Travel Weekly executive editor and Great Britain reporter Donna
Tunney traveled on a Virgin Vacations' London Jaunt itinerary and
sampled some of the program's a la carte add-ons. Her report
LONDON -- One of the best things about Virgin Vacations' London
Jaunt, from a travel agent's perspective, is its simple package
tour structure with add-ons that allow it to be customized for each
And the majority of add-ons are commissionable, rolling into the
basic package and included in the 10% pay level.
Our group was invited to try the three-night program in January,
when air-inclusive prices began at $399 per person, double.
The basic package included roundtrip air, meet-and-greet service
in London, three nights' hotel, a London City Guide, a Welcome
Abroad carry-all bag, discount dining coupons from the Maxwell
Restaurant Group and a breakfast coupon from McDonald's to be used
on the day of arrival.
The rates rise to $619 per person from April 1 through May 31.
During summer high season, from June 16 to Sept. 2, the same
package starts at $849 per person.
Our group was booked into a five-star property, the Royal Garden
Hotel in Kensington. Using that property upped the cost to $819 per
person; the price rises to $1,069 in high season. There is a wide
range of hotels from which to choose.
Depending on a client's goals, an agent can gear the Jaunt's
three days of activities toward culture, history or just an easy
good time. Here's a rundown of the add-ons, with per person
- The Original London Sightseeing Tour on a double-decker bus,
- Historic Palace Central London Pass, including Kensington
- Medieval Banquet held in the Tower of London, $65 Sunday to
Thursday and $69 on Friday and Saturday.
- Standard Theater Ticket, Monday to Thursday, $38.
- Deluxe Theater Ticket, $95. (Offers a greater selection of
- Pub Lunch Pass, $15.
- Tower of London Pass, $22.
- Entry to Mad-ame Tussaud's and the London Planetarium,
- Bateaux London Dinner Cruise. Rates vary, with the most
expensive being the dinner cruise with drinks, $109.
- The London Go See Museum Pass, $32 (not commissionable).
- London Underground Travelcards, $23 (not commissionable).
- Private Car Tours. Several are offered. A half-day to Windsor
and Hampton Court Palace runs $250.
Our group was offered several add-ons, including the pub lunch
pass, the deluxe theater ticket, the bus tour, the historic palace
pass, Tussaud's and the planetarium, and the Bateaux dinner
The pub pass comes in the form of a voucher that is turned in at
the pub of choice. It's good for a one-course meal and a half pint
of beer, cider or soda. Participating pubs are listed on the back
of the voucher, which provides handy information like the nearest
tube stop, plus the address and phone number of each pub.
We used our theater add-on to see "Mamma Mia," the show that
features the music of the group Abba.
the most valuable add-on in the Bateaux dinner cruise. We boarded
at Embankment Pier and enjoyed a leisurely three-hour cruise up and
down the Thames. I've been on several Thames River cruises over the
years, and Bateaux provided the best food and the nicest vessel,
compared to the others I'd seen.
Cigar and cigarette smoke appeared to annoy some passengers, but
in London, as in most of Europe, smoking rules are considerably
more lax than they are in the U.S.
A good set of add-ons for the first-time visitor, in my view,
would be the sightseeing bus tour, which helps folks get the lay of
the land; a standard theater ticket, since most of the best theater
in London is not found in the highly publicized musicals; the pub
lunch; the Bateaux dinner cruise, and the Underground
Those items would add about $200 to each client's tab and
provide each with the essential experiences someone new to London
ought to have.
My suggestions for repeat visitors would include the medieval
banquet at the Tower of London and a private car tour providing a
half-day excursion outside the city.
Clients should also take full advantage of the discount coupons
that are provided with the basic package, such as the dining offers
We tried Navajo Joe, which serves southwestern U.S. cuisine. The
food was excellent and the atmosphere great for younger visitors
looking for a lively restaurant/bar.
Virgin Vacations offers a wide range of vacation options
throughout the U.K. and to several cities on the Continent. It also
has introduced a barging product line that is launching this spring.
Bonus commission rates on Virgin's air-inclusive packages are
frequent; the company offered 13% pay twice during recent winter
promotions, for example.
Virgin Vacations uses Europe Express, based in Seattle, as its
Agents can order the Virgin Vacations brochure by calling (800)