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Cathay Pacific First to New York, & a sombre visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum (CX F)

Cathay Pacific First to New York, & a sombre visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum (CX F)

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Old Jul 1, 14, 10:10 pm
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Cathay Pacific First to New York, & a sombre visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum (CX F)

Cathay Pacific First Class to New York, a sombre visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum & 4 days of eating in NYC. (CX F)

YVR-JFK-YVR



Introduction:

Trip Planning / Preparation:

Ever since MrsWT73 saw her first television episode of Sex in the City, she had her sights set on a visit to New York. Year after year passed and the trip seemed to elude us while we pursued more exotic travels and destinations. These included themed trips to Abu Dhabi and The United Arab Emirates Empty Quarter, made popular to some by the feature length movie Sex and the City 2.

After our second RTW, we decided on a more low key local vacation. We decided to take advantage of Vancouver’s location as one of the six Cathay Pacific North American gateway cities (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Newark, Chicago and Toronto are the other ones) and fly the fifth freedom flight between Vancouver and New York aboard the only real trans-continental first class flight in North America: Cathay Pacific First.

The trip was booked in close with 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles per person with departure at T-8 days out. First class reward availability from Vancouver was excellent, with two First Class seats available almost twice a week with one seat available almost every day per week at about 14 days prior to departure.

For the return, I was unable to find two First Seats and had to settle for 1 First Seat and 1 in Business at about 14 days out. I checked the reward availability almost 3 times per day until the seats opened up and at T-7 less one hour exactly, switched the second ticket from business to first.

Taxes, fees and fuel surcharges came to $55.92 per ticket, in addition to the 65,000 AAdvantage miles per passenger. In addition, there was a $75 AAdvantage reward processing fee for booking within 21 days of departure. This fee was reduced to $25 for MrsWT73 who completed a targeted promotion for AA Gold 2014 status last year.

In this report :

Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge, Vancouver, BC
Cathay Pacific First Class: Vancouver International - John Fitzgerald Kennedy, New York
Westin Grand Central Station, New York
9/11 Memorial Museum, New York
Gordon Ramsey at the London, New York
Spice Market, Meat Packing District, New York
Balaboosta, Little Italy, New York
British Airways First Class Lounge and Pre-Flight Dining, John Fitzgerald Kennedy Terminal 7, New York
Cathay Pacific First Class - John Fitzgerald Kennedy, New York - Vancouver International


Links to my previous trip reports:

The Khors of Oman - via Japan, Poland, & the UAE. RTW in Biz (NH J 787, OZ J, TG J, EY J, TK J, LH J). April 2014
South Africa, Safari in Maasai Mara Kenya, & Mauritius (UA J, SA J, XAK, LX J, AC J) Nov 2013
A family trip to Westin Playa Conchal, Liberia Costa Rica, Aug 2013
Buried Treasure: UAE Empty Quarter and Beyond to Huvadhoo Atoll, Maldives (UA Y, EY J/Y, Q2 Y), Nov 2012
The Time Share Presentation, F RTW, Spain, China, Thailand, May 2012.
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

Last edited by worldtraveller73; Jul 30, 14 at 9:41 pm
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Old Jul 1, 14, 10:21 pm
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Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge,
Vancouver International Airport,
Vancouver, BC

We took separate cars to the airport today since the flight left late in the evening. The late timing of the flight allowed us each to complete a day of work and minimized the amount of vacation time needed.

Tonight’s report started with dinner at the Flying Beaver Pub. It’s located a 5 minute walk from the Vancouver South Terminal (home for the provincial flights- to get here, take the free shuttle from the Vancouver Domestic Terminal to the South Terminal and walk). The Flying Beaver is also contained in the same facility as the float plane terminal for Harbour Air where you can catch a float plane to Vancouver Island. For those of you that are stuck at YVR on a longer layover, it’s a neat place to visit since most of the Aerospace Engineers that work at YVR frequent this bar as the nearest watering hole.





Our outbound flight CX 888 is a continuation of services from Hong Kong. The flight stops in Vancouver for a one hour technical stop, prior to continuing onto New York. This means that the flight to New York is usually prone to all sorts of delays given the long haul nature of the first leg.

Although Vancouver has a United States check in, departure and Customs Pre-Clearance facility, check in for Cathay Pacific was completed at the Cathay Pacific stands in the International departure area. Unlike most other flights departing Vancouver for the United States, this Cathay Pacific flight is not pre-cleared by US Customs and Border Services. The flight departs from the Vancouver International Terminal and arrives at the John Fitzgerald Kennedy International Terminal where all passengers would have to pass through immigration.





Check in was handled promptly and respectfully with no waits for boarding passes. We were given a lounge invitation to access the Cathay First Class Lounge after security.







After check in at a deserted concourse, we proceeded to one of only two First Class Lounges in Vancouver. The Cathay First Class lounge is immediately after security. It’s so hidden, I’ve missed a few times passing through here headed to other lounges. The only other First Lounge is the British Airways Terraces Lounge near gate, which has very limited operating hours aligned with the British Airways flights and closed at 8:30 PM (the Cathay flight departs at 10:50 PM).



The only sign is a small card by the elevator door. The lounge elevator is immediately adjacent to the Air Canada International Maple Leaf Lounge.









Our invitations were accepted inside the lounge. The lounge itself is split up about 60% business seating and 40% first class seating. When designing the lounge, Cathay must have thought that a lot of One World Emeralds would be accessing the First Class side as there were seats for almost 20 people on the First Class side. It is worth noting that there are only 6 seats in Cathay First Class. The space allotted to First Class came at the expense of Business Class lounge seating. It got quite full on the Business Class side during our visit and I've read a few complaints about the size of the business lounge on FourSquare.



The business class side offered several lounge chairs, a sit up bar, a small computer area with iMac computers and newspapers and magazines. Some business lounge photos on our arrival 3 hours before the flight.











We headed straight over to the First Class side and found a terrific First Class lounge space with seating for about 20 passengers. During our visit here, we were the only passengers in here, making it a very peaceful and relaxing environment.













There were pleasant windows all through the lounge, with a nice west facing sunset view of airside operations.



The food and drink offerings were of the snack variety. I wouldn’t arrive expecting to have a full meal. Indeed we saw some Business Class visitors forego the lounge food in favor of better food in the terminal.

On offer on the First Class Side were dim sum, instant noodles, soup, crackers and small plates of sandwiches.









There was an ample selection of wine and spirits available. Of note were the small 375 ml bottles of Moet and Chandon champagne available. There was also one white wine and one red wine on offer. We were pretty much left to our own devices in the First Class lounge, although the reception addressed me by name each time I went up to request another bottle of Moet (that’s something that only happened twice!). I can’t say that I’ve been often been addressed by name while a guest in any of the world’s airline lounges.





I had a post dinner snack of Dim Sum and Moet de Chandon.



At about T-45, we opted to head down to the gates. The lounge dragon (who were anything but) indicated that they would personally notify us when the flight was ready to board. However, we opted to go down a bit early to be first on board to take photographs. We passed through the deserted Vancouver Airport and the famous and beautiful aquarium in the departure hall. I’m biased, but I still find my home airport of Vancouver a pleasant place to spend time in.











The flight uses the swing gates on the USA departures wing, today using gate D73. When we arrived, there was a stack of people waiting outside the gate area. The gate was not open as it contained all the transit passengers continuing onto JFK from Hong Kong. The continuing passengers are kept within the holding area while the plane undergoes additional security checks for aircraft bound for the United States.





Inside the holding pen, CATSA (the Canadian Equivalent of the TSA) was conducting a manual search of all the cabin baggage being carried by onward passengers.





After about 15 minutes, the transit passengers were re-boarded. It went quite quickly as they did not verify ID’s or re-scan boarding cards, rather they collected Cathay Pacific Transit cards.
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Old Jul 1, 14, 10:40 pm
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First Class
Cathay Pacific
YVR-JFK (Vancouver International Airport – John Fitzgerald Kennedy, New York)
CX 888 – First Class (Z)
10:55 PM – 7:00 AM
May 21, 2014
Booked: Boeing 777-300
Flown: Boeing 777-300


New passengers were then admitted to the lounge with an immediate pre-boarding announcement for First, Business and One World Emerald’s were asked to board. We took this opportunity to step on board and get comfortable.

Once on board, we were greeted by the senior purser. We were personally and individually escorted to our suites 1D/1K. We received a personal greeting by name by our flight attendant, along with a second formal introduction and thank you by the senior purser.

I’ll come right out and say it. This Cathay Pacific flight was the best First Class flight ever.

Having been fortunate enough to have flown on Asiana, Thai, Lufthansa and now Cathay First Class, I believe that Cathay is leagues ahead of Lufthansa in terms of both the hard equipment product and soft service product.

The suite itself is super spacious. The newly configured Boeing 777-300 is on a 1-1-1 seating plan. The space shows over other carriers that usually offer 1-2-1 in F. The seat had space to drop your cameras, phones and anything else your hearts desired. MrsWT73 agreed, and announced. “OMG this is soooo much better than Lufthansa First.” Wow – I know I’m in trouble now. The bar is set high. Overall, I’d have to agree with her sentiments.

I was pleased to see today’s flight was in the refreshed new First Class configuration featuring updated seating, larger TV and touch controls. Plush red carpeting in the aisle



















Tonight’s pre-departure beverage wasn’t the usual orange juice, water or cheap wine. We were treated to lovely Krug champagne. Two servings to be exact! Poured at the seat with the bottle every time, along with a towel service.





Dinner menus were dropped off with orders taken on ground. Myself and Mrs WT73 were the only First Class passengers partaking in dinner service tonight





Cathay featured a full wine list, including the Bordeaux Wine Promotion which offered a select wine from the list of 6 Grand Cru Classes that they had purchased. The selection varies per flight. Of the six, tonight’s flight offered the excellent Lynch Bages.

















Our flight attendant dropped off amenity kits. The kits were Ergemglido and Trussadi kits for women. The kits contained similar items in each, despite the cases being male and female versions.









Immediately after the amenity kits were delivered, the pyjamas came to our suite on a tray.

The pyjamas on offer are PYC. Although not as high end a brand as the previous Shanghai Tang’s they win the blue ribbon for the most comfortable airline pyjamas’ ever. I have found with a lot of airline pyjamas, that they are odd colored, partially comfortable, or in the case of Lufthansa, partially missing (they only offered a top on their daytime flights). The Cathay Pacific pyjamas were super comfortable and most certainly a keeper.





A quick departure as the plane was 20 minutes behind schedule. Taxi out to runway 08L with an east facing take off. Cathay features the cool under body camera contained within the entertainment system.









Once underway, dinner service began almost immediately. I have to say that the crew worked their tails off to cater meals, and drinks for the 5/6 in F.

Service started with cashews and Krug Champagne.



Followed by fire smoked salmon with grilled scallop paired with Krug Champagne





This was followed by mixed salad with poached pear, smoked duck and pine nut, covered with sesame dressing, paired with Louis Jadot Mersault. The meal was totally delicious, if not a bit chunky with a knife and fork.



I went with the Chinese main course and was not disappointed. Tonight’s dinner was stir fired lobster with ginger and green onion, served with steamed jasmine rice, kailian and carrot flower. I enjoyed this with the non matching Bordeaux Wine Promotion wine 2004 Lynches Bages. Having previously visited the Lynch Bages winery, the wine did not at all disappoint. CX F regulars will notice an omission with the food service…









I went “whole hog” and opted for both the cheese plate AND the dessert. The meal started to close with the extra old cheddar and oka, enjoyed with the always excellent Johnnie Walker Blue whisky.





Conlcuded by strawberry Haagen Daz ice cream. I settled into a little Tom Clancy Patriot Games on the AVOD system while I finished the whisky.



After dinner was cleared, a bottle of Evian water was dropped off at the seat. I
requested turn down service and had bed made up. I attempted a sleep but was pretty full and only managed about two hours or so.



I woke up about 40 minutes from landing just prior to them turning on the lights. I quickly changed out of the pyjamas. A quick change out of the PJ’s and before we knew it, we were on the descent toward John Fitzgerald Kennedy Terminal 7. We were thanked again for flying Cathay Pacific First by the senior purser on the decent. One last look at the cabin before I left this comfortable suite.





We were on the ground into the basement of JFK T7. Our checked bags were among the first out. We were through Global Entry without any issues, although the number of Global Entry users on this particular flight was the first time I ever had to share the kiosks with other people. (The horrors!)

Overall, this was a most excellent flight. Cathay blends a fantastic hard product with a fantastic soft product that no other carrier to date has been able to match. Both work together seamlessly and felt that our needs were taken care of. The suite is super comfortable, private and excellent to sleep in. The service is of such a high personalized level that no other carrier really comes close.

MrsWT73 had already been planning a Cathay First Class trip from Vancouver to Hong Kong and onward to Bali before she’d even gotten off the first flight it was that good. Another sign WT73 is in trouble.
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Old Jul 2, 14, 4:09 am
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Join Date: Apr 2004
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Great to see you enjoyed the CX flight so much. Will you guys also be on CX F on the return from JFK ?

Incidentally if you are interested, this video shows the some of the catering operations at YVR, and at 00:43 you can see the preparation of the stir fried losbter. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aH_fSe8ZY-U

Happy travels !
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Old Jul 2, 14, 4:18 am
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> CX F regulars will notice an omission with the food service…

Not a CX F regular, but the Bon Appetit card !! Although to be fair, there is hardly any space left for one !
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Old Jul 2, 14, 7:12 am
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Great report! I've done that flight in economy as one of the transit passengers in the holding pen. As an AA EXP/OW Emerald at the time, the head FA in economy handed me a playing card, and served my meal first before all other economy passengers so I can get to sleep earlier. People around me were wondering who the heck I was.
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Old Jul 2, 14, 11:30 am
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Wonderful report and pictures! My parents are taking this flight in October as their first trip in international F. I really appreciate that you added in some hints and tips to for others who may be unfamiliar with the experience. Thanks.
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Old Jul 2, 14, 6:01 pm
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Great report!

I've done this route a couple of times and the last time I did it, I was in J class. I was amazed how great the service was for a "trans-con" route and how the FA's were able to have a smile on in the odd hours of the day.

I might have to try out F for this route!
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Old Jul 2, 14, 6:19 pm
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Excellent! Looking forward to the return trip!
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Old Jul 4, 14, 11:11 pm
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Originally Posted by marcuslai View Post
Great to see you enjoyed the CX flight so much. Will you guys also be on CX F on the return from JFK ?

Incidentally if you are interested, this video shows the some of the catering operations at YVR, and at 00:43 you can see the preparation of the stir fried losbter. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aH_fSe8ZY-U

Happy travels !

Originally Posted by marcuslai View Post
> CX F regulars will notice an omission with the food service…

Not a CX F regular, but the Bon Appetit card !! Although to be fair, there is hardly any space left for one !
Thank you marcuslai.

Good spotting with the Bon Appetit card. We were indeed on First Class for the return trip.

That video that you shared was quite interesting. Airplane documentaries are always interesting, and being a foodie at heart, I enjoyed seeing the preparation of the lobster.

Originally Posted by PTahCha View Post
Great report! I've done that flight in economy as one of the transit passengers in the holding pen. As an AA EXP/OW Emerald at the time, the head FA in economy handed me a playing card, and served my meal first before all other economy passengers so I can get to sleep earlier. People around me were wondering who the heck I was.
Thanks PTahCha Those unfortunate enough to be waiting in the holding pen looked pretty underwhelmed after an 11 hour flight. They were quick to get back on board when it was time. No lollygaggers for sure.

It doesn't surprise me about the level of service that you experienced. It seems quite strong.

Originally Posted by PDXjets22 View Post
Wonderful report and pictures! My parents are taking this flight in October as their first trip in international F. I really appreciate that you added in some hints and tips to for others who may be unfamiliar with the experience. Thanks.
Thanks PDXjets22.

Your parents are in for a great experience. It's not often these days you get a fantastic in flight experience. It's even more rare for a generation that grew up expecting it, only to be underwhelmed by today's usual offerings. Cathay delivers in spades. As always, their biggest problem will be that it's really hard to go back to "regular flying" after a Cathay First Experience.

Originally Posted by cxny1090 View Post
Great report!

I've done this route a couple of times and the last time I did it, I was in J class. I was amazed how great the service was for a "trans-con" route and how the FA's were able to have a smile on in the odd hours of the day.

I might have to try out F for this route!
Great to know cxny1090 that the business service also continues to perform. Their ability to maintain a smile is indeed unusual given the usual labor conditions of most carriers today. First was highly recommended.

Originally Posted by alexisonsmith View Post
Excellent! Looking forward to the return trip!
Thanks alexisonsmith.

New York is a terrific destination to visit at any time of year.
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Old Jul 4, 14, 11:12 pm
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Dial 7.
Car Service – JFK to Manhattan.


We used Dial 7 car service to transfer from JFK to Manhattan. Needless to say, it was a disaster.

I picked them cold off the internet as they were one of three endorsed companies by the JFK airport website. I booked them over the website and used a $5 off promo code. I received a reservation confirmation by email and the car arrived to collect us as promised.

When we arrived to Manhattan, despite having the address entered into the GPS in the car, the driver elected to use “different routes”, causing us to get lost. He had never heard of the Westin hotel brand before. This should have been the first sign that something was a miss. . .

On arrival to the final destination, Dial 7 presents the bill on a tablet pc. The bill was presented without the discount. I explained the discount confirmation and the confirmation number. The driver refused to change it, claiming this was what I had booked. I showed him the reservation email. However he again refused to budge. I ended up having to call Dial 7 from the back seat of the car as the driver refused to acknowledge his companies’ email on adjusting the bill per his company email.

After the call to Dial 7, the driver claimed or feigned that he was not able to adjust the ipad as he didn’t know how to operate it and wanted to bill us the original amount. I had run out of Canadian patience by this point and told him that was his problem but I wasn’t going to pay more than what I was quoted, plus tolls and tips. It turned into a matter of principle at this point as we entered into a bit of a confrontation.

This event turned into a 20 minute standoff as he tried to process a manual imprinted credit card payment. He manually took an imprint (4 actually until he got it right), which included asking me what numbers were on a worn imprinted credit card. Dial 7 – if your drivers can’t even read credit card numbers – how did they get their driver’s licences? Oh boy. It was 9 AM in Manhattan at the time. I kind of got stuck cause I didn’t have enough cash to pay the correct fare. However, I had no expectations that our hotel was going to have our room ready so here we sat. Mrs WT73 actually went to powder her nose and deal with check in while I dealt with our luggage that continued to be held hostage.

I was going to book Dial 7 again on the return transfer but instead we went with Carmel as dial 7 had burned up any courtesy they may have had with us earlier.

Bottom line. We had a negative experience with Dial 7 and would not recommend their services.
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Old Jul 4, 14, 11:22 pm
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Great report!

I'm considering doing one of these the next time I want to go to YVR. It's good to see that passengers on the shorthaul segment still get the full royal treatment like the longhaul passengers do.
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Old Jul 4, 14, 11:28 pm
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Westin Grand Central Station,
212 E42 St, New York “MidTown East”
Deluxe Room – King + Single Sofa Bed


Although not the first choice for our stay in New York, we ended up at the Westin Grand Central hotel, which is situated in Mid Town East. There were nicer neighborhoods to stay in but this met the amount of points that we wanted to spend on an reward redemption.

The hotel was booked for free on SPG reward points at 12,000 a night (Category 5 property). We also used a left over 2013 SPG Gold Re-Qualification Gift 25% off redemption reward that was expiring in July 2014 stacked with the usual fifth night free on an SPG reward redemption. This brought the actual rate down to 7,600 SPG points per night from the usual posted rate of 12,000 points per night.





The hotel is situated two blocks from the Grand Central Train Station (and subway) and is in the shadow of the historic Art Deco styled Chrysler building. Aside from the beautiful shadow of the Chrysler building at night, the neighborhood is pretty dead after hours. We had dinner in other locations away from the hotel and this neighborhood.



We experienced a busy check in experience as expected from a property in a high density city. On our arrival at 9 AM, the room was not ready. The lobby area was super crowded, reminiscent of a Las Vegas nightclub and matching clientele, with separate roped lines for SPG Gold’s and Platinum’s. The reception promised to call when the room was ready and actually did at 1:30 PM. We’d heard this before and decided it was impressive for a property that has over 763 rooms and as many as 763 matching reservations. Either way, the lobby space was a socialites dream of hang arounds and people gossiping. Depending on your interests, this may or may not be your scene.





On check in, there was not much on offer for an SPG gold upgrade. We were offered a premium corner room on low floor or regular deluxe view room on high floor. We opted for the regular deluxe view room on the high floor and ended up on floor 32 (out of 42) with a peek a book view of the east river and the empire state building.

Room 3222 was in good condition. The room was clean, although had some mild water pressure issues. It was a bit difficult to get water to flow from the usual Westin Rain Showerhead with any strength. The room was a little tight, but perhaps this is expected from New York. You certainly don’t miss the space until it’s gone.

















The room offered nice peek a boo views to the Empire State Building, looking toward the Murray Hill neighborhood.





The hotel offered one restaurant, the LCL Restaurant and bar. It offered pretty average fare. We used it one night on a Saturday night when we were headed to the theatre and didn’t want the hassle of finding a pre-theatre restaurant in Times square.



The hotel does not participate in the Green Choice program, and only offers one complimentary water per room per day for free.

The stay experience here was average to above average. It certainly wasn’t the best Westin Hotel experience ever, but it certainly wasn’t the worst. The WIFI in lobby was free but I had problems connecting to it on several occasions. Sometimes it was not working at all. On several occasions I ended up walking one block to the Starbucks Coffee to the east of the hotel on E42nd Street to connect when needed. There was also a large Catholic College Group (in excess of 100 people judging by the two large orange school buses outside) staying over the memorial day weekend. This meant that on Friday and Saturday night, there was a large amount of partying in the hotel. This included remnants of someone whom had been sick on the floor near the elevators in the lobby at 1 AM on Saturday after returning home from the play, to celebutantes announcing to everyone in the elevator “Ugh – I have to ride the elevator to the 42nd floor? I’m in a bad mood” In all, it made for an entertaining experience. . .

Overall, it was a reasonable stay and for a free reward reservation with discount in New York, I can’t really fault the hotel. Everything was in good working condition and aside from the partying in the hotel, it was a pretty uneventful stay. The location was the largest fault. Although easily accessible to the subway, we found that the neighborhood didn’t have much charm. We’d aim to say nearer to Tribeca, Chelsea, Greenwich or Central Park next time.


Osteria Laguna Restaurant.
Mid Town East - Across the street from the Westin Grand Central.

Another oddity worth mentioning to report about our stay involved the restaurant immediately across the street from the Westin Hotel: The Osteria Laguna. The restaurant was Zagat and Michelin guide rated. It offered great food and nice Italian wine list. During our dinner, my wife paid. When she was in the washroom after the meal, the waiter came back to ask if everything was okay with the meal? I said yes – to which he told me that the minimum tip was 15%. I told him that my wife paid which led to a mini stand off as I didn’t have any cash on me smaller than a $20 USD bill. Apparently he was not satisfied with the $15 tip ($135 Check). Not knowing how to answer this, I told him that we’d leave some money on the table afterwards – but after I thought about it it was a pretty strange experience – or at least the first time it’s ever happened to me that the waiter has challenged me / us on the size of the tip. Looking at Trip Advisor after the fact, it appears this happens on a regular basis (other reports reflect the same thing). I wasn’t to impressed by it at the time. It was a sure method of making sure your guests don’t return. Either way, the abruptness of the incident was an interesting welcome to New York.
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Old Jul 5, 14, 1:05 pm
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Nice report thus far!
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Old Jul 5, 14, 1:50 pm
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What happened at the restaurant is most unusual in New York. They can recommend; that's what i noticed lately.
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