Amazing tales from our tour managers
While escorted tours are what we do here at Titan, it’s our tour managers who are at the heart of every single one of our holidays.
John England – Making dreams come true
I have a wonderful memory from one of our Southern Sights and Sounds tour that still makes me smile. I had booked a group visit to a Nashville music theatre and one couple came up to add their names. Larry, the husband, told me that he’d been a professional drummer in the 1960s and had played with many famous bands at Liverpool’s Cavern Club, home to the Beatles. He had always wanted to play in Nashville but, unfortunately, had never made it to the USA until this trip, to celebrate his 76th birthday. He still played regularly back home and an idea flashed through my mind.
I know the owners of the Nashville music theatre, Kenny and Dianna, pretty well having brought Titan groups to their show for many years. By coincidence Kenny, also a former professional drummer, had played with many great stars over the years and now played with the house band. When I telephoned to make the booking, I mentioned Larry to him and wondered if maybe Kenny could allow him to play on stage. He thought it was a great idea. So, on the Friday evening, I took my group to the show and asked Larry if he would like to play a song with the band. At first he thought I was joking but then said, yes, of course he would! I introduced him to Kenny and the arrangements were made. You can imagine the faces of the Titan group when one of their friends was called up on to the stage! Larry sat himself down behind the Ringo Starr-type Ludwig drum set, picked up the sticks and played seamlessly with the band to the old Beatles’ classic I Saw Her Standing There! He had a big grin on his face the whole time and when the song finished, the audience (particularly the Titan section!) gave him a standing ovation.
Jez Luton – Playing matchmaker
I will never forget this particular trip when I was a tour manager on a fabulous Croatian holiday. We were travelling on a small Master Vessel, almost a yacht, which had at one time belonged to the Croatian army and had seen service during the Homeland war in 1992.We had a small crew of five including the Captain, and my Titan group of 25 people. The crew were lovely and we all clicked. After exploring our various stops with our excellent local guides, we would all sit down together and enjoy a lovely evening meal, and many of my customers would relax out on deck, talk and enjoy the ambience. As the sun sank into the Adriatic, the lights would come on and the other boats would be reflected in the water. I was able to get to know my group very well and there was one lady called Jane who was travelling with a couple. She told me she had been widowed 10 years previously and that her friends had been immensely supportive in helping her to get through this very difficult time. There was also a lovely gentleman on the tour who was travelling alone called Bob, and he told me one day that he had been widowed a year before and was finding it very hard to deal with. He told me that this was the first time that he had been away since his wife’s death and although he was enjoying it very much, he was having lots of sad moments.
I found myself talking to Jane the next day and I told her that Bob had also been widowed and was finding it hard to deal with and I wondered if she might be able to help him in anyway as she had gone through the same thing. I noticed that they started talking and were frequently walking together and often sitting out on the deck in the evenings and relaxing together. It was a great pleasure to witness this taking place, and by the end of the holiday it was almost as though they had known one another forever. About a year later I received an email from the couple that Jane had been travelling with. They knew that I lived in Cornwall and they were not so far away in Somerset. They wondered if I was free to join them at their house for a meal and a get together. I drove to their house and found that there were two other couples from the holiday there also; one lovely couple from Bristol, and Jane and Bob, who had now set up home together and were very, very happy…The tour was called the Terra Magica and I feel that there was definitely some magic in the air on that special tour exploring the sublime coastline along the Adriatic Sea! And I am so glad to have been part of it.
Ruth Wood – Race against time…
One November, I was heading to London Gatwick after a huge storm had hit the night before. Because potholes had opened up on the M25, sections of the motorway were shut. Luckily, I managed to get the airport but half my group (15) didn’t. We had no choice but to fly to Venice to join the cruise ship we were sailing. Meanwhile, the Titan team back in the UK arranged for the cars to be turned back to London Heathrow and speedily organised new flights for the stranded customers to Venice – via Dusseldorf.
Once in Venice, I liaised with the local agent to arrange transport from Venice airport later that night for the missing passengers, who were finally on their way. The clock was ticking and the ship’s captain was preparing to sail at 10:30pm that evening and adamant that he needed to sail on time or he would incur heavy port charges for every hour and a huge fine if the delay went into the next day. So I took a deep breath and asked to see the Captain myself and pleaded with him to wait. He must have felt sorry for me because he agreed to wait another half an hour. At 10:55pm the group were only 10 minutes away, however the passenger gangway was taken up. Refusing to be defeated, I ran down to the crew gangway that was still rigged on the lower deck and refused to leave until all the guests were safely on board the ship.
Oh, the relief when I saw them hurrying along the quayside, their cases trailing behind them. As soon as they came up the crew gangway, the engines started and we left in record time. I looked at my watch: 11:57pm. Only 90 minutes late for departure...
Stephen Holt – Making new friends
One of the lovely aspects of being a tour manager for me is seeing the reactions of my customers as we introduce them to new sights, sounds and experiences. People go on escorted holidays for lots of various reasons and some of my fondest memories are of the customers themselves. I remember twins celebrating their 80th birthdays with us and we even had a couple who chalked up 70 years of marriage. Many are revisiting destinations they have not seen for many, many years. Some combine their trip with visiting family they rarely get to see.
And age is absolutely no barrier that’s for sure. One lady of 94 came with us on a Danube river cruise. On the days I felt she couldn’t manage the excursions, she would wander off by herself with her walking frame and explore around the vicinity of the ship. At the final briefing of this holiday, I stood up and told everyone her age, praised her energy and fortitude and gave her a little gift. The whole ship stood up and applauded her as they too had witnessed her courage and enthusiasm and wanted to show their admiration. She responded by saying that she thought she was too old to come on holiday but everyone had given her such support she was going to book another one straight away. All of us cheered and there wasn't a dry eye on the whole ship.
I also love seeing the friendships that are formed. One example in particular I always remember is on one of Titan’s Cyprus holidays. Whilst on the coach on the first excursion I saw two solo ladies talking across the aisle and I suggested to one of the ladies that she might like to sit next to her new friend. She firmly told me that while she was happy to chat she didn’t want to sit next to her. So I offered to seat them either side of the aisle so they could talk if they wanted to. The following day the two ladies continued to chat animatedly and also included a solo man who joined in with their conversations. The holiday was a great success and all too soon the final day was approaching. However, the three solo travellers had now become firm friends and discovered they all lived within 30 miles of each other! They had all got on so well they had planned a BBQ on their return home and had even discussed doing a tour together the following year. Hearing this made me very happy. And that’s why I love Titan’s holidays as so many friendships continue after the holiday has ended, and they are so great for solo travellers who are taking those first steps going on holiday alone.
Helen Young – Keep on driving!
One interesting example of going "off piste" on a tour was during the summer of Operation Stack – where lorries are queued on the M20 to avoid causing gridlock on Kent’s roads. We were meant to be taking our coach over on the Eurotunnel early in the morning, having spent the previous night at the Mercure Hotel in Hythe. Our destination was Cologne in Germany to join a river cruise. The ship would sail at 5.00pm and we would arrive well in time for that - or at least that is what I thought...Firstly, we were bumped off the Eurotunnel due to a mistake on their system. Titan did a great job at getting us booked on the ferry instead at such short notice, and that would normally have solved the problem but Operation Stack got in the way - we couldn't get on the ferry until 2.00pm! I knew we couldn't make it to Cologne in time for the 5.00pm sailing. I was in touch with Titan who, in turn, were in touch with the ship's captain but unfortunately he could not delay the sailing. I had to make a decision whilst still on the ferry. I instructed the drivers (there was a two-man team) to head left - follow the coast through France to Belgium and on to the Netherlands. The ship's first port of call the next day would be the Dutch town of Hoorn. We would have to join it there.
Of course, the obvious pressing problem was where would sleep that night? I was regularly on the phone to our fantastic duty officers who worked so hard in finding us a hotel somewhere en-route to or in Hoorn. Both myself and the drivers - who were a great source of encouragement - kept the spirits of the group upbeat and positive. Secretly I was very worried but I couldn't let our customers worry, too. The miles passed by, the tension grew but then duty officers Jo and Nicole pulled the rabbit out of the hat and found us a place for that night. It was a huge achievement. So we ended up just outside of Delft in the Shanghai hotel which was very swish and beautifully decorated in a chinois style and they laid on a delicious dinner for us. We had a lovely evening together eating our meal and chatting, a real comradery had been established, the group, myself and the drivers had all bonded over our little adventure. The following day we joined the ship just 50 minutes away in Hoorn and resumed our schedule. We were quite the celebrities amongst the other passengers and we were all rather sad to say goodbye to our drivers who headed back to the U.K. a day later than planned. A victory for teamwork and for staying calm.
If you have a favourite tour manager you’d like to shout about or share a story with us too, please do get in touch.
Ting has a serious case of wanderlust. Having travelled to over 40 countries, it’s her mission in life to make her way through her ever-growing list. Her two young sons have also caught the travel bug, and recent trips have seen them making snow angels in Iceland while watching the Northern Lights, as well as walking alongside elephants in South Africa.
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