Premium Travel

To the Islands: Guam, Palau, Tokyo – the Non-Survivor Edition, 29 Jan – 07 Feb 2017

Palau

I’ve actually never watched Survivor, but Palau is on my list, because it’s a miles&points redemption dream. It’s one of those places that’s so close (~2000 miles from Singapore as the crow flies), yet so expensive (over 1000 USD) and hard to get to (multiple stops).

Enter United miles. Palau is in the same region as Japan and Korea, making it a cheap redemption (12,500 miles one way for economy saver). It’s not often that one can get over 500 usd for a 12,500 mile redemption. Ok, in reality I paid 50,000 United miles because while waiting for my friend to confirm, economy saver availability went away, and I ended up taking business class saver one way, and economy standard the other way.

Anyway, here goes my island-hopping itinerary!

29 January 2017: Singapore to Haneda (on Japan Airlines Business Class redeye for 25,000 Alaska Miles)

30 January 2017: Narita to Guam (on United Airlines Business class, priced as a free stopover, 25,000 miles)

31 January 2017: Guam

01 February 2017: Guam to Palau (on United Airlines Business class)

02 February 2017: Palau

03 February 2017: Palau

04 February 2017: Palau to Narita (redeye, United Airlines)

05 February 2017: Tokyo

06 February 2017: Tokyo

07 February 2017: Tokyo – Singapore (Delta, I paid for it, and got 5,000 Alaska miles from the flight)

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Categories: Itinerary, Japan, Miles&Points, Palau, Premium Travel, USA | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Hotel Review: Hyatt Centric Montevideo, 11 July 2016

Hyatt Centric Montevideo

We spent one night in July 2016 at this property, and had an excellent stay. The deco of the property is fresh, and we were also treated well as diamond members.

Pre-Check In Communications
The Hyatt Centric was proactive in their communications. On the last minute, I decided I wanted a shuttle from the port to the hotel, given that the hotel is some ways from the port, and we arrived after dark. Arranging transport last minute was quick and painless, and our driver was there as promised. It was 27 USD (925 UYU) for the 20 min ride from the port to the hotel in Pocitos, and they supplied a Mercedes (the alternative is BMW).

Hyatt Centric Montevideo

Check In/Check Out
Not as quick, but still painless. When I arrived, the Director of Operations came out and introduced himself and thanked us for being diamond members, while the FD did our check in.

Check out was quick, no problems with the bill.

We booked the Pre-Opening rate, which includes breakfast at the lobby restaurant, but the FD encouraged us to eat at the Club Lounge on the 13th floor instead. We had to inquire about the times of service at the lounge for breakfast (printing it on the card like a regular HR would have been helpful).

Although we opted for points, we found a welcome amenity in our room. It consisted of a bottle of Uruguayan red wine, six macaroons, and some fruit. There was also a personalized welcome note from the Director of Operations.

Hyatt Centric Montevideo

Room
We booked a regular King room, but were upgraded to a Club King with River View on the 10th floor. It’s 49 sq m, and contemporary in design, with three distinct areas.

Sleeping/work areaThis area is carpeted, and the King room is in the middle of the room. The decor is very Room & Board, with hanging lamps, and fabric headboards. The bedside tables are generously-sized, and they also have USB chargers by the wall for your electronic devices. The TV faces the bed.

The work desk is a little bit small, has a work lamp (not adjustable), and power plugs. There’s also a little booklet with things to do, and room service, on a very hipster clipboard.

Hyatt Centric Montevideo

Lounging
This area is hardwood, and there’s a floor-to-ceiling window featuring view of the river. Part of the view was obscured by a room to the right of the room, so you can peep into the living area of another hotel guest.

There’s a nice fabric sofa, table, and an extra fabric armchair. Our welcome amenity was on the table. There’s also a cabinet facing the sofa, which contains the fridge (really cold!), an electric kettle, and an Illy coffee machine.

Hyatt Centric Montevideo

Bathroom
This area is tiled, and in the form of a long rectangle. The bathroom has a rather open concept, but you can close it off with two barn-style doors, one accessed from the bedroom area, and one from the entryway. The toilet/bidet can be closed (but not locked), and there’s a walk-in shower with rain shower and wand.

The sink and dresser is pretty long. There’s a actually a chair if you want to sit at the dresser, with amenities like cottonwool.

Hyatt Centric Montevideo

Club Lounge
On the top floor of the hotel (13th), it’s decently-sized, and offers a great view of the River.

We only went during hors d’oeuvres and breakfast service, so I’m not sure if it’s open throughout the day. Both services are hosted. It’s slightly odd that the hosts ask for my room number only after I’ve taken my food.

The hors d’oeuvres has no hot option, but quite a bit of complimentary alcohol. There are several desserts, one salad option, breads, cheeses, olives, etc.

The breakfast selection is continental. I found the pastry to be on the hard side of things, and I prefer my pastries to be warm and flaky.

Hyatt Centric Montevideo

Service
Friendly and efficient.

Wifi
Fast

Food and beverage
On the expensive side of things (over 900 UYU for a room service hamburger). We ended up walking a little to a sushi place 6 mins walk from the hotel for our dinner.

Overall
This is a lovely property. I love the design of the hotel, and they obviously did a good job getting it ready – I couldn’t tell that it just opened one month ago. I’d return to this property in a heartbeat if I’m in Montevideo again.

Hyatt Centric Montevideo

Categories: Hotel, Hyatt, Lodgings, Premium Travel, Uruguay | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Sao Paulo, Brazil to Buenos Aires, Argentina: Have Some Change in Your Wallet for Argentina!, 09 July 2016

Sao Paulo Guarulhos International Airport Terminal 3 Star Alliance Lounge

Another travel day for us, but not a particularly terrible one. Our flight from Brazil to Argentina is in the evening, so we got to sleep in and take advantage of a late check out (Hyatt lets Diamond members check out at 4 pm). We hopped onto an Uber at 2 pm, and arrived at to the Sao Paulo International Airport in good time at 3 pm for our 6 pm flight to Buenos Aires.

The airport lounge was ok (separate review). I was trying not to stuff up on too much food in anticipation of the reportedly excellent food on Turkish Airlines (bad mistake). While the food on Turkish wasn’t great, we did like their business class product. For anyone who wants to try it, they were offering one way upgrades for 249 USD for the leg from Sao Paulo to Buenos Aires.

TK 15 Turkish Airlines Business Class Sao Paulo - Buenos Aires (GRU - EZE)

Getting from the Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires to town itself proved more challenging than we anticipated. I was expecting to be able to change some money at the airport, but there was only one cambio within the secured area, which was closed by the time we arrived (!!!). We tried to get an uber, but there weren’t any cars near the airport. A big placard by the taxi companies about how much they hate Uber also wasn’t exactly encouraging for potential consumers.

In the end, after bumbling around the airport for way longer than anyone really should, we ended up paying for a fixed price taxi from the airport to town. It was 47 USD for the 20 mile journey (~40 min). The taxi booth doesn’t take credit cards – cash only. USD works as well.

Thankfully, the Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt Buenos Aires is quite an oasis. We were very grateful once we hit our suite and could recover from the travel day. I must be getting old – I actually need to recover from travel days, no matter how luxurious.

Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt Buenos Aires

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Hotel Review: Hyatt Regency Boston, 19 Feb 2016

Hyatt Regency Boston

The Hyatt Regency Boston is a four-star hotel, that is centrally-located in the Theater District, and a short walk (~10 min) from South Station, so it’s a convenient hotel to get to from the airport.

They have updated the property in the last year or so, so their rooms have a modern décor, with some retro furniture.

Check In/Check Out:

I was actually rather nervous about checking in, because I arrived at 6ish am. To my pleasant surprise, my room was ready for me.

I did a web check out. So I just clicked a button, and dropped my keys in the key box.

Hyatt Regency Boston Executive Suite

Room:

I used a Diamond Suite Upgrade, and was confirmed into an Executive Suite (530 sq ft). The suite is large, but slightly oddly shaped, because the hotel is slightly oddly shaped. The living area is rectangular, but the bedroom is triangular.

In terms of decoration, it’s an updated room, so think a semi-industrial design, i.e. grey couches, closet doors that look like a bomb shelter entrance, and floor lamps taller than most humans.

Hyatt Regency Boston

The living room just has a 3-person sectional facing a TV, with a coffee table, and a cabinet with the mini-fridge and the Keurig coffee machine. The King bed occupies the center of the bedroom, and there’s a small seating area with two armchairs by the little triangular nook, and a number of benches.

Hyatt Regency Boston Executive Suite

The bathroom is separated into vanity and toilet/shower stall, with the closet being located in the vanity. It’s a pretty good idea, because it means that someone can be showering in privacy, while the vanity is available. One of the more questionable choices is leaving the spare toilet roll by the vanity, instead of the separate toilet/shower area. It’d make for quite a situation if you ran out of toilet paper. With it being winter, the marble floors are also a tad cold, and I couldn’t find flip flops (and left my flip flops in Seattle).

Hyatt Regency Boston Executive Suite

Hyatt Regency Boston

The shower is low-flow, and they stock KenetMD products. No real comments. I thought the conditioner was a little bit weird, and a strange gluey-texture. The low-flow shower also reminded me of the low-flow shower Seinfeld episode.

Work:

As an updated room, there are power outlets aplenty. There are USB chargers, and power outlets on both sides of the bed, and power outlets by all the lamps. That was very helpful if you lug around a bunch of electronics like I do.

On the downside, there wasn’t really a work desk, so I sat on the couch and worked on the coffee table.

Wifi:

Although I was given premium wifi, it was actually pretty slow. I highly suspect it had something to do with the location of the room. The living room is closer to more central parts of the hotel, while the bedroom is further away, and the wifi speed slowed down, when I moved from the living room to the bedroom.

Breakfast:

An amazing perk of being a Hyatt Diamond is the breakfast benefit at full service Hyatt properties. If a property has no club lounge, you can get a full breakfast for up to four people on your reservation (if there’s a lounge, breakfast will be served there). Hyatt defines a full breakfast as either a buffet breakfast, or an entrée with juice and coffee.

After surveying the underwhelming-looking buffet breakfast (lots of carbs, bacon/sausage, and egg station), I ordered a Maine lobster egg benedict ($24), along with orange juice ($4) and coffee ($4). I thought it tasted ok. It was certainly filling, and of course, I can’t complain about getting a $40 (taxes and gratuities are waived as well) breakfast for free.

Lobster Eggs Benedict at Hyatt Regency Boston

Overall:

I loved the location, the updated room, and I had a good night’s sleep on the very comfortable bed. Considering that I actually just paid $120, this was incredible value.

This was my first suite upgrade at Hyatt. While the suite is nice, I might have actually preferred a standard room at a higher level.

Categories: Hotel, Hyatt, Lodgings, Premium Travel, USA | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Flight Review: AA1223 Dallas – Seattle (DFW-SEA) Domestic First

AA1223 DFW-SEA Dallas - Seattle First Class

Ah, the flight from hell. It really has nothing to do with the flight itself, except I was expecting to be back in Seattle by 9 pm, 31st Dec, but my flight wound up flying over Seattle downtown, just as the fireworks welcoming the new year started. It started out as a half hour delay, but the boarding time kept being pushed back. Apparently, there were issues with the tires, and they wound up having to change 3+ tires, before abandoning that plane, and switching to another plane. As the clock ticked away, I was honestly beginning to think I’d never get back to Seattle.

For domestic crappy premium flights, I honestly don’t see much value in paying the premium. You are really just getting a larger seat, a meal, and maybe feeling more special? But if you are my size (5″4), it has rather marginal value. I guess the larger space means that if you want to bust out the laptop and get some work done, you will have more elbow room. They also gave complimentary earphones, which they will sell to you for $5 in coach.

AA1223 DFW-SEA Dallas - Seattle First Class

AA1223 is a Boeing 737-800. In first class, they have 4 rows of 2-2. The leather seats are wider, and there’s a lot of legroom. The seat also has a power socket, but mine didn’t work (great!). Because I was changing time zones, right after the meal service, I simply passed out, so that worked out in any case.

For the meal service, they only had chicken with polenta, and eggplant parmesan. I pre-ordered the chicken. They ran out of the eggplant after like three orders, so if you are vegetarian, I’d encourage you to pre-order your meal. A vegetarian sitting one row in front of me wound up with just a side salad for dinner.

AA1223 DFW-SEA Dallas - Seattle First Class

The chicken was pretty gross. It was really dry and tough. I ate some of it, but left most of it alone. The ice cream sundae was strawberry shortcake. I’m glad they had that, because I needed my calories for the day. To top off my flight from hell, service on this flight was somewhat gruff. At risk of sounding like I suffer from Stockholm syndrome, I’d say I can’t blame the flight attendant too much. Serving annoyed flyers on New Year’s Even vis-a-vis spending time with loved ones welcoming the new year? I’m sure that’s always awesome!

A note on delayed flights

Several days after my flight with mechanical delays, I used this online form to file my complaint about the delay. I got a form response within half an hour, giving me 5000 AA points for the delay. It might work, it might not work, or you might not get what you want. But if you are dissatisfied with your flight, that can be an avenue for you to air your grievances.

Categories: Airline, American Airlines, Premium Travel, Travel Tip | Leave a comment

It’s really not that bad :P Flight Review: AA37 Madrid – Dallas (MAD-DFW) Business Class

AA37 Madrid - Dallas (MAD - DFW) Business Class

AA37 is a Boeing 777 offering three class service: first, business, and coach. Their business class product offers an angled flat seat, in 2-3-2 configuration. While I booked it by mistake, and was kicking myself for booking an angled flat seat, I had a rather decent flight. My mistake was mitigated by it being a daytime flight.Furthermore, I had an excellent flight attendant, whose mission seemed to be to indulge me.

For this flight, I did something rather rare for me – I initially chose a window seat, but figured that climbing over a stranger could get awkward real quick. So, I opted for an aisle seat. It was a good choice, because I wound up getting up quite a bit, and just walking around because it was 11+ hours.

AA37 Madrid - Dallas (MAD - DFW) Business Class

Pre-Departure/Pre-meal

There was an orderly priority boarding. The business and first cabins were packed, but flight attendants serving business were efficient. Pre-departure beverages were offered, and the choices were: water, orange juice, mimosa, and champagne. I went with the mimosa. While inflight entertainment generally doesn’t matter to me, it’s also nice that it’s available on the ground.

After we hit cruising altitude, the FAs started taking lunch orders from passengers. I pre-ordered my lunch of beef steak with potato croquettes. I believe the other options are chicken, and a vegetarian pasta. The Bose noise-cancelling headphones were also distributed around this time (they are pretty awesome – I used them the whole flight).

AA37 Madrid - Dallas (MAD - DFW) Business Class AA37 Madrid - Dallas (MAD - DFW) Business Class

Meal Service

It started with a salad, and a prosciutto and fruit plate, and bread was also offered. It wasn’t too bad, actually. My beef filet was ok as well. It was edible. The potato croquettes were kinda disgusting, though. I’m a potato person, so if I leave potatoes uneaten, it does say something. It was dried out and grainy. The ice cream sundae did make up for it.

AA37 Madrid - Dallas (MAD - DFW) Business Class

They also have a snack cart by the galley, and you’re invited to help yourself throughout the flight. They mostly have pre-packaged snacks and fruits, but they also had a chocolate truffle with strawberry, which was pretty nice. On the beverage front, they only have water for self-serve. I wouldn’t have minded some other options.

AA37 Madrid - Dallas (MAD - DFW) Business Class

AA37 Madrid - Dallas (MAD - DFW) Business Class

About two hours before landing, they also served another snack. They had two different salads on offer. I opted for the Thai salad, which had some noodles and greens. People on the other aisle actually got beef with their Thai salad, but my beef went missing. I didn’t mind it, because I was expecting to have dinner on my connecting flight, and I didn’t want to get too stuffed. Oh, if only I knew how the next flight was going to turn out.

AA37 Madrid - Dallas (MAD - DFW) Business Class

The Seat

There are quite a number of settings. It can get quite odd the way it reclines. At points, you might feel like you’re on a barber’s chair. Or at other points, when it’s slowly getting to the angled flat setting, you could feel like you are being lowered into your grave. I did appreciate the full range of settings. It wasn’t too bad for taking a nap. I did nap comfortably for some two hours of the flight, although to be fair, I pretty much can sleep under any circumstance. The relax settings were pretty nice, and you can also customize it to your own preference with manual controls.

Relative to the British Airways 747 Business Class product, there is more storage space. There’s some room under the armrest for some items, and they also have a magazine storage spot, where you can put stow some reading material. I also put my messenger bag at the foot cubby area. Under the armrest, there was also enough room to put a book. I simply left my laptop by my side for the flight.

The table can turn into a mega-table, if you need a lot of room. Half the table is in the armrest, and that should be enough to eat, but there’s also another half table that’s under the IFE screen. You can join the two to form a mega-table.

In terms of power, it was a little bit odd. They have those power jacks that are like the ones available in cars. So if you want to charge something, you have to request for an adapter from the flight attendant (unless you’re like a boy scout, and are always prepared with a car charger).

Having said that, I do prefer the British Airways 747 Business Class product. It offers a lot more privacy and room (you get 4 windows to yourself), and the bed is more comfortable, obviously.

AA37 Madrid - Dallas (MAD - DFW) Business Class AA37 Madrid - Dallas (MAD - DFW) Business Class

Inflight Entertainment

It seems half decent. They do have fairly recent movies. Their TV shows also made more sense. They had about 6 episodes of Big Bang Theory, which was in sequence, and it seemed to be the case for other shows as well. The touch-screen itself was rather unresponsive, though. I was not the only one who had an issue, as it appeared that the guy beside me was also madly stabbing at his screen. The remote by the side of the seat, while responsive, required some brute force jabbing.

Service

After reading online about all the service failures on American, I was actually bracing myself for the worst. But on this flight, I lucked out. I had a very enthusiastic and friendly flight attendant, who walked through the aisle a number of times between services. She also happily kept my coffee mug filled throughout the flight. So none of the gruff “why are you bothering me?” attitude that I was really expecting.

Overall

I was really expecting the worst for this flight, just based on reviews and general consensus. The angled flat seat wasn’t great, but it also wasn’t horrific. I had an enthusiastic flight attendant, and my food was edible.

The most memorable part of the flight, wasn’t actually anything to do with the business class itself, but the father and daughter seated beside me. The flight was very full, so they got upgraded, but the mom/wife got stuck in coach. She came up several times, gave me rather dirty looks and instructed her husband and daughter to go steal snacks from the cart in the galley. The whole experience was rather amusing, and there’s nothing more peaceful than having an irate mom/wife talk over my head while I’m trying to read. Nothing like a wife/mother stuck in economy!

AA37 Madrid - Dallas (MAD - DFW) Business Class

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Hotel Review: Le Meridien N’Fis Marrakech, 28 December 2015

Le Meridien N'Fis

The Le Meridien N’Fis is a five-star hotel in Marrakech, Morocco. As a category-2 Starwood property, it is quite a sweet spot for redemption, as it costs only 3000-4000 Starpoints for one night (3000 for weekends, 4000 for weekdays). While it gets some bad reviews, I found both the staff and grounds lovely, even though the rooms are a bit dated.

Check In/Check Out:

Check in was a bit slow, but the hospitality made up for it. I was given a form to fill up, but the hotel staff made it better, as I was given a mint tea, and provided with a pen to fill up the form. That’s how you make an annoying task more pleasant! I was also upgraded to an executive room, which features a small private terrace (it really wasn’t that fancy).

Check out was quick, even though there was a couple in front of me.

Le Meridien N'Fis

Room:

I was upgraded to an executive room at check in. It has a small private terrace, and featured garden views. The room is large. The room itself is rather dated, so you can see the wear and tear in the room and bathroom. There was a nice welcome amenity of fruits and a large bottle of water.

Le Meridien N'Fis

The bathroom was also decent, and had quite an expanded selection of bath products. The tub itself has anti-slip strips, which I actually appreciate, because I’ve been trying to not get killed when I shower in a lot of hotel showers. However, it didn’t look too elegant (very haphazardly installed), but this could be an easy fix.

Le Meridien N'Fis

There is a king size bed to the side of the room. It was comfortable, and I had a good night’s sleep. I have some mixed feelings about the switch right in the middle of the headboard. On the one hand, it’s functional, on the other hand, it’s a bit of an odd place to have it. On the bed, there’s a welcome package – do look through it. Some of the interesting offers include a complimentary coffee/tea at the hotel lounge, and there was also a complimentary pass to Maison de Photographie in the medina.

Le Meridien N'Fis

Grounds:

The Le Meridien N’Fis is actually a resort. It is actually quite a sprawling property, and the grounds are quite lovely. I loved the nice fountain feature, and while it was too cold to swim in December, it looks pretty nice. They also have a tennis court.

Le Meridien N'Fis

Wireless:

It was fast, stable, and complimentary.

Business Center:

They have a couple of computers in the lobby. They also have a printer. I did make use of it to print out a boarding pass.

Breakfast:

Breakfast was not included in my rate, and it was 200 DH per person. There was a nice selection. They have a very cool selection of freshly-squeezed juices, including Moroccan fruit mixers. They were very refreshing.

They have a very nice selection of pastries, and they all tasted excellent. The selection also changes over the course of breakfast. They also have a small section with Moroccan offerings: soup and flatbread. They have a hot selection (beef sausage, potatoes, etc), and eggs made to order.

Service:

I thought it was attentive, and friendly. No complaints.

Overall:

Le Meridien N’Fis is quite a lovely five-star hotel. The rooms are rather dated, but I still enjoyed my stay. The lovely grounds actually make it quite pleasant to spend some time in the hotel, even though I didn’t spend too much time lounging around. It could be a great idea to lounge in the hotel by the pool during the hottest hours in summer.

Categories: Hotel, Lodgings, Premium Travel, Starwood | Tags: | 2 Comments

Hotel Review: Movenpick Casablanca, 27 December 2015

Movepick Casablanca

An Indian OTA, Make My Trip, had a promotion, whereby people using their App, would get a 60% discount (up to 2700 INR/40 USD) on all hotel bookings. The sale lasted around 48 hours, and I was fortunate enough to get in on the sale. For Casablanca, I booked with Movenpick Casablanca. Movenpick Casablanca is a five star hotel, and it really shows in the service and the upkeep of the hotel. They also have a great rooftop pool – I didn’t go swimming, but it offers great views of the city. There is also a rooftop bar with food. It’s a nice spot to spend the evening. I paid 70 USD for all this luxury.

Check In/Check Out

Check in was very fast. Even though I didn’t do any online check in, I didn’t have to fill in a form (unlike Mercure). All I had to do was sign a print out with my details. I was also upgraded from the standard room to a deluxe room, which was on floor 12, and featured a larger sitting area.

Check out was a bit slower, even though there were two receptionists handling it. A couple in front of me decided to chat about their travels, while another person was making queries about hotels around the Movenpick and hotel rates. Normally, this wouldn’t bother me, but as I was trying to make the train, I wasn’t too happy about this.

Location

This looked more like the business district of Casablanca, but it was still close enough to the tourist sights. It is also located by the tram station, Mohammad V, which is just two stops from the medina.

Movepick Casablanca

Room

The room is big, with an entryway, and to the left is the bathroom. After the entryway, is a second door (weird), where there’s the room. To the left is a comfortable, two-seater couch and coffee table, and to the right, a king-sized bed, and writing desk. The color theme is black, and generally, that causes rooms to look dark, but in this case, it made the room look sexy. At the 12th level, it also gave amazing views of the city of Casablanca.

Movepick Casablanca

There is an electric water kettle in the room, and a small, complimentary bottle of water. They also provided instant coffee, tea, and chocolate, which was welcome in the morning.

The bathroom is nothing special. It is of a decent size, and has a tub, but probably not want you want to take a bubble bath in. Their bath products involves local fragrances. (sorry, can’t remember)

Movepick Casablanca

Service

Service was very friendly. I was greeted by all the staff in the hotel. There was also a lot of effort put into the upkeep of the hotel. I’ve never seen so many people cleaning the hotel’s multiple windows and mirrors.

Wifi

It was complimentary, and allowed for more than one device. It was fast, so no complaints.

Movepick Casablanca

Overall

This is a true five-star hotel. The room was excellent, as was the service. The rooftop pool also offers great views of the city, and is conveniently located by a tram station.

Categories: Hotel, Lodgings, Morocco, Premium Travel | Tags: | Leave a comment

Train Travel: Getting from Rabat to Casablanca

Casablanca

Casablanca Voyageur Station

There is one main train station in Rabat, and three train stations in Casablanca – Casablanca Voyageur (Casa Vog), Casablanca Port (Casa Port), and Casablanca Oasis. You probably won’t be going to Oasis if you are a tourist. The journey between Rabat and Casablanca probably takes one hour.

Casablanca

Casablanca Port Station

Casablanca Voyageur and Casablanca Port are both in town, but Casablanca Port is within short walking distance to the medina. Casablanca Port is the newer station, and the station has international chains like Starbucks and McDonald’s. Casablanca Voyageur has more train station options, like your little stand with a 20 DH sandwich. At Casablanca Port, there’s also a Sofitel and Ibis, and if you walk about 10 mins (where the medina is), you’ll hit the Grand Hyatt. The Casablanca Voyageur station is located on the tramline, and it’ll take about 15 mins to get from Casablanca Voyageur station to get to the medina using the tram.

Rabat

First class on the newer, double-deck train

There are many trains going from Rabat to Casablanca – don’t use me as an authority, but I’d say there’s at least one train every hour, but it might be closer to two trains every hour. The trains that run from Rabat to Casablanca Port are the newer, double-decker trains, and they leave on the hour, e.g. 10, 11, 12. The second-class cabin costs 35 DH, while the first class cabin costs 55 DH. This train is not particularly popular, so you’ll probably get a seat, even if you bought the second-class cabin. I bought the first class cabin, and the cabin was empty. It was very comfortable, and the table gave me space to get in an hour’s work.

Rabat

Newer double-decker train pulling into Rabat Train Station

The trains from Rabat to Casablanca Voyager runs about 20 past the hour, i.e. 10.20, 11.20, 12.20, and tended to be the older A/C trains, whereby the second-class seats are those 8-seats to a cabin type. The first class ticket was 39 DH. I didn’t check the price of the second-class ticket. These trains tended to fill up, so when buying a second-class ticket, there is a possibility that you might wind up standing for the journey.

Rabat

Older Train, second class

The major train stations in Morocco tended to have machines, which sell tickets for immediate departure. There is generally quite a bit of machine malfunction (at the different stations, only half worked). Some of them just didn’t work (green light on the machine means it is function, red means no go). The good thing is, it has an English option, if you’re not a Francophone. They also take their own bankcard – I tried using my credit card, and it didn’t work. Some of the machines also only take exact change, so having a range of change might be helpful, if you’re trying to avoid the long lines buying tickets from the counter.

If you want to check train times/prices, you can try the official Moroccan train website.

Categories: Morocco, Premium Travel, Rail | Leave a comment

Flight Review: BA 460 Club Europa London to Madrid (LHR – MAD), 23 Dec 2015

British Airways Club Europa

Apart from slightly wider seats and a nice meal service, Business class travel in Europe is about as exciting as US domestic first class travel. When I first reserved my seat, the cabin looked pretty empty, but I guess the flight filled up towards the end – the cabin was full. It has a 2-2-2 configuration, and if I knew that the middle aisle actually has an extra little buffer between the two seats, I’d probably have selected those instead.

It was pretty tight (my tall seatmate putting his legs/hands into my space didn’t help), but service was great. For a short, sub-two-hour flight, I think the attendants did a pretty good job of serving a meal, and a pre-departure beverage.

British Airways Club Europa

Lunch service was actually pretty funny. They brought out the meals heated in those foil containers, and after you make your selection, they tipped it over onto a plate. Selection for the day was grilled prawn nicoise salad, or sweet and sour chicken. I opted for the sweet and sour chicken, and actually enjoyed it.

Overall, while it was nice to get some food and beverages and better service on a flight, I don’t see myself shelling out for a short-haul business class flight on such a product.

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