Intro – Two Premium Flying Experiences On A Second Visit To Africa
Part 1: Getting To Mauritius On My New Favorite Airline
Part 2: Spending Time In Southern Africa – Mauritius
Part 3: Spending Time In Southern Africa – Cape Town
Part 4: Spending Time In Southern Africa – Zambia
Part 5: The Long Luxurious Ride Home
All Emirates first and business class tickets come with free chauffeur pick up service in major hubs Emirates flies. This time I was picked up in a large Escalade SUV.
The driver was on time and I arrived at LAX early. Check in was at a special first class counter, though there were no special express passes for security.
After the usual security silliness, I headed to the Sky Team lounge which Emirates utilizes for all premium passengers in first and business. The first class lounge is simply a small sectioned off part of the business class lounge, with marginally better food options. I actually prefer the Business class section since its much bigger and has wider views.
But I was more looking forward to the views from the plane! I exited the lounge and after wandering around the brand new Tom Bradley International Terminal for a bit, headed over to where boarding would soon commence. The Airbus super jumbos require their own special gates, and since first and business class cabins are on the upper deck, a trip up the elevator to the second floor.
I quickly found my suite, and settled in for the 16 hour flight. The suites are super luxurious with full mini bar, snacks, large screen TV, vanity mirror, floor space for miles, and automatic sliding doors for the ultimate in privacy.
Soon amenity kits and pajamas were handed out, and champagne was being served. Traditional arabic coffee and dates was also offered. The suites were adorned with fresh flowers and special lotions and potpourri in the vanity. A drawer below contained a full stationary kit, with pen, for any hand written correspondence you might want to catch up on!
Wanting to see the main feature as soon as possible, I grabbed my PJs and made my way to one of the two spa bathrooms on board. They were as grand as rumored, bigger than most hotel bathrooms, with heated floors, TV screen and shower. I was pretty impressed. They even came with their own on board bathroom attendants!
Shortly after take off, menus were distributed. Emirates meal service is a la carte, allowing you to have one or all of the offerings on the menu at your leisure. Unfortunately by the time I ordered they were out of the arabic mezze starter, so I ordered caviar instead. I had two first class segments on this trip so I knew I’d have another go at getting the mezze. The dinner setting was placed and included a personal breadbasket.
After a small salad, I was served my main course of steak with vegetables. It wasn’t especially noteworthy.
I had already been snacking on mini bar treats so I skipped dessert and ordered tea. The service wasn’t as elaborate as you might find on an Asian airline, but I was happy to have my own personal tea pot. It’s the little things….
After dinner, my bed was made up and I settled in for some private suite time – doors closed. It’s pretty cool to have your own personal space within the confines of the huge airplane. Almost like flying private! I was also asked if I wanted to book time for an in flight shower before landing. Yes please! I took the slot just before breakfast, two hours prior to landing.
The Emirates I.C.E. entertainment system, coupled with the large in suite video screen made for some mighty fine in flight entertainment for the next few hours. I also got a bit restless and wandered around, making several visits to the on board lounge for a steady stream of drinks and snacks.
I finally drifted off for a bit, and before long, I was being woken up for my appointment with the shower. I always thought that an on board shower was a pretty cool, though gimmicky feature for a plane. Does anyone really use it? After 14 hours I was more than ready to give it a try. Each passenger gets 30 minutes in the bathroom, with a five minute shower.
The shower actually has a timer in it, though the water comes out hot, so no ice cold surprises. The floors are heated, robes and toiletries are supplied, and there is loads of room to move around. I left feeling like a new person!
I returned to my seat to fresh fruit and water. FAs were also preparing for breakfast though after all the snacking on board, I wasn’t really very hungry, so opted for the few pieces of fruit and some tea before landing. It was wonderful to land feeling so clean and refreshed.
After interacting with the most friendly customs agent ever, I was through immigration in no time and at the chauffeur service desk to collect the voucher for my ride to the hotel. Emirates not only provides chauffeur service, but if your connecting flight is over eight hours, they will provide a hotel room free of charge. I was stopping over for three nights, so was happy with the free rides to/ from the airport.
I opted to stay at the brand new Hyatt Place in the Al Rigga area of Dubai primarily due to its buy two get one night free summer promo and free breakfast. It was an excellent choice.
Al Rigga is about five minutes from the airport, and though a bit out of the new part of town, there is a very convenient train stop five minutes walk away.
The hotel had just opened the month before, so there were still some finishing touches being worked on. I was given a junior suite which was spacious and modern, though clearly still missing a few things. There was a nice workout room and pool, though I didn’t use either this trip. Overall, very comfortable and a great value.
I had two full recovery days in Dubai this trip, but with the 108 degree heat, I mostly stayed indoors. I did make it to the Mall of the Emirates to have a look at the indoor ski slope. And later, The Dubai Mall to check out the a380 flight simulator and Emirates gift shop. I still can’t figure out how the flight attendants get those hats on!
After a couple of jet lagged days, I was ready to get out of the heat and to Mauritius. Emirates has two daily flight options from Dubai. I could have taken another ride up front in the super jumbo a380 – and another flying shower, but it leaves at 3:20am. I would have likely slept right through it. Instead, I opted to switch to the more reasonable 10:20am departure, a three cabin 777 equipped with the same sliding door suites as on the bigger jet. My third chauffeur of the trip showed up to collect me from the hotel promptly at 7:20am.
A First Class agent was waiting to greet me curbside to help with check in formalities, and to get me through fast track immigration. I was at the lounge in no time.
My plane would be leaving from the old, main terminal, though with plenty of time before departure, I was able to take the train to the new terminal (created specifically for the fleet of a380s) to check out the first lounge there. I had previously been in the business lounge last trip, and found it just as nice, the difference being the sit down restaurant, private sleeping rooms and slightly better food options.
All planes are boarded via gates within the lounge, there’s no need to go anywhere else, unless your gate is in the other terminal.
The lounge was relatively quiet, but there were several people in the sit down restaurant for breakfast. I had already eaten at the hotel, so didn’t partake. I wanted to get back to the main terminal, where my departure gate was located, to have a look at the lounge there. I also wanted to sign up for my complimentary spa treatment.
The difference between the two lounges isn’t that great, same food options, amenities, and for the most part, design. There was plenty of room in both, the difference being that there is no departure gates within this lounge.
With all the lounge hopping, before I knew it, it was time to board. I headed down to the gate to catch my 777-300 ER to Mauritius.