Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by gleff, Mar 4, 2012.
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Part three of this portion of the trip report, which I will post tomorrow, will focus on the food.
The first night on property we sat out on our deck and ordered room service. That’s not an inexpensive proposition. There’s a $15 tray charge in addition to service charge which I think was 15%. And that’s on top of sandwiches which are priced in the $30s. A single steak sandwich delivered by room service was about $55 later in the week, and was a modest amount of sliced meat rather a steak inside a roll. But service is prompt, they also return to pick up trays promptly when called. And you’re in the middle of the Indian Ocean, things are going to be pricey, and it wasn’t orders of magnitude pricier than a high end resort in the Caribbean though certainly much more pleasant.
I was a little bit surprised when I first learned that breakfast wasn’t a buffet, I’m used to resorts offering extensive buffets but I was ultimately very happy with what was offered. The coffee was very good. So was the juice. And the concept is that they bring three small appetizers to your table (they’ll happily replenish those) and then you each order up to three things off the a la carte menu. And that’s complimentary. It’s plenty of food, prepared fresh, thought the menu isn’t that extensive, I found myself repeating my orders come mid-week.
The appetizers came as a tower a la Lufthansa First Class: (One tower was brought for the table each morning)
Maldivian tuna curry
German white sausage on pretzel
The first morning we asked for cream and for soy to go with our coffees. The chef came out from the kitchen to speak to us, he said “we only received your request for soy milk yesterday and have been trying to source it from another resort.” Though I had correspondence with the general manager a couple of weeks in advance, the request must have simply been noted in our reservation and then didn’t get noticed until the reservation itself was pulled on our day of checkin. By our third day, though, they had secured soy milk.
One morning I went out to breakfast especially early and brought my laptop, wifi worked just fine and was complimentary at the breakfast restaurant just as it was in the room. My villa’s wifi was a little bit glitch, whenever it didn’t work properly I would unplug the router and plug it back in and it would work just fine again, I never had to ring for support. While I did use the internet for work, I never did turn on the television at all throughout the stay, so I can’t comment on the channels offered. And I actually find catching up on work while on vacation relaxing, I know there’s nothing back home to worry about and I’m not so overwhelmed the day I return that I’d lose my entire sense of relaxation gained on vacation.
Breakfast is served at the all day dining restaurant beside the main pool, which is adjacent to the resort’s main bar as well.
There’s also a dinner-only restaurant which is being rebranded “Island Grill” though I’m told that the menu isn’t being substantially revamped. It serves local fare, and the curries were quite good and surprisingly spicey. And surprisingly, dinner at this restaurant was also somewhat less expensive than eating in the all day restaurant where appetizers run in the $20s, entrees in the $30s and $40s, and desserts around $20 as well.
Here’s the menu page one and page two.
As we sat and ate dinner on our second evening the sun went down and the lit up sky was beautiful.
The Malidivian shrimp curry was excellent.
The squid curry less so.
We also had dinner in the all day dining restaurant.
Goat cheese salad
Some of the most delicious ice cream I’ve had, especially the honeycomb and rose petal
One evening we took the resort up on the evening’s daily event, which was a sushi dinner out at “Drift” the small bar area midway through the walkway along the water villas. For US$75++ they had a sushi chef preparing fresh sushi, and were offering that all-you-can-eat and were pouring all you could drink Piper Heidsieck champagne. That was an especially good value because bottles of wine which would be ~ $15 in a US bottle shop were priced around $75 in the restaurants.
While water is free in the room, in restaurants they charge US$3.50 per person, all you can drink, during lunch and dinner at the restaurants.
The property’s general manager is very active, walking around the property, talking to guests, finding things that needed tidying and doing it himself (which seemed to frighten onlooking staff).
As our stay came to and end, we had one last lunch. On the way to the all day dining restaurant I stopped to settle our bill. Everything was in order, I handed over Hyatt Gift Checks, and got a bit of a perplexed look.
The clerk at the desk had never seen them before and didn’t know how to handle them. He made a phone call, got a voice mail, and said he’d need some time to sort it out. Rather than waiting, I told him I would be in the restaurant and could he simply come find me when he had gotten everything taken care of.
There was going to be an hour boat ride to the domestic airport, a layover, an hour flight, and then three hours or so in the Male airport before our flight to Singapore. And odds on the food in the lounge there wasn’t going to impress. So we needed a bit of food before the journey.
I had the pad thai, which was excellent, spicy, and prepared in traditional thai style baked into an omellette.
After about 40 minutes the clerk came by with a final invoice to sign, having properly applied my gift checks. We finished our meal, settled up, and headed back to our room to do a last check to see if we had left anything behind.
About 25 minutes before our boat departed for the airport, our host came to collect our bags, and the returned to pick us up and drive us to the dock.
The resort staff saw us off
We put on our life jackets, had a seat at the back of the boat, turned back towards resort and looked wistfully on our stay…
This is the only time, while leaving a hotel, that I was thinking about ways to return. Over the coming months both Emirates and Etihad will start service from Washington DC and I suspect I’ll be inclined to use American partner Etihad to fly Washington Dulles – Abu Dhabi – Male, likely with a stopover in Abu Dhabi and a stay at the new Park Hyatt there. That’ll be a much more sane and less arduous routing.
As I said at the beginning of my trip report, this was my first visit to the Maldives, so I can’t compare the Park Hyatt to other properties like the Four Seasons or the One & Only Reethi Rah. But it was a beautiful resort. It could make some improvements. But I cannot imagine a better use of my points, especially as someone that chases aspirational awards, and I’m very much looking forward to coming back.
Wonderful as usual Gleff. Top notch from me. 1
Maldivian, Kaadehdhoo – Male
We put on our life jackets and sat down at the back of the boat. We were offered an ipod to listen to but were more than fine (though I felt, again, that a bit nicer boat would have been ideal, as would a bottle of water for the ride).
The boat sped away, leaving the resort behind
After a little bit shy of an hour we arrived at the airport’s boat dock.
Sitting at the dock were the folks who would shortly be our crew for the flight to Male.
As we arrived, a golf cart pulled up to take us the short dstance from the dock to the terminal
Interestingly, there had been two other passengers on the boat that I presumed were staff — either of the hotel, the chain, or were at least not guests. The golf cart took only us and not them, they walked to the terminal under their own power.
The terminal building itself is a small, older structure. There’s the arrivals side with baggage claim, and the departures side. That has a single security screening lane, though it was hardly enforced, they did screen somewhat diligently on the way in but people left the ‘secure’ gate area to go back inside and no one was around to re-screen them when they came back through.
Here’s the terminal
And the day’s flight board
Directly across from the terminal entrance is a small café, though I didn’t investigate.
There’s pay internet available as well, you buy online and text yourself a code.
Restrooms are on the outside of the terminal building, I considered using one before the flight but immediately turned around after walking inside, it was one of the worst smelling places I’d been. So I simply proceeded through security and into the gate area which are already nearly full though it was still about half an hour before flight time with no amenities airside.
Incidentally we weren’t weighed prior to this flight, that’s apparently only something that Maldivian does in Male.
Planespotting, such as it was, consisted of peering out the window of the terminal at our Q400 that would take us from Kaadedhoo to Male
Boarding was called and I snapped a photo of the plane while walking along the runway… as did several other passengers
The cabin was fairly standard for the aircraft type
Service was the same as the flight to Kaadedhoo — a small paper cup with juice, followed by a single candy. After about 55 minutes we landed in Male, and we disembarked at the domestic terminal and waited for our bags. Once we walked out of the baggage claim area we were met by a Park Hyatt representative who assisted with the bags for the walk over to the international terminal.
It was now three hours until our flight to Singapore, and we were really on our way for the long journey home!
Singapore Airlines Business Class, Male – Singapore
We walked up to the Singapore Airlines check-in counter, which is manned by contract staff. There were two men sitting behind computer terminals and no passenger lines yet.
I pulled out my documents at the business class counter, and the agent said he couldn’t help us yet. “Not until 3 hours before the flight.”
I looked up at the clock behind him. I was perplexed. “But isn’t it 3 hours before the flight?” I asked.
The agent looks at the clock as well and says, “Four minutes.”
Now, he and his buddy weren’t doing anything. They were just sitting there. He told me I had to stand back and wait… for four minutes.
For good measure I let 5 or 6 minutes pass, I wouldn’t want to be scolded again. When it was safely inside the 3 hour window I re-approached the desk, handed over passports, and turned over my checked luggage.
I asked them to interline my bags, since I’d be connecting to Cathay. Really what I wanted them to do was check the bags all the way back to the States, but since that involved an overnight in Hong Kong they wouldn’t do it. No worries, I’d get Cathay to re-tag the bags when I reached Singapore. I just didn’t want to have to pick them up, and as long as they checked them to Hong Kong I wouldn’t need to worry about it, and when I reached a Cathay agent I wouldn’t need to pick them up in Hong Kong, either.
They fussed with the bags for quite awhile, not quite sure how to handle the interlining, but eventually they spit out a couple of baggage tags showing Hong Kong and not just Singapore as the destination. We were handed lounge passes and were on our way to head through immigration and security.
We headed over to the Plaza Premium lounge nearest our gate, and settled in for a couple hour visit. The furniture was comfortable, the internet serviceable, and that’s really all that I needed.
There was a separate room that was designated for Emirates first class, but it was nearly identical to the main lounge. When we arrived the lounge was almost empty but it quickly filled up, and I quickly realized that the main benefit of a separate room for Emirates first class was that there would likely be seats for late arriving passengers.
The lounge featured a buffet that was modest, though with some hot food, but I gave it all a miss. I tend to avoid hot food items in Central Asian lounges.
At boarding time we walked out of the lounge and down the stairs to our departure gate, and then out onto the tarmac to head out to our Singapore Airlines plane.
I was looking forward to trying out the angled-flat seats on our roughly four hour redeye. The seats are beautiful, but how would they sleep?
The answer is “ok.” They’re angled flat seats. They’re a bit narrow, they’re lumpy, but they’re a whole lot better than coach for catching a nap!
There were only about 8 of us in the cabin, but there was a bit of a fuss when a couple of passengers who apparently weren’t ticketed in business class tried to take a couple of the seats. The lead flight attendant confronted them, demanding to see their boarding passes. The passengers became irate, taking offense at the suggestion, but ultimately shrugging their shoulders and returning to the back of the plane.
Shortly after takeoff, a light dinner was served. Oddly enough, the printed menu said “lunch.”
With onion, cucumber, and spicey peanut sauce
Caesar salad with roast chicken
Romaine lettuce, roast chicken and parmesan cheese
Provence style salmon fillet with basil tomato coulis, ratatouille and steamed potato
Braised beef rice noodle soup with Chinese vegetables and mushrooms
Thai curry chicken with seasonal vegetables and steamed rice
Roast lamb loin with thyme jus, buttered vegetable and mashed garlic potatoes
Mango crème brulee
Gourmet cheese with garnishes
A selection of fresh fruit
Gourmet coffee and selection of fine teas, with pralines
I had the Caesar salad and then the braised beef rice noodle soup.
Then it was off to a couple hours’ nap. I woke up as the plane was entering its descent into Singapore, and I couldn’t get my seat back into its upright position. I asked a flight attendant to help, who asked a colleague of hers to help, while I retreated to the empty row behind me. Soon there were 3 crew pulling, yanking, pushing on the seat, and after what seemed like an eternity but was almost certainly less than 10 minutes (since we weren’t on the ground yet!) they got it back into position. I took my seat, we landed, and suddenly we were back in what has to be the most amazing airport in the world.
Cathay Pacific Business Class, Singapore – Hong Kong
Off the Singapore flight, a moment’s wait for the train to take us over to Changi Terminal 1 where Cathay operates. Then it was over to the transfer desk, since we didn’t have our boarding passes to fly to Hong Kong yet.
Our bags were checked to Hong Kong, so we didn’t have to collect those. One of the great things – and there are many – about Changi airport is that there’s no transit security to pass through once you get off an aircraft. Security is handled separately at each gate, so you simply walk off the flight no muss, no fuss. The closest I can think of to this is Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi where security is handled for each pier separately. It makes for a far less stressful transit experience, no getting off a long international flight and being faced with 30 minutes standing in line. And of course security isn’t just always quick since it’s done only for one flight at a given time but you never have a worry over missing your flight, you are standing at security and can see the boarding door in most cases (and they can see you!). I also love the variety of shops, amenities (a movie theatre!), and especially food shops each with a single specialty.
The woman manning the transit desk for Cathay did take awhile to handle myother request which was to re-tag my checked baggage. In Male they had routed it to Hong Kong only. But I didn’t want to pick it up in Hong Kong. I’d have a 21 hour connection, but had no need for anything that was in the luggage, and I’d just assume that they keep it overnight. In my ideal world they’d check it on Cathay to Chicago and then on to DC on American. But I’d be just as happy with the bag checked through to Chicago, I’d have to pick it up there and walk it through customs in any case. And even if it wasn’t tagged all the way home, both American and United both have customer service counters just past customs. I could get my bag re-tagged and wouldn’t have to schlepp it with me on the inter-terminal train at O’Hare. Having the agent produce a baggage tag interlining over to American would just save me a couple of minutes on the ground in Chicago.
She didn’t seem too familiar with the procedure, but I was confident it wouldn’t be a problem. I had Cathay re-tag luggage for me in Bangkok back in November, when I had interlined off of Bangkok Airways and they wouldn’t check it overnight in Hong Kong for me. She never disagreed that it was possible — just went meticulously through the procedure,, verifying the number of segments that the bags would be checked in total, verifying that they had the luggage, entering the message in the system to recheck the bags, calling down personally to relay the instruction as well, and suggesting that we ask at the gate for the agents to verify that the bags are both on board and have been re-tagged. Her meticulousness was much appreciated, even if I became more and more desperate for a shower with each passing moment.
With bags re-directed and boarding passes in hand, not just for the flight to Hong Kong but the next day’s boarding passes to Chicago and then DC, it was up to the Cathay Pacific lounge. The lounge situation in terminal 1 isn’t the greatest, but the Cathay lounge is supposed to be the best. It’s light and airy, though not especially large, most of the seats were taken when we arrived. There’s a small buffet, though I didn’t see anything I was interested in eating. But most importantly for my purposes there were showers.
Since the lounge was busy, I had to wait a few minutes for a shower room. The shower room was basic but functional — with one odd omission. There was no toilet. Now, there were toilets next door. And I suppose this truly is a first world problem, considering the toilet room I walked out of at the Kaadehdhoo airport. Still, you walk into the shower room with your bags, you realize you’d like a bathroom. What do you do? Do you leave the shower room with all of your stuff, possibly giving up your spot for the shower? Do you leave your stuff behind? This is a busy lounge, not an especially exclusive lounge. I wasn’t happy with either option.
After a shower and some catching up on e-mail, I headed to the gate for the short flight to Hong Kong.
Typical intra-Asia business class for Cathay, recliner-style seating, I’d take it in a heartbeat over what’s offered domestically in the U.S. on similar-length routes but it also doesn’t come close to comparing to Singapore’s offering. Then again, Cathay’s intra-Asia food is also good but pales in comparison to Singapore both in terms of plating and taste. And the service, while good, isn’t nearly as attentive either. I suspect that I actually prefer Cathay for long-haul, I do like Singapore’s attentiveness but also like to be left along for hours at a time. A matter of personal preference. Overall though I do think of Cathay as being a notch below, and certainly a few notches for their short- and medium-haul products.
None of which is to say that the food was bad or disappointing, it was perfectly reasonable for a three and a half hour business class affair.
Hot smoked salmon with Mediterranean potato salad
Mesclun salad with Japanese cucumber, radish, tomato and miso dressing
Braised pork in soya sauce with garlic and spring onions, steamed rice, pak choy, and carrots
Roasted chicken breast with capsicum sauce, corn, mushroom and tomato salsa, semolina gratin, spinach and carrots
Prawn and fish cake in noodle soup
Garlic and mushroom ravioli with goat cheese and black pepper cream, tomato and curry leaf
Cheese and Dessert
Fresh seasonal fruit
Blueberry sour cream cheese cake with cream anglaise
Tea and coffee
Here’s the smoked salmon and the mesclun salad
I was tempted by the braised pork, I always tend towards the Chinese options when flying Cathay. I’d had the pork onboard before (very flavorful), and I also find they do soup especially well, so I went with the noodle soup.
Not especially adventurous, here’s the cheeses and cheese cake, both of which I nibbled just a few bites of.
After lunch I answered a few remaining emails that I had downloaded in the lounge, then pulled out the current issue of the Atlantic, just a bit of reading and I was quickly nodding off, and I faded in and out of a light sleep for the better part of the rest of the flight.
We landed on time, and once off the plane it was time for the long trek through the Hong Kong airport, I always find there’s more walking than I expect when I land in Hong Kong even when I’ll be taking the train in towards immigration.
Immigration took about 15 minutes, since our bags were checked through to DC the next day there was no need to stop for those, once in the arrivals hall we headed over to the cab stand and caught a taxi to our hotel.
Conrad Hong Kong
I had done a lot of noodling about my best option for the one night layover I’d have in Hong Kong. Over Thanksgiving when I had an overnight on the way back from Koh Samui, I burned a Marriott MegaBonus free night at the Sky City Marriott at the airport, I was arriving at night and leaving in the morning, just looking at about 12 hours in Hong Kong most of which I’d either be asleep or in the lounge prior to my flight.
For this trip I was looking at more like 21 hours. I didn’t expect to have a ton of energy to be out and about after double-connecting and an overnight flight to get here. But I did want to be comfortable, with the best deal possible. Sure, it would have been nice to try out the new Ritz-Carlton, but that’s too rich for my blood, I’m more inclined to get the best I can leveraging points and elite status.
I considered the two Intercontinental properties, they were pricing quite high and neither made me feel especially welcome with my Royal Ambassador status if I used points. I emailed both properties, the Intercontinental Hong Kong which has probably the best Harbour view in Hong Kong, let me know that I would get nothing at all on points. The Intercontinental Grand Stanford was a bit more reasonable:
Further to your email, please note we will upgrade the room from Deluxe Room to Deluxe Harbourview Room for Royal Ambassador members under Reward Night reservation. However, complimentary in room mini-bar beverage and complimentary pay- movie will not apply under Reward Night reservation. If you would like to include Club Lounge access during your stay (under Reward Night), we pay offer you a special supplement of HKD$700+10% per day to a maximum of 2 pax.
No club lounge, no minibar benefit even, but still an excellent deal and tempting.
What I settled on, though, was the Conrad. Hilton Diamond members generally get a Harbour view room, and they certainly get lounge access. What’s more, the hotel didn’t just have points rooms available but also cash and points reservations making the points go farther. And Hilton was running a promotion that would rebate 30% of the points, to boot. That was hard to resist.
We arrived at the hotel and I walked inside to the check-in desk, where a clerk came out to walk us over to the elevators and up to the club lounge for check-in.
I had emailed ahead specifically noting my preference for the view, over for instance a suite with no view, as the upgrade. And that’s what I got, a lovely room albeit my own design preferences are modern and this isn’t a modern hotel the way you would get staying at the W.
Our room was nice-sized, with a great view of the water.
Sadly, the fog more or less obscured the view.
The bathroom was large, Acca Kappa bath amenities, and the trademark Conrad rubber duck.
Shortly after we arrived in the room there was a knock on the door, they were delivering complimentary tea.
.. that went along with the chocolates and fruit already in the room.
I visited the lounge for tea which runs 5pm – 7pm, though did not have a chance to check out the evening service which follows immediately thereafter.
When I woke up in the morning I ordered coffee to the room, this never appeared on my bill.
Breakfast in the morning was spectacular. It’s a choice between the restaurant and an impressive lounge spread, since I only had a short time before departing for the airport I chose the lounge.
All in all, while not the very best hotel in a city of outstanding hotel properties, it was certainly a value as a Hilton HHonors Diamond on a cash and points stay (and with a promo for 30% of the points back, no less!).
Cathay Pacific First Class, Hong Kong – Chicago
We went downstairs and the hotel hailed a cab for us around 9:15am for our 11:50am departure, we were at the airport around 9:50am. First stop was the first class check-in area. Even though we had our boarding passes already I just wanted to have them verify that they had located our checked bags from the day before, I hadn’t even bothered to check at the gate in Singapore as had been suggested to me, I wasn’t especially worried but figured I had the time. They confirmed that they had our bags and that they were checked through to DC as requested.
Then we proceeded through passport control and security, and made the sharp left turn over to The Wing.
It was March 2, the business class side renovations were completed and it was almost time that they’ve be closing down the first class side to be redone.
And it couldn’t come soon enough! Not that the place was a mess by any means, it’s light and airy but also not particularly ‘special.’ The only bit that’s a cut above are the cabanas, a large shower room with a tub and a deck for relaxing, it’s more space than usually allotted to showers. But I wouldn’t be checking those out this morning.
I wasn’t hungry, either, and that was a good thing since there was a line about 8 people deep waiting for tables to free up in The Haven, the dining area of the first class lounge. I’ve also never been much for hitting the buffet there and then having a seat in the dining area, it’s a closed-in space with artificial light. Not a huge fan of the buffet to begin with, I’d just assume grab a snack and take it with me back to the spacious seating area overlooking the terminal and the tarmac.
All I had was a coffee, and I settled in to use the internet, the signal has been glitchy at best on my past few visits and I wind up alternating between the lounge connection and the airport’s free connection.
Soon enough it was time to head over to our gate for the flight to Chicago. I really do feel bad for passengers departing Hong Kong and headed to the US in economy, though more so if they were flying on a US carrier. Hong Kong doesn’t enforce a liquids prohibition, so passengers have to be searched for liquids in the gate area when heading to the U.S. Which means that after security, if you buy a bottle of water for the long flight, it will be confiscated. I admit I don’t think I’d trust flight attendants that are there ‘primarily for my safety’ to keep my properly hydrated — even though I’d consider that to be a safety issue Fortunately I would have no such concerns boarding Cathay Pacific and in first class.
Once onboard I found a couple seated in 2 D/K, they were celebrating a milestone wedding anniversary with a trip to Singapore and Hong Kong, their first visit to Asia. So the cabin would be filled 4/6 for the flight.
First came pre-departure beverages (a little Krug is always nice), then pajamas, an amenity kit, and the day’s menu.
Here’s what we would be having as our first meal:
Caviar and Balik
Caviar and Balik salmon “Tsar Nicolaj”
Cream of onion soup
Traditional Caesar salad
Grilled U.S. striploin with green peppercorn sauce, mixed potatoes, herb roasted portabella mushroom and vine ripened tomato
Pan-friend Mediterranean sea bass with garlic butter, vegetable saffron rice, roasted portabello mushroom and French beans
Spinach and ricotta cheese tortellini with tomato concasse and pine nuts
Pork with lotus root and octopus soup
Cold plate – beef tendon with mixed vegetables
Sauteed pork fillet in Chinese black vinegar sauce, served with steamed jasmine rice and braised baby Chinese cabbage
Cheese ad Dessert
Fourme d’Amert, Cheddar, Reblachon, Tomme
Fresh berries with rose syrup
Warm raspberry friend cake with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce
Double boiled papaya with snow fungus sweet soup
Tea and Cofee
The salmon and caviar to begin:
Separate names with a comma.