Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2014: 228,152
2013: 330,818

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Emirates Shows Off Lounges in New Airbus A380 Concourse

An Emirates Airbus A380 at the new concourse in Dubai.

An Emirates Airbus A380 at the new concourse in Dubai.

An excerpt from David Parker Brown’s story on APEX Editor’s Blog

DUBAI: How does one go about making the world’s largest airliner, the Airbus A380, look small? Park it at the new Concourse A at Dubai International Airport, which was designed to handle the giant aircraft and all the high-end passengers who will fly in its premium cabins.

Earlier this year Emirates and Dubai International Airport opened the new concourse. David Parker Brown, a contributor to the APEX editor’s blog was invited for a tour of the Emirates Airline first and business class lounges.

Concourse A opened on 2 January 2013 and is the world’s only dedicated and purpose built concourse for the Airbus A380. The rest of the airport is able to handle the aircraft, but the new concourse was purpose-built with the A380 in mind. A formidable undertaking for the airport and airline, US$3.3 billion terminal required 159,572,880 man-hours to build.

Continue reading Emirates Shows Off Lounges in New Airbus A380 Concourse on APEX

See more photos of the Concourse A in Dubai

APEX BLOG: Inside the Emirates Flight Catering facility in Dubai

Emirates Catering Facility in Dubai.

Emirates Catering Facility in Dubai.

While visiting Dubai recently, I had the opportunity to check out the Emirates Catering Facility. It is the largest catering facility in the world and very impressive. I was asked to write up a story for APEX Editor’s Blog and wanted to share the story with you as well…

DUBAI: Many people do not stop and think about the effort it takes for an airline to prepare multiple meals for long-haul flights; it is complex operation and just one of the many aspects that airlines need to concentrate on to be successful.

The largest airline catering facility in the world is the Emirates Flight Catering in Dubai. Each day, the 50,000 sq m facility produces 110,000 meal trays. It operates 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, and employs 6,600 people.

Continue reading the the story on the APEX Editor’s Blog and also check out all 52 photos of the facility. 

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

We Aren’t In Kansas Anymore: Emirates First Class Lounge Review in Dubai

One of the many attractive views in-side Emirates First Class Lounge in Dubai.

One of the many attractive views inside Emirates First Class Lounge in Dubai

Dubai is known for having impressive and large things. It makes sense then that Emirates Airlines would have a huge, and impressive, First Class Lounge at their main hub in Terminal 3 at Dubai International Airport (DXB).

Getting access to any lounge is a nice benefit — but not all lounges are created equal. Most of the time, those paying $20,000 for their First Class international ticket do not want to mingle with those who paid a mere $7,000, and they do not have to. We aren’t in Kansas anymore folks.

The First Class Lounge seems to go on forever in Dubai.

The First Class Lounge seems to go on forever in Dubai

First of all, the lounge is frek’n huge. It took a good ten minutes for me to do a lap around the place and I am convinced I still did not see everything. There are some things you would hope to find in any lounge; comfortable seating, easy access to quick food and drink, high-end service, and even showers. But there was more at this lounge that you do not find often.

I almost wish there was a play are like this for adults.

I almost wish there was a play are like this for adults

If you have kids and want to have some time away from them before hopping on a plane for 14 hours, the lounge has its own kids play area. Not only does this allow you the chance to enjoy the rest of the lounge’s amenities with some peace, but it also allows your children to tire themselves out a bit before the flight.

There might not be a real play area for adults, but there is a free spa — called the Timeless Spa. Get a quick massage or facial and it is all complimentary. You just have to add you name to the list, wait your turn, and relax. I wanted to test these services for myself (you know, for the story), but I unfortunately ran out of time.

Take a seat at a table or one of the booths inside the restaurant, in the lounge, in the airport, in Dubai.

Take a seat at a table or one of the booths inside the restaurant, in the lounge, in the airport, in Dubai.

There are quite a few food options in the lounge — the most impressive being a sit-down restaurant. From snacks to full meals, you surely shouldn’t be leaving the lounge hungry. No matter what you order or get, leave your wallet in place, because there is no additional charge.

If you are more in the mood for some alcohol, no worries, you have lots to choose from. Want to take some wine home with you? No problem —  there is a shop in the lounge, where a wine connoisseur will help you pick out that perfect bottle.

One could easily visit the lounge and have a different seating experience each time. From comfy, large seats to a faux living room to working areas, whatever you are looking to do, there is a seat for you.

If you are hoping to plane spot from the lounge, or even from Terminal 3, you might be disapointed.

If you are hoping to plane spot from the lounge, or even from Terminal 3, you might be disappointed.

Overall, the lounge was outstanding. However, there were two things that I did not find appealing; one which most people will share in my pain and the other only AvGeeks will.

The biggest disappointment was the Wi-Fi — which was slow. When I say slow… I mean S L O W.  It was borderline useless to get any work done. Reading online, I found this was not an isolated experience and seems to be a constant problem.

The second issue I had was the view to the airplanes outside. There are large windows, but they all had markings on them to help keep the interior cool. I was told that the airport also designed the windows in this fashion so that passengers do not feel that they are in an airport. Of course, I like to feel that I am in an airport — oh well.

SEE ALL 13 PHOTOS FROM MY VISIT OF EMIRATES FIRST CLASS LOUNGE IN DUBAI

Destination Blog: How to Travel to Dubai and Rock It

It is crazy to think that this was all dirt not that long ago.

It is crazy to think that this was all dirt not that long ago. We arrived during a minor sand storm.

Getting there is half the fun — especially when you are flying in Emirates Airline business class. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Dubai after my 14 hour non-stop flight from Seattle. Sure, I read the websites and literature I was given, but it is hard to get an accurate feel for a place, like Dubai, until you have visited it yourself.

I have to say I was shocked — but in a good way. It was not at all what I was expecting. I thought it would be a hot desert with many locals in traditional garb with some English here and there. I think the best way to describe Dubai as being like if Las Vegas and Singapore hooked up and had a child — and named it Dubai. There is no shortage of glitz and glamor that one might find in Vegas, but with the heat and subtle culture that one would find in Singapore.

I was only able to spend about four days in Dubai, but found some things that you might find interesting if you ever decide to make it out there. I very much enjoyed my trip and I look forward to returning soon. Here are some of the things you might want to consider, if you are able to vacation in Dubai:

it wasn't too difficult being in the middle of the desert. After sunset, the temperature became very nice.

It wasn't too difficult being in the middle of the desert. After sunset, the temperature became very nice.

It Can Be Hot!

Duh right? Well, I think the bigger shock is it wasn’t that bad during my visit at the end of April. I was told by more than one person that it would only be a bit longer until it got hot. During the summer months, the average temperature stays above 100 degrees F, where I had it around 80-90 degrees during my visit during the end of April.

Very few people do anything outside during the hot months of the year, where during the cooler months, it is still quite tolerable for a Seattle native, like myself. Just make sure to bring your sunscreen, hats and some sun glasses — you will want to use them.

Although Dubai barely sees a few inches of rain per year, I was lucky enough to experience a few short minutes of Dubai rain. Travel so far away from rainy Seattle for Dubai rain? Yee-haw!

I can never get away from Starbucks, no matter where I travel.

I can never get away from Starbucks, no matter where I travel.

English is Everywhere

It is hard to tell that you are in a country half way around the world when English is so common. There were quite a few times where if I was placed in Dubai without knowing it, I would have a hard time thinking I was outside the US. I was kind of hoping for a bit more Arabic culture, but it sure makes it easier to get around.

I got to go to the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding to learn more about the local culture.

I got to go to the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding to learn more about the local culture.

The Population is Diverse

I wasn’t sure what to expect when visiting Dubai, but I can surely say I was not expecting what I found — a huge melting pot of people and culture. Only about 20% of the population are native citizens, where the rest are from other countries around the world. Many people living in Dubai are from India, the UK and even the US.

Notice the lack of bars or security. Shops are rarely robbed, even in the Gold Souk.

Notice the lack of bars or security. Shops are rarely robbed, even in the Gold Souk.

Do Not Plan on Becoming a Citizen – Crime is Low

It pretty much boils down to you cannot become a citizen of the UAE. Even if you work in the country for years and have kids in Dubai, neither you nor your kids are able to become citizens. To stay in the country, as a non-citizen, you have to be employed. Those who are not employed are deported (you do have some time to find a new job if you are fired).

Because there are not many people wandering around without jobs, plus the possible punishment of being deported if you commit a crime, Dubai is very safe and crime is low.

When completed later this year, the Infinity Tower will be the world's tallest high rise building with a twist of 90˚.

When completed later this year, the Infinity Tower will be the world's tallest high rise building with a twist of 90˚.

The Town is New

Talk about growth. Dubai has pretty much gone from dirt and nothing to a large metropolis in about 12 years. And Dubai just keeps on growing; there are cranes everywhere you look. Many people think it is all from oil money, but Dubai really does not have that much money from oil. They have been building their infrastructure and have become very business and tourist friendly. Many world-wide companies have set up offices in Dubai and have pulled people from around the world to work there.

Ski Dubai is so unbelievable -- you just have to go do it.

Ski Dubai is so unbelievable -- you just have to go do it.

Snow Ski in Dubai — Seriously

If you need to ask how much it costs to ski inside a mall in the middle of the desert, you are not living life! Okay, don’t worry, it is not that costly and what an epic experience. Ski Dubai is a must see (if you have the skills). The facility sets you up with everything you need to ski: heavy jacket, ski pants (because who would be bringing those to Dubai?) and either a set of skis or a snowboard.

There is only one lift and not too much variants in the routes you can take, but who cares, you are in frek’n Dubai! I haven’t skied in a few years, so it took a run or two to remember how to do it, then after that, it was a total thrill.

It was a little nerve wrecking skiing while being filmed for a segment of the Seattle based show Evening Magazine. Luckily I was able to make it work and somewhat look like I know what I am doing.

WATCH THE EVENING MAGAZINE STORY ON SKI DUBAI

One of the amazing views from the top of The Burj Khalifa.

One of the amazing views from the top of The Burj Khalifa.

Visit the World’s Tallest Building – The Burj Khalifa

It makes total sense that Dubai would be home to the world’s tallest building. I am willing to make bets that if some other building is taller someday, Dubai will just build another. That is just the attitude there — bigger and better. Anyhow, making the quick trip up to the observation deck on the Burj Khalifa provides amazing views of Dubai and the surrounding area.

The Burj Khalifa almost looks unreal and the views show how much construction has already taken place and how much room that Dubai has to still grow. Oddly, I did not get the great sense of height that I was expecting to have on the world’s tallest building — but the view more than made up for it.

You will only find alcohol in bars in hotels. Good thing there are a lot of nice hotels, like the Park Hyatt Dubai seen here.

You will only find alcohol in bars in hotels. Good thing there are a lot of nice hotels, like the Park Hyatt Dubai seen here.

Alcohol is Limited, But Exists

The country is not dry, but one is quite limited in where someone can drink alcohol. Unless you have a special drinking license, the only place one can drink is at a hotel. Do not worry, there are plenty of restaurants in and connected to hotels that will let you get your buzz on. Just don’t wander off too far from you hotel and make sure to read the next section before you decide to drive anywhere.

You can drink and let peole drive you over sand dunes.

You can drink and let people drive you over sand dunes.

Do Not Drink and Drive

This is probably a pretty good rule to have no matter where you are . But at least countries like the US will let you have a bit of alcohol in your system legally (0.08%), but in Dubai there is a 0.0% tolerance. You will cut your trip very short if you drink anything and then drive, so just take a cab, public transportation or do not leave your hotel.

Gold Machine on Top of The Burj Khalifa.

Gold Machine on Top of The Burj Khalifa.

Get Your Souvenir Gold

You know those machines where you put a penny in, turn a crank and get a souvenir coin? Well, that is for amateurs. Why would you want a souvenir penny, when you get get a souvenir gold bar? Starting at just $800.00, you can get your very own gold memento.

The machine shown above was found at the top of the largest building, The Burj Khalifa. I was tempted, but stuck to a few cheaper souvenir options.

You can take a classic water taxi across Dubai Creek.

You can take a classic water taxi across Dubai Creek.

Take a Water Taxi Across Dubai Creek

Even though Dubai is quite westernized, there are a few things you can do to get the cultural feeling. One of those activities is taking a water taxi, called an abra, across Dubai Creek. An old wooden boat (that looks like it maybe should have been retired a while ago) will take you on the creek and to a large street shopping area, called a souk. The fresh air (as long as you sit in front of the exhaust) feels good while watching aircraft take off and other people on their boats floating by.

The Meydan Hotel offers a unique feature; a horse track right outside your room. Only in Dubai.

The Meydan Hotel offers a unique feature; a horse track right outside your room. Only in Dubai.

Great Hotels to Choose From

I had the opportunity to stay in two hotels and view a few more during my visit. One of the most interesting was The Meydan, which has a horse track right outside your room. That’s right, a legit horse track (with high-end grass) in the middle of the desert — only in Dubai right? The race season was completed and I didn’t get to see any horses running around, but still the fact that I could wake up to a horse track was quite surreal.

The most impressive hotel was the Burj Al Arab (the world’s only 7-star hotel). Due to how exclusive the hotel is, only guests are able to get access to the hotel — no lookie-loos. I plan to write a separate story on this hotel in the future.

Sit down, shut up and hold on! Okay, it was hard to stay quiet during the sand dunes four wheeling.

Sit down, shut up and hold on! Okay, it was hard to stay quiet during the sand dunes four wheeling.

Take a Safari Ride in the Desert

Make sure you have a strong stomach before embarking into the sand dunes in a Toyota Land Cruiser. We used the group Arabian Adventures (which is owned by the Emirates Group) and they did a great job of not only giving us an adventure on the dunes, but also a dinner and a show in the middle of the desert after our ride.

Rolling dunes and camels are a must-see located just outside of Dubai.

Rolling dunes and camels are a must-see located just outside of Dubai.

Make Sure You Ride a Camel

You can’t go all the way to Dubai without riding a camel. As part of my desert dune riding (see above), I also had the chance to ride a camel. They are a little bumpy when they stand up or sit down to let you on and off and a word of warning — when the guy tells you to lean back — do yourself a favor and lean back. There are certain parts of your body that will thank you later.

Water Fountains by the Burj Khalifa

Water Fountains by the Burj Khalifa

Watch the Fountains

If you have never been to Las Vegas to watch the Fountains of Bellagio, make sure to go do that first. Because the ones in Dubai put the ones in Vegas to shame. Going every 30 minutes and synchronized to music, it is a wonderful (and free) experience. If you are looking for a bigger treat, make restaurant reservations along the fountain, get a few drinks, enjoy some food and get a free show.

The Atlantis Hotel on the Palm Island.

The Atlantis Hotel on the Palm Island.

Head to the Palm Island and The Atlantis

Checking out the Palm Islands is a must, but don’t expect some crazy and unique experience. I had to bring up my map function on my phone to really understand where I was . While on the palm, it is not easy to tell that you are on a man-made sand structure, out in the water, that is shaped like a palm tree. Really, to get the full effect of the Palm, you need to view it from the air. That being said, it is worth the trip to check out The Atlantis Hotel.

Walking into the lobby, our guide was excited to show our group a wonderful glass sculpture. It was very impressive, but little did he realize that it was a piece by Dale Chihuly and since he is based in Seattle, I have seen quite a bit of his work.

The hotel also has a decently sized aquarium that you can check out for a few extra bucks.

From all angles, the world's tallest building, The Burj Khalifa, looks unreal.

From all angles, the world's tallest building, The Burj Khalifa, looks unreal.

In Conclusion About Dubai

You have to try and make it to Dubai someday. It is really hard to explain the energy and how unreal everything is there. In one day, I woke up beside a horse race track, then by noon I had already visited the largest building in the world. That was before putting on snow gear to check out penguins, throw some snow balls and then do a few ski runs. Finally, heading out into the desert to 4×4 on some sand dunes and ride a camel. This was all just one day. Where the heck else can you do that in the world? Only in Dubai — that is something you will find yourself constantly saying and that is not a bad thing.

ALL 94 PHOTOS FROM DUBAI

My Other Related Dubai Stories:
* Photo Tour of Emirates Airline Crew Training in Dubai
* My Review: Flying Emirates Airline Business Class to Dubai