We are booked on a cruise out of Portsmouth, UK embarking the afternoon of 7/24/2013 and returning to Portsmouth on 8/8/2013. The most convenient flights from ILM (our home airport) will take us to and from LHR. Either before or after the cruise we are considering a side trip of a few days to Paris, possibly taking Eurostar. Suggestions about how to book a tour from Heathrow to Paris with a night or so stay in Paris? We are capable tourists in our 80's but will be carrying a full load of ship-through and carry-on baggage for the 16 days at sea which will include shore excursions to ports in Iceland as well as formal gear for the Captain's receptions on board. Any recommendations on how to handle the baggage while on a side trip to France? (We find your TV programs a great way to prepare for trips as well as relive those we've taken in the past. Good work.)
First, Rick himself does not frequent this board. We are all "members of the traveling public," just like yourself. If you are flying into LHR and want to get to Paris immediately, the most efficient way is to fly. The Eurostar (chunnel) is great from the city center of London, but not great from Heathrow (particularly if you're laden with bags). I'd book an open jaw ticket ("multi city" on web sites like Kayak and Orbitz), into PAR and out of LHR, all on one ticket. This way, you not only get efficient transit to Paris, but your checked bags are checked all the way through (the airline does the transferring) and if your plane is late into LHR, you will not have to pay to be put on the next available flight. If you haven't flown recently, be prepared for sticker shock at the checked bag fees (the first one is usually free, but the second is $50-75 and a third will be even more). Then take a cab from your Paris arrival airport (either CDG or ORL will work fine) to your Paris hotel (have the full address written out to show the driver). Again, with two people and lots of bags, this is the way to go. Getting back to London, you'll probably want to take the Eurostar. You can taxi to the station (Gare du Nord), but then will have to carry your own bags through the station to the train; just be sure to allow enough time for this. While it may seem appealing to find a place in London to stash some of your stuff while taking a trip to Paris, I think this would involve a lot of backtracking and actually be more hassle. But someone else here may know of an efficient way to do this.
This might sound silly, give serious consider to not storing your stuff and not carrying it with you. I am assuming you'll have an overnight stay in a hotel in Portsmouth at the end of the cruise; based on this consider shipping most of your stuff home via FedEx. Before you leave you can set up an account with FedEx, be sure to ask for international shipping papers, then ship the stuff home (with the assistance of the hotel staff where your're staying), and carry only a bag for the short stay in Paris. Yes it will cost a few hundred dollars, but this is small price to pay for not lugging 2 sets of clothing for 16 days from Portsmouth to Paris and back to London. If you select all the light stuff and pack it in a vacuum bag (AKA space bag) then box it you might be able to get a great deal in a couple of boxes. Luggage is the bane of my existence--a stipulation my wife and I set before planning a trip is the we each take one carry-on. Otherwise we purchase what we need to get by then give it someone on the street before we head home.
"consider shipping most of your stuff home via FedEx" Amen to that!!
Dana: My mother traveled in the continental style until about age 80, and my poor father never got her to scale back her wardrobe. I honestly don't know how he handled all her stuff. The worse part was that she never even wore 1/4th of what she carried. We are seasoned cruisers, and I've finally got my wife down to one suitcase with wheels. I only travel with a 22" rolling bag and a back pack. If you look at Rick Steves' packing list, someone of your age can also make some minor modifications and get by just fine. We just returned from Jamaica on a cruise, and we didn't even wear 1/4 what we carried on. Despite what the cruise lines lead you to believe, people on board just don't dress up like they did 33 years ago (on my first cruise.) I just don't think Fed Ex would be affordable with a 50 lb. suitcase from London. You can call them for a rate, however.
From Portsmouth, you need to get to a hotel in London, stay one night, leave most of your baggage with the hotel to hold for one night, then do the following trip: Look at this page from Gray Line Tours out of London. http://www.grayline.com/London/View_All Sign up for #22 on the page, "Paris Overnight", which includes Eurostar tickets from London to Paris; you will be met at the Paris station and have a fully escorted by bus tour of Paris, then taken to a nice hotel for the night(included in the Paris trip price). The next day, you could take Eurostar back to London. Return to the hotel where your bags are stored, stay one night. See #4 on the page. It is private car from your hotel in London back to Heathrow (either direction you need is available), but there are several car services available. You will need a car service with all the luggage you will have.
An alternative to my above suggestion is to go directly from Portsmouth to Heathrow airport area and find a hotel there at which to store your luggage. I prefer the Hilton attached to Terminal 5; the terminal where SOME flights from the U.S. arrive and depart. Again, you would spend the night, then take transportation into London to St. Pancras to catch the Eurostar, taking only an overnight carry on size bag with you. The advantage to this location is that once you are back from Paris and come back to your Heathrow hotel to spend the night, you have no hassles the next day getting to the airport on time with all that luggage to make your flight. For transportation from Portsmouth, go to this website and check on coach fare (bus) to either London or Heathrow: http://www.nationalexpress.com/wherewego/airports/heathrow-airport.aspx Use the column on the left of the page and plug in your information. I checked on a bus leaving August 8, 2013, and got this result: http://coach.nationalexpress.com/nxbooking/journey-list 10:35; Portsmouth International Port; to Heathrow Airport London (Terminal 5) Arrive 13:10--2h 35m Fastest--£16.50 The coaches leave Portsmouth 4 times a day, spaced 2 hours apart, for Heathrow or various parts of London. Fare for one SENIOR to London is £12.00. If you'd rather travel by train (faster), post an additional question here, and our resident train expert, Nigel, will see it and give you all the information you need.