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Old Jan 2, 16, 11:05 am   #1
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LCY-SNN-JFK-YVR/LAX-LHR in BA and CX J, plus Vancouver to Los Angeles by train!

As is often the case, this trip started simple, and spiralled into something quite ridiculous – probably my most convoluted travel itinerary, and easily my furthest and most time-consuming. At its core was the need to do something about my oversized stash of avios before new redemption rates came into effect in April. To my mind, there were two particular bargains to be had under the old regime, and they had long motivated me in my crazy point-chasing schemes.

First is the BA1: a 32 seat business-only service from London to New York, via a quick bounce through Shannon in Ireland to make use of US pre-clearance whilst re-fuelling. This could be had for 40,000 avios (plus BA’s substantial carrier surcharge) one-way; a particularly appealing redemption now that I’m an employee as staff travel can’t be used on the CWLCY flights. Second was Cathay Pacific’s service from New York to Vancouver – an absolute steal at 25,000 avios in full-on international business class, as the plane is a 777 with an eventual destination of Hong Kong.

I couldn’t find a day where I could chain these together, but given the relative timings – and the need to wind the clock back first five then three more hours – I’m rather glad I didn’t attempt it. However, I was able to find a week in June with a Monday arrival into JFK followed by a Tuesday departure. That meant I’d get a night in New York, and _that_ meant I could throw in one of the standout uses of IHG points too: redeeming for the Intercontinental Times Square. Sure, it’d eat half my balance, but with $500/night rates I’m never going to get to stay somewhere like that with cash, and it would be a satisfying coda to the mattress run I took back in 2013 to build that balance.

So these would get me very comfortably to Canada. But the available redemptions out of Vancouver would give me only one full day of sightseeing, and whilst I was happy to bounce through New York I wanted to spend rather more time on the west coast. I tried Seattle, but that had no availability at all. Fortunately I have the staff travel option too, but that got me thinking – if I’m not tied to redemptions, I’m not tied to the northwest either. I’d probably have a much greater chance at a seat on one of our twice-daily A380 services out of LAX…. And that would let me grab another item from my North American bucketlist too. Not least because of various reports on this forum, I’d long daydreamed of taking a long distance Amtrak train, and now I was in a position to take two: first the Amtrak Cascades down to Seattle; then after a quick overnight stop, the full 36 hour run of the Coast Starlight down to Los Angeles.

For this I had no clever tricks to cut down the substantial cost of a business/first class ticket, but I did get a conveniently-timed annual bonus that came close to the £600 asking price, and I am adept at convincing myself that savings through redemption flights/nights justify some higher spend elsewhere on the itinerary. Nonetheless, I didn’t want to rack up too long a stay, not least because I might not make my chosen flight date home (and then take a hit on a last minute airport hotel room), plus I tend to need a few days to recover from eastbound timezone jumps. With train pricing not varying much by date, I therefore settled on a notionally nine night itinerary.

All that remained was to find accommodation for the others without too much further damage to the wallet. I couldn’t find any good point burning options in Vancouver, so I looked to maximise my earning instead. Club Carlson seemed to be most generous: they were offering both triple base points and (provided you used their rather clunky app) a 1000 point per booking bonus. Although I’d lapsed from gold to silver, this would still get me another 15%, and having been impressed with my first Radisson stay last year was already planning to send my Amex MR points their way. After emailing to confirm that they’d be fine with an approximately 1am arrival time, I secured a night at the Vancouver airport Radisson. From there I’d decamp closer to the city, unable to resist a ‘view’ room at the Park Inn & Suites overlooking downtown Vancouver (although this meant taking a double double instead of a king room).

The US stops were mostly just for break of journey – I wouldn’t spend more than 12 hours in either. In both cities cash prices seemed high for anywhere within convenient walking distance of the station, given that all I really needed was a bed, so again it was into the points accounts. I still had plenty with IHG to grab the Crowne Plaza Seattle Downtown; whilst I topped off an otherwise-useless HHonors balance in a promotion to claim a night at the Doubletree Los Angeles Downtown.

5 (hotels), 4 (cities), 3 (flights), 2 (countries), 1 (very long train ride) – let’s go!

(As usual, I’m splitting the content between here and my blog; I strive to make both versions standalone, but catering to different audiences. Here I’ll delve into the minutiae – 15,000 words worth! - of travel arrangements and the miles and points angle; over there I can more easily share larger collections of photos, interactive elements, and comments on particular tourist attractions. So I hope you find at least one version compelling!)


Last edited by TheFlyingDoctor; Jan 6, 16 at 12:34 pm Reason: All done! Contents listing added.
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Old Jan 2, 16, 11:13 am   #2
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London to New York on BA CWLCY

BA0001
Dep LCY City Airport (London) 09:45 22nd June 2015 (local time)
Arr SNN Shannon Airport 11:00 22nd June 2015 (local time)
Dep SNN Shannon Airport 11:45 22nd June 2015 (local time)
Arr JFK John F Kennedy (New York) Terminal 7 03:55 22th June 2015 (local time)
Seat: 7K Cabin: Business
Operated by British Airways (Airbus A318 G-EUNA)
40,000 avios + £346.61.

Living a few miles west of Heathrow, crossing almost the entirety of London for cheaper European flights out of City airport always seems a better idea when booking than on the day. Fortunately for this trip I was able to start in North London, and had a rather greater incentive. Such was my enthusiasm that I set off well before 7am; the humid but relatively empty northern line swiftly delivering me to Bank. From there it was a frustratingly slow shuffle – don’t these people have holidays to get to? - through the station to the Docklands Light Railway. No seat available on that, but nevermind, I’d be doing some quality sitting soon enough. I oyster out £3.30 lighter at 7:45, about an hour since I left and, realistically, about an hour too early.


There’s a check-in line purely for Club World, so I skip the usual self-service kiosk and bag tagging in favour of some human interaction. It’s a bit slower this way, but I’m in no rush and I have to admit to enjoying the spectacle of others being turned away by the queue guard – no shiny cards will get you into this lane, it’s for the New York passengers only, even if today that includes casually attired avios-funded improbables like me.

There’s no dedicated fast track security, but even when it looks busy – and it did – LCY is swift. All told, it was less than 20 minutes for check in and security combined; despite several men in front of me setting off the detector, I was allowed to try it and get clear rather than having to wait for their pat-downs to be completed.

Despite a variety of seating areas, airside at city has felt overcrowded the last few times I’ve been through, and this morning seemed no exception. Fortunately I had a quieter spot to head to: the airport lacks a lounge, but gate 24 at the end of the pier is a ‘gate lounge’. I’d been imagining a typical departure holding pen with the addition of some snacks on a table, so whilst what I found was a pleasant surprise. Whilst nothing like the space of a galleries lounge, the seating was clearly from the same stock, and a decent breakfast buffet was set out along one side. This had some excellent (Doe&Co?) pastries, and not being a caffeine fan I was impressed to find a variety of smoothies to break my usual monotony of water. Staff were proactively making up coffees for those who did want them, and there were alcoholic options too.






(If you want to ignore my wafflings, you can actually explore everything from the gate lounge to the aircraft interior via google street view! Here’s the link).

Best of all, boarding is direct from the lounge door to the tarmac, so I could see our tiny bird, G-EUNA, being prepped along with various runway comings and goings.




09:25 sees the boarding call and five minutes later I settle into seat 7K. This had been one of two window seat options by the time online check-in opened; 5A was nearer the front but I suspected the view would have been blocked by the wing. A minor stain to 7J had been cleaned but it hadn’t yet dried, so cabin crew moved its intended occupant to row 8, meaning I had the luxury of a private pair. My first impressions of the seat – indeed, the whole cabin environment -were highly favourable.



Seat 7K


7JK


Seat area


Cabin view forward


Obligatory leg room shot!


Cabin view backward (shot from end of flight)

Although it carries the BA1 flight number, this is a very different service proposition to Concorde. The modern incarnation is arguably even more exclusive – the A318 is barely half the length of its supersonic predecessor, which combined with seats that can become a fully flat bed means a maximum passenger count of 32, rather than the 100 Concorde could accommodate in these:


Concorde seating (now at Waterside)

Obviously it’s a lot slower, which is exacerbated by the need for a fuel stop in Shannon when heading west. But that (presumably) means it can depart London with just the fuel needed for Ireland. Whatever the actual load, our on-time (09:45) departure certainly launched off LCY’s short runway with a hell of a spring to its step:


Ground to clouds was barely a minute, and another five saw us punching through the London drizzle into clear blue skies, which I could enjoy the view of through a trio of windows:




Although we’d only fit the starter into this first short hop, the full menu was swiftly distributed. So, let’s take a look!

Quote:
Starters
A selection of canapes featuring smoked salmon with cream cheese, hummus tartlet, prosciutto-melon skewer and egg mayonnaise on rye bread
Exotic fruit brochette
Salad
Fresh seasonal salad served with vinaigrette

Main Courses
Grilled fillet of Hereford beef with radish and lime infused dashi sauce, sautéed potato gnocchi and green asparagus
Pan-fried seabass with saffron and tomato risotto, Provencale-style vegetables and lemon parsley butter
Homemade garganelli with spicy veal ragout, fresh arugula and Parmesan
Main course Caesar salad served with warm herbed breast of chicken

Desserts
Passion-fruit poached pear with nougat ice cream and cinnamon crumble
Camembert and Appleby Cheshire cheese served with apple and pear chutney
A selection of fruit
Chocolates

Afternoon Tea
Snacks
An individual selection of sandwiches featuring poached salmon with horseradish, chicken breast with muhammara, grilled vegetables with cream cheese and Loch Fyne smoked salmon
Antipasti platter featuring vitello tonnato, smoked duck breast with celeriac and walnut salad, smoked salmon and Parmesan
Sweets
Homemade plain or lemon and date scones served warm with clotted cream and strawberry preserves
Afternoon tea pastries featuring chocolate brownie and apple raisin cake

All this was prefaced with an extensive listing of alcoholic beverages; since I don’t partake I can’t reliably pull out highlights, so I’ve inexpertly collated the various pages together into an image you can explore here, if you’re so inclined!

Between meal services, the “club kitchen” was available in the galley; this offers snack items like shortbread, chocolates and crisps. I never actually investigated myself, as one of the cabin crew, dismayed that I wasn’t making use of the bar, saw fit to keep me plied with a steady stream of sweet items both from these stocks and the afternoon tea supplies. Or at least, I had assumed that was why…

Starter arrived at row 7 at 10:20, although sans fruit as that had run out (we had 25 passengers on board). However, a quick tally of orders thus far confirmed I could still order the fish for the main (and decline the salad, as life is too short to eat leaves). Service was cleared away within 15 minutes, although presumably folks at the front had rather longer; not unreasonable as we’d be touching down in another 20 minutes (and we were welcome to keep our glasses and they regularly checked whether a top-up was desired).
After some gorgeous Irish scenery we arrived at SNN just before 11. The pre-clearance process was not totally obvious to this novice with hold luggage, but still much swifter than any other US entry procedure I’ve experienced except San Diego (which has the stress of 11 hours flying first!).

Whilst this is a novelty from a BA perspective - BA1 is the only service offering it, as BA3 arrives too late - it seems to be standard procedure for US-bound Irish flights. Thus we joined a queue with passengers from various other services – if there’s a fast track for business passengers, I didn’t spot it! However, it’s a swift check – no passenger scan so no need to liberate all your metal, just shoes off and laptops out. The immigration questioning seemed much shorter than usual; they just wanted to know my length of stay, and, given how short it was, my onward plans. Then it was the usual fingers, thumbs and photo, followed by a hold luggage check. This was interesting – I had been wondering where I would collect it, but you don’t – rather, it gets scanned at plane-side, and you confirm which is yours from a photo. Presumably they reserve the right to ask further questions, but they were unperturbed by mine.

Still, unfamiliarity with all this plus my taste for overly-complicated footwear meant I was one of the last back to the plane, albeit within half an hour of leaving it. When I’d boarded in London, the member of crew who greeted me had done so as “Mr [lastname]”, then corrected himself on spotting “Dr” on my boarding pass. Despite my username, this is not something I am precious about; I’m not a medical doctor, and I’m no longer in academia. But I mention it because on reboarding at Shannon I received a “welcome back, doctor”, despite a lack of any identifying documents this time. It’s little touches like this (I was also addressed by title and name during meals or when checking on the status of my drinks) which helped differentiate this service from the rather impersonal treatment I received on the mainline club world flight home. Also it made me feel slightly like a time lord.

We had to hang around a bit on the stand as another aircraft decided to loiter behind us, but I’ve no complaints about taking it easy in this seat. I also got chatting to one of the crew, who had wandered back to comment that I looked very familiar. I admitted to being staff, but we couldn’t think of any time our paths would have crossed.

A bit of déjà vu as we trundle past the Lufthansa Technik hangar for the second time in an hour, before another, slightly less sprightly, takeoff sees us venturing out across the Atlantic by midday.



Departing Ireland

What seemed to be a standard club world washbag was issued – I couldn’t think of anything I would need for a day flight, but here’s what you get:


More usefully, iPads were handed out (plus the ever-curious hot towel) – compared to the seatback highlife entertainment system, you have fewer options but a much nicer screen. Fewer, but still plenty – I identified four films I’d wanted to catch at some point, and managed two during the flight. This was also my first taste of active noise-cancelling headphones, and I was thoroughly impressed with their capabilities (less so with what they did to my hair), although even without them the cabin was generally peaceful.

Food – well, salad – started to appear at 13:15, and was all done by 2, so another brisk service, although a reasonable pause was built in for dessert. This was probably the best airplane meal I’ve had; after far too many chewy beefs it was great to have a fish that just fell apart to the fork. Veggies were pretty good too, even if the visual presentation was a bit lacking. For the dessert I’d opted for the pear, which was stunning.





However, I did find it convenient to have a vacant seat next to me, into which I could overflow gadgets and trays. Were I to have had a seat mate I didn’t know, juggling dining and entertainment options could have felt a bit cramped. Fortunately I had the space to spread, and was visibly happy – the cabin crew from earlier stopped by once again, declaring “I think I love you!” on account of my obvious enthusiasm for my surroundings. My first film having wrapped up by 3, I’d chosen to kick off my shoes, recline the seat, and just reflect on how fortunate I was to be here. I fly a lot, but this was only my second time in longhaul business class, and it had more than lived up to my hopes.

A second film takes me through to about half five, and just before 6 it’s time for afternoon tea. Again not a huge amount of time for that – the “40 minutes to landing” call went out a smidge ahead of schedule at 6:10, which meant cabin secured in the next 15-25 minutes.



This leaves plenty of time for a flurry of visits from my favourite cabin crew member though: first to offer a handshake and to confirm my name; second to provide a bottle of water for the road; and finally to offer his phone number… Clearly I am poor at reading signals (“I think I love you” should perhaps have been a clue), and thus can’t now fairly judge the service quality, but I hope everyone felt as well treated as I did.

We land at quarter to 2 (nee 7, but let’s swap to the appropriate time zone now), with enough braking to launch my apparently flirtatiously-obtained water into the back of row six. By the hour we’re emerging from gate 1 of JFK’s terminal 7, as if we’d come in on a domestic flight. That means those without hold luggage can head straight out, and it wasn’t too long before I was reunited with mine and off to the Skytrain platform. From there I was able to get one last look at our little plane – two teenaged girls who’d also spotted it remarked “aww, how cute”, and I had to resist the urge to bore them with facts about how it had just arrived all the way from England.



G-EUNA at JFK
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Old Jan 2, 16, 2:34 pm   #3
  
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Sydney, Australia
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Tremendous trip report, TheFlyingDoctor! I'm particularly enjoying your descriptions and 'waffle' as they round out a trip report in a way that photos can't do alone.

I was also on G-EUNA for my maiden CWLCY flight in December and really enjoyed the experience. Had 1A and 1B to myself so was similarly able to make myself at home.

It's a wonderful way to fly.
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Old Jan 2, 16, 2:37 pm   #4
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Intercontinental Times Square

Room Type: Deluxe Room
Nights: 1
Price
: 50,000 IHG Rewards points

As usual, my first time anywhere I find it impossible to get my bearings, which made the trip into Manhattan more complicated than it needed to be. Emerging from the wrong subway exit gave me a quick preview of the unforgiving heat, crowds, traffic noise and sheer scale of New York, but eventually I got myself oriented and into the sanctuary of the Intercontinental.

I lack any kind of status with IHG, let alone IC’s ambassador programme, so I was pleasantly surprised that my redemption booking had been placed all the way up on the 24th floor, looking down onto 8th avenue. My points had actually netted me a deluxe room; these claim to offer a bit more space, a city view or a higher floor than the superior rooms (despite both running to 50K), so perhaps that accounts for my altitude.

The first keycard I was issued didn’t work, a slight so awful that the receptionist paired the replacement with a voucher for a free drink. Slightly wasted on me, but a nice bit of proactive service recovery!
Second time lucky, and a chance to see what an asking price of $509 a night actually means in New York:







Intercontinental Times Square King Deluxe Room

Neither the largest nor the most opulent room I’ve stayed in, but I was more than happy – certainly the nicest I’ll see for a long time! Whilst I never managed the tactical nap I was planning on arrival, that huge bed later turned out to be extremely comfortable. Plus, of course, there was the view:








Also of note was the bathroom – refreshingly non-cramped, and the rainfall shower was a delight given the sweltering conditions outside:







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Old Jan 2, 16, 2:40 pm   #5
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(A carousel with a wider selection of images, sans commentary, is here)


Although I’d always wanted to visit, it never seemed worth deliberately taking a trip to New York, as I figured that I’d end up passing through for work someday. As it happens, whilst my academic career took me to all four corners of the US, I never made it to the big apple, so I was glad to finally get a chance to sample it on this trip. Of course, with so much to see and barely a day to do it, a sample is all it could be. Worse, I had forgotten that my Scottish genetics and June vacations just don’t mix, and so I had to retreat to the air-conditioned embrace of the IC a couple of times! Still, I managed some initial wanderings that took in Times Square, Central Park, and endless canyons of super-sized buildings:






Architecture-geek heaven

My only firm plan was a booking for the ‘Top of the Rock’, with a timeslot around sunset of my arrival day. This was the only one of the various towering landmarks which seemed to combine open air access with camera-friendly security policies: for the land of the free there do seem to be a lot of stupid rules about ‘professional’ camera equipment. Whilst I would argue myself an amateur I’d hate to waste an evening by being turned away on account of the backpack of lenses... The Rockefeller is also reasonably priced, and by not going up the Empire State / One World Trade Center, you get a view of those icons!






Views from Top of the Rock

However, it seems I was not the only one who had reached this conclusion – it was heavily crowded, and confirmed my hatred of selfie sticks, those who make out in prime camera-balancing spots, and people who think their flash will do anything at range. But a bit of stubbornness got me some reasonable shots, and putting the camera down to enjoy the views in person was great.
With it still pushing 30 degrees at 10pm, the heat seemed to be taking no mercy on me, although the forecast threatened a break in spectacular style:


This lead me to rework my plans for the Tuesday a little, as my usual explorations by foot would be a lot less fun if caught in a storm. Time zone lag helped enable a prompt start, as I was out onto my other firm target, the high line park, by 8am (already it had cleared 25C by then, barrelling its way to highs of 32). We have plenty of railway paths in the UK (a side effect of the infamous Beeching cuts), but none to my knowledge work their way through an urban landscape in the manner of this elevated route. I joined it at the northernmost point, but eschewed completing the full length in favour of grabbing brunch at Chelsea market.








The High Line

This was a fantastic route – a mix of garden, walkway, viewpoint, and art gallery (ranging from excellent street art to incomprehensible deliberate installations). I imagine this is a well-known attraction by now, but if it somehow isn’t, I thoroughly recommend it!

I also ducked into an attraction that likely has rather more niche appeal – the museum of math(s). Smaller than I imagined, and realistically more meant for kids, but I managed to frustrate myself with some puzzles, and be impressed by a variety of exhibits, including a swarm of robots and the famous square-wheeled bike track.






MOMATH exhibits



Frustration!

Other than that, I continued to explore landmarks (I particularly liked Bryant park) before the clouds seemed too ominous and I retreated to the bar at the Intercontinental. Somehow I must have not looked the part, as staff studiously ignored me whilst checking with everyone around me as to whether they wanted another drink or to peruse the menu. But no matter: I was able to review some photos, enjoy a book, and catch up with my girlfriend before it got too late in the UK. And I eventually presented myself at the bar proper to exchange that free voucher for a soft drink before heading around the block for a dinner of dollar slice pizza - ok, so maybe I didn’t belong after all...
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Old Jan 2, 16, 2:49 pm   #6
  
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An excellent trip report in the making - the first chapters are certainly whetting my appetite for my 2016 holiday, linking two of my favourite cities, New York and Vancouver.

Looking forward to reading the next update.
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Old Jan 3, 16, 4:26 am   #7
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Cathay Pacific Business class to Vancouver

CX0889
Dep JFK John F Kennedy (New York) Terminal 7 21:55 23rd June 2015 (local time)
Arr YVR Vancouver Terminal M 00:45 24th June 2015 (local time)
Seat: 11K Cabin: Business
Operated by Cathay Pacific Airways (Boeing 777)
25,000 avios + £25.40

The storm finally broke – with little improvement to the temperature! - as I made my way by E-train from 42nd street to Sutphin Blvd, a run of about 45 minutes. From there it was a straightforward connection onto the Airtrain at Jamaica, leaving me with a pleasingly small metrocard balance of 12 cents.

Another 20 minutes saw me at Terminal 7; although operated by British Airways (the only foreign airline to operate a terminal on US soil), T7 hosts an oddball assortment of carriers both Oneworld and beyond (Ukraine International Airlines, anyone?). That includes my airline for tonight, Cathay Pacific, whose presence was not substantial enough to warrant a dedicated business class check-in desk. Fortunately there was no-one else queuing, and I was speedily issued with boarding pass, priority tags for my hold luggage, and directions to the lounge. Security was likewise swift – the line was well managed with regular announcements to clarify rules: de-bag laptops but not iPads; take your shoes off if aged 12-75; try bagging up your pocket contents for swift collection; but don’t worry about jewellery as it’s a body scanner, not a metal detector. All very efficient, and thus from approaching check-in to foraging for biscuits in the lounge took just 15 minutes.

That lounge is the British Airways one, and because they offer a pre-dining service for genuine Club World passengers headed to sleeper services, there’s not a whole amount of food to be found for those who gained access through status or travel on a Oneworld partner. I could of course have returned to the terminal proper, but I imagined that despite the late hour we’d get at least something on the flight, and besides, I am entirely comfortable with a diet based on oatmeal and raisin cookies (plus a banana for respectability).

I neglected to make a photographic sweep, but hopefully there’s plenty of coverage elsewhere on the forums. This is one of the more spacious I’ve encountered, so I was able to claim a seat with no immediate neighbours; and there’s a good variety of furnishing styles to make yourself comfortable. So perhaps I’ve just become uncharitably jaded through familiarity with the galleries concept, and thus felt no personal need to capture it on film (well, memory card). The only real criticism I had was a general lack of power sockets, and faint confusion, given the décor, that they weren’t British 3-pin!

The boarding call went out at 21:30, and with Terminal 7 not having many gates, it was a short walk from the lounge which saw me arriving just in time to join the back of the priority queue. I mingled briefly with a few families with small children before making a rare turn left to take my seat in business; ten minutes from the lounge, I’m settled in, with a pre-departure drink and having taken a few snaps before stowing my camera.



Cathay Pacific 777-300 business mini-cabin


Cathay Pacific business class window seat

This service is one of the most comfortable ways to switch one coast of North America for the other. No ‘domestic first’ seating here – from Vancouver it’ll continue to Hong Kong, so it’s a fully fledged international four class 777-300. But not just that – it’s a Cathay Pacific 777. That means business is split into two portions, 12 rows in the main one, and an odd 2-row minicabin nestling behind first class:




Seating towards the pointy end of a Cathay 777-300ER (from SeatGuru)

Better still, whereas 2 rows of BA would mean 16 seats in yin-yang config (such as the three class 777-200), Cathay uses a 1-2-1 arrangement, and I'm immediately impressed - for a solo traveller, the individual window seat is ideal. You still have aisle access, but the angling outwards plus the wing to the seatback/headrest gives even more privacy, and better line of sight down the pair of windows you get. It's not as wide as the BA1 seat - partly because of the console – but still plenty comfortable.



A bit narrow…


…but plenty of privacy

Having clearly not done the research, I was pleasantly surprised to be issued with a menu pre-departure, detailing a full three course dinner. I’d imagined options would be light to enable folks to get to sleep – glad I didn’t grab much in the terminal!






Everyone is aboard by 21:47, with just six of us in the mini-cabin, occupying the two central pairs and 12A - but we’re advised it may be 20 or so minutes before we'll get all the cargo loaded and make our way to the front of the runway queue. Sure enough, it takes us 10 minutes to leave the stand, then we get a view of a various other big birds (including G-STBG, one of BA's triple 7s, and an unusually liveried Qatari plane - soccer related?) before we lumber down the runway at half 10. Naturally we're a lot less sprightly than the babybus, and despite our bulk do experience quite some turbulence on the way up - maybe that storm system has chewed up the air.

That choppiness continued and so with seatbelt signs on the dinner service couldn’t commence until 11. I’m glad I opted to dine rather than immediately try to sleep, though: the main was decent, but the raspberry sauce in the dessert was the star of the show.




Mixed Salad with radicchio, carrot and cherry tomato
Balsamic vinaigrette
Potato leek and vegetable strudel with Parmesan cream sauce
Meringue rum cake with raspberry sauce.


I was impressed by the level of presentation throughout - the menu itself is beautiful; a tablecloth was set out on the table and followed by a second one on the tray (which is all BA opted for); the meals are brought out by hand and although served as a single tray, the roll selection is carefully transferred with tongs from a basket; and there are hot towels before and after. Staff were also impeccably polite, always greeting by title and surname. This is perhaps not so hard if you can check just before delivering a drink or food item, but also occurred whenever I moved around the cabin: I've no idea how they pick names up so fast. No digits in the offing this time, though, so I made less of an impression!

About my only interaction with the (promising looking) IFE system was checking the moving map to identify what I could (suprisingly, given we were at 36,000 ft) see out the window. This led to the discovery that Cathay has a camera feed from the underbelly of the plane too, although in the dark this was just a mess of static noise. I'd been sleepy since boarding - feeling rather like I did as a child in the back seat of a long car ride home - but had decided to struggle on bravely with the full meal service for the sake of this report. Gluttony over, my complete bafflement at YYMMDD format on the customs form confirmed that I should call it a night, despite the extra hours I was winning by flying west. Dimming of the cabin lights suggested that the crew had similiar feelings, and so I unbundled the very cosy blanket/duvet, set the chair to full bed mode (tip: take care the seatbelt doesn't get trapped, as a side section lifts up to create extra width), donned socks and earplugs from the amenity kit, and buckled in to avoid being disturbed should the turbulence return.





Amenity kit – shot post flight, so missing a couple of things!

and that's all I can report for the next 3 hours and 40 minutes - I was out like a light, and didn't stir until, apparently, 40 minutes shy of arrival at (to my mind) 3:35am. That meant we hadn't regained that half hour lost on the ground at JFK, but in an environment like this, who's going to complain?

I manage to beat the crowds for the impressively sized bathroom, try the “refreshing mist”, then claim a glass of water from a ready prepared tray of various beverages in the galley (later, as the cabin was being prepped for landing, these were again offered). Ten minutes after my return the seatbelt sign is engaged, and the procedure explained for those passengers continuing to Hong Kong - they stay on the plane and a security check comes to them.

As explained, wheels were down at 1:15am, a process I get to watch from the belly cam, albeit at a jaunty angle with the IFE screen stowed safely for landing. Vancouver airport is spacious and attractive, which is good as we seem to traipse through the bulk of it (via an elevated walkway) en route to landside. Nonetheless, despite that and a fairly thorough grilling from immigration officials (where am I going, where am I staying, which hotel, do I have any friends here...) by half past I am at the carousel. Priority tags seem to do their thing as mine is the third case out, in under ten minutes, and so – thoroughly confused about what time zone I should be in, but otherwise very happy – I made my way landside.



YVR Terminal


Baggage Reclaim
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Old Jan 3, 16, 4:35 am   #8
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Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: BRS
Posts: 326
Radisson Hotel Vancouver Airport

Room Type: 1 king bed
Nights: 1
CAD199 + taxes (29.85) and breakfast
Club Carlson points earnt: 12,213 (Room, Food and Beverage Points + Silver 15% bonus: 4095; Triple Points Bonus: 7118; App Booking Bonus 1000)

From there, I immediately ran into a problem. I’d originally considered various IHG properties for this airport rest stop, but given the late (early?) arrival it sounded like transport would be a challenge. The Radisson, though, was able to confirm a complementary shuttle that could be requested on arrival, even at this unsociable an hour. However, whilst the arrivals area has a free phone system for airport hotels, the Radisson wasn’t included!

Fortunately, I had emailed to remind them of my late arrival, and their reply was both cached on my phone and had a contact number buried in the footer. Better still, I had a few coins left over from a Canadian trip many years ago – the only other money I was carrying was the unhelpful single hundred dollar bill my local bureau de change had been able to supply me with. So a local call from an old-fashioned payphone – I think the last time I used one of those was also in Canada! – got me an arrangement for a pickup and a useful ego-check after all that attention on flights, as my name got cheerfully mangled (there’s a particularly cutesy mispronunciation thanks to some superfluous Scottish vowels).

I was advised of a 15-20 minute wait, and directed to a seating area which is easily found even by my 2/5am brain (cross the road, turn right). In the event, it takes less than 10 minutes for a driver to appear, and fifteen minutes from pickup to bed – despite getting that hundred broken down, and grabbing you all some photos before I messed up the place:










Fearing I’d sleep straight through check-out, I had an emergency alarm set for 11am. But despite the excellent bed, I woke at 7... clearly in need of breakfast! I decided to wait long enough for it to be brunch, and therefore miss the buffet, which ends at 10. Menu items remained available, though, with a broader range and lower prices than room service (even before the delivery charge). I therefore splash out a bit, although the existence of a ‘carnivore bowl’ allows me to convince myself that the choice of an omelette is (relatively) restrained despite the impressive amount of food that arrived:




The weather looks changeable, with a possibility of rain, so in case I can’t get a room on arrival at my next stop, I decide to laze away the rest of the morning back in the room. It turns out I have a view of the runway, so I can watch some comings and goings; and in the distance I also get my first glimpse of some mountains!






Eventually though it was time to move on. As that last picture shows, the skytrain runs conveniently close to the Radisson, in my case taking five minutes from lobby to boarding. Better still, by joining from here you’ll be on the Richmond rather than ‘sea island’ (i.e., airport) branch, and thus dodge the 5 dollar surcharge that the latter carries. It’s a straightforward journey to Broadway City Hall, and from there another four blocks to my accommodation. As expected, I’m too early to get a room key, but negotiate a slightly earlier move in, ditch my case, and set off to explore.
TheFlyingDoctor is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Jan 3, 16, 5:02 am   #9
  
Join Date: Oct 2014
Location: Hong Kong
Programs: BA Gold (OWE)
Posts: 568
Enjoying this very much!
zeltergiset is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Jan 3, 16, 5:27 am   #10
  
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: NYC,SFO
Programs: AA EXP, Alaska MVP, SPG Plat, Hyatt Diamond, Hertz 5*
Posts: 1,322
I am very much enjoying your wafflings, along with your wonderful pictures. Your report is inspiring me to try to fit in one last CX JFK-YVR trip before the devaluation of AA miles in March makes this flight exponentially more expensive.

Looking forward to more.
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Old Jan 3, 16, 6:01 am   #11
  
Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: JNB
Programs: Flying Blue, Miles and Smiles, Hhonors, ICHotels
Posts: 744
Looks great, thank you. I was at LCY earlier last year (nearly made a mistake there), and saw the babybus. It really looked small - it is amazing that it can do that distance.
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Old Jan 3, 16, 6:10 am   #12
  
Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: NBY
Programs: BAEC Silver, AZ Gold.
Posts: 335
This is a great TR. Very enjoyable. Sadly you have reminded me of how good the world was before devaluations!
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Old Jan 3, 16, 7:05 am   #13
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Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: BRS
Posts: 326
Quote:
Originally Posted by flyingeph12 View Post
I am very much enjoying your wafflings, along with your wonderful pictures. Your report is inspiring me to try to fit in one last CX JFK-YVR trip before the devaluation of AA miles in March makes this flight exponentially more expensive.

Looking forward to more.
Quote:
Originally Posted by PoincianaKings View Post
This is a great TR. Very enjoyable. Sadly you have reminded me of how good the world was before devaluations!
I think JFK-YVR has doubled now via BAEC, although I'd still be tempted at 50K it's not the bargain I got it for - what will AA want from March?

Increase for BA1 isn't so bad, now 60K avios instead of 40K but I remember the days when east coast US was 50K and they actually made a change in our favour to make it 40K. Plus it's embargoed for staff travel so it's an obvious way to use what's left of my stash. The tier point run crowd on the BA board always seem to find cheap as chips ways to work it into ex-EU itineraries, though, so a cash ticket might even be within reach some day. I don't want this to be the only time I flew it!
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Old Jan 3, 16, 7:17 am   #14
Original Poster
  
Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: BRS
Posts: 326
Park Inn & Suites by Radisson Vancouver, BC

Room Type: 2 Double Beds with View
Nights: 3
CAD546.3 + taxes (81.95) (Stay 2 or more 10% discount offer)
Club Carlson points earnt: 29,227 (Room Points + Silver 15% bonus: 10,306; Triple Points Bonus: 17,921; App Booking Bonus 1000)

When browsing for options, I’d been struck early on by the potential view offered by the Park Inn; the property is south of False Creek, which means the balcony looks out over that, across the skyscrapers of downtown, and beyond to the mountains of North Vancouver. Despite overcast conditions, it immediately impressed when I first saw it, and only got better as the days turned sunnier, and when the lights came on at night:










Views from Room 517

Otherwise, I think I’d have been a bit disappointed for the price. Nothing actively wrong, just the décor didn’t inspire, the small, concrete balcony was hard to enjoy given the noise of Broadway, and I’d had to take a room with two double beds which ate into the space. On the plus side, the location was pretty good for public transport links, and offered an easy walk down to the creek. I also discovered the bathroom’s party piece – a shower which didn’t look anything special but delivered pressure which could probably hammer nails. I suspect a lot of guests are here for convenient access to Vancouver General Hospital, rather than a sightseeing trip; whilst I never made use of the microwave, I can see it being useful for extended stays, and I did find the fridge handy. Still, having had the view and collected a mountain of points, I’d be tempted on future stays to find something with a bit more charm.







Deluxe View room
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Old Jan 3, 16, 11:44 am   #15
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Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: BRS
Posts: 326
Vancouver

Vancouver turned out to be exactly my kind of city – plenty of impressive buildings, but you’re never too far from green space or a waterfront of some description either. Plus it’s easy to reach even more dramatic scenery, by heading across the harbour to North Vancouver. Better still, apart from my first afternoon there were sunny skies and high temperatures.

Inevitably, then, I spent a lot of time just roaming with the camera. In the interests of space I offer just a sampler here; you can find a more convenient carousel on my blog or follow individual links below to higher resolution copies on flickr.





False Creek


Looking south from Stanley Park


North across the harbour


Lions Gate Bridge


Canada Place


Granville Market

I also found time for a few ticketed tourist attractions. At Vancouver Aquarium I was delighted to find multiple jellyfish tanks




as well as having the chance to see the “Sea Monsters Revealed” exhibition – this uses the same “plastination” techniques as Bodyworlds, but it’s much less creepy when applied to underwater creatures than people!




Over in North Vancouver, I thoroughly explored Capilano – the river itself, the lake, and the suspension bridge park:








I opted for the ‘ultimate experience’ during my visit to Grouse Mountain to reach the highest possible point, the skyPOD viewing platform in a wind turbine. This added a cable car and chair lift to my modes of transport on this trip, so I also learnt that I’m terrified of chair lifts. Just about worth it for the view, though!







A couple of dozen photos, and a little more commentary on all of those can be found here.
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