Tag Archives: trip report

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2017: Westin Vendrome Paris 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
The Casablanca Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Ethiopian Airlines B772 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines B737 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Tanzanite Lounge DAR
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A350 “First” Class DOH-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class DEL-HKG
W Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN


I had high hopes for the Westin Paris Vendome, what with its long and storied history. The property opened in 1878 as the Hôtel Continental and was for a long time the largest and most luxurious hotel in all of Paris. It was bought by the Westin in 2005 and is supposed to be one of Starwood’s flagship properties in Paris.

I’m just going to come out and say that this was probably one of the most disappointing stays of the entire RTW trip.

Location wise, the Westin Paris is hard to beat. It’s near major tourist attractions and a short walk from big retail outlets like Galleries Lafayette and Printemps. It’s very conveniently located to wherever you may want to go.

Image result for westin paris
photo: tripadvisor

From the outside, the property certainly looks the part. The facade of the building evokes grandeur

Security is tight, as you can imagine at most Paris hotels given the recent spate of events across Europe. But it was also tremendously inconsistent at the Westin Paris. During the day we were subject to a metal detector and bag scan, but in the evening all security disappeared. It was almost as if the bad guys were on European working hours too.

There was absolutely no order in the check in queues. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the check in area is L-shaped, with 2 associates on one arm of the L and 2 on the other. So you’d have to hazard a guess at which line was moving faster. How hard is it for hotels to implement a simple serpentine queue, ensuring whoever arrives first is served first?

I asked a staff member who was just standing around watching the queues whether there was a priority lane for Platinum guests. She just gave a very Gallic shrug her shoulders and wordlessly pointed in the general direction of the queue. Again, I don’t go in for DYKWIA moments, but as a brand standard there should be priority queues for elite members.

While waiting in line I noticed the inner courtyard behind me. This only opens in summer and is probably the nicest part of the whole hotel. Nothing like sipping a glass of wine in the warm sunlight with your 5 weeks mandatory vacation.

At check in, I was upgraded to a suite on the top floor of the hotel. Based on the room types shown on the website, I assume this was a Junior Suite.

The hallways themselves are narrow and dark. You even get old fashioned radiators on the wall every now and then. I’m not sure if this property has central heating. Would be interesting during the winter…

The suite has a separate bedroom and living room, separated by the door. In the living room there’s a small work desk and a chair with little to no back support.

One of two televisions, just on top of the minibar. At least these were modern. Minus points that they didn’t feature the FA cup final on any channel.

The minibar was, unfortunately not stocked with camembert and french wines. Instead, an assortment of pre-packaged chips and American candy bars were present. Imperialist swine.

My absolute favourite feature about the minibar was that they decided to put both the power adapter and condoms in the fridge too. I mean, we all know that power adapters work best when they’ve been freshly chilled, but I do wonder about the efficacy of chilled prophylactics. Those with experience, please chime in.

The living room also had a large walk-in closet, which seemed like a waste of space. Maybe Parisians like bringing their entire wardrobe on staycations.

The living room had a big couch that was easily long enough to sleep on, in case you have a French-esque quarrel.

Waiting on the table was a gift from management.

I briefly wondered if I could use this as basis for suing management for sexual harassment and getting lots of hush money. But apparently unwanted advances are a cross I must bear for having pretty privilege. Yes, that’s a real term. Now go weep.

In any case, I later found the same chocolates retailing for 14 euros.

The room had a balcony from which I could sip wine and gaze disdainfully down at the proletariat. Pffft. General Lamarque might be sympathetic to them but he’ll be gone soon. And then everything will be ok.

The bedroom had the usual Westin bed

And some pretty nifty blackout curtains that struggled to contain the bright summer light.

On the wall was the AC control unit. This had to be the most intuitive piece of hardware I’d ever seen. Let’s say you’re too hot. Do you turn the right knob to + for greater A/C power or – for lower temperature?

The bathroom was thankfully more intuitive. I believe this is where you relieve yourself.

Or maybe it’s here. Can’t tell sometimes. At least there was ample counter space.

Westin has revamped their line of toiletries, as I noted in one of my earlier Westin reviews. Gone is the green soap and in is this new line of white-toned toiletries. I read that they use green when they want you to believe something is healthy, and white when they want you to believe it’s luxurious. These toiletries were neither.

The slope of the roof meant it was impossible for me (I’m 1.8M, ladies take note) to stand up straight (fnar) in the shower

In any case, the water pressure was a mere trickle. I suppose it was difficult to pump water up five floors in the 1800s, which was when this hotel was last renovated.

The taps and shower stopped working on the second last day and no water would come out from the hot water side, as shown in the video below

I called down and reported the issue. After 30 minutes no one arrived, so I went down to the front desk to ask about this again. I was told someone was on the way, and 10 minutes later someone showed up. He got the tap working for a while, but no sooner had he left that the problem happened again.

Indeed, dealing with requests was not this hotel’s forte. A simple request for a hairdryer took 40 minutes and 2 calls to get done. Housekeeping forgot to give me my MAGC voucher on the first night and the issue never got resolved after four calls and one visit to the front desk (each time I was told someone was on the way to drop the voucher off). I had to get the guest services manager to manually post the additional night’s 500 points at check out.

I wrote in to complain about the issues that occurred during my stay and got a form letter reply that disingenuously said they “wished I had raised these matters during the stay instead of after so they could have fixed it.” I sent a very curt email back saying I had raised the issues, they just didn’t deal with them. To which they sent another form letter saying sorry again.

Anyway, on to breakfast. This property makes Platinum guests choose between breakfast and 500 points, unfortunately.

I was trying to save some budget, so I just took a quick look at the buffet and decided to order off the ala carte menu.

The buffet looked average. The usual assortment of items (including, perhaps not surprisingly, quite a few Chinese-tourist friendly ones like oily noodles and rice), certainly nothing befitting Paris’ gastronomic credentials.

That’s fine, I thought, I’ll just get something cheap off the menu

I decided on some bacon and eggs, which came at the princely sum of 9 euros. It was entirely forgettable.

What was not forgettable, however, was the cost of the orange juice. 9 euros. For a glass of orange juice. Really. People have overthrown governments for much less.

The overpriced food, outdated rooms and indifferent service made the Westin Paris a huge disappointment. The best part for me was the location, nothing more. At Category 6 prices, you’d expect much more, and the Westin didn’t deliver in this respect.

I think the most annoying thing was how management tried to suggest that it was the fault of the guest for not raising these issues during the stay, when in fact they were raised, just not addressed.

Definitely a property to avoid.

Protip: when in Paris, maybe consider Le Dokhan’s? It’s got a famous champagne bar...

The Milelion’s RTW Trip: Sheraton Grand Park Lane London 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 London Park Lane
Westin Paris Vendome
Courtyard by Marriott Madrid Princesa
Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
The Consolidated Intra-Europe Business Class Experience
Sheraton Casablanca
The Casablanca Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Labadi Beach Hotel, Accra
Ethiopian Airlines B772 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines B737 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Tanzanite Lounge DAR
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Westin Doha
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A350 “First” Class DOH-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Cathay Dragon Lounge Bangalore
Cathay Dragon A330 Business Class BLR-HKG
W Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN


I last visited the Sheraton Park Lane in 2015 when it was still in the midst of its multi-million dollar renovation. The hotel originally opened in 1927 and until its renovation, looked like it had been opened in 1927. With its relaunch, the Sheraton Park Lane has been elevated to the somewhat more prestigious Sheraton Grand tier, which is meant to make people say, “yeah, it’s a Sheraton, but it’s not a Sheraton, if you know what I mean?”

The Park Lane is located near the Green Park tube station. It’s a close enough walk to some major tourist attractions, including the Royal Mews and the Queen’s Gallery.

You can see evidence of the changes done once you step into the lobby- gone are the depressing Sheraton floors and decor, and instead you have a more stylish design that is clearly trying to evoke comparisons with a boutique hotel.

To get to the check-in area from the main entrance you need to cut through the lobby bar. Again, you can see the Great-Gatsby esque theme they were trying to go for here. Kind of like a shout out to the hotel’s 1920s roots.

The hotel check in area has also received a makeover, with fresh carpet and decorative bookshelves.

As a platinum, I got upgraded to an Art Deco suite, which as far as I can tell is a slightly larger room with more hipster furnishing

There was a digital alarm clock with two USB charging ports on the bedside.

And I’m glad to see these phones are appearing in more and more hotels. It makes sense for both sides- advertisers can hawk their wares to guests, and guests get free internet plus recommendations for restaurants and the like.

The work desk was large

There’s a Nespresso machine in the room as well, together with some complimentary water.

The bathroom had two sinks and plenty of counter space.

The shower and tub were in a separate room within the bathroom itself.

If Sheraton really wants to give its brand a boost they need to look into better quality toiletries. I’m sure many entry-level luxury brands would jump at the chance to partner with a chain that has the reach of Sheraton.

Breakfast is served in the club lounge and is complimentary for platinum members. I waltzed past the unattended desk..

Breakfast definitely leans towards the continental side of things

But there are still 3 hot items every day that rotate on a daily basis.

Where food quality is concerned, the breakfast isn’t anything to shout about. On the first day it was scrambled eggs, mushrooms and bangers.

On the second they replaced scrambled eggs with fried ones and the mushrooms with waffles.

There’s plenty of seating in the lounge and I never saw it completely filled. I didn’t see the happy hour offerings either, for that matter, as I was frequently out of the hotel. Come on, it’s London.

And for settling business, there are two computer terminals plus a printer

The internet in the hotel clonked out completely for half a day during the time I was there. This is the same thing that happened last time round, and the staff at the front desk were powerless to do anything other than ask for patience as the provider tried to fix it.

And that’s the thing about Sheratons. On the whole, the hotel was fine, it really was. But somehow I just felt it couldn’t shake off the Sheraton tag, no matter how hard it tried. Maybe it was the cheap toiletries, or the remnants of the marble floors in the lobby. Maybe it was the all-too-familiar Sheraton design on the keycards, or the fact that things break down once every so often. Marriott has realised that the Sheraton brand has major consumer perception problems, as there’s a handful of really bad properties that have created a stank around the entire brand. The Park Lane Sheraton is clearly one of the better Sheratons out there, but you can still sense shadows of the overall Sheraton brand lurking in the background.

That said, the Park Lane Sheraton was still light years ahead of the Westin Paris, where I was headed to next…

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2017: American Airlines 777-200 Business Class JFK-LHR

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 London Park Lane
Westin Paris Vendome
Courtyard by Marriott Madrid Princesa
Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
The Consolidated Intra-Europe Business Class Experience
Sheraton Casablanca
The Casablanca Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Labadi Beach Hotel, Accra
Ethiopian Airlines B772 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines B737 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Tanzanite Lounge DAR
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Westin Doha
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A350 “First” Class DOH-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Cathay Dragon Lounge Bangalore
Cathay Dragon A330 Business Class BLR-HKG
W Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN


Given the bad press that a lot of American carriers get, it’s understandable if you don’t have high expectations going in. I mean, you half expect to get beaten up and dragged off, shouted at by some union-protected crew member or suffer permanent circulatory damage after being compressed by a seatmate of size. It’s grim, I know.

But US carriers are investing heavily in their hard products.

Image result for united polaris
United Polaris

We’ve seen United’s new Polaris seat, which unfortunately won’t be mainstream for a very, very long time, and we’ve seen Delta’s new BusinessFirst suites, which beat everyone else to the title of “first business class seat with a door”

Image result for delta suite
Delta BusinessFirst

Whether or not that leads to a commensurate improvement in the quality of the soft product is up for debate, but if nothing else you’ll at least be able to get a good night’s sleep after the cabin crew make the pagro announcement that “we’re here primarily for your safety”.

American Airlines hasn’t been slacking off either, installing new full flat seats across their long-haul fleet. It can be a bit confusing knowing what you’ll get when you fly long haul AA because they offer several different types of seats in business class. But this article will hopefully set you straight.

Today I was going with the Zodiac business class seats, found aboard select 777-200 aircraft and all 787-8s. As you can see from the Seatguru map above, they’re a bit odd in that you have one seat facing forward alternating with one seat facing backwards. I’m not clear on what benefits this design has- it’s presumably not to optimize privacy, since you will occasionally make eye contact with the person facing backwards especially during takeoff and landing when your seat isn’t reclined. Perhaps it’s then to maiximize the number of seats they can squeeze into the cabin? Again, that doesn’t sound right to me, given that each seat’s footprint is roughly the size of your standard reverse herringbone.

Whatever the case my first impressions of the seat were favorable. Occasional eye contact with the opposite-facing passenger aside, the ears around the seat gave it good privacy from the aisle. The seat is on the narrow side, but that’s not a problem for fun-sized Asians like us.

Here’s my seat, 3L

Note the potential for awkwardness with the person in the seat infront of you when you stand up.

Where seat controls are concerned, you can either adjust your seat from the side digital panel

Or from the side panel (see those two small buttons in the right hand corner with full upright and full flat icons on them)

On the side panel was also where you’d find the entertainment system controller and a reading light. I’m not the biggest fan of this type of control system because I normally find it prone to hanging, but it worked ok for me this time.

Each seat had a little storage nook with 2 USB ports and 2 power outlets.

American Airlines offers Cole Haan amenities kits in business class. These bags have a nicely woven texture to them at the base, which reminded me (slightly) of Bottega.

The contents- headphone covers, socks, CO Bigelow hand cream, a single-serve of (sadly non-alcohol free) mouthwash, facial tissues, a sleep mask, a dental kit and a $75 off a $250 or more purchase at Cole Haan. I can’t decide if that’s a good deal or not.

American also offers Bose QC-15 headphones in business class. That’s much better than what a lot of other airlines offer in first. I do hope airlines switch to QC-35s soon because wireless headphones would be a nice innovation for most carriers. No more wires to get tangled up in or knock over your drinks. And you could always hardwire them so they’d only work with IFE systems to dissuade theft. Or you could even collect them before landing. I normally get annoyed when that happens, but if it means wireless headphones…

Pre-departure drink orders were taken, and thankfully, served in proper glasses. I could be wrong, but I think American Airlines serves the same stuff on the ground (Nicolas Feuillatte) and in the air. If so, kudos for them for not going cheap (although that said, Nicolas Feuillatte isn’t what I’d call top tier)

Menus were distributed by the crew. I’ve come to notice that it’s Asian airlines that give out really thick, multi-page menus (where most of the length is contributed by the drinks list) in premium cabins. Western airlines, on the other hand, tend to give out slimmer, thinner menus. Gotta save fuel everywhere, I suppose.

I honestly wasn’t feeling any of the meal selections for dinner. It was only one week into my RTW trip and I was already missing Chinese food. It was going to be a long 5 more weeks…

A short breakfast would be served before landing, but I decided against it because of the American Airlines arrival lounge in LHR, which I was keen to explore.

Champagne on offer was Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve, nothing special. It’s a bit of a let down, considering AA offers Bollinger in the Flagship lounge.

(Side note: has anyone ever done a hierarchy of champagne? I tried searching online for one but can’t find anything. I know that within a champagne house you can have cheap and expensive offerings, but I’m curious if there’s a generalized ranking in the way you could potentially rank luxury watch houses. If there were, I think houses like Cattier, Nicolas Feuillatte, Duval Leroy,  Canard-Duchene would be near the base of the pyramid. I say this purely based on their airline associations- you don’t see any of the 4.5/5 Star airlines serving these brands…)

I think this is where a lot of padding happens in SQ’s menu. I remember SQ having a few pages for teas, coffees, spirits, juices etc. American crams them on one page.

Straight after takeoff, the crew came around to take dinner orders and check if we wanted to be awoken for breakfast. They didn’t address any of the passengers by name, but it wasn’t because they were surly or anything. It was more of a folksy service, with plenty of “y’all”s to be heard.

While awaiting the festivities, I pawed through the IFE. There was a good selection of recent movies. Airplane time is my catch up with movie time.

The IFE system also lets you order food and drinks

Keep in mind that I was on a red-eye JFK-LHR flight. On these business-heavy routes, sleep is everything. I was very interested to see how fast the crew would finish meal service, and I wasn’t disappointed…

Within 20 minute after the seatbelt sign had been turned off, the crew came around with table cloths. American’s table cloths are a bit undersized, if you see what I mean.

After 30 minutes, drinks were served along with warmed nuts

At the 40 minute mark, dinner was served. I opted for the prawns for dinner. The entire meal, starter, salad and main, came on one tray.

At first I thought “ah, lazy American service”. And then paused and thought about it a bit. On SQ’s supper flights, they’d serve drinks and nuts first, then the starter, then the main, then desert, then bring around the fruits and cheese. By the time you’re done with eating and waiting between courses, that’s easily 90+ min of rest gone. And on a red-eye, barely 7 hour flight, that’s not insignificant.

So the one tray concept makes sense. Serving everything on one tray just makes sense for late night flights. People get everything at once, the crew can focus on quickly clearing trays and getting desert out to those who want it.

Here’s the prawns- they’re breaded in something or other and came with a sweet sauce. I discarded the exterior and went for the goodness within.

The salad was a mixture of kalette (that’s a real thing now?) and saffron orzo. It had Kalamata olives, pomegranate seeds and crumbled feta. I did not partake.

The “small plate” was melon manchego carpaccio with lime.

I ate quickly, and the crew patrolled the aisles regularly to clear away anyone who finished quickly so that they could get to bed. I was done with my meal by the 50 minute mark but that’s because I didn’t really fancy it.

After my main plate was cleared, I was asked if I wanted desert. I said yes, and B&J’s strawberry cheesecake ice cream materialized.

Finished ice cream. Plate cleared. Barely 60 minutes on the clock since seatbelt sign switched off. I was impressed.

Last thing to do before lights out- check out the loo.

I quite like the sink that AA has installed on their aircraft. I wish SQ could have nice sinks too.

I think I’ve figured it out. Outie sinks- classy. Innie sinks- not classy. Look at SQ’s suites sink. Innie. Pffffttt.

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The loo had nice wood finishings, but it looked like someone forgot to put the amenities inside. 

I mean, there were facial tissues. But where’s the aftershave etc?

Keeping in line with what’s on the ground, CO Bigelow hand soap is the order of the day in the loo.

I turned my own bed down and got ready to rest.

And here’s my main problem with the seat- it rocks. Let me explain. AA’s new seats are paired, in the sense that seats are physically connected to each other. So 2A and 3A are paired, 1L and 2L are paired etc. It’s been documented elsewhere that the paired design of AA’s new business class seats mean that if your seat partner is the rocking sort, you’re going to feel it in your seat. And my seat partner in 4L was indeed a rocker. It boggles the mind that this problem wasn’t spotted in the testing phase. Won’t call it a deal breaker, but still…

Rocking aside, I slept very well and woke up just 30 minutes before landing. What I like about AA (as opposed to SQ) is that they’re serious about maximising rest. Those who wanted a light breakfast could get up really close to landing, unlike SQ which insists on turning on the cabin lights full blast at the 2 hour mark. Why, I don’t understand. Those who didn’t, weren’t disturbed until absolutely the last minute.

Before landing, immigration cards, an ad for the arrivals lounge and most importantly, a fast track immigration pass, were distributed (LHR immigration had crazy long lines when I landed).

Overall, AA’s new business class seat is a great product- not in the league of an SQ/ANA/EVA Air but definitely more than what I was expecting of a US airline. The seat rocking thing is really annoying, but it is what it is. And it could be a good way to meet chiobu.

I’m sorry you don’t get to see what breakfast offerings there were on the plane, but when you see what the arrivals lounge has to offer you might also decide against eating onboard…