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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Review of Royal Jordanian Airlines Crown Class 787 Chicago ORD to Amman AMM

Royal Jordanian crown class 787 Chicago to Amman and Return

The first offering is not Champagne, but Turkish coffee, water and juice - The couple across from us complained and questioning if there would be alcohol!  Yes, be patient.

Seats narrow and a hair on the opening next to me

Viewing screens very large but limited options for movies were available.  For example in late October of 2017, the only movie that interested me was King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and on the return 2 weeks later was War for the Planet of the Apes was added. I do not know if this was due to lack of access, lack of paying for better programming on the part of the airlines, or religious concerns.  Fortunately I had 5 seasons of Downton Abbey downloaded on my iPad.  

Arrangement is 2-2-2.  This is awkward for the window seats since you would have to crawl over a stranger potentially to get to the bathroom and with lie-flat seats, this is difficult.  Fortunately we had center seats. Suggest reserving these early.

See what I packed for Jordan and Israel.  LTD suggests being respectful and protecting yourself from the sun! 

Good selection of wines and meals options.

Barista espresso selections is a nice touch

Flight attendants very helpful and courteous and even allowed me extra pillows and blankets.  Try asking for that on an American flight!!!

Poor overhead storage.  I had to store my bag two rows ahead as did many business class passengers on the flight to Amman.  I made sure I was on the flight quickly for the return to secure overhead space.

They use mirrors everywhere to make spaces appear larger.  Never seen a full size mirror in a bathroom but the bathrooms are small for a 787.  For example the rear business class bathroom is very large on the American Airlines Dreamliner.  I don't like the smell of the products in the bathroom, but this brand appears to be a common middle east brand.  

Slow service
No hook for jacket/sweater in cubicle.  The amenities case was adequate.

Dinner service is a la carte. They ran out of most food by our row 3.  Only pasta or chicken with vegetable and rice left out of four choices.

Pasta and vegetables were good.  Desert was fair.  

A small bottle of water was provided at each seat prior to departure.  This could not be replenished but could be refilled from a larger bottle.  This does not seem very sanitary!!!   I did not feel that snacks or drinks were readily available for this 13 hour flight.

British Airways First Class Lounge Chicago O'hare ORD Terminal 5

I am an American Airlines Executive Platinum Flyer, which means I have access to all One World Lounges regardless of what One World airline or what class I am flying.  I have Priority Pass access as well, but that was not tested at this lounge.

From the One World Website:

"When your top tier status is equivalent to oneworld Emerald, you are entitled to the following oneworld benefits, no matter which oneworld airline or cabin class you are flying:
Access to First Class or Business Class priority check-in
Priority boarding
Access to preferred or pre-reserved seating when offered by the airline operating the flight
Priority standby and waitlisting (where offered)
Access to more than 600 airport lounges (with one guest) when traveling internationally, including premium First Class, Business Class and frequent flyer lounges, regardless of the class of service flown that day."

We were flying Royal Jordanian Crown Class to Amman and had about 45 minutes until boarding.  The closest and best lounge was British Airways First Class Lounge in Terminal 5 at ORD.

After a long day of traveling, when I approached the hostess to check in, I was told that the Royal Jordanian (Air France) lounge was farther down the terminal.  I said that I had One World Emerald status and I would prefer this lounge.  She continued to argue with me that we did not have access.

Again I was told I couldn’t enter despite emerald one world status.  She argued with me and kept directing me to Air France lounge.  Then she said that she was not going to argue with me anymore, and she was going to grant us entry...

“You’re lucky it’s a late night for us...”

Liquor excellent like I would expect from the Brits.

Bathrooms small and single.
No shower.

Elemis products.

Food looked old.

Snacks average.  Oreos? Really?

WiFi fast
Chairs uncomfortable.

Power outlets plentiful enough with usb and plugins

Thoughts on Abercrombie & Kent A&K

Thoughts on Abercrombie & Kent

Let me first start by saying that I have taken many tours over the years, from cruises with multiple land tours, to land tours and river cruises with companies such as Uniworld, to cycling tours.  I expected that I would see a difference with A&K since it was twice the price I was used to paying.  
Overall I though it was not worth the money. I felt like every other tourist in Israel. The private Jordan tour was special but Small Group Journeys was not. 
Dinners were better than with other groups and generally more wine was available than described in the itinerary (except in Jordan which is a Muslim country and not alcohol is not prevalent there).

1) our tour guide and driver were outstanding.  They clearly were experienced and dedicated to an exceptional experience
2) The Kempinski Ishtar Dead Sea hotel was outstanding.
3) The Movenpick Petra was not to my liking - in fact it was the worst hotel of our entire trip.  There was mold growing in the tub and the decor seemed about 30 years old.  The Tauck group stayed there as well.
4) Crossing into Israel over the Allenby bridge was good and I felt safe and catered to, until I got to Israel.  I was not told a time of meeting although our guide kept saying that we had to be there (where?) by 330PM.  Once we got to the Israel side we did not know what to do and we waited not knowing what to expect.  This caused much nervousness on my part, not speaking the language, nor knowing the area.  I tried calling the numbers of the travel agency on my paperwork and there was not answer.  This was unacceptable.  After about 45 minutes a man sitting next to us asked us if we were expecting a ride and it was our driver al l along.  He did not have a sign with our names which is what I look for when meeting a chauffeur service.
The Israel tour portion was unorganized. I would have expected preferential entry or planning optimal visiting times for the price.
1) I would prefer a more experienced tour guide.  It was his first tour with A&K.  He was knowledgeable but did not know the logistics or locations as I would have expected.  
2) The King David Hotel was outstanding but others only nice.  I would have expected a nicer hotel in Tel Aviv where there are many better options then the Dan.
3) We had four persons with mobility issues out of 16.** One or two required walkers.  Persons who have mobility issues should not be allowed in group tours or the activity level should be more clearly explained. Those with known mobility issues could have special arrangements made. I saw this in Egypt where local men were present to assist with moving wheelchairs walkers etc through archaeological sites. 
4) Restaurant and free time suggestions typed ahead
5) I interviewed a couple on our tour. They have traveled with Tauck in Eastern Europe and considered this experience slightly more luxurious. They felt the meals better and hotel accommodations better than Tauck. I spoke with another who said this experience was not up to par with other A&K trips. Most on our trip were new to A&K.
6) At the King David I met a group who were participating in an around the world tour with National Geographic and Wall Street Journal.  This consisted of 21 days, private jet (for 74 participants plus guides!) and no more than 2-3 days in each location.  Guess what they paid? At least $82,000 per person.  Well my price at 1/10th that didn't seem so bad.
7)  When I saw that our room at the King David costs $1200 per night, the price didn't seem so bad either.  A similar itinerary for Tauck was about 80% of our price and the group was 21 persons.
8)  The size of the crowds in Israel are ridiculous.  I would suggest that A&K develop an enhanced access to sites or alternative times to visit sites.  I did not feel "VIP" at any site.

**One couple I interviewed who had mobility problems did not have these mobility issues when they booked the trip. They stated that about 6 weeks ago they tried to cancel but were told they could not. I asked of they had travel insurance and they did not. While I understand the implications of this, it was unfortunate for the individuals that do not have mobility issues. Many of us would like to walk more and we had a very active group. It was also unfortunate and unsafe to encourage the individuals participate in a tour for which they were not capable. 

My recommendation for this trip:

Make the reservations yourself and hire a private guide and driver.  For nearly $17000 for 10 days, you could do pretty well and it is safe, so don't worry.  I probably will not use A&K again.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

American Airlines Flagship Lounge ORD Chicago O'Hare

This opened September 13, 2017.  I believe this lounge rivals the American Express Centurion Lounge.  There are upgraded good options compared to the regular American Lounge.  For example, I had wild rice salad and soba noodles.  Glenn had sushi.  There were many cold and hot options.  With my food I enjoyed a glass of Bollinger champagne.

 There were many comfortable seating options, including a few stools to elevate tired and swollen feet and many charging stations.

I did not view the shower options which are available, but the ladies' room was elegant with the typical Bigelow products.

There were plenty of attendants available to help with flight issues and they seemed to need some extra work.

For takeaway, there were some simple but welcome candy and nut options with wax paper bags if you want a treat for your flight -- skittles, m&m's, candy covered raisins and pralines.

The only thing that is missing compared to the Centurion lounge, is the special amenity at most Centurion Lounges -- for example, manicures or massage at Dallas.

As a reminder, the following passengers have access to Flagship Lounges:
  • Passengers traveling in oneworld longhaul international first and business class same day
  • Passengers traveling in first class and business class on American’s premium transcontinental routes, including from New York to Los Angeles, New York to San Francisco, and Miami to Los Angeles
  • American Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Platinum members traveling on a longhaul international itinerary, regardless of the class of service
  • All non-American AAdvantage oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members traveling on any oneworld flight, even if it’s domestic
As of this date, only JFK and ORD have flagship lounges, but several more are planned.

What I packed for Jordan and Israel in November

There is very little on packing for a desert climate like in Jordan and Israel, so we decided to give some options.  

Major goals:  Keep Covered from the Strong Sun and be respectful of Religious Sites.  

I am not a "dress" person and really like to stay covered in the sun.  It is hot one way or the other in whatever you wear, but to not be reapplying sunscreen every hour is important to me.  I wear it and apply first thing in the morning, but with covering well with clothing and wide hat, I find I am good for the day.

1.  Long sleeve sun shirts

I packed multiple because I planned to sweat daily and our tour was two weeks with laundry provided halfway through trip.  One with a high neck from Patagonia. One from Royal Robbins. One from REI. One from Columbia. And one long sleeve race T-shirt. One long sleeve Talbots shirt for evenings.One white Royal Robbins shirt, tunic.  Variable coverage is recommended to cover d├ęcolletage or neck.

Example basic sun shirt

Example tunic for more versatility and sun protection

2. Two pairs of Lucy get going pants

I love these paints due to the drawstring internal belt, pockets and cinch tie at bottom to convert to capris.  One pair capris. Two pairs of shorts (not used because I decided on better sun coveragem). One pair of skinny jeans. One pair of REI hiking pants. Two pairs of casual black pants for evening. Two blouses, polyester, for evening to reduce the risk of wrinkling. One cardigan sweater from Zara. One windbreaker. I WISH I PACKED A HEAVIER JACKET OR FLEECE FOR JERUSALEM WHICH WAS COLD.

Click here to see Columbia Outdoor Travel Pants!

3. Hats

One packable fedora. One baseball cap with adjustable strap. One floppy packable hat.

Packable wide brim hat

4. Scarves

Two scarves to utilized to block sun on my neck, cover my head, or dress up an outfit. I bought one additional traditional Jordanian scarf at Petra.

5. Shoes

 One pair of lightweight hiking sneakers which I did not worry about getting dirty or dusty. One pair of running shoes. One pair of dressy flats. One pair of low heels. One pair of rubber flip-flops.

Lightweight trail running shoes

6. Shirts for evening

Everywhere is casual and with a scarf you can dress up simple things.  Two short sleeve light colored T-shirts. 1/2 zip shirt. One zip up hoodie.

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