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Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Phuket to Manchester via Dubai Emirates Buisness Class 2014 report.

The beaches of Phuket
If you go away, it is a sad fact that you have to go home. Having spent 16 idyllic days in and around the Island of Phuket, it was time to return to Manchester. As I was traveling Emirates Business Class the one thing that was not a problem was the flight.
The flight from Phuket is a night flight, EK379 was due to leave Phuket at 00.30. Check in at Phuket airport was very easy and a lady in a yellow suite escorted us through customs and security at breakneck speed to the Phuket Airport Coral Lounge.
This lounge was very small area cordoned off from the main waiting area with semi permanent walls, it was very full and felt crowded. There was a very small selection of food, soft drinks, coffee and beer. There was not any tea. It was actually better out in the main airport lounge area where they were good shops, plenty of seating and a variety of food outlets.
Phuket Airport 2014

Phuket Airport 2014

Phuket Airport 2014

Phuket Airport 2014
 The aircraft scheduled for this route was an A340 so I was not expecting very much in the way of comfort as many of these aircraft have not been upgraded. I was therefor presently surprised when we boarded to fine we were on a 777-300, with the same seating as on the journey to Phuket.
All the passengers boarded promptly and the Air Hostess was just about to hand us our champagne when the Captain announce that the flight was ready to depart and started to taxi along to the take off position; this was an early departure as it was only 00.10. Soon after take off we were given more Champagne.
As it was a night flight I did not know what to expect as regards the meal service. It seems that 'Light Bites' of Hot and Cold Snacks would be served promptly after take off, then breakfast as we approached Dubai.
We were given Amenity packs with hand cream, face cream, toothbrush and toothpaste in them.
soon after take off I made my seat into a bed, I was given a memory foam type seat cover to use and I went off to sleep so did not eat but if I had wanted food this was the Menu.

Cold Snacks;
Selection of open Sandwiches.

Hot Snacks;
Seafood Pie.
Penne with tomato sauce.
Singaporean fried rice with chicken satay.

A selection of sweets.

Tea, Coffee, Chocolates and instant Cup Noodles available at ant time.


Fruit Juices

Breakfast Fruits.


Main Course;

Gruyere cheese omelette.

Creamy scrambled eggs.

Shrimp Pad Thai.

Delicatessen's cold meats and cheese.

Bread Basket.

Hot Beverages.

The flight to Dubai was very fast, it was just 6 hours, that combined with he early take off got us into Dubai for 03.20 not the scheduled 03.55.

To pass the time we made use of the Business Class Lounge in what is now called the B terminal. This Lounge a vast area as it has to accommodate all the Business Class passengers who pass through Dubai Airport. Luckily at this time in the morning it was quiet and I found an area to get a bit of sleep.
EK 17 Manchester to Dubai was due to leave at 07.25, as you can see from the photo this was an Airbus 380.

The crew on this flight were fantastic, so friendly and welcoming they truly looked after us. As we did not have to drive when we got to Manchester we made good use of the bar! and enjoyed an exceptional lunch that made you forget you were at 35.000 feet.
Breakfast and Lunch were served on this 7 hour flight! I don't know if you need two services on a short flight like this, but if you do this was the choice;
Breakfast Bread Basket.
Hot Beverages.
Arabic Mezze.
Yellow fin Tuna.
Potato and Leek Soup.
Main Course;
Grilled Beef Fillet.
Chicken Korma.
Seafood Machbous.
Bread Basket;
Ipanema mousse.
Cranberry Cheesecake.
Cheese Board.
Tea, Coffee, and Chocolates.

Emirates A380 v 777. Buisness Class. Manchester- Dubai - Phuket Flight Review.

It was time to experience Emirates Business Class; this time from Manchester to Phuket via Dubai. The Dubai to Phuket route is relatively new having been introduced in December 2012.
As part of your Emirates Business class  package you are picked up from your home by a 'Chauffer', you request this service on line when you book you ticket. The car company rang the night before our trip to let us know what time they would be picking us up. As arranged a very new, and very smart Mercedes arrived to take us to Manchester airport.
Once at the Airport, check in was fast using the designated Business Class check in counter, and we were advised that we could use the Emirates lounge.  The Lounge is located on the first floor of Terminal 1, I have experienced this lounge before and it is one of my favourites. The windows run along its length and overlook the runway so you have a good view of the incoming and outgoing aircraft.  It is decorated in the normal Emirates brown and gold tones. It is large as it has to accommodate all the First and Business class passengers flying on each of the three flights from Manchester each day.  But, despite the numbers flying on the A380 that day (the flight was full in Business class) the lounge was a very quiet and restful area. There are showers and the restaurant area has a large selection of hot and cold food as well as unlimited Moet!!
Emirates Lounge at Manchester

Restaurant style dining area in the Emirates Lounge at Manchester Airport.
Manchester Airport Emirates Lounge

How much Moet can you drink????
 I had a starter of Tiger Prawn Creaser Salad, then moved on to a roast chicken dinner and steam pudding.  It was all delicious.
All to soon we were advised to board the A380. The Business class is on the upper deck of the A380. The seats are in a 1-2-1 configuration. The 2 seats in the middle are either side by side or separated by a shelf like storage area with a drinks holder in it...not refrigerated. This make this seat very private, however if you want to talk to your fellow passenger make Shure you book the 'sweetheart' seats. Many passengers were asking to move as they felt they were to far away from the travelling companion, but as the plane was full this was not an option for me.
A380 Business Class
The 'Sweetheart' seats on the A380 Business class
 As soon as we sat down we were offered Champagne, Orange juice or water. Hot towels were given and the menus and a wine list was handed out.

Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Champagne on the Emirates A380.

The seats can lie flat, but as this was a day time flight I did not need to sleep. I had loads of leg room and the seat was very comfy. I used the ICE entertainment system, watching series 5 of Mad Men,  and found the noise cancelling head phones very good.
Lunch was served, this was a choice of;
Aperitifs, Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Champagne, Wine.
Appetiser: Seared Prawns, Buffalo Mozzarella, or Spring Pea Soup.
Main Course: Roast Chicken, Lamb Tagine, Loch Fyne Salmon.
Bread Basket.
Dessert: Black Forest Wedge, Apricot and raspberry gratin tart, Cheese board, Selection of Fruit,
Tea, Coffee, Chocolates, Liqueurs, Port.
As I had eaten in the lounge I just had Salad and Cheese. It was well presented and delicious, in fact at times I forgot I was in the air, it was like a 5 star restaurant.
The Lounge Area or Bar on the Emirates A380
To stretch my legs I had a walk to the bar, or lounge area at the back of the aircraft. Here a large selection of Hot and Cold snacks were out on the bar. you could have cocktails as well as all the regular drinks. 

 Soon we were approaching Dubai and had to say good by to a fantastic Aircraft and a wonderful crew.
We had opted to stay over in Dubai for a few hours so our next leg on our journey was the Dubai to Phuket or EK 378. This flight left Dubai at 12.45 arriving into Phuket at 21.55. The aircraft used was a 777-300, so it was a good opportunity to compare the A380 with the 777.
This aircraft was a 2-3-2 configuration. The seats were the type that could lay flat and there was good leg room. The 777 seats are more open in design compared to the pod style of the A380 so feel more spacious. But my partner who is over 6 foot did not like the small foot rest on this seat; I did not notice it.
777 Buisness Class Seat Emirates
Emirates 777 Business Class

Seat Back Screens, Emirates Business Class 777

The pillows, headphones and eye masks were the same as the 777 and the seat back entertainment system just as good. Again we were offered Water, Juice or Champagne, this time Moet Chandon. Just after take-off a bar service was done, then lunch was served.
Traditional Arabic Mezze, this included hummus, artichoke and mushroom salad, smoked aubergine dip and Arabic bread.
Chicken, Chinese style with salad.
Roasted Sweetcorn Soup.
Seasonal Salad.
Main Course;
Roast Five Spice Chicken.
Char Grilled Beef Steak.
Prawn Biryani.
Bread Basket.
Chocolate Coffee Tart.
Orange Coconut Slice.
Cheese Board.
Selection of Fruit.
Tea, Coffee, Chocolates to finish.................Also Instant Cup Noodles available at any time.
The flight was quite short just over 6 and a half hours and we arrived in Phuket in a rested and relaxed state.
The standard of seating and service in the Emirates Business class was good on both aircraft. The 777 does not have the bar that the A380 has, but on these two relatively short flights this was not a problem. I think I would use the bar on one of the ultra long haul flights like the Dubai to LAX, that's over 16 hours long; The worlds 3rd longest flight. On that one you really would need to walk about and the bar would provided a welcome respite from your seat. I loved my Business Class experience with Emirates, the problem is, I never want to go Economy again!!!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Northern Lights in Swedish Lapland. Multi Aurora Weekend with Explore the North, Sweden. February 2014.

The only objective today was to drop off the car at Kiruna Airport at13.00. This was also the time and location that had been arranged to meet a representative from a company called Explore the North.
'Sn Ice' sculptures in Kiruna 2014
When researching this trip I had seen good reviews of a place called Pine Tree Lodge in Kangos, a small village 150Km North of the Artic Circle in Sweden. The owners of the lodge run a company Called Explore The North. They offer many packages but Dog Sledding is their major attraction.  The packages range from a half day with the Huskys to a full 7 days in Lapland, driving your team of Dogs through forests and wilderness. The accommodation on the long tours is in timber cabins and a great deal of guest participation is required. Having read all the information on the web page I opted for the 'Multi Aurora Weekend'.
We were met at Kiruna Airport, there were also pick ups at the station in Kiruna, a hotel in Kiruna and at The Ice hotel. we then drove to Kangos, it took about 1 hur 45 mins.
Explore The North Adventures in Lapland.
The arrival at Pine Tree Lodge was warm and welcoming, a large log fire dominated the lounge / bar/ dining area and warmed the whole lodge. Snacks were served and we were issued with our clothing. Artic boots, trousers, artic style parker anorak, mittens, hat and balaclava.
 Dinner was served in the dining room, it was a salad starter, a main course of lasagne and a Lingonberry dessert. Tea and coffee were freely available all day. One unusual thing is that the water in this area is Orange due to the high Iron content of the water and had an Iron taste. this means that all the sheets, cups and porcelains have an orange tinge to them.
The bed room was warm and clean with an en-suite bathroom and the beds were comfy. I would recommend a stay at this Lodge.
Pine Tree Lodge, Kangos, Sweden.
The next day, the guests at the lodge were split into two groups. Our group of 10 go to go on the Snowmobile today. At 10.00 we boarded our Snowmobiles and headed out into the woods.  
Crash helmets on for Snowmobiling
We stopped for lunch, where our guide made a fire and warmed some delicious soup up for us. We sat on frozen Reindeer skins to enjoy the break, then swapped driving position on the snowmobile and continued to enjoy the majestic Swedish countryside.
It was a full day out as we got back to the lodge at about 15.30. by that time I was starting to get cold so enjoyed the sauna in the lodge to warm up.
The next day was the Husky's, I was really looking forward to this as Explore the North was the only company I could find where you 'mushed' the Husky's yourself.
Again it was 2 adults to each Husky team. we made our way to the kennels in the grounds of the lodge to be greeted by 5 teams of Huskys. the noise was immense as the dogs were exited to get going. After a quick lesson from the guide we were off.
View of Husky Team from the passenger seat in the sleigh.

I loved mushing the dogs, they were outstanding in there performance. Again it was a full day in the wilderness, however as you had to move with the dogs and help to push the sleigh up hill, unlike the snowmobiles I was not cold. On returning to the lodge I did enjoy the sauna though!

The Sitting / Dining / Bar area at Pine Tree Lodge.
It was our last evening and we had yet another delicious meal and was enjoying a drink by the fire, when one of the girls who worked at the bar advised us to go outside as the Northern lights were out. And YES!!!! they really were. It was a fantastic display and it went on for hours
So it was the perfect end to a perfect 3 night stay with the Team at Pine Tree Lodge. Kangos. Sweden. Thank you Explore the North, it was great! 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The Northern Lights in Swedish Lapland. The Ice Hotel and Abisko. The Aurora Sky Station.

Today we drove from Kiruna to Jukkasjarvi, the Home of the World Famous Ice Hotel. There were visitors here from all parts of the globe.
The drive from Kiruna took about 15 mins and The Ice Hotel was easy to find. The Ice Hotel does tours for day visitors at 11.00, 12.00, 14.00 and 16.00. We did the midday one that was in English.
The entrance to The ICEHOTEL, Jukkasjarvi, Sweden.
The Icehotel is located on the banks of the River Torne, it is open all year. In the summer the Icehotel melts, the accommodation is in the 'warm rooms' or chalets that are on the same plot of land as the Icehotel. the Hotel is created each winter from the ice cut from the River Torne, so it is never the same, in fact each year a new hotel is created. This year the Icehotel has 64 rooms.
This year, 2013/14, there are 7 Snow rooms, they are plain rooms with a block of ice for a bed.
28 Ice rooms, these have furnishings made from ice and decorated walls.
10 Northern lights suites, the same as the Ice rooms but with lights mimicking the Aurora.
17 Art Suites, each one of these is an individual, beautifully carved room with imaginative lighting and incredible ice sculptures, furniture and a large ice bed setting a unique theme for each  room. And 2 deluxe suites ( you don't get to see these on the tour), they includes a private en-suite relaxation area with sauna, toilet and wash basin, as well as the use of a real Mini!
I liked the Art Suits best, but the temperature in the Icehotel was below-5 and it felt cold, I was glad I did not sleep in the hotel but just had a look around.

The Grand Hall, 'Secret garden', at  The ICEHOTEL, Jukkasjarvi, Sweden
Art Suite number 322, 'Mind the gap', The ICEHOTEL, Jukkasjarvi, Sweden

The bed in Art Suite number 322, 'Mind the gap', The ICEHOTEL, Jukkasjarvi, Sweden

Art suite number 321, 'Frozy flower',  The ICEHOTEL, Jukkasjarvi, Sweden

Art Suite number 320, 'Before the big bang', The ICEHOTEL, Jukkasjarvi, Sweden

Art Suite number 315, 'face in the crowd', The ICEHOTEL, Jukkasjarvi, Sweden

The Grand Hall, The ICEHOTEL, Jukkasjarvi, Sweden

The Grand Hall, The ICEHOTEL, Jukkasjarvi, Sweden

Art Suite number 346, 'UP There', The ICEHOTEL, Jukkasjarvi, Sweden

The warm rooms, The ICEHOTEL, Jukkasjarvi, Sweden

The long walk from the Hotel to the toilets!!!!, The ICEHOTEL, Jukkasjarvi, Sweden
This year the hotel is open from 6th Dec2013 to 22 April 2014, If you do stay the night in the hotel, very well done, a dink in the bar was just about my limit.
From the Icehotel we drove to Abisko. Abisko is about 90 KM from Kiruna, it is an easy drive on good roads......look out for Reindeers!
Reindeer crossing, Kiruna,  Sweden
Abisko National Park is billed as one of Europe's last wilderness, and it is very scenic. You can do this as a day visit from Kiruna as it is only 93KM, but we choose to stay 2 nights at the STF Turistation and this turned out to be a good choice.
I had booked direct through the web site and  we were allocated a double room in the main building with shower/ wc. The room was large with 2 windows giving a spectacular view over the lake, it was warm, clean and comfortable. We ate in the restaurant for the 2 nights we were there, both nights the 3 course meal was of a very high standard and delicious.

The wood fired sauna on the lake at Abisko.

Grounds of STF Mountain station, Abisko.

Hire car, Skoda.

Road from Abisko to Norway.

Abisko has a high per cent of clear nights and is therefore a good place to see the Northern Lights. A ski lift has been converted into the 'Aurora Sky Station', the combination of low light pollution and Abiskos location are said to give you the best possible conditions to witness the Aurora.
To get to the sky station you have to take the open chair lift. The ride is about 20 mins, depending on how many people get on and off, as it has to stop for them. You wear your normal ski wear, then are given Aurora Watcher overalls and boots to put on. The overalls are thick, like astronaut suites but do keep you warm.
Abisko Sky Station Overalls

layered up in Aurora Watcher Overalls at Abisko Sky Station, Sweden. 
The cable car ride to the top was slow, and it was busy on the top of the mountain, many people had tripods and were getting good photos of the lights. The Northern Lights were out for the whole time we were at the top of the mountain and the next night we saw them from the lake at the hotel.
Abisko. Sweden.