Author Topic: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings  (Read 20154 times)

Online AJK

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Re: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings
« Reply #60 on: July 12, 2015, 05:25:53 PM »
Tuesday:

Cathay Pacific First Class, JFK to HKG

We took Uber to JFK and arrived at 7:00 AM for our 9:00 AM flight to Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific First Class. 



First Class Checkin by AJK DDF, on Flickr

First Class Checkin by AJK DDF, on Flickr

First Class Checkin by AJK DDF, on Flickr

First Class Checkin by AJK DDF, on Flickr



First order of business, convince the reps to through check my bags all the way to Auckland, despite being on two separate tickets on two separate airlines in two separate alliances. 

As a reminder, I was flying JFK-HKG in CX F on one ticket, connecting to HKG-SIN-AKL in SQ R on another ticket.  To make matters a bit more stressful, the connection time in HKG was a mere 75 minutes, which is not enough time to exit customs, collect baggage, recheck, and then go back through security.  So, if they refused to through-check our bags, we’d be toast, as we’d miss out HKG-SIN segment, and if we missed that, we’d also miss our SIN-AKL segment because it was an even shorter connection.

After a bit of back and forth, some confusion, and a bunch of phone calls, the agents successfully checked our bags through to AKL.
Woohoo!

Once checked in, we headed to the BA First Class Galleries Lounge, which was a fine way to pass the time, though nothing to write home about. 

DSC00125 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00126 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00127 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00128 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00130 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00131 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00132 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00133 by AJK DDF, on Flickr



We made some last minute phone calls—including some reconsideration calls (a favorite of mine to do while in lounges)—and then we headed towards the gate.



DSC00136 by AJK DDF, on Flickr



We boarded and turned left—that never gets old—and ensconced ourselves in what felt like an old friend: Cathay Pacific First Class. For the journey to Hong Kong, we followed popular consensus and chose seats 1A and 2A on the left side of the plane, which has its own aisle, as seats 1 D/K and 2 D/K share the other aisle.






DSC00138 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00139 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00152 by AJK DDF, on Flickr



Gosh those seats are wide. Really, really comfortable and wide seats.  And we’d have them all to ourselves for this 15 hour jaunt to North Asia, a true long haul, and the longest flight we’ve done to date by over 1200 miles, a record previously held by JFK to Abu Dhabi on Etihad First.


DSC00157 by AJK DDF, on Flickr


Once in our seats, I noticed a Chabad Rabbi board shortly after us.  Later in the flight, I introduced myself, and he reciprocated, introducing himself as “Nechemia.” We schmoozed a bit, and I asked him if he lived in HKG. No, he said, he lived in BKK. I wondered out loud if he had any connection with the Chabad houses there, and recounted our wonderful time with R’ Kantor.

He said, “Well, yes, I do have a connection… I have one.” And by having one, he meant a Chabad House.  It was then I felt like an idiot, because I was talking to none other than R’ Nechemia Wilhelm, of the backpackers BKK Chabad House fame. Boy, was I taken aback.

Suffice it to say, I stopped referring to him by his first name after I made the connection  :o

He was coming from Kinnus, and one of his supporters had used miles to bump him from J to F at the last minute. Nice way to travel, indeed!

Anyway, amenity kits and drinks were handed out, and before long we were in the air.

We had a beautiful climb-out over JFK and Long Island:


DSC00166 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00169 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00173 by AJK DDF, on Flickr


[That's JFK in the upper portion of the above picture.]


I perused the drink menu, just to ensure they still had a premium scotch on board. I wasn't disappointed with the typical CX Johnnie Blue on board.


DSC00184 by AJK DDF, on Flickr



I then turned on the IFE and was shocked to find out that it seemed like our 15 hour flight had just gotten even longer, because the IFE changed and showed us heading to HKG over the Atlantic! Cry, I did not  ;D



DSC00212 by AJK DDF, on Flickr



Because we woke up at like 5 am to catch the flight, I was tired so I immediately changed into PJs, had my bad made and promptly took a five hour nap.



DSC00190 by AJK DDF, on Flickr


DSC00206-001 by AJK DDF, on Flickr



Upon waking up with about 8 hours to go, I was hungry.



DSC00219 by AJK DDF, on Flickr



Now, before traveling, I had heard that Cathay doesn’t allow BYOK, but I figured with my charm, I’d be able to pull it off, so we risked bringing a couple of POM meals on board, some mac and cheese.  Sure enough, when I asked for them to heat up our BYOK, the conversation went like this:

"Well, it's against our policies."

"You know how bad that KSML looks? Yeah, it tastes even worse."

"[Giggle] OK, let me check with my supervisor."

She checked and came back to inform me: "It's your lucky day!"

I offered my regular KSML to R’ Wilhelm, who decided against it :) so we had her bring us both the KSML and the BYOK.


DSC00224 by AJK DDF, on Flickr


DSC00220 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00223 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00225 by AJK DDF, on Flickr



Suffice it to say, the BYOK and dessert tasted much better :)



DSC00226 by AJK DDF, on Flickr


DSC00230 by AJK DDF, on Flickr


After Mrs. AJK had lunch at her seat, I came back to my seat to find that the FA had remade my bed. Nice touch.


DSC00237 by AJK DDF, on Flickr



I took a look at the amenity kit, but it was... underwhelming, at least as compared to SQ R (coming up).


DSC00229 by AJK DDF, on Flickr



15 hours on a flight is just the right amount of time for us. Enough time to sleep, eat, schmooze, watch, and rinse, repeat. After not too much longer, though, we were descending into HKG about 25 minutes early.



DSC00245 by AJK DDF, on Flickr


DSC00246 by AJK DDF, on Flickr


DSC00249 by AJK DDF, on Flickr



Upon landing and taxiing to our gate, we saw a slew of A330s... the first of which we flew last year, from Hong Kong to Chaing Mai, and the last of which we'd end up flying 7 months later from MEL-PEK-ICN.



DSC00252 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00254 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00256 by AJK DDF, on Flickr




We took a quick pic with the Captain, and thus concluded a wonderful flight.  Off we went to the SQ F lounge in HKG!



DSC00260 by AJK DDF, on Flickr


2015: 116K bkd | 1.6M brnd | F: OZ,NH,AA,EK | J: UA,CA,TK,DL,TN,AF,VA | LIH,NRT,ROR,PEK,CNS,BOB,MEL,TLV & Pacific Hopper

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Re: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings
« Reply #61 on: July 12, 2015, 05:26:32 PM »
Wednesday:

Singapore First Class Lounge, HKG

After disembarking, we passed the "Temperature Check" and caught a glimpse of our chariot to Singapore, looking as though it was trying to hide from us, and my heart started racing with anticipation.


DSC00262 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00261 by AJK DDF, on Flickr


We made our way over to the Singapore transit desk to get our boarding passes for our Suites class flight to Singapore.  Much to my dismay, the agent at the transit desk printed out our boarding passes on vanilla “First Class” stock.  When I asked about the Suites stock, he said they didn’t have any more and were waiting for a refill from HQ. Bummer.


We took our boarding passes and headed to the SQ lounge for a quick drink and to check my email. 


DSC00263 by AJK DDF, on Flickr



Upon entering, business class passengers stay to the right, to the business class  side of the lounge, and first and suites class passengers have access to the first class portion of the lounge, which is to the left and behind a tinted sliding glass door.


DSC00275 by AJK DDF, on Flickr


DSC00266 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00267 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00272 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00273 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

No sooner than we had sat down, an SQ server was upon us, asking what we’d like to eat and drink.  I ordered a beer and my wife a water. 

And then I got my first real taste of SQ service.

Not two minutes later, an SQ agent came up to us and asked to see our boarding passes, which I gladly showed her. Much to my delight, she said, “oh, no, this won’t do, you’re a suites passenger, and you should have boarding passes which show suites!”

Now, she wasn’t at the transit desk when we got out passes, so how the heck she knew we didn’t get Suites boarding passes, and how she knew which of the several people in the lounge were us, I’m not sure, but I was very, very impressed.  She took our low-class first-class boarding passes, and a few moments later returned with Suites boarding passes!

DSC00271 by AJK DDF, on Flickr


Remarkable.


We finished our drinks and then we were invited to head for boarding our SQ A380 to SIN.
2015: 116K bkd | 1.6M brnd | F: OZ,NH,AA,EK | J: UA,CA,TK,DL,TN,AF,VA | LIH,NRT,ROR,PEK,CNS,BOB,MEL,TLV & Pacific Hopper

Offline sam28

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Re: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings
« Reply #62 on: July 12, 2015, 05:58:16 PM »
keep it coming .

Offline Chapshnell

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Re: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings
« Reply #63 on: July 12, 2015, 06:13:18 PM »
CX F & SQ R in one trip is a pretty good way to fly :)

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Re: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings
« Reply #64 on: July 12, 2015, 06:14:52 PM »
CX F & SQ R in one trip is a pretty good way to fly :)

I agree.

What would you say if a trip included CX F, SQ R (x2), TG F (x2), CX J, QF F, and BA F?  ;)
2015: 116K bkd | 1.6M brnd | F: OZ,NH,AA,EK | J: UA,CA,TK,DL,TN,AF,VA | LIH,NRT,ROR,PEK,CNS,BOB,MEL,TLV & Pacific Hopper

Offline lunatic

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I agree.

What would you say if a trip included CX F, SQ R (x2), TG F (x2), CX J, QF F, and BA F?  ;)
Sounds like paradise even before you reach your destination

Online AJK

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Re: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings
« Reply #66 on: July 12, 2015, 06:20:54 PM »
To be fair, it is only CX F and SQ R (x2) beforehand :P
2015: 116K bkd | 1.6M brnd | F: OZ,NH,AA,EK | J: UA,CA,TK,DL,TN,AF,VA | LIH,NRT,ROR,PEK,CNS,BOB,MEL,TLV & Pacific Hopper

Offline benjie1305

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Sounds like paradise even before you reach without ever reaching your destination

FTFY  :)
Work hard, Play harder!

Offline DMYD

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Re: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings
« Reply #68 on: July 12, 2015, 07:02:52 PM »
To be fair, it is only CX F and SQ R (x2) beforehand :P
How terrible ::)! But sounds great cant wait for the rest.

Offline damaxer91

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Re: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings
« Reply #69 on: July 12, 2015, 07:52:10 PM »
Of course R' Wilhelm didnt want your KSML. Ever taste the ones they sell to the airlines?

He knows good and well to avoid them at all costs :)

Offline rileywiles23

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Great Job. It's TR like these that make me never want to stop playing this game. Now if only I could find the time, to make all these trips happen.
Life is as good as you make it...

Offline morgs

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Re: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings
« Reply #71 on: July 13, 2015, 08:29:44 AM »
Yay!! We're finally getting started! Please keep it coming!! :'( :'( :'(

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Re: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings
« Reply #72 on: July 16, 2015, 10:19:16 PM »
Of course R' Wilhelm didnt want your KSML. Ever taste the ones they sell to the airlines?

He knows good and well to avoid them at all costs :)

Ha, honestly, I don't remember if the BKK KSML's are that bad... I'll have to find my pics from previous trips.

Great Job. It's TR like these that make me never want to stop playing this game. Now if only I could find the time, to make all these trips happen.

Thanks. Word hard, play hard(er) <------ Motto to live by ;)
2015: 116K bkd | 1.6M brnd | F: OZ,NH,AA,EK | J: UA,CA,TK,DL,TN,AF,VA | LIH,NRT,ROR,PEK,CNS,BOB,MEL,TLV & Pacific Hopper

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Re: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings
« Reply #73 on: August 30, 2015, 04:21:45 PM »
Wednesday:

Singapore Suites Class, HKG to SIN

The moment had arrived. We finally headed to board the SQ A380 in Suites.

DSC00277 by AJK DDF, on Flickr


Suites had its own jetway and we took a left and were greeted by what seemed like the entire Suites crew.


DSC00279 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00285 by AJK DDF, on Flickr


I immediately noticed that we were on a non-refreshed bird, but nothing could take way from the elegance of this cabin.


DSC00299 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00289 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00287 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00302 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00309 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00314 by AJK DDF, on Flickr


The load in Suites was only 5/10 and we were quickly offered magazines and pre-departure drinks--a beer for me, and a water for Mrs. AJK.


DSC00296 by AJK DDF, on Flickr


Annoyingly, SQ IFE is unavailable on the ground... but this being HKG, the plane traffic/spotting en route to take off was incredible.

CX A330 on take-off:

DSC00319 by AJK DDF, on Flickr


CX 777 on taxi:


DSC00322 by AJK DDF, on Flickr


Jet A330 and NZ 777 parked:


DSC00323 by AJK DDF, on Flickr


CX 747 being serviced:


DSC00326 by AJK DDF, on Flickr


Shortly thereafter, engines were coaxed to full throttle, though the A380 is so quiet you barely hear it, and we were off to SIN on this short sub 4 hour hop.

After we reached about 10,000 feet, the FAs sprang into action and offered us post-departure drinks and warm nuts.  When I initially declined the latter, the FA said "Well, perhaps he would like some," and produced a SQ bear along with my Johnny Blue.

Can't argue with that...


DSC00329 by AJK DDF, on Flickr



At about three hours left, I took a gander at the air show:



DSC00331 by AJK DDF, on Flickr



As I was browsing the drinks menu, I was then approached by my FA and asked if I wanted to eat, and if I would like to personally open up my KSML.  About 20 minutes later, lunch was served along with another Johnny Blue. And it was one of the best KSMLs I've had. Hermolis, obviously.



DSC00336 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00337 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00338 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00339 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00340 by AJK DDF, on Flickr



After a hearty lunch, I began shmoozing with the couple in the two seats in front of us (an older gentleman along with a much younger female companion) who were specifically flying from HKG to Europe via SIN to experience SQuites.  Apparently he was on business with another guy in the cabin, and decided to bring along his latest paramour. What a life!

Despite it being a relatively short flight, we asked if the FA would showcase SQuites' noteworthy talent... the double-bed! And they were only too happy to oblige.



DSC00351 by AJK DDF, on Flickr



After relaxing for what felt like only a few moments, we were beginning our descent into SIN and we were soon on the ground heading to the inner sanctum of SQ lounges... the Private Room, which is a lounge, within a lounge, within a lounge. Seriously.

2015: 116K bkd | 1.6M brnd | F: OZ,NH,AA,EK | J: UA,CA,TK,DL,TN,AF,VA | LIH,NRT,ROR,PEK,CNS,BOB,MEL,TLV & Pacific Hopper

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Re: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings
« Reply #74 on: August 30, 2015, 04:25:28 PM »
Singapore Private Room

We exited the A380 and first, headed up an escalator to the SilverKris Lounge, which can be used by *A business passengers.



DSC00352 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00353 by AJK DDF, on Flickr


You show your boarding pass to the agent manning the check-in desk, who hands you off to her colleague to escort you to the First Class Lounge, which can be used by *A first class passengers.



DSC00354 by AJK DDF, on Flickr



DSC00357 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00358 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00359 by AJK DDF, on Flickr



She then hands your boarding pass to the agent manning the First Class Lounge check-in who, in turn, passes you off to another colleague who escorts you to the Private Room, which can only be used by SQ First Class pax. 



DSC00360 by AJK DDF, on Flickr



By this point, given the service we got on the way over from HKG, the security, and various escorts, I was thinking the lounge would include agents fanning me, people feeding me grapes, and a carried escort to our departing gate.

...none of which happened.

Instead (and I was particularly disappointed about the no grapes part), I was met by Gary from VFTW, who was headed to Sydney with his wife. 



DSC00363-001 by AJK DDF, on Flickr



We chatted for a few minutes, but I was on a very short connection and I wanted a chance to check out the rest of the lounge.  Pics of the Private Room:



DSC00370 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00365 by AJK DDF, on Flickr

DSC00366 by AJK DDF, on Flickr




All in all, the Private Room was underwhelming given all the hoops you had to jump through to get in, though Mrs. AJK says the shower facilities were very pretty and functional, which she got to use while I was tending to some more important business.  As I mentioned in an earlier segment, I had purchased some Flexi Fare NZ tickets which needed to be changed. For reference:




Once we confirmed the CHC RV pickup, I then turned to booking our flights AKL-CHC-AKL.  There were two options: Air New Zealand and Jetstar.  I preferred the former because they’re a Star Alliance member, and I am Star Alliance Gold, which would get me a larger baggage allowance, which mattered because these domestic tickets were to be booked separately from our international first class itineraries, which would have otherwise given us as much baggage as we needed.

When I first looked, probably a month or two before departure, flights on Air New Zealand were reasonable.  If I recall correctly, they were about $150/pp for the “Seat+Bag” tickets. 

(Oddly, and contrary to published Star Alliance rules, if a Star Alliance Gold member purchases only a cheaper “Seat” fare, he or she is not entitled to ANY luggage.  In order to get the “extra bag” provided by the Star Gold benefits, NZ requires you to purchase a “Seat+Bag” fare, which would then entitle the traveler to two bags, instead of one.  Star Alliance was less than helpful when I pointed out that NZ was deviating from the published rules.)

Anyway, after I confirmed the RV and went back a few days later to book the Air New Zealand tickets, the flights that we needed had doubled! (We needed certain flights because Wilderness had informed us that we must arrive in CHC no later than 4PM on the day of pickup, or else we’d be forced to get a hotel for the night and they’d pick us up the next morning, something I really wanted to avoid, considering our already short time frame on the ground and that Wilderness wouldn’t be refunding that portion of the RV rental.)

So I did some research into Air New Zealand flights. Like I mentioned, they have a “Seat” fare, a “Seat+Bag” fare, and a couple of others, one of which is a “Flexi-time” fare, which includes everything the Seat+Bag fare includes in addition to a number of other perks, including the most important: free changes.



Essentially, as soon as the clock strikes 12:00AM NZ time on the day of the flight, Air New Zealand will allow you to change your flight as many times as you want to ANY flight that day which has revenue availability, whether before or after your originally scheduled departure, and without upcharging for fare difference, if any. 

Armed with this knowledge, I scoured Air New Zealand’s website and ended up booking the cheapest Flexi-time fare available for the day we needed, which turned out to be the same price as our original flights would have been, saving us $300! All we needed now was a couple empty seats on our preferred flight on the day of departure, and we’d be home free.  A calculated risk, sure, but one with which I was comfortable.


Our landing in SIN coincided almost perfectly with midnight in AKL giving me the ability to *hopefully* change to the exact flight we needed.  I booted up the computer, clicked manage reservations, found the flight we needed, clicked change and boom!

Success! 

Changed the to exact flight that would have cost me $200+ more per person and changed it without a fee or fare difference collection. Definitely something to keep in mind for any travels to AKL.


My office for this arduous task:



DSC00367-001 by AJK DDF, on Flickr



Our 90 minute connection felt like it was over before it began, and I only had chance to get a diet Coke in the Private Room and didn't have an opportunity to check out the world-famous Changi Airport, though it was beautiful. Oh well.  We packed up our stuff, bid farewell to Gary and headed to off to our chariot to New Zealand. Alas, there was no litter waiting for us, another disappointment :P
2015: 116K bkd | 1.6M brnd | F: OZ,NH,AA,EK | J: UA,CA,TK,DL,TN,AF,VA | LIH,NRT,ROR,PEK,CNS,BOB,MEL,TLV & Pacific Hopper