My wife and I will be visiting London in May from Canada, then on to Dublin via Sail/Rail ticket. I called Stena Line UK and booked the Sail/Rail just now, and received a Stena booking confirmation and a "train confirmation" code. I guess these codes basically confirm that we've reserved passage.
We were kind of hoping to ensure forward-facing seats that have a nice view out the window. That quest seems to be much more complicated than I thought it'd be, compared to how things go here in North America.
I asked Stena Line when I booked the ticket, and they said to call Virgin Trains, who operate the service. Fair enough. I then "online Live Chat"ted with a Virgin Trains customer rep, who said "No, we can't even pull up details of your journey, there's no way for us to reserve particular seats for you--call Stena."
I called Stena back, and their rep said that they're allocated a certain number of rail tickets from Virgin, and that's basically all they do. She said if they were mailing the tickets to a UK address, then perhaps they could arrange specific seat selection, but since I'm in Canada, all we can do is pick up the tickets at the station from a machine. She suggested I call Virgin, rather than Live Chat online, to see if there was anything they could do.
OK. I called Virgin, and was told there is basically no way to reserve a particular seat. In fact, when I enquired about possibly buying First Class tickets (hoping that that process would involve picking particular seats), I was told that "actually, First Class is random--you can book, we then send you a link, but getting FIrst Class is random." Huh?
So...is our only hope to show up at the platform very early on the Thursday we're leaving, and try to be the first ones on and grab an unreserved seat?
I find it so hard to understand this...surely there are enough tourists from abroad who would want to reserve specific seats in advance, that this shouldn't be regarded as such an unusual request? After all, no one on a sightseeing trip wants to be stuck in a backwards-facing seat with no window on a four-hour train journey through the English/Welsh countryside, right?