It’s a treat to even fly economy on Emirates, let alone in one of its upgraded cabins. That includes premium economy, introduced in August 2022 and currently available from four U.S. cities: New York (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO) and Houston (IAH). But flying business class to the Maldives? Well, that definitely made my trip as much about the journey as the destination.
The itinerary took me from Washington Dulles (IAD) to Malé (MLE) by way of Dubai (DXB), with long-haul flights taking place on an Airbus A380, the massive, double-decker, with the shorter hops on Boeing 777s. The Maldives has long been a bucket-list destination for me; but, let’s face it, it’s far, with the first leg taking around 14 hours and the second almost five. Business class made it much more pleasant.
Luckily, the pampering began before I was even at the airport, with Emirates’ complimentary door-to-door chauffeur service picking me up at my front door and delivering me straight to departures. IAD partners with Air France for lounge access, and it’s never a bad idea to start the morning with a flute of Taittinger.
The boarding process was quick, since first- and business-lass passengers board via a dedicated jetway directly to the upper deck. Once settled into seat 7K, I familiarized myself with my luxe, temporary home. Seats were arranged in a one-two-one configuration, with an individual entry and exit path from seat to aisle, six-way adjustable headrest and electric footrest extensions, and the option to recline to fully flat beds. I had eyeshades and socks; charging ports; a small minibar stocked with water and soft drinks; and comfortable noise-cancelling headphones to enjoy ICE, Emirates award-winning touchscreen entertainment library with 6.500 channels of on-demand entertainment and (my favorite part) cameras letting me watch the flight. My window seat included lift-up storage bins the middle seats lacked, which let me stash my full-sized pillow and blanket when I wasn’t resting.
As I sipped my welcome glass of Veuve Clicquot, a flight attendant in signature beige and red suit, scarf and pillbox hat handed me the latest iteration of the vegan leather Bulgari amenity kit, with fun inclusions like Bvlgari Omnia Amethyste Eau de Toilette, body lotion, facial emulsion and lip balm, and a sustainable wheat straw-based double mirror.
As soon as it had opened after take-off, I headed to the onboard lounge — because how often do you get to hang out at a bar at 35,000 feet? Sure, it was hard to leave my comfortable seat, but the lounge proved a welcome respite when I was feeling a little thirsty or peckish and wanted to stretch my legs instead of hitting the call button. Flight attendants took turns bartending, shaking and stirring a menu of classic cocktails and zero-proof sips along with serving beer, wine, apéritifs and spirits. Since my flight left late morning, I ordered a Breakfast Martini, with Sipsmith Gin shaken with orange marmalade, Cointreau and citrus juices; it made for a great photo and the chance to hang out for a bit on the semicircular seating flanking the bar. There was always a selection of sweets on the bar top, including baklava and strawberry and rosewater macarons. Adjacent to the bar, baskets were constantly refilled with chips, granola bars and several kinds of sandwiches, as well as hot snacks on request, including chicken balti with steamed basmati rice.
I selected my options on the three-course lunch menu. The poached lobster tail was much more tender than the rubbery almond milk panna cotta that accompanied it, and the meat on the mixed grill of lamb chops, Persian-style chicken kabab and kofta, barberry rice and cherry tomatoes was super flavorful albeit just a tad dried out.
I skipped the light bites meal service in favor of catching some zzzs; when I was ready to transform my seat into a sumptuous bed in the sky, my flight attendant set up a thin but comfy mattress pad on top. This detail, along with smaller ones like fresh flowers in wall sconce vases and full-sized Bvlgari fragrances and dental kits in the lavatories, are part of what sets this airline apart.
Soon after a breakfast of an egg white omelet with rosti, sauteed spinach and baked beans, I could see the Dubai skyline through the haze, including the iconic Burj Khalifa.
The business class cabin on the 777 to Malé was arranged in a two-three-two configuration; even though my window seat wasn’t quite as private as on the A380, a panel between the seats helped, and seats still converted to lie-flat. The oddest detail was the fact that one passenger in each of the center rows actually sat in the center seat; not so annoying if you know your seatmates, maybe more so if you had to climb over strangers. Service was just as friendly, and food and beverage options were similar (no onboard lounge, though, unfortunately.) After a little snooze, the Maldives started to appear through my window, with a light turquoise lagoon surrounding each island.
On my return journey, I had a nearly five-hour layover in Dubai, which gave me lots of time to check out Emirates’ largest lounge in Terminal B, with a staggering 100,000 square feet of space and a maximum capacity of 1,351 guests. It was nearly empty when I arrived around 10 p.m., yet buzzing just over an hour later, but the well-laid-out design meant it never felt crowded. Staff told me midnight is the busiest time. Constantly replenished food stations stocked Western, Asian and Middle Eastern options; I piled up a plate of baba ganoush, hummus, saffron rice and chickpea curry and warm pita bread and grabbed a table.
Afterward, I strolled around to check out the napping areas, ice cream cart and Timeless Spa, whose services can be booked for a fee. Eventually I made my way to the Moët & Chandon Champagne Lounge, whose tucked-away location makes it easy to miss, despite directional signage. It’s a bubbly lover’s dream.
After a stressful pre-holiday season and a busy work schedule, there was no better time for a relaxing spa experience than during my recent trip to Pasadena with the FXExpress Publications, Inc. team. We headed to The Langham Huntington, Pasadena for the 20th anniversary of the GT Tested Reader Survey awards, which meant a jam-packed trip, but I managed to carve a little time out of our busy schedule to visit Chuan Spa at the hotel.
Incentive travel has long been a way for organizations to drive sales and reward employees with opulent trips to exotic destinations. Today it encompasses even more.
The Saronic or Argo Saronic Islands of Greece call travelers to explore its seven small islands and islets brimming with history, natural sites and more. With most easily accessible by boat, the islands’ proximity to ports of Athens make the Saronic Islands an ideal destination for those preferring shorter boat rides. In fact, trips from Athens ports to the islands take only between 10 minutes and two hours, depending on the island you choose, making them perfect for day or weekend trips. From Piraeus port, you can access Hydra, Spetses, Aegina and Poros directly. Come explore these stunning islands with us and find the inspiration to plan your next trip to these islands. Hydra Hydra town curves around a slope overlooking the Argosaronic Gulf like an amphitheater and is considered one of the most romantic destinations in Greece. Most unique to the island is its lack of vehicles. People on the island get around on mules and donkeys as well as water taxis, making for a peaceful and laid-back day. Hydra lies a two-hour ferry ride from Piraeus port in Athens.
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After almost four years in the planning, design and reconstruction stages, Baillie Lodges’ flagship property, Southern Ocean Lodge on Australia’s Kangaroo Island, reopened late last year after the original hotel was razed during the summer of the 2019/2020 Kangaroo Island bushfires.