On the Ground: We were concerned about the traffic on the way to JFK, as we would have to travel through Staten Island and cross the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Of course, there was none, and before we knew it, we were in front of South African Airways’ Terminal 4. Luggage in hand, we checked in at the convenient desk located just inside the doors — none of the typical searching for the check-in desk. We had one scare at check-in: My passport is so full of stamps that the clerk was not sure the South African government would let me in. A manager was brought to the desk to check; he confirmed the one remaining page was sufficient. The Swiss lounge, which SAA shares, is very comfortable, with a buffet of breakfast items including fruits and breads. One recommendation for the lounge: Add more electrical outlets for charging laptops. (28/30)
Pre-flight: Once on board, we were directed to the front of the cabin, to South African Airways Premium Business Class. Our steward, Charl, immediately welcomed us and offered us Champagne or orange juice. In no time, we were moving down the runway and were airborne for our flight to Johannesburg. (28/30)
In-flight: The configuration of the cabin is 2-2-2, with four rows on the left of the aircraft, five in the center and five on the right. The comfortable seats have a multitude of adjustments, including upright and cradle, but I found the most important button was the one labeled “Bed.” I always appreciate the ability to power up my laptop on board; a convenient outlet on the back of the armrest enabled me to watch the television programs and documentaries I had downloaded to my MacBook Pro. SAA also has ample movies and shows to entertain passengers on the nearly 15-hour flight.
Shortly after take-off, we were ordering our meals from the menu, which included selections such as sesame-crusted beef filet, chicken satay, grilled swordfish and pumpkin ravioli. I chose the ravioli and my partner chose the chicken satay — both were tasty. The starter was an excellent smoked duck breast with fennel and avocado and a salad of seasonal mixed greens. We chose a wonderful South African Merlot which complemented our meal. For dessert, since it was my birthday, I had birthday cake, supplied by the crew and SAA staff — a nice personal touch.
The beauty of the flight is the flat bed. Unlike many flights I’ve experienced over the years, we had a respectful staff and passengers who kept the noise level to a minimum. Sleep is key on long flights, and we achieved this on SAA’s business class. (39/40)
The Experience: I can’t imagine flying any other carrier to South Africa. They are warm, friendly and have wonderful food and wine. The business class is comfortable. On the ground, we received our luggage and cleared customs in no time. Our driver was shocked at how quickly we were outside.
Total Score: 95/100
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group announced plans to take over an existing hotel in Switzerland. The property is undergoing extensive renovations in preparation to open at the end of next year as Mandarin Oriental Palace, Luzern. The property was previously Hotel Palace Luzern, on the shores of Lake Lucerne and in the heart of the city; it originally opened in 1906.
Welcome to Rhodes, a medieval treasure beautifully preserved throughout the centuries. Rhodes is the capital of the Dodecanese, an island ideal not only for those who want to relax, but also for those looking for an action-packed holiday! With its bright green hills, rich green valleys and uninterrupted line of golden beaches, Rhodes is truly a blessed place. “The sun island” has more sunshiny days and milder temperatures throughout the year than any other location in Greece. It is, after all, one of the country’s easternmost places and among the first to welcome summer on its impressive beaches. Add in the excellent facilities for tourism, the island’s special blend of cosmopolitan and traditional, and numerous cultural and archaeological sites, the most important being the Medieval (Old) Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and you’ve got the perfect holiday destination. While on Rhodes, don’t miss a daytrip to nearby Sými. An island of sponge divers and seamen, Sými used to have 30,000 inhabitants before the Second World War and was the richest island in the Dodecanese, despite its small size. Today, Sými attracts many visitors thanks to its beautifully preserved Neo-Classical buildings and the famous Archangel Michael monastery at Panormitis.
As part of Germany’s climate package, a plan to reduce emissions, the country will raise departure taxes at German airports. Taxes will go up as much as 60 percent, and are expected to raise up to €740 million. The funds will then be used to lower VAT on rail fares from 19 percent to 7 percent.
United Airlines announces a number of new routes.
Norwegian Cruise Line took delivery of its newest ship, Norwegian Encore, ahead of its naming ceremony Nov. 21. The 1,100-foot-long ship boasts a guest capacity of nearly 4,000. Since Norwegian Cruise Line took delivery of the shi, Oct. 30, Norwegian Encore sailed from Germany to England before making its way to New York City, then Miami, where the christening ceremony takes place next week.
United Airlines’ environmentally friendly efforts lessen the impact on local U.S. communities.