Category Archives: Trip Report

Jetstar from Singapore to Cambodia (Low Cost Carrier Tips in Asia and Europe)

This is the sixth installment of a round-the-world trip report that started here. We pick up in Singapore.

As the title of this series indicates, my trip was built around flying Cathay Pacific, Singapore, and Lufthansa First Class. I booked those long flights well before I had a plan for my time on the ground.

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When I looked into how I wanted to spend my time in Southeast Asia, I decided to spend eight days in Cambodia. I had to get there and back from Singapore, and the way to do that seemed obvious to me based on previous experience in Southeast Asia: low-cost carriers.

Similarly I decided to spend three days in Slovenia to get back to the Balkans, and I had to get there from London. I knew it was another chance to save my airline miles and book a low-cost carrier.

Both flights could have been booked with traditional airline miles like United miles or British Airways Avios. But they would have been inefficient redemptions where I was saving less than 1 cent per mile used. Instead I saved those airline miles for redemptions when I can get 2 cents of value or more. And I redeemed Arrival miles earned on my Arrival World MasterCard, which can be used for free flights on any airline. (Meeting the card’s spending requirement unlocks $500 in free flights.)

How can you find low-cost carriers on routes you want to fly? How can you book them? What fees do you need to be aware of? Are low cost carriers bearable?

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Around the World in Cathay, Singapore, and Lufthansa First: Grand Hyatt Macau

This is the fifth installment of a round-the-world trip report that started here. We pick up in Macau, China.

I like Las Vegas in small doses, so I’ve always wanted to check out Macau, one of China’s two special autonomous regions (the other is Hong Kong). Macau is famous for being the biggest gambling destination in the world with revenues about seven times larger than the Las Vegas Strip’s in 2013.

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Macau and Hong Kong, 37 Miles Apart

I had heard that comparing Macau to Vegas was a mistake because while there’s a lot to do in Vegas from shopping to shows to just people watching, Macau is just gambling. I had even heard you could see Macau and get sick of it in a day.

That meant this was the perfect trip for me to go to Macau because I only had 20 hours in Hong Kong as part of an American Airlines award, and Macau is a short ferry ride away from Hong Kong International Airport.

I still haven’t spent time in Hong Kong itself, and I want to save it for a trip when I have several days to explore.

The day before heading to Macau, I had booked myself one night at the Grand Hyatt Macau, which usually goes for around $300 per night. The hotel is a Category 4 property, so I booked my night for free with 15,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points, the majority of which I had transferred instantly from Ultimate Rewards.

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I landed at 2:20 PM in Hong Kong, and I was feeling pretty good since I had slept eight hours on my flight from JFK in Cathay Pacific First Class.

I headed toward the ferry counters, which are well signed and before immigration. There are two ferry terminals in Macau, both of which are served from HKG for about $40. One terminal is called Macau on the north end (the Macau Peninsula) and the other, Taipa, is on the south end (on the island of Taipa.) Taipa was closer to my hotel, but I would have taken the first ferry to either because a cab from one ferry terminal to the other is only about $10.

I booked my ferry ticket for a 4 PM departure and boarded the one hour ferry to Taipa Ferry Terminal on Macau.

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How was the Grand Hyatt Macau? Is Macau worth a visit?

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Around the World in Cathay, Singapore, and Lufthansa First: Cathay Pacific First Class from New York to Hong Kong

After a few days in New York last month, I took a 16 hour flight in Cathay Pacific First Class from New York-JFK to Hong Kong. It was the second best flight of my life (behind only Emirate First Class); I can’t recommend Cathay Pacific First Class highly enough.

That said, the ground services in New York were abysmal. (To skip them and get to the flight review, click here.) When I showed up at the Cathay Pacific check in area, I only saw Economy Class counters and this line out the door:

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An agent directed me to the First Class check in area that British Airways operates for Cathay Pacific.

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Check in and security were smooth, and I made my way to the British Airways First Class lounge.

The British Airways First Class Lounge is one of the worst First Class lounges I’ve been in.

It’s a lot better than your basic airport lounge, but it didn’t have the things First Class lounges around the world have:

  • Food to order, awesome buffets, or both
  • Waiters
  • Fantastic seating areas
  • Showers
  • Nap rooms
  • Quiet and seclusion (exclusivity)

Instead, it was a room a room with dozens of people in tight quarters who had access to a lackluster breakfast buffet and a small self-service bar.

The best parts of the morning buffet were the berries and the instant noodles.

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There was a good alcohol selection, but it was 7 AM, so I didn’t test it out.

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Everyone else in the lounge working hard, so I grabbed some fruit and cereal and used the speedy wifi to download a few shows for the flight.

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When it was almost time to board, I headed to the gate and saw the 777 waiting for me.

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Unfortunately boarding continued the theme of atrocious ground service. No queuing was evident as the mob waited. The ground staff was not able to board First Class first, and I was stuck behind 15 people on the way down the jet bridge.

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Finally, I got to the aircraft door though, and that’s where the story changes. If the ground services were worthy of Ryanair, the flight itself was worthy of the hype accorded to Cathay Pacific First Class, one of the world’s best commercial flying experiences.

Cathay Pacific 841
New York (JFK) – Hong Kong (HKG)
Depart: 9:00 AM on Thursday, February 20, 2014
Arrive: 2:20 PM on Friday, February 21, 2014
Duration: 16hr20min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 2K (First Class)

The next 16 hours were spent relaxing, sleeping, eating, and being doted upon by an incredible crew.

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How was the seat, bed, food, entertainment, and service? (with tons of pictures)

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Around the World in Cathay, Singapore, and Lufthansa First: Radisson Martinique on Broadway

Having just landed at Newark after a First Class flight from Honolulu, I took the AirTrain to New York Penn Station, and walked the few blocks to the Radisson Martinique on Broadway.

I had two free one-night certificates at any Radisson in the United States, and I knew that a New York City hotel would probably be the most expensive place to use them.

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Although we arrived at 1 PM, several hours before check in, my friend and I were quickly checked in and given the keys to a room with double beds.

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How was the room? How’s the location? Is the Radisson Martinique on Broadway worth your cash or your Club Carlson points?

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Around the World in Cathay, Singapore, and Lufthansa First: United Flat Bed First Class from Honolulu to Newark

United flies two flights from Honolulu to the east coast on internationally-configured two-cabin planes. What is sold as First Class on these planes–and BusinessFirst if you fly internationally–is a fully flat bed in a 2-1-2 configuration across the cabin.

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Flat bed first class on United flights between Honolulu and Newark and Washington-Dulles

This First Class is far superior to most domestic First Class, which is served by a recliner seat with only seven more inches of legroom than coach.

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First Class Seat on a Hawaii to East Coast Flight. It converts to a fully flat bed.

United charges 40k miles each way for two-cabin first class between Hawaii and the mainland. But some of its partners charge fewer miles and have access to all the same United Saver award space. The cheapest access is with Singapore miles–a Membership Rewards transfer partner–at only 30k miles each way. Next cheapest is Lufthansa Miles & More miles at only 35k miles each way.

I used 35,000 Lufthansa miles and $2.50 to book myself from Honolulu to Newark since I had a ton lying around from getting the 50k mile bonus (now dead) on the Lufthansa Miles & More MasterCard. I detailed the award booking here.

On the day of departure, I had my brother drop me off a few hours early at the airport to fit his schedule.

I breezed through security in the priority line (because of my first class ticket), which was uncharacteristically crowded for HNL.

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After security, I headed straight for the American Airlines Admirals Club.

I got in for free with Priority Pass Select that I got from my Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN.

 

Find out more about the benefits of the Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN in How to Get the Most out of Your Platinum Card.

The Admirals Club at HNL is one of my favorites because during the day it has a nice view of the courtyard outside. Plus the lounge is shared with JAL business class passengers, so it has a tiny food selection including soup and Famous Amos cookies and a slightly better drink selection than a normal Admirals Club.

I had a bowl of soup and some cookies while I worked on the free wifi. I didn’t want to have too much though because I was looking forward to the dinner onboard.

The lounge isn’t incredible by any means, but it is a little better than a normal US-based airline lounge, and the price is right. After a few hours, I headed to my departure gate at about 9 PM to board the flight.

United 14
Honolulu (HNL) – Newark (EWR)
Depart: 9:25 PM on Sunday, February 16
Arrive: 12:03 PM on Monday, February 17
Duration: 9hr38min
Aircraft: Boeing 767-400ER
Seat: 1D (First Class)

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How was the seat, bed, food, and service? Is United First the way to get to Hawaii?

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Around the World in Cathay, Singapore, and Lufthansa First: Introduction

I haven’t been home since February 16 when I boarded a plane from Honolulu for Newark. I have loved the I’m on trip because I finally got to play poker in Asia, see Angkor Wat, catch up with friends in Europe, see more of the Balkans, and experience the curiosities that are Macau and Singapore.

The trip took me to:

  • New York
  • Macau, China
  • Singapore
  • Cambodia
  • London
  • Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Frankfurt
  • Greensboro, North Carolina
  • Atlanta, Georgia

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Along the way, I’ve flown and stayed at:

  • Cathay Pacific First Class
  • Singapore Airlines First Class
  • Lufthansa First Class (and First Class Terminal)
  • Wizz Air and Jetstar Asia (low cost carriers)
  • Radisson Martinique on Broadway
  • Grand Hyatt Macau
  • Le Meridien Angkor Wat
  • The May Fair in London
  • A Holiday Inn Express in Frankfurt
  • hostels in Cambodia, Singapore, and Ljubljana
  • a motel in Greensboro
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Lufthansa First Class, Hair Style by Nap

Booking Process

What was the booking process, how much time did I spend in each place, and what would I have done differently?

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I Lost My Passport Today in Macau

I rushed out of my taxi, flashed my boarding card at the Taipa Ferry Terminal, and fished through my pocket for my passport to exit immigration.

My first reaction was surprise: My passport wasn’t in the pocket I expected it to be.

Annoyance: It wasn’t in my other four pockets either.

Sinking feeling: It wasn’t in my bag either.

I had lost my passport in Macau!

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Trip Report: United BusinessFirst (Business Class) London to Washington D.C.

I surprised my family of four by booking them roundtrip business class tickets to Italy for Christmas using US Airways miles. It is very difficult to find four flatbed business class award seats to Europe during peak Christmas travel time. With a bit of flexibility, I was lucky to snag a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt on the outbound and the United flight below on the inbound. I previously reviewed Lufthansa’s 747-8 business class, so I will skip ahead to the flight home.

United has recently increased their award chart prices to most regions. Flying Star Alliance partners in a premium cabin usually costs thousands of miles more than flying United itself. Those that want to conserve United miles (or Chase Ultimate Rewards) should take note of this trip report, as your mileage balance stretches further flying United metal.

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How was the seat? Is United BusinessFirst a truly flat bed product? Was the service (and food) to the standards of other Star Alliance business carriers? Is the Star Alliance business lounge in London a decent place to kill a few hours?

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Trip Report: Review of the Andaz Maui at Wailea

I just got back home from two nights at the Andaz Maui at Wailea.

It’s a beautiful, luxurious, attentive resort with breathtaking sunset views.

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It’s also very expensive, poorly located for the activities that interested me on Maui, and charges a $30 mandatory valet fee per day if you come with a car.

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What are my thoughts on the service, food, room, value, and more (with tons of pictures)?

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Trip Report: ANA Business Class from Tokyo to Washington D.C.

This review is a continuation of my fun US Airways redemption that I wrote about back in this post. I reviewed Turkish Business Class: Washington DC to Istanbul and Cathay Pacific Business Class: Tokyo to Hong Kong already.

I was extremely excited for my nonstop flight from Tokyo to Washington-Dulles on ANA. About two months before our scheduled departure, we had an equipment change and would be flying their Boeing 777-300ER featuring ANA’s “new” flat bed business seats.

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We took a Cathay Pacific redeye back from Hong Kong to Narita where we had a long layover before our final flight home in the late morning. Both the ANA lounge and flight delivered in every way. The inflight experience was fantastic, especially the service and seat, so I can’t wait to fly ANA again.

How was the seat, bed, food, service, and entertainment in ANA’s new Business Class configuration? Was the ANA lounge a good place to relax for a few hours?

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Trip Report: Cathay Pacific Business Class from Tokyo to Hong Kong

This review is a continuation of my fun US Airways redemption that I wrote about back in this post. I reviewed Turkish Business Class: Washington DC to Istanbul already and had a similar (great) experience on my flight from Istanbul to Tokyo also in Turkish Business, so I am skipping to the next segment in Cathay Pacific Business Class.

I was in Tokyo, and I wanted to add a quick side trip onto my main award, and Hong Kong seemed like the logical spot. I had British Avios to burn, there were several nonstops on JAL and Cathay Pacific from convenient Tokyo-Haneda, and one of Cathay’s was flown by their double-decker Boeing 747-400.

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As many of you noticed in my Lufthansa trip report, I’m obsessed with being on the top deck of planes (perhaps this translates directly from my bunk bed preferences as a child). The fact that Cathay Pacific is slowly retiring this plane from service provided added incentive to book.

Image from cathaypacific.com

Image from cathaypacific.com

How was the seat? Was the service up to Cathay Pacific’s high standards? Was this redemption a good use of Avios?

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Trip Report: Turkish Business Class Washington DC to Istanbul

This review is a continuation of my fun US Airways redemption that I wrote about back in this post. I tweaked the itinerary slightly in the interim,  instead electing to fly nonstop from Washington DC to Istanbul and Istanbul to Tokyo on Turkish and Tokyo to Washington DC on ANA. A quick side trip to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific using Avios rounded out the trip. Those reports will come later.

I was thrilled to try out Turkish’ business class product. I had heard rave reviews of their food and their lie-flat seats seemed solid. The prospect of a nonstop flight from my home airport to Istanbul was even more exciting: I would be visiting a close friend I hadn’t seen in months who was teaching abroad in Bulgaria.

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How was the seat, bed, food, service, and entertainment Turkish’s Business Class? Does their catering reputation live up to its hype?

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Trip Report: Lufthansa Business Class Frankfurt to Washington DC on the 747-8

This review is a continuation of my huge US Airways redemption that I wrote about back in this post. I reviewed Swiss Business Class: Boston to ZurichThai First Class: Paris to Bangkok on an A380, the Thai Royal Orchid Spa in Bangkok, and Asiana First Class: Seoul to Frankfurt already.

What aircraft is newer than the 787 Dreamliner and A380?

The all new 747-8I, which Lufthansa has only been flying for a year and a half.

This technological marvel retains the look and beauty of a 747 while integrating modern fuel efficiency and onboard technology. I was very excited to fly one from Frankfurt to Washington DC recently in Lufthansa Business Class.

I had an overnight layover in Frankfurt after coming in from Seoul. My initial plan was to hit the ground running and explore Frankfurt to maximize my 19 hours in the city. Unfortunately, delays in Seoul and poor weather in Frankfurt scuttled my plan, and I ended up booking a quick night at the Hilton Garden Inn using 40,000 HHonors points. This property is adjacent to the Hilton Frankfurt Airport and is located close to the actual terminal and the high-speed train station via an enclosed pedestrian walkway.

The room itself was small, but the hotel had everything that suited my needs: walkable to the terminal, comfortable bed, extensive breakfast spread, fast wi-fi, and decent views of inbound aircraft.

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I woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and ready to get on the upper deck of a 747-8 for the first time in my life!

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How was the seat, bed, food, service, and entertainment Lufthansa’s recently updated Business Class? How does the new seat stack up against its competitors?

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Trip Report: Asiana First Class Seoul to Frankfurt

This review is a continuation of my huge US Airways redemption that I wrote about back in this post. I reviewed Swiss Business Class: Boston to ZurichThai First Class: Paris to Bangkok on an A380, and the Thai Royal Orchid Spa in Bangkok already.

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After a relaxing night at the Park Hyatt Seoul (a great value at 15,000 Hyatt points/night), I took the coach bus from the Gangnam bus terminal to Incheon airport at 10:00 a.m. The trip was long, but the comfortable bus saved me plenty of won over hailing a taxi.

How was the seat, bed, food, service, and entertainment in Asiana First Class? How does Asiana First Class stack up against its competitors?

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Trip Report: Austrian Business Class from Vienna to Chicago

A few months ago, I flew from Oktoberfest to the Chicago Seminars. From Munich to Vienna, I flew Lufthansa business class. From Vienna to Chicago, I flew Austrian Airlines new business class product.

Overall I enjoyed Austrian Business Class. The seat was comfortable for relaxing and sleeping, the food was good, there was an onboard chef in uniform, and the daytime flight passed quickly.

Onboard Chef Taking Orders

Window Seat at Boarding

How was the seat, bed, food, service, and entertainment? How does Austrian Business Class stack up against its competitors? (& Lots of Pics)

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