And now for something completely different…

So, we came back from our latest trip and came to find our hard drive that had the photos for the Seychelles Saga (and nearly every other trip we’ve taken in the past 3 years) has a problem. We’re trying to get the data off, but in the meantime, I’ll offer some humor.

When going through security at Washington-Dulles for our most recent trip, I said to heck with opting out, and decided I’d go through the backscatter scanner.
I also decided that if I was going to do this, I’d try having a little fun with it. The interaction went something like this:
TSA
Me: So this is where I throw up my hands and shout, right?
TSA Agent <laughing>: Well that’s a first!
So this got me thinking, what more fun can we have?
- Sing a verse of YMCA — or skip right to the A once in the position
- “Fins to the Left! Fins to the Right!”
- If the TSA agent looks like they don’t have a sense of humor, perhaps saying in a robotic voice: “I am assuming the position.”
- Throw your hands up like you just don’t care
Would love to see comments on fun experiences with TSA agents.

Seychelles Saga: Hilton Northolme – The Room

Seychelles Saga

A word about our rental car first. We got to the Avis counter and low and behold, the Avis guy wasn’t there. Stuck without really an alternative, we went with an enterprising guy next door who said he had called the Avis guy, and would offer the same price. He quoted the same price that we had on our reservation, so we accepted. He did of course try to add a 100 Euro “insurance” adder, to which I firmly declined (I had called Chase to confirm that my United MileagePlus credit card would provide primary insurance, which they said it would). He tried to add a few other charges, all of which I declined, and almost pulled the plug on the car. Ultimately, we were given a neon green two door that our suitcases barely fit in.
The drive up to the hotel was only about an hour with a few wrong turns. I’ll get to more about driving around the island in the next post.
Once we made it to the hotel though, things started looking especially up.
We parked in a lot close to the main entrance and walked a bit to a remote check-in area. From there we were driven down to the front desk in a golf cart (I don’t recall why), where we went through the formalities.

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Front Desk.

From there, we were driven to our room, what was really a free standing villa. We were in villa 112.

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Entrance to our villa.

Instead of the normal “Do not disturb” sign, it had an sign on the front that you could change based on how you were feeling.

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Relaxin’

The room villa had 3 rooms, and an anteroom, as well as a rather sizeable deck.
Looking around the room, we had a wonderful “Welcome” sign on the bed.

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4 poster bed.

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“Welcome!!”

We could simply could not contain ourselves to look around the rest of the room immediately, and had to check out the deck, which was sizable and had one of the most beautiful views we have ever had.

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2 person lounge chair on the deck.

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Outdoor table and chairs – great for evening pizza.

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Gorgeous view right from our room.

Stepping back to the room, we had a sitting area.

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Sitting Area.

In the sitting area was a nespresso machine.

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Nespresso!

There was a separate and sizeable bathroom, with a soaking tub, standing open shower, with a separate room for the toilet.

 Tub and Shower.

Tub and Shower.

CharlotteDO

My take of #CharlotteDO

So, I don’t really write much about how it is I am able to travel the way I do.. I usually only write about the travel, but I did a post on the #MileMadness tournament that I participated back in March, so I thought it appropriate to follow that post up with my thoughts on the #CharlotteDO which was essentially a meet-up to cap out the tournament.

But it was much, much more.

Lets start with the definition of a “DO”
Capture 1

It only took going down to the 40th definition!

The schedule was for a 1 day event, but we decided to arrive Friday night because, well, it’s really the networking experiences, and we knew others would be arriving the night before too.
There were a number of factors that differentiated this event from previous Do’s  I’ve gone to.
  • It was smaller, ~100 people
  • It was much more focused on MS.
  • It felt more like a community.

There were probably more factors but, those are the big ones.

If I were to describe the event in University terms, I’d say that much of the discussion was more theory, think 301 and higher.
One of the big messages that was shared was how we have to be responsible about this hobby (and for some it is more than that). The point was made that who participate in the hobby, need to be stewards of it.

Overall, this was the best mile and point event I’ve attended. I was honored to have the opportunity to present at it. There is talk of another in the works, and I sincerely hope I’ll have the opportunity to attend and maybe even present there as well.

Seychelles Saga: Emirates First Class Dubai to the Seychelles

Seychelles Saga

We made it to the gate in time for final call, or so the signage said.

We boarded a private bus that was quite comfortable.

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From there, we had a rather long journey to our plane, where we had the opportunity to see a handful of nice planes.

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Qantas A380.

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A380 – incoming!

Eventually, we approached our A340 to the Seychelles.

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A340.

We said good bye to our bus.

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Emirates First Bus.

Onboard, we were met with a slightly older version of the seat we very much enjoyed on the 777-300ER <insert link to JFK EK flight> out of JFK.

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Seat

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View of the cabin

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View of the seat

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Obligatory photo of the en-seat mini bar.

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Additional amenities.

Once in the air, the cabin staff was quick to serve mimosa’s.

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Mimosa!

And Nuts!

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Mixed Nuts.

And then it was time for breakfast. For me, the waffles just weren’t enough, so of course (and really, just like my father would have), I had the French toast.

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French Toast.

There was also a fruit plate, and a meat plate.

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Fruit plate.

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Meat plate.

We ended up napping and laying off the champagne for the most part on this flight, mainly because I knew I would have to be on my game to make the drive to the hotel.

We did wake up in time for approach. All of my concerns about our trip to this tiny country were pretty much washed away when I saw the islands on approach. These photos don’t truly do it justice, but it is absolutely beautiful.

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Approach

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Crystal blue waters below!

We disembarked via an open air stair, and the flight attendants were kind enough to hold the business class passengers until we made it off. Customs was about as good as one could expect, and we were to our rental car in no time. Of course the rental car is a story for another time.

Seychelles Saga: Emirates First Class Lounge Dubai

Seychelles Saga
We had an 8:45am flight out of DXB, and wanted to make sure we would be able to visit the lounge (which we had heard great things about), so we were out of the hotel before sunrise.
We were groggy at check-in, so we didn’t get any photos there (still have to remember these things!) but when we made it to the air side of the airport, we were amazed at how busy the place was.

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Busy Terminal

After looking around, we went upstairs to the Emirates First Class Lounge, and entered a completely different world it seemed.

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Emirates First Class Lounge Entrance.

There was seating throughout the lounge.

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Lounge Seating.

The lounge is so big that you practically need a map.

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Which way to the ….

Of course, you probably noticed the “Timeless Spa” entry toward the bottom of the sign, and you can imagine our response when we further saw this sign.

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Complimentary Treatments? Where do we sign up?

The complimentary options for First Class passengers were: A half back massage, mini-manicure, express reflexology, and basic hairstyling. We both went for half back massages, and were quite impressed what as to how good a 15 minute massage could be. For me, my masseuse even put used some oils.

Next it was time for a nice breakfast.

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The restaurant.

The menu was quite attractive:

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Menu

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Menu

First came the breadbasket and beverages. I of course had a mimosa. Also note the Voss water.

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The breadbasket was actually quite good, with some interesting danishes.

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Mmm Bread.

Unfortunately the waffles we had didn’t have such a nice fate. I pretty much dove into them immediately, and didn’t remember to take a photo until I finally took a breath. Normally I wouldn’t bother to include a photo, but these waffles were especially good.

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Waffles, what’s left of them at least.

Even though we didn’t partake of it, there was also a buffet.

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Buffet.

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Buffet.

After breakfast, we had a little time to stroll before heading to the gate.

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Terminal from above.

The walk to the gate was full of fairly expected sights, like Emirates’ A380.

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EK A380

Before long we were at the gate – just in time for final call!

Seychelles Saga: Grand Hyatt Dubai

 Seychelles Saga

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Our Emirates Chauffeur dropped delivered us to the Grand Hyatt Dubai in the evening, and left early morning, so most of the photos are in the dark.

The lobby was big, expansive and beautiful. With lots of greenery to break up the huge space.

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Front Desk

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Lobby

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Lobby

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Lobby

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Lobby

Checking in was a breeze, aside from a brief stop at the Concierge to see if he could convince Emirates to provide a chauffeur for our way to the airport the following morning – unfortunately, despite great efforts, we were not successful.

Our room was a standard room, with a desk,

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A comfortable bed,

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And a pretty spacious bathroom with a full tub, shower, and even a bidet.

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Sinks

Toilet and Bidet

Toilet and Bidet

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Soaking Tub

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Shower

We dropped our stuff off at the room and made a beeline for the Grand Club.

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A welcome site at the Grand Club

There was ample seating in a few different rooms, as well as a great view.

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And a great spread.

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Deserts were great as well.

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There were also plentiful quantities of beverages.

After our time in the lounge, we returned to our welcome amenity and enjoyed a little red wine as a night cap.

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We were out the next morning – for our final flight on our journey to make it to the Seychelles.

Seychelles Saga: Emirates First Class Milan to Dubai

Seychelles Saga

  • Emirates – EK Flight 102
  • Aircraft Type: 777-300
  • Milan-Malpensa (MXP) – Dubai, United Arab Emirates (DXB)
  • Depart: 10:15am; Arrive: 7:20pm
  • November 16, 2013
  • Seats: (First)

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We knew before we boarded the plane that we would have a different product than the more luxurious one on the 777-300ER we had flown the morning before. This was still an enjoyable flight though, just 2x2x2 across instead of 1x2x1.

The seats were also grey instead of the tan color.

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Like the 777-300ER, there was a in seat mini-bar, as well as a basket of goodies left out.

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And a pretty nice looking IFE screen.

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With a controller that you could pull out; again, not as nice as the 777-300ER, but leaps and bounds ahead of other first class products, like BA’s old First.

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The cabin was probably half full, if that, although with the mini-bar partitions it was easy to forget the cabin was shared at all.

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Before long we were offered a glass of Veuve Cliquot, and some nuts.

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Once we were airborne, the meal service started with some small bites. We switched to Dom Perignon, proceeded to go through not one, not two, not three, but four bottles during the course of the flight.

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The menu read:

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First was Caviar – kind’ve hard to pass that up.

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For the main entree, I had a stuffed chicken breast which was good, and my wife had the lamb machbous which she enjoyed.

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Lamb Machbous.

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For dessert, we had an Orange sweet curd souffle.

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The few hours between meal services were fairly uneventful. I think we were on the fourth bottle of Dom by the time we made it to the “light bites” before landing.

My wife had a seasonal salad, along with some tea.

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I had some wonderful butternut soup.

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Overall we had a pretty uneventful flight, and followed it up with a short train-ride to the main terminal, through customs which was pretty much a breeze, and through the baggage claim to the Emirates car transfer desk. We weren’t sure if we’d be able to get a car transfer flying on an award ticket or not, so tried our luck. We were fortunate on the way to the hotel, however even with the concierge at the hotel calling, we couldn’t get a ride back.

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Manufactured Spending Tournament – Introduction

Matt @ Savercity, along with Frequent Miler are putting on a Manufactured Spending Tournament.  This is a follow-up to Frequent Miler’s Million Mile Madness (summarized and linked extensively here) last year.

Matt outlines the tournament in the above link so I won’t rehash things.

Let me be clear: I write QuickCityVisits to share my travel, I want to get to the point where I’m sharing other insights relevant to travel, the travel industry and airlines, but I’m not there yet. I manufacture spend as a hobby, and it helps support my travel hobby.

So, I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring here, primarily because I thought I could learn something, and maybe help others who enjoy the challenges of this hobby. I’m going to lean toward providing vague details here on QuickCityVisits, with a preference for caution over full disclosure, but I’ll tweak that as I better understand what the judges expect, and try to keep it in line with the competition.

I really liked The Free-quent Flyer’s approach to his introduction, and I think mimic is the ultimate compliment, so I’ll offer my thoughts in similar fashion here.

My Advantages:

-        I’m taking an approach to work novel approaches to MS, I’ll be competing against myself just as much as the other competitors, as I try to figure out newer, more efficient ways of generating spend.

-        I’ve been doing this for a while, I have some of the necessary instruments already in place, such as reselling, which has been a bigger focus of mine already this year. This gives me a chance to kick it up another notch.

-        I’ve used less than $100 of my available $1500 of 5x on my Freedom; its small, but leveraging all the 5x that I can is going to be key here.

-        I’m a relative no-body in the community, maybe a dark horse?

My Disadvantages:

-        I’ve already purchased Vanilla Reloads for my March Bluebird and H&RBlock Emerald cards, so I’m already starting a bit behind there.

-        I’ve got some travel already planned to locations where it’s virtually impossible to manufacture spend, so I’ll be behind with respect to utilize all the time. In addition, I have a full time job, further restricting time. – Neither of these are unique to myself, but they are still disadvantages.

I think I’ve laid out the what, the why, but I’ll be vague about the how.

I’ll finish this off with a bid of good luck to all the competitors, many of which are bloggers that have become part of my daily reading.