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Old May 17, 17, 11:38 am   #16
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Part IV: Singapore Airlines Flight #7 LAX-ICN in Business Class

Finally, the time had arrived! While I would've loved to have tried out Singapore's first class, I figured business class would be just fine for our purposes. Plus, there was no award availability for the dates that we needed.

At the gate, we waited only 5 minutes before boarding was called. First class was called, then rather immediately business class was called as well. When we booked, we selected 11 D + F, which was in the mini-cabin of this 777-300ER. With only two rows of seats, it felt like our own first class cabin. I'd definitely vouch for these seats if you are thinking of flying this configuration.

We settled down in Singapore's new business class, which I immediately fell in love with. It's very spacious, and I knew I'd get a chance to catch some shut-eye on our journey to Seoul Incheon.




First, we were offered water, juice, or champagne. Like many would on this site, I chose the champagne.



Then, some newspapers were passed out. L elected to catch up on the day's business news.



Then, we decided to check out our menus for the flight. For this flight, I chose to "Book the Cook" for the first meal (USDA Filet), then chanced it with the menu on the second meal serving. L chose Book the Cook for both meals (Chilean Sea Bass and Crab Ravioli).

You'll see that Singapore offers a "Hansik" meal in business class for flights to/from Incheon. I thought this was a cool idea, and a good way to get a part of the culture as you're flying to your destination. However, as a seafood novice, I'm glad that I elected for the steak and not eel.




Dinner



Snack menu


Supper


Wine/Drinks












So, yeah, the menu was massive.

Take off was on time and we were on our way. I ordered a Singapore Sling to start. Delicious.



Next, the appetizer. I'm not a big seafood person, but I thought the shrimp and scallop were tasty.



As was my favorite feature on Singapore, garlic bread.



I'm a native Texan, so I love my steaks medium rare. This was not, nor was I expecting it to be. Though, I did still enjoy it- good quality meat and the sides and sauce were flavorful. Paired with the 2012 Chateau Peyrabon Haut Medoc, which tasted fine.



L's Seabass:



Finally, some rock-hard Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey for dessert. Once it thawed a bit, it did the trick.



Wait... more food? Next, a tray of fresh fruits and cheeses were passed out. The pineapple was perfectly ripe.



After that, I slipped on the provided noise-cancelling headphones and watched a few movies. Then, I drifted off to bed. So, as a result, I didn't get a chance to try any snacks- did anyone notice that Singapore has Randy's Donuts on board? That's a great LA touch!

I awoke and it was about time for supper. I chose the Gogi Bokum for my main, since I was headed to South Korea, and knew I wouldn't have time to sample their cuisine on the ground with our tight layover.

First, Parma ham.



Then the main. Very, very good. I loved the kimchi on the side.



L's Crab Ravioli


Then, finally, dessert, which I passed on but L tried and loved.



Then, I went back to sleep, which is indicative of how comfortable I found the seat to be. While I did sleep at an angle to maximize length, the seat was wide enough for me. I have wide shoulders, so I find a lot of business class seats to feel like coffins. It's a very first world problem, but I like finding seats where I don't have that issue.

Overall, we arrived on time and safely. I found the flight attendants on this leg to be incredible attentive and anticipatory. It felt like first class service, and I loved how we were shielded from the other cabins during the entire flight, including disembarkation where the curtain remained drawn until we were off the plane. A+, Singapore!

Now, on to the Grand Hyatt Incheon.
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Old May 17, 17, 12:24 pm   #17
  
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Nice start. Can't wait to see the rest.
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Old May 17, 17, 5:58 pm   #18
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Part V: Grand Hyatt Incheon


After an amazing flight, it was time for our well-deserved layover at Incheon. Unfortunately, we wouldn't have time to explore the city at all, so to preserve precious hours of sleep, we stayed near the airport.

I kept going back and forth on where to stay, as Design Hotels' Nest Hotel looked nice and cheap for our dates, but when we realized that we had a Category 1-4 certificate that was expiring for Hyatt, and the Grand Hyatt Incheon was a Category 3, we went with that.

As our flight was arriving a bit after 10:30 PM, we couldn't clear customs in time to take the last free shuttle bus for the night to the hotel, only 3 minutes away. The hotel mentioned to me over the phone that I could call when I landed for a free pickup, which is a great feature, but when I saw private transfers pricing out at about $22, we went with that. The extra few minutes of sleep were worth it, since our flight the next morning was at 8:30 AM.

Sure enough, after clearing customs, we found our driver, who quickly ushered us to a waiting Mercedes S550 sedan- nice wheels! Waters and newspapers were in the car, but we barely had time to check everything out before we were at the hotel.



The hotel was expecting us at the West Wing, and check in was extremely fast as a result. They recognized my Globalist status, and offered me an upgrade to a Residence One-Bedroom suite in the West Wing. Wow! Breakfast would be served in the lounge the next morning, which we would be able to check out briefly.

We were escorted up to the suite, and WOW! Why do we only have 9-ish hours here?? A welcome amenity of two Perriers was waiting, as well as a hand-written welcome, in the living room.




To the left was a kitchenette, with full-fridge.





Beyond that, moving to the bedroom, was a guest bathroom to the left, with Toto toilet.

Then, the bedroom.


To the left of that, a massive bathroom, with tub/shower combo, complete with in-bath television.





The room had a great view of the terminal.


We quickly got ready for bed to catch some shuteye. Unfortunately for me, but fortunately for you all, I awoke at about 4 in the morning, so I decided to go explore the hotel a bit and use the gym.



The gym was located on a lower floor for the West Wing. The East Wing had its own facilities. I found the gym to be more than adequate, with lots of different equipment. I just wish the indoor pool was open late at night for a swim.



I walked over to the East Wing, which requires an outdoor walk on a covered bridge.



Looks nice. They had their own pool as well.



Then, I turned back and took some photos of the West Wing lobby, which reminded me of Qatar's Al Safwa lounge!



In the morning, we quickly packed and headed to the Grand Club for breakfast. We could've ordered some select menu items, but time was tight and we needed to get to the airport. Overall, a great lounge spread!






Since it was morning, we could take advantage of the Grand Hyatt's coach bus service to the airport, which took no time after a stop by the East Wing.




Overall, a great option for a layover in Incheon. While I'd like to have time in Seoul next layover, this was a great experience. Onward to Singapore!
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Old May 18, 17, 12:49 am   #19
  
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Very nice hotel you stayed at in Seoul!
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Old May 18, 17, 5:47 pm   #20
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Part VI: ICN-SIN on a Singapore A330-300


We arrived at the bus stop for the Grand Hyatt with plenty of time to check-in and clear security. The walk to the check in for Singapore Airlines was quite long- the terminal building is soaring and gorgeous, but makes it easy to get your steps in for the day!

After acquiring our paper boarding passes, we hopped in a very long security line- it must have taken about 20 minutes to clear it and customs, though the line moved efficiently, in my opinion.

We then entered the terminal area, where we had to hop on board the airport's train to take us to our gate area. Once off, we arrived at the Singapore Airlines' dedicated lounge.



While small, it had all the essentials, including a delicious food spread with American favorites, some international ones, and even a few Korean items. Since it was L's birthday, we decided mimosas were appropriate.






With only about 30 minutes to kill in the lounge, it was soon time to board our flight.

When I booked our flights, we were flying on a 777-200ER, but unfortunately, we were downgraded to an A330-300. No matter, service was what we're after, but we'd have slightly less comfortable seats for this 5 1/2 hour flight.

We boarded quickly through a dedicated jetway.



Menus were waiting for us at our seats, while champagne was served.







To start, some fresh fruit.


Then, some muesli.


I went with the braised pork belly. L went with the eggs.



Then, dessert!


The balance of this flight was spent sleeping. For what it's worth, I was comfortable. Before we knew it, we were landing in Shanghai.
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Old May 18, 17, 6:52 pm   #21
  
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I can't help but comment on how well written this trip report is. I look forward to seeing more.
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Old May 19, 17, 4:54 pm   #22
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Part VII: Singapore Layover

With only 6 1/2 hours to kill in Singapore, it was a bit too long to stay in the airport, as nice as Changi is, and we had never been to Singapore before. So, we made the decision to head to the Gardens by the Bay to check them out, as well as a quick walkthrough of the Marina Bay Sands. With a rainy day in the forecast, the infinity pool, the stuff of Instagram legend, would not be in the cards.

As expected, Singapore's customs was a breeze. It rivaled Hong Kong in efficiency. We stored our bags in the terminal's luggage storage, which cost about $12 USD for 3 bags, conveniently located by the taxi terminal.

Then, we hopped in a taxi and headed straight for the Gardens by the Bay. We were starving, and we made the regrettable decision of McDonald's for lunch- while better than the stateside version, we wish we had chosen a more local option, but there aren't many options at the front gate of the park, and when you're hungry, you're hungry.






We got our tickets at a 10% discount with our Singapore boarding passes, and entered the Cloud Garden, then the Flower Dome. They were, naturally, an incredible site. I'll shut up and let the pictures do the talking. I liked how it was tulip season, sponsored by KLM, of course.















And, just like that, after a walk to the Marina Bay Sands, we caught a taxi back to the airport.



This left us enough time to relax in the Singapore Airlines Business Class lounge, which I thought was elegantly laid out. Tiger beer on tap? Yes please!












Then, we had to make a stop at the Orchid Garden and koi pond before our flight.





Just TWO MORE flights and a boat ride to the Park Hyatt! Good thing we love flying...

Last edited by TheTravelPlaybook; May 19, 17 at 5:02 pm
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Old May 19, 17, 5:01 pm   #23
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Part VIII: SIN-MLE in Singapore Airlines Business on an A330-300

After the lounge, we made our way to the gate. Singapore does security at the gate area, so that only took a minute, and we had about 10 minutes to kill in the waiting room. Then, they called business class to board.

No seat photos on this leg, as it's the exact same setup as the previous flight, though we were able to snag bulkheads on this leg. This made the seat way more comfortable for sleeping, which is what I did for the majority of this flight! The day was wearing on me, so I only had one glass of champagne upon boarding, drinking water the rest of the flight.

The Menu


Crabmeat Salad. I'm not a big crab fan, so I just picked at this. I'm sure it was delicious.


I Booked the Cook again on this leg, getting another steak, because, why not? I thought the sauce on this one was delicious. Steak was decent as well.


This ice cream was SCRUMPTIOUS. Perfectly soft.


Then, I passed out, waking up just before landing in the Maldives!
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Old May 19, 17, 5:18 pm   #24
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Part IX: Transfer to the Park Hyatt Maldives

We had finally arrived in the country of the Maldives, which was Country 72 for me, if we're going off of the Travelers Century Club list. Woo!

We cleared customs pretty quickly, no real delays, and certainly faster than US customs. Right outside of security, we found our first Park Hyatt representative, who was waiting for us and another couple. They arrived about 5 minutes after us, and we were escorted to the domestic terminal, just a quick walk down a covered walkway.


Inside, we handed our new friend our passports and luggage. He'd be handling check-in for us, which was a great perk after a long travel day. He walked us into the Moonimaa Lounge, which was empty except for the four of us. FWIW, this is a Priority Pass lounge, and it is dry, as expected in the Muslim country. There was a modest food spread and some sodas and water that I picked at.





After about 30 minutes, we were told boarding had begun for our Maldivian Airlines flight to Kooddoo. We lucked out and got a direct flight on the outbound.




Love the dolphin on the tail! On board, our phones died, but we got a wet toilette and a juice as in-flight service. Once we arrived in Kooddoo, we walked into the "terminal" which was basically a room, to wait for our bags. Another Park Hyatt representative found us, and once our bags arrived, they were whisked away in a separate golf cart. We were loaded into one, too, and made our way to the speedboat dock.

We were loaded in, and took a seat towards the back of the boat. Seats were very comfortable, couch-like, and we were given life preservers to wear during the journey.





An iced tea and a snack jar were passed out as well, with the ubiquitous cool towels.




Decently smooth ride got us to the resort in about 35 minutes, and we were met by our host for the four nights, Ameez, right on the dock, ready to check us into our villa! It was about 2:30 in the morning island-time, after getting up at about 6 AM Incheon time. We were ready for bed.
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Old May 19, 17, 7:23 pm   #25
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Looks like a great trip

Thanks for sharing, I'm looking forward to the rest of your TR.
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Old May 22, 17, 1:46 am   #26
  
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Wow, looks very impressive so far so looking forward to reading more.
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Old May 22, 17, 12:40 pm   #27
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Part IX: The Park Hyatt Maldives


With our late arrival on night one, we had about 3 1/2 full days on the island at the Park Hyatt. While we certainly would've welcomed more time there, I think that it felt worth the journey to spend that amount of time in paradise.



The Room




We were upgraded as Globalists to a Park Pool Villa, which was much appreciated! When reserving, we were going back and forth on whether the overwater villas would be worth it. We decided that the privacy, plus the plunge pool, of the Park Pool Villa would be perfect, and hoped for the free upgrade.



The hotel had champagne waiting for us in the room, as well as two welcome cranberry drinks and some snacks.



Essentially one large room, I felt that the villa was plenty spacious and very well designed. I had read reports that the villas felt "tired," though I didn't get that impression.


The pool we used daily, and it was a great place to wash off from the ocean or just relax.





The villa was RIGHT ON the beach, which was just incredible. There's nothing like this in the US.





Back inside the villa, we loved the bathroom. With sinks separated by the pathway to the outside bathing area, we had his and her sinks which we always appreciate.



The outdoor shower area was awesome and very private. We never used the bath tub, but for those that enjoy baths this seems like a great option.

Nightly turndown came with a little sweet treat and the history behind it.


The Resort




The island is small, and that's not a bad thing. While the resort wasn't empty when we were there, it wasn't sold out, and never felt cramped or overrun. I've been snorkeling and diving around the world, and never have I seen such amazingly healthy reefs. The entire island is surrounded by it, and easily accessible by the two piers. One day, we snorkeled from one pier to the other, which took about 45 minutes. Another day, we saw black-tipped reef shark. Lots of parrot fish. Lots of other fish. So fun!



There are a lot of activities that get you off the island and exploring the world around, but we found them all to be way too overpriced. If they priced these activities a bit lower, I think more folks would book them. Same goes for the spa treatments, though they were offering a 15% discount on them while we were there. The villa also advertised an app that offered activity and dining discounts, but none of them were very good, and required purchasing a separate high-end activity first to activate the deal (think waived boat fees on $1000 scuba excursions).




We were completely content snorkeling, lying on the beach, and watching the ubiquitous crabs dig in the sand. We also took advantage of the gym, and took a back of house tour one day, which was very enlightening.





Dining

Dining is also expensive on the island. Luckily, my diamond status saved us lots there- breakfast for two alone after tax and gratuity would be $100 (it included two menu items plus the buffet each day). Plus, the nightly sundowner drink and canapés saved a bit on booze. All in all, we ended up only needing to purchase two meals on the island- an expensive beach buffet that was moved to the island grill last minute (delicious local cuisine, though I wouldn't do it again the next time around, at $100 per person plus 22% tax/tip), and a room-service dinner. Room service is actually one area that I feel is a deal on the island, since it's priced the same as the island's restaurant.








Island Grill:


Room Service:


Sundowners:


We planned ahead and brought a box of Clif bars. This covered any afternoon cravings.

Food quality was outstanding, however. We loved the filling breakfast each morning, and both meals we tried were delicious. Cocktails were not well made, though, so I would stick to beer and wine next time.

Overall, I feel that the Park Hyatt Maldives is a steal at 25,000 Hyatt points per night. It feels like your own private island. It's worth the journey. After four days of amazing memory making, it was time to head home, on one of our favorite airlines- Etihad!



Last edited by TheTravelPlaybook; May 22, 17 at 12:50 pm
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Old May 22, 17, 1:08 pm   #28
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Part XI: Etihad MLE-AUH

After a wonderful stay, it was unfortunately time to depart. We left the resort around 2:30, with our bags and ourselves picked up by golf cart and taken to the main building for check out. Rough seas as we departed, but managed to make it on the boat and back to the Kooddoo airport.






From there, we had a one-stop flight on Maldivian Air, which was uneventful. Great views of the surrounding atolls.



In Malé, we were greeted by a Hyatt representative and escorted over to the main terminal building. When we learned check in had another 5 minutes to open, our host waited in line for us so we didn't have to stand. That's service! After check-in, he walked us over to customs, and that was the end of our contact with the Park Hyatt. Sad...

Customs took no time, and we were in the main, modern terminal building for Malé. It's undergoing some expansion, so I'd expect more lounges in the future. Since we were flying business class on Etihad, we were entitled to use the Leeli Lounge. A basic but decent food spread awaited us, as well as soft drinks and waters.











After killing time there, we walked through the shops in our terminal, and then to our gate. Once boarding began, we were bused to our plane, an A320 without lie-flat beds but still very comfortable seating.



This was a quick 3 1/2 hour flight, but the flight attendants couldn't have been more attentive. We were welcomed with champagne, and then given menus to choose our meal for the journey.






I went with the Chicken.


L went for the veggie option.


A few more drinks and I was passed out! I woke up just before landing. Taxing took forever at AUH, and 30 minutes after landing we were finally parked. A private bus for business class whisked us away to customs. With fast passes, customs took no time at all. Off to the Hyatt Capital Gate for a one-night layover.

Last edited by TheTravelPlaybook; May 22, 17 at 6:00 pm
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Old May 22, 17, 1:19 pm   #29
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Part XII: Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi

We used a prebooked transfer service to get us to the Hyatt, which only cost $35 after a coupon code. When you have less than 9 hours on the ground, every minute counts, so the cost was worth it to us.

The driver met us right at the exit for customs, and we were in the car in less than a minute. The drive took about 15 minutes this late at night (around midnight), so we weren't too inconvenienced.

Check-in was bustling at this hour, so we had to wait for one person to finish up before proceeding. We were welcomed graciously, and given a gigantic one-bedroom suite for our 8 hour stay. It's sad to have such little time in the room, but still very fun to check out, for a rate as low as we paid ($130).

First thoughts on the hotel, is that it's gorgeous. The lobby's chandeliers are magnificent! I loved the entry level, which led to the elevators to take you up to the main lobby for check in.





The Room

WOW.
















A full 1 1/2 bath 1,000+ sq. foot suite, with a view over the royal palaces of Abu Dhabi. This was quite an upgrade, one category above the standard suite, and included wine. We took this home with us, and while it only retails for $7, the thought was appreciated.



After a quick sleep, we took breakfast at 18 Degrees. The food spread itself was immaculate, and very high quality, though service isn't great in the restaurant.











Can we PLEASE stay longer?? I was very saddened to leave, but we had to go back home. We hopped in the hotel's car around 7 AM and headed to the airport for our direct flight to Los Angeles on board Etihad once more.

Last edited by TheTravelPlaybook; May 22, 17 at 6:01 pm
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Old May 22, 17, 5:58 pm   #30
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Part XIII: Etihad 777-300ER AUH-LAX

This is the last part of my trip report- it's taken me longer to write the report than it did to take the actual trip!

We arrived at Abu Dhabi Airport's dedicated business class check in for Etihad travelers about 1 1/2 hours before departure.






It's cutting it a bit close for my standards, but we wanted to get as much sleep as possible. Since we had been to the business class lounge on a previous trip (and no longer would receive a free spa treatment), we instead decided to clear security straight away and clear US customs, and hang in the Pre-Clearance Lounge instead. Not as great of a lounge, but we had limited time anyway.

Check-in was fast, and we used the e-Gates after registering quickly, which made customs move very fast. Then, the long, long walk to the US Pre-Clearance facility, which required another security check and then US customs. With all that done with, we had about 30 minutes to relax in the Pre-clearance lounge.






We decided to walk over to the gate a bit early. There she was!



We boarded quickly after fighting through the crowds at the gate. Boy, do I miss the boarding gate at the IAD Etihad lounge!

We had traveled last year on Etihad 787 from DC, so we knew this hard product wouldn't be as "new" as that one. Frankly, the 787's business studio seat is gorgeous. This one, not as much, but it's certainly not terrible.



Then we got comfortable with some champagne.



Menus were distributed.



After about an hour of being in the air, it was showtime. I went with the tenderloin. L, the pasta.





I thought the steak was much better than what I had on SG.

After that, a big time sleep. I think I slept about 8 hours of the 15 1/2 that we had for the flight. No complaints there! I did wake up at one point and have a steak sandwich and some tea.




Etihad's "Dine Anytime" is great, but I do love have a more full presentation for multiple meals, like what we had on Singapore. No complaints on food quality, though.

After the long journey, we arrived back in Los Angeles, where we started. We still had a short hop on an American CRJ (yuk) to Phoenix, but we exited security to wait for our bags, so I could get my laptop. But, we forgot that they would check all the way through to Phoenix, so we were laptopless. I did get to experience how stupid US Preclearance is for folks that need to retrieve their bags. I think there were at least 6 Etihad employees pointing folks in the right direction to find the carousel, which required people exiting security, exiting the building, and fighting the crowds awaiting other flights outside of customs to get their bags.

Overall, I still love Etihad, but Singapore's service was ultimately the winner here. Same goes for Hyatt's new Globalist status. There have been a ton of complaints on here, and they're well-placed, but for me, I saw the value of the status on this trip.

Thank you all for reading, and for the kind words! Happy to answer any questions.
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