The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2017: The Grosvenor House Dubai Review

Introduction: It’s the most wonderful time of the year
A Tale of Two Lounges: SATS Premier T2 and the Qantas SIN Lounge
Malaysia Airlines B737 Business Class SIN-KUL
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Golden Lounge KUL
Malaysia Airlines A330  Business Class KUL-NRT
Japan Airlines Business Class Sakura Lounge NRT
Japan Airlines B77W Business Class NRT-LAX
The Westin LAX
The Westin Westminster
Aloft Boston Seaport
The Consolidated AA Domestic First Class Experience
American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK
American Airlines B772 Business Class JFK-LHR
American Airlines Arrivals Lounge LHR
The Great Northern Hotel, London
Sheraton Grand Park Lane, London
Westin Paris Vendome
Courtyard by Marriott Madrid Princesa
Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
The Consolidated Intra-Europe Business Class Experience
Sheraton Casablanca
Royal Air Maroc Business Class Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Ethiopian Airlines B787 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Q400 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A330 “First” Class DOH-MCT
Oman Air Business Class Lounge, MCT
Oman Air E175 Business Class MCT-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways Business Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Vistara A320 Business Class BLR-DEL
Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class DEL-HKG
W Hong Kong
Touring Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN


We will now pivot very quickly from the very worst to the very best. There’s little doubt in my mind that the Grosvenor House, though I can’t pronounce the name nor spell it properly, is one of the best properties in the Starwood chain. The property became part of the Starwood Luxury Collection in early 2010, and added a second tower to the existing one in late 2011.

Image result for grosvenor house dubai

The location might be a bit far South, but it’s near major attractions like the Mall of the Emirates (the Dubai Mall, which I personally prefer, is a bit further up North closer to the airport) and the Atlantis resort. It’s called the Marina area, and it’s maybe 30 minutes to the airport depending on traffic.

I’d heard great things about the property but always found the price too prohibitive. Normally this hotel retails well upwards of US$250, even 300+. But during summer, it’s a different story. As the heat blazes down on Dubai, tourists stay away and locals flee, so hotels cut their rates to try and drive some business. That’s how I got a rather excellent US$155 rate for two nights.

My taxi pulled up to the entrance of Grosvenor House and I wasn’t sure which tower I should check in at. One thing the property can do a lot better is directing guests who have just arrived to the check in area- it’s unlikely they’ll know ex-ante which room they’ve been assigned.

I went to the older Tower One first, where the entrance is split over two levels. On the first floor you have the concierge and bag storage area.

Up from that you have the main lobby. Nothing says you’re in the UAE like a golden jewel encrusted falcon.

The lobby, as you’d expect in Dubai, is lavishly decorated. Think high marble pillars, ornate paintings, vanity artwork.

This was pretty much the same in Tower 2, where I took these photos.

You’ll be happy to know that both Towers are connected via an air conditioned walkway (in 45 degree summer heat, you really don’t want to be exposed to the sun more than you have to) that bridges both sides.

The first thing to know about this property is that there are two towers. Tower 1 is the older one, as you might expect. There are many types of rooms here and with two towers it can get pretty confusing, so I’ll try to explain this best I can. Feel free to chip in if you’ve stayed here before too.

These are the main room types:

  • Deluxe and Superior Deluxe Rooms- Tower 1
  • Premier Rooms- Tower 2
  • Premier Junior Suites- Tower 2
  • Deluxe Suites- Tower 1
  • Premier Suites and Executive Premier Suites- Tower 2
  • Apartment Suites- Tower 1
  • Residence Apartments- Tower 2
  • Grosvenor Suites- Tower 2
  • Royal Suites- Tower 2

I was assigned a Deluxe Suite on the 36th floor of Tower One. I got two separate cards- the first for my room, and the second for the club lounge called Level 5, that was located in the other tower. This was easily one of the best club lounges ever, and I’ll cover it in detail later on.

The dramatis personae of Tower One

I got out on the 36th floor (total 44 floors in this tower) and realised the hallways were impeccably quiet. The carpet and the walls absorbed all footsteps, which was great for light sleepers like me.

You tap your keycard not on the door, but on the small dark panel by the side of the door.

Here’s the overview of the room. This is a very accurate floor map of the Deluxe Suite I’d been given. I want to point out several features before we visit them in detail- the guest bathroom, the kitchenette, the living room, the master bedroom and toilet.  The main entrance to the room is that door you see on the upper right.

It’s always a good sign when your room is large enough to warrant a guest toilet, which is exactly what I saw upon entering the room.

Past that and the room divides into two sections- the entrance to the master bedroom on the left and the living room on the right.

The room really opens up when you get into the living room. There’s a spacious couch set and the windows open out to the Dubai Marina.

On the table was a welcome amenity of fruit. This was slightly disappointing as I thought a hotel of this stature would go for something like wine.

There was a small dining area outside the kitchenette.

The kitchenette didn’t have a stove or microwave, but there was a sink. I’m not quite sure what it was for, other than to give me more countertop space for charging stuff.

A very large work desk rounded out the living room.

There was a very nicely monographed stationery kit

Which inside had a stapler set, sticky notes and a writing pad.

The master bed room had a King sized bed with the usual bedfront couch. I’ve often wondered what it’s for. I typically use it to sit when I put on my shoes. I hope I’m not using it wrong, like I did for years by using the bidet to wash my feet.

I loved small details like how the bedsheets had GH etched onto them ever so slightly.

The TV had a DVD player (who still uses those?) and digital radio.

The air conditioning controls were on the bedside, and you could control the curtains and DND sign from this panel too.

The bathroom is yet another highlight of the room. Nice sunken tub, plenty of towels (the luxury of staying in a hotel, I’m sure, comes in being able to use multiple towels to bathe. Gaia who?)

In addition to the tub you also have a large shower.

Toilet and bidet.

The marble countertop had a single sink (given the size of the room I thought they’d have put in two) and two bottles of mineral water.

Attention to detail again- the towels have GH embossed on them.

Essentials like toothbrushes, shower caps and cotton balls were provided as default. I much prefer this arrangement over what other hotels have done to cut costs by making these items available “on request” only.

The best thing about the loo? The abundant Bulgari amenities that were of the highest quality. There was bath soap and a bath teabag (yes, such things exist)

Shampoo, conditioner and body wash which were replenished daily.

As were the large soap bars in the master bedroom loo and the guest toilet.

The room had a fully-loaded minibar with easily the biggest selection I’ve seen in any hotel (except perhaps the W Seoul)

The minibar also had a whole set of drinking glasses in case you did BYOB.

Here’s a few excerpts of the room service menu so you have an idea of what prices you’re dealing with (1 AED= 0.37 SGD)

I thought about having a celebratory tipple, but was shocked to see alcohol prices this high. AED 148 (S$55) for a glass of champagne?

I mentioned the club lounge previously and I think it could deserve a separate post for itself, but to summarize I believe it’s one of the best club lounges to be found at any Starwood property.

On the first day I arrived I did Happy Hour at the lounge, where they set up a very elaborate variety of small bites.

They also serve sparkling wine. Yes it’s not champagne, and it’s not expensive, but it’s good.

Here’ s a brief rundown of the small plates on offer during happy hour.

Greek salad

Salad bar

Salmon rolls

Rice noodles with corn and sausage

Tuna salad shooters.

Fruit salad

The two hot items were both fried, which is great if you’re not on a diet.

There’s also a bread selection if you really need carbs.

The lounge has a few working stations and a high speed printer.

It also has a meeting room that you can book for complimentary use if you’re staying in a room with lounge access.

The lounge is really big, taking up about half the floor. I never noticed it crowded, not even during the breakfast peak hour rush.

Speaking of breakfast, here’s the breakfast spread in the lounge.

The first station is all about cereals, muesli, jams, ketchup, nutella and other spreads.

And with all those spreads, you need some bread.

Off topic, but I loved the way the butter was presented. It was given in little tubes that you unrolled, kind of like sweets. Sweets that give heart attacks.

Selection of fruit salad and cut fruits

Numerous hot items

And the pork corner. The UAE isn’t as strict as some other gulf countries about pork, but it has to be clearly labelled at all times.

Smoked salmon and other cold cuts

Cheese board

I really think that hash browns are one of those foods that don’t hold up well in a buffet, because most of the time they end up getting soggy. I asked the staff to help me make a fresh batch and the answer, as you would expect in any excellent hotel, was “certainly Sir”. Believe me, I have been to hotels (ahem Westin Singapore) where such tasks were either met with a  “no cannot” or with the alacrity of a man who is about to have teeth pulled.

I didn’t explore the other restaurants on premises because I was hankering for a good steak. And one of the best steak restaurants in Dubai is Rhodes Twenty10, located over in the Le Royal Meridien. This is the sister property of the GH, and there’s a free shuttle bus that runs between the two properties which are about 5 minutes away by bus (don’t brave the heat, even in the evenings, trust me)

The menu is extensive but of course you come here for the steak. The ribeye steak (why would anyone want any other cut?) was incredible. Perfect medium rare, great sear, tender insides, marbled fat.

Less impressive was the asparagus, which wasn’t seasoned at all (and cost AED30) for 3 spears.

I didn’t order desert, but a chocolate slice and a macron found their way to me with the bill.

If you’re an SPG Platinum member you can also take your breakfast at Sloane’s, the buffet restaurant in the lobby. The selection here is massive, much bigger than that in the lounge. But you can’t beat the peace and quiet of the lounge.

The photos of the food should speak for themselves so I’m going to dump them here.

 

The staff in the hotel were excellent, especially in the executive lounge. The concierge hassled Oman Air repeatedly until my bag was returned to me, 30 hours after it went missing. When Oman Air misreported the time the bag was returned, they offered to back up my account with CCTV footage if needed. However, they did back off once they saw that the flight ticket was associated with Qatar Airways (in that the e-ticket said the WY flight was a connecting flight from QR). Even though QR didn’t operate the flight, they said they simply couldn’t issue any sort of official letter in relation with something even tangentially related with Qatar because they’d get in trouble with the police…which sort of goes to show you the insanity of what’s going on in the region now where Qatar has become a he-who-must-not-be-named situation.

If you’re heading to Dubai, I hope you have a chance to experience this great property.

Try to make refundable bookings + a rather “meh” stay at The St Regis Rome

Dr Frederick Ee is a medical doctor, author, blogger and traveler. He discovered his passion for travel on his first long-haul trip to New York City in 2012. His quest for premium travel experiences started on that very same flight as he endured a smelly foot beside him from the passenger behind him for the 24 hours of flight from Singapore to New York. He blogs at goodhotelreview.blogspot.com, focusing on hotel experiences. His most memorable moment of travel was to participate in the resuscitation of a collapsed patient during a long flight to Paris. Feel free to add him on Facebook with a message and his Instagram at @drfrederickee. He would like to thank MileLion for having him as a guest writer and hope readers would enjoy his writings and musings.


Tiny Rooms are not enjoyable
Good breakfast is the redeeming feature

Stayed Oct 2016

After a brief stay at Bucharest, I arrived in Rome to fulfil one of my childhood dreams.

Other than the Acropolis in Athens, the Colosseum was another of the images in the encyclopaedia I read as a child.

But the journey there wasn’t smooth.

A few weeks before the trip, I received an email that my flight from Bucharest to Rome was cancelled and I had been rescheduled on the flight on the next day!

Thankfully my booking was made with points at the Sheraton Rome and I cancelled that booking closer to departure.

So there was no harm done, except a shorter time in Rome and a longer stay in Bucharest.

Arriving safely at the Rome airport, I took the airport train ( I still remember someone left a funny comment on how I was taking the metro to luxury hotels.) to the central station and walked to the hotel which was a short but significant distance away.

As usual, the staff at the entrance gave me weird looks as I didn’t ‘arrive in style’ but were nonetheless helpful when I entered. Unlike a certain Waldorf.

Exterior

 

Entrance

 

A Landmark Hotel!

 

Fountain beside the Hotel

The hotel was still undergoing renovations at that time and it affected the front desk, so the experience of checking in wasn’t too great.

 

Checking in was uneventfully, and I was upgraded to a larger room. Having read up on the hotel, suite upgrades are pretty rare.

Corridors

The upgraded room was still really quite small to say the least, and I shudder to think how the basic room is like! Especially at a rate of 300 Euro per night.

Rome is indeed expensive!

Complimentary Biscuits

 

 

 

 

View from Room

After settling in the room, I took a walk around the hotel noting some interesting decorations as well as an ancient lift.

Ancient Lift

 

Spa!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ceiling Art

Even the toilet has sculptures. OMG.

Breakfast was served at the restaurant off the lobby and looked really grand and pompous.

The chandeliers, wall and ceiling art made one feel so narcissistic. -laugh-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The food display was really good and I guess it should rightfully be for that nightly rate, and there was a lot of space to move around during breakfast.

No jostling with other guests for food and space.

Checking out was easy and I felt really claustrophobic inside the room.

Otherwise, the location of the hotel was good, with easy walks to good restaurants and some central Roman attractions, including the Trevi Fountain 

 

 

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2017: Oman Air Business Class E175 MCT-DXB

Introduction: It’s the most wonderful time of the year
A Tale of Two Lounges: SATS Premier T2 and the Qantas SIN Lounge
Malaysia Airlines B737 Business Class SIN-KUL
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Golden Lounge KUL
Malaysia Airlines A330  Business Class KUL-NRT
Japan Airlines Business Class Sakura Lounge NRT
Japan Airlines B77W Business Class NRT-LAX
The Westin LAX
The Westin Westminster
Aloft Boston Seaport
The Consolidated AA Domestic First Class Experience
American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK
American Airlines B772 Business Class JFK-LHR
American Airlines Arrivals Lounge LHR
The Great Northern Hotel, London
Sheraton Grand Park Lane, London
Westin Paris Vendome
Courtyard by Marriott Madrid Princesa
Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
The Consolidated Intra-Europe Business Class Experience
Sheraton Casablanca
Royal Air Maroc Business Class Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Ethiopian Airlines B787 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Q400 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A330 “First” Class DOH-MCT
Oman Air Business Class Lounge, MCT
Oman Air E175 Business Class MCT-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways Business Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Vistara A320 Business Class BLR-DEL
Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class DEL-HKG
W Hong Kong
Touring Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN


I realise the phrase “Worst. Airline. Ever” is thrown around with reckless abandon these days. Everyone will have their own opinion about what constitutes “worst”, and even good airlines have bad days.

So when I say Oman Air is the “worst airline ever”, I simply mean to say that based on my experience I’d never fly with them again. I’m sure other people will have great experiences with the carrier. I don’t doubt that some people have come off a flight and said “wow, best flight ever.” But that’s not me. And if you gave me a choice between Oman Air and Air India…well I’d have to think about it and get back to you.

After a long layover in Muscat, I was finally ready to board my onward flight to Dubai. The Oman Air lounge had been a complete non-event, but at least I was finally off to Dubai to enjoy all the best that man-made attractions had to offer. Or so I thought.

The initial boarding went smoothly- Muscat Airport does not have aerobridges (but the new and improved one will), so all passengers need to be bused to the plane. Priority boarding was announced and observed (although all passengers were taken on the same bus, which kind of defeats the purpose of priority boarding), and eventually the bus pulled to a stop infront of an Embraer E175 that was being refuelled and loaded. I didn’t know it at the time but my bag was one of those which, despite a 5 hour layover, would not “arrive in time” to make this flight. But more on that anon.

Oman Air’s E175s are configured 1-2 in business class and 2-2 in economy, much like the Q400 I flew on with Ethiopian Airlines. The aircraft seats 71 passengers and was completely full today.

What’s interesting is that Oman Air has 4 such aircraft up for sale, and they’ve posted some interesting technical documents about each of the aircraft right down to the brand of IFE system, ADC, Inertial Reference Unit and all other technical details that make AVGeeks have big boy feelings in their pants.

The 11 business class seats are comfortable enough for a flight that’s blocked at just over one hour. They’re standard recliner stuff, although there’s no footrest.

If you’re travelling by yourself you’ll obviously prefer the solo seat at the side, but otherwise the couple seats on the port side of the aircraft will do. Seats are manufactured by C&D Zodiac. The spec sheet I referred to earlier claims that they have in seat power but I wasn’t able to find the plug.

I was also surprised to see that Oman Air had bothered installing an IFE system on these aircraft. The Thales I4500 IFE system is used (really getting a lot of mileage off these technical docs!), with AVOD.

Each seat had a pair of headphones in plastic wrap waiting. The headphones had an on/off switch which led me to think they were noise cancelling, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t.

As we sat on the tarmac waiting for boarding to complete, the crew came around to serve drinks and cold towels. Oman doesn’t serve alcohol in the air during Ramadan, so lemonade was the next best option.

So we sat. And we waited. And waited. It was now 10 minutes past the scheduled departure time and there was no discernible progress. Finally the doors closed, and the captain came on the PA to apologise for the delay. He mentioned there was a problem with the A/C but it had been resolved.

But as we sat there waiting to taxi, the A/C unit started blowing hot desert air into the cabin. It soon got insufferably hot. The captain came on the PA again to say that they’d need more time to fix the A/C and the doors opened again. Maintenance crew came on board, paperwork was exchanged, still nothing happened.

After 30 minutes they finally made the decision to switch aircraft. But the procedure for doing this was so botched it wasn’t even funny. First, everyone had to disembark and head back to the terminal. We got dropped off at the arrivals/transit area. The problem was, there was no Oman Air rep present at the terminal to receive us, so no one had any idea where to go or what gate to wait at.

Everyone sort of adopted the herd mentality and followed the guy in front, and we all had to reclear security. Just around there is the transit counters, so we went to speak to the Oman Air staff there who had no idea what was going on. It was becoming very clear that there was no SOP for incidents like this, which you think should be foreseeable enough for an SOP to be developed. Finally one of them got on a radio and told us to go to a particular gate.

And yes, you guessed it, when we tried to get there we found the only access point was closed off. That led one particularly agitated South African man to storm to the lounge and demand that someone from Oman Air deal with this properly. More calls were made, and finally someone escorted us downstairs to the new gate where…the gate staff told us that we had the wrong gate.

Things were positively Kafkaesque by now, and many people had split off from the main group and were now wandering around the terminal aimlessly. Through some sheer force of will the flight eventually got relisted on the departure screen, and after another hour boarding started again from a different gate with an aircraft swap. I’m fairly sympathetic towards aircraft technical problems, but not so much to general incompetence which was on full display by the ground staff.

The flight eventually took off more than 2 hours behind schedule. The crew were pleasant enough and apologetic, but the fact of the matter remains that they were let down by an airline with extremely inadequate SOPs.

Once airborne, a meal was served on this very short flight. There were no menu cards, just a question of whether I wanted the Western or Non-Western option. I guess that hamburger meat with rice counts as Non- Western.

And to show that they were not entirely without a sense of humour, the crew distributed Fast Track immigration cards for Dubai.

We landed in Dubai but little did I realise my ordeal was far from over. I count myself fortunate that I have never had a bag misplaced in my many years of flying. I still think, given the systems and technology we have in place, it actually takes more effort to misplace a bag than to handle it properly.

Of course, Oman Air is especially gifted at doing the impossible, and after a 30 minute wait at the carousel it became increasingly clear that I would now have to quickly educate myself on lost luggage procedure. This is why you always keep this tag handy, kids.

Most airlines will normally station a ground services representative at the belt to deal with any luggage issues that arise. Most airlines are not Oman Air. I had to find the dnata luggage handling office and file a “property irregularity report”. The process was fairly quick, and I had the all-important PIR, a document I hope none of you will ever need to see.

Most airlines will normally disburse immediately a certain amount of compensation for passengers with misplaced luggage to buy clothes, toiletries, that sort of thing. Again, most airlines are not Oman Air. The dnata staff said that I’d have to contact the airline separately about this, and surprise surprise, no Oman Air staff were to be found in the airport.

My bag was eventually returned to me, in Dubai, about 30 hours after it was first reported missing. During this time, I spent about US$300 on clothes, shoes and toiletries. Now opinions will differ, but this was to me a reasonable amount given the high retail prices in Dubai. I mean, I bought Giordano underwear and Colgate toothpaste. I bought shoes from Payless. The most expensive item was probably a Banana Republic polo T at $50.

So began the long and arduous process of contacting Oman Air to get compensation. The first order of business was to file a claim with DirectAsia, who I always use for travel insurance. That would require a letter from the airline certifying the mishandling. After many unanswered calls and emails and the awesome intervention of the Ritz Carlton concierge in Bangalore, I finally got this-

With the wrong name and wrong flight number. I’m not quite sure how that can happen, given that they had all my details in front of them.  They also wrongly stated the return time about 6 hours before the bag actually reached me. My first instinct was that it was deliberate in order to avoid having to pay out additional compensation, but after their refusal to pay out any compensation at all (see below) I concluded that I should not ascribe to malice that which could be explained by incompetence.

It took much more back and forth and talking with an Oman Air rep I swear had difficulty understanding basic English (at one point she sent me the Word doc version of the letter and asked me to make the changes myself, which I gladly obliged) but it got done.

Now, you’d imagine that for a 30 hour bag delay some compensation would be in order. But Oman Air kept insisting that since I had been issued a travel insurance letter they had no need to compensate me. I tried to explain to them the fact that a passenger having travel insurance was completely independent from the fact that the airline mishandled a bag for 30 hours, but they simply would not budge. “We are unable to do anything for you”, was the response. I told them that all other airlines would have positioned someone at the luggage claim ready to issue some emergency funds to cover clothes and toiletries should a bag not arrive. “We are unable to do anything for you” was the response.

Where it got strange, though, is that although customer service refused to pay for the clothes and toiletries, they offered to pay for one night’s hotel stay because of the flight delay. I can’t wrap my mind around why the airline thought a couple of hour’s flight delay deserved a hotel stay whereas a 30 hour bag delay deserved nothing, but in any case the hotel came up to about US$150, or half of what I’d actually spent.

Many more unanswered emails and calls failed to resolve the situation, so in the end I took what they were offering and told them they’d never see another cent of business from me.

The situation reminded me a bit of what I encountered with Air India last year, where management claimed that the hotel offered for an 11 hour flight delay counted as “compensation”. I had to explain to them that there was a difference between taking care of delayed passengers versus compensating them for the time wasted. Oman Air is much worse in this respect, because I cannot understand how they think the airline can get off scot-free for the mess they created.

So that’s my two cents on Oman Air, a carrier that I will hopefully never have to set foot on again.

Travel Better for Less