News - A just for groups! coach tour lands one member a luxury cruise

A Suffolk great-grandmother got rather more than she bargained for when she travelled with 97 other club members on a just for groups! coach trip.

Vera Burrell, 90, from Sudbury in Suffolk, was travelling to Bournemouth on a five-day group holiday in September with just for groups! when the unlikely encounter took place.

 By chance she met John Mason, 91, from Bishop’s Waltham, Hampshire, when the coaches stopped at the Old Vine in Winchester for a pub lunch and he asked if he could sit at her table as the pub was full.

After just 45 minutes of chatting, he asked Vera if she had ever been on a cruise and – before Vera knew what was happening – John was making her an offer that was simply too good to believe.

He took her to the Hays Travel agency, across the road from the pub, and booked the two of them on a luxury Mediterranean cruise with P&O Cruises.

John paid £3,700 for the 11-night voyage onboard Azura, and a somewhat dazed Vera returned to her fellow coach travellers, telling them the incredible “you won’t believe this” tale of her chance encounter with the “stranger” as they continued on their journey to Bournemouth.

When the coach stopped again in Winchester on the return leg five days later, Vera went back to Hays Travel to find more details about her travelling companion and “just to make sure it wasn’t a joke”.

Two weeks later, the couple met again, this time on the ship in Southampton when Vera knew her dream cruise was now a reality.

There was no romance but she is considering his offer of another cruise next year.

One thing is for certain – she was not expecting her five-day break with just for groups! to include an 11-night luxury cruise with a complete stranger!

Harold Burke, just for groups! sales director, said: “We always try to exceed our customers’ expectations but this really surpasses anything we could expect!

“Vera and fellow members of her Suffolk-based group travel with us two or three times a year, and they always have a great time…but meeting a chap who invites you on a luxury cruise really does provide the ‘I can beat that story’ after-dinner tale!

“We can’t guarantee every group holiday with just for groups! will end up with a mystery cruise but we do know that our groups always have a great time together and usually when they are on a cruise it’s because that’s what we’ve booked for them.

“We cater for hundreds of private groups and have had many romances and interesting tales over the years but I think this one tops the lot.

“Vera’s story has been featured in national papers such as The Daily Mail and The Times, and on the BBC too, which just shows how this story has captured people’s imaginations, as it’s heart-warming to know that a chance encounter can lead to something good.”

 Would you like to read more about Vera’s Story – please click on the links below:

East Anglia Daily Times

Daily Mail

The Times

The Express

BBC News