REVIEW: ibis Hotel, Amsterdam City Centre

My work colleagues and I visited Amsterdam for a quick weekend trip to celebrate a successful year for the company and to enjoy some time away. We were looking for a hotel that was centrally based and had the bare essentials for our stay. We decided to stay at the ibis Amsterdam Centre as it was located centrally, had all that we needed for our two-night stay and was very well priced. The hotel is a 1-2-minute walk from Amsterdam Central Station and was perfectly placed to access the centre of Amsterdam quickly.

Here is my review of the Twin ibis Beds and One Extra Bedroom at the ibis Amsterdam Centre Hotel.

Arrival and Check-In

We arrived at the hotel at approximately 11:30pm on Friday night. It seemed that quite a few people had also taken late flights as all the staff were attending to guests and the lobby was full of guests waiting to check in.

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Reception

The reception was designed in a way I have not seen before. The receptionist’s worked from a desk in front of the counter which created a more personal encounter as there was no desk between the customer service agent and me.

Although the hotel was very busy, we were quickly seen. We had pre-booked and pre-paid for our hotel room meaning the receptionist only had to check our passports to confirm the names of the booking. The group all had separate rooms around the hotel and we all set off to find our rooms.

The Room

My group were given room 563 on the 5th floor. It is hard to explain but the hotel is split into two blocks with floors 1-4 in one block and floors 5-9 in another block. To access floors 1-4, you need to take the elevator from the lobby to your floor. To access floors 5-9, you also need to take the elevator from the lobby to the 5th floor and cross a hallway bridge and take another elevator to your floor.

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Room 563

Room 563 was the new Twin ibis beds With One Extra Bed. We had this room because there was three of us sleeping in this room.

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Room Layout

The room was not very spacious because there was an additional single bed added and the storage space was limited. You cannot open your suitcase and just leave it open and out because there is very little room to move.

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Beds

The single beds were placed together and if you moved them apart, one of the beds would be blocking the entrance to the bathroom. Surprisingly, the bed was comfortable and okay to sleep on, but I found the pillow to be too soft, which seems to be my main issue with hotels.

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Storage Space

The storage space available would be perfect for guests who take out all the contents of their suitcase as the suitcase could be placed in the wardrobe area and clothing and shoes could be placed on the shelves next to it. As we were only staying for two nights, we did not empty our suitcase and instead, laid our suitcases on the floor whilst using them and then closed them when finished due to lack of space in the room.

A flat-screen television with international channels was available and we did make use of this once, but I did not pay attention to what we were watching. A telephone, information sheets and a safety box were also situated in the room, we did not make any use of these items.

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Only two charging plugs in the whole room

To my surprise, I believe there were only two plugs available in the whole room. I say I believe because we searched in the regular places you may find a plug, but we did not see any and I cannot be certain if there were any hidden away. This was not ideal considering there were three people sleeping in this room with the need to charge their devices.

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Bathroom

The bathroom reminded me of the bathroom facility that my old university had in one of their halls, it was small but functional. There were three hand towels and three bath towels prepared for us on arrival. The hotel asks that you use your towels for the duration of your stay as they are trying to help save the environment by minimising the number of washes they need to do, therefore not needing to use any electricity.

The shower area was very spacious and provided a lot of room. The shower was good and produced a good amount of pressure. My only issue with the shower was the temperature gauge. It was very hard to find the perfect temperature and the shower was either too hot or too cold but never the perfect temperature.

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Hairdryer

The bathroom also had a hair dryer on the wall and a plug for toothbrush chargers and shavers.

Services and Amenities

The hotel does not offer any services that I have previously seen at other hotels I have stayed in. The hotel does have a restaurant and bar and depending on your booking, breakfast is included during your stay. The amenities inside of the room include a sweet bed, a safe deposit box, satellite/cable colour TV and Wi-Fi. I cannot comment on the Wi-Fi speed and reliability as I did not make use of this service during my stay. If you require an iron during your stay, this can be requested at reception. The channels available on the TV are the standard main channels.

On-Site Dining

The hotel has a restaurant, a bar and a small convenience store inside the hotel. Breakfast is served in the dining area on the first floor and is available during the morning. As mentioned earlier, depending on your booking, breakfast is included during your stay.

The all you can eat breakfast buffet provides with a variety of food choices including a new seasonal special every two-months, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, various pieces of bread and more. Freshly ground coffee and fruit juices are the drinks available. I would advise not arriving at breakfast near the end of the time slot as the food is not changed consistently which limits your food choices. The restaurant was closed during our time at the hotel.

Positives

  • Central Location
  • Well priced
  • The option for breakfast to be included
  • Right next to the central train station
  • A little convenience store is on site

Negatives

  • Limited space in the room
  • Only one power socket in the whole room
  • Soft pillows

Final Say

This hotel and room met our needs perfectly. We wanted a centrally based hotel, close to central station and for a reasonable price and that is exactly what we got. The breakfast provided was average and the small shop on site was convenient. On the other hand, having three beds in a double bedroom was restricting and having only one power socket available was not ideal.

If you are looking for a hotel based in the centre of Amsterdam and just need a room to sleep in and leave your stuff, this hotel is perfect. If you would prefer a comfier sleep and a more spacious room, you may have to look at other options and pay more for the luxury.

Have you stayed at the ibis in the centre of Amsterdam before? What were your thoughts? Share them below in the comments.

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REVIEW: Korean Airlines Lounge at Los Angeles International Airport

 

For my flight home from Los Angeles to London, I flew Premium Economy with Air New Zealand. Sadly, booking premium economy does not allow me lounge access. So how did I end up in the Korean Air Lounge before my flight back to London?
Before I flew to America, I signed up for Priority Pass. Joining Priority Pass allows you access to over 1000 airport lounges worldwide regardless of what class you are flying in. Priority Pass offers three different memberships. Standard costs £69 per year and allows you access to lounges at a charge of £15 per lounge. Standard Plus costs £159 per year and allows you 10 free visits and then £15 for each visit after. Finally, the Prestige Plan costs£259 per year and allows the member free access all year. For each of these membership plans, if you decide to bring a guest into the lounge with you, you will be charged £15 per guest.

The Korean Air Lounge based in the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) at Los Angeles International is one of the lounges that are signed up to Priority Pass meaning I was allowed access to the lounge before my flight. Here is my review of the Korean Air Lounge at Los Angeles International.

Access & Check-In

The Korean Air Lounge is airside and located just after security. Follow signs for ‘ALL GATES’ and just before the duty-free stores, turn left and take the elevator to the 5th floor where the lounge is located. Due to being a Priority Pass member, I was only allowed access during the hours of 12pm and 8pm daily and this also depended on the number of people inside the lounge. Fortunately, there was no queue at reception and after showing my boarding pass, my Priority Pass Card and signing to prove it was me, I was granted access to the lounge.

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Reception

Lounge Layout

The first thing I noticed when entering the lounge was how busy it was. The chairs looked dirty at first sight but on closer inspection, I believe this is because of the material the chairs are made from but I will be honest, I did not really pay too much attention to this.

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A selection of seating

The lounge had a variety of seating choices available ranging from low padded lounge chairs to adjustable stools at the high bar. The high bar seemed to be the best area for passengers wanting to use their tablets or laptops whilst in the lounge.

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Selection of seating

There were no sofas available in the lounge but there was an area in the lounge where there was some larger seating available.

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A selection of seating

The feature I liked most about this lounge was the seating section outside the tall glass walls – A balcony overlooking the terminal and the duty-free shops. I spent most of my time in this part of the lounge. I found the seating comfortable and the atmosphere was peaceful.

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Balcony seating

Before walking out onto the balcony, there is a bar area with tables and seats and also some cosier seating against the glass.

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Bar and seating area

At the lounge entrance and off the main seating area, there was a baggage room with lockers, bathrooms and showers. I did not make use of the lockers and cannot comment on whether they can fit a cabin suitcase inside. A monitor was also situated on the wall for flight updates.

On the right-hand side after entering the lounge, there was a room where the food is served.

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Lounge entrance and the entrance to the locker rooms, toilets and showers

Amenities

There are two showers for use but you will need to check with reception first to see if they are available. Only one of the showers is wheelchair accessible. I did not visit the showers during my time in the lounge so I cannot comment on their cleanliness.

Four televisions were on different channels during my time in the lounge, all were muted. Low-level music was played throughout the lounge, adding to the already peaceful atmosphere. A selection of English and Korean language newspapers and magazines were also available on wall racks next to the TV.

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Choices of magazines, newspapers and a TV

The Wi-Fi in the lounge is free and although there are signs around the lounge with the password for the Wi-Fi on it, I did not need to enter a password. I used the Wi-Fi to look through my social media pages and had no issues with the internet speed. Dual USB plugs and power outlets are scattered throughout the lounge, often integrated into the furniture.

Food and Beverage

Other than at the bar, all food and drinks were located in a small narrow room. Food and drinks were complimentary and self-serve. On one side of the room was a refrigerator with beer and soft drinks and a buffet of fruit and vegetables. There was also one sandwich choice, a wrap choice and some sushi.

On the other side of the room, you could choose from drinks from the coffee/espresso machine, tea or juices. You also had a choice of cereal and ramen.  In the other section of the wall, chips and salsa, pretzels and bread were also available.

At the bar, there was a selection of alcoholic choices but no food. I was a bit disappointed that there was no choice of hot food available, all the foods available were light snacks and as you can see by the pictures, these disappeared quite quickly.


Positives:

  • Balcony seating
  • Comfortable seating
  • Great staff

Negatives:

  • Very busy
  • No hot food available (Hot water was needed for the ramen but I have not counted this as hot food)

Final Say

As I am a Priority Pass member, the Korean Air Lounge provided me with what I needed, a space to relax and enjoy complimentary food and drink before my flight. If I was a business class passenger, I would be disappointed with this lounge. Although the lounge itself is spacious and has plenty of comfortable seating, I found it to be very busy during my visit. The lounge has no hot food choices available so I would recommend finding an alternative place for food. With that being said, the staff were very kind and the lounge is modern but overall, I think there is slight room for improvement.

Have you ever experienced the Korean Air Lounge at LAX? If so, how was your experience?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Freehand Los Angeles Hotel​

Located in Downtown Los Angeles, The Freehand Los Angeles hotel (part of the Sydell Group) was, as described on the Sydell Group website, created for a new generation of urban travellers. The hotel has combined the culture of a hostel with innovative design, comfort and quality food and beverages at an affordable price.

Established in 2017, the hotel offers a variety of rooms including suites, premium hotel rooms and shared accommodation with the interior designed by Roman and Williams. With its Downtown location, restaurants, bars, markets and pharmacies are all within walking distance. The hotel also has four restaurants/bars where you can purchase anything from coffee to a cocktail and breakfast to dinner. With a variety of services and amenities available including 24-hour front desk and security, convenient and affordable parking, complimentary Wi-Fi and a rooftop pool, I am sure this hotel has everything you need.

I had the pleasure of staying at the Freehand Los Angeles from Monday 27th November 2017 to Friday 1st December 2017 and here is my review of the experience.

Arrival and Check-In

I was able to check-in to my room at 3pm but after a flight from JFK and a Lyft ride from LAX, I arrived at the hotel at approximately 6pm. I was greeted at my taxi by a lady who worked at the hotel and she assisted me by taking one of my bags through to reception. At the reception desk, I was welcomed to the hotel and asked for my ID to confirm who I was and what room I had been assigned. The receptionist also informed me that a deposit would be taken to cover any damage to the room or if I was to purchase any snacks during my stay.

After receiving my room keys and being informed about things I may need to know, the receptionist wished me a pleasant stay and I headed to my hotel room. The lady who previously assisted me with my bags offered to help again but I declined the offer and thanked her for asking.

The Room

I booked the King Room with a city view for my stay and I was given room 917 which was located on the 9th floor. There was not much of a city view as all I could see was the car park below and two tall buildings which blocked any view of the city. There was no additional cost for a view of the city but if you did want a real view of the city, I would recommend emailing the hotel to ask for a room with a view.

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The room had one king sized bed which was very large. I used the bed as a place to sit when watching the TV and when I sat with my back against the wall and spread my legs across the bed, there was still room at the side of the bed. When fully laid across the bed, there was a tiny amount of room left. I am six feet tall, so this gives you an idea of how big this bed was.

The bed itself was very comfortable but I found the pillows too soft and had to use both pillows to provide a bit more firmness. I normally only use one pillow to sleep as two pillows cause my neck to hurt the next day. On the left-hand side of the bed was a bedside table with a lamp. The bed was situated against the wall so there was no bedside table on the right-hand side.

Situated in the corner of the room were a workstation and chair and on top of the workstation was a selection of snacks available. The desk was roomy and had plenty of space for my Macbook and my external hard drive. In the cabinet below the workstation was a fridge full of light refreshments. The prices of the snacks and light refreshments were stated on the menu that was situated on the workstation. If you were to take one of the snacks, the price for the snacks would be taken out of the deposit you paid at check-in. I did not purchase any snacks during my stay as I mostly ate out and did not feel hungry whilst in my room.

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Above the workstation was a 43inch LED HDTV with access to a variety of channels. During my stay, I used the TV in the evenings and watched the live American Football games and also college basketball. The quality of the picture was great and there was a lot of channels to choose from. As mentioned earlier, I used my bed as a place to sit and watch the TV.

The bathroom was very large and had more than enough room. The bathroom had a toilet, wash basin, a mirror and a shower. The shower area was separated from the toilet area by a small step and a shower curtain. The shower was hot and powerful and came with toiletries but I had purchased my own to use during my stay. Two medium sized towels, two small sized towels and two facewash towels were provided with each day as well as a towel to place on the floor outside of the shower.

A robe and slippers were also provided in the room. They were both situated in the wardrobe and whilst I did not use the robe, the slippers were very comfortable and useful for when I had just woken up or gotten out of the shower.

Inside the wardrobe, there was a clothing rail with clothing hangars, an iron and ironing board, a safe for your personal belongings and space to put your shoes at the bottom. The safe was easy and simple to use, you just shut the door, type the code you want to use and press lock.

Services and Amenities

I tend not to use services provided by hotels during my stay, not for any bad reason but I have never felt the need to. The Freehand Los Angeles offers a few services and also some extra amenities that can be viewed here. < insert link

One of the amenities that caught my eye when booking this hotel was the fact the hotel has a rooftop pool and bar. At the time of booking, I did not really pay attention to this as I thought it would be freezing cold in LA but it turns out I was quite wrong. On my first day in LA, it was 25 degrees and the days that followed it was between 18 and 23 degrees. There are plenty of sun loungers surrounding the pool and there was a very peaceful atmosphere.

The hotel also offered complimentary Wi-Fi, daily housekeeping and in-room dining but I believe this is the standard offering from all hotels. The Wi-Fi was strong and I never had an issue with browsing the internet and uploading to YouTube. The housekeepers were polite and did an excellent job maintaining the room during my stay.

On-Site Dining

The Exchange Restaurant, Café Integral and Rudolph’s Bar & Tea are all situated within the hotel premises and offer a varied choice of food and drink. As I mentioned earlier in the review, the hotel even has a rooftop pool and bar called Broken Shaker.

 

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Café Integral

Café Integral offers small breakfast and lunch selections made with fresh, seasonal ingredients which can be accompanied by a choice of hot drinks and juices.

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Rudolph’s Bar & Tea

Rudolph’s Bar & Tea is located in the hotel’s lobby. The bar offers a menu full of tea-infused cocktails alongside light bites and a full tea service. I tried one of the cocktails when I arrived at the hotel, from what I can remember I paid $17 for it and it was really good! I asked the barman to surprise me with a strong cocktail and he did not let me down.

The lobby was full of seating for both the café and the bar. The whole lobby provided this very chilled and relaxed feeling. The windows provided great lighting and the furniture was very simplistic. The lobby kind of reminded me of garden furniture but the whole area looked amazing.

The Exchange Restaurant, which menu explores the multi-cultural flavours of urban LA through an Israeli lens is led by the team behind Bar Lab and is situated on the ground floor of the building. I did not eat here during my stay but from just looking at the menu, I am sure the food would have tasted great.

Check Out

Checking out was quick and easy. The latest I could vacate my room was at 12pm but I left the hotel at 11am to head to the airport. There was no queue at the reception desk and I was seen to immediately. I handed over my room key and informed them that I would like to check out. The receptionist asked me how my stay was and then wished me a safe flight back to the UK and also informed me that the deposit I paid on arrival was placed back onto my card.

Staff

During my stay at the hotel, I came into contact with a lot of different staff members. The staff were polite and helpful at all times and ensured I was happy during my stay. I did not feel like I was bothering any of the staff members and they always made sure my query or request was dealt with quickly and with a smile. The receptionists were welcoming and seemed to genuinely care, the housekeeping staff always had smiles on their faces and the staff members at the bar and rooftop bar always engaged in good conversation.


Positives

  • Very large and comfortable bed
  • The lobby is beautifully designed and is a great place to relax
  • Rooftop bar and pool
  • Good selection of TV channels

Negatives

  • Pillows were too soft
  • I booked a city view but got a view of the tall buildings and a car park

Final Say

I was not sure what to expect when I originally booked this hotel. I think this was because the images online portray the hostel culture very strongly and I thought the hotel would be full of groups on holiday, but I was so wrong. The mood around the hotel was very relaxed and it was often very silent during the day. The hotel is very well designed with the open plan lobby and the rooms are all good sizes. The rooftop bar and pool are great additions and together with a great bedroom, a choice of places to eat and drink, they make this hotel a great place to stay.

Disclaimer: The room at the Freehand Los Angeles was purchased using my own money and I am not in partnership with Freehand Los Angeles. All opinions stated in this review are my own.

 

REVIEW: American Airlines Transcontinental Business Class (A321) New York JFK to Los Angeles

Paying for a business class seat on a flight that is technically a domestic flight, you would expect some extra legroom, priority boarding and a few additional amenities.

Instead, on the 6 hours and 20-minute flights between New York JFK and Los Angeles, airlines including Delta, American Airlines, Jet Blue and United are pulling out all the stops to attract travellers, offering everything from lie-flat seats to premium dining.

I recently flew to Los Angeles from New York JFK and experienced the Transcontinental Business Class on-board American Airlines. Here is my review of the experience.

Check in & Security

I arrived at JFK airport for 8am which left me with plenty of spare time until my flight at 12pm. American Airlines is based in terminal 8 at New York JFK along with six other airlines. I decided to use the self-service machines to check in as they were the first things I saw when I walked into the terminal. The self-service kiosks are simple to use as you are given onscreen instructions to follow which take you through each step. After attaching the tags to my bags to be checked in, I walked to the self-service kiosk where I handed my bags over to the customer service agent who weighed my bags and sent them down the conveyer belt.

I then proceeded to security where I was disappointed not to see a priority security lane for passengers who were eligible for the privilege. The privilege is advertised by American Airlines as one of the services offered to customers as part of the business class service. I may have missed the signs walking towards security but I was not directed on two occasions by customer service to a priority lane so I assumed that this service was not offered. As it was midday, the queues for security were quite long and it was a 20-minute wait approximately. Had there been a priority security lane, I am sure I would have gotten through security a lot quicker.

Lounge

As part of the business class package, access to the Flagship Lounge is included. The lounge is a short walk from security and can be accessed by the stairs or lift.

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American Airlines Flagship Lounge

The lounge is expansive and has a variety of seating choices available including workstations and a quiet room. Travellers can take a seat and enjoy the dining table service on offer or you can take a selection of food from the buffet available. If you would like to read more about the Flagship Lounge, my review can be read here.

Boarding

The plane used for this flight was one of the four-class Airbus A321s featuring first, business, main cabin extra and the main cabin. The plane has 102 seats in total; 10 in first, 20 in business, 36 in main cabin extra and 36 in the main cabin. The Airbus A321 operates all American Airlines flights between JFK and LAX and also JFK and SFO.

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Airbus A321

Boarding began at 11:30am with the flight due to depart at 12pm.

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Boarding Groups

Boarding was performed in groups and I was part of group two. Due to being boarded in groups there was no need for the priority lane as passengers only boarded when their group was called. I was welcomed aboard by the lovely flight crew and took my seat ready to take off.

Cabin & Seat

Boarding the narrow-body A321 is always from the L1 door which meant I had to walk through the first class cabin, which is configured in the 1-1 configuration featuring lie-flat seats to access the business class cabin.

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Seat 10F

Business class is configured in the 2-2 configuration featuring lie-flat seats which offer 58 inches of pitch and are 19 inches wide. Each business class seat was angled away from the center and when your seat was slightly reclined, you could not see the person next to you. A small frosted glass window was placed in between the seats but this offered little privacy.

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Pillow and Blanket provided for the flight

On each seat was a pillow and blanket for the flight. I do not sleep well on flights so I did not make use of these amenities.

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Storage Space, Water, Amenity Kit & Power Outlets

There was some storage space situated to the right of the seat where a bottle of Dasani water and the amenity kit was kept before take off. Power outlets and the headphone jack were also located in this area. On the left side of the seat was a side pocket, a touchscreen controller for the entertainment system and a tray table.

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Touchscreen Controller

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Tray Table

During take-off and landing, the 15.4-inch fixed screen entertainment system could be used and it also had a shelf and a footstool just below. The keypad on the left side of the seat is used to recline the seat and in first and business class, the seat reclined a full 180 degrees to turn into a lie-flat bed.

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15.4 Inch Entertainment System

Amenities

Shortly after take off a flight attendant handed out Bose noise cancelling headphones for us to use with the entertainment system.

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Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones

The movies provided were varied with a few new film choices to choose from as well as other movies from over the years. Passengers could also watch episodes of their favourite TV show. During the flight, I watched Baby Driver, Dark Towers and War for the Planet of Apes.

The headphones were collected about 45 minutes before we were due to land which could be very annoying if you were in the middle of a film but luckily my film had just finished.

An amenity kit by Cole Haan was also provided and this included a toothbrush, toothpaste, a pair of socks, an eye mask and a refreshing travel kit by C.O. Bigelow.

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Amenity Kit By Cole Haan

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Amenity Kit By Cole Haan

Wi-Fi was available on the flight but an additional cost had to be paid for this.

Food & Beverages

Immediately after getting seated and while the plane taxied to the runway, we were offered a drink of either champagne or juice.

Shortly after departure the flight attendant came and asked me what I wanted to drink. A few minutes later the flight attendant came back with my drink and also a bowl of nuts. Instead of the flight attendants pushing a trolley and providing meals, they asked us individually and returned with our meals.

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Starter

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Main

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Dessert 

American Airlines allows passengers to pre-order their meals up to 24 hours before departure and I decided my food choices at the time of booking the flight. Allowing customers to preorder their meal allows the airline to cut down on wasted food as the meal is made to order. The flight attendant confirmed that my preordered meal was correct, went away to prepare my meal before returning shortly after. Sadly I could not remember the names of my food choices and I did not get a chance to take a picture of the menu. The food service lasted approximately 1 hour and the flight attendants were very attentive and polite.

As I begin to travel in different classes on different airlines, I will be better able to judge the food provided. On this flight, the food was presented well, tasted great and I thoroughly enjoyed the three-course meal provided.

After the hourlong food service, snacks were placed at the front of the cabin but I did not notice this until near the end of the flight.

Arrival

We arrived at Los Angeles International 50 minutes earlier than scheduled. Due to being ahead of schedule, we sat on the tarmac for 35 minutes before taxiing to gate 53B and then disembarking. My checked bags were one of the first to come off as first and business class passengers’ bags are tagged priority and are unloaded first.


Positives

  • Very expansive and modern lounge
  • Comfortable seat
  • Meals can be pre-ordered
  • Bose noise cancelling headphones

Negatives

  • I did not see a priority security lane in the airport
  • The seat does not offer a lot of privacy

Final Say

This flight was a great flight to experience my first ever business class flight and I enjoyed the whole experience. The Flagship Lounge is very modern and has the services and amenities needed for before the flight. The onboard experience was as expected, the flight attendants were polite and available when you needed them, the entertainment was sufficient for the duration of the flight and the Bose noise cancelling headphones ensured I could watch the entertainment with crisp audio. The meal was enjoyable and the seat was incredibly comfortable. To top all of this off, we arrived 50 minutes early. Given my positive experience, I would not hesitate to fly business class again with American Airlines.

REVIEW: American Airlines Flagship Lounge, New York (JFK)

I am fairly new to writing about my travel experiences and up until recently, had not had the opportunity. So when I was booking my American Airlines flight from New York to Los Angeles and noticed a small difference in price between economy and business, I jumped at the chance to travel business class for the first time.

Flying business class allowed me access to the American Airlines Flagship Lounge in Terminal 8 at New York JFK. On Wednesday 17th February 2016, American Airlines announced that the airline was refurbishing their lounges at JFK, LAX and Chicago O’Hare International Airport and also introducing the Flagship Lounges to DFW, MIA and Philadelphia International Airport. The upgrades and new lounges would create a more expansive space with more modern furnishings which would allow more premium customers the opportunity to use the lounge. Access to the lounge is granted to qualifying first and business customers, qualifying AAdvantage Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro and platinum, AAdvantage ConciergeKey and also OneWorld Emerald and Saphire. For more details on who can access the lounge, click here. The upgrades and new Flagship Lounges were due to be completed throughout 2017.

American Airlines also announced that they would become the first American airline to offer Flagship First Dining and Flagship Dining which would allow passengers to enjoy a pre-flight meal with table service and elegant dining with JFK, DFW, MIA and LAX airports providing the service.

On Monday 27th November 2017, I was lucky enough to enjoy the Flagship Lounge at New York JFK and here is my review.

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American Airlines Lounge Signs

Accessing the lounge is fairly easy and should not cause any problems. Immediately after coming through security, walk towards duty-free and the departure gates; as the walkway begins to slope, stay left on the elevated walkway and you will arrive at the lift and stairs to the American Airlines lounges.

Both the Flagship Lounge and Admirals Club share an entrance with the Flagship Lounge entrance on the left and the Admirals Club entrance on the right.

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American Airlines Lounge Entrance

After having my ticket checked, I was directed to the Flagship Lounge and walked down a long walkway to the lounge.

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Entrance Hall To The Flagship Lounge

I arrived at the lounge at 9am and during my time in the lounge, the number of people fluctuated quite a lot. At the beginning of my time in the lounge, it was reasonably busy with people seated in all parts of the lounge but when I left the lounge I was one of the last few people in there.

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American Airlines Flagship Lounge

The lounge is designed to be very spacious and offers a variety of different seating options including workstations, armchairs, sofas and elevated seating. The seating towards the entrance of the lounge is more bar/cafe style, the seating towards the back of the lounge is more private and comfortable. Some of the workstations were provided with computers but some were left empty for those who wished to use their own devices.

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Window Seating

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Seating

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Seating

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Empty Workstation

TV’s, newspapers and magazines were also provided in the lounge for those customers who wanted to keep up to date with the news on TV or read a newspaper or magazine to pass the time. Although the lounge was quiet, there was also a quiet room for the people who wanted to focus or enjoy the complete silence. Power outlets were situated in every seating area making it easy to charge your electronics wherever you decided to sit. I found it strange that I did not have to enter a password when I connected to the Wi-Fi but the network name and password were shown at each seating area on little signs. The Wi-Fi worked fine and I did not have any problems accessing and browsing the internet.

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TV Seating Area

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Newspapers And Magazines

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Entrance To The Quiet Room

The toilet facilities are very modern and clean, with the only negative being the doors, which do not stretch all the way from floor to ceiling. This leaves a significant gap under the door which results in a slight lack of privacy. Towards the back of the lounge are the shower rooms which customers can use during their time in the lounge.

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Entrance To The Showers

In terms of the food and dining experience, I found it to be a very well prepared selection of food, with a variety of different choices available. Whilst I was in the lounge, the selection of food available was from the breakfast menu and included bacon, eggs, potatoes and other foods including croissants, toast, cereals and yoghurts.

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Selection Of Food Available

A variety of hot and cold beverages were available for customers and there was also a premium wine table stationed in the middle of the lounge. Customers could choose from a cold beverage from the fridges, a variety of different Coca-Cola’s from the machine and also a variety of hot beverages from either of the hot drinks machine. All food and drink are free of charge including the selection of drinks available on the premium wine table.

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Hot drinks machine

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Coca-Cola Machine

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Alcohol And Cold Beverages

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Hot Drinks Machine

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Premium Wine Table

Final Say

As I mentioned, this was my first taste of the business class experience and this being my first time, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I found the lounge peaceful, quiet and very spacious. The hot and cold drink beverages had a great choice and the seating provided allowed you to relax comfortably. One thing I would like to see improved is the choices of food made available from the self-selection area. Only a few pieces from a normal breakfast were made available and it would have been nice to have a full breakfast. Having said that, this may have been available through the table service, which I did not use on this occasion. The lounge is only available to qualifying passengers and I believe the passengers who have access to this lounge will enjoy the whole experience. The food selection was good, the lounge is quiet and there is a lot of room for everyone to sit back and unwind before their flight.

DISCLAIMER: The business class ticket used to enter this lounge was purchased using my own money. I am not in partnership with American Airlines and all views in this review are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Superior Queen Room, The Time New York Hotel

Located just a two-minute walk away from the bright lights and excitement that is Times Square, The Time New York Hotel is a luxury Midtown Hotel. Having opened in 1999, the hotel (part of the DreamHotelGroup) has gone on to become a place for many entertainers, celebrities, artists and the rest of the creative class to stay when they are in New York.

With a variety of room choices available including superior king and queen, superior and deluxe suites and a penthouse, you can see why The Time New York Hotel is a popular choice. With a variety of amenities and services available including on property dining, wireless internet, access to parking, concierge services and an indoor fitness center, everything you require is readily available.

I had the pleasure of staying at the hotel from Sunday 19th November 2017 to Monday 27th November 2017 and here is my review of the experience.

Arrival and Check-In

Check in was not until 3pm but I was on an early morning flight and decided to try my luck anyway due to having two large pieces of luggage. On arrival, the doorman kindly assisted me with my luggage and directed me to the reception which was located on the second floor. As expected I was too early to check in and my room was not yet ready but the bell boy kindly took my bags to store and gave me receipts which I needed to use to collect my luggage later in the day.

After wandering around Central Park, I returned to the hotel at 2pm to relax in the lounge area before my room became available. To my surprise, the receptionist got my attention and informed me that my room was ready and my bags would be brought up to my room. The bell boy rang the doorbell (yes the rooms have doorbells) and brought my bags into my room. He proceeded to explain where everything was in my room and that if I required any assistance the staff were always available. He then wished me a good day and left me to settle in.

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Room 703

The Room

I booked the Superior Queen room for the duration of my stay and I was given room 703 which was located on the 7th floor. My room was based at the front of the hotel and overlooked the Ambassador Theatre.

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Queen Size Bed

The room had one queen size bed with Italian Ferette Linen bed sheets.  There were bedside tables and lamps on either side of the bed which had USB ports built into the wall to charge electronic devices. On the left bedside table, there was a clock radio with Bluetooth connectivity, meaning you could stream your music effortlessly. Although the hotel is just a stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of Times Square, I found it quite easy to fall asleep and often found myself asleep immediately after getting into bed. Getting to sleep so easily was probably because the pillows were incredibly soft and combined with the blackout blinds, the bed provided a good nights sleep.

The room also had a large mirror facing the bed, a desk with a chair, a fully stocked snack area and fridge and an extra chair with a table. I did not purchase anything from the fridge or snack area as there is a shop at the end of the street and I found most of the items I needed in there for a more reasonable price. The desk was a good size and was able to fit my MacBook and external hard drive without having to move things for space. The desk also had a table lamp for when you needed some extra light whilst working.

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Samsung Smart TV built into the mirror

I was quite surprised when I walked in as I did not see a TV on the wall. The bell boy showed me that the TV was built into the large mirror on the wall which faced the bed meaning I could watch TV from the comfort of the bed. The TV had access to most channels and I often found myself watching the NFL or New York Knicks before bed. The Samsung Smart TV also has USB and HDMI connectivity meaning you can connect your games consoles or laptops.

The bathroom facilities available were fantastic. The bathroom had a washbasin, a toilet, a mirror with surrounding light, a powerful shower and a selection of toiletries. The shower was both hot and powerful but I did not make use of the toiletries as I purchased my own in the UK before travelling.

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Wardrobe

The room also had a wardrobe to store any clothing that I wanted to hang up and I could leave other pieces of folded clothing on the bottom shelf. Underneath the wardrobe was a safe which I could use to store personal belongings whilst I was out of the hotel.

Services

I did not make use of any of the services on offer by the hotel other than housekeeping. Housekeeping cleaned my room whilst I was away and ensured my room had new bed linen, my bed was made, new towels and they also left one light on just in case I came back when it was dark.

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Concierge

The hotel did have a concierge on site to arrange any tickets for events, shows, sporting events, your travel or dinner reservations plus much more. The hotel also offered room service which I did not take advantage of. On the 4th floor was a fitness center but I also did not make use of this facility.

On-Site Dining

The hotel is home to a restaurant, a bar and a coffee shop which are open throughout the day, every day. The Goldfinch Coffee Shop is located on the 1st floor and can be accessed right from the street or as you enter the hotel through the main doors. The coffee shop has one aim – making the best possible coffee.

The Serafina at The Time Hotel has its heart in Northern Italy but it’s feet planted squarely in Midtown Manhattan (as the website describes it). With street access and access to the hotel, the restaurant offers a breakfast, brunch/lunch, dinner and has a great selection of cocktails and wine available. I had the pleasure of dining at this restaurant twice, once for breakfast and once for dinner. I found that the prices of the meals available were average compared to the other places I had eaten in New York. The prices for breakfast were anywhere between $7 and $22 per person and for dinner, $9 and $32 per person.  The waiters and waitresses who served me did so with a constant smile and were always kind during our short conversations. Drinks were always made quickly and the food arrived shortly after placing an order, even when the restaurant was busy.

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LeGrande Lounge

A coffee shop for the quick drink and snack in the morning, a restaurant for a lovely meal in the early evening and finally a lounge to relax and unwind in the late evening. Located on the second floor and just a few short steps away from the reception is the LeGrande Lounge.

With the lounge being semi-hidden from the reception and lobby, it is the perfect place to grab a quick drink or to enjoy a long conversation. The dimly lit lounge offers a place to enjoy your drink and company in a peaceful, comfortable environment. With the bar staying open late into the evening, this is the perfect place to relax and unwind after a day exploring the city or after a meal in the Serafina restaurant.

Check Out

Checking out was quick and easy. The receptionist asked if I had enjoyed my stay at the hotel, to which I informed her that I loved the hotel and would be back for sure one day. She informed me that the deposit I paid on arrival had been sent back to my bank and she wished me a good day.

Staff

Where do I start? I think the staff made my stay at the hotel extra special. Throughout my stay, every member of staff from housekeeping all the way up to management always made an effort to ask how I was and if I needed anything. Housekeeping always ensured my room was clean and tidy for my return in the afternoon, the receptionists answered any queries I had and the doormen always wished me a good day when leaving the hotel.  During my meals in the Serafina, staff were always polite and provided their service with a smile on their face.

Final Say

I really enjoyed my stay at The Time New York and would recommend staying here. I found the hotel great value for money compared to other options in the area. The room, the staff, the location all add up to make this hotel a fantastic place to stay in New York. The room was a perfect size and had everything you required (even a TV in the mirror!). The staff always made the extra effort to ensure you were pleased during your stay and with the location only being a 1-minute walk to Times Square, you will not regret staying at The Time New York Hotel.

DISCLAIMER: This hotel was purchased using my own money. I am not in partnership with The Time New York. All views are my own.

REVIEW: Norwegian Premium Economy (B787-9) London Gatwick to New York JFK

I am a huge fan of Norwegian because I believe they offer a good service in both their short-haul and long-haul operations. I booked a seat in their premium cabin on a flight from London Gatwick to New York JFK early in 2017. I originally booked a seat on the 17:10pm flight from Gatwick but due to a change in aircraft, I asked to be moved onto the 6am flight which was granted. Here is the review of my experience in Premium Economy service provided by Norwegian.

Norwegian’s contact leading up to my flight was great. They sent reminders that my flight was soon and what was required. Norwegian also informed me of any changes to my booking and this happened on two occasions. The first time Norwegian informed me of a change in my booking was to notify me of a change in aircraft being used for the flight. The situation was quickly resolved and I was rebooked onto the 6am flight on the same day. The second time Norwegian got in touch was to notify me about pre-checks and also that check-in was being opened an hour earlier to deal with this.

Check-in & Security

As part of the premium economy package, you are entitled to fast track check-in which includes two checked bags up to 20KG and 1 cabin bag weighing up to 10KG, access to the No1 Lounge in the South Terminal, fast track at the gate, fast-track boarding and a seat in the premium cabin. I arrived at London Gatwick at 2:30am to ensure I had enough time to access the No1 Lounge but sadly the lounge does not open until 4am. A Norwegian staff member greeted me on arrival and began to ask me pre-check questions before allowing me to check in. There were only two people ahead of me in the premium check-in queue when I arrived and there were approximately 20 people queuing for the economy check-in.

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Premium check-in at London Gatwick Airport

The economy check-in queue was being handled by two check-in attendants and the premium check-in queue was being handled by one. The gentlemen who checked me in was very polite, gave me clear instructions and wished me a pleasant flight.

Lounge

As I mentioned, the No1 Lounge does not open until 4am meaning I had to wait approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes before the lounge opened. The No1 Lounge in the south terminal offers panoramic runway views, a relaxing and quiet space with a fully stocked bar and a small selection of food. I reviewed my experience in the No1 Lounge and you can read about it here.

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No1 Lounge, Gatwick South Terminal

The lounge also has monitors to keep you up to date with your flight information. The gate information was shown at 4:40am and the flight was departing from gate 19.

Boarding

On arrival, there was a queue to access passport check and a member of staff was checking our details before we were allowed to progress any further. After the pre-checks were done, we were sent forward to the boarding pass and passport check where economy and premium economy passengers were separated into different queues. Premium economy passengers were prioritised by the staff. Our flight was due to depart at 6am and we began boarding at 5:20am with premium economy passengers being boarded first.

Cabin & Seat

After being guided to my seat, all premium economy passengers were offered a welcome drink with the choice of apple juice or water.

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Seat 5G in the premium cabin

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The blanket provided by Norwegian

The seat was a good size, comfortable and came with 55 inches of leg room. You were also given a blanket to use during the flight. The premium cabin has 35 seats based in a 2-3-2 configuration in 5 rows. My seat was 5G and I was situated in the last row of the cabin. The seat comes with a TV monitor and a tray, both are situated in the armrests.

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Tray

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TV Screen

We taxied to the runway at 6:15am and were airborne at 6:20am. The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner is a fantastic aircraft and take off was so smooth, I did not even realise we had left the ground. Shortly after taking off, the cabin crew made their way round the cabin offering everyone a tea or coffee.

Amenities

Unfortunately, there was no supply of headphones on the plane and a few people, including myself, went without in-flight entertainment. According to the cabin crew, this was due to the catering company not providing Norwegian with the headphones. The selection of movies was not great but I am sure they could keep you entertained for the duration of the flight.

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Snack Bar, Videos, Moving Maps, Games and more options

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The new movies options

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The new movies options

Food & Beverages

At 7:20am, our breakfast meal was served and we were again offered drinks of our choice.

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Breakfast

The cabin crew then came round to collect our rubbish and offered us a choice of drinks. Now that food had been served, the rubbish was collected and the cabin was silent, the cabin lights were turned off and everyone settled into their entertainment or went to sleep. At this point in the flight, there was still 6 hours to go.

I do not sleep well on flights and I began writing this post on the flight. During the flight, I used the monitor to order drinks which are complimentary for premium passengers. This service seemed to take a little time and I was often waiting 5 minutes for my drink to arrive.

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Drink choices (Page 1)

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Drink choices (Page 2)

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Drink choices (Page 3)

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Drink Choices (Page 4)

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Drink choices (Page 5)

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Drink choices (Page 6)

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Drink Choices (Page 7)

Midway through the flight, the cabin lights were turned back on and the cabin crew began serving the next meal.

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Second in flight meal

After our second in-flight meal was served, the cabin settled down again. Cabin crew members only appeared to offer extra drinks and serve customer orders.

Arrival

We landed at 8:30am, 1 hour before our scheduled arrival. After a 10 minute wait sitting at the edge of the runway waiting for clearance to cross the takeoff runway, we were ready to join our gate and disembark. There was a 15-minute wait at the gate because the airport staff did not start work until 9am and were not willing to start earlier. I said my goodbyes to the cabin crew and began my New York City adventure.


Positives

  • Great service by the staff
  • Modern aircraft
  • Comfortable seating
  • Very competitive prices compared to other competitors

Negatives

  • No headphones provided on the flight
  • Lounge does not open until 4am (would be better if they could open earlier)
  • Could provide a better choice of movies

Final Say

I am a huge fan of Norwegian as I mentioned earlier in the review and I believe what they are currently doing in the transatlantic market is fantastic. Although people may be drawn to the cheap fares of economy with Norwegian, the Premium Economy experience is worth the extra cost.

In the future, I hope to see Norwegian expand on premium economy and bring in a business class cabin. I believe this service will still be cheaper than their competitors and they would begin to acquire more customers from other airlines.

Overall I enjoyed the whole experience. The ticket price was good, the service was fantastic and I am sure Norwegian will only continue to grow.

Disclaimer: The premium economy ticket was purchased using my own money and I am not in partnership with Norwegian. All opinions stated in this review are my own.