Trip Reports

Review: Mosaic City Hotel Madaba Jordan

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If you look at a map of Jordan, it becomes immediately apparent that the airport isn’t particularly close to the hotels of central Amman, and that most of the things you’ll want to see are South of the airport anyway.

Based on that and some recommendations from others, we decided to save Amman for the end of our trip, and instead booked our first night in the town of Madaba.

Even in the middle of the night with poor directions the drive to Madaba took less time than driving into Amman, so I think this was a good choice. Similarly, if you are planning on going to the Dead Sea, I would also consider heading there immediately versus dallying in Amman.

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Review: Emirates First Class 777-300ER Dubai To Amman

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Surprisingly, this was my first time actually transiting in Dubai. Like this one, my previous trips on Emirates had been booked through Alaska Mileage Plan, which allows free stopovers at partner hubs on award tickets.

A stopover wasn’t really a compelling option on this trip, given we’d already delayed our original departure, but we still considered an overnight. And then I looked at the flight schedules.

Emirates has two different aircraft types serving the Dubai > Amman route. They’re both Boeing 777s, but the configurations are different depending on the day and time.

It’s only a ~1,200 mile flight, so it doesn’t matter tremendously, but if your schedule allows you want to choose the 77W plane with this seat map:

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Review: Emirates First Class A380 San Francisco To Dubai

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While I’ve flown Emirates first class on the A380 a half-dozen times (oof that’s an obnoxious sentence, sorry), my husband hadn’t. He had flown Emirates first on the 777 a few years back, and even had the cabin to himself, so he had a general idea of what to expect, but we were still excited to fly together.

Ben has reviewed Emirates first class on the A380 at least a dozen times, and I’ve reviewed it myself as well, so check those out if you’re looking for a comparison in terms of the service and soft product, but I’m going to primarily focus on the updates and changes to the service.

In the year or so since I’ve flown them, Emirates has been engaging in cost-cutting measures, which while they haven’t been advertised as necessarily impacting long-haul premium cabin flights (other than birthday cakes), were noticeable in the catering.

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Review: Pentahotel Hong Kong

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The MTR is an 8-10 minute walk from the Pentahotel in Kowloon, though taxis are better for shorter journeys since their starting price is so low.

The entrance is on the ground floor, while individual check-in is one floor up. The lowest floor is used to check in tourist groups. Every evening the entrance was packed with Chinese, Korean and Japanese tour groups waiting to be escorted to their rooms. There was also a pizza bar on the entrance level, which had some fascinating pizzas.

A quick escalator or elevator ride takes you up one level to the main lobby. This area is slightly more calm with spread out seating and a pool table.

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Review: Emirates Lounge San Francisco Airport

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Our connecting flight arrived in San Francisco about three and a half hours before our flight to Dubai. As we had plenty of time, and my husband still didn’t feel great, we popped into the Delta SkyClub for some soup and downtime before heading over to the international terminal.

The Emirates check-in desk opens three hours before departure, and online check-in isn’t possible from San Francisco. Fortunately, there wasn’t a queue for First Class passengers, so we had our boarding passes in minutes.

Then began the most ridiculous “TSA” experience of my life.

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Introduction: Road-Trip Through Jordan

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Yay! It’s Jordan-trip-report time! I’m so far behind on trip reports (they take me forever), but I’m really excited to finally share this one with y’all. Jordan was a fantastic destination for us, and I know a lot of people have expressed interest in visiting as well, so this should be a fun series.

In addition to being full of great activities, this was also the first actual “vacation” trip where neither my husband or I had to work in over four years.

I still made lots of notes and took pictures so I could write this report, of course, but not having to carve out time to be online or in meetings was wonderful, and made the trip extra special.

So off we go!

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Review: United Polaris Lounge Chicago

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We arrived on our United “Polaris” flight from London and had a four hour layover in Chicago before our connecting flight. This gave us plenty of time to check out the brand new Polaris Lounge which we were rather excited about. Unfortunately, it was a few days before they began serving restaurant-style order-off-the-menu meals so those won’t be part of this review. A day late and a dollar short. Or something like that.

We cleared security and headed over to Terminal C through the psychedelic tunnel.

As you come up the escalator, the United customer service counter is straight ahead. And the Polaris Lounge is just to the left of it.

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Review: Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi

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A couple of days ago I finally had the chance to visit Etihad’s new first class lounge in Abu Dhabi. The lounge opened in May 2016, after substantial delays. While I used to fly Etihad all the time, I’ve been making an effort to review more new airlines lately, so this was my first time passing through Abu Dhabi in first class since the lounge opened.

Prior to that I visited Etihad’s Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi, which can be accessed by business class passengers. For a business class lounge it’s solid.

Etihad’s Abu Dhabi first class lounge is open 24 hours a day, and is located just past the security checkpoint at Terminal 3. So if you’re originating in Abu Dhabi you’ll find the lounge as soon as you clear the security checkpoint. Meanwhile if you’re connecting, clear transit security at Terminal 3, and then follow the signage to the first class lounge.

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Review: United Club London Heathrow

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This was the first time that we had passed through London since the new Queen’s Terminal opened and we were curious to see it. I don’t remember that much of my last visit to London Heathrow other than the Star Alliance airlines were sharing a common, mostly nondescript lounge that seemed to have few if any windows.

With the opening of Terminal 2, there are now so many choices for Star Alliance flyers at London Heathrow that it’s almost overwhelming. Ben has recently reviewed all of them — Lufthansa, Singapore, Air Canada, and United. That meant there was no need for me to take one for the team and we could just head to the best. Which is considered to be the United Club. That’s not a misprint.

Not only was the United Club rated the best but it was also undeniably the most convenient as it turned out to be right next to our gate. We headed over, though got sidetracked for a long time at the kids play structure as you approach the pier. It’s an impressive space filled with kids, and is even staffed by a Heathrow employee. Judging by the no photography signs posted in the vicinity, the Brits are camera shy, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

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Review: SAS Plus Oslo To London Heathrow On A 737

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We left the lounge and quickly headed over to the gate for our 7:50 AM flight down to London Heathrow. Boarding was already underway, which isn’t too uncommon for us.

Since this was a business class itinerary, we were booked in SAS Plus. I had known that SAS eliminated their business class cabin on intra-European flights, but I’d forgotten they replaced it with something else. I guess you could say my expectations were sufficiently managed such that anything more than economy was going to sound pretty good.

It turns out that SAS Plus has a few features that separate it from SAS Go, which is regular economy.

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Review: W Hotel Punta De Mita Mexico

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Prior to this trip I had never visited Mexico as an adult. As a kid we took a couple of cruises there (though 12 hours at a Cozumel cruise port probably doesn’t give you a fair representation of a place), and I remember once vacationing there when I was really young, but that’s about it. I also connected at Mexico City Airport last year, but that doesn’t really count.

Given that I fly halfway around the world to relax at a resort, I figured I might as well try somewhere closer to “home.” The new W Punta de Mita opened just last year, and looked like a fun place for a getaway.

I booked only a few days in advance using the Citi Prestige Card fourth night free benefit. For my stay the hotel had a rate of ~$350 per night, which was brought down to an average of ~$260 per night after applying that benefit. The rate was actually much higher further in advance, but this hotel seems to consistently lower rates closer to the actual stay date.

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Review: SAS Lounge Oslo Airport

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We had decided to spend our final night in Norway at the airport so we wouldn’t have to get up quite so early for our 7:50 AM flight to London Heathrow. The terminal is only a short distance from the Radisson Blu Oslo Airport, most of which is covered to protect you from the weather. The walk probably took no more than five minutes and was made easier by the luggage cart we had cached the night before.

On the way, we passed through a set of double revolving doors which gave me flashbacks to Super Mario Brothers. In fact, I stood there for a minute trying to time up my steps so I wouldn’t get squished in the middle.

Having made it to the next level, I mean, into the terminal, we quickly found the Star Gold counter for SAS. There was a bit of a line, but the agent was very efficient and we waited no more than a couple of minutes. She then had the five of us checked in and on our way. Even as SAS Plus passengers, we weren’t directed to Fast Track Security or advised about the location of the SAS lounge despite that being one of the few perks of SAS Plus. That was no big deal, just a little surprising.

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Review: Radisson Blu Oslo Airport

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Given our early departure the following morning, we decided to spend the last night of our trip at a hotel at the Oslo Airport.

Having stayed at the Park Inn by Radisson Oslo Airport on the first night of our trip, we decided to try the Radisson Blu Oslo Airport this time. In my experience, both of these hotels are comparable in price with the Radisson Blu maybe just a few dollars more.

We rode the NSB train from Oslo Central Station to the airport and then walked over to the hotel. The Radisson Blu is the closest hotel to the airport, but you still need to exit the terminal to get there. It’s an easy walk that takes only a few minutes.

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10 Things To Do With Kids In Oslo

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Like the rest of Scandinavia, Oslo is an incredibly kid-friendly place which made it pretty easy for us to get out and explore with our three kids aged 5, 4, and 1.

This is a culture of bundling the kids up and taking them out, regardless of the cold weather. The compact nature of the central area makes for good walking, and features like two-track ramps help make even steps accessible to strollers.

We’re an outdoorsy family so we packed our cold-weather gear so that we could get out and explore during the Norwegian winter.

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