Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2014: 269,302
2013: 330,818

ANA Ambassador Report 5: Two AvGeeks Visit Hong Kong

I woke up to this every morning.  Looking out over The Avenue of Stars and Victoria Harbour to Hong Kong Island from the Peninsula Hotel - Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter.com

I woke up to this every morning. Looking out over The Avenue of Stars and Victoria Harbour to Hong Kong Island from the Peninsula Hotel – Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter.com

This is the continuation of a multi-part series covering my trip from Seattle to San Jose to Narita to Hong Kong and back as a ANA Ambassador. My flight was provided by ANA, but all opinions are my own. Part1: San Jose to Tokyo on the 787 Dreamliner – Part2: Connecting in Tokyo’s Narita Airport – Part3: Tokyo to Hong Kong & Back Again – Part4: A Helicopter Flightseeing Tour of Hong Kong.

What happens when you send two AvGeeks halfway around the world to Hong Kong and let them stay at one of the top hotels for three nights?  A good amount of luxurious shenanigans, of course!

Jason Rabinowitz and I recently had the opportunity to do just that and I wanted to share our experiences, especially related to the Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong. The experience and service began the moment we stepped off our flight.  We were barely out of the jet bridge and there was someone to escort us through the formalities of immigration, customs and baggage.

Once we got land-side at Hong Kong International Airport, the real adventure began.  We were escorted to the “Limousine Lounge” where our ride to the hotel was waiting.  What was waiting for us was most certainly a first for me. Continue reading ANA Ambassador Report 5: Two AvGeeks Visit Hong Kong

Destination Fiji: My Visit After The Fiji Airways A330 Delivery

Yea -- this is not to shabby. Photo by Jason Rabinowitz / AirlineReporter.com

Yea — this is not to shabby. Photo by Jason Rabinowitz / AirlineReporter.com

Recently, I embarked on a journey to Fiji to experience Fiji Airways’ brand new Airbus A330. Thankfully, once I got to Fiji I didn’t just turn around and go home, I got to experience Fiji for several days, and I had an absolute blast. Over four days, I stayed at several high end resorts, experienced some amazing adventures, and threw in some #AvGeek awesomeness along the way.

Upon arriving in Fiji on the brand new A330, the tour company Rosie Holidays shuttled us to our first destination, the Radisson Blu Resort on Denarau Island, about a 40 minute drive from the airport. We were only spending one night at the Radisson, but I was quite impressed with the property. The rooms were fairly large, and free (but slow) wifi was available everywhere. The highlight of our stay at the Radisson Blu came in the form of dinner in one of their pools — yes in. The tables and chairs were in water about 3 feet deep [see photo below], creating a very cool and unique atmosphere.

Continue reading Destination Fiji: My Visit After The Fiji Airways A330 Delivery

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

24 Hours in Frankfurt: Hanging with the Airport and Lufthansa

Landing in Frankfurt on a Lufthansa Airbus A330.

Landing in Frankfurt on a Lufthansa Airbus A330.

What does an AvGeek do with only 24 hours in Frankfurt with some great aviation connections? It is all still a blur, but I think I can remember most of it.

I have now been to Frankfurt twice; yet I have spent less than 50 hours total there. My first trip was to take the inaugural Lufthansa Airbus A380 flight from Frankfurt Airport (FRA) to Miami (MIA) and more recently, I was invited to go back for the inaugural Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental flight.

First of all, the non-stop Lufthansa flight from Seattle to Frankfurt is a challenge. It leaves at around 1pm PST and then arrives at midnight PST, which is 8am local time in Germany. This means, I need to get sleep during the flight or I go a whole day without any. It was unfortunate that I was only able to get two hours of sleep on the flight over — mostly from being excited about the trip.

The Frankfurt Airport as seen from the Sheraton Hotel.

The Frankfurt Airport as seen from the Sheraton Hotel.

After landing and having some issues with my bag (took 45minutes to get, but at least I got it), I was off to find the Sheraton at the airport. Once arriving at the hotel a bit after 9am, I had about an hour to get showered and changed before starting an airport tour that Chris Sloan, with Airchive.com, nicely set up for us.

On the tarmac -- a place I always love to be at.

On the tarmac -- a place I always love to be at.

Chris and I met up with Robert Payne and Roy Watson who are not only both spokesmen for the airport, but also all around awesome guys. Much like the rest of the trip, we had a whirlwind tour, since we only had two hours, but it was well worth it.

We quickly took a look at the airport’s classic, yet still impressive baggage system before heading out to the tarmac. If you ever need an adrenalin shot to counter lack of sleep, a trip to an airport tarmac is always a nice cure.

A Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 and Lufthansa Boeing 747-400.

A Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 and Lufthansa Boeing 747-400.

We were able to stop and get out of our vehicle and take photos. at multiple locations. For such a short period on the tarmac, we caught some great stuff including a Kuwait Airways Airbus A300, an ANA Boeing 787 Dreamliner and being able to walk around a Lufthansa Boeing 747-400.

A Lufthansa Boeing 747-400 from above.

A Lufthansa Boeing 747-400 from above.

Getting off the tarmac for a few minutes, we took a tour of one of the tarmac towers that guides airliners around the gates. It provided amazing views.

By noon, we were back at the hotel to meet with our media group, who was led by Martin Riecken, Director Corporate Communications The Americas, Lufthansa Airlines. Events like these are a home coming for aviation journalists.  You can imagine there is always non-stop, great conversation going on with a group of folks who write on aviation and travel.

The Technik hangar was set up for a show!

The Technik hangar was set up for a show!

After meeting up in the hotel lobby, we loaded onto a bus and were taken to Lufthansa Technik Hangar 7, which was very different from last time I saw it. Instead of the vast open spaces that a normal maintenance hangar might have, it was set up for a party. With a bunch of tables, a large stage and a curtain made of up thousands of LEDs, which I assumed was hiding the 747-8I (spoiler: it was).

There was a Boeing 747-8I, an Airbus A380 and different things set up to teach us about Lufthansa.

There was a Boeing 747-8I, an Airbus A380 and different things set up to teach us about Lufthansa.

Some speeches were given and some videos were shown before the curtain was raised not only to unveil the Intercontinental, but also different stations where we would be able to learn about different aspects of Lufthansa, the 747-8I interior and the future. For a little bit of fun, there was also a Lufthansa Airbus A380 in the background as well.

The antennae that provides Wi-Fi on airliners is much larger than I thought it would be.

The antennae that provides Wi-Fi on airliners is much larger than I thought it would be.

After our hangar and aircraft tour, it was time to head back to the hotel. I had a two and a half hour break before we would head out to dinner and the big question was: to nap or not to nap? Well, at this point I had been awake about 24 hours and I decided to go for the nap.

Waking up was a bit difficult, but I was excited to get to downtown Frankfurt. You know, when I visit a foreign land, it is nice to try to get out of the airport at least once — but I am old fashion in that way.

Meat, meat and uh... oh yea, more meat.

Meat, meat and uh... oh yea, more meat.

Our media group went to dinner at Apfelweinwirtschaft Wagner, where I got to have my first apple wine. It tasted like apple cider, without the bubbles and hefferveisen — it might be a bit of an acquired taste. I was hungry, but no worries. A platter with a farm-load of animals on it was delivered to our table. Probably not the best call for any vegetarians out there, but it worked great for us.

After dinner, some of us took a walk down the street to take a look at downtown Frankfurt.

After dinner, some of us took a walk down the street to take a look at downtown Frankfurt.

After dinner and a short walk down the street, it was about 9:30pm. Two choices were given: go back to the hotel or check out Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal at the airport. Again, the adrenalin rush of checking out the impressive lounge kept me nicely awake and I kept on rocking.

The bar inside the Lufthansa First Class Terminal.

The bar inside the Lufthansa First Class Terminal.

When I finally returned to my hotel room after 11pm, I was more than ready to get some sleep. It wasn’t easy getting a good night’s rest with the excitement of my flight the next day, but it didn’t make getting up at 6am easy.  We all met in the lobby at 7:45am and made our way to the lounge at the gate.

About 24 hours later, I was boarding the 747-8I to head back to the US.

About 24 hours later, I was boarding the 747-8I to head back to the US.

Then we boarded the 747-8I and off I was heading back home. My second 24 hours in Frankfurt trip I have done and it was great, but next, I hope to hang out a bit more and get to know Frankfurt.

More Connected to 4 Hours in Frankfurt
* 52 Photos from the day
* Flying on the Inaugural Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental Flight With Lufthansa
Lufthansa Airlines Takes Delivery of Their First Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental