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The Time Share Presentation:AC J/Y, OZ F/C, CA Y, TG F/C/Y, LH F/C, Maglev, Renfe AVE

The Time Share Presentation:AC J/Y, OZ F/C, CA Y, TG F/C/Y, LH F/C, Maglev, Renfe AVE

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Old Jun 27, 12, 8:05 pm
  #1  
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Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: YVR - Vancouver, with most winter weekends in Whistler.
Programs: Aeroplan, Alaska MVP, Marriott Platinum / Lifetime Gold
Posts: 4,161
The Time Share Presentation:AC J/Y, OZ F/C, CA Y, TG F/C/Y, LH F/C, Maglev, Renfe AVE

Round the World (RTW): YVR-LAX-ICN-PVG-PEK-PVG-BKK-HKT-BKK-MAD-FRA-SEA-YVR



Links to my previous trip reports:

A visit to Macchu Picchu and Valle Nevado, Peru and Chile. Sept 2011
Travel after the Revolution of January 25, 2011. Egypt. May 2011
A Step Back in Time: The Twilight of Burma, a visit to Myanmar Sept 2010

In the summer of July 2011, I had been, err “involved” with an affair with Flyertalk for about 7 months now. I had read about all of these wonderful trips and seen hundreds of reports about those that were able to cash in on the mini RTW award offered by Aeroplan. Then without surprise, Aeroplan announced that they would be increasing the mileage for these trips from 120,000 to 175,000.

I hastily threw together a trip for two, with the full plans on changing the trip to be saved for a honeymoon later on. I booked the tickets at 300+ days out, and I still had difficulty finding reward availability on Lufthansa and Air Canada. These were also before the days of fuel surcharge additions as well. The total taxes and fees for the RTW portion of this trip was $201.71 per person plus a $30 booking fee and 120,000 Aeroplan miles. The same trip booked by segment on Star Alliance through their website was valued at over $21,000. I was over the moon with joy.

Over Christmas of 2011, I called in to change my ticket to arrange it for after our wedding. I reached a friendly agent who kindly reminded me of the fact that I only had one year from the date of ticketing in which to start my travels.

Crap.

Since I had booked the ticket in June of 2011, I had to start traveling by June of 2012. Our wedding was set for September 2012. I wasn’t super keen on the trip anymore. How do you plan or fund an even bigger event for your honeymoon than a Round the World trip in First? Realization sunk in that we had booked an offer that was too good to pass up. It became more an more apparent that we would have to fly the original ticket on the original ITIN.

Over the weeks after hearing this news, I actually didn’t have much motivation to take the trip. I sank into travellers depression. It became known to me as the Timeshare Presentation – the presentation and obligation and commitment to sit through some nasty presentation, all to get a reward of some kind. I thought of this trip as that nasty presentation. Why did I want to go to Thailand? Or stop in China again? Or visit overpriced Europe? Ewww!! Despite this, as time passed on, I started changing my tune. We ended up taking the travel and never looked back. With 10 flights, we were instantly hooked.


In this report.


Air Canada Executive Class - Vancouver - Los Angeles
Asiana First - Los Angeles - Seoul Incheon
Asiana Seoul First Class Lounge
Asiana Business - Seoul Incheon - Shanghai Pu Dong
Renaissance Shanghai Yu Gardens Hotel, Shanghai China
Air China Economy - Shangai Pu Dong - Beijing Capital Airport / Air China Shanghai Domestic Lounge
Swissotel Hong Kong Macau Center, Beijing China
Air China Economy - Beijing Capital Airport - Shanghai PuDong / Air China Business Lounge in Beijing
Shanghai Maglev
Shanghai Departure Lounge International
Thai Airways Royal Silk (Business) Shanghai - Bangkok Suvarnabhumi
Thai Airways - Bangkok Survarnabhumi - Phuket International
Le Meridien Khao Lak, Khao Lak, Thailand
Ko Phi Phi Don Islands
Thai Airways - Phuket International - Bangkok Survarnabhumi
Le Meridien Bangkok
One Night in Bangkok
Thai Royal First - Bangkok Suvarnabhumi - Madrid Barajas
AC Carelton, Madrid, Spain
Renfe AVE Preferente (business) Mardid Atocha - Barcelona Sants
AC Hotel Sants, Barcelona, Spain
Renfe AVE Preferente (business) Barcelona Sants - Madrid Atocha
Lufthansa Business - Madrid -Frankfurt
Novotel Mainz
Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Lufthansa First Class Frankfurt - Seattle
Seattle Airport United Club Tour and a 5 hr wait.
Air Canada Jazz Economy Seattle - Vancouver

Last edited by worldtraveller73; Nov 4, 12 at 1:49 pm
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Old Jun 27, 12, 8:32 pm
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Join Date: Oct 2010
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Air Canada
Executive Class
YVR-LAX (Vancouver International Airport – Los Angeles Terminal 2)
AC 550 – Executive Class (J)
08:00 AM – 10:46 AM
May 5, 2012
Booked: Embrauer 190
Flown: Embrauer 190


After a wonderful 4:15 AM wakeup from the house, we made our way to our home airport. Our first leg of our journey was from Vancouver to Shanghai Pu Dong via LAX and ICN. We checked in at the USA departures area in Vancouver and our bags were tagged all the way through to Shanghai. The service was pleasant and I noticed our check in agent checking our ITIN and for our Chinese Visa’s and their validity as she flipped through the passports.



Like other Canadian Airports, US Customs / Immigration Pre-Clearance, so you clear US Customs in Vancouver, and arrive at domestic terminals in the USA. To spice it up though, they’ve added Nexus / Global Entry “Fast Track” lanes that are sometimes, but not always in operation. They seem to be a bit limited on space here so the process involves a labyrinth of mazes and back and forth walking in order to get through the hurdles. Leaving YVR for the USA involves several steps and in the morning it always seems to be a mess.

On the public side, we headed over to the baggage drop, which at this hour was where our line ups started. All carriers share the same belts and your luggage tag passes over a built in scale before it departs on its journey. We joined about 50 people, mostly leisure and cruise travelers as we moved forward to the baggage belts where they scanned our boarding passes with the luggage codes. With three belts / attendants helping people load things on, the process was moving really quickly.

Ms WT73 was fortunate enough to have her Air Canada Boarding Pass stamped with the dubious “SSSS” and was shown over to the “special” screening on the far right. She did get the nude-o-scope, which seems to be par for the course these days. Thoughout all this mess, there were a lot of senior citizens traveling at this time of the day. I took some amusement as US CBP questioned two senior citizens in the booth next to me, whom had never flown internationally before. “Exciting isn’t it?”, asked the CBP officer, in her amused, but sarcastic professional voice. At this point, I was already happy to have invested in Global Entry. I also learned that Nexus is much quicker than Global Entry (if you’re presented with both) as it’s 2 questions plus an eye scan, versus 6 questions, a fingerprint check and a passport scan.

Passing through Customs Clearance, I joined up with MS WT 73 who made it through SSSS unscathed. Already 2 hours into a trip around the world and her eyes were rolling at the whole process.

After a check of the YVR duty free cosmetics for price comparisons, we were over to the comfortable Air Canada Vancouver Transborder Maple Leaf Lounge. This is my favorite Maple Leaf Lounge at Vancouver because it’s never over crowded, has lots of natural light, and is quite spacious.







The lounge had some offerings with breakfast. This is usually a cereal offering, with yoghurts, juices and toasts / bagels. It is more than enough for me to make it worth the while to visit, rather than line up at the Starbucks one floor down. In addition, the free, easy to connect Wifi is easy and the use of wireless printing is really handy as well as it keeps life in check (I’ve purchased and printed Bon Jovi tickets from here on a past trip). The only minus to the Maple Leaf Lounges is that due to Liquor Control laws, there is no alcohol served before 11 AM (even if it is in the US Pre-Clearance area!). Minus one point for AC here…



Our flight was leaving from the usual LAX gate today and boarding was without issue.

The cabin was 9/9 today with at least one e-upgrade that I noticed. We were flying an Embrauer 190 down to LAX today. AC Executive has been very full lately, and there are rarely any empty seats anymore. Orders were taken by our flight attendant straight down from the front. Our flight attendant, in a typically French Canadian accent asked us: “Whoould you like an OMeletee or a PANNNcake?” No menus were offered this morning. I asked for a souvenir menu – “Oh, I DIDn’t hang them out because they were waterlogged in Vancouver” A strange comment considering how it wasn’t raining when we left.





I enjoyed the omelette today.

The steward serving us was kind enough to open the bar as soon as we were airborne so Ms WT73 and I shared a bottle of Henry of Pelham Sauvingon Blanc from Niagara Ontario on our way down the coast.



The headphones were passed out (free up front). Mine were defective but I was feeling a bit lazy from the early wake ups to bother geting another set. The IFE has recently been expanded on Air Canada’s Aircraft, and, despite the usual problems with the system previously crashing, it is actually among the nicer In Flight Entertainment Systems that are out there. Air Canada had added some older content such as Major League and War of the Roses. I settled into Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and tried to stay as awake as long as I could.



Before we knew it, LAX was in our sights on approach, with new adventures waiting for us.

We arrived into Terminal Two and into the heart of American airports. My personal opinion here, LAX is among the sorriest airports to transit through in America – I am sure it is a shock for some that pass through here. It’s functional, and has some food choices depending on what terminal you are in, but it doesn’t seem very clean and it doesn’t seem well maintained.



You can just see the LAX Maple Leaf Lounge entrance in the upper left hand corner next to the Glorious Air New Zealand Koru Club. That is glorious with a capitial "G".

If you need to change terminals at LAX, you have to leave the secure side and walk over (or take the bus) outside, to your next terminal. This can take a bit of time and we walked over to the Tom Bradley International Terminal in anticipation of a wonderful Asiana experience. Since it’s California, the weather is usually always sunny.

Last edited by worldtraveller73; Jul 2, 12 at 11:19 pm
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Old Jun 27, 12, 9:02 pm
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Los Angeles Airport
Tom Bradley International Terminal.
Star Alliance First Class / Business Class Lounge


We approached the Tom Bradley International Terminal on foot from the North. I had always wondered about traveling through here, this particular terminal, along with the many of thousands of travelers that have done so in the past. Most of my travel has been with United in Terminal 7, which could be, err, a more civilized connecting experience. For those that have wondered the origin of the Tom Bradley name, through the seventies and eighties, Tom Bradley was the mayor of Los Angeles for twenty years and was the only African American mayor of Los Angeles.



We approached the 1980’s styled architecture of thick concrete exteriors and avant gardist structures of a building that was opened in time for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angles. A time when the USA and USSR were in the middle of a Cold War and the USSR boycotted the American Olympics. High ceilings, a sense of beige-ness and anonymity meeting functionality was my first impression of the Tom Bradley International Terminal.

We wondered over to a near deserted Star Alliance aisle, past the Singapore Check in (these SQ guys are everywhere!) and up to the Asiana section, which was mostly empty. We headed straight up to the empty First Class counter and presented ourselves for our boarding passes.





As our baggage was checked through from Vancouver, it was a simple exchange as we received our onward boarding cards for Asiana LAX-ICN and ICN-PVG, We were also handed lounge invitations for the Star Alliance Lounge in TBIT.





We were directed over to the South Security Screeninng check point. After a brief stop for further duty free cosmetics pricing, we wandered into the business class / first security screening line up and once through, we headed up the elevator to the Star Alliance Lounge.



This is what I was doing while waiting for duty free. Looking at this... ...and dreaming of a flight to Papeete one day.

At the entrance to the lounge, we presented ourselves at the counter and were admitted access “over on the left hand side” (First Class section). After reading several trip reports here, I had wondered why there were not many photos of the LAX Star Alliance Lounge. I now know the reason why- there is hardly anything worth seeing here!!



The Left Hand Side.



First Class Lounge – Seating Area.

Walking through the passway on the “left hand side” led us to a quiet rectangular room with 44 seats in 11 groups of four. My initial impression was where is the rest of it? It is a small facility for what could be considered a major market population. We settled down into one of the four groups of chairs. There were only 2 other groups together in the lounge when we were there and there was enough space that we were not tripping over each other. The lounge was decorated in dark tones, dark chairs and wooden floors. The décor actually reminded me of the Gemiah Star Alliance Lounge (International side) in Cairo, Egypt. A dark understated hue.

Exploring, I went over to the food. For 10 AM, it just seemed a bit tired. I don’t know if it was because we just missed changeover from the breakfast service, but the lunch food on offer seemed to be leftovers from yesterday. Warm cheese, sushi that didn’t seem too crisp or fresh.





They were serving Nicolas Feuillante Champagne and Babich Pinot Noir which was a thumbs up as far as I was concerned. In all, I actually thought that the Air New Zealand Koru Club in Terminal 2 that was mentioned earlier was a much nicer facility. This place seemed to be lacking any personality.





The view was the best part. (This is actually the construction of the new Tom Bradley International Terminal).



Our westward view today.

I decided that I must be missing something. So I decided to check out the Business Class lounge. I was slightly horrified at what I found.



The "Right" Side.

The business side of the lounge around the “right side” was stuffed about as full as anyone would imagine. It was worse than a Lufthansa Senator Lounge in the middle of the day. People were spilling all over each other. Travellers were passed semi horizontally in chairs with their legs resting above their heads up the sides of the walls. I thought to myself “Where’s the decorum people? ? ?” There was not a single seat to be had.





I passed through the masses and located a larger food service area. I never imagined finding Cup O Noodles in the lounges as one of the main food items. There were magazines on the rack available for reading, but they were mostly European, which would probably explain why there were so many still left there.

Retreating to the safety of the "Left" side, I decided that the food didn’t look to appealing on either side so I elected for a constant stream of champagne injections to soothe my transit time. I opted for a glass of the Nicolas Feuillante and settled in on the First Class side. I did manage to sneak back over to the Business Side and try a glass of the Vin Mousseux on service over there – Pol Remy Brut (Blue). I suppose technically it wasn’t champagne, but at least it was from France and they were on the right track by offering a sparkling wine.



At ten minutes before the recommended boarding time listed on our card, the Asiana Representative came through the First Class Lounge with the white board with our flight number scribbled on it to let us know it was time to go. We were the only Asiana First Class passengers in the First Lounge it seemed. The White Board lady didn’t escort us down. So we collected ourselves and wondered down on our own through the under renovation TBIT over to gate 121.
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Old Jun 27, 12, 9:30 pm
  #4  
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Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: YVR - Vancouver, with most winter weekends in Whistler.
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Asiana Airlines
LAX – ICN (Los Angeles Tom Bradley International Terminal – Seoul Incheon International Airport)
OZ 201 – First Class (F)
01:10 PM – 06:10 PM +1
May 5, 2012
Booked: Boeing 747-400
Flown: Boeing 747-400


I’ve found that you can always tell where they are in boarding as to how many people are standing around as you approach the gates. In this case, we hadn’t missed a piece of the action since people were spilling over into the hallway and most of the gate chairs were occupied by patient families and children.





Gate 121 – Tom Bradley International Terminal.

We found the First Class line, which was the same as the Business and Asiana Diamond Tier line. Unfortunately it snaked down the hall away from the gate. There were about 50 of us in this line waiting to board. Those that have previously complained about too many Top Tier Frequent Flyers would have the same complaint here. It was a little deflating.





We were so far away, like the infinity effect, we couldn't see the gate - “Priority Boarding Line” for First, Business, Asiana Diamond.

The advantage of being so far down the hallway from gate 121 is that it allowed for some great Boeing 747 pictures to be taken of our ride to South Korea.



Our ride: Asiana Boeing 747-400

Once the boarding started, the 50 of us in the premium line were given first crack at getting on board. When the line started moving, it was surprisingly speedy. On my flight, the ground staff did take the long stub part of the boarding pass which was unfortunate for those travelers like me looking for a First Class Stub as a souvenir.

We immediately turned left after the gate podium and we were immediately welcomed into the familiar and comforting beige Asiana First Class cabin. After several months of reviews, research and seeing all the pictures, finally being in the First Class cabin was like meeting a movie star. When you finally meet them, they’re much smaller in person!





Persuasive Beige. I think I'll paint the ceiling beige.

On our seats were the Bulgari Amenity Kits and a cello wrapped blanket. As we setted in, I started to take in all our surrounding. I happened to notice that all our flight attendants were immaculate. Their appearance was near perfection: cleanly pressed attire, hair tied back, perfect manners- it was like we had arrived in a fashion show of perfect-ness on board this 747.

Our flight attendants immediately came around with PJ’s on a silver tray. I asked for an XL and she didn’t have one on the tray. The XL’s were a good fit for a 6ft 2 tall person with an athletic build. Ms WT73 got a medium and it fit her quite well as a 5ft 3 inch woman with a slim build. We were both happy we chose one size larger on the PJ’s.



The load was 9/10 tonight with 3 cabin attendants taking care of us. We were unable to get side by side seats together, partly due to me leaving seat selection on our ticket to 6 months before departure. Another Hollywood couple (he was reading a script! Is this normal?) was also seated on the outer flanks of the cabin one behind another like we were. There was one dead heading pilot in uniform, and another male who partially occupied one of the seats- then disappeared after the two meal services, and didn’t stay with us for the duration of the flight.

Asiana was delayed in pushing back from the gate today but I certainly didn’t mind. Our flight attendants offered us beverage and I asked for champagne. I received the first and last “No” of the whole 24,000 mile F experience. I was politely explained that due to Custom’s regulations, that they couldn’t offer champagne while the plane was parked on the ground with the doors open. As an alternative, they brought me a water in a glass to start. Indeed, within about 30 seconds of the heavy clunk of the cabin door being closed, and without me asking for it, a champagne flute was placed on the table next to me, and a glass of Taittinger Comte de Blancs 2000 was being poured elegantly and delicately.





This was a pour of near perfection in cabin service.

One unfortunate thing that I have found across several carriers is that the first or business class champagne and white wines are never chilled at the right temperature. They seem to usually have been chilled for 1-2 hours and they have that slightly colder than room temperature taste to it, similar to when you put that bottle in the freezer at home and it is opened not quite cold. Regretfully, this was no exception on Asiana, which in my opinion is a shame considering the amount of capital investment they spend on their food and beverage which can be seen in the quality of their wines.



One of the joys of traveling to somewhere foreign is that you get the opportunity to see aircraft that you don’t usually get to see at home. Taxing to the south runways, passing Tom Bradley International Terminal, I had the opportunity to take some photographs of carriers that don’t make it to my home base of Vancouver, BC.







Once we were airborne, menus were passed out. We were quickly headed west, leaving the Pacific Coast behind.

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Old Jun 27, 12, 10:05 pm
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Picking up the menus, it was a delight to read.





LUNCH
WESTERN:


Ricotta Stuffed Mushroom and Smoked Salmon
Caviar
Marinated Shrimp and Pate
Chickpea Soup.

Mixed Greens:
Balsamic Dressing
Thousand Island Dressing

Main Courses:

Beef Tenderloin Steak – served with green peppercorn sauce, roasted potato and vegetables

Or

Grilled Lobster – served with Saffron tomato sauce, potato and vegetables.

Or

Fettucini with Cheese – served with mushroom and tomato coulis

Cheese and Fruit
Camembert, Gorgonzola, Chaumes

Dessert
Strawberry Cheese Cake

Coffee and Tea
Petit Fours.

LUNCH:
KOREAN:


Starter:
Dried Date, Ginko Nut and Fresh Chestnut
Shrimp with Pine Nut Dressing
Korean Pumpkin Porridge “Hobakjuk”
• We are pleased to offer the caviar service upon your request

Main Course:

Mixing and Harmonizing
A Famous Korean Cuisine “Bibimbap”
Steamed Rice, Various Kinds of Vegetables, and Minced Beef.
Mixed with Red Chili Paste, Sesame Oil.
Accompanied by Asorted Side Dishes and Soup.

Dessert:
Fresh Fruit.

Coffee and Tea.

WINES:


Tattinger Comte de Blancs Champagne Vintage 2000 (fabulous!!! The best of the trip)
Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill Vintage 1999

Roux Pere & Fils Meursault 1er Cru Clos Des Pouruzots 2009, France
Chateau Brown 2007 Pesac Bordeaux, France (Semillon Sauvingon Blanc blend)
Jordan Chardonnay, California, USA

Chateau Gruaud Larose 2006, Saint Julien, Bordeaux, France (awesome and delicately rich)
Vincent Girardin Corton Bressandes Grand Cru 2008, Bourgogne, France.
Robert Keenan Winery Cabernet Sauvingon 2006, California, USA

Blandy’s 10 Year old Malmsey Madiera, Portugal.
Port Sandeman 20 year old Tawny Porto
Jackson Triggs Vidal VQA Ice Wine 2007, Niagara, CANADA



Oh my god, I was in heaven.

I had heard lots about Asiana and their First Class Service. In short, there was a reason that they have developed this reputation. The service on the flight was excellent. I was lucky enough to break 500,000 lifetime miles on this particular flight. Reflecting back over that time, I’ve had the experience of dealing with all sorts of crews, some cordial, some grumpy, some fun to talk to, some you just wanted to avoid!! In this case, I felt like I had received 5 star treatment from gate to gate. The crew seemed genuinely happy to be serving and I didn’t get any impression that they were dissatisfied with their employer like I had read in some aviation news articles regarding their labor versus management battles. The flight attendants always asked to enter your "space" whenever they needed to take a dish away, or to serve a drink. It was a small touch, but it was complete understated elegance. I also noticed what others have observed, in that there was usually a flight attendant watching the First Class cabin from the rear of First, to see if drinks needed refilling or if passengers needed anything.

Once at a comfortable cruising altitude, the flight attendants used a cart to set the table.

I started with ordering one appetizer (the caviar) to accompany the grilled lobster. The flight attendant encouraged me to try more, so I did.



Amuse bouche Ricotta Mushroom and Smoked Salmon





Caviar

I did ask for a shot of Vodka to go with the caviar. I was brought a small dish of butter, which highlighted some of the amusing language issues that occurred. However, this was cleared up with a smile and before I knew it, I was tucking into an individual sealed container of caviar from Beverly Hills Caviar with the traditional garnishes.



Marinated Shrimp and Pate



Mixed Greens with Balsamic Dressing



Grilled Loster with Saffron Tomato Sauce, Potato and Mixed Vegetables.

After seeing Lobster on the menu for lunch today, I certainly wasn’t going to pass on it. I wasn’t feeling the mood for Korean just yet, so I didn’t opt for the Bibimbap. I found that the Lobster was little tough in texture to fully experience on a plane at 37,000 feet, but it certainly wasn’t the worst Lobster that I had eaten. It was served with a Saffron Tomato Sauce, which I personally thought was a bit strong for the mild taste of lobster. I decided that I’d probably opt for a different dish next time.



Camebert, Gorgonzola and Charmes

I had a glass of the Chateau Gurard Larose with this.



Strawberry Cheese Cake with Jackson Triggs Vidal Ice Wine .

The meal was topped off by a pink carnation, which was lovely to have as a table setting and also concluded with a towel service. The AVOD didn’t seem to inspire too much excitement. I did get sucked into passing the time by watching the Descendants (a fantastic, but depressing movie). I later changed into the supplied gold colored PJ’s and drifted off into a nap to catch up on sleep as a result of that horrible 4:30 AM wakeup this morning. As the flight was in the daytime and traveling with the sun, the shades were lowered for the balance of the flight, or about 70% of our time on board.

After I woke up, about nine hours into the flight, Ms WT73 announced that she loved her bed and the big thick blanket. She had been snacking on the snack menu: a cup o noodles and a ham and cheese croissant and had passed the time watching movies.



Before we knew it, it was time for the second service.

SNACK:

Appetizer:
Grilled Ahi Tuna and Vegetables

Main Courses:
Korean Royal Cuisine “Yukgaejang”
Korean Traditional Spicy Beef Soup, served with various kinds of side dishes and steamed rice

Or

Shrimp Brochette
Mustard Sauce and Vegetables

Or

Mushroom Stuffed Chicken
Potato and Vegatables

Dessert
Fruit Tart

Coffee and Tea.





Grilled Ahi Tuna and Vegetables

This time, I opted for the Korean Service – Yukjaeyang, a spicy beef soup with many side dishes. It was prepared in advance in the galley and served on a large tray at my table with the side dishes perfectly prepared in advance.



Korean Royal Cuisine “Yukgaejang”

It was spicy but not unbearable. Being a soup, it was a bit challenging to eat at 37,000 feet but hey – life’s full of adventures.

I did sneak upstairs to the upper deck to take a look at the business class section. It was outfitted with the usual business class in non flat seats in a very private setting.



Toward the end of the flight, just before our approach into Incheon, our flight attendant presented herself at our chair with the words “Time for us to say goodbye”. On a silver tray was the parting gift. Today’s choices were a Links Business Card Holder or a Korean Opera CD. I chose the Links Business Card Holder, which was wrapped nicely.



On approach in to Korea.

Overall, what made Asiana First so special over Business? For me, it was the attention to service and detail. The crew worked seamlessly as a team and were exceptionally professional in their approach. The flight attendants knelt at every order taken by your chair for every single customer. I can imagine that this must take exceptional physical work, strength and agility on their part and I really appreciated it. I had never seen anything like it on a plane. In general, despite probably the best wine list I’ve ever seen in the air, it seemed as though there were not a lot of people drinking on this flight. Every time I changed wines I could hear corks being opened and champagne corks popping. The wine list again was exceptional and the best that I experienced on this trip for in flight.

Advantages:

Great reward availability.
Excellent service – an experience unlike any other.
Fabulous wine list.

Disadvantages:

Food was good but not great.
The PJ’s are a bizarre gold and beige color. I doubt I would wear them off the aircraft.

Overall:

A must fly for those interested in Asian service of the highest standards. Likely among the top service of Star Alliance carriers.
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Old Jun 27, 12, 10:17 pm
  #6  
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We disembarked among the first of our flight as the rest of the aircraft were held back and we ended up on the lower arrivals concourse at Incheon. We had one hr and fifty minutes connection time. After seeing some long immigration lines, we decided not to brave the Korean Immigration for a collector passport stamp.

After a security check, we were immediately up the escalator into in the International Departure Hall. I could hear in the background, those same familiar computerized English flight announcements from that irritatingly cheery woman who also makes those computer announcements in Toronto YYZ and Calgary YYC. It seems she is still employed in Incheon from my last visit through here in 2007.

After a visit the Incheon’s fabulous duty free, we headed for the Asiana First Class Lounge. Passing along the concourse, I was saddened to see that the old SQ Silver Kris Lounge in ICN has now been converted into a 24 hr food court.




Soeul Incheon International Airport
Asiana First Class Lounge








We presented our F boarding stubs and were given same day access immediately. The lounge attendant didn’t even really care to see our connecting Business Class boarding pass and waved us in.

As we entered, the lounge was nothing short of fabulous. Tastefully decorated in the old world library theme, it had plenty of space and ambience. A grand piano was the centerpiece. In all it was very empty, as there were only a few Asian business men off to one corner.







There seemed to be lots of food on offer and the bar was self service. I would have loved to have a shower but instead I opted for a glass of the Piper Heidsieck champagne. I also tested out a glass of the Johnny Walker Blue to see what all the fuss was about. It was exceptionally smooth, but I don’t know if I’d find the price point of this whiskey as smooth as its lovely taste.



After a brief lounge visit, we headed off to the gate for our last flight of the day.
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Old Jun 27, 12, 10:30 pm
  #7  
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Posts: 4,161
Asiana Airlines
Executive Class
ICN-PVG (Seoul Incheon International Airport – Shanghai PuDong International Airport – Terminal 2)
OZ 367 – Executive Class (J)
08:00 PM – 08:55 PM
May 6, 2012
Booked: Airbus 321
Flown: Boeing 767-300


Arriving to the gate, we were among the last ones to board. We had booked on an Airbus 321 but we were up-gauged to a Boeing 767-300. This also meant that we were seated in the Quadra Smartium cabin.





The Quadra Smartium seat is a mixed bag. As a 6ft 2 inch person, I found the reclining slide seat to be not to my liking. I did find that as you moved the seat into the recline position, my legs needed to moved (or more accurately bent) from the bottom of the seat in order to avoid crashing against the seat in front to recline to the sleeping 168 degrees. It was very comfortable for simple reclining. Contrasting this, Ms WT73 found it very comfortable, even if she didn’t sleep in the reclined position. A note here to readers- she prefers a slightly angled seat for sleeping. Given the choice, I would personally choose a flat seat over an angled seat. Thankfully, it seems most carriers are moving toward fully flat seats in business.



The last of the sun today at Incheon after 16 hours of travel westward along with it.

On board we were given a welcome drink of water or orange juice from a tray. The load was 15 out of 15 seats seated. There was no amenity kit offered but slippers were offered for the taking from a pouch in the magazine seat pocket.





For this 90 minute flight, menus were passed out and the service could be described as “quick”. One champagne, one white and one red were offered for this flight.







I enjoyed a glass of Cattier Brut Champagne, while considering the menu options. On the menu was a choice of two Asian courses. Being in the Asian heartland, we had left all the western options behind.

LATE DINNER:

Appetizer:
Grilled Scallop with Mixed Greens

Main Courses:

Braised Chicken Thigh – seasoned with Bulgogi Sauce, served with vegetables, glass noodle and steamed rice.

Or

Deep Fried Pork Loin – seasoned with oriental sauce, served with fried rice.

Dessert:
Sweet Potato Pudding

Coffee and Tea.

Wine List:


Champagne Cattier Brut NV

White Wine:

Seresin Sauvingon Blanc 2010 Marborough, New Zealand

Red Wine:

Heathecote Shiraz Limited Release 2009, Victoria, Australia.



I had the braised chicken thighs with glass noodles.

At the conclusion of the meal service, the service director came around and personally thanked us for flying Asiana, which was a lovely touch because it seemed very genuine.

Landing at Shanghai, I reflected on our three segment, three lounge journey today. I had sampled 4 different varieties of Champagne (1 vintage, 3 Non Vintage) 1 vin mousseux, 2 whites, 1 ice wine and 1 red Grand Cru Classe, and glass of one of the World’s Finest blended whiskies. Indeed this “F” experience was off to a great and impressive start. Maybe this timeshare presentation was worth sitting through after all. . .

Arriving to Shanghai PuDong, I noticed the same thing that I saw in Incheon – a massive sleek modern airport that seemed like it could take 5 times the capacity than it actually did. It had wide concourses, moving sidewaks, all of the things that made transiting through Asian airports a pleasure, wrapped up in a slick and sleek modern appearance. Sadly, I had to admit that despite having the largest quantity of air travelers, North American airports have a long way to go to catch up to the standards of some regions around the world.

We cleared immigration without issue and arrived to the baggage hall. I picked up my suitcase and saw that someone had taken the time to exchange my Vancouver Star Alliance Priority tag with an Asiana First priority tag.

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Old Jun 27, 12, 10:51 pm
  #8  
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Renaissance Shanghai YU Garden Hotel
Shanghai, People’s Republic of China.
Advance Purchase, Non Refundable Rate: 966 RMB ($152 USD) per night


With the escalating prices of hotel limousine transfers, we elected to take a taxi from PuDong airportto the Yu Yan Garden area. Similar to other cities, you join a taxi stand queue and it’s a matter of luck on who you get as driver. As luck would have it, the cab we ended up with was in rough shape; the meter kept falling out of the dashboard into the gear box area with every bump of the freeway. Our fare was 174 RMB ($27 USD) door to door with the surcharges and about 1 hour of travel. The Hotel Limosine Transfer was priced at 700 RMB ($111 USD).

The hotel was in an older eighties era building but the public areas had been recently been refurbished. The hotel did offer a pool and health club- something I find essential for business travel and had a great location immediately across from the Shanghai Metro (Yu yan Gardens), which made it very convenient to get around town.





Deluxe Room, King, City View.



Spacious, western sized washroom.



Looking North East from the room through some somewhat soiled windows.

We settled in and were immediately reminded of how the Chinese Interior Ministry controls information that is received here. A broadcast on the CNN World News was reporting on how China expelled the lone Al-Jazerra reporter from the Chinese Bureau when sensors immediately cut the screen to black about 5-7 seconds into the story. We were in a different world already.





There was a rooftop pool that looked a little tired, but also an exercise area which I would have loved had I been here on business.

Advantages:

Very convenient location for exploring.
Metro across the street
Walking distance to the bund (7-10 minutes) through a park and a neat Chinese neighbourhood
Convenience store located across the first major intersection to the north.
On site gym with no additional fees.

Disadvantages:

Somewhat dated appearance on the building
The on site restaurant did not seem to be too appealing – although didn’t eat here.
No real western conveniences nearby (Starbucks 3 blocks away in the Yuyan Gardens

Overall:

Would stay here again for leisure purposes, but likely try somewhere closer to the Bund if I was staying on business.



Shanghai
Around the Town.


We explored Shanghai for 3 days and saw some great sights.

Close to the hotel, the touristy Yu Yan Gardens offered a bazaar of shopping sights amid traditionally decorated structures.



Capitalism meets communism.

The Bund reminded me of the Avenue of the Stars in Kowloon, Hong Kong. However, Shanghai did not have the personality of Hong Kong and it was my impression that it was trying desperately hard to get one.





The French Concession was both mixed in age (Xianzifang) and modernized restaurants (Xiantandi). Xiantandi seemed slick and missing a soul.



Xianzifang by night.



The cool elegance of Xiantandi and it's immaculate streets.



Yuyan Gardens By Night.

The fabulous Bund by night. It was truly a treat to be able to walk here at night, and even better to take it in on a run in the morning. The memory of the cityscape view was seared into my mind. It was sort of like seeing Table Mountain in Capetown South Africa - you never forget the square block of that mountain.




Last edited by worldtraveller73; Jun 27, 12 at 11:11 pm
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Old Jun 28, 12, 8:18 am
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Originally Posted by worldtraveller73 View Post
Arriving to the gate, we were among the last ones to board. We had booked on an Airbus 321 but we were up-gauged to a Boeing 767-300. This also meant that we were seated in the Quadra Smartium cabin.
Great report and pictures!

FYI, Quadra Smartium refers to OZ's new, horizontal lie flat, business class.

The 767s have the old, angled lie flats.
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Old Jun 28, 12, 8:40 am
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So, by the end of trip which duty free cosmetics were purchased and where......a passionate duty free browser wants to know!!!!
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Old Jun 28, 12, 8:51 am
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WOW another wicked TR!!
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Old Jun 28, 12, 11:43 am
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Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to the rest of it.
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Old Jun 28, 12, 1:23 pm
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Excellent so far, looking forward to the rest! Also, I probably shouldn't read this on an empty stomach, wow do those Asiana meals look good!
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Old Jun 28, 12, 1:44 pm
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Absolutely wonderful TR....! I am enjoying it very much...

Your comments about the chilling of white wine and champagne did make me chuckle... As airline crew, we can never seem to get it right for everyone. Just the other day, coming back from New York, some passengers said it was too cold, some said it was not cold enough... I did offer to put it in the microwave for them jokingly, which was declined...

I look forward to the next instalment!

Warm Regards,

BBB
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Old Jun 28, 12, 3:52 pm
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Great start! Looking forward to the rest.

I'm actually posting this from the *A J lounge at TBIT. it's quieter now, but I think you went during the Asia departure rush. Only 2 flights now ...
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