Week in Review: Free Delta Flights, American Premium Bonus and More

Here’s a 35,000 foot view of travel news from around the Internet and a recap of my weekly posts…

News Around the Interwebs

It’s been a somewhat slow week in the points and miles world, but here were some of the highlights of the week that I saw pass through:

Delta Free Flights for Displaced DC-NYC passengers

After various reports of $2300+ airfare from DC to New York, MJ on Travel reports that Delta Airlines has come out to honor Amtrak customers displaced by the effects of the May 12th Derailment of Amtrak Train 188. Continue Reading →

Review: Cathay Pacific Premium Economy Singapore to Hong Kong

After a fun and delicious two nights in Singapore, it was time to turn around and head back home to the States.   We took an early cab to Changi airport and arrived in plenty of time.  Check-in was a breeze and we since security isn’t until the gate, we had a little bit of time to kill.  So we headed to the Sky View Lounge in Terminal 1 since it was the only lounge accessible to oneworld Emerald members at that hour in the morning (the Qantas and British Airways don’t open until later in the afternoon).

The lounge was quite comfortable with some decent hot and cold breakfast options.  I grabbed some noodles to go along with a Diet Coke and took a seat with my friends by the floor-to-ceiling glass windows just as the sun was coming up.  We checked e-mail and  surfed the Internet for a bit before it was time to head to the gate.

There was a very long line for security and boarding, but we were able to board with business class passengers despite being ticketed for an economy seat (59A).  After security, I went to have my boarding pass scanned by the gate agent, and it beeped a few times.  The friendly gate agent informs me, “Mr. Ryan, thank you for being a valued oneworld Emerald customer.  We have upgraded you to Premium Economy Class for this morning’s flight.”

Score!

Now, I’d heard of oneworld Emeralds being upgraded before by Cathay and other airlines like LAN, but I’d never experienced it before, so this was quite unexpected.  Sometimes, unexpected upgrades like this one are some of the best and most satisfying upgrades that there are.

She re-printed my new boarding passes, and I was on my was to board this A340-300 for Hong Kong!

Continue Reading →

A Layover in Hong Kong and a Quick Flight to Singapore

After spending over 18 hours on American Airlines’ longest flight from Dallas / Ft. Worth to Hong Kong, I was quite ready to stretch my legs and move around.  We got to Hong Kong immigration after about five minutes and had about a ten minute wait to clear immigration.

Outside of immigration, we went by the Hong Kong Airport Express and MTR kiosk where I purchased a round trip transfer from Hong Kong Airport to Kowloon Station for HKD 160 (about USD $30).  The Airport Express is a direct rail link between the airport, Kowloon and Central Hong Kong that runs every ten minutes.  It is very quick and very efficient, as is much of the public transportation in Hong Kong.

We intentionally worked in a long, 22-hour layover in Hong Kong into our itinerary because, frankly, we all wanted to spend a night in Hong Kong!

Continue Reading →

A Weekend in Southeast Asia: Introduction

Last December, there was an interesting airfare to Singapore from Toronto with American Airlines.  The base fare was low enough to grab my attention, as it included the newish, long segments from Dallas / Ft. Worth (DFW) to Hong Kong on the new B777-300ER.  I had several newly acquired American eVIP, system wide upgrades burning a hole in my pocket, so I decided to see what I could do.

With an open weekend, I decided to try to put together the most convoluted routing possible to get me to Singapore.  The impressive part was that I was able to convince a couple of my travel junkie friends that this was a good idea, and they decided that a night in Hong Kong and a couple of nights in Singapore were completely reasonable for a weekend trip. Continue Reading →

How to Book an Around the World Trip with US Airways Miles

US Airways Dividend Miles are some of the easiest miles out there to accrue, and at least for now, the airline has a very rewarding award chart with several awesome hot spots that one can exploit to derive maximum value from their miles.

Perhaps no award on the US Airways chart has more value than the business or first class award from North America to North Asia for 110,000 miles in business class or 120,000 miles in first class.   US Airways defines “North Asia” as China, Hong Kong, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macau, Mongolia, South Korea, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.   US Airways’ liberal routing rules allow one to really exploit this award and turn it into a de-facto around the world ticket.

In this post, I will demonstrate:

  • The mechanics and details of a US Airways award ticket
  • How to book a US Airways Award ticket on oneworld partner airlines using American’s website
  • How to book a US Airways Award ticket on oneworld partner airlines using British Airways’ website
  • How to book a US Airways Award ticket on oneworld partner airlines using Qantas’s website
  • The proper way to call a US Airways and book this award

Continue Reading →

DC to Dubai and Tokyo via… Santiago? Review: Cathay Pacific Business Class – Dubai to Hong Kong to Tokyo-Haneda

Introduction
Planning
TAM Economy Class New York JFK – Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Santiago
LAN Economy Class Santiago – Sao Paulo
TAM Economy Class Sao Paulo – New York JFK
United BusinessFirst Denver to Tokyo Seattle (Emergency Landing)
United BusinessFirst on the 787 Seattle to Tokyo
Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class Tokyo Narita – Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific “The Wing” Business Class Lounge Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong – Dubai
Dubai, Day 1  (Traiteur Brunch, Park Hyatt Dubai, Burj Khalifa, Atlantis Palm Islands)
Dubai, Day 2 (Shark Dive at Dubai Aquarium, Burj Al Arab, 360)
Cathay Pacific Business Class Dubai – Hong Kong – Tokyo Haneda


I arrived at Dubai International Airport about two hours before my departure.  After clearing security and immigration, I made the long walk to the T2 gates at DXB and proceeded to British Airways Galleries Lounge.  This place had decent tarmac views and small spread with a couple fried appetizers and some cold plates.  I used my time in here to catch up on e-mail and charge the laptop, but the lounge was nothing special.  After a brief stop at the duty free shop to buy some postcards, I made my way to the gate where by flight to Hong Kong awaited.

Cathay Pacific (CX) 746
Dubai (DXB) – Hong Kong (HKG)
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Seat: 17A (Business Class)
Sunday, June 23
5:10PM – 5:00AM
Duration: 7:50

I once again found myself on a Cathay Pacific A330-300, just as I had on my inbound flight to Dubai.    I settled into my seat, a solo seat on the port side of the airplane.

Back to the great Cathay Business Class Seat

Back to the great Cathay Business Class Seat

Me in the seat

Me in the seat

Stretching out prior to departure with a glass of champagne

Stretching out prior to departure with a glass of champagne

The flight attendant came by immediately and offered a pre-departure glass of champagne, which I happily accepted.  Boarding concluded pretty quickly, and we were pushing back from the gate in what seemed like no time.  As we made our ascent, I was treated to some pretty awesome views of Dubai below.  Though it was hazy, this was just about as clear as it had been the entire time I was in Dubai.

Dubai below

Dubai Creek area below

Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa

En route to Hong Kong!

En route to Hong Kong!

Since I wanted to hit the ground running when I eventually got to Tokyo, my primary goal for this flight was to get some good sleep.  Luckily, dinner service started pretty soon after we reached cruising altitude.  I had a vodka tonic along with the mixed nuts mix to start out.

Relaxing with a V&T and some wasabi nuts

Relaxing with a V&T and some wasabi nuts

The salad and appetizer was brought out together.  I’d never had a “chicken terrine”, but it wasn’t half bad.

Green peppercorn chicken terrine with fig chutney

Green peppercorn chicken terrine with fig chutney

For my entree, I went with the Kung Po chicken, which was decent, but nothing too special.

Kung po chicken with steamed jasmine rice and pok choy

Kung po chicken with steamed jasmine rice and pok choy

A light blueberry cake, which went well with the Hong Kong style milk tea for desert.  The milk tea is a must when traveling on Cathay.

Blueberry layered cake with vanilla sauce

Blueberry layered cake with vanilla sauce

After dinner, I immediately fell asleep, as I was exhausted from a few long nights in Dubai.  I slept a good five hours and was woken up as the flight attendants were starting breakfast service, about 45 minutes outside of Hong Kong.  I had the poached eggs, and found the dish to be excellent. Usually breakfast onboard is pretty bad, but I found the breakfasts on Cathay Pacific to be much better than the dinners.

Poached eggs with Hollandaise sauce, chicken sausage, roesti potatoes and grilled tomato

Poached eggs with Hollandaise sauce, chicken sausage, roesti potatoes and grilled tomato

We landed in Hong Kong from the east in the middle of a nasty thunderstorm with torrid rain.  We were right on time, so I had about 3.5 hours to kill.  I proceeded through transit security and went right back to The Wing.  I covered this extensively in a previous post, so I won’t go into too much detail other than mentioning that I couldn’t turn down some dim sum and BBQ pork bao at the noodle bar!

Dim sum, noodles, and BBQ Pork Bao at "The Wing" Noodle Bar

Dim sum, noodles, and BBQ Pork Bao at “The Wing” Noodle Bar

As luck would have it, my flight was at gate 50 — which is pretty much the furthest gate possible from The Wing.  I allowed myself plenty of time to get to the gate, and after about a 15 minute walk, I arrived at the gate in plenty of time, as boarding was delayed while we awaited the flight crew.

Ready to go to Tokyo!

Ready to go to Tokyo!

My B777-300ER to Tokyo-Haneda

My B777-300ER to Tokyo-Haneda

Cathay Pacific (CX) 548
Hong Kong (HKG) – Tokyo Haneda (HND)
Aircraft:  Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 19A (Business Class)
Monday, June 24
8:45AM – 1:55PM
Duration: 4:10

Cathay Pacific’s B777-300ER is an internationally configured, three-class airplane.  This actually made a ton of difference.  Everything about this flight was a step above my other Cathay flights on this trip, since those were either regional or only two-class airplanes.  I didn’t think this would make such a difference, but it certainly did.  The hard product (the seat) is pretty much identical.  The cabin in situated in a 1-2-1 configuration, which is as good as it gets for business class.

Once again, the wonderful Cathay business class seat

Once again, the wonderful Cathay business class seat

Stretching out!

Stretching out!

Since this was another morning flight, I would be having another breakfast.  I was pretty stuffed from my previous two meals, but since this flight left from Hong Kong, dim sum was on the menu, and I couldn’t resist.  The most noticeable difference on this flight was the fact that every course was brought out individually instead of a tray being brought out with everything.  I guess this is what you get on a 3-class, internationally configured plane.

Fresh fruit and croissant

Fresh fruit and croissant

Yogurt

Yogurt

Dim sum

Dim sum

The service on this particular flight was spectacular.  I was sorry that it was only a four hour flight, as I would have loved to have this crew on a longer flight.  They were most certainly some of the best that Cathay has.  One particular flight attendant, Cherry, was especially attentive and friendly the entire flight…. she didn’t miss a beat.  I passed time by watching some Anthony Bourdain episodes about Tokyo, and before I knew it, we were starting our descent into the Tokyo area.

IMG_3682

Heading down into Tokyo

We landed into Tokyo’s Haneda International airport about an hour late due to our departure delay.  I transited through immigration and customs quickly and began my journey to the Park Hyatt Tokyo.  This flight was by far the best of my four flights on Cathay during this trip.  This was the Cathay Pacific that I had expected.

DC to Dubai and Tokyo via… Santiago? Review: Cathay Pacific Business Class – Hong Kong to Dubai

Introduction
Planning
TAM Economy Class New York JFK – Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Santiago
LAN Economy Class Santiago – Sao Paulo
TAM Economy Class Sao Paulo – New York JFK
United BusinessFirst Denver to Tokyo Seattle (Emergency Landing)
United BusinessFirst on the 787 Seattle to Tokyo
Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class Tokyo Narita – Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific “The Wing” Business Class Lounge Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong – Dubai
Dubai, Day 1  (Traiteur Brunch, Park Hyatt Dubai, Burj Khalifa, Atlantis Palm Islands)
Dubai, Day 2 (Shark Dive at Dubai Aquarium, Burj Al Arab, 360)
Cathay Pacific Business Class Dubai – Hong Kong – Tokyo Haneda


I headed to my gate about 30 minutes early, and boarding was commencing as I arrived.

My ride to Dubai

My ride to Dubai

My flight was scheduled to go to Dubai and then continue to Jeddah, so there were a very large number of Hajj pilgrims on the flight.  Economy was completely packed, but there was a pretty light load up front.

Cathay Pacific (CX) 745
Hong Kong (HKG) – Dubai (DXB)
Aircraft:  Airbus A330-300
Seat: 20A (Business Class)
Friday, June 21
1:40AM – 6:00AM
Duration: 8:20

This was a newly renovated A330 with the new Cathay Pacific business class seat.  These seats are in a 1-2-1 configuration, and are truly awesome.  These are without a doubt the most private and comfortable business class seats  that I’ve flown.

Cathay's new business class seat

Cathay’s new business class seat

Forward Business Class cabin

Forward Business Class cabin

Tons of room

Tons of room

I settled in with a pre-departure champagne, and then occupied myself with checking out the details of the seat.

Obligatory champagne

Obligatory champagne

Seat Controls

Seat Controls

So much legroom.  You WANT this seat

So much legroom. You WANT this seat

Before I knew it, it was time to push back, and I assumed that it was only myself and the guy next to me in the aft mini-cabin of business, but once I stood up, I saw that every seat was full. The seat was so private that I didn’t even notice the people around me.

As we ascended after a takeoff to the east, we turned to the south, providing me an awesome view of Central Hong Kong and Kowloon below.

Kowloon and Central Hong Kong below

Kowloon and Central Hong Kong below

Hong Kong is probably my favorite city in the world, and I do wish I got to leave the airport for a day or two.

Dinner service started soon after takeoff, as it was already approaching 2am. Because of this late time, it would be an expedited meal service.  The meal was brought out on one large tray, and the courses were not delivered course by course  The appetizer was a small salad served with garlic toast.  For the entrée, I selected the halibut. It was nothing special, and I left the choy sum since I’m not a huge fan.  Dessert was not memorable, and again this dinner service left me wanting more.

Mixed salad with pine nuts and green olives with French vinaigrette

Mixed salad with pine nuts and green olives with French vinaigrette

Sauteed halibut with shallot black bean sauce, steamed jasmine rice and choy sum

Sauteed halibut with shallot black bean sauce, steamed jasmine rice and choy sum

I know it was a late night flight, but I was expecting more from an international business class meal on Cathay Pacific.

After dinner, I settled in for a good five hours of sleep.  Again, this seat is awesome for sleeping.  At 6’4”, I was stretched fully out and my feed did not touch the end of the foot well.  That is a very, very good thing.  A thick blanket and fluffy pillow were provided.

Waking up outside of Dubai

Waking up outside of Dubai

I awoke about an hour outside of Dubai as the cabin crew was preparing for breakfast service.  It consisted of fresh fruit, yoghurt, a selction of bread, and a choice of a quiche or dim sum.  Since this was Cathay, a Hong Kong-based airline, I naturally selected the dim sum.

Fantastic Breakfast

Fantastic Breakfast

It was extremely good.  This was a very good breakfast on all accounts.  As I finished my dim sum, we began our descent into Dubai and arrived just after 5am into Terminal 2.

Dawn above the Arabian Desert

Dawn above the Arabian Desert

Descending into Dubai

Descending into Dubai

The business class seat stole the show with this flight, as it truly is a superior hard product for international business class.  Though the service was good for the most part, and the flight attendants were very nice, they all seemed overly robotic to me.  The dinner was average at best, but the breakfast was great.   The late night flight and rushed dinner service detracted from the flight a bit, but overall, it was a good experience, and the seat more than made up for any shortcomings.

DC to Dubai and Tokyo via… Santiago? Cathay Pacific “The Wing” Business Class Lounge – Hong Kong

Introduction
Planning
TAM Economy Class New York JFK – Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Santiago
LAN Economy Class Santiago – Sao Paulo
TAM Economy Class Sao Paulo – New York JFK
United BusinessFirst Denver to Tokyo Seattle (Emergency Landing)
United BusinessFirst on the 787 Seattle to Tokyo
Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class Tokyo Narita – Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific “The Wing” Business Class Lounge Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong – Dubai
Dubai, Day 1  (Traiteur Brunch, Park Hyatt Dubai, Burj Khalifa, Atlantis Palm Islands)
Dubai, Day 2 (Shark Dive at Dubai Aquarium, Burj Al Arab, 360)
Cathay Pacific Business Class Dubai – Hong Kong – Tokyo Haneda


Upon arrival in Hong Kong, I cleared transfer security and decided to trek back towards gates 1-4 to try out the newly renovated Cathay Pacific Lounge, The Wing.   There are so many options of things to do in Hong Kong’s airport, but I’d heard good things about this place, so I wanted to check it out.

Entrance to The Wing

Entrance to The Wing

The lounge is visibly brand new, and is very appealing to the eye.  It spans two levels, and the top level is by far the better of the two.  As I arrived, I asked about taking a shower, and I was whisked away to a shower attendant who arranged a nicely appointed shower room for me.  This was especially refreshing considering I’d been in transit from Seattle for well over 24 hours at that point.

Bathroom / Shower

Bathroom / Shower

I grabbed a drink from the downstairs portion of the lounge and checked by email.

Funky seating / workstations

Funky seating / workstations

Afterwards, I decided to head upstairs.  If you find yourself in The Wing, forget the downstairs altogether – the upstairs is where to be.  Up here, there is plenty of seating space, the Long Bar (one of the longest airport bars in the world) with sweeping terminal and tarmac views, a Noodle Bar that serves up a variety of delicious noodle dishes and dim sum, and a coffee bar.  I had some dim sum, noodles, and a BBQ Pork Bao from the noodle bar, and it was delicious.

The Wing

The Wing

Noodle Bar!

Noodle Bar!

BBQ Pork Bao from The Noodle Bar

BBQ Pork Bao from The Noodle Bar

The Long Bar

The Long Bar

Afterwards, I shut down the Long Bar with a couple beers, as I had one of the latest departures of the night at 1:40am.

Shutting down another bar...

Shutting down another bar…

The Wing is one of the best business class lounges I’ve seen, anywhere.  I’d probably rank it a little behind the Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge in Istanbul, but it’s not far behind.  Hong Kong is probably my favorite airport in the world, and The Wing is just another awesome addition to it.

 

 

DC to Dubai and Tokyo via… Santiago? Review: Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class – Tokyo-Narita to Hong Kong

Introduction
Planning
TAM Economy Class New York JFK – Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Santiago
LAN Economy Class Santiago – Sao Paulo
TAM Economy Class Sao Paulo – New York JFK
United BusinessFirst Denver to Tokyo Seattle (Emergency Landing)
United BusinessFirst on the 787 Seattle to Tokyo
Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class Tokyo Narita – Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific “The Wing” Business Class Lounge Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong – Dubai
Dubai, Day 1  (Traiteur Brunch, Park Hyatt Dubai, Burj Khalifa, Atlantis Palm Islands)
Dubai, Day 2 (Shark Dive at Dubai Aquarium, Burj Al Arab, 360)
Cathay Pacific Business Class Dubai – Hong Kong – Tokyo Haneda


I arrived in the late morning, I had several hours to kill at Narita due to my re-scheduled inbound flight.  As mentioned earlier, I hopped the inter-terminal bus to Terminal 2 and decided to spend the day in the Cathay Pacific Lounge.  There was nothing special about this lounge, but it did have functioning internet, a decent food and drink selection, and sadly no showers.

Cathay Pacific Lounge at Narita

Cathay Pacific Lounge at Narita

Self-Serve Bar at Cathay Lounge NRT

Self-Serve Bar at Cathay Lounge NRT

Self-Service at NRT Cathay Lounge

Self-Service at NRT Cathay Lounge

I proceeded to my gate to see a massive boarding scrum, but because I was flying in business, I got to hop ahead in line of all that nonsense.

Ready to go back to Hong Kong

Ready to go back to Hong Kong

Cathay Pacific (CX) 505
Tokyo-Narita (NRT) – Hong Kong (HKG)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300
Seat: 17A (Regional Business Class)
Thursday, June 20
6:20PM – 10:10PM
Duration: 3:45

 

Boarding my ride, a B777-300

Boarding my ride, a B777-300

A few weeks prior to this flight, Cathay Pacific subbed in a B777-300 with the regional business product instead of the lie-flat business seat that they’re known for.  This, of course was a disappointment.  Instead of a 1-2-1 configuration with a fully flat bed, I found myself in a 2-3-2 configuration with decent recline, but nowhere near lie-flat.

Cathay Pacific's New Regional Business Class Seat

Cathay Pacific’s New Regional Business Class Seat

Good IFE and decent leg room

Good IFE and decent leg room

Seat Controls

Seat Controls

For a regional business product, it was pretty good, and it was obviously tolerable considering the flight was only about 3.5 hours.

The flight attendant offered some pre-flight champagne, which I happily accepted.

Pre-departure glass of champagne

Pre-departure glass of champagne

About 30 minutes into the flight, the meal service commenced.  With this being regional business, the appetizers and salad came out together.  The salad was paltry, and barely had any lettuce.  The soba noodles with shrimp was not my favorite, and the ham appetizer tasted pretty funky.

Small salad, soba noodles with shrimp, and a parma ham and melon appetizer

Small salad, soba noodles with shrimp, and a parma ham and melon appetizer

Grilled beef tenderloin with mushroom wine sauce, pumpkin potato mash and sauteed squash with bacon

Grilled beef tenderloin with mushroom wine sauce, pumpkin potato mash and sauteed squash with bacon

For the entrée, I selected the grilled beef tenderloin.  It was tasty enough, but grossly overcooked.  The pumpkin potatoes were great, but it was not a very visually appealing meal in the least.  The steaks I’d enjoyed on United on the flights to Japan were far superior.  Dessert consisted of a small serving of Haagen Daaz ice cream, which is pretty hard to mess up. It was a relatively disappointing meal, but then again, it was only regional business class.

After dinner, I nodded off for a couple hours, and woke up  upon our decent into Hong Kong.  It was quite choppy on our decent, but we landed and arrived at our gate, leaving me with about 3 hours until my connecting flight to Dubai.

Overall, this flight was perfectly fine, but I was expecting more since this was my first flight on Cathay Pacific.  The service was fine, but certainly nothing special or memorable.  My first impression was that the flight attendants, while efficient and kind, appeared quite robotic.  But this was, again only regional business class.  Surely Cathay’s international business would be better.

 

 

Six Observations from My 15-day Adventure

First of all, I’m back!   After fifteen days and 38,650 miles of travel, I’ve made it back home.

My Trip

My Trip

With that said, I want to apologize for the delay in my trip reports.  Since I arrived in Tokyo, I’ve been going non-stop.  I slept most of time during my flights back to DC yesterday, so I didn’t get too much time to work on anything.  The trip reports will be published, post by post in the coming days.

To whet your appetites until then, I’ll share six observations from my trip:

1.  I thought I’d had good sushi before — that is until yesterday

Now, I wouldn’t consider myself a sushi snob by any means, but I was pretty sure that I’d had some decent sushi before.  Granted, the sushi I have had up until yesterday was probably pretty good, but after my trip to Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish market and subsequent breakfast at Daiwa-Zushi Thursday morning, my opinion of “what is good sushi” has drastically shifted.  After a set menu of everything sushi-related you could imagine, my mind was effectively blown.

My Thursday morning breakfast

My Thursday morning breakfast

I've never had a better piece of Tuna

I’ve never had a better piece of Tuna

More to come in my upcoming trip reports…

2.  The Park Hyatt Tokyo is simply stunning

Simply put, this is nicest hotel that I’ve ever been to — by far.  And I’ve been to many great hotels, including Park Hyatt properties in Dubai and Zurich, numerous Ritz Carltons, Conrads, and Intercontinentals.  But this place was just over the top.

My room at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

My room at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

From the incredible level of service (they did the check-in procedure in my room after being escorted by two people up there) to the beautiful hotel facilities to the amazing breakfasts at Girandole and drinks and steak at the iconic New York Bar & Grill.  The setting for the 2003 Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray film, Lost in Translation definitely lived  up to the hype.

The New York Bar, from "Lost in Translation" fame

The New York Bar, from “Lost in Translation” fame

3.  Now I now know what it’s like being a goldfish — and it’s weird

SCUBA diving.  In an aquarium.  In the middle of  a mall.  With sharks!

Yup, only in Dubai.

The Dubai Mall Aquarium offers an interesting experience where one can dive with sharks in their massive aquarium smack, dab in the middle of the Dubai Mall.

Only in Dubai... an aquarium inside a mall

Only in Dubai… an aquarium inside a mall

I’ve dived with sharks before, so the novelty of this dive was the fact that was the attraction in the aquarium.  It was quite strange having a crowd of people watching you dive and waving.

Chilin' with the fishies

Chilin’ with the fishies

4.  Two days is not enough in most cities,  but three days is fine

My short stay in Santiago was about a day short of ideal.

My short stay in Dubai was caused by a Dreamliner malfunctions on United Airlines.

Each of these stays left me wanting another day in each city.  I didn’t get to see all of Santiago, and I missed out on some events in Dubai such as tea at Burj Al Arab and dune bashing.

Jetting out of Dubai a day too soon

Jetting out of Dubai a day too soon

But I did have a full three days in Tokyo, and it was fine.  Tokyo is so huge, you couldn’t possibly see it all in a week or two.  It’s one of those cities that you must keep going back to and exploring.

The never-ending cityscape of Tokyo

The never-ending cityscape of Tokyo

But three days continues to be  my standard for adequate time to see a city.

5.  When in Tokyo, you must go to a Japanese baseball game, if possible

The game is the same, but it’s quite an experience.  Their fans are insane and out-of-control whacky.

Whacky fans...

Whacky fans…

And their beer distribution techniques are quite… interesting.

Yes, that's a mini keg... on her back.  And that's Kirin she's pouring.

Yes, that’s a mini keg… on her back. And that’s Kirin she’s pouring.

6.  When the crew is on its game, United BusinessFirst just may be better than Cathay Pacific Business Class

When a United crew is as its best, as it was on my DEN-SEA and SEA-NRT 787 flights, United BusinessFirst is hard to beat.  The hard product is phenomenal, but the food and service really shined.  My four flights on Cathay Pacific in business class were all fine.  In fact, their international business seat cannot be beat.

Cathay Pacific's New Business Class seat

Cathay Pacific’s New Business Class seat

BusinessFirst cabin on United's 787 Dreamliner

BusinessFirst cabin on United’s 787 Dreamliner

But the food and service were just not up to par with United’s.

Cathay Beef Tenderloin

Cathay Beef Tenderloin

United Beef Tenderloin

United Beef Tenderloin

United Seabass

United Seabass

Cathay Halibut

Cathay Halibut

There, I said it.

And I know this defies all industry perceptions and subsequent accolades.

And yes, this shocked me too, but that was my experience.

Again, I’ll be making several more posts about this trip, including detailed accounts of what to do in Dubai and Tokyo.  So stay tuned!