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Only in Dubai: Tour of the World’s Seven Star Hotel — The Burj Al Arab

The Burj Al Arab is hard to miss and is beautiful, even on the outside.

The Burj Al Arab is hard to miss and is beautiful, even on the outside.

Dubai is known for going to the extreme. Just being there feels like a big enough adventure, but if you want to take it to the next level, then you have to stay at the Burj Al Arab. You might know this hotel better as, “the only seven star hotel in the world.”

Actually, no official guide or rating agency has given the hotel its famous “seven star rating.” While taking the tour, I was told that the hotel has never advertised that, nor do they actually support its usage. It was a journalist who coined the phrase a long time ago and it has stuck. Surely, the saying can’t hurt the Burj Al Arab’s reputation.

Once entering the The Burj Al Arab, be sure to look up for an amazingly rainbow view.

Once entering the The Burj Al Arab, be sure to look up for an amazingly rainbow view.

Not just anyone can get in the front door. There is a security gate, probably about a quarter of a mile from the hotel’s front door, and you need to show you have a room reservation to get through. If you want exclusive — this is it.

Luckily for me, when I recently visited Dubai, I was given a tour of the Burj Al Arab and just had to share what I experienced.

Al Muntaha Restaurant at the Burj Al Arab has an amazing view of the Palm Islands.

Al Muntaha Restaurant at the Burj Al Arab has an amazing view of the Palm Islands.

Construction on the Burj Al Arab started in 1994 and was completed in 1999. It is the fourth largest hotel in the world, at 1,053 feet. The design of the building was meant to mimic a sail and it has become an iconic symbol for Dubai.

When first walking inside, you are greeted by dancing fountains and escalators that have large fish takes for walls. Make sure to look up and check out the 590 foot atrium that is in the lobby (maybe don’t do that if you have vertigo).

The Al Mahara Restaurant at Burj Al Arab might has the coolest view I have ever seen.

The Al Mahara Restaurant at Burj Al Arab might has the coolest view I have ever seen.

The hotel might be large, but there are not that many rooms — only 202. That is because each room is its own two-story suite, ranging in size from 1,800 square feet to 8,400 square feet.

There are two restaurants in the hotel; one up high and one down low. The Al Muntaha restaurant is found up top and provides amazing views of the Persian Golf and the Palm Islands.

I figured that view would be hard to beat, but in my opinion, the Al Mahara (which has no windows to the outside) has a more impressive view.

If you are afraid of heights -- do not look down from the top floor.

If you are afraid of heights — do not look down from the top floor. There are 25 floors down and three main levels you can see.

That is because every table has a view of the 350,000 cu feet of water aquarium with a wide variety of fish swimming around. No, you can’t point to a fish and order it, but you are able to enjoy the free show of fish swimming around during your meal.

When heading to the rooms, each floor has its own concierge desk. Help is always close at hand to assist with anything that you might need. There are even butlers available 24 hours if you need one.

The big mistake I made was first looking at the Royal Suite before looking at one of the smaller ones. If I had looked at one of the smaller ones first, I most likely would have been blown away, but after viewing one of the largest and extravagant hotel rooms I have ever seen, anything else was going to pale in comparison.

What a sight. A main stair case when you first walk into the Royal Suite.

What a sight. A main stair case when you first walk into the Royal Suite.

The Royal Suite is just ridiculous. I couldn’t help but think how anyone could ever need to stay in a room like that. Although at the same time, I really wanted to stay in a room like that.

The colors, the decor, pretty much everything was over the top — including the price of about $20,000.00 per night. That probably sounds like too much money for mostof us, but realize that a first class ticket from Seattle to Dubai on Emirates is going to cost you about $15,000.00. If you are bringing someone to enjoy Dubai with you, that is $30,000.00. Now, a $20,000.00 per night room doesn’t sound so crazy does it? (okay, it still does to me).

I am pretty sure the dining room has more square footage than my first apartment in college.

The Royal Suite has a very large (and colorful) dining room.

When walking into one of the two Royal Suites, located on the top floor, you are welcomed by a staircase — to go up or down? Or heck, if you don’t feel like taking the stairs, the room has its own elevator to go between floors.

The first floor has a huge dining room, study, living room, and a large Arabic majlis style lounge.

The office in the Burj Al Arab Royal Suite.

The office in the Burj Al Arab Royal Suite.

If you are color blind, you are missing out on seeing all the vibrant pinks and yellows and gold (lots and lots of gold) that is in the room. Heck, even the TV is painted in gold — boo ya (see the photo gallery below)!

There is also a kitchen downstairs and if you want to have a cook come in to fix you something, no worries about them having to use the front door, the “help” have their own private entrance directly into the kitchen.

One of two master beds in the suite.

One of two master beds in the suite.

Upstairs are two very spacious master bedrooms. Each with their own sitting area and enormous bathroom. I am pretty sure that the bathroom (with full walk in shower and jetted tub with columns) was bigger than my first apartment.

One of the master baths.

One of the master baths.

My eyes were hurting a little bit after leaving the Royal Suite. I could see where some might like the color scheme, but I am not much of a pink/yellow/gold guy and those colors were quite popular.

I have been in many nice hotels and settings, but this one actually made me feel a bit out of place, being so large and costly. Not that I wouldn’t be willing to try and get used to such accommodations.

Probably my favorite sitting area in the Royal Suite.

Probably my favorite sitting area in the Royal Suite.

Honestly, after leaving the Royal Suite and looking at a smaller room, I forgot to take photos. I was pretty much like it just didn’t matter anymore after seeing the larger room.

Although the suite can set you back $20,000.00 per night, the smallest rooms start at about $1000.00 per night, which isn’t totally unreasonable.

Cigar and scotch bar in the Burj Al Arab.

Cigar and scotch bar in the Burj Al Arab.

At a hotel like this, you can expect some high-end service. They offer a fleet of Rolls-Royce cars to take you around town, but that might be too “common” for some folks. They also offer helicopter transfers, as well as scenic tours from the air. More common is the access to the Assawan Spa and Health club, a private beach, a kid’s room and much more.

Much like Dubai itself, the Burj Al Arab is a unique experience that is hard to find anywhere else. I was not able to have the opportunity to stay the night in the hotel (only the tour), but I would imagine with the number of hotel employees I saw everywhere, the customer service experience would match up well with the product.

VIEW ADDITIONAL PHOTOS OF THE BURJ AL ARAB HOTEL IN THE GALLERY BELOW OR ON MY FLICKR

Guest Review: Riding the Bolt Bus from Seattle to Vancouver — For CHEAP!

Catching the Bolt Bus in Seattle, WA. Photo by Malcolm Muir.

Catching the Bolt Bus in Seattle, WA. Photo by Malcolm Muir.

This is a guest post written by Malcolm Muir for AirlineReporter.com. Here is his experience with Bolt Bus in his own words (note: Malcom paid his own way there and back)

A last minute trip north to Vancouver gave me the opportunity (and an excuse) to try out Bolt Bus. Bolt is a new entrant to the Pacific Northwest market and started operations late May. Bolt is owned and operated by Greyhound and from stories I had heard about service etc. from Greyhound I was a little apprehensive.

Costs were extremely good. A one way ticket method cost the day before departure was only $33 round trip (including the $1 booking fee). This was for a late Friday evening departure and mid-Sundays afternoon return so prime services. Like the airlines, fares can vary depending on the time of day as an earlier return from Vancouver would have saved around $10. Fares start at $1 with Bolt Bus so if you can get in early enough with the booking fee could be $3 round trip.

The boarding passes/booking confirmation is emailed and/or texted to you immediately and you’re set. Bolt Bus boards by groups similar to airline zones (unsure how they are assigned though as I was given Group A for both tickets) which helps to ensure that people won’t just rush the bus when it arrives.

Photo by.

Photo by.

Seattle is the middle point for journeys in either direction so there could be delays that hold up the bus (such as traffic in heavy times) however my bus arrived from Portland about 10 minutes prior to its scheduled departure to Vancouver.

Unfortunately, there currently isn’t any signage at the Seattle departure point (5th Ave S & King Street, the International District bus station) so there were many people milling about with worried looks on their faces asking “does Bolt Bus go from here?”

The buses are all modern looking, with leather seated interiors, more seat pitch compared to the competitors, and power points at each row (mounted to the row in front, so avoid the first row as none fitted). Free Wi-Fi is offered inboard however it only works as far as the Border crossing as they don’t seem to have coverage in Canada.

One downside of the seat is the lack of a tray table.  There is ample room for it to fit and would definitely make working with a laptop easier but it’s not a deal breaker.

Photo by.

Photo by.

Both trips were lightly loaded, so a set of two seats to myself allowed me to spread out the gear and get some work done. Heading north, the traffic was light and the 8pm departure time avoids most of the I5 traffic snarls of an afternoon. We departed a few minutes late out of Seattle, but this, again, is not a deal breaker.

Bolt Bus allows 2 hours from Seattle north to the border, 30 minutes for the border crossing and another hour into Vancouver, ample time in the 2 hours to catch him up and also relax into the weekend.

The border crossing heading north was uneventful other than having ingredients to wait for 5 minutes while they found some staff, a few questions and I was stamped into Canada. The continued journey resumed right at the 30 minute mark (they leave once everyone is processed so this is where scheduled time could take a hit) and completed the journey into Vancouver in the allotted 1 hour.

Since there is no food service and no stops between Seattle and Vancouver, you need to bring it with you. I took stuff with me on the bus and had no problems, however be mindful of the border crossing as some foods can’t go over (saw a lady have to bin an apple at US customs).   The Seattle stop is a good location to pick up some food as it’s right next to Uwijamaya for some good Japanese/Asian food and drinks at non airport pricing.

There is a bathroom on board the bus, but luckily I did not end up having to use it.

Okay legroom, but no tray table on the Bolt Bus.

Okay legroom, but no tray table on the Bolt Bus.

We arrived into a deserted Pacific Central at 1135pm and it is a bit nerve racking to not see any cabs at the terminal but I am sure this will be against changed in the long run once Bolt have been up and running longer.

The journey south was even more painless as there was an extremely light load. The driver separated the boarding groups to control the group easier but in this instance probably was not needed as much. Traffic was very light for a Sunday afternoon and we made the border early and with customs & immigration taking only 15 minutes for the load we were back on the road early.

After an amazing sight returning to Seattle with a blue sky and a magnificent view of Mt Rainer from I5 we actually arrived 30 mins early. A smooth painless journey in either direction.

And back to Seattle on the Bolt Bus.

And back to Seattle on the Bolt Bus.

The journey with Bolt Bus was definitely an easy one, from the simple booking process to the journey itself, more reminiscent of an ultra-express service as no stops are made between cities. A couple of issues do need to be addressed such as connectivity across the border and signage at departure points; however for the price it’s not that big of an issue.

Bolt Bus favors highly over the direct competitors such as Greyhound and Quick bus. But there would be good competition from Amtrak. With Bolt Bus, if loads are light border crossings would be much quicker than Amtrak as they do not have to work through an entire training load of people, however Amtrak is not at the mercy of traffic problems so if a journey was made during the prime peak hour times, this could obviously add significant delays.

Compared to flying though the price is definitely a big difference as a last minute return with Air Canada was pricing in at $600 return for Best Available fare. Amtrak fares were around $100 return.

If you can get the fares for as little as $1 each way, then Bolt bus is definitely a fantastic option and can only improve as the service gets a bit more popular and has time to be able to settle into the PNW market.

Photos: Liveries of THAI and Malaysia Airlines First Airbus A380s

The first Thai Airways International (THAI) A380 rolled out of the Airbus paint shop during June 2012, marking completion of its painting and cabin installation work. Photo by Airbus.

The first Thai Airways International (THAI) A380 rolled out of the Airbus paint shop during June 2012, marking completion of its painting and cabin installation work. Hi-Res Photo — Click for larger. Photo by Airbus.

Yesterday, Airbus showed off photos of Thai Airways International’s (THAI) first A380 that is in full livery.

The airline’s first double-decker has also completed interior installation and will now go through its final phase of ground and flight tests in Hamburg, before the aircraft will be believered to THAI sometime during the third quarter of 2012.

THAI will become the ninth operator of the A380 and the airline has firm orders for six A380s.

TAKE A PHOTO INTERIOR TOUR OF THAI’S A380 via Australian Business Traveler

The first A380 for Malaysia Airlines (MAS) was unveiled today bearing its special celebration livery, ahead of entry-into-service next week on the Kuala Lumpur-London route. Image from Airbus.

The first A380 for Malaysia Airlines (MAS) was unveiled today bearing its special celebration livery, ahead of entry-into-service next week on the Kuala Lumpur-London route. Hi-Res image — click for larger. Image from Airbus.

Airbus also showed off Malaysia Airlines (MAS) first A380, sporting a special “celebration livery.” The A380′s new paint scheme was added post-delivery and highlights the A380 as the flagship for the airline. The plane will start operations on the MAS Kuala Lumpur-London route next week and is configured in three classes with a total of 494 seats.

What Are Your Thoughts on Air New Zealand’s New Safety Video?

When I first watched Air New Zealand’s new safety video — I did not like it, but I was willing to give it a second chance.

I knew going into it, the bar was going to be set high. ANZ has been known for coming up with pretty epic videos:

Video: Richard Simmons Rocks it with Air New Zealand
What Could Be Better? Air New Zealand Cuddle Class + David Hasselhoff
Interview with Air New Zealand’s Dirty, Dirty Rico
Air New Zealand Likes to get Nude

When I first heard that ANZ was coming out with a new video, I actually got a little giddy. I wasn’t sure how they would go about topping their other videos, but I had high expectations that they would.

In the email informing me of the soon-to-be-released video,  I was told I would see, “a new animated in-flight safety video featuring Ed O’Neill (Modern Family, Married With Children)… Hand-drawn and filmed during the process, the video depicts an airline safety pamphlet as it comes to life, and also includes appearances by New Zealand native Melanie Lynskey (Up in the Air, Two and a Half Men), Snoop Dogg and New Zealand’s famous All Blacks rugby team.”

Sounds like a nice recipe for success. Then I finally got to watch it and as I stated earlier, I was disappointed.

It felt dull, dry and a bit boring. The humor just didn’t connect and I am assuming that Ed and Melanie did not record their lines together at the same time. However, I am all about second chances, so I told myself I would give it a few days, talk to some people about their thoughts and take a second look. When I reached out to ask some of you what your thoughts were, I was surprised by the overwhelmingly positive reactions:

“I liked the video! It was a little funny and not too boring. I’d be more likely to watch it then listen to FA’s make their speech!” from Paul Mahon.

“It’s definitely creative and keeps my attention more than a video of a flight attendant doing the regular routine but on video. But still, most people won’t pay attention,” from Jason Rabinowitz.

“Much better than the Richard Simmons one, not really all that condescending, which is good but its was a bit light hearted which should keep people watching it and paying attention at least. Still not Deltatina though,” from Malcolm Muir.

“I get the small airline making things go viral thing. I LOLed on the YouTubes, but on the plane? Kill me,” said by @thatjohn on Twitter about the previous Richard Simmons video. He feels the new one is much better.

I guess I can kind of get it. ANZ has made some pretty successful viral videos, but the type of video that goes viral, might not be the same type of video you want to watch over and over again, if you fly a lot.

So, I decided to watch the video with a new view point. How would I feel flying on this airline ten times and having to watch this safety video? I have to say I liked it better — a lot better.

Sitting on a plane, I rather have this video, but on the ground, give me Richard or Rico any day of the week.

Updated: United Airlines Plans to Take Delivery of Their First 787 in September

United's first Boeing 787 Dreamliner seen with a quick (and not real) livery for when President Obama visiting Paine Field. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / NYCAviation.com.

United’s first Boeing 787 Dreamliner seen with a quick (and not real) livery for when President Obama visiting Paine Field. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / NYCAviation.com.

Internal communications shows that United Airlines is expecting to take delivery of their first Boeing 787 Dreamliner in September 2012.

United will become the first US airline to take delivery of the new aircraft.

The airline hasn’t been very specific on their expected timeline for their first Dreamliner — only publicly stating, “We expect the plane will enter revenue service in the second half of 2012. ”

Recently, they sent an internal communications to some employees that shows that United has a more detailed plan for their first 787. Over the summer, the newsletter explained that Boeing will complete the following tasks for their first 787:

  • Bring electrical power onto the airplane and begin to exercise the use of the electrical systems.
  • Install seats and other cabin amenities (the cabin will feature 36 United BusinessFirst flat-bed seats, 63 Economy Plus seats and 120 seats in Economy).
  • Paint the 787 in United livery.
  • Conduct a series of tests to prepare their 787 for delivery.
Yesterday, United posted this photo on their Facebook showing one of their two GEnx engines that were installed on their first Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Yesterday, United posted this photo on their Facebook showing one of their two GEnx engines that were installed on their first Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Photo from United.

The document confirms their expectations for a fall delivery: “September, 2012: We expect to take delivery of our first 787. While the aircraft is expected to enter revenue service in 2012, we will first complete a variety of tests and training. This includes completing FAA conformity checks, which may require up to 100 flight hours of proving runs.”

Of course, dates of delivery are always flowing and it is very possible that United might receive their first 787 before or after September — so don’t get to attached to that month… yet.

UPDATE: I heard back from United and they stated, “We are still saying that we expect to take delivery of our first 787 in the second half of this year.” Knowing how 787 Dreamliner schedules have changed so much in the past few years, it is probably best to stick to that.

GALLERY OF UNITED’S FIRST BOEING 787 DREAMLINER: