email us home

Newsletter 1pc: January 2015

Colin Brain

From our Chairman

Those of us in London were treated to a spectacular send-off with 12 minutes of firework extravaganza that woke us up to the New Year.

As some of you who were at the AGM in October will recall that for better or worse a decision was made to elect yours truly to try and replace Alan Partridge as Chairman of our organisation for the next twelve months or so - I say try because Alan is one hard act to follow.

Unfortunately in the past 12 months we have seen the passing of a few of our member as well as the resignation of a couple of members - this has brought our total down to 52 at the last count; however we have had a couple of new members joining our ranks and that includes Keith Hall and John Rogers who are both warmly welcomed to our ranks.

John Harding heads up our working party designed to increase our membership and we wish him every success in doing so.

If you are still in contact with a former colleague or friend that played a role in an ABTA Committee or working party who maybe interested in joining our little group please let John or Richard English know and one of them will follow up your lead immediately - we need to increase our membership whenever and wherever we can.

Immediately after our AGM, nineteen of us dashed off by taxi to St Pancras station where we boarded the 19:05 Eurostar train to Brussels, we stayed at a comfortable small hotel close by to Brussels Midi station, The Hotel Floris Ustel, thanks to Superbreaks

Many of us went to the Museum of the Army where we were able to witness the horrors of the trenches of the first Great wars and the total devastation that Belgium suffered in World War 2.

We also discovered a little bistro Café next door to the hotel, the Brasserie L’Escale where our meal was prepared, cooked and served with a smile in a relaxed atmosphere - and the beer was ever so good!

Alex Mc Leman and Doug Chapman are working hard on our away trips for 2015 and you will soon be able to book for our trip to Chester, which will feature a Dinner Cruise on the river and in the Autumn we are planning a trip to Prague.

We are also talking with the Skal Club of Great Britain to join forces in promoting their and our events to the mutual advantage of both parties.

Our AGM this year will also be held in a location that will provide easier access for those of us who are partially disabled (no stairs).

Here’s hoping to see you at one of our events in the coming months.

Cruising along the Danube

Taking advantage of the Old Abtarian discount from Freewheel Cruises, Veronica and I joined the Arosa Bella Rosa at Passau in late October for a week’s cruise to Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava and lesser known spots in-between.

The ship was modern with an attractive and warm environment. Our comfortable cabin was a decent size with a large picture window. It was very well fitted and serviced perfectly. All meals were in the self service restaurant, where there was a wide choice to suit all tastes. The quality and variety was invariably excellent. A good choice of mostly Austrian. German wines and beers were served promptly at the table, with equally quick and often continental service at the two bars, one of which was in the large, main lounge. Here the sole vocalist and all round entertainer performed. Not a highlight of the trip, but his sounds were muted by the supply of single malt whisky proudly offered to his English guests by the barman.

This was our first river cruise and the immediate contract with an ocean cruise was the smooth, stable ride- virtually no sensation of movement unless you glanced at the riverbank. Since much of the travel was at night, this aided movement in the evening and a peaceful sleep.

At the ports of call, we mostly took off on our own, which we prefer on cruises. In both Vienna and Budapest there were overnight stops and a chance to sample local restaurants and a bit of culture.

For anyone interested in more details of the trip, I have placed a full description and photographs on

Finally, a candid review must mention some of the risks of river cruising. Checking in for the transfer at Passau station was confused by German a train drivers strike and the fact that the boat was moored at a remote spot some miles away from Passau. In fact, the cruising company dealt with all of this remarkably well. The changed moorings were only to get us ahead of queues for a lock closure (they were delayed by ten hours the previous week).

On the return journey, the boat was forced to terminate in Vienna instead of Passau, because intense rains in the Alps had raised the Danube to flood levels and meant the Arosa Bella was unable to pass under certain bridges. This actually suited us, because it was easier to get to Prague from there, but most guests had to be up for 3am coach transfers back to Passau.

Nethertheless, all the staff were brilliant and the hotel manager and the tour manager made special time for us amidst the predomintly German clientele.

Overall, a throroughly enjoyable experience with great support from the Freewheel staff. We will certainly go river cruising again.

Doug Chapman
Decemember 2014

Following the A.G.M a group of members caught an evening Eurostar from St Pancras to Brussells for a two night stay where various visits were made to places of interest followed by an excellent and entertaining dinner at the Restaurant next to the Hotel.

Our heartfelt thanks go to Alex Mcleman, Colin Brain, Doug Chaprman and all those who helped to make this a great short break thoroughly enjoyed by all

Hello to all
At the AGM, and subsequent committee meetings, I was charged with finding a suitable venue for our annual Spring Event. The AGM voted for Chester and having explored a number of Chester hotels and deals the Events Team have decided that the Mill Hotel & Spa provides the best value for us.

The hotel has 5 restaurants, a Real Ale bar, Spa & Health Centre, Leisure Centre, Swimming Pool and River cruise dining. Parking is free and the hotel is not too far from the station. I have added a link below to show you the facilities in more detail.

I am provisionally holding accommodation on 20 & 21 May. On 20 May we have reserved dining in the Canaletto restaurant (3 course meal + coffee/tea).

On the 21st we have reserved a 4 course meal + coffee/tea on the Restaurant Cruiser. The cruise lasts approx. 2 ½ hrs.

Rates per night are:- £125.00 per double room and £90.00 per single for DB&B. The river cruise is an additional £5.00 per person. If anyone wants to stay an extra day the cost will be £95.00 double room B&B.

If the take up for Chester reflects the AGM vote, there will be a good response, so please let me know your interest as soon as possible to reserve your places.

One further consideration is that for those of you who went to Ironbridge last year, Chester is within striking distance and your annual pass lasts until 29 May, so you may want to use it to see any of the museums you missed.

Kind regards to all

Alex McLeman

Report on the Fifteenth Annual General Meeting Held at Porters Restaurant, Henrietta St, WC2E 8QH

Apologies for Absence
27 members attended and 9 apologies had been received.

The minutes of the fourteenth AGM held on 24 September 2013 were approved and signed as correct record of the meeting

Chairman’s Report
The Chairman reported that it has been a fairly standard year with both the Christmas Lunch and the trip to Iron bridge being well attended and enjoyed the participants.

He stressed that if the membership of the association continued to fall there would come a point when it was not feasible to continue and he encouraged members to invite friends who met the membership criteria to join.

It was unclear as to whether the offer from ABTA to mention the Old Abtarians at meetings had been actioned or whether an approach had been made to members of the regional committees. Margaret Jobling thought that the tenor of the Association was to provide a forum where members could keep in touch with friends they had made while serving on ABTA committees rather than the concept of opening membership to other industry groups... John Harding said that he had given a lot of thought to the ethos of the Association when the discussion document had been circulated earlier in the year and he thought the concept of ‘keeping in touch’ should be treasured and applauded.

Presentation by Mark Tanzer - Cheif Executive, ABTA
During Q/A session the following issues were discussed
• Suggested that in the lights of over 60% booking on-line any PR campaign should be directed at the younger demographic.
• While airlines are not complacent there should be a fair tax on flying. ABTA rules require an inclusive price be shown.
• Other organisations eg ATOL provides financial protection so how does ABTA promote a USP?
• The percentage of complaints relating to on-line bookings does not differ greatly from those booked face to face.
• The recruitment to Old Abtarians was good considering the reduction in the number of ABTA committees.

The chairman thanked Mark Tanzer for attending the meeting and for his enlightening presentation.

Treasurers Report

The Treasurer reported that the surplus for the year stood at £112 and that the funds in the current account at year end stood at £3495. The two main net costs had been the Christmas lunch and the AGM and last year’s deficit was due to the agreed subsidy of the singe room supplement at York. It was noted that ABTA had subsidised the AGM to the value of £500.
During the year there had been 1 resignation (Sandra Murray), 4 deaths previously reported and 1 new recruit (Keith Hall).

The Treasurer presented the accounts and as there were no queries John Harding proposed and Pat Kent seconded their adoption which was unanimous...

Election of Officers

The following were elected unanimously

Chairman: Colin Brain
Treasurer: Michael Austin
Secretary: Mary Cooke

Election of Executive Committee
The following were elected:

Membership Secretary: Richard English
Press Officer: David Richardson
Newsletter Editor: Paul Creswell
Event Co-ordinators: Alex McLeman/Douglas Chapman
Immediate Past Chairman: Alan Partridge

Election of Auditor
Brian Cooke indicated that he was willing to serve a further term. This was agreed unanimously.

Colin Brain took the chair and thanked the outgoing chairman Alan Partridge for his commitment to the Old Abtarians and his unwavering attention to its continuation.

Christmas lunch at Oxford

Thirty eight members and their guests sat down for our festive lunch in the familiar and friendly surroundings of the Oxford Four Pillars hotel. (it would have been forty, but the newsletter editor and his wife were frustratingly locked for three hours in M1 road works).

It really does feel like a Christmas institution and all the people we spoke to agreed that the service this year was excellent and the lunch was good, although let down a bit by overcooked vegetables. But well done, Alex and the hotel staff.

Colin Brain, our new chairman, welcomed everyone and described the plans for 2015. They include a spring break to Chester and an autumn trip to Prague, whilst discussions are in hand for possible joint events with SKAL Club.