Seychelles Saga: Emirates First Class Lounge Milan-Malpensa Airport

Emirates First Class Lounge Milan-Malpensa Airport

We departed the hotel for the walk to the airport (a whole 5 minutes), shortly before 8am, primarily because we wanted to balance the time we would have to wake up, with enjoying the lounge. It worked out well.

We already had our boarding passes (they were printed for us at the lounge in JFK), so we proceeded right to security / immigration, which was pretty quick.

On our walk to the lounge, we got the first look at our ride for the next 4-5 hours to Dubai.
Emitrates plane

Also on the walk, a pair of opposing alarmed doors just kind’ve stood out. I’m not sure why, but it just seemed a bit odd to me. Take a look:

Exit door

And, as far as random things – I’m feeling like there may have been some F1 fans, because they even had a Pit Stop…

pit stop

Needless to say, we skipped the pit stop and headed to the Emirates Lounge, which was one floor up and had a reasonably good view.
The Emirates Lounge

We found a table / seats, and really enjoyed the table display.

Flowers

I neglected to take any photos of the lounge, sans the entry-way area.

emirates lounge

There were plenty of drinks, and a pretty nice food spread.

Drinks:
drinks

drinks

Espresso:
Espresso

For food they offered omelet’s made to order, cheese sandwiches, a handful of other options, and a Frittata (which always reminds me of Harrison Ford in Morning Glory

food

And of course, they had some fruits and fruit juices, cereal, milk, etc.

food

And cold meats.

food

Before long it was time to board. This was a nice surprise, because Emirates has “gates” that directly connect to the jet way (by elevator, not necessarily directly to the aircraft).

jet way

Year in Review, Goals for the New Year, and a Giveaway

Year in Review It has been a pretty interesting year for me on the travel, mile and point front. Perhaps the biggest thing this year was that I finally launched this blog! This past year my travel decreased by more than a third compared to 2012, but still came in at a healthy 91,490 butt in seat miles. Much of it being award travel. 123113_1255_YearinRevie1.gif

 

 

 

I tried to color code best I could given the numerous trips:

Red was the start of the year, where we spent New Years in Singapore, then headed to our favorite, J.W. Marriott Khao Lak

Navy was our mid-year trip A Seoulful Adventure.

Neon Green (which is hard to see), was a weekend trip to Panama (still working on that report)

Grey was a handful of domestic trips, including down to FTU Tampa, Jacksonville to see family, and Seattle to see friends.

Dark Green was a weekend EQP run to Delhi and Agra, India so I could meet my AA Executive Platinum Match.

Dark Blue (a little difficult to distinguish from the Navy) was the Star MegaDo 5. Giddy for Points wrote a nice summary.

Indigo was the Seychelles Saga.

In total, I visited 6 new countries (South Korea, Panama, India, United Arab Emirates, Seychelles, and Ireland), giving me a good start to a longer term goal of seeing another 30 countries by age 40.

Status-wise, I was able to maintain Hyatt Diamond and Marriott Platinum. I made the decision to abandon my United 1K status based on some of the “flyerfriendly” changes United made earlier in the year, and instead parlayed my current status into an Executive Platinum status match on American. I’ve been very happy with my AA status thus far.

Overall, it’s been a fun travel year!

Goals for 2014:

This is perhaps a shorter list than it should be, but I’m sure I’ll add more to it as the year goes on.

–        Re-qualify for Executive Platinum on American

–        Re-qualify for Marriott Platinum

–        Re-qualify for Hyatt Diamond

–        Fly the Emirates A380 in First

–        Fly the 787 Dreamliner (booked on LAN’s 787 on Friday)

Giveaway:

So, this is my first shot at trying to give something away, but I there is a first time for everything:

I have two United GPU’s that will expire 31 January 2014. If you have a trip before then on United that is eligible for a GPU (e.g. booked in fare class M, H, B, Y, I think there may be others), please leave a comment on this post.

Note: Global Premier Upgrades for flights booked in fare class Z, P, S, T, L, K, G or N are not available. Please leave a comment no later than 5pm Eastern Time, 2 January, and I will select a winner at random.

Happy New Year!

Seychelles Saga: Sheraton Milan Malpensa Airport Hotel & Conference Centre

Seychelles Saga

Seychelles Saga: Sheraton Milan Malpensa Airport Hotel & Conference Centre

When we had planned our stop in Milan, we had done so with the idea that we might go into Milan, but we just weren’t sure how we were going to feel. Long story short, we had been coming off a few weeks of hard work, so our 20 or so hour stay ended up being significantly catch up on sleep, and wandering through the landside of Milan Malpensa Airport.

We have SPG Gold status, and this was our first time at SPG staying with it. I’m not sure I could tell anything different, other than free internet, I didn’t notice much different. I still believe free internet should be a standard now, but I digress.

The lobby was fairly modern, spacious, and clean looking.

Loby

There was also an espresso set-up in the lobby.

espresso

We were given room 1105, which was a standard room, looking away from the Airport.

The room, while standard was pretty spacious. Looking back toward the entry, there were a couple of closets.

clothest

Just after entering the bathroom was to the right.

bathroom

The toiletries were nice as well.

toiletries

After the bathroom, on the right was the bed.

BED

and across from the bed was a nicely wall mounted TV, as well as a small workstation, and coffee / tea set-up.

TV

Overall, the hotel was nice for an Airport hotel, but I would really have to consider whether I’d make the trek into the city instead next time… Especially if I had Emirates premium transfer service each way.

 

Seychelles Saga: Emirates First Class – New York-JFK to Milan, Italy

Seychelles Saga

Emirates First Class New York to Milan

The gate was already significantly crowded, but we found a side-route to board. While we were not the first to board, I think we were the first First class passengers to board.

SAMSUNG CSC

Onboard we were pleasantly surprise with an amazing looking cabin, much like the one on the A380.

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SAMSUNG CSC

The seats were great too:

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SAMSUNG CSC

As we were settling in, I noticed the mini-bar, and quite honestly thought to myself — wow, this is extravagance, who needs a mini-bar in First Class? Later in the trip, it became quite apparent how nice it is, to have a place to grab a water or soda from, during times when the cabin crew are seated (e.g. taxi, take-off, landing, etc.).

SAMSUNG CSC

And of course, there was pre departure bubbly.

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Pre-departure champagne was Vueve Clicquot, which was what they had in the lounge. They broke out the Dom Perignon (I think 2003) once we reached cruising altitude.

Soon after, the cabin crew came around with amenity kits, pajamas, slippers, and eye shades.

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I will note that the Mrs.’ amenity kit was much smaller than mine. Mine (inside the brown bag) looked like an old leather dictionary cover. Really, really nice, but large.

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Once we were in the air, the cabin crew came around with more champagne and some warm nuts. As you can see, there was a pretty good selection of them.

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After that, we each had a selection of sandwiches. They were alright, but I was looking for something more.

SAMSUNG CSC

The alternative (and I think they pulled it from either Business or Economy Class) was a small pizza. I clearly had not eaten enough in the lounge, nor done my research as far as the extent of the meal service.

SAMSUNG CSC

The Mrs. Had some stuffed potatoes and some sweets. I can attest to the great quality of the pink macaroon (aka, it was great).

SAMSUNG CSC

Afterwards we were tired enough that we really just wanted to sleep, so unfortunately I didn’t get photos of the bed made up. Briefly described: the seat was reasonably comfortable as a bed, the mattress pad however was too narrow for the seat and didn’t help all that much. Not to be picky, but a second pillow would’ve also helped, but the one was at least of a size that I could double it over.

About 90 minutes before arrival, we got our wake-up, and had a small breakfast. I opted for the Crepes, which were good, but nearly as phenomenal as my crepes on Qatar Airways Business class to Singapore.

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The Mrs. had an egg dish, which she enjoyed.

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Before we knew it, our descent had begun and our great flight was almost over. The views were great though, with snow covered mountains among the clouds.

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Before long we were on our way to the Sheraton for our brief visit in Milan.

Seychelles Saga – Emirates First Class Lounge

Seychelles Saga

We really started out at Reagan National (DCA) in DC, but since that was a CRJ700, I won’t spend really anytime. It was a quick flight anyway. Once to JFK, we made the trek to the Skytrain, then onward to check-in.

Checking in was smooth until the agent noticed that our boarding passes hadn’t printed with lounge access. They had to dig into the reservation, because apparently Alaska Air awards look like travel agent and employee tickets, and the latter two don’t get lounge access (not sure why).

The agent finally gave up and called the manager of the lounge and let them know to expect us.

We proceeded to security. This was a nice surprise, because the First Class line also happened to be TSA PreCheck. We were through almost as fast as we could push the folks (who didn’t know the PreCheck process) in front of us.

When we made it to the lounge, we were still a few hours before our flight, so the agent at the entrance pretty much knew who we were. The lounge was great. It was overtop of two A380 gates, and even had boarding from the lounge.

The lounge was really nicely done in earth tones. It didn’t look especially opulent, but still very nice. The food was plentiful and quite good.

We had a “Light” meal in the lounge, which was a good thing because the flight only had “light bites” and then a full breakfast. I will note that the champagne in the lounge was Vueve Cliquot and quite good.

There were also some nice views of the A380 flight that was to leave after us but go directly to Dubai.

Before we knew, it was time to board. Unfortunately we didn’t get to board from the lounge, so we had to navigate the masses to board, but such is life.

Seychelles Saga: Intoduction

Seychelles Saga

This trip started after finding a mistake fare on FlyerTalk that we speculatively bought, figuring it wouldn’t last. Well a couple of months went by and folks started reporting successfully flying the fare, so we decided we would start filling in the pieces.

The first step was actually getting there. We didn’t start thinking about this until August or so. Our options were Ethiopian via ADD, Emirates via DXB, or Etihad via AUH. I think Kenya Airways and South African Airways have flights but none that worked with the type of miles we wanted to use or our dates.

Initially I was leaning toward ADD, because I generally have no problem earning UA miles, but, there was no premium cabin availability, and it was ADD (not judging but, it didn’t seem as nice as the UAE). Ultimately things worked out, where I flew my folks to Europe on United (Global First out, Business back), and they had some spare Diners Club points that could be transferred to Alaska Airlines, thereby we booked Emirates First Class to the Seychelles.

Since our trip back was already partially booked on Etihad, at least to Dublin, I booked a placeholder on Lufthansa. Then a few days before we left, I ended up changing from DUB-FRA-IAD to DUB-FRA-YYZ-BWI, because I could guarantee two seats in F and access to the Lufthansa First Class Terminal. Ending in BWI vs. IAD was actually better, since we are only 20 minutes away from BWI, so the additional transit time saved sitting in traffic.

Ultimately, our itinerary looked like this:

The red is American Airlines, DCA to JFK, Gold is Emirates, Green is Etihad and Navy is Lufthansa.

I’m starting this one out of sequence, primarily because I’m writing it from the Seychelles and want to try sharing updates faster than the May trip report I’m still writing.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing this, cheers!

Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok

A Seoulful Adventure 2013

The taxi ride to the Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok was uneventful, as you might expect. Checking in, however, was anything but. Note that this was our second visit to the Grand Hyatt Erawan. But, nonetheless this, visit would be substantially different. For starters, upon check-in, I had mentioned that I had wanted to use a Diamond Suite Upgrade. The reception attendant (not sure what the appropriate title is), said that there were no Hyatt suites available, but she could upgrade us to a spa cottage. Now, while she was looking, I had noticed a small digital photo-like display just to the side, highlighting the upgrade possibilities and attributing costs. The Spa cottage was mid-way down, implying that it was in fact, a substantial upgrade. So when we were offered that, while the Mrs. hesitated, I did not. She later saw the same display, and lets just say, a pat on the back was had.
The Spa Cottage was on the same floor as the pool. Essentially, you take the elevator to the spa, walk out, as if you are going to the pool, but, go to your room. The cottage was broken up almost into quadrants. To the left of the door, was a sitting room, behind that a bedroom, from 12-3 o’clock (with ones back to the entry door) is the bathroom, from 3-6 o’clock was the treatment room. It’s a pretty cool deal. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Approaching the Spa Cottage.
Approaching the Spa Cottage.
Door to the Spa Cottage.
Door to the Spa Cottage.

To the left was the sitting room.

Sitting Room.
Sitting Room.
TV in sitting room (with entry door in background).
TV in sitting room (with entry door in background).

Walking to the left past the sitting room was the bedroom.

Bedroom view.
Bedroom view.
Bed
Bed
 Bed at turndown
Bed at turndown

From the bedroom, you walk past the water closet.

 Toilet. (note the Japanese style)
Toilet. (note the Japanese style)

To the bathroom that included extra areas for various spa treatments, and a soaking tub.

Sink.
Sink.
Soaking tub.
Soaking tub.
Treatment Table (I think)
Treatment Table (I think)
Spacious shower.
Spacious shower.

Then walking back from the bathroom to the front door, is the treatment area (and why they call it a spa cottage).

Treatment room
Treatment room

In the spa treatment room was also a selection of teas:

Teas.
Teas.

And finally, a very nice touch by the door were two hats:

Hats.
Hats.

Another really nice touch was what I would call a “beach bag” but, given the context here, it was probably a “pool bag.”

Pool bag.
Pool bag.
Pool bag.
Pool bag.

We missed the first nights evening hors d’oeurves, instead heading to meet up with some friends at the wine bar that was at street level (a level below the lobby).

 Wine Bar.
Wine Bar.

We came back to a small desert snack in our room:

Evening turndown snack.
Evening turndown snack.

Our second (and last) night, we were able to par take of the evening snacks. Because the lounge was being renovated, it was moved to the hotel’s “Tables” Restaurant. Having experienced the lounge the last time we were at the hotel, this was a treat, although obviously the view wasn’t as good. A section of the restaurant was cordoned off for elite or club level guests, and the spread was nice, not the best I’ve seen at a Hyatt, but substantial enough.
First, it is hard not to note the table decoration (and our iPads on the side):

Table decoration.
Table decoration.
Evening snacks.
Evening snacks.
Evening snacks.
Evening snacks.
Evening snacks.
Evening snacks.

Perhaps the best part were the desserts.

Desserts
Desserts

Then, of course, we had to make our own selections.

Snacks.
Snacks.

And then a close-up of the main attraction.

Desserts and awesome macaroons.
Desserts and awesome macaroons.

And, just for completeness of a review of the hotel, below are some photos of the lobby (which was gorgeous and spacious).

 Lobby seating area.
Lobby seating area.
 Lobby (and cool looking staircase).
Lobby (and cool looking staircase).

The second night we came back to a different set of snacks which were a treat:

Second night snacks.
Second night snacks.

Our last day started early, and we were unable to partake of breakfast at Tables (aka the temporary lounge), so we requested it be delivered to the room (aka spa cottage), it was a very nice spread. This hotel has been the most memorable of our “early morning breakfasts,” as we had one the last time we visited as too.

 Breakfast in the room.
Breakfast in the room.

Overall, the Grand Hyatt Erawan is an amazing hotel. I don’t have any other Bangkok hotels to compare it to, but, the way the Mrs. and I have been treated, it has been really hard to look elsewhere.

Thai Airways A380 Business Class – Hong Kong to Bangkok

A Seoulful Adventure 2013

Upon arrival, we deplaned, and wandered the terminal for a bit. We knew there was a Thai lounge, and were determined to find it. After a few minutes we did, but not before getting a view of the terminal from the upper deck.

View of the terminal in Hong Kong.
View of the terminal in Hong Kong.
Thai Lounge in Bangkok
Thai Lounge in Hong Kong

The lounge itself was a bit underwhelming. It was open air, with a section for business class, and a section for Royal First. There was a food and beverage spread, but, again, was underwhelming. Of note, it did have a couple of massage chairs.

Thai Lounge in Hong Kong.
Thai Lounge in Hong Kong.
Food Spread
Food Spread
Food Spread
Food Spread
Massage Chairs!
Massage Chairs!

Because our Asiana flight was late getting in, we barely had enough time to snap some photos and grab a quick soda. But, really, the best was yet to come.
Thai Airways – TG 6011
Aircraft Type: A380-800
Hong Kong, China (HKG) – Bangkok, Thailand (BKK)
Depart: 1:25 pm; Arrive: 3:05pm
May 24, 2013
Seats: 15E, 15F

Boarding was a bit hap-hazard, and we were slightly delayed because the gate agent needed to check our passports and printout new boarding passes (not sure why). But, we were still very much looking forward to this flight, having flown the reverse of the route in January (insert link for January, with “January” hyperlinked to it), in First, so we were excited to see how business class was.

Our ride to Bangkok.
Our ride to Bangkok.

We boarded onto the lower deck and went up the stairs, passing through first class, before making it to Business. I had a momentary regret for not burning the extra miles (had the seats been available), but that washed away quite quickly.

Thai A380 Business Class.
Thai A380 Business Class.

For starters – the seat is great for a couple traveling together. This is similar to the seat on some of Delta’s 767s, and I think Brussels Airlines, however, this has significant improvements over those seats. First, the “laying down position” is higher. Second, the leg rest is actually comfortable, and third, (and this could be my memory), there’s more room between the seats.

Seat.
Seat.
Seat.
Seat.
Great for Couples.
Great for Couples.

Shortly after getting settled, the cabin crew came around with pre-departure drinks, to which we chose the sparkling option (I think it was Piper Heidsiech Brut Champagne, but can’t be certain). They also came around with menus – the menus read:

Menu
Menu
 Drink Menu.
Drink Menu.

The meal, as you will see, wasn’t really anything to write home about, but the service, quite simply, was the best we have ever had in business class (sans Qatar Airways which is more a First Class product with a Business class name).

Salmon to Start.
Salmon to Start.
 Entre - Pork
Entree – Pork
Entree Beef
Entree Beef

The main entrée was followed by a fruit and cheese platter.

 Fruit and Cheese platter.
Fruit and Cheese platter.

And Dessert was an amazing Raspberry Mousse cake.

Raspberry Mousse Cake.
Raspberry Mousse Cake.

As for In Flight Entertainment, we watched Lincoln, which was phenomenal. I never cease to be amazed at how great some films are, and I frequently watch them at 40,000 feet, which, I might add, does not detract from the experience. Also, throughout the flight, I also enjoyed a Grand Marnier, a Singha Beer (I hadn’t had one in a while), and some port.

Overall, the service was phenomenal. Yes, there were a ton of customers, probably the better part of the 60 business class seats being filled. But still, the crew were amazing. We had the opportunity to watch the entire movie, enjoy a nice lunch, and enjoy a great variety of beverages. The crew came around with carts in a perfectly timed manner. I can say, quite confidently, that this was the single best business class flight that I have had. Yes, its only a 2 hour or so flight, but this crew knocked it out of the park. The seat was pretty good too!

Arrival into Bangkok was pretty uneventful, although, being in Business, we had to walk to the immigrations area. Worse than that, we had to stand in line! Oh the horror! Okay, enough of the melodramatics. Really, the walk wasn’t very bad, we followed one of our fellow business class passengers, who was probably a Flyertalker or Milepointer, because he made a beeline for immigrations, more so than us (and we pride ourselves on our speed, partially because of my New Yorker heritage). Once through customs, it was into a taxi and to the Grand Hyatt Erawan, which, as you’ll see in the next post, was quite the stay.