June 15-30 2013 Bali, Indonesia and Hong Kong, China
After first discovering Flyertalk in December of 2011 and subsequently having my mind blown by the information and material it was time to put the learned knowledge to work!!
We had previously planned and executed a much easier trip back in Sep 2012 using United miles, Starwood points and UR points to have a 10-day Kauai trip. I wanted to plan an even more adventurous and exotic trip. My wife loves beach and tropical destinations as do I but I love a city adventure as well. We both never have traveled outside of North America and well we had about 300,000 AA miles thanks to Citi.
So one thing you will see a lot and hear a lot of around the flyertalk forums is Cathay Pacific! After seeing numerous reports and pics that is what I wanted to do.
On Halloween 2012 the trip was “born” so to speak. I tried to book this trip around Memorial Day weekend to save a vacation day however I could not find any availability online nor on the phone thus it got pushed back to June. I asked the phone agent what was available ORD-DPS and HKG-ORD with in 2 weeks. June 15 was available on the outbound and June 30 was available on the inbound CX first class on the way there and Biz class on the way back- “DEAL”!
I then needed to find a connecting flight from DPS to HKG since I don’t get a stopover in DPS. Thus I knew Avios would be the best bet! Everyday I checked DPS to HKG sometime in the middle of the trip. After about 2 weeks Monday June 24 opened in economy for 12,500 Avios opened and was booked! So that gives us 8 days and seven nights in Bali and 7 days and 6 nights in Hong Kong.
With the flights locked down, up next were the hotel accommodations! Bali has such a vast selection of resorts and hotels its mind blowing! We love a luxury accommodation and have become somewhat hotel snobs to a small degree. My first reaction was to stick to Starwood and do some nights at the W Seminyak and some at St Regis Nua Dusa. After many months of research and looking at rates and availability the Starwood options didn’t seem appealing compared to the competition. In the end, we chose Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay for 4 nights using the buy 3 nights get one night “free” and then Four Seasons Sayan for 3 nights using the buy 2 nights get on night “free”.
Lastly the Hong Kong portion was somewhat easier with the Hilton devaluation. I had just got my Hilton Reserve card in Jan 2013 and was looking forward to staying with Hilton as a backup to Starwood until the devaluation; I was even planning on spending the $40k to acquire diamond status. We ended up using the 2 night certificates from the Hilton Reserve card at the Conrad and using the 50k points for one night and using cash and points 25k points a night plus $125 for the 4th night. Also and this decision hurt but I dumped 40k Starwood points for 2 nights at the W Hong Kong with rates at one point of $274 a night I should have jumped on them but of course they went up to $330 a night and I just didn’t want to use any more cash for this trip so there goes 40k spg points!
Lets get to the trip and the pics so we can share the experience!
CX First Class CX807: ORD-HKG
June 15th 2013
Scheduled Departure: 330pm
Actual Departure: 445pm
Seats 1A and 2A
We took the Coach USA bus from Milwaukee MKE airport to ORD international terminal 5. It is about a 1.5-hour drive with a few quick stops and costs about $50 per person round-trip.
Entering the Terminal the CX counter was pretty much right in front of you slightly to your left. We walk towards the ticketing line and a CX personal asks, “business class sir” I say no “First Class”. He says, “oh sir please step over to this line and we will get you situated right away”. I think it appeared to him I was walking into the biz class line.
We handed over our passports and I asked if our bags would be checked in all the way to DPS since we had a 13-hour overnight layover and she said yes. I also asked if we could sit in First Class on the connecting flight from HKG to DPS since my booking showed we were slated for biz class on the connecting flight. I figured maybe an equipment change to the 747 or 777 and we could sit up front however they were showing an Airbus plane and thus remained in the 2 class plane for that connection. The gentleman CX rep asked, “would we like to be escorted to security as the line at this time is long.’ “Sure” I replied thus missing the chance to get a picture of the check-in scene.
The line for the economy passengers was LONG. He escorted us past everyone right up to the separate line for 1st class security line and wished us a pleasant flight. I felt kind of strange and we got a lot of stares. We cleared security and started to walk to the lounge. We were issued passes to the SAS lounge and we had 3 plus hours to wait with the delay for the plane.
Lounge was about 1/3 full but as we got closer to departure the lounge was nearly 100% full and I was very surprised! It got to a point were my wife and I took turns leaving the lounge to walk the terminal and see if the gate area was any better. The gate area was worse than the Milwaukee county zoo on a summer Sunday!!! Wow people sitting all over the floor as there was an Air France flight to Paris in the shared gate area, one gate over.
Anyhow, the CX staff in the lounge made it a point to remember the 1st class passengers and before the boarding announcement in the lounge gathered up the 1st class passengers right outside the SAS lounge and escorted us in a group up to the gate. Unfortunately it was going to be full in 1st class today. All 6 of us marched to the gate and the CX rep got the 300+ plus people in the gate area to part like the Red sea!! Now I felt really awkward as it was like walking down the red carpet with people 6 inches away from you and staring as they wait to get on the plane. In fact the gate lice were SO BAD that several biz class passengers got aggressive and started to board before my wife!!! So as they scanned my pass to board I looked back and my wife was toting her bag with about 5 people now in front of her!! So we were the last two First class passengers to board the first class cabin.
CX FIRST CLASS
As we boarded we were shown to our seats and with grins ear to ear we looked around and got settled in. Now I had seen several pictures and watched numerous YouTube videos of the CX first class experience but to finally be there in real life and have a chance to see it personally was great! I put my carryon in the fairly large closet area that housed the IFE screen. I then grabbed for my Sony RX-100 and started taking a few pictures and videos of the cabin and of my wife enjoying her new home for the next 15 hours. We were then asked if we would like a beverage, I of course asked for Krug however the flight attendant didn’t seem to understand?! I repeated it again and she responded “ she would be happy to serve me alcohol from the bar once we are in the air”. She then said, “ how about some Champaign?” LOL
yes please!!!! Within a moment we had our Krug! I was also given a newspaper and was totally relaxed yet anxious to start the flight. We had a fairly long take off roll and a super smooth climb out of O’Hare. After a few moments we had some more Champaign and almonds delivered and were able to take a look at the menu for the this flight.
We decided to have our dinner together at my wife’s seat however the table in 2A had a slight wobble and they then wanted to try my table in 1A and decided it would be better to dine in 1A. They made the table impeccably! My wife decided to try the mushroom ravioli and I went with the steamed lobster entree. I will say the lobster was quite dry and I would try something else in the future. Otherwise we were quite pleased with the food offerings! We were in fact so full we didn’t even have dessert! We hit some moderate turbulence when dining on our 2nd course-the soup. In fact my soup started spilling over the bowl and on to the tabletop and tablecloth. The female flight attendant was so nervous and concerned about the soup spilling I thought she was going to call to the flight deck to make an emergency landing!! Lol. Her dialogue was as such, “ Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, eeeeee, errrr, oh my, oh my, oh my, Mr PointsPinnacle I am sooooo sorry!!! I am so sorry.” She then decided that they would clear the table and change the tablecloth. I had to laugh at her concern for the presentation of the table. Keep in mind not one drop of the hot soup spilled on me nor was any of this her fault! It was quite funny and I appreciated her concern but it was not necessary to reset the table. Instead she asked, “Can I at least place a new napkin on the wet portion of the table?” I agreed more so just to make her feel comfortable, as it was not any concern of mine. The customer service skills and willingness to make the passenger comfortable and happy really shines through!
When dinner ended I went to use the restroom (1 of 2 in the first class cabin for 6 people!) and change into my Shanghai Tang PJ’s distributed before departure
When I came back to my seat all the window shades had been drawn down and the cabin was dark. I was not tired and I decided to crack my window open about 50% so that I can look out time to time (the whole purpose of selecting a window seat). After about 5 minutes the gentleman sitting in 1D came over and asked, “can you close your window shade as I am is trying to go sleep?” Now I am the nicest guy in the world and maybe it was the way he kind of demanded it but I was thinking, “who the heck is this guy? Why can’t he just use the eye mask provided to black out any remaining light?” My wife didn’t appreciate it either but I didn’t stress it and being the nice guy I am, simply closed the window shade for him.
After dinner we surveyed the selection of the IFE. Now I was totally unprepared for the entertainment options. I was thinking it would be as far reaching as lets say Netflix and was hoping to pound out a full season of some shows I always wanted to watch like Entourage or Breaking Bad. However those weren’t on offer but I made due and I would say they had a fair selection. I watched “the Hobbit”, ” Identity Thief” and “This is 40” along with a few TV shows.
After several hours I asked for turndown service and within a moment or two the bed was all set up for a nice slumber. The only problem is I could not fall asleep!! My wife behind me was already sleeping for hours with the assistance of about 6 glasses of Krug and a few Cathay Delights!! In the past I have taken a few Xanax to help me relax and fall asleep as getting on an airplane was one of my biggest fears in life. I have flown enough recently to get over it but I am still never 100% relaxed I suppose. I rolled around in my bed for about 3 hours and decided that was enough! I ordered some Hong Kong style milk tea with a biscotti and it was wonderful!!! Now I know why Lucky at One Mile at a Time raves about it!
Closer to arrival the menus were again passed out for our second dinner being it about 7pm Hong Kong time. However my wife and I both passed on having any more food, as we were not really hungry after the feast we had earlier in the flight. The head FA came over an really encouraged me to try the Pork Chop and said he highly recommended it. In fact offered to make it for me and sample a few bites but I had to kindly refuse.
We had a smooth touchdown in Hong Kong and I had a nice discussion with some of the FA’s as we were waiting to depart the plane. They were a Hong Kong based flight crew and I gave them kudos for their performance on this flight. They then handed out a few decks of playing cards to help pass time in the hotel he said and some pens and asked where I was staying in Hong Kong. I told him the Sheraton and he said that it has very nice harbor views and is right next to the legendary Peninsula.
We thoroughly enjoyed this flight!!! It was an amazing life experience in my eyes. This segment only costs $86!!!!!! Take a look below, $18 taxes/fees *2=$36 plus the $50 telephone booking fee American Airlines charges to book over the phone. The retail costs of this very same itinerary was over $16,000 USD the day I booked it. Credit card miles and points are the only way for us to make this happen aside from winning the lottery! We applied for 3 Citi American Airline credit cards each in order to afford this trip in miles. Each card provided 50,000 American Airline miles thus in total we had 150,000 miles each!! The best place to find the most recent offers on these cards is this flyertalk thread. There are still some AA cards offering 50,000 miles per card.
This is the reason to collect miles and points!!
Receipt- only $86 for this experience!!
Grand total for this one way segment from O’hare to Bali was 67,500 per person=135,000 American Airlines miles and $86!
The cash price on this itinerary is over $11,000 one way per ticket for a random week in March 2014!
stay tuned for part 2-the overnight layover in Hong Kong and the connecting flight to Bali