Saturday, February 27, 2016

Review: Hong Kong Transportation and Hotel

Our first stop on an around-the-world itinerary brought us to beautiful, busy, sky scraper jammed Hong Kong.  Our trip undeniably started off perfectly with our Cathay Pacific First Class flight from Boston to Hong Kong (review here).

We arrived into Hong Kong around 6:30am.  My first priority was to find "The Arrival", Cathay Pacific's Arrival Lounge at Hong Kong International Airport. Available to both First and Business class passengers of Cathay Pacific and Emerald OneWorld partners, the lounge was busy, but not overly crowded at our early time of arrival.  The lounge was relatively easy to find on Level 5, past the arrivals hall in between terminals 1 and 2 of the airport, you have to go down 1 level right after passing through the arrivals hall.  Most importantly, the lounge had beautiful shower rooms that we only had a short wait for.  In my sleep deprived state I didn't take any pictures so you will have to trust me!  I also indulged in the buffet for a little breakfast, it was small, but the options were nice and you could also get made to order omelette's.

Next, we were off to the hotel.  We choose the W Hong Kong for our stay for two reasons, first I am an SPG Platinum and get great benefits, and second because it is the absolutely easiest hotel to get to from the airport.  The beautiful thing was that we boarded the train inside the airport, and were dropped off at the Kowloon Station, which is in a mall.  The W Hotel is essentially attached to the mall, so the transportation couldn't have been easier. Another significant benefit of the Kowloon MRT train station is that there are multiple airline check-in counters at the station, so you can check-in for your flight, drop your checked luggage, and you do not see it again until you land at your destination! Amazing!  I could seriously kiss the person who thought of these remote check-in counters because it was fantastic to not have to worry about any luggage.  The train stations each have an attendant in case you are having trouble with the automated ticket counter (and we did - like every tourist), and the vast majority of the attendants all speak English, which I was grateful for. 

The W Hong Kong was in a convenient location via the train station.  If we had been in town for anything longer than a day I would probably have wanted to stay somewhere closer to the markets or a more "local" authentic feeling location.  The hotel was very nice and comfortable though which is really all I needed.  We had a great room with a beautiful view of the harbor, and the hotel was pretty quiet even though it was full.  My two absolute favorite aspects of this property however where that they provided smartphones for you to take out into the city equipped with a data plan and their breakfast buffet.  Holy.Shit. I don't even usually like buffets, but I could have moved in and lived at this one. The room it was hosted in was huge, and had every single thing you could have imagined. There were rows upon rows of individual serving fruit infused water (cucumber mint!), tons of breakfast items, and well, let's just agree that when you see 12 different toppings for your waffles you are going to be fine! But as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words so here you go....

W Hong Kong Breakfast Buffet

W Hong Kong Breakfast Buffet

- So many infused waters!

W Hong Kong Breakfast Buffet

W Hong Kong Breakfast Buffet

W Hong Kong Breakfast Buffet

- Sweets

W Hong Kong Breakfast Buffet
W Hong Kong Breakfast Buffet 

W Hong Kong Breakfast Buffet
Bread and Bagel toppings

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Cathay Pacific First Class 777-300 Review Boston - Hong Kong

Cathay Pacific is one of those airlines that just does it right.  

Our on-board experience during our Cathay Pacific First Class 777-300er Boston to Hong Kong flight was spectacular from the moment we boarded the plane right until we stepped foot on the ground in Hong Kong. Our flight path was North out of Boston, crossing over the North Pole and down into Hong Kong.  Total flight time was about 14.5 hours, but being in First Class, the trip sadly seemed much shorter!

Photo Credit: Massport

Lounge Services

In what could be considered the only downside to flying this premium airline out of Boston is that Cathay Pacific uses the British Airways Lounge in Boston Logan.  Now, this is not a knock to BA whom I love flying, but let's be honest the ground services at Logan could be better.  None the less, we were welcomed into the Lounge, but as we were departing at 1:30am local time, I didn't partake in any lounge dining or drinking (other than sparkling water), instead opting until we boarded to enjoy anything.

Boarding and Pre-Flight CX811

Boarding began about 40 minutes before the flight, with First, Business, and Premium Economy/Economy all having separate boarding lanes.  That was also the order we boarded the plane in, with the exception that families boarded just after business class passengers.

Our boarding was efficient and we were settled into our First class seats in no time.  Immediately after being seated, the cabin crew came around to take pre-fight beverage service orders, but I'm sure everyone in F had the Krug Champagne.  The cabin crew also passed out amenity kits, pajamas, and a little Christmas treat of ginger cookies.

Cathay Pacific First Class Review
Enjoying the Krug!

Seat Selection

Cathay Pacific 777-300ER features 6 suites in First class, configured in 2 rows of 1-1-1 seating.  My husband and I were in seats 2A and 2D, which were great seats, but note that these two seats are separated by the wall of middle suite.  For couples traveling together and are not bothered by the wall these are great seats, but if you like to pop in or chat easily, opt for either 1K and 1D; 2K and 2D; or either of the front to back arrangements like 1K and 2K.

Cathay Pacific First Class Seat 2A
The Husband enjoying Cathay Pacific 2A

I found the seats to be absolutely amazing.  At nearly 3 feet wide the seats were literally perfect in any position.  I also thoroughly enjoyed having the bed made up. Once laid flat, the bed was made up with very nice duvets and mattress covers and a great pillow.  I had probably the best night of sleep I've ever had on a plane!

Cathay Pacific First Class Review Seat 2D
Cathay Pacific Suite 2D

Cathay Pacific First Class Review
Cathay Pacific Suite 2D

Cathay Pacific First Class Review

Entertainment was also excellent on this flight.  There were quite a few great movies and loads of TV shows, and nothing was edited from the content.  It is also where I picked up on the awesome hashtag #lifewelltraveled - love that.  As you can see, I enjoyed HBO's Ballers while I was relaxing in my suite.

Food and Beverages

Let's be honest, any flight that starts off with Krug Grande Cuvee is going to be amazing.  Hell, I'm normally thrilled if my flight features any bottle of wine over $25, so popping open $180 bottles of bubbly for my pre-departure beverage is prepping me for an epic trip.  

The menu's change frequently and by route, but each flight starts with caviar and champagne which is delicious.  I also loved the ability to make any combination of selections I wanted at any time during the flight.  I started with the caviar, moved on to app and dinner.  Then I fell asleep because it was about 4 in the morning.  When I woke up I felt like desert and ordered a ridiculously good green tea cake with vanilla ice cream.  

I didn't take any pictures of the food because it was dark and I gobbled it up as soon as it hit my tray. 

Getting There

As an avid miles and points collector I am always looking for the most amazing use of those points.  This Cathay Pacific flight Boston - Hong Kong  was initially booked into Business class for 55,000 American Airlines points per person one way.  I booked those flights 331 days out as soon as the schedule opened and was easily able to snag 2 seats.  

In order to secure First class, you need to have time and patience.  In this case I regularly checked for First class availability by checking both the British Airways and JAL partner sites (as American doesn't show Cathay even though they are a partner).  

Low and behold, about 7 days out, 1 seat opened in First class - meaning of course I would be sitting in First and the husband would be in Business :-) Luckily for him, another seat opened in First that same afternoon.  

Final total for Cathay First Class BOS-HKG was 67,500 AA miles per person one way, plus taxes and fees which were minimal.  

Business class for comparison: