It pretty much goes without saying that us Brits simply cannot get enough of the thrilling attractions that await in Orlando.
I recently flew with Virgin Atlantic from London to Orlando in their Premium Economy cabin.
Here are my thoughts on the experience.
The Premium Economy Cabin
Aboard the 747's that do not operate out of London Heathrow, the 66-seat Premium Economy cabin is split between the main and upper decks. With 46 seats on the the main deck in a 2-4-2 config, and 20 seats upstairs in two-by-two.
The cabin features purple leather seating which are 21" in width, offer lumbar support, recline, and a very generous 38" of legroom - which was more than enough for someone who is 5ft 10 like myself.
I found a purple blanket, a 500ml bottle of still water, a small pillow and headphones at my seat when I boarded the aircraft.
On the back of each seat, you'll find the Vera Touch in-flight entertainment system which features a 10.6" touch screen monitor, and a touch-screen handset two - which was pretty cool.
Prior to departure, I received a very warm welcome onboard from Becci and Jennie; two of the cabin crew who would be looking after me. They offered me a glass (or two) of Champagne or Orange Juice followed by a choice of newspaper and a menu card so I could begin the tough decision to decide what to eat later. If you know me well, you will know that making a choice about what to eat is something that I take forever to achieve.
I admit I was surprised that you do not receive an amenity kit on day flights, but these are offered on night flights and include an eye-mask, ear plugs, socks, toothbrush, paste and a pen.
Once we had departed from London Gatwick and the seatbelt signs were switched off, a pre-dinner drinks service was offered accompanied by a pack of Sour Cream and Chive Penn-State Pretzels.
Main Meal Service
About an hour and a half after take-off, it was time for the main meal service. This was presented on a large tray which featured a Carrot and celeriac salad with citrus dressing, choice of a main meal, an apple and blackberry sponge pudding and cheese and biscuits.
This was served with a choice of drink and a warmed bread roll. The tray also featured a wine glass, coffee cup and the iconic Virgin Atlantic Wilbur and Orville Salt & Pepper shakers - which co-incidentally say "Pinched from Virgin Atlantic" underneath. Alas, I did not take these, although I must admit they are a pretty cool souvenir...
The main meal options of my particular flight were a Beef stew, Chicken and sweet potato curry and vegetarian option of Cheesy gnocci with spinach and leek. I went for the chicken, which actually looked very appealing.
Thoughts on the Meal Service
I liked the fact the citrus dressing for the salad came in a little bottle, so you could add it if you wish.
The main dish is covered in foil to keep it warm, which I thought was a good idea. The Chicken and sweet potato curry was full of flavour and the portion was just right. I'd probably say it is within the top ten meals I've eaten onboard an airplane.
Although it looked a little sorry for itself, the Apple and blackberry sponge was very tasty and was the perfect alternative seeing as I don't like cheese.
Overall I was impressed with my Premium Economy dining experience out to Orlando and am pleased the cute little salt and pepper shakers have not disappeared from the skies just yet... they're popular on certain online auction sites!
Lunch was rounded off with tea or coffee and then a cheeky little glass of rum or whisky if desired, both of which I declined before settling down to watch a movie whilst the lights were dimmed.
Vera Touch Inflight Entertainment System
Developed by Panasonic, the Vera Touch IFE was ultra responsive and I was impressed at just how intuitive it was. You are able to swipe through the screen just like you would on an iPad.
The touch screen handset found in both the Premium Economy and Upper Class is an excellent addition, where you can literally make a choice instead of using the big screen. The ability to phone someone on the ground or onboard was an interesting function, so to was the Seat Chat.... That's where you can basically text someone else onboard. It meant I did not have to run up and down the stairs all the time to see my travel companion, which was a bonus.
There was a good selection of movies, TV shows, audio programmes and games to take advantage of. When browsing through the system, you are able to save items to your playlist to watch later.
One of the things I love when flying is the Skymap, an interactive map showcasing your journey. The best thing is you can have the Skymap showing on the handset and watch a film on the large screen... So you have the best of both worlds. Good eh?
I know most people like to escape from reality whilst flying, but thanks to a partnership with AeroMobile; you can send and receive text messages, calls and emails using your data for the price you'd pay when roaming abroad. It's activated once you take off and automatically shuts off when you enter US airspace as they currently do not allow it. If you ever wanted to find out about the latest news going on down below, the news application gives you a list of the latest news from Sky.
One of the very cool things about the IFE system was the ability to "multi-task". For example, I could be watching a film on the seat-back monitor whilst chatting to a passenger using Seat Chat or even run the Skymap on the handset. I like to multi-task, so this was a great feature.
Throughout the Flight
A couple of hours after the main meal was served, the crew passed through distributing mini Fab ice-lollies as a movie time treat. I thought this was a great offering.
You are also able to walk up to the galley and ask for any little snacks or nibbles should you wish. The long hours in between the meal services can leave you feeling a little peckish. The crew also passed through at regular intervals offering glasses of water or juice and passed through noting request for additional drinks.
The crew did pass through very briefly promoting the Retail Therapy duty free shopping service available. Looking through the brochure, the prices were pretty reasonable and many items you can even pre-order in advance to be delivered onboard or even to your home address, which is a fab idea, seeing as I always seem to have too much to carry anyway.
During a lull-period in the flight, I took the opportunity to chat to Becci and Jenni - two of the cabin crew looking after the Premium Cabin; and Zoe, who was the Flight Services Manager.
It was really nice to talk to them about their high-flying careers in the sky and also to get some tips on where to go and what to see in Orlando and in fact many destinations around the world.
The crew were friendly and I observed them proactively engaging with passengers. They really do a stellar but demanding job, so I always think it's nice to stop and say thanks to them when they are not in the middle of something.
Approximately ninety minutes prior to our arrival into Orlando, an afternoon tea service was offered. This consisted of a choice of wrap, a packet of Tyrell's Plane Crisps and a Brodericks Bar, and is accompanied by tea, coffee, juice or water.
The choice of wrap was between West Country cheddar and double Gloucester cheese with spring onion Mayo or the Virgin Club wrap; which is Chicken and bacon with sweet chilli Mayo. I decided to skip the wrap and just enjoy the other treats, which were delicious. I may or may not have been persuaded to eat the Broderick's bar by Becci; who jokingly said it is what she looks forward to on each day-flight!
Arriving into Orlando.
Once the afternoon tea service was cleared, one of the first officers made an announcement about the current conditions in Orlando and advised that the cabin would be secured for landing very shortly. Disembarkation from the aircraft was pretty slick seeing as you are one of the first to get off and once through the immigration check-point, I did not have to wait too long for my baggage as they are tagged as priority.
Overall, I was deeply impressed with my Premium Economy experience with Virgin Atlantic. It is a great, robust product which appears to be a hit with many. The crew were simply fabulous and I did a stellar job, the inflight entertainment was excellent.. I love the ability to "multi-task" and chat on the handset whilst watching a movie on the larger screen etc. The food onboard was of a very good quality, better than some airlines I have flown with; and to be honest - I can't really think of anything negative to say.
Thanks to Virgin Atlantic for another great flight experience. To book your flight, why not visit www.virgin-atlantic.com.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Virgin Atlantic in their Premium Economy cabin after initially purchasing an Economy fare. All views however remain my own of course.