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Circumnavigating the Globe: UA J, EY F, SQ J, BR J

Circumnavigating the Globe: UA J, EY F, SQ J, BR J

Old Dec 31, 18, 8:29 pm
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Los Angeles
Posts: 279
Circumnavigating the Globe: UA J, EY F, SQ J, BR J

Overview

Greetings FT! This is my first Trip Report and Iím finally getting around to writing it from our around-the-world trip in November of 2017. Here was the breakdown:

618,667 Points Used
$515.78 Out-of-pocket (not including the one non-points hotel)
Purchase Price: $58,336.02
9.43 Cents Per Point!

LAX-EWR
JFK-AUH
AUH-MLE
MLE-SIN
SIN-HKG
HKG-TPE
TPE-LAX

Background/Trip Planning
I had always wanted to go to the Maldives, it has been on my bucket list for a while and now that our kids are old enough, figured it would be a good time to get away with the wife. I had a sense of where I wanted to go and how to do it, I had started to do some research, but I eventually enlisted Juicy Miles to help book the entire thing. They were absolutely fantastic and highly recommend them.

LAX-EWR
This was really a staging flight to get us in position to fly the Etihad Apartments. Unfortunately, nonstop transcons are notoriously difficult to find saver availability, so I ended up using 100k United points and $11.20 to book them.

Airline: United
Flight: 2118
Registration: N12114
Model: Boeing 757-200
Class: Business
Seat: 1A / 1B
Departure: 9:22am
Arrival: 509pm








New York
We generally like to stay in the Midtown / Flatiron area, and since Marriott and SPG had merged, we thought we would try something new since we normally stay at the W Union Square. We ended up choosing The New York Edition which was available on a Marriott Saver award for 50,000 transferred from SPG at 3:1, actually costing me 16,667, a few thousand points cheaper than the W. The hotel itself is well appointed, but our room was a little dirty and they ended up putting us on a lower floor which was very noisy. Here is my TripAdvisor review of the property.



We had also booked Cote, a Korean BBQ restaurant that had recently received a one-star rating from the Michelin Guide. It was one of the best Korean BBQ meals Iíve ever had. It definitely lived up to the hype and is extremely reasonably priced for a Michelin star restaurant.




JFK Airport
We headed out really early, around 9am, for our 2pm flight. We really wanted to take advantage of the First Class lounge, and we sure did! Check-in was quick, although we did want to short-check our luggage because we had a 13-hour layover and planned on staying in a hotel in Abu Dhabi. Unfortunately, they werenít able to accommodate the request and said we would have to handle it when we get to AUH but said it shouldnít be a problem.



After passing through the wonderful JFK T4 security, we made our way to the lounge. Lots of options to choose from, both buffet style and menu ordered, I ended up going with the sliders and a couple of whiskey & gingers. We had about 1.5 hours to hang in the lounge before we made our way to the gate.





JFK-AUH
This was one of my favorite redemptions. We booked the award ticket through AA by calling them and holding for five days while I transferred SPG points. The redemption set us back 230k AA points, but it just so happened that AA was having their promotion that you received a 25% bonus on hotel point transfers. Couple that with the 5k SPG bonus for every 20k you transfer, I was getting 31,250 for every 20k points! In total it only cost me 140K SPG for 230K AA!

As for the flight itself, to say that I was excited was an understatement. I had seen all the trip reports and couldnít wait to experience the Apartments for myself. Needless to say, it lived up to my expectations! Where else can you dine with your spouse in the same spot and take a shower?

Airline: Etihad
Flight: 102
Registration: A6-APB
Model: Airbus 380-831
Class: First (Apartments)
Seat: 3A / 4A (connecting)
Departure: 2:00pm
Arrival: 11:45am +1












Abu Dhabi
Upon arrival, I had arranged for a VIP escort through Pearl Assist which turned out to be a lifesaver. They were waiting for us when we got off and delivered us directly to the arrival lounge so we could relax while they went and tried to sort out locating our bags. Since they were in a container, it ended up taking about an hour, which wasnít a big deal since we had a nice lounge to hang out in. Once we had our bags, they whisked us through immigration and arranged a transfer to the St. Regis since our original booking was a no-show (more on that later).




We made our way to the St. Regis Abu Dhabi where I used 12.5k SPG points for the one-night redemption. Check-in was seamless and we were upgraded to a Superior Sea View room which was perfectly acceptable for the short time we were actually in the hotel.




In hindsight, it was a bit aggressive, but we had decided to book a tour of Dubai through My Abu Dhabi which was supposed to drive us up there, give us a tour, then return us back to the hotel. They had missed us at the airport (they were late) so I had them pick us up at the hotel and unfortunately did not have an English speaking guide and therefore had no tour. We made the 1.5 hour journey up to Dubai in silence, which compared to other tours we have taken in the past was a major disappointment. We visited the Burj Khalifa, went to the top, then came back and returned to our hotel (not before a stop on the side of the freeway for our driver to pray). I would definitely not recommend My Abu Dhabi, and reflecting back, probably should have stayed local and explored Abu Dhabi.



AUH Airport
We left the hotel around 5:30am for our 8:40am flight to Male, wanting to once again spend as much time as possible in the First Class lounge. It was a quick trip to the airport at that time, and we were checked-in and through security in a matter of minutes.



The lounge is absolutely amazing, everything from the food and drink to the service. We opted for a little breakfast, I ordered eggs off the menu and had a Bloody Mary to accompany it. My wife enjoyed the free 15-minute free massage after we ate. We were called for boarding about an hour before departure as we would be boarding from a remote gate and would have to take a bus. The nice part is that they have separate buses for the first class and business class passengers.






AUH-MLE
This was a continuation from the previous redemption and Etihad had recently switched back to the 3-cabin A330 and as it turned out, we were the only passengers in F that day. We had two flight attendants catering to every need, referring to us as King & Queen the entire flight!

Airline: Etihad
Flight: 278
Registration: A6-AFA
Model: Airbus A330-343
Class: First
Seat: 1A / 2A (although we tried every seat because we could)
Departure: 8:49am
Arrival: 1:59pm












MLE-Kandolhu
Upon arrival, we breezed through immigration and made our way over to the hotel desk at the airport. They took our bags and whisked us off to the hotel airport lounge over by the Trans Maldivian terminal. They didnít tell us when we would be departing but that someone would come to grab us when it was time for our flight to depart. We ended up waiting about 2 hours before we were ready, the time went slowly because Male airport is dry so there were only snacks, soda, and water to choose from in the lounge.




If you have never experienced a float plane, itís quite the treat. It was very hot in the cabin, but I didnít mind at all, I was thoroughly enjoying every minute of it. We actually had two takeoffs and two landings as we dropped a group off at another island. We departed at a nearby island to Kandolhu as it is such a small island, they donít have their own sea platform.




Upon exiting the plane, we were met by the Kandolhu team that grabbed our bags and jetted us off by speedboat to the island which lasted about 10 minutes.



Kandolhu
Heaven on Earth. That is the only way I can describe the experience at Kandolhu, pictures donít do it justice.



I found Kandolhu after searching and reading reviews, we were looking for a small, luxury property that was all-inclusive. Kandolhu fit the bill with their 5 restaurants for the 30 rooms on the island. The only downside to Kandolhu is that they arenít affiliated with any points program so you have to pay, and it is expensive, roughly $1,500 a night. I did, however, lower that price by booking with my Citi Prestige card, utilizing their 4th night free.

Mark and Laura, the two heads of the island greeted us when we disembarked and quickly got us checked in to our Ocean Pool Villa. Upon entering the room all I can say is that itís absolutely stunning! Every detail is taken care of, including the most amazing tub and bathroom Iíve ever seen. Itís like something out of a postcard! One other benefit that comes with the room and all-inclusive package is the mini-bar and wine fridge, everything is free including all 30 bottles of wine and champagne. Whatever you drink, they refill it the next day. The wine selections were diverse and impressive with an average retail price of $10-$15.












Kandolhu - Food
The food is absolutely incredible. There are roughly 30 chefs on the island, all led by the incredible MichaŽl Farina (MickaŽl FarinaMickaŽl Farina). If the Michelin guide was to award and island, Kandolhu would undoubtedly receive 3.

The Market is the go-to restaurant for most meals, itís open-air and stunning. We ate most of our lunches here.
Olive is a Mediterranean restaurant that is above the market. Itís open for dinner only, and the truffle risotto is to die for!
Sea Grill is another dinner only restaurant which is inspired by the freshly caught fish each day.
Banzai was one of our favorite restaurants on the island. Itís an intimate 6 seat teppanyaki in an open-air setting. We went two nights, one of which, we were the only couple at the 2nd seating of the night (only 2 per evening) and we had a wonderful combination of sushi and teppanyaki dishes.
Ata Roa is new since we visited, but itís a light lunch outdoor restaurant featuring tacos and ceviches. We canít wait to go back and try it!
Vilu Bar is the ďhotspotĒ of the island. Itís a great spot to catch a sunset and have a cocktail, the bartenders are extremely proactive and provide a wide selection of unique cocktails. We found ourselves here most evenings before and after dinner for a drink or two. It was never crowded, but when there are only 30 villas, you donít interact with too many people.













Kandolhu - The Water
I grew up in Hawaii, I have never seen water this clear. There are stairs down from the Ocean Villas that lead you out to the house reef. You can walk around the island in about 7 minutes, it takes out about 45min to 1 hour to snorkel around. You see everything you could imagine, fish, sharks, turtles, octopusÖ there was no shortage of things to be seen with your head below the water. There is some bleaching happening, but overall, this house reef is very much intact and thriving. Iím certified but my wife is not, we met a couple who went diving and said that they saw more snorkeling than the did diving.

We would often take laps around the island because it is so charming. There are tons of baby black-tip sharks swimming just steps from the shore. Each night, there is a group of larger sharks that congregate by the end of the arrival pier. This was the same spot that we hopped on our sunset cruise the night before we left. This is something that is complimentary, just like all of the water sports activities (kayaks, paddle boards, etc) and is a fantastic way to see the island.




Kandolhu-MLE
To say that we were sad to leave was an understatement. Iíve literally been trying to return to the island every second since weíve left, just need to save up again.

For this flight, it was just the two of us on the plane which apparently was a brand new aircraft, hadnít even been painted. Our captain was one of the most experienced in the fleet and you could tell. Our touchdown in MLE was one of the smoothest landings Iíve ever experienced on any plane. I took a little video of the landing in MLE, hope you enjoy!


MLE Airport
Instead of getting our departure time 30 minutes before we left Male, this time we received our departure time the day before we departed the island. With a 2pm departure from Kandolhu and our flight from Male leaving at 10pm, we knew it was a long layover. Having read about the overcrowded lounges, especially with nighttime departures, I arranged with the hotel to book us a VIP transfer at the Maamahi Executive Lounge. Even though there is no alcohol in Male, this is a really cool little spot. Not only is there great food and ample room to sit and relax, they also have their own security screening. I started to get nervous once boarding time came around, but never fear, an agent came by with about 20 min to departure letting us know that boarding was complete and it was time to go. We walked through the private security onto a waiting minivan that drove us directly to the plane. Walking up the jetway we were greeted by the head purser who said ďMr & Mrs reinmedia, welcome aboard, weíve been waiting for youĒ. With that, the doors were closed behind us and we were off. Definitely a really amazing and unique experience.



MLE-SIN
While a short flight to Singapore at about 5 hours, I was able to get a meal in and a few hours of sleep. The angled lie-flats werenít too much of an issue for me, and the service was impeccable on my first SQ flight. This flight was 90k Silver Kris miles that I transferred from AMEX to my Sliver Kris account along with $151 in taxes and fees.

Airline: Singapore
Flight: 451
Registration: 9V-SSB
Model: Airbus A330-343
Class: Business
Seat: 12 D/F
Departure: 11:38pm
Arrival: 7:15am +1





Singapore
SIN is the most efficient airport Iíve had the pleasure of flying through. We were through immigration in a matter of minutes, and our driver was waiting for us at baggage claim. Most of the transport was arranged through Blacklane which I found to be excellent overall, in this case, our driver had a sign with our names and loaded us into his brand new Mercedes van. 20 min later, we were entering the JW Marriott Singapore South Beach.

I booked the JW Marriott Singapore South Beach using 80k Marriott points for our 2-night stay by transferring 26,667 SPG points with the 3:1 transfer ratio. My SPG status was recognized and we were upgraded to a lovely Club Deluxe Room. The lounge really shines at the JW, many options to choose from at all hours. I would definitely recommend a club level room.



We spent the next few days exploring everything that Singapore had to offer. We visited the National Orchid Garden. We also booked a private food tour, exploring all the best Hawker markets that Singapore had to offer. We booked it through Viator and I can honestly say it was one of the highlights of our trip. We had the pleasure of being guided by Gerry and his wife from Singapore Foodsters. By the end of the evening, we felt like we had been dinning with our close friends, not a tour guide. They took us to amazing stops at several Hawker markets and shared their passion for Singaporeís culture, but most importantly their food!





We did the typical tourist things, visited Marina Sands and Gardens by the Bay, but mostly just ate and drank our way through the city. One of the highlights for us was Wanton. Amazing noodles, I would highly recommend the restaurant to anyone that visits Singapore.






SIN Airport
Did I mention how efficient the Singapore airport is? We arrived and our bags were quickly checked through to Hong Kong where we were invited to visit the Silver Kris lounge. The lounge itself was very crowded but had a wide assortment of food and drinks for our 8:30am flight. I will say that SIN has an interesting screening process, they do a passport check but donít have security checks until your going to the gate. We asked at the lounge when we should depart for our gate and they said 15 minutes before our flight. I found this hard to believe they could screen everyone but was absolutely the case, with 3-5 gates per security line, we were through within seconds.

SIN-HKG
This would be my second A380 flight of the trip and my second ever. I knowÖ I had seen the A380 make itís inaugural landing at LAX in 2004, but hadnít flown on one until the Apartments. I suppose if you are going to make it your first, make it memorable. One of the things I love about Singapore Airlines is the ability to add stops to one-way award tickets for $100 per person. I took advantage of this on the MLE-SIN-HKG segments. For $200, we were able to add Hong Kong to the redemption which I thought was amazing. The best part was since we were flying out of SIN, I was able to use Book the Cook to select my meal. Lobster Thermidor at 9am? You bet!

Airline: Singapore
Flight: 860
Registration: 9V-SKI
Model: Airbus A380-841
Class: Business
Seat: 12 A / 14A
Departure: 8:37am
Arrival: 12:05pm








Hong Kong
We had made arrangements with our hotel, The Ritz Carlton, to pick us up at the airport and take us to the hotel. When we exited immigration, there was two gentleman who approached us welcomed us to Hong Kong. Obviously, Google goes a long way but I loved the personal touch of knowing who we were right when you step off the plane. 30 minutes or so later, we arrived in Kowloon at the Ritz Carlton. One of the most amazing things about this hotel, besides being 118 stories tall, is the fact that your check-in experience happens on the 103rd floor. Even more impressive, if you are staying in one of the club level rooms, you are greeted in the lobby and check-in is handled in your room!

I spent 210k Marriott points which were transferred at 3:1 ratio for 70k SPG points. A fantastic deal at one of the worlds finest hotels if you ask me!

I had reached out prior to our arrival letting the GM know that it was my Wifeís birthday and was hoping they could do something special for her. Little did I know they had upgraded us to a Club Grand Victoria Harbor Room, but also had a happy birthday sign hung and a bottle of Veuve and chocolates ready for us. Incredibly nice touch and if the ritz knows how to do anything, it treats their guests right.




I had booked two tours for us while we were in Hong Kong. The first was a food tour taking through parts of the city that most tourists would never see. It was a private tour and our guide Ashley was amazing, taking us to some amazing places including a few restaurants where we ate in the middle of the sidewalk. Very cool!





The second tour I booked was a full day excursion to see the giant Buddha at Lantau Island, and visit the ďVenice of Hong KongĒ, Tai-O village. The gondola ride to Lantau was incredible, such wonderful views of not only the airport but also the new bridge that (at the time) was being built to connect Hong Kong to Macau. After visiting the giant Buddha and hanging with the local cow waiting for ice cream (yes, really), we took a bus down to Tai-O village. Tai-O is a shrimping village that is built primarily on stilts, thus the Venice reference, which is known for its shrimp paste which is very pungent.







We went on a boat ride in search of pink dolphins, but alas, they werenít out to play. We settled on a local lunch spot where I was able to sample the shrimp paste in a fried rice dish. After exploring more of the city, we made our way back to Kowloon, but not before stopping at the Jade Market to pick up some treasures to bring home.



We spent the rest of the time eating and drinking our way through the city which seems to be a theme for this trip. Hong Kong was amazing and canít wait to go back and explore more!




HKG Airport
We arrived at the airport in the same way we departed, via the Ritz Carlton Tesla. Our driver was very gracious and escorted us all the way through the check-in process until we entered security. The whole process was very easy, and once through security, we decided to visit the newly opened (at that time) Centurion lounge. It was very crowded, but we were still able to grab a few drinks and some snacks before we departed to TPE.



HKG-TPE
I was excited to fly EVA. It has been on my bucket list for a while since itís been rated one of the top business classes. I spent 160k United miles on a saver award along with $116 in taxes & fees. Perfectly acceptable for a business class that provides your Rimowa amenity kits, pajamas, and Veuve ready to poor.

Airline: EVA
Flight: 852
Registration: B-16732
Model: Boeing 777-36N(ER)
Class: Business
Seat: 3K / 5K
Departure: 11:25am
Arrival: 12:50pm







TPE Airport
We had one of those awkward layovers, which happens sometimes when you are booking award tickets. It was a total of 6 hours. We contemplated going into Taipei and exploring, but we ended up just staying at the airport and lounge hopping. We hung out at the Silver Kris, Plaza Premium, EVA Garden, and EVA Infinity lounge. All are great, I think SQís lounge was the best.

TPE-LAX
Iím not sure Iíve ever slept better on a plane except for maybe flying Air New Zealand. The PJísÖ the foodÖ the service, everything was perfect. Apparently it was quite bumpy according to my Wife. If it was, it definitely was after dinner, and long after I had gone to sleep. I look forward to flying EVA again in the future, itís a fantastic airline with a solid hard and soft product.

Airline: EVA
Flight: 12
Registration: B-16706
Model: Boeing 777-36N(ER)
Class: Business
Seat: 3K / 5K
Departure: 7:20pm
Arrival: 2:50pm














Conclusion
This was a trip of a lifetime. Iím now trying to make it every couple of years, not just a lifetime. I havenít saved up enough yet to return to Kandolhu, and we know thatís the only place for us in the Maldives, so we decided to take another trip next year to a couple places we havenít been. Stay tuned for our August trip:

LAX-NRT JL F
NRT-BKK TG F
BKK-DPS TG J
DPS-SIN SQ J
SIN-LAX SQ J
reinmedia is offline  
Old Jan 1, 19, 12:03 am
  #2  
gpy
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
Posts: 110
Great TR! I'm not really a beachy/relaxing traveler but your report makes me want to go to the Maldives!
gpy is offline  
Old Jan 1, 19, 8:04 pm
  #3  
 
Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 2,621
Great TR! I'll be doing almost the exact same trip stopping in MLE, SIN, and HKG next month!
iluvdoco is offline  
Old Jan 6, 19, 9:54 pm
  #4  
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 1,530
This really is a great report. Thanks for sharing!
SQTraveller is offline  
Old Jan 7, 19, 3:06 pm
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: EARTH
Posts: 277
Wonderful. Off to Hongkong ourselves in 10 days. Looking forward to the food.
Yemona is online now  
Old Jan 7, 19, 3:14 pm
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Los Angeles
Posts: 279
Originally Posted by Yemona View Post
Wonderful. Off to Hongkong ourselves in 10 days. Looking forward to the food.
If you're looking for a food tour, I highly recommend Hong Kong Food Crawlers. They were fantastic.
reinmedia is offline  
Old Jan 7, 19, 7:09 pm
  #7  
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What an awesome trip - happy birthday!!!! Thank you for sharing. I am looking forward to your summer trip already.
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Old Jan 7, 19, 8:36 pm
  #8  
757
 
Join Date: Oct 2015
Location: St. Paul, MN
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Looks like an amazing report and photos. Thank you for sharing!
757 is offline  
Old Jan 8, 19, 12:58 pm
  #9  
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: BWI
Posts: 1,780
Nice report! I just came back from Singapore and HK and enjoyed seeing/reading your experiences. The Maldives looked great too!
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