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Iceland, Spain & Morocco via IcelandAir Business Class & British Airways First Class

Iceland, Spain & Morocco via IcelandAir Business Class & British Airways First Class

Old Dec 12, 2018, 4:12 am
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Location: YVR - Vancouver, with most winter weekends in Whistler.
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Posts: 4,613
Iceland, Spain & Morocco via IcelandAir Business Class & British Airways First Class

Iceland, Spain and Morocco via IcelandAir, Iberia Business Class and British Airways First Class.

YVR-SEA-KEF (Alaska Mileage Plan Award)
KEF-MAD (Alaska Mileage Plan Award)
MAD-RAK (British Airways Avios Award)
RAK-LGW (Alaska Mileage Plan Award)
LHR-YVR (Alaska Mileage Plan Award)


MrsWT73 had been after me to get her to Morocco and Iceland for the better part of about two years. Given that Morocco is in Africa, and usually commands a hefty award premium for business class tickets, I had to get creative with the routings. Ultimately, we ended up forgoing wonderful fully flat seats across the ocean for an IcelandAir Saga Business Class ticket in their barca loungers from the Americas. Although we didnt get a fully flat seat, we would also save several hours of flying by not having to connect in Europe and having to backtrack to Iceland. IcelandAir is quite stingy with their award space. Initially, I had booked departing from Denver, USA to Reykjavik, but then about a month later via an Expert Flyer alert, business class space opened up on the Seattle, USA Reykjavik flight. We also found connecting business class space onwards from Reykjavik to Madrid, Spain. We booked two Alaska Mileage Plan tickets in Business Class at 55,000 miles and $220 USD in taxes and fees each at 6 months prior to travel.

Since we needed to get from Europe to Africa, and it was only a short distance between Spain and Morocco, I was able to find reward space on Iberia Business Class between Madrid and Marrakech for 15,000 British Airways Avios and $30.32 USD per person booked at about 4 months prior to travel.

For our return segment, I located award space through the Alaska Airlines websites using the calendar feature for British Airways First Class space on their Airbus 380-800 from Heathrow to Vancouver, Canada. There was only a 10,000 mile premium for first class with Alaska Mileage Plan so it made sense to book First Class as it was available. I also happened to luck upon two business class Club Europe seats from Marrakech to London Gatwick. I say luck as they were pretty hard to find at all. We opted for a two day stopover in London since its been about 11 years since I had been, despite having visited a lot growing up. We booked these two tickets via Alaska Mileage Plan in Business / First at 80,000 miles and $517.20 USD in taxes and Air Passenger Duty at about 7 months prior to travel.

In this Report:

Plaza Premium Vancouver - Transborder
Alaska Airlines Vancouver International - Seattle Tacoma International
American Express Centurion Lounge Seattle Tacoma International
Iceland Air Saga Business Class Seattle Tacoma - Reykjavik
Hotel 101 Reykjavik - A Member of Design Hotels
Reykjavik, Iceland
The Golden Circle, Iceland
ION Adventure Hotel - A Member of Design Hotels
Nesjavillir to Dyrhlaey
IcelandAir Saga Business Class Lounge, Keflavik
IcelandAir Saga Business Class Reyjavik to Madrid Barajas
The Westin Madrid
Renfe AVE Preferente: Madrid Atocha - Sevilla Santa Justa
Hotel Alphonso XIII, A Luxury Collection Hotel
Seville, Spain
Renfe AVE Preferente Seville Santa Justa - Madrid Puerta Atocha
AC Hotel Madrid Atocha
Iberia Business Class Lounge Velazquez Terminal 4S Madrid Barajas
Iberia Business Class Madrid Barajas - Marrakech
Anayela, Design Hotels, Marrakech
Overland Travel Marrakech to Mhamid, Morocco
Erg Cheddi Luxury Tented Desert Camp
Le Meridien N'Fis
Pearl Lounge, Marrakech
British Airways Club Europe Marrakech - London Gatwick
Le Meridien Piccadilly
Qantas Business Class Lounge - Heathrow Terminal 3
Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge - Heathrow Terminal 3
British Airways First Class A380: London Heathrow T3 - Vancouver International Airport

Links to my previous reports:

East Africa: Tanzania and Seychelles via Air Canada & Turkish Airlines Business Class June 2018
Spring Break with WT73jr at Vail Colorado, USA via Alaska Airlines. March 2018
Polyensia Part II: Easter Island, Chile & Mexico City, Mexico via LATAM Business Class. Sept 2017
Summer is a state of mind; Kaanapali, Maui, via Alaska Airlines with my 13 yr old son, August 2017
Fiji, New Zealand and French Polynesia via Fiji Airways, Air New Zealand and Air Tahiti Nui Business Class, June 2017
Mileage Running to New York via Delta Airlines First Class for Alaska MVP Status, Dec 2016
Havana and Varadero Cuba via Westjet Holidays from Canada, Nov 2016
Malta (and the island of Gozo), Venice, Italy and Oktoberfest in Munich, via Air France Business Class, Sept 2016
South Africa, Namibia, Victoria Falls, Mauritius & the UAE via Emirates First, Qatar & South African Airways Business, April 2016
Dodging Volcanic Ash: A family trip to Bali / Singapore with my 11 year old via Asiana, KLM and JAL Business, July 2015
RTW#3 (J): Vietnam, Maldives, and Tackling Indias Golden Triangle via Air Canada, Asiana Singapore, Air India and Turkish Airlines Business, May 2015
Experiencing flying as a "Non-Rev", Australia Wine and Beaches via Air Canada and Qantas Business, November 2014
Alaska Airlines First Class to Las Vegas, and a stay in the Aria Sky Suites Penthouse via Alaska Airlines First Class, August 2014
Family trip to Kenora Lake of the Woods Ontario via Air Canada Business Class. August 2014
Cathay Pacific First Class to New York, a sombre visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum & 4 days of eating in NYC, May 2014
RTW #2: The Khors of Oman- via Japan, Poland & the UAE and ANA, Thai, Lufthansa Business Class. April 2014.
South Africa, Safari in Maasai Mara Kenya, & Mauritius via South African Airways, Swiss and Air Canada Business Class, Nov 2013
A family trip to Westin Playa Conchal, Liberia Costa Rica via United Airlines, Aug 2013
Buried Treasure: UAE Empty Quarter and Beyond to Huvadhoo Atoll, Maldives via United and Etihad Airlines, Nov 2012
RTW #1(F) The Time Share Presentation: Spain / China / Thailand via Asiana, Thai and Lufthansa First Class, May 2012
A visit to Macchu Picchu and Valle Nevado, Peru and Chile via Air Canada Business Class, Sept 2011
Travel after the Revolution of January 25, 2011. Egypt via Egypt Air, May 2011
A Step Back in Time: The Twilight of Burma, a visit to Myanmar via Silk Airways, Sept 2010

Last edited by worldtraveller73; Feb 18, 2019 at 9:19 pm
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Old Dec 12, 2018, 4:18 am
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Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: YVR - Vancouver, with most winter weekends in Whistler.
Programs: Aeroplan 35K, Alaska MVP, Marriott Titanium / Lifetime Platinum, Hertz President's Circle
Posts: 4,613
Plaza Premium Lounge Transborder Vancouver International Airport.

I got the email the night before travel from Alaska Airlines to attempt an online check in. Alaska is quite sticky with the remote check ins for international travel; something they havent quite gotten over. They seem to be wholly focused on being a USA carrier, despite offering co-branded credit cards in Canada. The Alaska App for check in was unsuccessful, as was the online interface.

We had a reasonable get away today. I was up at 5:15 AM to button up the house and MrsWT73 drove us to the airport. She dropped me with the bags and went to go park the car.

We checked in at the lonely Alaska Counter at 7:15 AM; about 2.5 hours before our flight. The friendly Alaska agent weighed the bags (a first) and was able to check them right through to Reykjavik. We also got our boarding cards all the way though to Reykjavik.

We dropped our bags. Since I had starved myself on our last Africa trip, I made MrsWT73 stop at the White Spot restaurant in the domestic terminal for a full breakfast. White Spot is a local BC brand of casual restaurants better known for the quality of its breakfasts versus its greasy dinners. The Nats Hearty breakfast was to my liking, but MrsWT73 didnt care much for the broccoli and cheese egg white omelette.

We headed back over to the Us Transborder Departures area and head through a quiet screening and US Customs and Border Protection clearance. I had given up on not having lounge access when we travel so earlier in August, I opted to get one of those swanky American Express Platinum cards. This came with a Priority Pass Select membership which I had already used a dozen times on some work trips. After security, we followed the maze like concourse down to the main departures area.

We headed over to the Plaza Premium Lounge Transborder which started out life as an Alaska Airlines Boardroom. A friendly check of the electronic membership card and we were allowed in.

The lounge itself is quite a small and compact space. It has the usual larger Plaza Premium Lounge chairs that are all around the world. Unfortunately, the large chairs seem a little out of place in this tiny 2000 sq ft lounge.

The lounge had interior views of the escalators leading into the international arrivals hall. They were not terrific views, but better than a windowless basement.

There was a small split food display with some scrambled eggs and sausages available along with packets of instant noodles.

We settled in and watched the CNN highlights of Senator John McCains public viewing lying in state at the Washington Capital.

A flight delay of 50 minutes was posted. It was the third flight delay weve had flying this segment. The reason was due to Seattle Traffic Control.

This Plaza Premium Lounge fits into the category of "better than nothing" lounges. I wouldn't make special arrangements to attend early but it is marginally better than absolutely nothing. The real lounge winner in the YVR Transborder area is the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge which has great tarmac views.
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Old Dec 12, 2018, 4:27 am
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Location: YVR - Vancouver, with most winter weekends in Whistler.
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Posts: 4,613
Alaska Airlines
AS 2269 Economy Class (W)
YVR-SEA (Vancouver International Airport Seattle Tacoma International Airport)
Aug 31, 2018
09:45 AM - 10:47 AM
Booked: Q400
Flown: Q400

We headed down to the gate at about T-40. Todays flight was leaving from the prop wing at YVR. We passed by the abysmal looking Euro Caf so funny as no self suspecting European would likely be caught dead here.

In keeping with the Alaska tradition of boarding flights early, the flight was already boarding Group A by the time we arrived.

I have a recycled photograph of the seat here. It was standard Q400 seating which isnt all to exciting. There was no beverage or other service was offered on our 26 minute flight. At least the scenery was decent. It was over before we knew it.

We disembarked at gate C 2 and were in the terminal before we knew it.
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Old Dec 12, 2018, 4:30 am
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Posts: 4,613
American Express Centurion Lounge
Seattle Tacoma International Airport.

On this trip when we arrived into Seattle, it was really busy with lots of families being the Friday before the last long weekend of Labour Day for the summer. It's a busy place as it is but crowding makes it a bit worse since it's not to spacious an airport.

Along with my new American Express Platinum card, it was my first free visit to the American Express Centurion Lounge. When we arrived, we were asked to join the wait list. The current wait was 30 minutes and they took our names and verifying entrance eligibility.

I raced over to the Alaska Lounges at the C and D gates but they both had signs outside indicating they were not admitting priority pass members. They were exiting from the Priority Pass program the day after our visit so there likely wasnt much appetite to accept Priority Pass on their last day.

I returned to the American Express Lounge and we were admitted a little early by a proactive lounge dragon attendant who was checking outside for waiting customers. We entered and we were able to find a place to sit by the bar without any challenges.

Overall, the lounge was well equipped and comfortable. It had a slightly compact foot print. There were Chicken Binh Mah sandwiches, proper salads, and tomato bisque soup. It was nice to be in a place with proper catering and an actual bar.

There was also a proper drink and wine menu.

The lounge also had respectable daylight views out towards the apron. Todays views were of Delta and Southwest narrow bodies.

We had an easy 2.5 hour layover pass by here in very comfortable environment. It was a more than decent place to pass the time away and among the better options here at Sea Tac.
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Old Dec 12, 2018, 4:43 am
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Posts: 4,613
Icelandair Airlines
FI 682 Saga Business Class (Z)
SEA KEF (Seattle Tacoma International Airport Keflavik Airport)
Aug 31, 2018
03:15 PM 5:20 AM + 1
Booked: Boeing 757-200
Flown: Boeing 757-200

We left the American Express Centurion Lounge at about T-90 and headed over to the S Terminal Satellite gates. Almost all the international widebody flights departing from Seattle leave from the S terminal and we had to take a short train to get there.

On arrival, we picked up some Dufry Duty Free to take with us. We still had some time to kill so we ended up going to the Club at Sea. We last visited here on our ANA flight about 2 years ago. Its the contract lounge for everyone except Delta Airlines and British Airways since they both have their own lounges in this terminal. Although it is also Priority Pass lounge, we were admitted today thanks to the business class of service on our Iceland Air boarding pass.

Theres nothing super special about this place, other than it serves a respectable Piper Hindseck champagne on self pour. Despite being way out in the "S" Terminal, its always been crowded on my visits through here. Today wasnt any different. We elected for stool seating at the windows because thats all that was available.

There were a small amount of snacks available but nothing all to exciting other than the usual cut cheese and crackers.

The best part was the airplane viewing through the large windows. Todays spotting was the Hainan Airlines B787 Kung Fu Panda livery.

At about T-45, an Iceland Air boarding announcement was made in the lounge. We decided to over to board. It turns out they had already boarded business class by the time we arrived. The gate dragon started asking MrsWT73 to check her backpack but relented when we said that we were in business.

We boarded through door 2 L and had a left turn into the 2-2 configured Saga Class.

The Iceland Air Saga Class (business) seats are the barca lounger variety. For some reason, Iceland Air hasnt fully upgraded their seats to lie flat models- likely because most of their flights are under 7 hours.

Being an older B757, there were individual air nozzles in the overheads. You can really see the age of the aircraft by the switches up there - they sure look old!

The business class load was a very light with only 10 of 22 seats occupied. There are two Iceland Air flights today that left Seattle; both within 50 minutes of each other. We were on the later flight. I never found award space availability on the earlier fight, despite setting Expert Flyer seat alerts. I suspect they let seats go out empty instead of changing them to reward availability at the last minute.

A pre-departure beverage of prosecco was brought around in a plastic cup. MrsWT73 astutely commented This is just like the dollar store picnic; or United Airlines for that matter (laughing).

Someone was really excited to get going to Iceland; dollar store cups not withstanding.

There was a pillow and blanket on the seat. As usual on Iceland Air, there were quaint sayings on the linen in their efforts to brand the country.

The menus were passed out while we were on the ground. The food was nothing fancy- only two choices and not one of the choices vegetarian.

The wine and drink list was also passed out. I was really happy to see that they had 7 kinds of gin catered and two kinds of tonic. It made for a special occasion as I didnt expect to get Gin and Tonic flights on our trip. Although when they arrived from the cart, it turned out that instead of impressive full size bottles, they had miniatures to present.

The amenity kits were also presented in a hexagonal styled box. The kits contained Blue Lagoon branded cremes, along with the usual eye masks and other non useful items.

The safety video had superimposed images from Icelands countryside. Another great idea of creativity.

As we got underway, I looked at the in flight entertainment options. This consisted of a few movies (under 30) available from a touch screen on the seat back in front.

As we got to altitude, a cocktail was offered. I went with a Reykjavik Gin and a light tonic. This was served with some caramel popcorn, which was a great snack to have to get underway. It was a refreshing change from the usual nuts offered everywhere else.

The crew came around again before dinner, so I took it as an opportunity to try the white wine.

I had the main course of beef steak. It was served with the appetizer all at once on one tray at about 90 minutes into the flight.

The first course I paired with France burgundy. The second course I paired with Italian barbera. The dessert was cheese cake with fresh fruit, which was served at the same time as the main.

After dinner was cleared away, a bottle of Icelandic Water was dropped off.

I had no luck with the on board wifi; I had the spinning circle of death forever more. . .

Near the front of door L1, there was a plaque identifying the plane. The Iceland Air planes are all named after volcanoes in the country. This particular plane was named Eyjafjallajkull after the erupting volcano that caused the massive Americas Europe air shutdown in 2010.

At this point, we only had about 5 hrs left of the flight. I tried to get some sleep. There are no mattress pads and the recliner chairs are downright uncomfortable and nasty for sleeping. I dozed but I wasnt really able to get much deep restful sleep.

At about 30 minutes prior to landing, the lights were switched on. A quick breakfast was offered of a ham and cheese croissant with some cut fruit. They also brought around orange juice in a plastic cup. I was also offered a coffee; which was downright awful. I believe it was powdered, instant and freeze dried.

We had an early morning sunrise as we descended into Reykjavik.

We arrived to Keflavik Airport near Reykjavik, Iceland. We ended up at a remote stand and had to take a bus. Arriving to a bus gate after an overseas flight is a drag in itself. But then the ground staff had some issues with the stairs and the door and we waited a good 15 minutes standing in the aisles for them to crack the seals.

We were bussed and were dropped off in the terminal. Between the early morning flight and the bus transfer I was super confused. The design of the Reykjavik airport has international arriving passengers mixing with departing passengers. For some reason, I wasnt expecting this even though it is typical of some European airports. It was a bit challenging to find the customs entry.

Keflavik airport is a busy place at 6 AM; it seems the whole world is passing through there. We were eventually led to customs and clearance where there were about 300 people lined up to get in and 4 customs agents. The friendly agent flipped through to my 28th page in ze passport and commented Youre never home. With that and a smile, another stamp and I was stamped into country number 66.

We headed downstairs to get our bags and encountered the massive duty free on arrival. The place was so large, it actually rivaled the usual liquor store I go to at home. I knew there must have been good deals in here; even the flight attendants and pilots were buying in uniform. I suppose they were after the end of their scheduled shifts.

We ended up finding our bags and took the FlyBus into town. A taxi is well over $200 where as the bus only cost us about $35 per person. We had some rugged scenary on our way into town since Keflavik Airport is in the middle of nowhere.

Well, we managed to complete the Iceland Air Business Class flight. It wasnt terrific, but it was better than being in economy. At least the staff and experience was enjoyable. The Gin and Tonic flights were the highlight of the trip. It was also the easiest way to get to Iceland without back tracking.
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Old Dec 12, 2018, 4:50 am
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Hotel 101, A Member of Design Hotels,
Reykjavik, Iceland.
Double Room

We got out of the airport hall after about 1 hr and forty minutes. We purchased a FlyBus from the airport counter for 2,890 Icelandic krna and another hidden 950 krna fee for the hotel van transfer from the bus depot. Our ride in was about 45 minutes, along with a few random stops for other guests at hotels along the way. The landscape between the airport and the city was very barren and resolute.

There arent many franchised or points options for hotels in Reykjavik. There was a Hilton Canopy and the Hotel 101 under Starwood Preferred Guest in the downtown area, in addition to a Hilton outside of the immediate downtown area. We ended up at the Hotel 101 which is under the Design Hotels brand. This was in part due to the fact that I was nearing Lifetime Gold Status under the legacy brands and needed to maximize stays prior to year end. The hotel was good, if not a pricy, choice.

After being dropped off by the FlyBus shuttle, we arrived to the Hotel 101 at about 8 AM. Our room wasnt ready at that time and we were recommended to wait in the lobby. Most flight arrivals from the Americas seem to arrive into Iceland early in the morning. As a result, we had to prepare ourselves to handle the fact that we werent likely to get our hotel room for quite some time on our arrival day. Instead, we dropped the bags and headed out for a city tour. There is more on our sightseeing shortly. When the room became available at 2 PM, we moved right in.

We presented a credit card and were signed in at the front desk. We were given room #205, which was a Deluxe Room with a Queen bed. The room had a minimialist look to it, which I actually didnt mind.

The room was nicely appointed. It had a mini bar, DVD player and even a Bang and Olufsen stereo. The room was a bit compact; compact enough that there wasnt enough room to have a lounging chair or sofa.

There was small complimentary water available.

The bathroom had an offset counter, which took a little getting used to.

The room did have a very nice view over Arnarhll park. The park contained a statue that celebrated Icelands first settler named Inglfur Arnarhll. The cranes represented the new construction efforts of Iceland now that investment is coming back into the country after the banking collapse ten years ago.

One of the best features of the property was its excellent location to the pedestrian market areas of Laugavegur and Sklavrustigur

The lobby of the Hotel 101 was a small but quaint space. There was a small lounge that led to the restaurant. The lounge always had a fire going, which made the place feel very comfortable and like home.

The breakfast room is seen below. We never visited since there are so many excellent breakfast cafs around Reykjavik. There is also no SPG Platinum Breakfast offered at Design Hotels.

There was a small and basic gym and spa in the basement of the property. We never used it on the stay.

There were no real SPG Platinum Benefits here. Breakfast was conveniently not included in the Design program; breakfast was offered at 2,900 Icelandic Krna / $23 USD. We did get a nice room assignment facing the park, instead of inwards towards another room or building. In other remarks, I did have a minor issue with Starwood Preferred Guest in getting room credit and points for this stay. I had to fill a missing request for the missing stay, which was ultimately resolved in one business day.

In summary, the Hotel 101 was an enjoyable stay. The only drawbacks were how pricey it was to stay and that it was a challenge to find any substantial discounts. I would easily stay here again.
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Old Dec 12, 2018, 6:38 am
Join Date: Jan 2009
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Great report once again! Hope to see more soon!

As the border agent said "You're never home!"

Did this trip happened right after your trip to East Africa?
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Old Dec 12, 2018, 6:49 am
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Looks like the beginnings of a great TR! Keep it coming - I am enjoying reading this instead of spreadsheets.
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Old Dec 12, 2018, 9:19 am
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Wow!! The price of the transfer is eye watering. I understand that everything is pricey - like Greenland - but that is just incredible. Also, for the Duty Free, the Taxes must be on a par with other countries in the region - I stand under correction - but they are high from the ones' that I have visited, hence the size and the amount of folk buying from it.
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Old Dec 12, 2018, 11:18 am
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Great start to your report worldtraveller73. Iceland is always somewhere I have wanted to go. I hope you stocked up in duty free to try save some money on the pricey drinks in the city!
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Old Dec 12, 2018, 2:29 pm
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Aye, a friend said they were 27 for a glass of wine when they were in Iceland last October!!

Originally Posted by worldtraveller73
The Nat’s Hearty breakfast was to my liking, but MrsWT73 didn’t care much for the broccoli and cheese egg white omelette.
Yes that sounds so vile! When we were in Toronto in the summer, someone had an egg white omelette and it looked so unappetising and unrecognisable as an omelette! LOL
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Old Dec 12, 2018, 8:04 pm
Join Date: Oct 2015
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Posts: 453
Great start to your new trip report here, worldtraveller73! It looks like you had a great start to your trip. Icelandair looks fine, and their meals look like Delta's Premium Select offering/or their domestic First Class meals. It's great though they have so many options of gin though - that is cool!

Looking forward to your next report.
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Old Dec 14, 2018, 12:37 pm
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Going to Morocco in April and Iceland in July. Looking forward to this report.
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Old Dec 14, 2018, 2:57 pm
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Surprised to see a bottle of water in your room. The tap water in Iceland is fantastic and it's usually frowned upon, locally, to have single use bottles of water. Yes, an expensive place to visit but I've yet to meet a person that didn't enjoy Iceland.
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Old Dec 17, 2018, 11:22 am
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What a treat (as always, WT73)! I especially took note of the Icelandair flights which are very affordable per Alaska's Mileage Plan. With those seats and the schedule, I don't think I'd want to do an eastbound trip but westbound with a few days stopover in REK sounds like the way to go. Thanks for another great contribution to the TR forum!
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