Couple ‘set sail’ on the voyage of a lifetime…

It was going to be the trip of a lifetime – a 50th wedding anniversary and a significant birthday to be celebrated in true style with a voyage across the Atlantic after a few days in New York seeing the sights and taking in a Broadway show.

But when the coronavirus restrictions meant Ed and Barbara Higgins could not take their special trip, their daughters stepped in to make sure it could happen – just not in the way the Aylsham couple had planned.

During a video call back in April, Barbara told her daughter, Alex Ozansoy, how disappointed she was that the trip could not happen, and this got her thinking.

“My Mum is normally so strong but as she spoke she welled up. It broke my heart,” said Alex. “Once I’d finished the call, I called my sister, Anna, and the ideas started flowing and we began organising the ‘trip’. We wanted to make sure it was an uplifting experience rather than give the feeling of sadness and regret of missing out.”

The plan started with Anna suggesting having some delicious meals delivered and snowballed from there into adding links to Broadway performances, The Met Opera, virtual walking tours and activities on board the Queen Mary 2.

Her parents had been planning the trip for years, and Alex said it took the family around eight hours a day for 10 days to put the perfect package together – all in strict secrecy.

On May 8 they delivered the package and Ed and Barbara “set off” on their surprise trip, “waved off” by Alex and Anna, sons-in-law Burhan and James, and grandchildren Aleyna, Max and George.

Ed and Barbara Higgins “on board” the Queen Mary 2. Photo montage: Alex Ozansoy

Alex said her parents had so been looking forward to their holiday, saying: “Thirty years ago mum and dad earned a trip to New York through work and absolutely loved it but have never had the opportunity to return. Mum is a huge fan of musical shows and it was her dream to go to a show on Broadway. 

“They had never been on a cruise and were so excited about enjoying food and entertainment from around the world.”

The couple were given an itinerary of what was happening each day, including afternoon tea delivered from Walnut Tree Catering, a special dinner for the “gala ball” from The Black Boys, a birthday cake for Barbara’s 70th birthday from The Cuppie Hut – all local suppliers also feeling the lockdown pinch.

Afternoon tea and champagne were among the treats delivered to Ed and Barbara.

They also had internet links so they could experience all the excursions they had planned, including a helicopter trip over New York, a Broadway performance of Kinky Boots and a tour of the Times Square hotel they had planned to stay in. There were even online cocktail-making and towel folding classes which they had hoped to take onboard.

And, of course, they dressed up in their finery just as they would have on the ship.

Some of the links included in the package – from helicopter trips above New York, to a luxury hotel room and a grand departure – which made the trip so special.

They were thrilled with the unusual present, and their family were delighted to see all their hard work make their parents smile when they had been so disappointed.

“My favourite parts were all the food deliveries giving my mum a perfect reason to dress up and have something to look forward to and be excited about,” said Alex.

“But my stand out favourite part was a call I got from my dad yesterday saying that the virtual trip was more special and probably more memorable than the actual trip would have been simply because of how much we had done for them.”

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