Tag Archives: review

Miami, no vice: Jetblue Economy MCO-JFK

Miami, no vice: Planning
EVA Air Business Class SIN-TPE
Decoding the lounge situation in Taipei
EVA Air Business Class TPE-IAH
Red Roof Inn IAH Airport
United Economy IAH-MIA
Renting with Sixt Miami
Element Miami International Airport
Miami, the Keys and everything inbetween
Orlando: Disneyworld and other distractions
Jetblue Economy MCO-JFK
EVA Air Business Class JFK-TPE
EVA Air Business Class TPE-SIN


My return flight to Singapore would be leaving from JFK, so I needed to position myself from Orlando. I found a Jetblue flight for US$154 and jumped on it.

It’s kind of funny when you think about the US airline industry today and how the budget carriers have become more full service than the full service ones. I mean, Southwest and Jetblue (until recently, at least) don’t charge bag fees. Jetblue has a fantastic selection of IFE via DirectTV and satellite radio, all for free. It has Wifi for free. It also offers free snacks and a lot friendlier service than the legacy carriers, occasional runway excursions aside.

Orlando’s airport is interesting in the sense that it’s got this big inner courtyard where, wait for it, there’s a hotel. In the airport. Not a 5 minute drive from the airport, not connected to the airport. In the airport.

You can step out from your room and look down into the airport courtyard departures area. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a concept quite like this anywhere else in the world, and if you’re interested in what staying here is like you can read Ben’s report over here.

Jetblue (and all domestic US carriers for that matter) limit you to 1 carry on and 1 personal item. I already had a backpack and a roller bag, and was worried that my additional handcarry item wouldn’t pass muster, given how strict some airlines have a reputation for being. But even though they made a pre-boarding announcement that the flight was full and some bags would have to be gate-checked, they never said anything about my (very fetching) Hello Kitty tote bag. Maybe it’s so garish that it simply blinds everyone who looks at it, rendering it invisible.

Unfortunately, this route isn’t serviced by one of the Mint-equipped planes, because it’d be quite cool to take firsthand photos of that. That’s another thing that amazes me, in that a budget carrier offers the most luxurious transcontinental hard product available on any US carrier.

Image result for jetblue mint

Image result for jetblue mint

This was just your run-of-the-mill A320 aircraft with 3-3 seating throughout the cabin. Here’s a much better file photo than the one I got.

Image result for jetblue cabin

The best thing about this flight for me was the entertainment options. It’s all on the seatback monitor, which is controlled either by touch or with your armrest.

Jetblue has a partnership with DirectTV that provides you with all the American TV crap you could care to watch. It’s all live, so you could even be watching the Miami Masters while you fly.

If TV isn’t your thing, why not movies? The selection of movies rivaled that on my EVA flight over.

Or TV shows. I like that we live in a post-racial America where we can have shows like this.

They also have more than a hundred channels of satellite radio thanks to SiriusXM (read about getting free Sirius XM in your rental car here)

And there’s free Wifi on the plane. For everyone. All you need to do is register and get a Jetblue frequent flyer number. Speeds will obviously not be the best because everyone’s using it, but it’s fine for email and Whatsapp.

Did I mention the snack basket? Jetblue has a complimentary snack basket brought around mid-flight that features artery-clogging goodness

JetBlue, the airline made famous by its unlimited free blue chips and live seatback televisions – today is now offering Cheez-It® crackers and Ocean Spray® Craisins® as part of the airline’s free unlimited onboard snack options.

  • Cheez-It® crackers
  • Craisins® dried cranberries
  • PopCorners® popcorn chips
  • Skeeter Nut-Free chocolate chip cookies
  • TERRA® Sweets & Blues potato chips

You can help yourself to as much or as little as you want- I went for the classic Terra chips which was a really nice mix of sweet potato and purple potato goodness, and the no-nut chocolate chip cookies which are still sitting around my home uneaten.

All these distractions helped the 2.5 hour flight pass really fast and before I knew it we were queuing up to land in JFK.

Jetblue is an accrual partner with Krisflyer and you can credit your miles flown to them as per the matrix below. So if you’re in the US and thinking about a domestic flight, don’t always jump straight to UA, consider giving Jetblue a try.

Edit: One additional useful thing about Jetblue is that they have an interline baggage agreement with SQ. So if you’re flying Jetblue and connecting to an SQ flight out of the States, you can check your bag through from your first departure point through to Singapore. Note that if you’re flying SQ into the States and connecting to a Jetblue flight, you’ll need to reclaim your luggage and clear customs before rechecking it (literally just dumping it on another belt). Thanks Marcel for the reminder.

Getting Lost in the Skies with Park Hyatt Tokyo

Living the High Life in Tokyo

And having my acrophobia acting up

Stayed August 2016
Written March 2017

Gloomy skies hiding Mount Fuji

The Park Hyatt Tokyo has been a favourite of many Hyatt members and its ‘role’ in the movie ‘Lost in Translation‘ made it an international hit.

However, I have not watched the movie before so I do not really know what it is about.

The dates that I looked at to stay fell within the Bon Festival and is a long weekend holiday for the Japanese. As such, the prices were very substantial.

Thus, the chance to use my Hyatt Gold Passport points (before the new World of Hyatt currently) came and instead of paying more than 80k Yen after tax, I paid 15k points and $300USD per night.

Usually, the rooms go for below $600SGD, but in the case it was less than $1000SGD after tax.

With a points and cash rate, I was also able to use a free suite upgrade (which was one of the best perks of the Gold Passport programme) to a basic Park Suite.

 

Scary prices

And so, I made my way to where the hotel shuttle is scheduled to be at Shinjuku station and the small shuttle was there right on time and easy to spot.

The driver had my name on the list of guests checking in, and I was whisked to the hotel smoothly.

I gathered that the list helped the driver inform the hotel that I was checking in as I was greeted by name upon alighting from the shuttle and escorted to the front desk.

From there, I was escorted to my Park suite and the check-in done in the room with a swift tour around it.

Checking in done in the room

This suite is facing Mount Fuji but the skies did not allow me to see the famous mountain.

Considering how small rooms usually are in Tokyo, this was a really big space.

 

The bed was the largest I have seen, and without measuring it, I think it is a super king bed. I reckon this is probably the nicest photo of a bedroom I have taken so far.

A small welcome gift was placed in the living room for me as well.

Walking out of the room, I looked around and took in the simple yet effective décor. The corridors were however a little to dim for my liking.

 

 

As a Hyatt Diamond (I’m so gonna miss that!), I had access to the evening cocktails at the lounge.

Library décor

 

Canapés

 

Unlimited drinks!

 

Bar and Restaurant

 

View of Tokyo from the lounge

The swimming pool is located on the top floor but apparently no photography is allowed so I shall leave you with a picture of the bottles of water and the provided swim cap which one is suppose to wear.

Guess the Japanese are really particular about hygiene and floating hair in the pool.

Breakfast was taken at the restaurant Girandole which looked really comfortable with its warm colours.

Girandole Restaurant

As a Hyatt Diamond, breakfast was complimentary and that saved me some dough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The range was definitely not like the lavish buffets of Bangkok, but the quality was good..

I really enjoyed my breakfast and the musk melon was a delight for sure.

My breakfast!

With that, I had my late checkout without hassle on the day of departure.

A great experience without doubt and a good use of my Hyatt points which is now undergoing revaluation in the new World of Hyatt programme.

My only problem was my paranoia acting up with visions of earthquakes, tsunamis while being up so high, which implies certain death. Oh well, enough of that and just enjoy the views!

Happy and Healthy Travels to all!

 

Miami, no vice: Decoding the lounge situation in Taipei

Miami, no vice: Planning
EVA Air Business Class SIN-TPE
Decoding the lounge situation in Taipei
EVA Air Business Class TPE-IAH
Red Roof Inn IAH Airport
United Economy IAH-MIA
Renting with Sixt Miami
Element Miami International Airport
Miami, the Keys and everything inbetween
Orlando: Disneyworld and other distractions
Jetblue Economy MCO-JFK
EVA Air Business Class JFK-TPE
EVA Air Business Class TPE-SIN


As I stepped off the aircraft I felt a sudden return to normality, as if the ghosts of Hello Kitty had been exorcised. I could now return to regularly scheduled programming.

The lounge situation in Taipei for Star Alliance Gold passengers is a bit confusing due to the sheer number of options there are. The Star Alliance lounge finder page would have you believe it’s very simple-

But when you get to the lounge area, you’ll see signs for the SQ lounge plus four lounge offerings for EVA

  • The Infinity
  • The Club
  • The Star
  • The Garden

Side note: I want to point out that the lighting in the Taipei airport is awful for photo taking. The interior of the terminal has little to no natural light, relying instead on the strong beams of overhead and spot lighting to illuminate things. Here’s an example of what I mean

You can see all those lens flares coming out from every light source. Any pro photographers can advise me on how I can reduce this effect (switching away from a Blackberry camera is not an acceptable answer)?

The EVA website isn’t very helpful in explaining the difference among the lounges or their access requirements

So, which of the 4 EVA lounges should you visit?

The Infinity & Star (Star Alliance Gold/Business Class Passengers + EVA Business Class)

I’ll start with these two lounges because they’re colocated. This is where Star Alliance Gold and EVA Air Business Class passengers will be directed to by default.

When you enter the lounge you’ll have the option of turning left and going to the Star, or right and going to the Infinity. The names of the lounges are indicative- the Star is meant for Star Alliance Gold card members who are travelling in economy. The Infinity is meant for EVA Air Elites (remember their FFP name is the quite awesome “Infinity Mileagelands”) and EVA Air/Star Alliance Business Class passengers.

The lobby also has a robot butler. I’m marking them down a few grades because the robobutler did not iron my shirts and give me advice about my career as a vigilante, as I understand all butlers should do.

If you’re like me (A Star Gold member flying EVA Air business) you’ll be able to access both lounges. I visited the Infinity first.

The food area has several different stations.

You can get yourself a slice of very weird pizza

There was as selection of hot dishes and salads.

There was a whole urn of sweet potatoes. I’m guessing this is a Taiwanese thing.

You can even make your own hot dog.

The highlight of the lounge for me was the serve your own Movenpick ice cream.

Apart from ice cream, there was a limited selection of cakes and such.

The soft drinks

And the hard drinks.

There is no champagne or sparkling wine available in the lounge. Instead there was a chilled white wine on offer. Could I make my own sparkling wine if I mix white wine and soda water? The enquiring mind wants to know.

I assembled my favourite vacation meal- mixed rice with soup noodles and a carton of milk. Yum.

And I plonked myself in front of the Tron Tree.

There was also a business centre in a corner with 3 computers and a printer.

The Star lounge is equally big, if not larger (which makes sense, given the sheer number of Star Gold members who might be flying in economy)

What I like is that unlike SQ and their Krisflyer Gold lounge, EVA has not created some subpar lounge for Star Gold passengers. The catering here is very much the same as that in the Infinity.

I’m going to point out only the items that were available here but not in the Infinity.

The main difference in the hot catering was the addition of one dish not found in the Infinity- fried rice and meatballs. Always a winner.

The biggest difference for me? The ice cream- the Star had Haagen-Dazs. I can’t decide if Haagen-Dazs is better than Movenpick. Don’t make me choose.

Oh but there was no vanilla ice cream here. So I guess Movenpick wins.

The business centre here had the same computers and printing facilities as the Infinity.

I asked for a shower suite and after a short wait got one. This was probably the coolest experience of all- there are 4 shower suites in the Infinity, each with a unique name.

I was assigned “Fantasy Flow”, and was very mature by not making any jokes about menstruation and/or diarrhea.

What was unique is that you are given a keycard to tap and open the shower room.

And once inside, you need to insert the key card to power on the whole shebang.

FYI the loo has a bidet. Fantasy Flow, amirite.

There are L’occitane branded toiletries in pump bottles in the shower.

Other amenities like toothbrush, razor etc were all readily available.

Overall I think the Star and Infinity are nice enough lounges to kill an hour or so, but not something you’d arrive early at the airport for. Both lounges felt really crowded to me, and unfortunately EVA has not really created quiet areas in the lounge for resting.

The Garden (EVA Infinity Mileagelands Diamond)

The Garden is a special lounge set aside for top tier members of EVA’s own loyalty program. It is not open to Star Alliance partner carriers so unfortunately I couldn’t explore it.

I can’t find too many reports on this lounge, but I understand that in addition to the regular buffet it also has an order by menu selection.

The Club (EVA Infinity Mileagelands Silver)

EVA, amazingly, even has a lounge specially built for its silver tier members. This is the second lowest rung, just above base. It would be like SIA building a lounge for Krisflyer Elite Silver members (qualification for EVA Silver requires 30,000 miles in a 12 month period)

This lounge is definitely much smaller than the others, but it ends up being a lot less crowded because of the relatively fewer numbers of EVA Silver members (as opposed to the massive number of Star Golds and Business Class passengers).

There is a small enclave of F&B options. From what I could see, the catering is very similar to that offered in the Infinity/Star lounges. The biggest difference was there was no ice cream, and a smaller selection of hot food items.

The selection of alcohol was still the same as in the other lounges.

The lounge has shower suites too and its own bathroom.

Regardless of what you think about the quality of the food and drink, it’s still quite something that EVA has gone and created a lounge just for its Silver tier members.

So that’s the lounge situation in Taipei for Star Alliance travelers. Now there was just the short matter of the 13 hour flight to Houston…