be found on all their other ships. Saying that, Silver Muse boasts a fantastic selection of dining options.
On Deck 4 there are a selection of four different dining options - La Dame (the Relais and Chateaux dining experience - US$60 pp cover charge); Kabuki (theatrical ‘performance’ of teppanyaki cuisine - US$60 pp cover charge); Atlantide (surf and turf style) and Indochine (Asian fusion).
Moving up to Deck 7 you have Silver Note (on Spirit this is called Stars Supper Club), offering Tapas style tasting menu in a great environment replicating iconic jazz clubs (‘food-ter-tainment’). Also on this deck you have La Terrazza that offers the more casual breakfast and lunch dining option with ample indoor and outdoor seating areas. In the evenings La Terrazza offers up what Silversea considers to be the finest Italian dining venue afloat in what has become their signature Italian restaurant.
For al-fresco dining options you have the Pool Grill menu available to you on Deck 9. In the evenings you can experience Hot Rocks dining. One deck up, on 10, you have the Spaccanapoli (previously named Regina Margherita) pizzeria. I can personally vouch for the fact this was a FAB menu and hors d’oeuvres that came with our drinks included some of THE most delicious cherry tomatoes I have ever had (my pizza was also amazing). The menu boasted use of a 26 year old aged parmigiano.
Another new characteristic to be found on Silver Muse, is the Arts Cafe, aft on Deck 8. A lovely colourful area with interesting pieces of artwork and some lovely seating (both inside and out). A place you can come and sit quietly to read, chat, meet friends. Have a coffee or a snack of some description (depending on the time of day). You can also have your chosen drink as a take out if you wish. I really loved the outdoor seating area in this part of the ship - a selection of lovely comfy chairs.
If you prefer a silver-service (a la carte) breakfast, you can do this in Atlantide on Deck 4. And of course if you prefer to dine / snack / drink in privacy there’s always All Round Dining (24 hour room service).
Suites on Board
Like most Silverseas vessels, accommodation on-board the Muse was primarily balcony suites - Classic, Superior and Deluxe Verandas all at 387 square feet (slightly larger than Spirit though the balcony is 1 square foot smaller). My friend and I were allocated a Deluxe Veranda midships on Deck 8 # 856, so we had a pretty perfect location for our short two nights on board.
Being rather kept on the ‘down low’ are the 6 Vista suites on Deck 4. Three of them are accessible suites. One of these also offers a convertible sofa (so three berth). Each of them also interconnects with another Vista Suite. The thinking behind the layout of these suites is that they’d be suited, say, to guests who need an accessible suite and perhaps, their carer (thus interconnecting). Price of these will be on request basis.
There are a small amount of interconnecting balcony suites aside from the ones mentioned above and 24 suites offering convertible sofa-beds (therefore a third berth) spread across the Classic, Superior and Deluxe categories. ALL Silver Suites have a convertible sofa bed.
The suite furnishings were in keeping with the Silversea ethos of neutral and earthy colours - sticking with the understated luxury that’s been their chosen design palette since the outset. Amenities that come as standard include Pratesi bed linens, Rubelli fabrics, Bvlgari amenities (other options available), pillow menus, your own personal butler & complimentary WIFI.
As with anything else in life, there will be people who love Silver Muse and those who don’t ‘take’ to her. For new to cruise guests and/or new to Silversea guests I think she will rate very highly.
The most wonderful thing to bear in mind is that Silver Muse is opening up a slightly different concept of the way the Silversea ships operate/are designed and as such they are providing a more diverse selection of cruising-styles within their expanding fleet. What wonderful choices to have and great decisions to make - which is (or will be) your favourite Silversea ship?
When you book your holidays, do you arrange it all yourself or do you ask a travel agent to organise everything for you?
If it’s the latter you’ll know the benefits of booking through an agent – such as financial protection and sourcing great deals. However, if you prefer to research your own holiday, here are some of our top reasons why you should consider booking through a travel agent, such as Barrhead Travel, instead.
1. We'll do the hard work for you
If you’re travelling in a group or co-ordinating stop-over flights, it’s nice to have someone do the (complicated) leg work. A travel agent will take charge of organising these intricate details so you (and your family) just have to turn up on the day.
2. They can search from a range of travel providers
Save yourself the trouble of opening multiple tabs on your browser, or phoning around a dozen airlines and hotels. We have a specialised booking system that allows our Travel Consultants to quickly search through numerous airlines, hotels and excursions.
3. You can get the same deal as you seen online
Our Travel Consultants regularly have exclusive deals with suppliers that can’t be found online (or elsewhere). Even if you’ve found a super-cheap deal online, pop into your local store or give us a call, and ask if we can price match (or better!) your offer.
4. Your holiday is financially protected
If you book through an ABTA travel agent such as Barrhead Travel, you can be safe in the knowledge that your well-earned holiday is financially safe. While travel insurance covers belongings, cancellations, and medical assistance, it doesn’t cover situations where the hotel or airline goes out of business. If you a book a package holiday through an ABTA agent, this will be covered.
5. They can help narrow down your choices
If you literally have no idea where you want to travel, a travel agent can help. They have rich information at their fingertips and are passionate about travel themselves. Next time you feel the travel bug but aren’t sure where to pick, pop into your nearest Barrhead Travel branch and set them a challenge.
6. Travel agents are specialists
There are lots of everyday situations where you would call in a specialist instead of trying to do something yourself. Travel agents love to travel in their time off (plus travel is part of their job), and many specialise in a certain kind of travel. If you make your way to a large flagship store you’ll find dedicated sections advising on different types of holidays – our Oswald Street flagship store is home to individual worldwide, package and cruise teams.
7. We’re on hand if anything goes wrong
If anything goes wrong while you’re on holiday, Barrhead Travel has a dedicated 24/7 emergency phone number. When things don’t go to plan or there’s unforeseen circumstances we have staff members who are ready to help get your holiday back on track.
8. They take care of everything (including you)
You can rest your mind knowing everything that needs to be booked, has been booked. Flights, hotels, care hire, airport transfers, drinks packages, park tickets and excursions can all be booked in the one go. You can even exchange your money before you leave the shop.
We love sharing our staff travel diaries here on our blog, and today our resident blog writer is sharing one of her own travel stories. Morag, who works in the Social Media and Marketing team, was lucky enough to jet off to Disneyland® Paris last October to discover the magic for herself. Here’s what she got up to.
I’ve always been a Disney super-fan and it’s been a lifetime goal of mine to visit all the Disney theme parks. I was lucky enough that my parents took me to both Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Park in California when I was a child but we’d never made our way to Disneyland® Paris. As an adult, I’m now lucky enough to work in the travel industry where trips abroad are a part of the job, and last year I was chosen to be part of the annual Disneyland® Paris trip. Here are my top highlights from across the weekend.
1. Staying in a Disney® Hotel
Most children aren’t overly picky about hotel choices, but in 1997 I went in a huff with my parents because we didn’t stay in a Disney Resort Hotel. So getting to stay in the heart of Disneyland® Paris at an official resort hotel was one of my biggest highlights. We stayed at the Disney's Newport Bay Club a beautiful 4-star maritime-themed hotel looking out onto Lake Disney. Staying here meant we were only a 10 minute walk from Disneyland® Park and Walt Disney Studios® Park and were able to make use of Extra Magic Hours. Our rooms were also amazing. I had a twin room, with two double beds and en-suite, which had a dressing area separate to the bathroom itself. There was also a British plug, which was handy given that I regularly forget to pack an adapter.
2. Extra Magic Hours
I can’t say I’m normally an early riser, but when you’re staying in a Disney® Hotel and have been provided the gift of Extra Magic Hours I’ll happily be ready for 8am. And what sleepiness I did have, left my body after we chose the iconic Space Mountain: Mission 2 as our first ride of the day.
Extra Magic Hours are open to all guests who stay in a Disney resort hotel and allows early access to certain areas before the general public. And by mid-afternoon the crowds began to pick up so we were really grateful that we had these extra two hours to make it round several of the rides in Discoveryland and Fantasyland. At the strike of 10am we were ready to explore the rest of the parks while other visitors were just coming through the main gates (our first point of call Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril).
3. The rides
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™ was my favourite ride in Orlando and I was really excited to drop 13 stories again (as strange as that might sound). The Paris version didn’t disappoint and has stuck to the same formula that has made its American counterpart so successful. Even now, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™ still remains one of my favourite rides across all the parks. Our VIP FASTPASS® tickets also meant that we were able to join a VIP queue so we didn’t have to wait very long to step into the famous elevator. The VIP FASTPASS® tickets are only available to guests who stay in certain Disneyland® Paris hotels and allows unlimited access to the separate FASTPASS® lanes within the two parks.
This was not the only ride that that was memorable for me. There are numerous fun and family-friendly attractions across the park. Some of my other favourites were Crush's Coaster®, Indiana Jones™ and the Temple of Peril, Peter Pan's Flight and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith. I also really enjoyed exploring the Sleeping Beauty Castle that told the story of Aurora through stain glassed windows.
4. The shopping in Disney Village®
Even though I’m 26, I still like a trip to my local Disney store but there’s only so much memorabilia you can fit into one shop. So when I stumbled across the expansive shopping in the Disney Village® there was so much I wanted to take home. For myself I purchased a pair of classic Minnie Mouse ears (but I went for red satin as opposed to black velvet) and for my parents I took home a Christmas decoration featuring my parents’ favourite Disney character, Bambi.
5. Disney Character Dining
A weekend in Disneyland® Paris is not complete without a meet and greet. On our final evening the Disney team booked us a large table in their main Disneyland® Hotel where we were treated to an all-you-can-eat-buffet. Some special guests also joined us in the shape of Tigger, Eeyore, Goofy, and Mickey Mouse himself!
6. Disney Dreams®!
For the cherry on top of our final evening we were treated to a VIP viewing of the Disney Dreams®! light show. An award-winning extravaganza that illuminates the Sleeping Beauty Castle with projections of some of Disney’s most treasured characters. The movies chosen ranged from classic choices such as Peter Pan and The Lion King, through to modern-day magic like Frozen (we all had a lump in our throats as Let it Go beamed through the park).
Cruises are one of the most popular holiday types that Barrhead Travel sells and they definitely keep our specialists busy. But this isn't just because they sell a lot of cruises - it's also because we regularly send them cruises to experience the ships for themselves.
One of our most recent trips was a joint educational between DFDS and Celebrity Cruises. A group of Barrhead Travel staff members were treated to an overnight ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam on board the Princess Seaways from DFDS. While on board they were able to enjoy the nightly entertainment as well as dining in a different restaurant each night. Once in Amsterdam they were treated to a four-hour tour of the Celebrity Silhouette before any other passengers were on board. The tour took them round all parts of this mega-liner including the legendary Lawn Club (with giant deck chairs) and even the Penthouse Suite.
Needless to say our staff now have a lot of compliments they want would like to share.
Kelsey Marshall, Junior Web Developer
The Princess Seaway was a large ferry with loads to do. The different classes of room types were very interesting to see – definitely enough room for a group of people to travel together. The entertainment on board would also suit everyone as there is also a quieter bar for those just wanting a drink. Over all experience on DFDS was it changed my opinion majorly - it wasn't like a ferry to your holiday, it could be a start of a holiday. I know a few people who are scared of flying and would definitely recommend using this way of transport to start a holiday early and have fun without having the fear of getting there.
From looking at pictures at work my impression of Celebrity was it was luxury but really really expensive. After seeing the Celebrity Silhouette I can say yes it is LUXURY but it's modern - it's definitely a cruise line I would book and stay myself. The ship was stunning with a lot to do but not so big you would get lost. I just LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!!
What was your favourite part of the two ships? The food on board DFDS and I can't choose between the Lawn Club and the Spa on the Silhouette!
Courtney Smith, Canada Marketing Executive
Before going on the trip I never had any experiences with ferries and to be honest did not have high expectations at all for them. After embarking on the Princess Seaways my pre-concepted views could not have been more wrong. The ferry’s facilities were better than I could ever imagine with the Columbus Club Bar and entertainment being the highlight for me. The steak from the Blue Riband was one of the best I have ever had (and I have had many).
The visit on Celebrity’s Silhouette has sold cruising to me. If I am not able to sell people Celebrity cruising through my work they at least have a customer in me. The cruise totally embodies “Modern Luxury” and class. What excites me most about the ship is the options you have for dining and how quirky they are with the likes of Qsine and the Michelin star molecular bar.
Overall the trip was a great learning experience for both ships and I would not hesitate to return on either and would recommend it to anyone.
What was your favourite part of the two ships? The Ice Bar was definitely my favourite part of the Silhouette visit. As for as DFDS, I’m finding it really hardtop pick as it all really exceeding my expectations.
Morag Lee, Content & Social Media Executive
My only experiences of travelling by ferry were when I was a child crossing the North Sea or exploring the Scottish islands. Having not been on an overnight ferry for over a decade I wasn't sure what to expect on board the DFDS Princess Seaways. This was certainly a bigger ferry than my eight-year-old self had ventured on and was the first time the curtain had been pulled back on the exclusive commodore facilities. I was really impressed by the amount of amenities on board: I didn't expect there to be a small casino, lounge, a sun deck, games room and five restaurants. We ate at two of the restaurants during our trip including the à la carte Blu Riband restaurant and I was really impressed (and well-catered to as a vegetarian).
I only started at Barrhead Travel in December, and previously the world of cruising had not been on my radar. Since starting in the digital department, Celebrity Cruises was one of the cruise lines that had been catching my eye so I was really excited to get on board the Silhouette. I was not disappointed – she's just the kind of cruise ship I'd book myself a trip on. In particular it was the Lawn Club I had wanted to explore (an area of the top deck covered in real grass) but I hadn't known about the giant deckchairs (fun to get into, probably more fun to get out of). When I book a trip on a Celebrity Cruise for myself, that's definitely where you'll find me.
What was your favourite part of the two ships? I loved the food available on the Princess Seaways, and my favourite feature of the Silhouette was – no prizes for guessing – the giant deck chairs on the Lawn Club.
Gemma Gordon, Modern Apprentice: Operations and Regional Co-ordinator
My first ever trip travelling on an overnight ferry and visiting a cruise, has exceeded my expectations. We all had a “whale of a time” on board both of the ships. I suffer with travel sickness and I was worried that I would be feeling seasick on board the ferry and I had heard stories from others that it would by very rocky. But the sea was only a little choppy when I was sleeping therefore I had the best sleep, with a gentle sway rocking me to sleep.
I started in Barrhead Travel in June last year as a Modern Apprentice personal assistant to the Regional Managers and Directors of Barrhead Travel. I have minimum knowledge of cruising and I was quite unsure on what to expect, from seeing the size of the Silhouette ship as we walked on board the cruise in Amsterdam. I was amazed to view the range of facilities including the staterooms, dining areas, bars, casino, library, outdoor Lawn club, health suites etc etc. I can’t believe that this mini town is all floating on water and each time you wake up you will be in a different city. I would love to stay on The Celebrity Silhouette Cruise Ship, I would definitely recommend this cruise as there is a lot of exploring to do onboard and to travel in style to each destination is a must.
I absolutely loved my trip onboard the DFDS Princess Seaways and visiting the Celebrity Silhoutte Cruise Ship. I will never forget my first ever experience on an Overnight ferry and Cruise.
What was your favourite part of the two ships? On board the DFDS Princess seaways I really enjoyed the entertainment at night, with live music playing until late. It was a great way to catch up with everyone with a boogie and a cocktail. The Celebrity Silhouette Cruise Ship was incredible, I had never seen anything like it before: spectacular. The choice of what to do onboard, you will never have nothing to adventure to.
Steven Laird, Cruise Consultant
The staff on board were fantastic, the food was equally amazing and we collectively as a group had a fantastic time. The ferry was really nice and the facilities on board were great. I really cannot think of anything else to say other than, I very easily sold the idea of the DFDS ferry to Amsterdam to my friends and we are all booking up to go do the crossing at the end of the summer.
What was your favourite part of the ship? The culinary selection on board both ships. I’m such a foodie! (The cocktails on the DFDS ship were amazing too!)
Gary Spiers, Cruise Marketing Executive
Celebrity has always been close to my heart as it is the account I have been marketing for over a year now, so to have the chance to visit one of the Solstice Class ships was amazing. DFDS on the other-hand was a learning curve for me as I knew very little about the product.
The DFDS Princess Seaways ship was lovely. Perfect for a city break, especially for students as the prices were ridiculously cheap – from as little as £25pp! The décor was nice, and the food was beyond what I had expected it to be, it was amazing. There’s a mix suitable for all ages and tastes, including at least one family-friendly film option! Overall DFDS was a great experience, so much learned and would definitely use for a quick getaway abroad, and the beds.. very comfortable!
On board with Celebrity Cruises, contemporary design, sophisticated venues and warm spaces combine to offer an experience that truly brings the idea of luxury to life. I was impressed at not only the attentive service from the staff but the whole experience as soon as you step onboard. Like the first Lawn Club at sea. The first Hot Glass Show. Some other things that set the Celebrity Solstice cruise ship apart are its specialty restaurants. Their passion for outstanding cuisine has taken the restaurants, the food and the overall dining experience to a whole new level in the cruising world.
What was your favourite part of the ship? From the numerous bars and restuarants, to the innovitive and elegent designs of the ship, my favourite MUST be the Lawn club – how could it not be? There's absolutely nothing like it. A freshly manicured lawn on the highest deck of Celebrity Solstice. You can enjoy casual outdoor activities in a decidedly Country Club atmosphere, it's brilliant and unique – something every cruise line strives to be. Like to cut lawns? If there was ever a perfect job, it would be the lawn keeper in charge of the Lawn Club. Imagine taking 6 months out, visiting numerous countries to look after the grass. I am in the wrong job!
Barrhead Travel’s latest store, at the St Enoch Centre in Glasgow, opened earlier this year, with a former Modern Apprenticeship Scheme to Manager!
Ruaridh Wilson joined us in 2010. Each year, we take on around 50 young people across our branch network – we’re looking for a great attitude and personality, and Ruaridh fitted the bill perfectly. He’d been at college studying to join the Merchant Navy, but decided it wasn’t for him, so when a friend told him about Barrhead Travel’s Modern Apprentice scheme, he made the leap.
He began his career with us in the Canada department. Having travelled pretty extensively, far away destinations seemed the perfect match for Ruaridh and he soaked up knowledge of this huge and diverse country in the first 6 months in the department. “Getting to know all about the geography, activities, Canadian culture and holiday options was really interesting, and gave me loads of specialist knowledge,” he says. “I was also given a lot of coaching and training on the systems we use in-house, and we had separate training using role plays, which was good for helping us to understand the customer’s needs and ensure we gave the best possible service. I really enjoyed it.”
After just a few months, Ruaridh was ready to progress into a customer-facing, sales role while he completed his qualification. “I was in the Canada department for 2 years as a Sales Consultant, and I loved the complexity of the itineraries I put together, because we tailor-made every one for the customer. The most satisfying booking I made was for a large group – the attention to detail I needed was challenging but great experience.”
Ruaridh then looked to expand his knowledge, with a move to the Longhaul department, where he gained experience of other areas of the world and compiled itineraries to areas such as South America, Australia, the Far East and the USA. “I love learning and the best thing about travel, for me, is that you can never know everything – every day is a school day!” he smiles.
A promotion to Team Leader gave Ruaridh the experience of managing a team, which in turn led to him becoming Assistant Manager in the department. After applying internally for the position of Manager at St Enoch, Ruaridh was pleased to be offered the job. “Running a new store is an honour, but it’s also very hard work and a lot of responsibility,” he says. “I’m determined that it’ll be a success, and thanks to the fantastic team we have in the store, backed up by the amazing offers and technology that the company provides, we’re well on our way to achieving the goals we set ourselves when we opened.”
Young people are the future of Barrhead Travel - why not join us via the Modern Apprentice scheme? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0141 223 6655.
Next up in our Barrhead Travel Back Office Heroes series is Tain Cleland, Wholesale Admin Assistant.
Tain’s worked for Barrhead Travel for 15 years in a number of roles, starting out at the age of 24 as a Telesales Consultant in the firm’s first-ever contact centre in Barrhead, helping customers to find their ideal holiday to the sun.
“Barrhead Travel was much smaller then, and it was really exciting to be part of a company that was growing and had such big plans,” Tain says. “The Manager of the contact centre is now the Sales Director, and the contact centre has moved to become part of the Glasgow Oswald Street superstore, but one thing that has never changed is the feeling that you are part of a family. I love working here!”
Throughout her years at Barrhead, Tain has had the opportunity to learn and develop, moving into servicing online bookings received through the company’s websites after a few years. “I was looking for a change and was really happy to be given the chance to try something different. I enjoyed looking after online enquiries, but as my colleagues will tell you, I do like to talk to people! So after a couple of years, I was asked if I would like another role in the Wholesale Department, dealing with customers who had booked holidays using Barrhead Travel’s exclusive summer charter flights. I was flattered to be asked and jumped at the chance.”
Tain’s current role sees her help customers pre-book their seats and help with any additional travel requirements or after-sales requests relating to their booking. “My role really helps make sure that our customers get the most out of their holiday. It’s lovely when someone calls me on their return to thank me and tell me what a great time they had.”
It’s a varied job, as no two bookings are exactly the same, and Tain’s love of speaking to customers is quite evident when she says, “I actually race other people in the office to pick up the phone! The best thing about my job is my colleagues, though. It’s important to have fun where you work and I think Barrhead Travel has the right balance. I’ve always felt looked-after in my time with the business, as effort really gets rewarded.”
Asked about what makes her proud in relation to her role, Tain says, “It might be a bit off-the-wall, but what I’m proudest of is the fact that in 15 years I have never had a day off sick – which must be pretty unusual in any job!”
And her advice to anyone looking to join Barrhead Travel? “I’d say – go for it! You won’t find a better place to work in the travel business.”
In the latest in our series on our Barrhead Travel Back Office Heroes, we speak to Dawn Wallace, our Accounts Department Supervisor
Dawn’s been with us for 27 years so far, and her role, and that of her colleagues in the Accounts Department based at our Barrhead Head Office, is vitally important to Barrhead Travel. She has a total of 40 staff working on her team and with her vast experience and knowledge, she’s able to ensure that everything goes to plan.
Her years of service mean that she has seen many changes occur, too. Dawn says, “When I started out in the admin team there were only two of us, as there were only about 20 people in the whole company.
“I’ve seen Barrhead Travel grow so much. Though it started out in the town of Barrhead, we now have branches all over the country. It’s fantastic how it has grown and it’s great to have been a part of it for so long.
“The technology in the early days seems so dated now – we thought we were ahead of the game when we got a new key and lamp telephone system! Now we’ve got modern computers and up to the minute technology, things are much more efficient and easier, and my job’s even more enjoyable.”
Dawn adds that, while technology may have made her job easier, the thing that keeps her coming into work each day is Barrhead’s key asset, her colleagues.
“The people are what makes the company. The staff are fantastic and so helpful - and I’ve been here long enough to see a lot of new faces come in to the business. I think that’s what makes the difference – we’re a family company and that’s what has made Barrhead Travel so successful.”
Helping a huge company like Barrhead Travel operate efficiently and effectively takes a lot of team work, so we’d like to sing the praises of some of the unseen heroes in our organization. First in line, and deservedly so, is Norrie Webster
At 84 years young, Norrie’s proud to be Barrhead Travel’s oldest employee.
He joined us way back in 1992, following a long and illustrious career as a marine engineer in both the Royal and Merchant Navies. Retirement certainly wasn’t for Norrie, and he’s been a valued member of the Barrhead team ever since.
“I simply love the job, and all the staff that I work with are absolutely wonderful.”
Norrie’s 5 – hour working day sees him drive between our Glasgow branches, including the superstore at Oswald Street, the Accounts and Admin offices in Barrhead and the Glasgow luxury shop in St Vincent Street, as well as assisting with banking.
“I go round in a circle, picking up stuff and delivering it elsewhere,” says Norrie. “It’s great as I get to know lots of the people who work for the company. Many of them I’ve been speaking to for many years and they’ve become good friends.”
Norrie says that the business has changed considerably since he first joined. He adds, “When I started, Barrhead Travel was just one shop and had about 35 members of staff. Now it has expanded so much, it’s quite unbelievable.”
Norrie says that, although his current role is a world away from his life on the open wave, there are similarities. “I spent my career in the navy travelling the world. Now I work for a great company that helps other people do the same!”
Employee Holiday Review - Sharm El Sheikh
Aberdeen Modern Apprentice, Selena Graham, visited the ever popular resort of Sharm El Sheikh in April this year. Here is what she had to say about her trip.
You will never be bored in this resort! Snorkelling in the clear blue seas is a must do activity when you are there. There is plenty to do to keep you occupied at night as well, as there are a number of bars and restaurants within the resort including the Camel Bar in Na'ama Bay and the Ice Bar and The Queen Vic pub in Soho Square. Na'ama Bay is packed full of shops, so is worth a stop - you can test out your haggling skills when buying bags, jewellery and souvenirs to take home.
Egypt is a destination suitable for everyone. If you enjoy just staying at the resort and sunbathing whilst enjoying the amazing food and drinks or if exploring is more your thing then you can venture outside of the resort easily too.
There are so many things to do in Sharm El Sheikh! The temperature in April was in the mid 30's, so make sure to pack lots of light clothing and swimwear. If you are planning on visiting Soho Square – which you must – be sure to pack sensible clothing for this as you will need to cover up. A little tip, mosquitoes really like British skin, so absolutely invest in a repellent band or spray before you go to help combat these pesky creatures.
If there were any particular hotels that I would recommend to stay in when visiting Sharm El Sheikh then it would have to be these four.
Sharm Plaza – Has a lovely layout with a number of pools in different areas. The large, spacious rooms are thoroughly cleaned every day. Also, if you are holidaying with children who like to splash about in the water, the Sharm Resort is in the same complex complete with its very own water park and slides.
Ghazala Beach – Value for money hotel, located right on the beach for you beach lovers. Shoppers will love the fact that it is close to the fantastic Na'ama Bay Market.
Grand Hotel – this massive yet very elegant resort has a variety of things to do to keep you and the family occupied. Look out from your room onto stunning views, or book a swim-up room!
Ghazala Gardens – if you are looking for a more peaceful getaway then this is perfect for you. Quiet but beautiful, this hotel is situated right across the road from its sister hotel the Ghazala Beach and Na'ama Bay Market.
If there was anything I would recommend to do when visiting Egypt, a boat trip off the shore of Tiran Island and a visit to a Bedouin Camp would be right at the top of the list.
The boat trip includes snorkelling - you can stop off at 3 different places to explore the beautiful underwater world. Also included in the trip is lunch and free soft drinks all day. There is also the option to just stay on the boat and catch some rays if snorkelling is not for you.
The Bedouin Camp trip is simply spectacular. Enjoy a camel ride through the desert, then climb upwards by foot to view an amazing sunset at the top of the (small!) mountain. There is also the opportunity to live like an original Bedouin for the day as you make homemade bread and experience their culture. And you may never have been interested in looking at the stars, but you'll be guided through the galaxy by an astronomer once it gets dark - really fascinating.
This trip was simply amazing and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to holiday in Egypt any time soon!
Alistair, our Australia holiday specialist, has worked for Barrhead for 2 years in the sales department but before he started he travelled all over the world for for 8.
I travelled all over Australia, but my favourite city has to be Sydney. There was plenty to do and great nightlife! I would highly recommend Darling Harbour for it's vibrant nightlife and great restaurants. My one top tip for Sydney, is to take a ferry up to Manly for great views of Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House and to make it extra amazing, get a taxi back to travel over the bridge.
With so many beaches on offer, it is so difficult to choose my favourite beach, but i would definitely recommend Byron Bay. Very relaxed atmosphere, great surfing, unspoiled beaches and fantastic seafood. If you visit Byron Bay, definitely take a visit to Australia's most easterly point, the Byron Lighthouse. Beautiful.
As I loved Sydney so much, the best experience that I would recommend to everyone, would be the cycle tour of Sydney. The sites were stunning and there was so much to see! I would also encourage everyone to try surfing in Bondi or Byron Bay. Take in at least 2 or 3 different parts of Australia, to make the most of the food, cities and beach areas.
If you ever wanted to visit Australia, I would definitely recommend to take in some of Asia with a stopover in Hong Kong or Singapore. Not only does this allow you to see another part of the World, but it breaks your travel time up.
My final bit of advice would be not to pack too much. Everything in Australia is really informal like America, with the only exception being fancy restaurants in Sydney etc.
Since Kevin's gap year 20 years ago to Australia, he has been working in the travel industry booking dream holidays for his customers and at Barrhead Travel, we wanted to find out what exactly Kevin loves about Australia and his recommendations for future customers.
My favourite city has to be Melbourne. Sydney has the scenery, but Melbourne has the life. With its buzzing café culture and live music scenes, great bars and restaurants and there is an almost European feel with its passing trams. A great number of attractions including the Great Ocean Road and the vineyards of the Yarra valley are just a short drive away. A trip to the Melbourne Cricket Ground is a must for any sports fan too.
Its a tough call between Noosa and the Whitsunday Islands for my favourite part of Australia, but Noosa just edges it. Beautiful beaches and natural parks, backed up by bohemian Hastings Street, lined with hip boutiques and a choice of restaurants from simple cafe's to gourmet fine dining.
My best experience whilst being in Australia has to be snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef.
I would always recommend Australia as part of the beauty is its an all year round destination, with the Tropical North being at its best in our Summer and Southern Australia being best in our Winter. Its a vast country so plan ahead to get the most out of it, pick out your key experiences and plan the trip around that. Maybe beat the jet-lag by a stopover in Asia, it can break up the journey nicely.
Top tip! When packing, Less is more! It's generally pretty laid back and dressing for dinner isn't really the norm. Just make sure you have strong factor sunscreen at hand!
If this has tempted you to visit this amazing country, call me on 0141 223 6618.
Looking for sun, sand and superb value for money? Then Sharm el Sheikh could be the place for you. It’s a holiday hotspot which has a lot to offer, no matter what age you are. If you love soaking up the rays and lounging by the pool, with some lively nightlife or simple relaxation thrown in for good measure, this could be your new favourite place.
A group of Barrhead Travel’s finest flew to Sharm el Sheikh direct from Glasgow Airport in April with Red Sea Holidays, to discover just what makes it such a magnet for travellers – many of whom return year after year.
Experiencing the destination first-hand has given these Barrhead Travel team members an insight into Sharm that will help them to help their customers find the perfect Egyptian escape, and allow them to recommend activities and Red Sea Holidays properties to suit specific needs.
Staying at the Sharm Plaza hotel allowed the group to really get to know this handsome all – inclusive property, which is laid out village-style and features 7 swimming pools and a private beach as well as buffet and speciality restaurants. Highly recommended are the sea view guestrooms, though the hotel also has rooms with garden terraces which are equally as nice. Room facilities are great and include air conditioning and TVs.
Favourite eateries included Mexican, Italian and Chinese, which are available at an additional charge. The diet started on touchdown at Glasgow on the return for all members of the party!
So, what is there to do in Sharm el Sheikh if you fancy getting out and about, rather than just chilling out all week at your Red Sea Holidays hotel of choice? The answer is – lots. Sharm’s well-versed in keeping all types of travellers happy, so the Barrhead Travel team took part in some of the activities that it does so well.
Perhaps most memorable was the visit to a real Bedouin camp to meet this nomadic tribe, enjoy a ride on a dromedary, help to make traditional bread, enjoy herbal tea, climb a rocky mountainside to see the most amazing sunset, and then learn about the sky at night courtesy of an astronomer when darkness descended. Unforgettable.
Then there was the boat trip – a day spent sailing up the coast, with snorkelling and scuba opportunities along the way, and of course, lots of obligatory sunbathing and a barbeque lunch. Sometimes being a travel agent is tough…
The Sharm Plaza puts on some excellent entertainment for its guests which the team enjoyed on a couple of occasions, but if you head out at night in Sharm el Sheikh, recommended are Soho Square and Naama Bay – especially if you like to add a touch of liveliness to your holiday.
Soho Square’s the place to go if you don’t fancy haggling over handbags in the shops, as the prices are set and no one’s allowed to approach you to come in store. But it’s also the place for perfect night out, with a variety of dining options, as well as activities such as bowling, ice skating and a cinema. Adults will love the Ice Bar and Oxygen Bar, there’s a nightclub and even a Queen Vic pub, and a night at Soho Square wouldn’t be complete without taking in the colourful dancing fountains before you head back to your hotel.
Naama Bay is quite a contrast to Soho Square. If you’re the kind of person who only really wakes up when the sun goes down and who likes a bit of haggling while you’re shopping, then this is for you. Home to many different eateries and bars, as well as myriad shops selling a variety of goods including “replica” handbags, it’s perfect for a night of retail therapy and cocktails. The Barrhead Travel team enjoyed the Camel Bar, which is on a relatively peaceful rooftop terrace – ideal for shisha and drinks, and free Wi-Fi is available too!
On the last night of the trip, the Old Market was a must-see and again, much fun was had haggling and swapping banter with the local shopkeepers. You’ll find that no matter what nationality you are, they love your country the best and it has the nicest people! Souvenirs bought, and a few drinks imbibed back at the Camel Bar, the tired but happy travel agents reflected on their trip to Sharm el Sheikh, concluding that it was the perfect blend of total relaxation and activity. All agreed that they’d be back and they’d make sure their clients benefited from their first-hand experience of the resort – they’d been officially charmed by Sharm.
In October 2014, I started working as a Modern Apprentice for Barrhead Travel in their St James Centre branch. I have always wanted a career in travel and thought this was the perfect opportunity to achieve my ambition.
I began my training where I was learning about different destinations, airlines, cruise ships and essentials. This was to build up my knowledge before I started selling products to the customers. Then, in November I travelled through to Glasgow for 3 weeks to get ready to start selling in January, where I got 20/21 on my Barrheads Stars of the Future test.
After this training, I am now qualified to sell, which means I can help customers book their dream holiday. I have sold many varieties of holidays including New York, Magaluf and Barcelona. Apart from selling holidays my work consists of other things such as: making window posters; doing file checks; taking payments; collecting API information and helping my colleagues with their bookings. This could include calling up a company to book wheelchair assistance at the airport for our customers. I have attended numerous training evenings with my workmates to advance my knowledge. I have also helped with numerous airlines to promote their brand with Barrhead. This includes Turkish Airlines where I helped on a stand within the St James Shopping Centre speaking to potential customers and handing out leaflets.
Since working as a Modern Apprentice for Barrhead Travel, I have learnt so much about different countries. For example, I know which parts of Majorca would be best suited for a relaxing holiday compared to a party holiday in Magaluf. I have also learnt that instead of going straight to Australia you could send a customer to Abu Dhabi beforehand so they could see FerrariWorld. But mainly I have learnt how big the world actually is and that there is always something for everyone.
I love working for Barrhead and I am so happy that I have been given the chance to work for them as a Modern Apprentice. I think the reason that I like working for them so much is that everyday you meet new people wanting to go to new destinations. I also like planning out other people’s holidays as I love going on my holidays and helping others get that same feeling is great. Another reason I love working in Barrhead is because of my colleagues as they are so friendly and helpful. They have also taught me so much about the world of travel.
I am so glad that I have chosen to work for Barrhead Travel rather than study travel and tourism at college. This is because I am able to learn while getting experience in the job I have always wanted to do. I definitely see myself working for Barrhead in the future hopefully as a manager or owning my own franchise.
I work as part of the Modern Apprentice Digital Content team at Barrhead Travel’s Glasgow superstore in Oswald Street.
I left school early, in March of my 6th year, but returned to sit my exams. I knew I wanted to work with computers, but I knew I would rather go straight into work rather than go to college. The career experts at school suggested that an apprenticeship would be the best way to get experience of an office environment, plus I’d get a qualification too.
I enjoy working here because everyone is so helpful – they’ll stop what they’re doing to make sure you understand how to complete a task, or they’ll explain things to make it easier for me next time. No matter how small what you’ve achieved is, your manager will give you praise, which makes you want to do even better.
Every morning, I run web performance reports and send them to the company’s senior management. After that, I start to assist my Digital Content colleagues with the updating and creating of offers and pages throughout our Barrhead Travel site. I also do a number of small admin jobs throughout the day.
As an apprentice at Barrhead Travel’s largest travel store, I also have a number of duties which all Modern Apprentice take their turn at, such as doing the mail for the store, ensuring the brochure cupboard is tidy and easy to access, and meeting and greeting customers. I enjoy that as it allows even the non-Sales MA’s to get a chance to meet some customers. A number of them have been booking with us for many, many years.
So far, working at Barrhead Travel has shown me that being at work can be really enjoyable. We have so many people here who come from different backgrounds, yet we become a part of each other’s lives and in doing so, we all become a big family that is thriving on the success of Barrhead Travel. I was not the best at geography in school, but people from throughout the company, not just my immediate colleagues, are always there to help and are willing to take whatever time you need, so my knowledge has broadened a lot.
My manager ensures that every few weeks we have a sit down, and chat about what is going on, whether it be positive or negative, to ensure that I am able to work to the best of my ability.
I’m glad I became a Modern Apprentice at Barrhead Travel. There is so much possibility for apprentices to learn within the company – you can get the chance to work within different departments, so you can be sure that you get to where you want to be in the future.
I enjoy the training and there are many opportunities to attend courses and expand your knowledge within the travel industry.
It’s a forever-growing company which has won loads of awards, and I want to be a part of the expansion to know I am helping it to grow further.
In the future I see myself, hopefully, still being part of the Digital Content team, only as a full-time member instead, completing my daily reports and helping to make the website the very best it can be!
There’s a lot to be said for seeing things yourself, and in travel it’s always easier to help a customers make an informed decision if you can talk from personal experience. This is something that Barrhead Travel’s travel consultants know well, so when the opportunity arose to get onboard Air Transat’s Toronto bound aircraft on the ground at Glasgow Airport.
Ten to seven in the morning at the airport saw twelve of the Barrhead Travel team meet at the airport and head through Security to the International Departures area, where they boarded the plane to have a good look around. This is a nice big aircraft – an A330-200 for any plane buffs! - with a very attractive interior and leather seats in every section.
Those sections are Economy Class, Option Plus and Club Class. No prizes for guessing which was every team members’ favourite – Club gives you perks such as a 40kg checked baggage allowance, plus 15kg carry-on, an exclusive check in counter and priority boarding, lovely, spacious leather seats in a separate cabin, travel amenities, a welcome cocktail, complimentary snacks and beverages and 12” individual touch screens. That VIP treatment is something that everyone agreed they could get used to…
Back to reality, and even when trying out the seats in Economy it was decided that it would definitely still be an enjoyable flight on Air Transat, because it felt pretty spacious in comparison to some other airlines. Option Plus is offered too, at an additional charge, which gives more privileges to Economy travellers, including free seat selection, priority check in and boarding, a comfort kit and some snacks and drinks.
Families are really important to the airline, and it recognises that travelling with kids can be incredibly stressful. Air Transat’s Kids Club is designed to make travelling stress free for everyone in the family, and again gives exclusive privileges that help to take the hassle out of holidays.
Chatting to the Air Transat cabin crew on board really helped the team get an insight into the airline and what it’s all about. Despite the fact that they were due to receive the real passengers for the flight in less than half an hour, they were friendly and patient and explained all about the inflight entertainment system – it’s free, and individual, so travellers can choose from a wide selection of movies, TV shows and music via individual touch screens or the local WiFi network, accessible on passengers’ tablets, smartphones and laptops.
All too soon it was time to leave the plane and head back into the terminal building. Rumour has it that some Barrhead Travel employees had to have their fingers prised from the doorway as they wanted to stay on and enjoy a Toronto short break…sadly, it was not to be!
Barrhead Travel invests in its workforce and has become the 60th member of the 5% club – a campaign focused on the recruitment of apprentices and graduates into the workforce.
The 5% Club membership consists of companies who have signed up to 5% of their UK workforce over the next five years being young people on structured training schemes.
Barrhead Travel has been at the forefront on training modern apprentices for its offices seeing many of them move through the ranks in the business since its inception.
The company’s training programmes invest heavily in its young people helping them carve out a career in the travel industry.
Barrhead Travel has now joined the ranks of FTSE350 companies and similar sized organisations who want to make a difference by investing in young people to unable the UK to compete better in global markets.
The 5% Club is a campaign which is focused on creating momentum behind the recruitment of apprentices and graduates into the workforce.
Barrhead Travel chief executive, Sharon Munro, said: “Training and developing young people has always been at the forefront of our recruitment policy, and it has been fantastic to see them progress. We are a proud member of The 5% Club and we are very happy to make this public commitment to a very worthy campaign which will create a more skilled UK workforce. By joining the club, we have committed to the aim of ensuring that 5% of our UK workforce are apprentices, graduates or sponsored students on structured programmes within the next five years.”
Dr Sam Healy, Programme Director of The 5% Club said, “We’re delighted to welcome Barrhead Travel to the 5% club. Barrhead’s existing efforts in recruiting young people is something that is greatly welcomed as we all play our part in tackling youth unemployment, the skills shortage and in reviving Britain’s economy.”
Looking for a holiday? Why not let our travel experts help you find that charming cruise, that romantic resort, or that superb city break? Leave it to us – with 40 years of experience in the travel business, your holiday is in good hands.
1. We’re one of the UK’s largest travel companies, and we’re independent too. We’re not aligned to any particular tour operator, so you can be sure that the advice we’re giving you is impartial and reflects what you want from a holiday.
2. Our specialist departments are staffed by experienced travel professionals who know their area of travel inside out. They’ve visited the destinations and travelled on the cruise ships, so they offer first –hand knowledge that will help you decide on the holiday that best suits your requirements.
3. Don’t spend hours trawling the internet. We have the state of the art technology, which checks all available options, at our fingertips, and can use our years of expertise to find the best holiday at the best price. Let us take the hassle and strain out of sourcing your next trip away and free up your time too!
4. We never assume that an off-the-shelf package holiday is the right choice for every holidaymaker. In many instances, we will look to tailor-make your trip to your precise requirements, which may also be a more cost effective option.
5. Our huge buying power means that we are able to negotiate the best prices in the marketplace, passing the savings on to you.
6. We’re here to help whenever you need us. Our branches are open 7 days a week till late, and staff are on hand to assist, should you need us, even when you’re on holiday.
7. We can offer added value extras on many holidays which you won’t find anywhere else, from free cabin upgrades or onboard credit on your cruise, to complimentary airport lounge access and free holiday places for children. That means you get an even better holiday experience for no extra cost.
8. Face to face in store, over the telephone, or by clicking online – no matter how you prefer to enquire and book with us, there’s a Barrhead Travel solution to suit you.
9. As an independent travel agent, we work with a whole range of different travel suppliers, all of whom have been checked to ensure that they meet strict quality criteria.
10. Every holiday we sell is fully financially protected, so you can have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your money is completely safe.
Read all about Paul, from our Barrhead Travel Training Department, and his recent familiarisation trip to Dubai.
'I was lucky enough to experience all the amazing sights and sounds that Dubai, one of the world's richest countries, has to offer in March. From the moment I arrived at Glasgow airport I knew I was about to have the time of my life. I was completely spoiled from start to finish.I really kicked off my vacation in style flying business class with Emirates. Upon boarding, I was greeted with a curtsy and a glass of champagne before being escorted to my reclining flatbed and handed an iPad. It had all the latest features from the world of music, film and entertainment.'
'My flight was a holiday experience in itself and I would HIGHLY recommend paying the slight premium to fly first or business class.Feeling refreshed and revitalised after my flight, I opened my eyes to a world of perfect white sands, tropical blue seas and glorious sunshine. I instantly fell in love with Dubai. My 5 days were action packed and I felt as though I had been transported into another world in just over 6 hours. The rain of Glasgow felt a million miles away as I spent my time sampling all types of cuisine, shopping till I dropped, and living it up in some clubs and pubs that would give Ibiza a run for its money.The international flavours and spices in Dubai made my mouth water and a must for food lovers is a trip to the spice market in Deira. Here is where you really get to sample the great textures and have your taste buds opened up to flavours which to me were other worldly.
After a day at the spice market, a great way to unwind and have some fun would be an unmissable trip out to the desert on a jeep safari. Get the adrenaline pumping as you are whisked through the desert over the sand dunes before arriving at an oasis full of belly dancers and magic carpets for an evening of entertainment and dancing - you even have your own henna tattoo artist. This for me was the highlight of my time in Dubai. Not to be missed.
There is so much to see and do in Dubai so pack an array of clothing to suit all occasions but do bare in mind it often tends to be glorious sunshine. You never know where this magical land could take you. One day you could be standing on the top floor of the worlds highest building (The Burj) gasping at the amazing views, the next you could be at the Atlantis water park relaxing in the lazy river.
Dubai has something for everyone and I have already booked my flights for next year as I feel there is so much I still have to see and do there. My top tip would be to be respectful of the local people and respect their culture and religious views if you do that you will have the time of your life.
I wish I could take you all with me next year to experience first hand how amazing this place really is. For me it is a 10 out of 10 Holiday.' - Paul, from our Barrhead Travel Training Department
Why not give Dubai a try yourself, Call today to find out more: 0800 484 0312.
Welcome to Barrhead Travel's brand new blog! We'll aim to deliver compelling, entertaining and informative content that you'll enjoy reading, rather than run-of-the-mill holiday deals and generic photos and quotes from brochures, which is yesterday's news! Yes, we'll have the odd deal here and there, but it'll just be so you can get a piece of the world we're raving about that you're reading about!
Our travel blog entries will strive to give you expert advice and information about various destination around the world to give you a deeper insight and maybe even inspiration for feeding your wanderlust. Guest bloggers from different departments within the company will give their personal experience stories and recommendations on package, long haul and cruise holidays in order to help you feel like an expert even before you've packed your bags.
Here's a taste of things to come:
"Best of..." blogs, where we hope we can give you some food for thought
Destinations for Christmas, New Year, Valentine's Day and Halloween.
Best themed hotels in the world.
The world's quirkiest hotels.
Most unusual customs.
Worldwide food and drink
Sports survival guides for events such as the Champions League, Europa League, Formula 1 and golf tours.
A worldwide travel-themed "Bucket List".
Trip Tips: Don't know what kind of socket adapter to take, or the best places to visit when you're only spending a couple of days somewhere? Our tips will help prepare you for your trip!
We'll keep you updated with any up and coming events held at our branches, with the possibility of one or two of the representatives from the participating companies giving us some exclusive content so you can come to our event prepared!
If there are any places that you would like to learn more about before deciding to spend your hard-earned money on a well-earned holiday, just get in touch with us, and we'll see about putting up a travel blog about that destination; you never know, you might be doing your fellow travelers a favour by asking!