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Re: Austrian Business Class I dont fly business for the smile, but for a good seat.
Some swiss agents have attitude, on most airlines you will find that. I can deal with attitude, but i cant deal with a non flat bed

November 22, 2011, 02:50:50 AM
Re: The first DDFer to go to St. Regis Maldives, with a little Dubai to start

Just a cool pic
We took cholov yisroel milk along and when in the mood asked them to make us milk shakes with fresh fruits, probably the first cholov yisroel milkshakes in that country

February 07, 2017, 05:02:21 PM
Re: Maldives Master Thread Dont forget, most times the day you arrive or leave are almost half gone, so 7 days is nice...
It also depends how much money you willing to spend on activities. If you do 2-3 a day, then you could do 2 weeks
We were NOT ready to leave after 5 days

February 17, 2017, 02:05:02 PM
Panama with 6 kids incl San blas islands In Switzerland the kids have 2 weeks vacation in February. The last few years we always traveled to Miami and enjoyed it very much. After going there quite a few times, it got quite boring. We have done all the attractions more than once and I wanted to try something new. I wanted a place with kosher food, warm weather and stuff to do with the kids. I checked a few options and decided, let's try panama

I looked for some cheap tickets from Europe and found a good rate from zrh via cdg with air France. When I travel with the kids, I fly economy (us airways days are over, I used them through trackitback to fly with kids business to Hawaii and Asia) but always pay the extra money for first row seats. I do need a little extra space and this makes the flight manageable, even in economy. Air France had a good rate in premium economy, that wasn't much more after buying premium seats in economy, so I booked that.

Advantages of air france:
When traveling with kids (we habe 6 boys age 2-12) I make sure that the travel is as easy possible, so that my dear wife will want to come along on these trips in the future. Air France only left at 10:40, so this made the stress in the morning easier. The other airlines that fly from Europe (lh, klm, ob) would have been much earlier. Also af premium economy gives premium access to premium economy, so business class check in, no wait by security. On the way back, they had a late 21:10 departure from pty, so the kids would sleep easy

So I had 10 days in panama, sun-wed and had to arrange a program for that time. My plan was to stay the first week in panama city and do all the activities and spend the second week at the beach relaxing somewhere. I checked a few hotels and the sortis had the best deal: 1 bedroom suite (separate living room, small kitchen and 2 bathrooms) for 240 dollars a night. That included 60 dollars spending money at the hotel daily. I decided to book 2 of these suites, that would be perfect for us. I kept on checking on the rate until departure and it lowered to 165 dollars a night. I booked it through (every 10 night free) and some cashback, so I got the rate down to 145 usd a night. What a amazing rate for 90 m2 suite in a 5 star hotel. Beats crazy prices in miami. The hotel also had a kosher sushi restaurant in the lobby, so it was a no brainer. The only minus, it's a 25min walk from the Jewish area and is not in the eiruv (more on that later)

As I have older boys I wanted to spend the second week somewhere at the beach, but not have bumper to bumper traffic at the pool. The easiest option would have been the le meridien outside Panama city, that is on the beach. I didn't consider it, as the beach didn't seem to get a good review and the znius aspect at the pool wasn't to good.
I looked at quite a few villas along the coast, that had nice pools and beach access, but couldn't decide which one and kept on pushing it off. By the time I wanted to book one, all were taken. So I went back to a crazy idea I had: San blas islands. If you read about San blas, you will see its 100s of small islands along the coast of Panama that look stunning. White sand, secluded beaches, amazing water… basically a second Maldives.
The only problem, you can't find any decent accommodation and with 6 kids I couldn't sleep in a hut on the beach without electricity. This left us with one option: chartering a boat. Sounds crazy with 6 kids, but looking at these amazing pictures, I really wanted to make it happen. I reached out to a few companies that offer it and found the perfect boat. A beautiful Catamaran with 4 bedrooms. It was quite expensive (about 1200 a night) but it had a crew of 3 and gave us enough room comfortably for our family. I decided to book it for 2 nights and spend the last night before our flight back in panama city. Normally these charters come with food, I got a 10% discount, telling them I will bring my own food. I also arranged check in and check out at 15:00 afternoon and not at 9 in the morning. This gave us enough time to shop Sunday morning for food and make the drive to San Blas without getting up early.
The only way to get to San Blas, take a 4x4 for about 2 hour drive from Panama city. I contacted a few companies that offered transportation and all only had 7 seaters. They offered to squeeze us in, but I didn't want to be stuck for 2 hours on 6 seats (driver 1 seat) only other option was to take 2 suv or rent my own car. I did have to go shopping that morning and not being depended on a transport company seemed like the better deal. I checked prices and avis had a luxury 7 seater suv for 230 usd for 3 days incl insurance, so I went for that. Pick up was a 5 min drive from the hotel

Flights booked. Accommodations booked.

 Just needed to arrange the tours for the first week. Landing Sunday at 7pm meant the kids would be very tired and I didn't want to stress the first day, so I left Monday empty to explore on our own pace. Friday erev shabbes, I wanted a little time to relax and get us food for shabbes, so this left tue,wed,thu to explore. After reading the previous trip reports on Ddf, I decided to book with Soray from therealpanamatours. Let me just say this in advance, she was amazing! I contacted her through whatsapp and told her the 3 tours I wanted to do
-embera village tour
-st Anton valley day trip
-Panama canal and lake gatun

We arranged these three tours for tue-thu. She was so easy to deal with and communication was top. I also booked her to pick us up from airport with a mini bus for 45 usd

All planning done….

Next: actual trip

February 18, 2018, 02:01:54 AM
Re: Panama with 6 kids incl San blas islands Sunday:
We made our way to the airport and checked in very fast using the business class check in. As we got to the airport quite late we didn't have time for any lounge and went straight to the gate. The flight zrh-cdg is quite short and no ksml was served. We had a little less then 2 hours in Paris and the connection went quite smooth. We were able to use the priority line for passport control. The only pain in cdg: they don't give back the stroller. They will check it straight to final destination. Our son can walk already, so not so bad, but with small kids quite a pain.
Our flight to pty should have been a new 787 but got changed last minute to a 777.
The premium economy on the 787 is a little better and it also didn't have wifi. Flight was full in all cabins, but we didn't really feel it as this small PE cabin only had 24 seats. The entertainment system was very good and it worked from sitting down. Some airlines don't start the system until in the air, I really like it right away, as it helps settling the kids down
The seat was very comfortable, we had plenty of legroom, it was wide enough… for sure worth it for a 11 hour flight.
The food from Paris was a Desaster. I knew that in advance and took along our own sandwiches. For main course they served fish! It comes from Amsterdam and was one of the worst ever tasted.
The flight dragged quite long and our 2 year old wasn't easy all the time, as this is the hardest age to travel. Wants to walk around and doesn't want to watch movies. We landed in pty 30 min before schedule and passed immigration quite fast, as we exited the plane before the entire economy cabin. Pty is a small airport and luggage didn't take long to arrive. Soray’s driver was waiting for us and the drive to the hotel took about 30 min.
I was in contact with the manager before arrival and he promised 2 suites on the same floor. Checking in at 8:30 pm that wasn't available. I was very upset, but there was nothing they could do. I could have waited 2 hours or take a suite and a regular room on same floor and move the regular room to a suite the next day. As we didn't really need the second room to be a suite, that's what we did. Staff was very friendly and the lobby looked quite nice. We got to our rooms and the suite was exactly like on the pictures. We had plenty of space and the sofabed  in the living room comfortably fit 2 kids. Suite was very modern and spacious, really nothing to complain. For us it was 3 in the morning and none of my kids slept on the plane, so I figured it would be a easy ‘good night’ but they remembered to be hungry and couldn't go to sleep without food. This is were kava came in really handy. A good kosher sushi/pizza place in the lobby. Got some pizza and sushi-was very good and finally made it to bed after a long day

We got up quite late and went to  for breakfast to   the guy easiest way to get around is by Uber, so my wife and I each ordered a separate Uber from the app.
We only eat cholov Yisroel and realized that all restaurants don't keep it. You have a very limited amount of things you can order, that is chalav Yisroel, so be aware if you want to eat milky in panama and keep it,The pizza was Cy, everything else not. No milkshakes, no pastas… this is why it was the last time we went to eat milky. Food was ok, nothing special
We decided to check out the kosher food situation and went to multicentro not far from there. At the -2 level in the parking garage there is a huge kosher shop. Its called deli k and really has anything you can ask for. It's bigger than a lot of shops in Israel or usa.
We bought stuff that we need for the next days: nosh, cereal and milk for breakfast, bread for lunch sandwiches….
On the way back we dropped the stuff at the hotel and continued to ancon hill. Ancon hill is a small hill outside Panama city, that has amazing views from the top. It's a 45 min hike per way through the jungle and very stroller friendly.  We got to see some animals on the way and took some amazing pics on the top. Make sure to bring plenty of water, as there is nobody selling it on top
We then walked down and at the bottom it had a small stall selling drinks and fruits. It also had a small museum on Panamanian culture, but we didn't go
After a while we headed back to the hotel and hit the pool for 2 hours. It was quite empty and I had no problem taking my little We also changed our second room to a suite on the same floor.
For dinner we went to Luna by darna. Food was very good and it was nice sitting outside. It's a short 3 min walk from the sortis, that made it quite convenient. As we still had a little jetlag and had to get up relatively early, we called it a early night

Tomorrow: embrea village tour

February 22, 2018, 06:01:11 PM
Re: Panama with 6 kids incl San blas islands Panama5


Will not have time this week to continue, but here two pics, that show what I woke up to in the morning on our boat in san blas... two different islands

February 27, 2018, 09:36:58 AM
Re: Panama with 6 kids incl San blas islands day 2

We got up quite early for a vacation day, but Soray didn't want to leave to late. We made up for 09:00, but it ended up being 09:30 until we made it downstairs. We ate breakfast in the room and packed some snacks and sandwiches. She waited for us in the lobby and welcomed us with such a smile. She has a comfortable van, that fit the 8 of us with no problem. A cooler with cold drinks and even some kosher snacks were prepared by her in advance. She went to the kosher shop to get some goodies for the day and we didn't even ask for it. The second my kids got into the car, she started playing some Jewish music and disco lights went on. Just fun and the kids liked her right away. The drive was a little more than a hour and we got a lot of Infos about Panama, the city and also the emberas. She also made sure to talk to the kids in the back. It was important to her, that the kids also participate and she had a great way of dealing with them throughout the entire trip.

The closer we got, the roads got quite bumpy. Finally we arrived at a small port, were our Indian guides for the day were waiting. They didn't speak a lot of english but we were able to communicate with hands and feet and Soray led the way.


Our entire family boarded wooden canoes, that the Indians produce themselves and we drove down the river.





It was quite unreal, here we are in middle of a rainforest, a Canoo driven by Indians. The scenery around us was unreal. After about 15 minutes we arrived at their village and had a huge reception by the entire village with singing and dancing. They showed us around the entire village and also made a dance for us, at the end most of us participated as well :-) Soray told them in advance, that a family with 6 boys is coming and set up a soccer game against the village kids. She bought a ball along that we gave as a gift for them to keep. This was just a unreal moment: a few Jewish kids, zizis and yarmulkes flying, playing football against barefoot Indian kids in middle of a rainforest. The swiss did win 5-4 and made some new friends. They showed us their school and prepared us a huge fruit platter of unknown fruits for lunch. We ate our sandwiches and sorays cooler provided cold drinks throughout the day. After lunch, the plan was to ride down further the river and swim in a natural pool under a waterfall in middle of the jungle. Some of the Indian kids joined us, as they really liked us. A short boat ride and hike through the jungle and we reached the place. Wow, unreal. I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Just stunning. We spend almost 2 hours there, swimming, relaxing and taking pictures.






We then made it back to the car after dropping of the Indians at their village. We hit some traffic on the way back, but it wasn't to bad. Back at the hotel, I checked the pool and saw it was empty, so we went for a swim.

My wife got us some sushi from the lobby, that we ate by the pool. We were all quite tired, but went pita plus for dinner. It was ok, but nothing special... after a long day we didnt want a fancy sit down that takes ages, so it did the job, but not a must do

What an amazing day.

Tomorrow: San Anton valley

June 11, 2018, 05:13:50 AM
Re: Dubai Master Thread Just as a warning, armani is booked out until end of year for kosher restaurant. Elis is not picking up any calls and not replying to messages... it seems they are not able to handle the volume, so if you going to dubai dont think it will be easy to have kosher food
December 10, 2020, 06:26:57 AM
Re: Dubai Master Thread Quick recap of our trip
We arrived friday morning 00:35
I rented a big 9 seater passenger van (in dubai only 2 people in regular taxi and 4 people in minivan are allowed because of covid)
We stayed at the al habtoor grand hotel (got a good rate through mariott best rate -25%)
friday we got up late and went to miracle gardens, very nice place and good for a erev shabbes
shabbes we spend with chabad at the adress marina (15 min from our hotel) about 250 people, nice atmosphere and good food
moze shabbes we went to global village, its a big area with different markets/shops of different countries. Also has a cool car show and a big attraction park for kids (open until midnight)
we spend every morning by pool/beach and did something in afternnon
-sunday we went to motiongate. its a attraction park about 30 min out of dubai. its right next to legoland. (legoland is more for smaller kids) you can buy cheaper tickets online on groupon or other website. we bought front of line tickets, without it every ride would have been 1 hour wait
-monday we went out in the desert and did a dune buggy tour at sunset. It was the best activity we did. the place was not organized well, but after difficulties sorting it out it was amazing
-tuesday we went to the top of burj al khalifa and watched the fountain show, once again buy discounted tickets on websites. best time to go 30 min before sunset, so you get to see day/sunset/night
-wednesday we did the mall of the emirates incl snowpark
-thursday was new year, the hotel was quite expensive that night, so we checked out after spending morning at the pool and a late checkout and went to a airport hotel (aloft Deira). it was much cheaper and as our flight was 08 in the morning next day. we went back to global village for some shopping, they also had some nice fireworks for new year

some general info

-rent a car. its cheap and has parking everywere
-dubai airport is huge and check in can have long lines. we almost missed our flight being there 2 hours before
-book activities on deals websites
-we took along some double wrapped meals, as not have to eat out every meal
-restaurant in the hilton by elis kitchen was a buffet. 300 aed for adults, 200 aed for kids. small selection. quite expensive for what it was
-armani was very good. cheaper then elis kitchen, better food and has a good kids menu, so it ended up being much cheaper
-masks have to be worn everywere, even by kids from the age of 6. my kids between 6-10 didnt wear and nobody cared. at pool or beach nobody had one on
-bringing in ffod through customs is allowed
-certain medicins are not allowed. there is a website were you can send in doctors letter and they aprove it in 24 hours and you get a permit. better then going to jail
-bring your own groceries, as you cant buy to much kosher stuff there
-chabad might have some milk, we brought our own for easy breakfast. you cant drink cholov stam there
-need a negative pcr test for everyone over 12 no older then 96 hours old

it was a very nice, fun and safe vacation spot. my kids walked around with their yarmukles and zizis no problem. we even saw a shtraimel shabbes walking on the street. Dubai is not cheap, things cost the same as in USA (hotels and taxis a little cheaper) but its one of the only places that allows tourism at the moment

January 13, 2021, 08:50:57 AM
Re: REB SHAYALA KARESTEIRER I was there this week. Bought a permit of one of the "hackers" when coming into country they accepted permit. told me i have to quarantine 14 days, had to fill out quarantine form. I gave them quarantine adress at the zion. I was there 2 hours and went back to airport, no passport control when leaving, so all went well. I cant say if they would have made issues when leaving on a flight (non shengen) that had passport control

April 16, 2021, 10:50:21 AM