YOUR HOLIDAY DISASTER

For Maureen Sponar every day of her coach trip to Austria got worse and worse
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The Independent Travel
Last May, my daughter offered to accompany her 69-year-old mother on a week's coach trip to Austria. We arrived at Colchester bus station to be collected at 10am and taken by "feeder" coach to Dover, and thence to France by ferry. After waiting an hour we rang the emergency number. By 12.30pm we felt the vehicle would never come, then it suddenly appeared without apology or explanation.

We had missed the ferry and had to wait another two hours on the quayside. Our "comfortable, continental coach" was neither and our young Dutch courier seemed as confused as we were. We did not board the ferry as promised, as foot passengers, we were not joining a "luxury class" coach at Calais, and three tours had apparently been merged into two and we now had two ancient buses. Not only were none of the drivers, (two per bus) familiar with the route, but it emerged that they had only been informed about the journey a few hours beforehand.

We reached Brussels for our overnight stop five hours late. We were driven around the city for almost an hour, deposited at an unscheduled hotel, and "roused" at 5.30am. Food did not appear to feature in our operator's vocabulary and by 11.30am, when we stopped for a snack in Germany, everyone on our bus was starving. The seating was cramped and there were no lavatories or air-conditioning as promised. Only one of the four drivers had been to Austria before, let alone our destination - Kitzbuhel. When booking I had asked for reassurance that our hotel would be in Kitzbuhel town centre, and this had been confirmed, so it was shattering to discover that my daughter and I were consigned not to an hotel but a "third-rate", pension, which, on our arrival at 10pm, could not even supply us with a cup of coffee.

Day three dawned crisp and sunny, but we were half way up a steep hill, making it difficult to go into town for evening meals. Fortunately, a small hotel welcomed us on subsequent evenings (at huge cost), but we were amazed to discover other people on our tour were staying there and that they had paid pounds 100 per head less than us for far superior accommodation.

Our homeward journey through Germany was uneventful and we spent that night at a gloomy hotel in the Belgian countryside. Chatting to our fellow- travellers made us aware that everyone had been disappointed and resolved to complain. We were determined to make the most of our last day and the promised visit to a hypermarket near Calais. Our optimism was short-lived. Half-an-hour into the last journey, our driver realised he had left his purse at the Belgian hotel and retrieving it meant cutting down on the "shopping time" at Calais. There was no remorse on the driver's part. How would he have reacted, had one of his passengers behaved so forgetfully?

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