Trip Reports

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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Review: Grand Hyatt Amman Grand Suite

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For our last two nights in Jordan, we chose to stay at the Grand Hyatt in Amman. Technically it was the last 1.5 nights, as our flight to Istanbul left at 3AM, but it seemed worthwhile to have the hotel for the full evening so we could at least get a few hours of sleep.

Our stay overlapped with Ben’s (which was super fun), so I won’t review the full hotel. I did, however, apply a Hyatt Diamond Suite Upgrade to the reservation, and I figure other people might be interested in knowing what the suites are like. We had breakfast in the Grand Club instead of the restaurant, so I’ll cover that as well.

We made several stops on the drive north from Petra, so it was about 4PM when we arrived at the Grand Hyatt. As Ben mentioned, security was tight, so the valet took the car at an outbuilding where we cleared security, before walking to the main hotel. It was a decently efficient system, and whenever we left the hotel the car was brought to the main entrance and the parking berms were lowered for us, which was nice.

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Review: KLM Business Class 777 Singapore To Bali

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The only reason we flew to Singapore to begin with was to be able to get onto the Hello Kitty flight from Taipei. We could have flown direct from Taipei to Bali, but that would have meant no Hello Kitty for us.

So we booked cheap paid tickets from Singapore to Bali on KLM. This is a fun fifth freedom route they operate, as it’s a tag-on of their Amsterdam to Singapore flight. The one-way business class ticket cost about $250.

Our connection in Singapore was about three hours. We weren’t able to check-in online, so we got our boarding passes at the transit desk at Changi Airport. Our flight was departing from gate D42, with boarding scheduled to begin at 5:05PM. So we headed to the gate at around 4:45PM, given that at Changi Airport security checkpoints are at the individual gates.

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Visiting Petra

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After a quick breakfast at the Marriott we jumped in the car and headed to Wadi Musa. The drive only took ~10 minutes, and we didn’t have any issue finding street parking across from the Movenpick.

To give you a sense of how the town and the historical site are oriented, here’s a picture taken from a hill above Petra, which I’ve added labels to.

It’s about 2 kilometers from the Petra Visitor’s Center to the Treasury, to give you a sense of the distances. The Treasury itself is only about halfway down the main road into Petra — you’ll go another 2 kilometers to the end of the main road where you can see some of the other key sites.

You’re looking at a minimum of 5 miles of walking if you stay on the main road and don’t explore any of the side trails, so keep that in mind when choosing your footwear!

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Review: EVA Air Hello Kitty Business Class 777 Taipei To Singapore

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While I love EVA Air’s business class in general, I was especially excited about this flight, because it was one of their special “Hello Kitty” services. EVA Air operates Hello Kitty themed flights on certain routes, and I intentionally booked my Taipei to Singapore flight for the Hello Kitty experience. I took Hello Kitty flights from Tokyo to Taipei and Taipei to Los Angeles a few years back, so was curious to see how the concept was holding up.

I boarded through door L1, where I was greeted by two friendly flight attendants, and escorted to my seat. I had assigned myself seat 11K, which is the window seat in the last row of business class on the right side.

This is in the rear mini cabin, which has just four rows of seats.

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