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Melbourne, The Gold Coast & Whitsundays Great Barrier Reef Australia via Qantas First

Melbourne, The Gold Coast & Whitsundays Great Barrier Reef Australia via Qantas First

Old Oct 25, 2019, 11:23 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: 4,612
Melbourne, The Gold Coast & Whitsundays Great Barrier Reef Australia via Qantas First

Melbourne, The Gold Coast and the Whitsunday Islands in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia via Qantas First

YVR-SEA-LAX (paid)
LAX – MEL - HTI (Alaska Mileage Plan Award)
PPP - BNE (paid)
BNE – SYD – DFW – SEA – YVR (Alaska Mileage Plan Award)


Alaska Mileage Plan continues to impress me as one of the most valuable frequent flier point currencies. The tricky part is being able to use them. Over the recent years, MrsWT73 has been on the circuit from Vancouver to Germany. Since she’s been travelling in paid business class, and since most of our personal travel is using points, getting access to an alliance of lounges in One World or Star Alliance hasn’t been front of mind since reward tickets in business already have lounge access. Under these circumstances, we’ve been crediting to the alliance free Alaska Mileage Plan that offers a generous 250% for British Airways fares, in addition to a 100% MVP Gold status bonus. As a result, the trips to and from Europe from our home of Vancouver have added up quite quickly.

I had been wanting to take advantage of the excellent 70K Qantas First Class award for quite some time with the added bonus of being able to depart Australia through the Qantas First Class lounge in Sydney Australia. I had a difficult time finding availability, but eventually found seats for 2 coming back on the Qantas Sydney to Dallas flight in First Class. We didn’t have a way to get to Australia so we locked in an Air Canada Aeroplan Business award for 80,000 Aeroplans’ and $533 CAD in surcharges on the Air Canada Vancouver Brisbane B787 non stop in business class. About 3 weeks later, the award availability gods were smiling down on us and availability surfaced on the usual Los Angeles – Melbourne flight in First Class. We cancelled our Aeroplan award for $150 and rebooked into Qantas First Class via Alaska Mileage Plan with a tag on flight to Hamilton Island in Business Class using the Alaska stop over. Unfortunately, Alaska never opened up reward space between Vancouver and Los Angeles (or it was already spoken for) so we had to position to Los Angeles on a paid Alaska ticket.

Hope you'll follow along on another great trip...

In this Report:
Alaska Airlines: Vancouver - Seattle
Alaska Airlines: Seattle - Los Angeles
Marriott LAX
To Malibu for Lunch
Qantas First Class Lounge: Los Angeles Tom Bradley International
Qantas First Class: Los Angeles - Melbourne
Westin Melbourne
Melbourne, Australia
The Yarra Valley
The Great Ocean Road and the 12 Apostles
Qantas Business Lounge - Melbourne
Qantas Business: Melbourne - Hamilton Island
The Great Barrier Reef via Hamilton Island Air Helicopter
Whitehaven Beach
Virgin Australia: Prosperine - Brisbane
Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort and Spa (Gold Coast)
Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast, Australia
Qantas Business Lounge: Brisbane
Qantas Business Class: Brisbane - Sydney
Pier One Sydney, by Autograph Collection
Qantas First Class Lounge: Sydney Kingford Smith
Qantas First Class: Sydney Kingford Smith - Dallas Forth Worth
American Express Centurion Lounge: Dallas Fort Worth
Alaska Airlines: Dallas Forth Worth - Seattle
Alaska Airlines Alaska Lounge (new flagship): Seattle N Gates
Alaska Airlines Seattle - Vancouver

Links to my previous reports:

Whale Sharks, Tacos and Baja California via Alaska First Class, April 2019
Fried Chicken, CNN and Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia, USA via United First, April 2019
Christkindlesmarkt (Christmas Market) Villages in Germany via British Airways and Lufthansa First Class, Dec 2018
Iceland, Spain & Morocco via IcelandAir Business Class & British Airways First Class, Sept 2018
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
Pearl Harbor, The First Lady of Waikiki and Wailea, Hawaii via Alaska Airlines First Class, January 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 India’s 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; Jan 11, 2020 at 2:10 pm
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Old Oct 25, 2019, 11:27 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: 4,612
Alaska Airlines
AS 706 – First Class (U)
YVR-SEA (Vancouver International Airport – Seattle Tacoma International Airport)
July 6, 2019
2:50 PM – 4:00 PM (scheduled)
3:59 PM – 4:57 PM (actual)
Booked: Boeing 737-8
Flown: Boeing 737-8

We had a smooth get away this morning. I entertained WT73 jr for an overnight visit with a comfortable 2 PM departure from the house. Wt73 jr wasn’t traveling with us on this trip; opting for a trip to Ireland and the United Kingdom with his dad later in the summer. Around about 10 AM, I got a text message indicating that our flight to Seattle was going to be delayed until about 4 PM.

We later arrived to the airport and I went and parked the car on the nearby facility access road. It was nice to actually be departing in daylight with pleasant weather instead of my usual walk in the dark through rain and cold Vancouver clouds.

A friendly Alaska agent confirmed an MVP Gold Upgrade for us into the First Class Cabin and re-assured us about our connection. Our 1 hr 45 minute connection had been whittled down to about 40 minutes thanks to the late arrival of the inbound aircraft at YVR.

We had a lunch snack in the international food court – Freshii for MrsWT73 and Wendy’s for myself.

We found our way to the Plaza Premium Lounge in the Transborder area which was absolutely packed today. We ended up at some seats by the glass watching the international arrivals of the European and South Pacific flights while we enjoyed a Red Rooster Pinot Grigo. Hardly top shelf but only slightly better than hanging out in the terminal. I didn’t bother taking any photographs as we've all been here several times before.

Boarding time came with the usual crowded gates at the YVR Transborder zone.

On board, we had the usual seat. A pre departure beverage of water or orange juice was offered with the polite explanation that it was going to be it for the flight.

Some interesting aircraft on the apron today, including Omni Air which I believe was substituting for the recent "at the time" Air Canada 737 Max cancellations, and the Air New Zealand airframe for the 4x weekly Vancouver Auckland flight.

Our approach into Seattle had us pass over the Renton Boeing facility where all the Boeing 737 Max’s were parked, awaiting safety certification. They are certainly running out of room.

We arrived to Gate B7 in Seattle; well positioned fo a visit to the American Express Centurion Lounge but we unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity. We arrived at 5:10 pm without next flight departing at 5:45 PM
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Old Oct 25, 2019, 11:30 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: 4,612
Alaska Airlines
AS 1778 – Premium Class (Q)
SEA-LAX (Seattle Tacoma International Airport – Los Angeles Terminal 6)
July 6, 2019
5:45 PM – 8:29 PM
Booked: Airbus 320
Flown: Airbus 320

We had a brisk walk over to the D7 gate; straight through the main terminal and past Sub Pop records over to the near end of this finger.

Boarding had already started on arrival but we were able to sneak on through the priority lane thanks to MrsWT73’s MVP Gold Status.

Today’s plane was an old Virgin America bird; an Airbus A320. I actually like their set up much better than Alaska’s planes with TV monitors in each seat and plenty of leg room in the premium class seats. We were in the bulkhead today thanks to a free premium class upgrade confirmed at the time of booking, courtesy again of MVP Gold status. We missed out on the first class upgrades as there are only 2 rows of first class on these aircraft, meaning that all the seats were well spoken for by the time we arrived to the scene.

There was an interesting disclaimer on the television screens about mature content.

There was No streaming on the personal devices today as the seat back screen was the only entertainment option available. We had a nice departure along with the usual great mountain views leaving Seattle heading southwards.

There was offer for a double Gin and Tonic on the way down with the complimentary drink service that comes with Premium Class. I should have taken her up on the double on it as MrsWT73 tried to set a second drink about 1 hour prior to landing and was told “no” – there was no time left. This certainly didn’t make her happy; especially when they brought out the usual gourmet chocolate bar after the fact to thank her for being an MVP Gold member (laughing).

We arrived into LAX at dusk. We passed by our Qantas flight that we’d be on the next day as we headed over to LAX Terminal 6. Thank fully our bags made it; on the belt in Los Angeles within the 20 minute guarantee.

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Old Oct 25, 2019, 11:36 am
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Posts: 4,612
Los Angeles Airport Marriott
M Club Lounge Access, Guest Room – 1 King
Los Angeles

I got a little tired of the uninspired the Westin LAX from my pass through on my last Lufthansa First Class adventure in December 2018, so I thought we I would stay somewhere different. The Westin LAX was starting to look pretty run down on my last visit. The well placed Marriott was convenient and close to the Hertz rental car facility. Add in a fairly cheap AAA Hot Rate at $144 USD and it was a cheaper option than staying up in Hollywood, or Santa Monica. Given we were only in town for 28 hours, we didn’t bother with the hassle to stay downtown or down in Long Beach.

We picked up our bags and hopped the Hertz bus over to the Gold Five Star Aisles where a beautiful 2019 BMW 530i was waiting for us. It was mostly clean and immaculate with only 727 miles on the odometer.

We didn’t get buy on board for dinner tonight so we headed over to the nearby LAX In and Out at 600 Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles for Saturday night date night. A couple of in and out burgers with spectacular plane spotting opportunities. I’m a lucky man that MrsWT73 enjoys this as a Saturday night dinner once in a while.

After the late dinner at In and Out, we drove the half mile over to the LAX Marriott. We self parked the car in the stuffed and almost full parking lot. After strolling the bags up to the room, we were almost taken out by an avalanche of Westjet flight crew who were getting dropped off. Thankfully, with about 20 people waiting to check in at the reception, there was a well marked platinum / titanium / ambassador line. Thanks to online check in efforts, we were on our way quite quickly. Some photos from the next morning…

We were given a soft upgrade to the top floor of the building in the same category of room booked. We led ourselves up to room #1833.

The property has undergone a major refurbishment and was must cleaner than my Westin experience. The room was in clean shape, having been fully refurbished. Despite the refurbishment, this is an older property which means smaller than average hotel rooms consistent with the seventies era that this building was constructed in.

The room was reasonably well insulated, although the noise of airplanes could still be heard through the windows throughout the night. The curtains offered a reasonably strong blackout to an otherwise uninspiring view.

We finished off the evening in the “M” Lounge, provided complimentary with our Marriott Platinum level benefits. The lounge is open 24 hours a day. Food and beverage service is limited to certain hours. MrsWT73 had a glass of wine while I had a Tequila Twist drink prepared by a bartender with silver tequila. The M Lounge was a high traffic area with somewhat sticky floors that made our runners squish as we moved around the lounge. At least it featured unobstructed views of the two LAX runways.

The next morning, I got up for a lounge breakfast while MrsWT73 slept in. She had arrived from Germany back to the Pacific Time Zone only 72 hours before this particular trip and was still adjusting to the jetlag. The lounge was against packed for breakfast hour. There were the usual scrambled eggs, german sausages, broken espresso machine, starbucks coffee with cream that wasn’t usually refilled. All in all, about what you’d expect from a busy Club Lounge that is struggling to keep up. The wifi here was particularly slow on our visit, so I wouldn’t plan on getting too much work done if this is in your plans.

After breakfast, I did a quick walk around the property. There is a small pool here which would be great for entertainment for the kids (if you had any). There are nicer pools out there, but who’s counting if you happen to be staying at an airport property like this?

I checked out the lobby area. There was also a reasonable bar that was deserted in the morning when we checked out.

Overall, it was a reasonable stay here. It was a little bit nicer than the Westin LAX, but not so much that I’d chose to stay here one over another. I’d likely be back but I’d also be open to staying elsewhere.
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Old Oct 25, 2019, 11:41 am
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Location: YVR - Vancouver, with most winter weekends in Whistler.
Programs: Aeroplan 35K, Alaska MVP, Marriott Titanium / Lifetime Platinum, Hertz President's Circle
Posts: 4,612
"To Malibu for Lunch"

After the quick morning “snack” in the lounge. MrsWT73 took a while to get going. We ended up leaving the hotel at around 12 noon and heading up the coast to Malibu. We drove up the coast to Duke’s Malibu. It was a popular spot for brunch; we didn’t have a reservation and there was about a 40 minute wait for Sunday Brunch. We ended up on the pub side where we sat outside while the local fog burned off. An spiked iced tea complimented today's brunch efforts.

Nice to actually have a drink out of one of these mugs stateside...

On our way back, we stopped a few times to take in the shore line from the Pacific Coast Highway. The sun started coming out slowly.

We ended up at the Santa Monica Pier. We were lucky enough to find street parking out front of the JW Marriott Le Meridina? We ended up going for a walk down the pier. Being the middle of summer, it was packed with people.

A slow walk out to the end, taking in the sights. It was my first time visiting Santa Monica Beach in the middle of summer. It was quite busier than in my past trips.

We headed down to the boardwalk where the playground and yoga stands were. We passed by the usual patch of grass where several yoga stand poses were on display.

We eventually wandered back to the car and onwards to LAX and the Hertz Rental Return. We experienced the miserable traffic issues around LAX with an extra 15 minutes wait just getting back to the rental car return. After we had returned our vehicle, we had another 20 minutes on the hertz shuttle buss just navigating traffic to get to the terminal.

All in all, I was happy we left a little bit of extra time in order to fully enjoy the departure experience. Our brief trip to Malibu was a nice way to kill a layover and a nice change of pace from our usual Los Angeles activities.
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Old Oct 25, 2019, 11:43 am
Join Date: Feb 2017
Location: Austin, TX
Programs: BAEC Gold, HHonors Diamond, Marriott Titanium, UA Gold (*G), DL Silver, Makers Mark Ambassador
Posts: 4,664
Looking forward to another great TR!
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Old Oct 25, 2019, 11:48 am
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Location: YVR - Vancouver, with most winter weekends in Whistler.
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Posts: 4,612
Qantas International First Lounge
Los Angeles International Airport – Tom Bradley International Terminal
Los Angeles, USA.

We arrived to the Los Angeles Tom Bradley International Terminal. Being the middle of summer, the place was absolutely packed with travelling tourists, families and other groups. Los Angeles Airport isn’t too generous on sidewalk space at the best of times and it was slow going getting through all the throngs of people.

Once inside, we made our way over to the middle B check in row. Thankfully, Qantas opens it’s check in counters at 6 PM, or just over 4 ˝ hours in advance of our flight. This was really appreciated, as there were stacks of people camped out in the terminal just waiting for their flights to check in. We rolled up to the First Class check in lane, where there was no wait at all.

The friendly agent checked us in and asked if we wanted our bags tagged on the same luggage heck. We were then given instructions towards the lounge and directed upstairs. There was no escort given, but instructions were given to use the First / Business security lane. Security took a bit of time given that many families were all together and it took a bit of a wait to get through our lane with the groups of kiddies heading off to far away lands. Unfortunately, despite having a major focus in the USA with multiple flights from JFK, LAX and SFO, Qantas hasn’t bothered or wanted to pay into TSA Pre-Check.

Once on the secure side, we took a quick look at duty free. The pricing was almost retail street level amounts with cashier lines about 10 deep. We ended up foregoing duty free and headed up towards the lounge. We bypassed PJ Changs’ (Priority Pass joke there) and went straight to the Qantas Airlines International First Lounge.

The lounge is located on the 5th floor of the Tom Bradley International Terminal in the older terminal building before the renovation. While it doesn’t command the best real estate unlike the other lounges that offer great terrace and concourse views, it’s a pretty nice place that actually has some personality to it.

Our boarding cards were checked and we were admitted. The lounge was particularly empty at 6:30 PM when we arrived. We opted for a large red lounger while we settled in with a glass of Mumm’s Champagne. I asked for the Perrier Jouiett champagne on the menu, but it turns out that they were out tonight. Similar to other proper first class lounges, they had an army of wait staff offering to get drinks, food and other snacks.

At about 7:20 PM, we ended up heading down for a proper dinner service. The summer menu was comprehensive and was full of interesting things to enjoy.

I started with the famous Neil Perry Salt and Pepper Squid with chili sauce, and aioli. It was a healthy portion and most excellent as it was freshly prepared. Our server recommended the red Penfold’s Max Cabernet Sauvingon to go with this; which was a bit of an odd choice combination when I tried it out. MrsWT73 had the tomato and basil soup; which she reported as excellent.

I followed with a minute steak with chipotle butter, chips and lime. For a minute steak, it was perfectly cooked, with just a bit of red in the middle. I went upscale and paired with the other wine on the list which was a Blass Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon.

I followed it with tomatoes with Neil’s Vinaigrette and buffalo mozzarella cheese, which was also very good.

I was pretty stuffed by this point. I was happy to realize that dinner in the lounge actually was able to substitute for a proper meal. I went all out and have a vanilla ice cream sundae with pineapple, coconut and lychee. No doubt a special occasion and it was paired with Jackson Triggs Ice Wine from Niagara Region, Canada. I was totally stuffed by this point and ready to enter into a food coma.

The lounge had gotten much fuller since we had arrived and probably had over 80 persons inside unlike the 5 that were here when we first arrived.

In summary, a solid lounge that actually had some personality and spirit to it; unlike some of the stodgy Lufthansa or British Airways First Class lounges. I’ll probably never get in here again, but stranger things have happened. Make sure you find time to stop by here before your over night Qantas flight… enjoy a dinner, allow some time to digest before you hop on board for a seven-star snooze. It is highly recommended.
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Old Oct 25, 2019, 11:58 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: 4,612
Qantas Airlines
QF 94 – First Class (P)
LAX – MEL (Los Angeles International Airport - Tom Bradley International Terminal – Melbourne International Terminal 2)
July 7, 2019
10:40 PM – 7:30 AM + 2
Booked: Airbus 380-800
Flown: Airbus 380-800

We left the lounge at about T-60 and headed down towards the gate. Instantly after leaving the lounge, it was back to the land of screaming children. Dependent on your mood, this was a good or a bad thing.

We wandered through the Bliss cosmetic store where we both picked up a few things and headed down to Gate 154. Both the Qantas A380 flights of the evening (Sydney & Melbourne) were departing from gates side by each. Thankfully, there was a separate line for first class as there were probably over 80 persons in the business class line.

The boarding was a bit of organized chaos as they appeared to start loading some of the lower economy row numbers which clogged up the jet bridges. First Class had it’s own jet bridge tonight, which was again really appreciated.

We found our way on board and into suites 2A & 3A. I booked these suites well in advance being on the private side of the cabin. The first class cabin is in a 1-1-1 configuration and makes for a very spacious and private seating area. There are no doors on the suite, but based on the design, there isn’t ever anyone looking into your space at any time.

As we settled in, the flight announcements came from the captain, announcing a 15 and a half hour flight time down to Melbourne, via Honolulu, Vanuatu and Fiji waypoints with a planned arrival on shed-jewel.

A pre-departure beverage was offered. I asked if the good champagne was available and indeed it was. I don’t know if this is the usual course of business but they were loading the terrific Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs from the bottle. It was slightly off cold but I wasn’t complaining with a bottle like this. A small appetizer was also dropped off.

The amenity kits and pyjamas were also dropped off. The pyjamas were Martin Grant, which I actually took with me and used throughout the rest of the trip. The kit was of reasonable quality with some useful items.

The First Class jet bridge was pulled back at about T-30 with a full 14 of us in First tonight.

While we were awaiting the loading of the rest of the aircraft, I ran upstairs to take some lounge photos while it was still lit. I assumed we would be going dark for the rest of the flight given that it was an overnight flight.

Back downstairs, our steward came around to introduce himself in addition the manager Clint who dropped off immigration cards and fast track cards for us for Australia.

We had a very long taxi over to the north runways. The LAX airport was designed before the Boeing 747 so special efforts were made when the A380 started service here. These included escort cars on the taxi-way's thanks to the wide wing span of this wonderful jet.

The take off was nice and gradual; among the most elegant of the commercial civilian aircraft in the sky.

I opted for another champagne once we were airborne. Since I had gorged myself in the Qantas LAX lounge, I went with a lighter dinner once airborne which started at about 12 midnight. The Qantas menus are inspired by Australian Celebrity chef Neil Perry, who has now been creating menus for them for more than 20 years.

There were also some reasonable wines. Unfortunately, due to the late hour, it isn’t like you’ll spend a whole lot of time getting through all of them, unless you are an insomniac wine drinker.

I started with Potato and Leek soup with chive crčme fraiche, along with mesculin salad with aged balsamic and sourdough bread. I paired this with the “The Lane” Gathering Sauvingon Blanc Semillion 2017 from Adelaide Hills, South Australia.

I closed with a cheese plate with assorted accompaniments. The cheese included cheddar, hard blue cheese and brie.

I had the bed made up and went to change into the pyjamas. The pjyamas were actually quite comfortable. A Large / Extra Large was one size, and it was just right fitting a 6ft 2 inch frame. I took a Relax and Sleep around 1 AM and slept for a good solid 9 hours. It took me a little while to get to sleep, but once I got accustomed to the environment, I didn’t want to get up. It was probably among the best bedding that I have had in the sky. It was much better than British Airways First Class and probably better than my most recent last Lufthansa First Class.

I woke up as we were over Noumea with still 4 hours to go. I opted for another glass of the Tattinger Champagne, which was now perfectly chilled having been in the fridge for 10 hours.

Around 2 hours before landing, the crew came around to take the breakfast order. I started with Neils Healthy Museli with toasted apple bircher and walnuts, yoghurt, along with poached eggs, irish bacon and baked beans, along with a croissant.

Since we weren’t driving on arrival, we ended up continuing on with the Taittinger champagne until the plane ran out. My guess is that they had loaded 3 bottles since we were among the only ones drinking it with any regularity. We ended up with Duval Leroy champagne for the last glass or two.

We had a slow but direct approach into the Melbourne Airport. It was the first time I touched down in this port of entry into Australia. I’ve always previously arrived to Australia at Sydney Kingford Smith.

There were quite a few international flights arriving at this time and any rushing for the custom’s immigration stamp was met by waves of traffic from other flights. Qantas did offer a fast track card, but the Melbourne airport seemed to be quite disorganized. Having e-passport readers, half the people were queuing for these machines, the line dragon at the express arrivals wasn’t all too interested in allowing us to proceed into Fast Track despite having an “invitation”. We were eventually waved up the Fast Track lane. The Australia Border Police didn’t stamp our passports. That was great that we were able to save valuable passport space but at the same time, there was no souvenir for us despite having to visit at the counter. We had codes printed on our customs cards and MrsWT73 was sent into secondary as they were training dogs in additional to filming the Australian version of Border Security.

We met our Blacklane driver who was able to transfer us to the Westin Melbourne without any issues. It took about 35 minutes by car.

Qantas First Class is an absolutely fantastic way to get to Australia. The highlights were the larger seat, the terrific first class lounges and the great bedding on board that allowed for a solid nights rest. The low points were the late night of the flight, and the slow and outdated in flight entertainment system which is due to be upgraded.
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Old Oct 25, 2019, 12:04 pm
Original Poster
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: 4,612
Westin Melbourne
City View 38 sqm – Guest Room

We met the Blacklane driver who transferred us to the Westin Melbourne, which is located in the middle of the Central Business District (downtown) of Melbourne. We could have taken the public train from the airport, but it would have resulted in a 15 minute walk at the other end; the last thing we were interested in doing after coming off a long international flight from the Americas. As a result, Blacklane it was and we were there in about 35 minutes.

It was a great first impression on arrival to the Westin Melbourne with a beautiful new lobby with high ceilings. Entry to the hotel is through a small dark porte cochere off the main street. The door staff took care of the bags and we headed in to check in.

We were on 3 separate reservations here over 4 nights; two reservations were under 3 credit card certificates (in MrsWT73’s and my names) courtesy of the Canadian American Express Card, and the last night was on a paid discounted rate that I couldn’t get the webpage to accept in combination with the points rates. We had debated staying at the Sheraton Melbourne but ended up picking this place as the average daily rate here was much higher; representing a better value on points. The rates were over $400 AUD at the time of booking and had increased to almost $573 AUD during our stay, making this property a great use of points as a Category 5 or 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy Rewards a night. We applied Suite Night Awards for the larger “Deluxe Spa Studio” but they had failed to clear. If our floor was any indication, there did not appear to be many suites available for upgrades, let alone paid occupancy for purchase

Since we had arrived to the property at 8:45 AM, our room was not yet available. The kind front desk agent was able to align the room so that we could keep the room for the 4 days and just asked us to visit for key re-coding during our visit. We had attempted to apply suite night awards to the room and they failed to clear. The host apologized about the lack of upgrade, but did offer us access to the gym downstairs so that we could freshen up. He also offered us a complimentary coupon for a drink, wine or coffee at the bar. I went down to the gym and took a shower and there were a few other travelers down there doing the same thing.

We went out sightseeing for the first day and came back to the property at around 2:30 PM. After stopping at the front desk, we led ourselves up to #530, which was a “Westin Standard (38 sq m), Guest room”.

The room was well equipped and a nice size that was easily able to accommodate two people.

It was facing the back of the property, which had absolutely no view. This was okay however as the city appeared to be digging the foundations for a major subway station immediately out side the front view side of the building, making it a bit of a noisy experience during the daytime hours. You can see the impressive view out the room windows.

The room featured a comfortable desk, which was handy for setting down the laptop and other devices that needed charging.

The bathroom was super spacious, which was appreciated while travelling with your wife.

There was also a full mini bar and proper glassware right in the room. I always appreciate this since it seems it’s always a struggle to wait for glassware when it’s not automatically provided.

I am a bit surprised that they didn’t label the hotel a Westin Grand as it had many more amenities that some of the Westin’s that I’d stayed at through the Americas’.

The hotel participates in Make a Green Choice Marriott version, which means 500 Bonvoy Points for forgoing housekeeping. Its no longer the great earning opportunity it once was, but more points are better than no points.

We had an included Platinum Breakfast almost every day of our stay. Thanks to the upright footprint of the hotel, the breakfast is located on the second floor in the Allegro Restaurant. We were treated to the full buffet breakfast, valued at 40 AUD per person. The breakfast room is in a large L shaped space with large windows that overlook the Melbourne Town Hall across the street.

The breakfast offered an egg station and all the usual hotel breakfast goodies including cereals, fresh fruit and salad.

On our last night, we had message left for us indicating that the front desk had noted that we had applied suite night awards that had failed to clear, but that a suite had come open. The hotel offered us the ability to move, should we be interested in the upgrade. We were heading out to the great open road and were planning on being out of the hotel for almost 18 hours of the day so we passed on the opportunity. Having said that, I really appreciated the effort that the hotel made based on the availability as we hadn't pressed for it or otherwise asked. As a Platinum member at the time of the stay, I really felt taken care of when they were likely quite busy.

We had a terrific stay at the Westin Melbourne. It was a great value on points and the location was as good as it could get for sightseeing around Melbourne. We would easily look forward to another stay at this property.
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Old Oct 25, 2019, 12:11 pm
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Location: YVR - Vancouver, with most winter weekends in Whistler.
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Day #1

After arriving on our first day, we set out from the hotel to funky Desgraves Street. It was a very short walk from the hotel; less than 5 minutes.

We plunked ourselves down for a coffee and Avocado Smash with a poached egg, lime, feta and mint over a toasted bagel. We had this outside al fresco under winter patio heaters. Before long, there wasn’t a seat to be had on the deck as it filled up with coffee and breakfast lovers.

After breakfast snacks, we wandered up to the Centreway Lane, a charming pedestrian area with a light urban grit to it. It was somewhat reminiscent of Hong Kong, without the searing humidity or the Asian and British population

And over to the Block Arcade where there were some intriguing spice shops and tea parlours that were just getting going for the day.

While MrsWT73 looked into clothing stores, I looked in to the graffiti’ed Union Lane, one of the many graffiti artist scenes around Melbourne. Checking out the graffiti'ed lanes would form part of the entertainment during our stay in Melbourne.

After the brief shopping inspection, the sun started to come out for the day. We ended up wandering down through the urban landscapes of Melbourne to the Yarra River. The Yarra River is just south of downtown, and walking the south bank, where there were a lot of cafes and restaurants that were just getting going for the day.

On the south side of the river, the view of downtown makes for a nice skyline. The south side was a newer part of Melbourne with a more contemporary feel to it.

We ended up stopping at the Pony Fish Island, a wine bar immediately under the bridge for a small glass. Melbourne still has enough of a contemporary feel to it that it isn’t sewn up boring. Thankfully there were heaters on the patio as the sun had disappeared and the clouds were pretty menacing.

It was back to the hotel then a well earned sleep for day number one.
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Old Oct 25, 2019, 12:20 pm
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Location: YVR - Vancouver, with most winter weekends in Whistler.
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Posts: 4,612
Day #2

We woke up and had breakfast in the hotel restaurant. The full buffet breakfast was valued at $40 AUD courtesy of Marriott Bonvoy Platinum. The breakfast included an egg station, a gluten free area and a small but adequate selection of fruits, vegetables and salads. The customers were mostly a work crowd similar to at home stocking up on food before their work day.

We then headed off to the Melbourne Cat Café, which was an idea conceived by MrsWT73. It was my first visit to a Cat Café so I wasn’t really sure on what to expect. It’s pretty much a slower environment. We had made an online booking the day before. Surprisingly, most of the slots of 60 minutes were completely sold out the day before, so we opted for a 10 AM spot.

Once we completed the cat registration, we headed into the two cat zones. The cats were interesting but not all to interactive. Either way, MrsWT73 got her fill of cat attention.

After the Melbourne Cat Café, MrsWT73 and I parted ways while she went shopping in the uptown area of Melbourne’s CBD. I headed over to meet one of my old friends from my Whistler ski instructor days in the early nineteen nineties. We hadn’t seen each other in 27 years and had a good time catching up about where life has taken us. He’s now working as counsel for a large Melbourne law firm. He took me up to his offices where I was able to get in a few great photographs of the Melbourne skyline.

He then was able to spare enough hours in his days where he then went on a walking tour around town including some restaurant recommendations for our week’s stay. After about 90 minutes, I bid my colleague goodbye with hopes that it wouldn’t be another 20 years before we met up.

I then met up with MrsWT73 and we wandered over to Section 8; a container bar that is situated off of one of Chinatown’s many alleys. We stopped by for a mid afternoon drink amid many of the hipsters.

After dropping the shopping bags off at the hotel, we wandered down through the laneways to the popular Rossiter Lane. Another grafitti’ed spot that was full of photographers.

With the rain starting to come down, we headed over to the nearby National Gallery of Victoria for a little indoor modern art. Entry was free and it had enough modern art to keep MrsWT73 entertained.

After the rain had led up, we wandered through the graffiti’ed AC/DC lane. Most of the art herewas related to music, as would be expected from the AC/DC name.

Along with the discovery of art in the lanes, there were many hidden bars and drinking establishments along the way. It seems you could spend a lifetime exploring them all.

I made a booking for Rockpool for dinner. Rockpool is one of the flagship restaurants in Neil Perry’s Pacific restaurant empire; Neil Perry has cooked for Qantas Airways First Class for over twenty years. We walked over to the restaurant which was about 20 minutes walk from the hotel in the Crown casino complex with a bunch of other celebrity restaurants such as Nobu.

The décor was gentlemanly dark with wood paneling and dark upholstered chairs and an open kitchen concept. The wait staff looked like they belonged in an Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue; trimmed jackets and elegant wear.

Dinner tonight was a Cape Grim aged 36 months old grass fed filet 250g and a side of Bearnaise, with a Raddicio, cos and endive salad with palm sugar vinaigrette and a Potato and cabbage gratin.

The food was absolutely spectacular with a steak that was perfectly cooked at medium rare. It was easily among the top 5 steak meals of my life.

Dinner was paired with a Mac Forbes Gruyere Shiraz 2014 ; delicate and easy drinking. Mac Forbes is a local Victoria vineyard near Yarra Junction just out of town.

We passed on desert. There were many wonderful cheeses on offer, although we were totally stuffed having placed a large dent in the offerings. We’d easily return again for a wonderful meal here. I really enjoyed the Rockpool experience and will keep that memory for quite some time.
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Old Oct 25, 2019, 4:32 pm
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: Brisbane
Programs: QF gold, HH Diamond, VA plat, Aegean Gold
Posts: 688
How do you rate QF F with your other F experiences. Most of us in Oz think QF F is meh..
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Old Oct 25, 2019, 7:25 pm
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Brisbane, Australia
Programs: VA Gold; IHG Diamond Elite; Hertz Presidents Club
Posts: 69
Great report so far, I'm always interested to read reports on Australia and Austrailan airlines by people visiting from overseas (particularly Americans). Good choice getting the Blacklane from MEL too, there's no train from the airport so you'd be waiting a while to catch one!
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Old Oct 27, 2019, 8:06 pm
Join Date: Oct 2015
Location: St. Paul, MN
Programs: Delta Platinum Medallion, IHG Gold, HH Silver
Posts: 449
Great report so far. I've read mixed things about QF F before; looks like you had a good flight, but the food looks a bit more like Business Class presentation and quality. I would love to visit Australia sometime; Melbourne looks like an interesting city. Looking forward to the rest of your trip!
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Old Oct 27, 2019, 10:07 pm
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Melbourne, Australia
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Originally Posted by worldtraveller73
Westin Melbourne
City View 38 sqm – Guest Room

We met the Blacklane driver who transferred us to the Westin Melbourne, which is located in the middle of the Central Business District (downtown) of Melbourne. We could have taken the public train from the airport, but it would have resulted in a 15 minute walk at the other end; the last thing we were interested in doing after coming off a long international flight from the Americas. As a result, Blacklane it was and we were there in about 35 minutes.

As a life long Melburnian I'd love for there to be a train to/from the airport but, alas, there isn't one. Were you referring to the Skybus?
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