Trip Reports

Review: Air France Lounge San Francisco Airport

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Our flight from San Francisco to Seoul Incheon was departing at 11:30AM, and we arrived at the airport plenty early, at around 8AM. Korean Air departs from International Terminal A at SFO, and they use check-in Zone 9. Their check-in only opened at 8:10AM, so they were just setting up as we arrived.

The check-in process was friendly and quick, and we were soon handed boarding passes all the way to Kathmandu, and invitations to the British Airways Lounge, which Korean Air uses for their premium passengers at SFO.

Often security at SFO’s international terminals is horrible, though fortunately we arrived ahead of the big rush, and we were through security in a matter of minutes. While SFO’s Terminal 2 and International Terminal G are quite nice, I find that the shopping and food options are fairly limited in International Terminal A.

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Introduction: Journey To Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, And Kuwait

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For about a year now, Ford has expressed interest in visiting Bhutan. While I had heard of Bhutan, and could have probably roughly pointed to it on a map, at the time I didn’t know much about it at all. But the more research I did, the more interested I became. It’s supposedly this incredible shangri-la with the happiest people in the world (heck, Drukair’s frequent flyer program is called “My Happiness Rewards”). Is that actually the case, or…?

There are two things to understand about visiting Bhutan:

— It’s the most expensive place in the world to visit in terms of the entry fee (though I don’t think it’s as bad as it sounds) — they do this to preserve their country, to pay for many services for their citizens, etc.
— It’s a pain to get there, as only two airlines fly to Paro Airport, and both have limited destinations and high pricing

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Review: Sampling Every Dish At The United Polaris Lounge

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I’m not going to lie, traveling as a family with three kids five and under is a lot of work. Quite often it means not getting to use some of the airline or lounge amenities — like daybeds or even showers — that you otherwise would.

But once in a while there can also be real advantages to having five mouths to feed. Like being able to sample literally every dish on the United Polaris Lounge lunch and dinner menu.

As luck would have it, we had another opportunity to visit the United Polaris Lounge Chicago about a month after our Oslo trip. And this time, we got to experience the full sit-down dining experience.

So rather than doing a full review of the lounge, I’m going to focus exclusively on the a la carte dining experience.

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Review: The New American Flagship Lounge New York JFK

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Last February, American announced that they’d be making some major changes to their lounges, including the following:

— American will be renovating and expanding their Flagship Lounges in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York
— American will be adding Flagship Lounges in Dallas, Miami, and Philadelphia
— American will completely be changing access rules for these lounges; previously Flagship Lounges were open to those in international first class and oneworld Emerald members, while under the new rules they’ll be open to oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members, as well as all passengers in international first & business class
— American will be introducing Flagship Dining, where international first class and A321 transcon first class passengers will have access to a la carte dining at Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York

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Review: Philippine Airlines Business Class 777 New York To Vancouver

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I boarded through door L1, where I was greeted by the friendly purser and pointed right, in the direction of my seat.

Philippine Airlines’ 777 business class cabin consists of a total of 42 seats, spread across six rows in a 2-3-2 configuration. The forward cabin has four rows of seats, for a total of 28 seats.

Meanwhile the rear cabin has two rows, for a total of 14 seats. My preference is almost always to sit in the back of the business class cabin, and this flight was no exception.

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Review: Alitalia Lounge New York JFK

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After flying Singapore Suites from Frankfurt to New York (a flight I’ve reviewed before, though won’t be reviewing this time around), I flew Philippine Airlines from New York to Vancouver. I arrived in New York from Frankfurt shortly before noon, went into the city, and then had an 11:55PM flight to Vancouver.

I’ve been fascinated by Philippine Airlines’ new flight between New York and Vancouver ever since they launched it in 2015, especially as they’re competing head-to-head with Cathay Pacific on the route. So I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to try it, especially as the one-way business class fare was just $440.

I got to the airport at around 9PM, plenty early for my flight. Outside the terminal I saw the Philippine Airlines sign, which I of course had to take a picture of.

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Review: Prince De Galles Hotel Paris

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I’m keeping this trip report series relatively brief. After being in the Maldives we flew Etihad to Abu Dhabi and then Doha, and then Qatar Airways first class to Paris. We had three nights in Paris, and stayed at Prince De Galles, which is a Starwood Luxury Collection property. This is generally regarded as the best Starwood property in Paris, and it’s also a Category 7 hotel, meaning that a free night redemption costs 30,000-35,000 Starpoints per night.

Paid rates at the hotel were ~600EUR per night, though through Starwood Luxury Privileges there was a third night free promotion. So with a rate like that, paying 400EUR per night seemed like a better value than redeeming points.

The hotel is located immediately next to the iconic Four Seasons George V. I’m far from a Paris expert, though I know some people love staying in that area, while others don’t. Personally I found the immediate area to be pretty boring, though from the hotel you have easy access to the metro, etc.

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Review: St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort

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In the last installment I talked about the overwater suite I had at the St. Regis Maldives, while in this installment I’ll be talking about the rest of the resort. I’m going to keep it relatively brief, given how much there is to potentially cover.

Does this place look like it’s straight off a postcard, or what?

All the overwater villas were on one jetty, and at the end of that was the hotel’s main restaurant and pool.

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Review: St. Regis Maldives Overwater Villa

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At many resorts in the Maldives, only a small percentage of rooms are overwater villas, and often require a big upcharge. In the case of the St. Regis Maldives, the resort has a total of 77 rooms, and about two thirds of them are overwater.

All overwater villas are located on the same jetty.

We were assigned room 518, which was a sunset overwater villa, located towards the end of the jetty.

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Review: Trans Maldivian Airways Flight

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I was curious to see how the Trans Maldivian Twin Otter seaplane experience differed from the Maldives Airlines Dash 8 experiences I’ve had in the past. Trans Maldivian has about 45 of these planes in their fleet, so they’re buzzing all over the place in the Maldives.

Boarding for our flight was called at 4:30PM. There were six seaplanes at the “terminal.”

We could walk onto the dock straight from the back of the St. Regis lounge. There were no formal boarding passes, but rather the 14 of us were escorted to the plane.

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Review: St. Regis Lounge Male Airport

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As I mentioned in the first post of this series, I’m keeping this trip report pretty brief, and just focusing on the new aspects of the trip. So after checking out of the InterContinental Hong Kong we flew to London in Cathay Pacific first class, then to Abu Dhabi in Etihad first class, and then connected to Male in Etihad business class (which I didn’t write about this time, but it’s a route I’ve reviewed before).

That’s because we were staying at the new St. Regis Maldives Vommuli, which opened last year. This hotel is expensive, and justifiably so — it’s stunning. When the hotel first opened they allowed redemptions for 26,000 Starpoints for overwater villas for a very brief period, which is a great deal. I made a few reservations using this deal, but canceled all but one.

They updated the pricing pretty quickly, and I believe the property now costs 90,000 Starpoints per night. However, historically Starwood has run promotions for 35% off resort redemptions once per year, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see that at this property in the future.

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Review: Frankfurt Airport New VIP Services Lounge

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I landed at 5:15am on my Condor flight from Cape Town. We were one of the first aircraft into Frankfurt, which was quite cool. As we pulled into the gate, I saw multiple other widebodies from the rest of the world populating the surrounding gates as well.

Upon leaving the aircraft and walking up the jetway, I was greeted by a kind British woman who would escort me to the VIP lounge. Frankfurt Airport had kindly arranged access for me ahead of my 9:00am interview with Fraport executive Anke Giesen. (you can find the pricing for the VIP services here).

After being led down a flight of stairs, I was standing on the tarmac beneath the 767 that I’d just flown in on.

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Tips For Traveling To Jordan

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Before I get into our flights home, I wanted to take some time to go over travel tips for Jordan. I really loved our trip to Jordan, and it’s a destination I’ve received many questions about.

While it takes some planning, I think Jordan is a pretty approachable country, with warm and welcoming people, so hopefully having extra details are helpful to some of you.

Jordan is a small country, with a rich and varied cultural landscape, that I think sometimes encourages overly-aggressive schedules. We packed as much as we could into our seven-day trip, but having another 3-4 days would have allowed us to break up the driving a bit more, have some down time, or see any of the other dozens of things we missed, like the Desert Castles, Jerash, and the Dead Sea.

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Review: InterContinental Hong Kong

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As I mentioned in the first installment, I won’t be covering every aspect of this trip with this report. After flying to Bali we stayed at the St. Regis Nusa Dua and W Seminyak, and then we flew Cathay Pacific business class from Bali to Hong Kong. So that’s where we’ll pick up.

We had an overnight layover in Hong Kong, as we were arriving from Bali at around 8PM, and continuing the following day to London at around 3PM. So we needed a hotel for one night.

In looking at the options, it occurred to me that I had an IHG free night certificate expiring in a couple of months. Just for having the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card (which has a $49 annual fee) you receive an annual free night certificate valid at just about any IHG hotel. That most than justifies the card’s annual fee, given that a vast majority of IHG hotels retail for over $49 per night.

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