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Moscow, Petra and some Gorillas in Uganda with CX, AA, BA, RJ, QR and EK in J/F

Moscow, Petra and some Gorillas in Uganda with CX, AA, BA, RJ, QR and EK in J/F


Old Jan 13, 18, 4:24 pm
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Moscow, Petra and some Gorillas in Uganda with CX, AA, BA, RJ, QR and EK in J/F

Part 1: Planning

It’s time for another trip, this one is mainly to see the gorillas in Uganda and finish off the RTW ticket that I picked up in Mozambique (TR Here) and left in the USA (TR Here).

The trip was constrained by two key factors, a vague exam timetable – which was more of a date range with the actual date TBA and my horrible leave balance… which meant I would need to be efficient in my time management and being conservative, I’d book my departure at the end of the exam period and then hope to pull forward the departure date once the actual exam date was known.

In the past, when I end an RTW ticket getting home is easy, as I just pick up another one, however this would be different… You see, in the interest of responsible adulting, I have decided to cut back on the travel, do some more study and repair my less than ideal leave balance. Which is to say, move it out of the negative!

The key objective for the trip was to see the gorillas, which have been on my bucket list for a long time, so I started by finding a tour and with the date constraints, there only a few options. I ended up going with a 6-day TopDeck camping tour that started and ended in Kampala, mainly because it fit the dates, but also because it included the Queen Elizabeth National Park.

With the tour sorted, I investigated getting from Entebbe back to Perth, and there was award space with Emirates… in First, and I couldn’t resist. It was a fair few dollars for taxes and surcharges and lots more Qantas points than seemed reasonable, but I justified it as the end of my RTW days and to reward responsible choices… okay, maybe I just really, really wanted to try Emirates First!

Once I knew when I needed to be in Uganda, I worked backwards from my departure date and added in another bucket list item – a trip to Jordan to see Petra and Wadi Rum, and then also the logical way to get from Amman to Kampala when having never been to Russia – via Moscow!

All that was left was to get from Perth to the USA, an Alaska Airlines award with CX at 60,000 miles is a pretty good deal and with business award seats to Boston on the day after the exam period, I booked that – hoping there would be space earlier when I knew the actual exam date.

Having never been to Vancouver in the summer I also added that in… via Dallas – when you put it on the map, its another RTW!

Maps generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz
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Old Jan 13, 18, 7:50 pm
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Subscribed! I am also checking off a couple of places on my bucket list later this year, including Jordan!
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Old Jan 14, 18, 5:29 am
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Part 2: Perth to Boston

With the actual exam timetable released a couple of months before the trip, award space wasn’t really an issue, as my exam was on the last day. Which was really inconvenient, as I’d hoped to have a few days in Boston and Vancouver, without the time to pull things forward I’d only get one day in each. I toyed with the idea of cutting Vancouver from the trip, but in the end left it as it was – there were points to be earned and new lines to fill in on the flight map… I guess these are the decisions that really show my inner geek!

Anyhow, I woke up at around 5am, actually that would be exactly 5am – I know because there was an alarm, it was loud and even when getting out of bed to start a trip – at 5am it really sucks. I might have also had a slightly sore head after a night of fun with my classmates to celebrate the end of the trimester!

Caught an uber to the airport, which at 5am was a quick trip and I found myself at the airport around 90 mins before the schedule said we should be departing.

Check-in was rapid, and there were almost no lines for Economy, Premium or Business.

Qantas Business Lounge

After quick trip through security and the border, I found myself at the newly renovated Qantas Lounge, which it turns out is for all practical purposes, exactly like it was beforehand. More a lick of paint and a new entrance, still not a bad place to wait for our flight, which is good – as it turns out there was a little more waiting required… so, we would be leaving almost an hour late.

Took the opportunity to grab some breakfast… good selection and what I got tasted great!

Unfortunately, I also ended up with an almost undrinkable coffee, must be hard being a barista in an Australian airport lounge, it’s a pretty fussy crowd.

Cathay Pacific CX136
Airbus A330-300 (B-HLQ)
Perth (PER) -> Hong Kong (HKG)
Depart 08:05, Arrive 15:48, Flight Time: 7:44

Boarding began around 45 mins late, which is much better than not at all…

I really like the Cathay business product, it just works.

Home, for the next 8 or so hours, as we were all settling in, pre-departure drinks were brought around and there was also a welcome from the chief flight attendant.

After a short taxi, we were ready to go on another adventure!

It was a little bumpy on the departure, but once the crew were up and about, they distributed water and amenity kits.

There would be two meals on the flight, breakfast just after take-off, and then lunch a few of hours before landing.

The meal started with some drinks, and I went with the orange juice.

I had the omelette next, which was okay – a bit rubbery, but I suppose that’s to be expected, the fruit and muesli were awesome, and the breadbasket made several trips around the cabin.

After breakfast, I started on the trip report from my previous trip and then watched a couple of movies, which included 5 ½ mins of ads before the movie – which is not cool. You can fast forward through them, but still not what you’d call reasonable.

Lunch started around 1pm, and I had a coffee, which was far better than the one in the lounge!

I went with the tuna starter which was great.

And then the beef short ribs for the main, which were maybe a little dry, but still really tasty.

For desert, I showed some restraint and declined the ice cream – but not enough restraint to say no to the cheese, crackers or fruit…

We landed in an overcast Hong Kong a little late, but overall – another great Cathay flight, they might not have the best business product in the world, but they are consistently great.

The Pier

So, I really, really like this place, it must be one of my favourite lounges in the world.

As it was a 2-hour layover and I wanted to go for a walk before the next flight I only had time for a quick shower and then light meal, which given the lunch on the previous flight and dinner on the next one, probably wasn’t a bad thing!

Cathay Pacific CX812
Boeing 777-300ER (B-KQG)
Hong Kong (HKG) -> Boston (BOS)
Depart 17:40, Arrive 21:19, Flight Time: 15:40

The 777 cabin feels much wider than the A330, probably because it is, and on the aircraft with the mini cabin up the front it feels much more private too.

It’s a very long way to Boston!

After take-off amenity kits were distributed, which are slightly larger than the ones on the flight from Perth.

Like the last flight, there would be two meals, dinner just after take-off, and then breakfast before landing. Should you be hungry mid-flight, there is a snacks menu…

About 30 mins after take-off, the drinks cart appeared.

Then it was time for the meal, I had the crab salad to start, which was okay.

And then the pasta for the main, which was amazing.

Felling pretty full, I managed to find space for a little desert…

And then promptly put the seat back and managed 7 hours of sleep.

Waking up over the top of Canada, I had a coffee to assist with the adjustment to the new time zone.

Which was followed up by a burger, as I watched a few movies.

A couple of hours before landing, breakfast was served, things started with a fruit plate.

Followed by a bigger than expected breakfast.

We landed in Boston, where customs were super quick and 25 mins later I was in a uber heading for the hotel. Another great Cathay flight, and I think, a great use of 60k Alaska miles.

Boston Marriott Cambridge

Arrived at the Marriott, good crew on check-in who were friendly and generally in a good mood, which helps make you feel welcome.

Ended up with a nice room that had a comfortable bed and a great shower, which is exactly what I want for a quick overnight stop.
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Old Jan 14, 18, 6:50 am
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Looking forward to another great trip report - off to a good start
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Old Jan 15, 18, 12:56 pm
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Programs: Skymiles Plat/1MM, United Prem, Marriott Silver, HH Gold
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An already enjoyable TR - and I love the term “responsible adulting”��

Last edited by lb8001; Jan 15, 18 at 12:57 pm Reason: Misspelled
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Old Jan 15, 18, 5:03 pm
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Great report so far! Looking forward to this one.
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Old Jan 16, 18, 7:43 am
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Looking forward to your updates within this review , great so far !
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Old Jan 16, 18, 2:07 pm
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I'm freaking dizzy just looking at that map! I'm not sure I could keep that all straight Props to you!!
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Old Jan 17, 18, 8:04 pm
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Great report so far. Nice to see a fellow wanderer from my beloved hometown.
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Old Jan 19, 18, 5:07 am
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Part 3: Boston to Vancouver

With a midday flight, there wasn’t much time in Boston… fortunately there was jetlag and it was here to help with a 4 am wake up. Which was sort of okay, in a gaze out over the city lights kind of way.

As I waited sunrise, I did a bit of reading and then headed out for a run along the river, which was surprisingly busy at 6am. After a run, I had some breakfast and went out for a walk before heading to the airport.

Admirals Club Boston

Visited the AA lounge to find a friendly welcome at the front desk, the agent took the time to check if I’d visited before and then explained the lounge, features, where the gate was and reminded me about the no announcements policy.

Inside it was a bit dark, but the photo makes it look even more so!

As I suppose you’d expect at midday on a Saturday, it was quiet and not a bad place to wait for your plane.

American Airlines AA2607
Airbus A321 (N152AA)
Boston (BOS) -> Dallas (DFW)
Depart 12:38, Arrive 15:45, Flight Time: 4:07

The flight boarded on time and while it was only half full, boarding took forever.

Once we were in the air, drinks were offered.

Followed by a choice of chicken or pasta, the chicken it seems was on a side plate to a salad, which was a bit meh…

The chocolate cake, well that was pretty good really.

Not much else to report on the flight down, there were thunderstorms in Dallas that left us a little late arriving, but the connecting flight was too, so it didn’t matter that much.

Feeling a little tired and having the time, I chose to walk to the connecting gate on the other side of DFW, which took almost half an hour and I arrived at the gate just as my connection was about to board, which was a little chaotic, as it was a completely full flight.

American Airlines AA2369
Boeing 737-800 (N901NN)
Dallas (DFW) -> Vancouver (YVR)
Depart 16:51, Arrive 19:30, Flight Time: 4:39

We pushed back and headed for the runway only to stop a bit short, it turns out those thunderstorms were sitting just past the end of the runway. The captain said we had lots of fuel and time, so we would just wait it out. The crew jumped up and did a second round of drinks, this time serving whatever we wanted while we waited on the weather.

About 25 mins later, the planes in front started to move, the crew collected what was left of the drinks and we were on our way.

Once we airborne, there were even more drinks.

Followed by whatever this was… the whole thing was basically inedible.

There was also ice cream, which I can confirm was not only edible, but actually very nice. As with the previous flight, not too much else happened – I watched a couple of tv shows and generally kept myself entertained.

We descended through the clouds into an overcast Vancouver…

Were met by Hetux, which is one of the many good pieces of art at YVR, an airport that I quite like.

Headed over to the Avis counter, picked up a car and headed for the hotel.

Element Vancouver Metrotown

I ended up at the element, mainly because there was a good corporate rate, I was planning on driving and parking anywhere in the city was extortionate…

Nice room lots of space and a little kitchenette, which looked good but didn’t have much in the way of utensils to actually use for cooking.
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Old Jan 19, 18, 5:21 am
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Originally Posted by flyingeph12 View Post
Subscribed! I am also checking off a couple of places on my bucket list later this year, including Jordan!
It's an awesome place, I loved it!

Originally Posted by Madone59 View Post
Looking forward to another great trip report - off to a good start

Originally Posted by lb8001 View Post
An already enjoyable TR - and I love the term “responsible adulting”��
Haha, alas its a concept with which I am becoming more and more familiar.

Originally Posted by 757 View Post
Great report so far! Looking forward to this one.

Originally Posted by Flame3601 View Post
Looking forward to your updates within this review , great so far !
I'll try to keep them coming, this one is already 6 months late - so I really ought to get it closed out...

Originally Posted by farbster View Post
I'm freaking dizzy just looking at that map! I'm not sure I could keep that all straight Props to you!!
Yeah, there are quite a few lines on there...

Originally Posted by im.daniel View Post
Great report so far. Nice to see a fellow wanderer from my beloved hometown.
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Old Jan 20, 18, 3:51 am
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Looking forward to next chapters, thanks for posting!
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Old Jan 21, 18, 1:51 am
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Old Jan 23, 18, 4:46 am
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Part 4: Vancouver to London

With an early start the day before, I had a great sleep and woke up in time for the hotel provided buffet, which I knew probably wouldn’t be that good. However, I couldn’t really tell you – because when I arrived it was packed. As in, no seats inside, it was raining outside and most of the food had been picked over to the point where you wondered if this was the beginning of another post-apocalyptic survival show. As I’d been planning on going to Stanley Park, I consulted the interwebs and found somewhere on the way.

I’ve visited Vancouver a few times now, but this was the first in summer… which sort of reminded me of a warmer version of winter! Still, I wouldn’t mind living here.

Eventually, there was some blue sky to be seen and Stanley Park is a lovely place to spend a few hours walking about.

Next up was the Museum of Anthropology, which is a fascinating and thought provoking place, I’ve often wondered why museums with large collections don’t show more of them…

Well, I think I now know… because it was, well – overwhelming. Not overwhelming like a bad hoarder on a reality tv show, but more like there is just so much to see, that you can’t quite figure out what to look at first or next.

Either way, I was an hour in when I was distracted by my phone… which told me that BA84 was delayed by three hours… which means with the late arrival in London I’d have 17 mins to make the connection to Amman. Yeah, that’s not happening.

So, did what any reasonable person would do, stepped outside and called BA… at least I tried, as their call centres were flooded. Instead, I got the lovely message “Due to call volumes we are unable to complete your call, please try again later”


So, I called American instead while I looked into options for alternatives with OneWorld – but because of the late notice, it didn’t look like there were any options. After a couple of minutes on the phone with a very helpful agent, she confirmed what I already suspected, that the only real way to salvage my day in Amman, was to get BA to put me on the earlier Air Canada flight to London.

But I would need to talk to BA for that and luckily, American has a special number where they can forward your call and even when the call centre is flooded, you can still talk to an agent fairly quickly.

Sensing this could take a while, I found a bench under a tree and settled in… now, I won’t bore you with the details… but I will say BA’s call centre sucks, it seems they read from a script and won’t touch your reservation during a disruption. I learnt however, if you are persistent they will eventually, grudging and a little belligerently, connect you with the ‘airport team’ who can re-issue your ticket over the phone. For me, persistence took the form of a 97-minute call and two escalations…

I also learnt that the BA and AA reservation systems were not playing nicely, which meant that despite the (I have to say very good) BA team at YVR saying head for the airport now, while we will call our support team to get the ticket reissued on the AC flight and it will be ready when you get here… It turns out when I got there, via the element and through Vancouver traffic – it still hadn’t happened.

After a bit of a chat with the BA team, we got on the phone to AA and the agent we got sounded great, after the BA agent explained the problem, he said ‘Oh, sure. I can help with that…’ which surprised everyone given the issues they’d experienced, and then proceeded to book me on the Air Canada flight, in Economy. Which I didn’t expect on a Business ticket, and didn’t find out, until I’d walked down and checked in at the AC desks to be given a boarding pass a fair few rows further back than I thought it should be. Seriously Not Cool.

Walked back to the BA desks for another BA/AA phone conference, this time with a better AA agent who rebooked me on BA84 and after the BA IT support team talked with the AA IT support team they agreed that they didn’t really know what was wrong, but it didn’t really matter as the AC flight closed while they were coming to that conclusion.

So, not boring you with the details… it turns out BA84 is the only option and the rather apologetic team in YVR suggested I hope for a tailwind, but expect to talk to the missed connections team in London… with that sorted, I headed for security and the lounge.

British Airways Galleries Vancouver

I walked past the Cathay lounge and stopped by the BA one, mainly for a look around. It was packed, so I didn’t even sit down and headed back towards the Cathay one…

Cathay Pacific Lounge Vancouver

After the sad mess that was the Galleries First lounge down the concourse, the Cathay alternative was lovely!

It was also empty, which I guess you could understand as they had just opened, it’s delightful lounge which looks fresh and well maintained.

With a bit of a wait, I settled in with a seat overlooking the runway and watched the world go by as the sun went down.

Also made use of the noodle bar, as I was planning on sleeping as soon as we took off. All I’ll say is this is how lounge food should work and it tasted fantastic.

British Airways BA84
Airbus A380 (G-XLEL)
Vancouver (YVR) -> London (LHR)
Depart 23:34, Arrive 17:05, Flight Time: 9:31

Boarding on the delayed service, was further delayed by its even later than expected arrival, so we all got to watch the gate agent have a mini-meltdown because, apparently premature queuing in the gate lounge was somehow going to slow things down.

After a couple of rants, boarding began despite the queues and in spite of them, seemed to progress well. BA’s business product was apparently cutting edge at the turn of the millennium, in fact, if one looks online, its suggested they really shook up the market. Clearly that industry leading team has been otherwise occupied in the intervening years and with only minor refreshes it is now less than ideal. I would call it cramped and in need of a comprehensive makeover.

Also, less than ideal, was the cleaning. I understand things get missed, especially when trying to quickly turn a large aircraft, but I found the previous occupants ear plugs in the side bins, some sort of red stain on the table (looked like blood, probably wasn’t) and a pair of used socks and a snotty tissue in the foot tray… nasty stuff.

On tonight’s flight, there would be a couple of meals, a dinner after take-off and then breakfast before landing.

I rolled back the seat after take-off and slept most of the way, waking up just past Iceland.

Breakfast started well with a great fruit plate.

This was followed by a very average, but slightly better than it looked English muffin.

We were treated to a scenic tour of London on the approach and landed with a bounce.

In a cruel twist of airport real estate allocations, we parked near the Royal Jordanian flight to Amman, so I got to watch as it was pushed back…

After waving farewell, I headed for the BA desk, where an amazing agent spent the next 2 hours trying to get me to Amman. The best they could do was a connection via Dubai DXB on BA109 & RJ611 which would be a delay of 15 hours and kill the one day I’d allocated to Amman. The reason it took 2 hours wasn’t issues with the flights, but the whole AA/BA computer battle… there were multiple calls, and at one point they even got out the paper tickets, but in the end, it was somehow fixed. I don’t even pretend to understand how or why, but thankful I jumped on the bus over to T5 with tickets in hand to have a shower and then take an unexpected detour via Dubai.

British Airways Galleries London T5

First priority was a shower, in what was a tired and mouldy bathroom setup, but the water ran, it was warm, and I left refreshed. So, it did the job.

Next was a drink, I might have only had breakfast a few hours ago, but it was now 8pm and I’d just spent a couple of hours wondering if I’d be leaving on a plane or in a cab. So, then I had a second one and headed for the gate.

There could have been a third for the road.
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Old Jan 23, 18, 4:47 am
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Originally Posted by AhogZ View Post
Looking forward to next chapters, thanks for posting!
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