April 23, 2010

IRELAND: Stranded US senior citizens get a taste of Irish hospitality

DUBLIN, Ireland / The Irish Times / News / April 23, 2010

 By Alison Healy
THE VOLCANIC ash plume has led to many acts of kindness to 72 older tourists stranded here since last weekend.

The visitors, largely from the US, were due to leave last Saturday after their escorted Trafalgar tour around Ireland.

However the eruptions from Iceland put paid to that and they were stranded at Dublin’s Mespil Hotel. Tour guides Sally and Bernard Creegan called to see how they were faring last weekend and felt sorry for the group. With fellow tour guide Peter Flood, they secured a coach from Cronins “for almost nothing, just the cost of the fuel” and set up an itinerary of events to entertain the group.

A group of tourists who were left stranded in Dublin. Tour guides took them to sites such as Glendalough, the Jameson Distillery, St Patrick's Cathedral and Malahide Castle. Where there was an entry fee, it was waived. Photograph: Eric Luke The tour guides brought the group to sites such as Glendalough, the Jameson Distillery, St Patrick’s Cathedral and Malahide Castle. Where there was an entry fee, it was waived. The guides are self-employed and have been providing their services for free to the group all week. “We’re just flying the flag for Fáilte Ireland,” said Mr Flood. “You hear so much negative stuff about rip-off Ireland but this is the reality.” Mr Creegan said: “We were talking to two people this morning and they said ‘we don’t want to go home now, we’re enjoying it so much’.” Doris Hill from North Carolina is one of the people who has been enjoying her extended stay in Dublin. “When we heard the flights were cancelled we were like ‘what do we do? How do we get around? Where do we stay? Our reservation is up.” She said she also got “a little afraid” that her medication would run out, but once she visited a pharmacy she relaxed and began to enjoy it. The hotel cut their rate to €40 bed and breakfast and many of the tourists loaded up on the breakfast buffet to sustain themselves throughout the day. “Then the hotel decided that we were eating too many salads, because we didn’t have that many euros left, so they said they would fix us dinner for just €8 every night,” Ms Hill said. “I thought, oh, we are so special.” Lexie Ogden expects to return to Los Angeles with her husband on Sunday but said they would love to return. “I was very surprised at the treatment we received,” she said. “Even the chemists were great. We paid for part of the medicine and because my husband wanted something in a small quantity, they just gave it to him. “The only nightmare has been trying to get out. People have been so kind. My husband and I were lost, looking at a map on the street and some guy stopped his car in the middle of the street and said ‘are you lost, do you need help’?” Don Chaney from California had just one gripe. “What upsets me about it is the airlines. I think that Aer Lingus and Ryanair should have their licences revoked. They’re not doing anything for anybody. We’re flying with Aer Lingus and they were absolutely no help.” Debby Tharp has been accompanying 10 older people from an active retirement community in North Carolina and said the tour guides had been “incredibly kind” to the senior citizens. “Oh man, we could not have been treated any better. It’s made my job a piece of cake. “I think we would come back, just to see the people we have connected with.” Fáilte Ireland said visits to its www.discoverireland.ie website were up 20 per cent for the beginning of this week compared with the same period last week. “We believe this is a mixture of stranded tourists accessing the ‘Stranded in Ireland’ section along with Irish visitors looking to stay in Ireland,” a spokeswoman said. [rc] © 2010 irishtimes.com