Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My First Round-the-World Redemption: Hong Kong

Part III: Hong Kong
Part IV: Hong Kong to Bangkok in CX F
Part V: Bangkok and VIE Hotel Bangkok
Part VI: Bangkok to Tokyo in TG F
Part VII: Narita and Hilton Narita
Part VIII: Narita to Frankfurt in LH F
Part IX: Frankfurt and Sheraton Frankfurt Airport
Part X: Frankfurt to Munich in LH C and Munich to Newark in LH F
Part XI: Conclusion

After using the showers and computers at Cathay Pacific’s Arrival Lounge, I decided to take the Airport Express train to downtown Hong Kong. On the way to downtown Hong Kong, I wanted to stop in Kowloon so I can see the new Ritz-Carlton hotel which occupies the top floors of the International Commerce Center.

International Commerce Center 

Once I arrived at Kowloon Station which is located inside the super-expensive Elements shopping mall, I tried to find the entrance to the Ritz-Carlton but got lost. Not only did I get lost but I also felt out of place because I was wearing a North Face sweater, jeans, and sneakers while the security guards were wearing nice suits and the stores that are located inside the mall are super high-end. I was inside the mall around 9AM on a Sunday so the mall was empty since the stores didn’t open until later in the day.

Elements Mall 

After finding the entrance to the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, I felt uncomfortable about coming inside because I definitely was not wearing clothes that one would expect of a Ritz-Carlton guest especially at their Hong Kong location where the cheapest rooms go for $600+ on any given day! However, my curiosity and obsession for luxury, high-end hotels led me to take a quick peek inside the hotel. I was only able to see their ground floor which was still beautiful because their actual lobby is located on the 103th floor. I wish I had photos of the hotel but felt that if I took out my camera to take pictures of the hotel then the eight employees who were mainly bellmen would call security on me because I definitely did not look like a guest.  

Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong Infinity Pool on the 118th Floor

Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong Lobby

Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong Premier Executive Suite
After spending some time inside the hotel, I decided to go to Mong Kok which is located north of Tsim Sha-Tsui which is home to a number of five-star hotels like the Shangri-La and Peninsula Hotel.

The Peninsula Hong Kong and Their Fleet of Rolls Royce!

The reason I chose Mong Kok was because of the infamous Ladies Market. However, nothing was set up by the time I got there because it was still too early. So, I decided to walk around and went inside the Langham Place Hotel so I could get some recommendations on a good dim sum restaurant in the nearby area. The concierge recommended the restaurant inside the hotel but I figured the price would be higher than what I wanted to pay so I asked her for another location and she mentioned Jasmine Garden which is located inside Langham Place Mall which is connected to the hotel via skybridge. I decided to give Jasmine Garden a try but was disappointed with the quality of the food.

After the disappointing meal, I decided that I should get back to HKIA (Hong Kong International Airport) so I can enjoy Cathay Pacific’s lounges before my flight to Bangkok. So, I took the subway from Mong Kok Station to Central Station which is where I did a connection to the Airport Express.

On the way to HKIA via Airport Express! 

When I arrived at HKIA, I went to the First Class check-in counters to make sure that my checked bags were properly tagged to Bangkok. From there, I went to “The Wing” which is a Business and First Class lounge. Unfortunately, I was unable to use the cabanas which were only for First Class passengers because of the renovation. However, I was able to enjoy some amazing shrimp wonton at the Noodle Bar which I highly recommend!

Business Class Seating Area in "The Wing" 

Noodle Bar in "The Wing"
From there, I decided to visit “The Pier” which is a First Class lounge since it was near my departure gate. After arriving at “The Pier”, I was rather disappointed because there are no windows and it felt rather crowded compared to “The Wing” which has high-rise ceiling. While I was waiting, I met up with a FlyerTalker who I was able to guest in because he was a Business Class passenger and therefore wouldn’t have access to this lounge.

After enjoying some company, I realized that it was time to board for my flight to Bangkok. Fortunately, there was no last minute equipment change for my flight which meant I was able to fly in a plane where I was closer to the nose of the aircraft than the pilots since I secured seat 1A! 

Cathay Pacific Boeing 747

Thursday, March 22, 2012

My First Round-the-World Redemption: New York to Hong Kong in CX F

Part I: Introduction
Part II: New York to Hong Kong in CX F
Part III: Hong Kong
Part IV: Hong Kong to Bangkok in CX F
Part V: Bangkok and VIE Hotel Bangkok
Part VI: Bangkok to Tokyo in TG F
Part VII: Narita and Hilton Narita
Part VIII: Narita to Frankfurt in LH F
Part IX: Frankfurt and Sheraton Frankfurt Airport
Part X: Frankfurt to Munich in LH C and Munich to Newark in LH F
Part XI: Conclusion

British Airways Galleries First and Club World Lounge

After arriving at Terminal 7, I went to the priority check-in area which is located to the left-hand side of the terminal when you enter. There was no queue at the First Class line which is always nice. The desk agent didn't bother to greet me or say a farewell instead she just asked where I was flying to and where I'd like the bags tagged to. Not a good way to start the flight but I let it slide considering she was a contracted employee. There were around eight passengers in front of me and it probably took ten minutes to clear security since there was only one lane.

Club World Bar

Since Cathay Pacific uses British Air's lounges at JFK, I had to walk to the other side of the terminal. When I entered the lounge, I was greeted by the attendant who showed me to the First Class area of the lounge which is called Galleries First. The lounge is rather small and cramped compared to the Business Class side which is called Club World. The biggest difference between the Galleries First area and Club World area is the alcohol selection. If I were ever to come back again, I would just grab something to drink at the Galleries First side and walk over to the Club World side to relax.

Club World Alcohol Selection

Galleries First Alcohol Selection (Belvedere, Woodford Reserve, and JW Black)

Those who are flying First with Cathay Pacific have the opportunity to get something to eat at the Pre-Flight Supper room which is located in the Club World side of the lounge. Unfortunately, those with a Business Class do not have access to this room. The Pre-Flight Supper room has a decent selection of food but I recommend saving your appetite for the on-board meal.
Chef's Dish of the Month: Made-to-Order Risotto

My Pre-Flight Supper 

If you want to take a shower, you have to go to the Elemis Spa area which is located in the Club World side. The attendant who cleans the showers leaves at 10PM so if you don't want to risk using a dirty shower  then come before then. Fortunately, I was able to grab the last clean shower room which is nice considering I will be in a metal tube for the next 14-15 hours.

Elemis Spa in the Club World Lounge

Flight: Cathay Pacific - CX 845
Origin: New York - JFK
Destination: Hong Kong - HKG
Booking Class: First
Equipment: B77W
Registration Code: B-KPU

The boarding area was crowded and there were only two boarding lanes (First Class/Business Class/Marco Polo and Economy). Fortunately, one of the desk attendants allowed me to go through the Economy lane which made boarding a lot faster since there were a ton of Business Class passengers along with Marco Polo elites.

When I got to my seat, I knew I was spoiled for life considering this was my first international First Class flight. Seconds later, a flight attendant introduced herself and offered to hang my sweater while getting me a glass of Krug as my pre-departure drink and some mixed nuts.

Cathay Pacific First Class Seat

Krug and Amenity Kit

Almost an hour into the flight, the meal service began and I chose the stir-fried lobster option. Being stupid, I declined the caviar and balik salmon service. Till this day, I don't know why I declined caviar and salmon. The meal service was great and the FA made sure my wine glass never went empty which was nice!
Truffle Potato Soup
Stir-Fried Lobster

Toffee Pudding Cake with Ice Cream

After the meal service, I decided to sleep for a few hours before arriving in Hong Kong. I was rather excited to go to bed considering it would be my first time using a mattress and duvet in an airplane. Fortunately, I was able to sleep for almost seven hours but I could have slept more if the cabin wasn't as hot as it was.

When we were two hours away from Hong Kong, the flight attendants began serving breakfast and asked how I wanted my eggs cooked since I chose the Western option. Cathay Pacific has an equipment that can cook eggs to your liking and it is only available to First Class passengers.

 Table Setting

Eggs, Bacon, Potatoes, and Spinach

Unfortunately, we arrived in Hong Kong an hour earlier than scheduled so it was 4:30AM when we landed. Since we were the first plane to land, there was no wait at immigration and my checked luggage was the third bag out. From there, I decided to go to the Arrivals Lounge and plan out my layover in Hong Kong.  Since the weather wasn't great it cancelled my original plans to go to The Peak and ride the ferry. Also, since our flight arrived an hour early I had to wait outside the lounge till 5AM until it opened.

The Arrivals Lounge

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Opinion: Chase Hyatt Visa Card

Hyatt Card

Key Changes:
1. No minimum spend - Prior to today's announcement on the new Chase Hyatt Visa card, there was a minimum spend requirement of $1,000 in three months. However, the new offer has no minimum spend requirement which is great. The only requirement is that you will receive your bonuses after your first qualifying purchase.
2. Smart Chip - The new Hyatt Visa card will have a Smart Chip which makes it the fourth Chase card to have one. Unfortunately, this is a 'Chip and Signature' instead of 'Chip and Pin' which would be more useful to those who travel internationally more frequently. However, it's better to have something than nothing.
3. Benefit for Hyatt Platinums - The new sign-up bonus includes two Award Nights and two Suite Upgrade certificates for those who have Hyatt Platinum status at the time of application. The downside to the Suite Upgrade certificates is that it can only be used on paid stays which means you cannot combine the two Award nights with the Suite Upgrade certificates.

What do I think?

Personally, I think this offer is great and makes the Chase Hyatt Visa card more enticing to get since there are no minimum spends and you get two Award nights after your first qualifying purchase. Prior to this new offer, I thought it was only worth getting this card if you had Hyatt Diamond status which requires twenty-five eligible stays or fifty eligible nights.

What would I do?

First, I would try to obtain Hyatt Diamond status since you can get two Award Nights in Suites as your sign-up bonus along with the four Suite Upgrade certificates which can be applied to award nights. Hyatt Diamonds can even get an upgrade at any Hyatt property without using an upgrade certificates as well. If you live near a Hyatt Place or House, consider doing a "mattress run" if the rates are cheap which for me would be < $75.

Even if you can only reach Hyatt Platinum status, it is still worth a credit inquiry to apply for this card especially if you have any travel planned in Europe, Middle East, and Asia since the properties there tend to be better.

Monday, February 27, 2012

My First Round-the-World Redemption: Introduction

Part I: Introduction
Part II: New York to Hong Kong in CX F
Part III: Hong Kong
Part IV: Hong Kong to Bangkok in CX F
Part V: Bangkok and VIE Hotel Bangkok
Part VI: Bangkok to Tokyo in TG F
Part VII: Narita and Hilton Narita
Part VIII: Narita to Frankfurt in LH F
Part IX: Frankfurt and Sheraton Frankfurt Airport
Part X: Frankfurt to Munich in LH C and Munich to Newark in LH F
Part XI: Conclusion

In a few weeks, I will be taking my first RTW which I was able to "finance" with the miles I received from a few credit card sign-ups. Last year, I applied and was approved for the Citi AAdvantage Visa and AMEX personal cards which each had a bonus of 75,000 American Airlines (AA) miles and the Chase Sapphire Preferred which had a bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards (UR) points. The UR points can be transferred to United/Continental at a 1:1 ratio which meant the 50,000 UR points became 50,000 Continental (CO) miles. I had some other points that I didn't need which I transferred into CO which topped off the account to 70,000 CO miles.

In terms of hotels, I decided to pay for a few nights while using Starwood's (SPG) Cash+Points option on the other nights. Since Bangkok, Thailand is my final destination, I decided to pay for my hotel since the rates are cheap for a four/five star property compared to other Asian cities such as Tokyo, Singapore, and Hong Kong. I decided to choose the VIE Bangkok which is part of Accor since it looks like a nice property and I have Platinum status with Accor. Since I will be doing a layover at Narita, Japan I decided to take advantage of a promotion the Hilton Narita had on Facebook which had rooms for $62 USD. Fortunately, my A|Club Platinum status and Hilton Gold status allowed me to confirm my upgrades for my upcoming stays. The other property I will be staying at will be the Westin Grand Frankfurt which was a C+P reservation. Unfortunately, I do not have SPG status other than "SPG Preferred" since I am an AMEX SPG cardholder so I doubt I will get a "real" upgrade.

My itinerary for this trip will be:
New York (JFK) - Hong Kong (HKG) in Cathay Pacific First Class

Hong Kong (HKG) - Bangkok (BKK)  in Cathay Pacific First Class

Bangkok (BKK) - Tokyo (NRT) in Thai Airways First Class (Suites)

Narita (NRT) to Frankfurt (FRA) in Lufthansa First Class

Frankfurt (FRA) to Munich (MUC) in Lufthansa Business Class

Frankfurt (MUC) to Newark (EWR) in Lufthansa First Class

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Best Credit Cards as of February 6, 2012

Since my last post, there has been a few sign-up bonuses that have gone away such as the Citi AAdvantage Visa/AMEX and Business card which was giving out 75,000 AAdvantage miles each. The Citi AAdvantage sign-up bonuses dropped to 50,000 AAdvantage miles which isn't bad at all either. I will now list what I believe are the best credit card sign-up bonuses as of right now:

1. Chase Sapphire Preferred 
Bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points which could be "cashed in" or transferred to programs such as United MileagePlus or Hyatt Gold Passport at a 1:1 ratio. 

2. Chase Ink Bold
Bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points which could be "cashed in" or transferred to programs such as United MileagePlus or Hyatt Gold Passport at a 1:1 ratio. 

3. Chase United Explorer 
Bonus: 60,000 United MileagePlus miles. 

4. Citi AAdvantage Visa/AMEX/Business
Bonus: 50,000 AAdvantage miles for each card. You can apply for the personal Visa and AMEX card with one credit pull if you follow Million Mile Secrets' post on it here

5. American Express Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG)
Bonus: 25,000 SPG points. If you would like to apply for this card, I could send you a referral if you send me an e-mail at I would be receiving an referral bonus if you were to apply under my link which I would e-mail to you and get approved. 

On another note, I will be doing my first Round-the-World trip in almost a month so it will most likely be my next few posts. Once I finalize my routing since I'm waiting on a few segments to open space, I will post it here.