Croissants, yoghurts, full English breakfasts, gooseberry compotes with crème fraiche, Champagne, beef cheek in red wine, cod roulade… the menu for first-class Eurostar passengers – overseen by superchef Raymond Blanc – is amazing.
Well, normally amazing.
Right now in first class – or ‘business premier’ in the Eurostar-vernacular – it amounts to cookies (very nice ones) and bottles of water, as I recently found out on a return trip from London to Paris.
The inside track on Eurostar in the coronavirus era: Ted in business premier on a St Pancras to Paris service. Masks are mandatory
Pictured left is the business premier lunch service. Pictured right is the business premier dinner service
Like the rest of the travel industry, Eurostar has had to adapt its operation to make it Covid-secure and a reduction in onboard services is one of many measures introduced as a result.
Overall, my experience on the new pandemic-friendly Eurostar was very pleasant – save for the discomfort of wearing a face mask for hours on end.
They’re mandatory onboard.
At first glance, when I arrived at St Pancras International station for the 12.24 to Paris, all seemed perfectly normal.
The departure area at St Pancras as Ted waited for his lunchtime service to Gare du Nord. Jostling levels? Zero
Pictured left is a Eurostar social distancing message on the waiting area floor at St Pancras International. Right: Passengers are asked not to sit next to each other
At St Pancras coffee cups get special treatment at security. Pictured right is Ted walking along the platform to his carriage
Eurostar is currently running eight Paris services a day, four to Brussels and one to Amsterdam
Then I noticed that some of the outlets in the normally bustling shopping arcade section were shut – along with the dedicated business premier security lane.
After one of my group kindly bought me a coffee from the thankfully open Paul bakery, we decided to begin the journey through security and border control.
Thing is, my coffee was gigantic, the clock was ticking and it was too hot to gulp down, so I decided to check-in with it.
A potential hiccup – but Eurostar had me covered, as I’ll explain.
To ensure social distancing, staff were filtering passengers through in controlled numbers.
Seats in business premier come with a recline function, a reading light and a socket for UK and continental plugs
Breakfast, business premier-style, used to start with a roll, a croissant and a yoghurt
Pre-corona business premier dinner: An apple and vanilla cheesecake with blackberry coulis (left); citrus bulgar wheat and fennel salad (right), along with well-balanced Minervois and Bordeaux reds from France
The dapper lounge at London St Pancras International, which will be reopening on August 3
Eurostar carefully filters passengers through the departure system at St Pancras International (file image)
Direct Disneyland Paris Eurostar services restart on August 2. The theme park reopened on July 15
EUROSTAR’S COVID-SECURE SERVICE
- There is a revised seat map in place, keeping a safe distance between all travellers.
- Face masks are compulsory, following guidance from governments across all routes.
- Increased cleaning resources, additional cleaning teams onboard, with high-frequency touch areas such as tables and handles disinfected throughout the journey.
- Onboard food service is closed, but travellers can bring their own refreshments and there are no liquid restrictions through security.
- Eurostar is working to reopen business lounges as soon as possible. Business travellers (and carte blanche holders) will be able to enjoy all of these once again from August 3.
- All tickets are now flexible so that travellers can change their dates without an exchange fee on all bookings made up to the end of the year
- Eurostar is currently running eight Paris services a day, four to Brussels and one to Amsterdam. Demand is being monitored and will be adjusted in response.
- Direct Disneyland Paris services restart on August 2.
Ticketless entry is encouraged, so through the barriers I went using a barcode from my ticket email.
After this, there was a pause before I was directed to a completely empty X-ray machine conveyor belt, which felt rather ‘business premier’.
The security staff, perhaps because of thin passenger numbers, were full of bonhomie.
My vertiginous coffee was spotted straight away by a security officer, who produced a little tray lined with foam cup holders so that it could pass through the X-ray system.
Well, I never. How civilised.
Passport control was negotiated rapidly, with passengers dutifully spacing themselves out and masks being removed only briefly for border control officers.
The business premier lounge, which is very cool and swanky, was shut, so we plundered Pret for lunch fodder and sponged in the ‘new normal’ Eurostar main-waiting-area-vibe, which was serene.
This area can be chaotic – jostle-central.
But social distancing was in full effect – stickers on the seats urged passengers to ‘please leave a space’ – and everyone seemed very relaxed.
So far, so splendid.
And it was similarly tranquil on the train.
There was no business premier greeter at the door, but acres of space for us to spread out in.
Eight big reclining seats – with power sockets that take both UK and continental plugs – for three people.
Ok, so that’s partly because we were in business premier, but Eurostar has changed its seat map to ensure passengers in every class are spaced out.
The only (inevitable) disappointment of the trip was the seriously pared-down service.
Eurostar isn’t taking any chances and to keep staff/customer interactions to a minimum, it amounts in business premier to being offered a cookie and bottle of water on the way out, and on the way back – just a bottle of water.
The station experience on the return journey from Gare du Nord was similar to the one in London – no business premier ticket lanes, no lounge (until August 3), but lots of seating available and plenty of room to manoeuvre.
The major frustration – both ways – was prolonged mask-wearing. Necessary, but not comfortable.
The verdict for Eurostar? Sterling job. I felt safe and reassured every step of the way.
And for business premier? Well, it’s a flat £245 fare each way and that will seem pretty steep for many for a no-frills service.
But on the plus side – you’ve got the luxury of enough space to swing a cat. And a bottle of water.
Eurostar is running eight Paris services a day from St Pancras International, four to Brussels and one to Amsterdam. The timetable will be adjusted according to demand.
Business premier is a flat fare of £245 each way. Otherwise, it’s from £39 each way.
All bookings are now flexible, so travellers can change their plans if they need to. For more information click here.
There is also more information about the new Eurostar safety measures on this YouTube video.
Direct Disneyland Paris services restart on August 2. To book visit www.disneyholidays.co.uk or call 0800 16 90 742.