Friday, 30 December 2016

Caledonian Sleeper: Review

What do you get when you cross an Aberdonian lass with no sense of direction and an opportunity to take on the big smoke? One hell of a press trip, that's what!

It's been a while since I last visited London. In fact, apart from one press trip which involved running around London to meet journalists and that other time where I was just too young to remember anything, never mind take in the insanity of the hustle and bustle which is London, I've never actually been.

When I was contacted to try out the Caledonian Sleeper I genuinely think I was more excited by the thought of spending the evening on a sleeper train, rather than heading to London. Pouncing at the opportunity, I invited my boyfriend along and we booked the time off work. Done deal.

I wasn't too sure what to expect in all honesty. I'd never been on the Sleeper, and didn't really know that many people who had travelled using it before. Nevertheless, I was keen to find out what was in store...

Traveling first class from Aberdeen to London Euston on a Friday evening (the 9:44PM service to be exact), we made our way down to the station in plenty of time where we were then greeted by the friendly staff who showed us to our cabins for the evening. The staff informed us of the arrangements, told us where we could find the nearest lounge on the train and also took our breakfast order for the morning - full Highland breakfast it was.

The cabins were much more spacious than I had originally envisioned. I was a little nervous about the size of the cabins as I experience claustrophobia from time to time, however I felt totally relaxed on the sleeper.

The room was what I can only describe as spacious for a train cabin I guess, and had plenty of storage space for me to store my luggage/handbag. There were also plenty of mirrors so I could do my face in the morning which was ideal! A complimentary Arran Aromatics sleep pack sat invitingly on my bed and contained a number of different goodies to try out. I must confess, the socks and the eye masks were my favourite steals, although I do wish I had realised there were earplugs at the bottom of the pack - I could have seriously done with them for the journey down.
Secro, recently took over the service and are in the process of updating all of its services by introducing new on-board lounges and new berth layouts with showers and en-suite bathrooms.

The lounge carriage on the journey down was a little dated in my opinion, however was very comfortable and homely. We delved into a few gins and a couple of beers (all Scottish produce can I add), and observed the world around us whilst the train left the station. The lounge boasted quite a few tables, one with an elderly couple indulging in some delicious smelling food, and a long sofa which was a safe haven to a whisky drinking hipster. Everyone was calm and relaxed, and I was pleasantly surprised to see so many different Scottish food and drink companies available on the different menus.
I'm a cold fish so had turned my heating up before heading for drinks which meant my cabin was lovely and cosy when I retuned from the lounge. Settling down for the evening I put my eye mask on and tried to drift to sleep. I don't know if it was because I'd had a full on day, was overly excited or if the carriage at the end of the section of the train was just a little too noisy, but I hardly slept.

Arriving in London Euston around 7:45AM, I met my boyfriend for breakfast in the lounge around 6.45 AM. To say I was pretty knackered was an understatement, however it was nothing a tasty breakfast and a hot shower from the Virgin first class lounge wouldn't be able to sort out (this was inclusive in first class tickets and was a huge bonus traveling first class).
We were extremely lucky and were also provided with a hotel to stay in on the Saturday evening so we could really make the most of our trip. We stayed at the Park International Hotel in Kensington  and Chelsea on Cromwell Road and had a great time there too. I loved the fact that we had arrived in the centre of London first thing on Saturday morning, and this ensured we could get on with the day promptly. Unfortunately I'm a bit of an idiot and thought our hotel was in Canary Wharf - it was not - and as a result we ended up having breakfast at The Breakfast Club which was a must-try on our list of things to do. Every cloud has a silver lining and all...
I'm still extremely surprised how little money we sent traveling on the tube. All in all it was maybe about £13 each across the two days, and we did a lot of traveling - very impressed.

Talking about value for money, I genuinely think the Sleeper is an excellent way of traveling to London. The train gets your right into the heart of London early in the morning which ensures you can make the most of your stay, and with only one night's accommodation to cover, I see it as an excellent opportunity to splurge a little more in the shops, restaurants and bars.  The tube lines are also right at your finger tips which was great for traveling onwards to our hotel.

Returning on the Sunday evening, I had to change my ticket last minute to arrive in Glasgow, luckily for me I was working with a fantastic PR who sorted everything out for me. The train wasn't until 11:30PM so we had another full day in London - amazing.

We boarded the train at about 11PM and settled in the lounge for a quick night cap before bed. This time, the lounge was very different, and the seats were much comfier. It was a little harder to have a quiet conversation with my other half, however, as a result, we ended up befriending a guy from Glasgow and started chatting to him about our experience and time in London.

We managed to bag a cabin in the middle section of the train this time, and also got cabins with an adjoining doors so we could actually speak to one another - I liked this a lot and thought it would be perfect for families using the service, or for my girlfriends if we ever fancied a weekend away.

Arriving in Glasgow around 7.20AM we headed straight for the showers and went to catch up with friends and family ahead of the Christmas madness. No breakfast for us that morning, we were keen to get as much sleep as possible so slept right up until the last minute. I'm happy to announce that I slept like a baby.
The only thing which I was a little unsure about on the Sleeper was the fact that none of the cabins had keys for them. In order to lock the door to your cabin, you had to lock it on the inside and then  get a member of staff to let you back into your room. This is great for the evening when you're going to sleep, however, not so great if you're in the lounge and need into your room and have to fetch a member of staff to let you into your room. 

I absolutely loved my first experience on the Caledonian Sleeper. It was comfortable, got me to London safely, boasted some extremely friendly staff and most importantly, ticked all the boxes for traveling. The service is quick, caters for all, and boasts a wide menu or food and refreshments too. The staff were extremely helpful and were always on hand to help. The cabins were clean, and the lounge areas were spacious and comfortable. I'll be uploading a few blogs on my weekend away in London, so be sure to keep an eye out to find out what I got up to...

   For Now...

Just Julia
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