Hotel review: Villa Sungai, Bali (Indonesia)

Wednesday newsletters always feature a luxury hotel and/or flight review.

Today: Review of Villa Sungai (Bali, Indonesia).
  • Location: Google Maps
  • Address: Jl. Desa Cepaka, Kaba-Kaba, Kediri, Kabupaten Tabanan, Bali, Indonesia
  • Hotel website: Villa Sungai

Bali is one of the hottest destinations in Southeast Asia. Home to turquoise beaches, captivating jungles, valleys of vibrant green rice terraces, volcanoes, and traditional temples, Bali is an island full of discovery and visual magic. To escape the tourist chaos, head to Villa Sungai, located 15 minutes away from Canggu beach, an oasis nested in the rural village of Cepaka. Witness the Balinese way of life as children, families, and local animals go about their daily routines in the neighborhoods and streets. Know that you are experiencing island tradition unchanged by centuries of passing time history. Villa Sungai is comprised of two villas: Sungai has three king pool-side suites, and Sungai Gold has two king pool-side suites and one pool-edge cabana.

In this review (more info below the slideshow):

  • Pros & things I like
  • Cons & things to know
  • My verdict
  • Tips for future guests & save money
  • Best time to visit
  • How to get there

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PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • The exceptional service at Villa Sungai is obliging, thoughtful, and thorough. From airport transfers and preparing meals to taking care of little ones and organizing activities, you will feel like you are truly being looked after. All of your worries and concerns will be addressed with the utmost care and attentiveness. Villa Sungai’s staff is always smiling and ready to cater to your every need. Attention to detail is faultless, and your likes and dislikes will be learned and noted for the duration of your stay. You will feel like you are leaving family when you depart this beautiful villa.
  • Different from the impersonal feel you sometimes experience at hotels, Villa Sungai feels like a home away from home. While you get all the luxuries and service of a 5-star hotel, the villa is secluded and exclusive, giving the impression of a laid-back private residence. Unwind and enjoy privacy, care, and relaxation.
  • Built in a jungle, Villa Sungai is located on a small river in the rural Balinese village of Cepaka near Canggu. The narrow roads of the village are sandwiched between sprawling green rice fields, black and golds and browns of temples, and the burnt orange of triangular rooftops. It is a striking visual experience far away from the chaos of tourists. The property is accentuated by lush foliage and a canopy of green. Let the sounds and rhythms of the beautiful natural surroundings coax you into a state of ultimate leisure in this natural world of luxury.
  • Kick back in Villa Sungai with complimentary sandals and sarongs. Sink into deeply comfortable king-sized beds complete with soft, extravagant bedding and netted canopies. Expansive indoor/outdoor bathrooms allow you to become one with nature, and are equipped with CHOPARD and bespoke natural toiletries, salon hairdryers, GHD straighteners upon request, make-up mirrors, bathrobes, spa gowns, and slippers. Up-to-date with modern technologies, pavilions have a Bose sound system, and bedrooms come with Tivoli Audio and loaded iPods. Wi-fi, cable television, DVDs players, and satellite TV are all available on the premises.
  • For those traveling with family, Villa Sungai has childrens’ lodgings and two interconnecting rooms. Bed rails, netted cots, cribs, baby change mats, baby baths, and potties are all provided to guarantee comfort and convenience for your treasured little ones! Villa Sungai strives to make your child’s stay enjoyable and memorable, so activities like visiting a local school and having a traditional Balinese outfit tailor-made are all available upon request!
  • The style of Villa Sungai is a harmony of traditional Balinese and European design. Combining indoor and outdoor living, all suites, dining rooms and leisure pavilions open to the pools. The overall color scheme of the villa is white with khaki soft furnishings, with the decor aiming for authenticity rather than ostentatiousness.
  • Villa Sungai orbits around the centerpiece of an 18m (60 ft) lap pool with an infinity edge that overlooks the nearby river and lush green foliage. Go for a refreshing dip anytime your heart desires, or soak up the hot Balinese sun poolside.
  • Personalized treatments and yoga classes are offered right on Villa Sungai’s premises. Indulge in a massage, therapeutic skin care, facials, manicures, pedicures, and traditional Balinese healing therapies such as baths, scrubs, and wraps. All products used in the spa are made with all-natural ingredients. Choose from the air-conditioned double spa facility or take in jungle views by the pool during your treatments. After your spa visit, you will feel clean, rejuvenated, and relaxed to the core.
  • The food served at Villa Sungai is on par with luxury restaurants charging $50 and upwards for a main. Fresh, locally-sourced ingredients purchased the same day are used to arrange artful Asian-style dishes and Indonesian delights charged at cost of ingredients only! Chef specialties include lime and cashew blue-eye cod rolls with Chinese black vinegar dipping sauce with your pre-dinner cocktails, Balinese lamb stew with yellow rice and their signature roti canai, crab and pomelo salad with Thai herbs , and crisp snapper and snake bean salad with Thai basil, soy and ginger. Enjoy your meal with a wide variety of cocktails devised by the villa’s talented mixologists. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served on elegant table settings and by candlelight in the evenings. Villa Sungai’s innovative approach to food is really something to write home about. 

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW  

Finding a con of Villa Sungai is very difficult, and the 100+ 5-star reviews on TripAdvisor cements my theory. This rave reviewer sums up my feelings on the villa quite succinctly, and I’m sure you will agree once you arrange for a visit to Villa Sungai yourself:

“… The serenity and beauty of the place is felt as soon as you walk from the car through the threshold and stand at the top of the steps which lead to the villa. Here, one first experiences the mystic feel of this piece of paradise. Looking at the thatched roofs of each pavilion, the anticipation we felt as we descended and then finally walked in to see what we had only seen in photos became a reality. The villa surpassing all expectations was a delightful moment for all of u s…”


MY VERDICT
  • Location: 9/10
  • Design: 8/10
  • Rooms: 8/10
  • Food: 9/10
  • Service: 10/10
  • Overall Experience: very good: 8.8/10

TIPS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Villa Sungai. Book a room at the cheapest price and/or receive many free perks!
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Located close to the equator, temperatures in Bali hover at a balmy 85 degrees Fahrenheit year-found. The frequency of precipitation is the only concern for travelers seeking to visit this paradise island. Rainy season lasts from October to March, and the heavy humidity and torrential rainfalls make this period more unpredictable for adventures and exploration.

The dry season lasts from April to September, and the weather during this time is warm and pleasant. Tourists flood the islands between June and September, so between April and May and the end of September is generally viewed as the optimal time to experience Bali at its finest. However, since Villa Sungai is secluded, private, and quiet, crowds need not deter potential visitors from their stay at this luxurious accommodation.


HOW TO GET THERE

Villa Sungai offers car service to and from the Denpasar airport, eliminating the need to stress about transportation. Do take advantage of their VIP airport butler service and rest assured that drivers will take you anywhere you want to go with a smile and the villa’s signature friendly attitude, and this is included in your room rate.


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Meet the World’s Newest Solar-Powered Catamaran Yacht

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Photos Credit: Dennis Ingemansson

A new catamaran concept has been launched by Swedish designer Dennis Ingemansson and Egon Faiss of the yachtbuilders Nedship Group. Dreamed up during 2015’s Monaco Yacht Show, the 50 meter boat its final design stages, intended to reduce the time it would take to reach the build phase once cleared for construction. The catamaran, which is able to be adapted to shorter lengths, is solar-powered, which is the Nedship Group’s specialty. The main focus of this design is to be as green as possible, so the designers included over 160 meters of solar cells, which are included in the boat’s exterior surfaces. The large solar cell area, combined with a hybrid propulsion system and wind turbine inclusion, offers the owner several ways to hit the high seas while reducing his or her carbon footprint. 

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At the moment, they are focusing on the charter market, with the inclusion of two owner’s suites on the owner’s deck, sitting directly above the main level. Guest accommodations are below, on the main and lower decks, in the form of four double en suite rooms. There is space for crew as well, though their design is focused on optimizing technology to reduce the number needed to operate the vessel. At present, the design doesn’t include a helicopter hangar, but it’s featured as an add-on should the client need to incorporate this for their catamaran. This would also allow for more solar cells to enhance the boat’s energy capabilities. Other additional options include submarines and tenders, which allow the owner to further explore their surrounding areas both above and below the water’s surface.

Top 10: Europe’s most stunning hotel rooftops

Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.

Today (May 30, 2016): Top 10 most spectacular hotel rooftops in Europe. 

Although I am writing this post on a drizzling day in Belgium, summer is officially here (at least in the Northern hemisphere), so its time to enjoy bird’s-eye views of Europe’s famous cities from the Old Continent’s best hotel rooftops! Rooftops have an irresistible attraction to many travelers, and indeed, it’s hard to resist the allure of sipping on your favorite drink with your friends and/or loved one(s), while gasping at spectacular city views all around you. I hereby present you my selection of Europe’s 10 best hotel rooftop.

I have previously published top 10 lists of my favorite hotel rooftops in the world, the most spectacular rooftop pools, and the best rooftop bars in New York.

There is more information below the slideshow. Think I missed one? Share your favorite European hotel rooftop in the comments section, or take my poll below.

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10. ME MADRID REINA VICTORIA, SPAIN

The most glamorous and dazzling ambience in Madrid is now found at The Roof, the exclusive bar on the rooftop terrace of the ME Madrid Hotel in Plaza Santa Ana. With a spectacular panoramic view of the city, The Roof offers a chance to relax under the stars with a cool drink, and just enjoy the music or try a delicious dinner on the terrace. Inside, a stylish VIP bar awaits.

ME MADRID REINA VICTORIA, SPAIN

ME MADRID REINA VICTORIA, SPAIN


9. JW MARRIOTT VENICE RESORT & SPA, ITALY

The 266-room JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa resort, which opened last year, is located on a private island, Sola Delle Rose, in the Venetian lagoon, just a 20-minute ride to central St. Mark’s Square by complimentary shuttle service. The hotel’s rooftop, located on the 4th floor of the main hotel building, offers a breathtaking view of the Venetian lagoon and the resort grounds. It has a nice bar, plenty of lounge chairs, and a beautiful infinity pool. It’s open to hotel guests only.

JW MARRIOTT VENICE RESORT & SPA, ITALY

JW MARRIOTT VENICE RESORT & SPA, ITALY


8. W AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS

Just steps away from the vibrant Dam Square and the Royal Palace, the new W Amsterdam Hotel features 238 stylish guest rooms and suites and spreads across two historic buildings. On the sixth floor of the Exchange building, a glass-walled, rectangular-shaped lounge extends over the entire top of the building, with several outdoor terraces offering terrific city views, one of them coming with a heated pool.

  • Hotel website: W Amsterdam
  • Review: click here to read my review of the W Amsterdam.
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W AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS


 7. MANDARIN ORIENTAL MUNICH, GERMANY

Tucked away in a quiet side street, Mandarin Oriental Munich offers an enticing mix of Oriental style, German charm and internationally renowned service. Open during the warm summer months, the stunning China Moon Roof Terrace is one of Munich’s best-kept secrets, enjoying a wonderful menu and fabulous 360 degree views of the city. Guests can dine al fresco, sip cocktails or take a dip in our pool (for in-house guests only).

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MANDARIN ORIENTAL MUNICH, GERMANY


6. HOTEL CONTINENTALE, FLORENCE, ITALY

The crown jewel of the fashion design Ferragamo family’s small chain of hotels, Florence’s Hotel Continentale pays homage to the happy-go-lucky feel of the ‘50s and ‘60s with bubble-gum pink accents. The sky is the limit and provides the perfect background for a sumptuous breakfast or a delightful cocktail at the splendid “La Terrazza” Bar on top of the Consorti tower, a stone throw away from Brunelleschi’s Dome, Giotto’s Bell Tower and Ponte Vecchio.

HOTEL CONTINENTALE FLORENCE, ITALY

HOTEL CONTINENTALE FLORENCE, ITALY


5. ME LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

With views that touch the clouds and include Tower Bridge, London Bridge, Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Tate Modern, Somerset House, Southbank, London Eye, Houses of Parliament, and the theatre district of Covent Garden, the rooftop bar at the ME London hotel raises the bar in the UK capital on the enjoyment of social life whilst having a drink in the lounge.

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ME LONDON, UK


4. ST. REGIS ISTANBUL, TURKEY

The St. Regis Istanbul takes up residence in the most prestigious address in the city, in the Nisantasi district. The hotel’s 7th floor rooftop has stunning views towards Maçka Park and the Bosphorus. It features a fine dining venue as well as a lounge, where guests can enjoy ambient music, signature cocktails, high-end spirits and fine champagne.

ST REGIS ISTANBUL, TURKEY

ST REGIS ISTANBUL, TURKEY


3. MANDARIN ORIENTAL BARCELONA, SPAIN

Mandarin Oriental Barcelona’s rooftop terrace has a stylish pool, with trendy loungers besides it, from which to absorb the city views as you take a dip. Some of the landmarks visible from the terrace include Antoni Gaudí’s legendary La Sagrada Família and Casa Batlló. Terrat is exclusive to guests in the afternoon before it opens to all (6-11pm) for sundowners and snacks.

MANDARIN ORIENTAL BARCELONA, SPAIN

MANDARIN ORIENTAL BARCELONA, SPAIN


2. SHANGRI-LA PARIS, FRANCE

Built in 1896 as the private home of Prince Roland Bonaparte, the Shangri-La Paris is a fusion of Asian hospitality and French art de vivre. Situated on the 7th floor of the hotel, the Shangri-La Suite with its exceptional terrace and incredible view over Paris is the most coveted in the French capital. Each summer, the Suit(e)-up Lounge allows a happy few to sip champagne accompanied by savory petits fours in a chic and cosy ambiance.

SHANGRI-LA PARIS, FRANCE

SHANGRI-LA PARIS, FRANCE


1. THE GRITTI PALACE, VENICE, ITALY

The ultimate hotel rooftop experience is to have one all for yourself, which is the case when you book the Redentore Terrazza Suite at Venice’s ultra luxe Gritti Palace. The 250 square meter, one-of-a-kind rooftop overlooking the Grand Canal, has a minipool and is equipped with sun lounges and furniture for stylish outdoor living.

THE GRITTI PALACE VENICE, ITALY

THE GRITTI PALACE VENICE, ITALY


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Setting Sail with Yacht Designer Luiz de Basto

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Photo Credit: Luiz de Basto

If you’re in the market for a yacht, chances are you’ve come across the work of master designer Luiz de Basto. His award-winning, eponymous yacht design company, De Basto Designs, is at the forefront of cutting-edge design and technology for yachts of all sizes. The latest award includes his design for the Cantius 60-foot interior, which won for Best Power Yacht up to 25 Meters at the International Yacht & Aviation Awards on May 20, 2016. An architect by training, de Basto made the choice to go in to yacht design full-time after juggling both in the beginning of his career. He hasn’t looked back once in the last 21 years, nor has he needed to, with the exception of a few home-design clients he picked up along the way as they were so inspired by his work with yachts.

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De Basto was born in Angola to two Portuguese parents, who moved the family to Brazil after Angola erupted in civil war. When Brazil experienced political and economic turmoil in 1990, he and his wife decided to move the family to the United States, as yacht building had all but come to a halt in Brazil due to the economic situation. Plus, he wanted to enter the international market, which being in the United States provided significantly more access to. He said they looked in to California – “We could really go anywhere, but working so much with Europe, it just wasn’t possible with the time difference” – and eventually settled on Miami, whose weather better suited his tropical roots in Angola. True to his jet-setting history and life philosophy, he’s a citizen of the world with an Italian, American and Brazilian passport, as well as a house and a sizeable business wing in Viareggio, Italy.

After arriving to Miami, he spent five years working on a company called Boatmobile, which he sold in 1995 to start De Basto Designs. “I had to start from scratch completely. Everything I did in Brazil was–well, nobody cared. I started to work with Intermarine in the United States, and things started to go the right way.” Though he’s based in Miami, his clients are all over the world, specifically in Italy, Brazil, Spain, Turkey, the United States and others. He has significant shipbuilding capabilities and relationships in Italy, the Netherlands and Brazil, where he designs Intermarine’s entire line. In general, he’s traveling to see his clients but notes that they visit him in Florida sometimes, too.

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Speaking of clients, de Basto has two types: private-custom and shipyards for larger-scale construction and production. He says that the design process and relationship is completely different for both and that you have to, “wear different hats depending on which type you’re dealing with, so to speak.” As for custom specifications, de Basto says there really isn’t much he can’t do. “When you work with private clients, you have to really listen to the client, and that’s where some unusual requests come in. Nowadays, though, it’s very difficult to not be able to do something, technology is incredible. For example, about 10 or 12 years ago, a client comes in asking for a pool table on a boat. I thought it was crazy! You can’t play the game on a boat, the boat moves. Today, that’s absolutely possible because of upgrades in stabilization. Twelve years ago? Crazy request.”

Regarding special desires, de Basto is quick to note that this isn’t usually his private clients’ first time at the rodeo. In general, this isn’t the first boat they’ve built and they already know what they want as they spend significant time on-board and operating yachts all over the world. He sits down with the client to discuss needs and wants, “some like more toys on board, others less. Some want the meditation room, the gym, the movie theater, others no. Think of a boat like a house: the bigger the house, the more toys you can have in it. A very large yacht that’s 80 or 90 meters? That’s not a house. You’re taking the village with you at that point.” In one particular instance, “there was an issue with a pool on the top deck, and we weren’t sure what to do with the water. I suggested making a waterfall to the bottom deck, and the wife lit up. ‘I love it! Let’s do it.’ Then the husband followed. And it turned out beautifully.”

He notes that discussing yacht size is a big learning opportunity for both him and the client. He’s had a lot of repeat customers who want to downsize—not because of money, but because of convenience. For example, they don’t need all those rooms or want to move in and out of certain ports easier. De Basto thinks medium-size boats are a fun challenge because you can pack a lot of features in by playing with the flexibility of layouts, creating different spaces for different times of the day or activities. In particular, he has a few memorable projects, but, “whatever I’m working on at the moment is my favorite project. I’m completely absorbed with my work—my mind can’t go anywhere until I’ve finished it.” At present, that includes a yacht he’s been designing for a client with Burger Boat Company, which has been 20 months in the making. Though at any given moment he has several projects going on at once, he’s the go-to for any problems that come up. “I take care of everything—any project, any problem. I have to take care of all of it, and I do.”

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As far as the process is concerned, custom clients come to him through word of mouth and through brokers he’s made relationships with, though he’s not completely sure of the breakdown. “If I knew, I’d do more of it! It’s very much a buyers’ market, and there are a lot of people involved: the captain, the broker, the buyer and other designers they’re consulting with.” Once a buyer has settled on De Basto for custom work, they’re generally involved but let him take the reins. De Basto said he’s lucky, in the sense that the clients he attracts come to him looking for something different and creative:

“My clients give me a lot of carte blanche: do whatever you want within the requirements. But be creative. They expect me to surprise them with new ideas, with interesting things. That’s why you have to listen to the client and understand. My clients are very successful, well-informed people, they have a lot of ideas, but those who end up with me have an openness for something new. They don’t want a boat like any other out on the water, they want their boat. Even if they don’t know exactly what they want when they walk in, I create it, they see it, and they like it. That’s my job. To visualize what the client can’t.” However, the process is different depending on whether he’s building custom or for a shipyard. With a private client, it’s a simple yes and no with one person. With a shipyard, he’s dealing with sales teams, marketing departments, captains and engineers, making the decision-making process much more multi-faceted.

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In terms of aesthetics, de Basto says he doesn’t have a preferred or strict style. He isn’t a stickler for modernist trends and prefers to defer to the client’s wishes, first and foremost. This is evident in his body of work—it’s true that no two boats of his look alike. He isn’t concerned with making his signature on a boat and focuses instead on creating definite and creative solutions to every possible design problem. He notes that lifestyle and technology change over time, which is why boats change. He mentions glass as an example: “Ten to 15 years ago, the glass was not developed enough for us to use in ways you see today. Now, we can use glass like never before. You can have it way lower on the hull, close to the water, because it’s resistant enough not to break. You have big windows on the hull that weren’t possible a few years ago.”

Another feature he’s seen evolve is square design. De Basto explained that interiors used to have to be rounded because the boat would move and people would get hurt falling onto things, which isn’t the case anymore. Improved stabilization systems mean that passengers can’t feel the boat move anymore, let alone to the point where they’d be falling over. “Technology influences design. There’s a lifestyle component and a technology component…the owners are younger, they have kids, they need more toys, they’re going diving off the boat. Nowadays, boaters are active people, and that changes the requirements for boats.” Yachts are also becoming more personalized. De Basto once encountered a client who pushed back on his broker, who was insisting on considering resale value. “After a while he said, ‘Listen! I’m not building this boat for the next guy, I’m building it for me.’ And that was the end of that conversation!”

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Thanks to his business, de Basto gets to spend a lot of time on boats, particularly at the invitation of his clients. Just this past December, he and his wife spent two weeks in the Maldives on a boat he had designed, vacationing with the client. Overall, he thinks yachting is exciting from a design perspective, because, “no two boats are alike. This means there’s inherent creativity.” From a lifestyle perspective, he thinks it’s the highest form of adventure. “The openness in my design is not a coincidence, the big spaces, the glass: I want people to connect with nature. It’s very important. We isolate ourselves in cities. Remember, the ocean is the last free territory on the planet. You can go anywhere you want at your own speed—no limits, nothing. That essential connection with nature, spending time with family and friends, discovering new destinations, I think that is what yachting is all about.” As for what de Basto can do to make this a reality for his clients? “If it’s not against the laws of physics, I think we can do it.”

Travel news: this month (May 2016) in luxury travel

Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel contests, tips, series, or news.

Today (May 27, 2016): May luxury travel news.

Every last Friday of the month, you can read my news round-up of what’s happening in the world of luxury travel. In this issue:

  • The Maldives’ ultimate resort is now accepting reservations
  • Virgin Australia revolutionizes travel across the Pacific
  • Four Seasons Kyoto (Japan) is set for October opening
  • LATAM reveals new aircraft livery and brand ethos
  • Six Senses announces Fiji property
  • British Airways announces its longest longhaul flight
  • Four Seasons opens its Abu Dhabi hotel
  • New Alitalia uniform collection captures the spirit of Italy
  • Six Senses Zil Payson (Seychelles) to open in September
  • Brussels Airlines opens The Suite, its largest lounge

1. The Maldives’ ultimate resort, Soneva Jani, is now accepting reservations

Last week, Soneva, the world-leading luxury resort operator and my favorite luxury hotel brand, revealed details of its newest and revolutionary resort, Soneva Jani (read more here). The brand’s newest luxury resort offering will comprise 24 stunning water villas and one island villa, with additional island villas planned at a later stage. It promises to outscore all the other hotels in my list of the Maldives’ most insanely beautiful resorts. Inspired by a word that means wisdom in Sanskrit, Soneva Jani is located on the island of Medhufaru, which is part of an uninhabited five-island cluster in the Noonu Atoll. The highlight of the resort is its location within a 5.6 kilometer lagoon of crystal clear waters with uninterrupted 360° views of the Indian Ocean. The main island is fringed by pristine beaches and blanketed with lush tropical greenery. Soneva Jani is now accepting reservation from October onwards (contact me for the best rates & opening offers).

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VILLA AT SONEVA JANI, MALDIVES


2. Virgin Australia revolutionizes travel across the Pacific

Virgin Australia unveiled its new International Business Class cabin, with the first of its refitted Boeing 777-300ER aircraft now flying across the Pacific. The airline’s flagship Business Class product ‘The Business’, new Business Class Bar and Lounge, and refreshed Premium cabin will transform the customer experience on long haul flights from Australia to Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi. ‘The Business’ on Virgin Australia’s Boeing 777-300ER aircraft will feature 37 individual and private suites (that convert into the length of a queen size bed at 80 inches) in a reverse herringbone cabin layout, maximizing privacy and enabling 100 per cent direct aisle access. Passengers will enjoy the largest in-flight entertainment screen flying between Australia and North America. Virgin Atlantic is now also the first airline to have a lounge onboard a B777 aircraft. The bar will be open after the first meal service and offer a selection of nibbles and bites, beer, wine and spirits as well as a hot beverage selection with petit fours.


3. Four Seasons Kyoto (Japan) now accepting reservations

Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto – a contemporary, luxury oasis in Japan’s capital of culture – is ready to welcome arrivals from October 15, 2016. With a famed, 800-year-old ikeniwa (pond garden) at its heart, hotel guests will experience authentic Japanese traditions in chic 21st Century style. They’ll relax in one of the 123 spacious accommodations with beautiful views across temple rooftops and elegant gardens, including 13 glamorous suites for the ultimate in luxury and personalised service. Set at the foot of Higashiyama Mountain in Kyoto’s district of temples, the hotel is a sanctuary of space minutes from the city’s cultural treasures and the bustle of downtown. With Tokyo just 140 minutes away by Shinkansen, guests can also extend their visit with a stay at Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi, allowing the famous Four Seasons brand to take care of them from start to finish.

FOUR SEASONS KYOTO, JAPAN

FOUR SEASONS KYOTO, JAPAN


4. LATAM launches its brand with new aircraft, uniform and airport designs

In one of the most important steps in the consolidation of LAN Airlines, TAM Airlines and their affiliates under the new global LATAM brand, LATAM Airlines Group today revealed its new aircraft design at simultaneous launch events in countries where the group operates. In addition to the new image of LATAM aircraft, the company presented a number of other visible changes, including new uniforms, airport signage and counter design as well as a consolidated website. More than 50 aircraft are anticipated to be rebranded before the end of 2016 and the fleet-wide process is expected to be finalized in 2018. Repainting takes on average six to 12 days per plane and will be scheduled in accordance with routine maintenance to maximize efficiency.

LATAM'S NEW AIRCRAFT LIVERY

LATAM’S NEW AIRCRAFT LIVERY


5. Six Senses Fiji to open in late 2017

Six Senses, another one of my favorite luxury hotel brands, announced the latest project in its expanding portfolio. Known for its idyllic crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches, thick tropical forests and excellent climate, Six Senses Fiji will be located in a magnificent secluded bay on Fiji’s Malolo Island. The private golden sand beach frontage stretches over 2,100 feet (650 meters) in length. Six Senses Fiji will offer 26 spacious pool bures (villa) all with private plunge pools and the bures range in size from 1,200 to 1,600 square feet (110 to 150 square meters) including interior and exterior space. There will also be 60 luxury residences (3-, 4- and 5-bedroom configuration), varying in size and averaging from approximately 6,500 square feet (600 square meters) of interior and exterior space up to 10,500 square feet (1,000 square meters). All residences will come with private pools and will situated on the west side of the island where they enjoy the idyllic Fijian sunsets.

SIX SENSES FIJI

SIX SENSES FIJI


6. British Airways announces its longest longhaul flight to Santiago, Chile

British Airways is launching the only direct flight between London and Santiago in Chile from January 3, 2017. Santiago will become the airline’s lengthiest long-haul route, taking 14 hours 40 minutes, nearly an hour more than the current longest flight of 13 hours 50 minutes service to Buenos Aires. The four-a-week flight will be served by the airline’s newest aircraft, the four-cabin Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, complete with a new First cabin (you can read my trip report onboard the BA Dreamliner First Class here or watch the clip below). Santiago will be the latest destination in Latin America to join British Airways’ route network.  The airline recently launched new services to San Jose in Costa Rica and Lima in Peru.  In addition, it also operates flight to Rio and Sao Paulo in Brazil and Buenos Aires in Argentina.


7. Four Seasons opens its Abu Dhabi hotel 

In a vibrant urban sanctuary right on the water, Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island offers expansive views of the city skyline and the Arabian Gulf. Taking a place of prominence in Abu Dhabi’s ever changing skyline, the 34-story glass tower is a shimmering beacon for business travellers, families on holiday and Al Maryah Island’s own residents.  Entering through a promenade, guests are welcomed to Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi in a soaring, light-filled hall. Urban chic balances with understated luxury in the hotel’s 200 accommodations, including 38 suites. The new resort has six stylish Abu Dhabi restaurants and lounges, including the lobby lounge, the new “living room of Abu Dhabi”.

FOUR SEASONS ABU DHABI, UAE

FOUR SEASONS ABU DHABI, UAE


8. Spirit of Italy captured in new Alitalia uniform collection 

Alitalia unveiled a striking new staff uniform collection, designed and tailor-made by a team of nearly 500 people in Italy, with fabrics made in Tuscany, silk in Como, men’s uniforms tailored in Puglia, and leather accessories such as gloves in Naples, and shoes in the Marche region. Created by Italian haute couturier Ettore Bilotta at his atelier in Milan, the new ‘Alitalia Collection’ takes inspiration from the glamorous golden days of Italian fashion in the 1950s and 1960s. Cramer Ball, Alitalia’s CEO, said: “We are introducing a new look which captures the spirit of Alitalia and celebrates its illustrious 70 year history. Our aim was to create a stylish collection which would represent Italian excellence around the world. The new uniforms complement the renaissance of the Alitalia brand and the rejuvenation of its aircraft fleet and products for its customers.”


9. Senses Zil Payson (Seychelles) to open in September

Some more great news from the superb Six Senses group! Reservations are now being accepted at their newest property, Six Senses Zil Pasyon located on the island of Félicité, one of the most dramatically beautiful and unspoiled islands of the 115-island nation that is the Seychelles. With massive granite boulders fringing the shoreline and picture perfect beaches it is the island’s dramatic beauty that make it the perfect private island escape. True to Six Senses heritage of creating exceptional guest experiences in places of incredible beauty, the resort occupies just one-third of the island’s land total – the rest is left to the beauty of nature and wildlife. The resort includes 28 one-bedroom pool villas and two (2) two-bedroom pool villas ranging from 2,150 square feet (200 square meters) to 5,380 square feet (500 square meters) plus 17 private residences. Six Senses Zil Pasyon will offer six dining and bar venues on the island, sport and leisure facilities, three pristine sandy beaches and an outdoor main pool.

SIX SENSES ZIL PAYSON, SEYCHELLES

SIX SENSES ZIL PAYSON, SEYCHELLES


10. Brussels Airlines opens The Suite, new airport lounge in Brussels

Last week Brussels Airlines opened its largest lounge, ‘The Suite’, which welcomes all Brussels Airlines guests departing from the B Terminal (Brussels Airlines’ short / medium-haul non-Schengen destinations such as Moscow, Tel Aviv, United Kingdom, Morocco, and since recently also the flights to the US and Canada), as well as customers of various other airlines, including Star Alliance partners. The lounge can accommodate 260 visitors and is composed of different areas for different travel needs. A working area is available for travelers who want to continue their work at the airport. A quiet zone is reserved for passengers who want to relax in comfortable seats before their departure. The food area offers a wide selection of beverages, snacks and salads, and a reading area offers a vast array of newspapers and magazines. As in everything Brussels Airlines does, the Belgian spirit is reflected in ‘The Suite’, through Belgian beers, Belgian media, Belgian culinary specialties and impressions of the surrealist art of René Magritte.

THE SUITE BY BRUSSELS AIRLINES

THE SUITE BY BRUSSELS AIRLINES


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Emirates Airbus A380 First Class Dubai to Amsterdam

Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel and/or flight review.

Last April, I enjoyed a terrific holiday with one of my best friends in incredibly beautiful Oman. You can read my trip reports here:

Today (May 25, 2016): Trip report: Emirates A380 First Class Dubai to Amsterdam.

On April 17th 2016, I flew First Class in an Airbus A380 of Emirates from Dubai International Airport (DXB) in the United Arab Emirates to Amsterdam (AMS) in the Netherlands. The privacy of the suite (with sliding doors), mouth-watering food, excellent bedding, onboard shower, impressive amenities, and the well-appointed bar made for a brilliant experience! In addition, the First Class cabin crew was the best I ever encountered during all my years of flying.

Emirates is a mammoth airline: it has more than 240 widebody planes in its fleet, carrying more than 40 million passengers to more than 100 destinations in the world per year. According to Wikipedia, Emirates is currently the fourth-largest airline in the world in terms of international passengers carried, the world’s third largest airlines by scheduled passenger-kilometres flown, the seventh largest airline in the world in terms of revenue, and the largest airline in the Middle East in terms of revenue, fleet size, and passengers carried. The Dubai based airliner is also the largest operator of the Airbus A380, with currently 74 of this aircraft type in its fleet and 66 more on order. The success of Emirates is very much based on the comfort and space onboard its A380s, and that’s why the mega plane is quickly being rolled out on all the major international routes (both shorthaul and longhaul).

Emirates features in my top 10 lists of the world’s best airlines for longhaul Business Class, the most luxurious First Class suites in the sky, the best Business Class amenity kits in the sky, and the most delicious airline food.

  • Trip: DXB-AMS
  • Airline: Emirates
  • Aircraft type: Airbus A380
  • Aircraft registration number: A6-EOH
  • Flight Number:EK149
  • Date: April 17th, 2016
  • On time departure: yes (3 pm)
  • On time arrival: yes (8 pm)
  • Miles: 3215
  • Flight time: 7 hours
  • Seat: 3A
  • Class: First

In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):

  1. Price of my ticket
  2. Emirates First Class lounge at Dubai International Airport
  3. Facts & Figures about the Emirates A380
  4. First Class Cabin
  5. First Class Seat (& what seat to choose)
  6. Amenities
  7. Food
  8. Entertainment
  9. Shower
  10. Other inflight experiences
  11. My verdict

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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1. PRICE OF THE TICKET

I booked this journey using 85,000 Skywards miles, which is the number of miles needed for a one-way Emirates First Class ticket between Dubai and most European cities. Skywards is the frequent flyer program of Emirates, and although I have not earned a single Skywards mile with Emirates in my life, I was still able to spend 85,000 Skywards miles on the ticket by transferring some of my SPG points to a newly created Skywards mileage account under my name.  SPG is the loyalty program of the Starwood Hotel Group, and you can read here why I like it so much (pros & cons). One of SPG’s major benefits is the SPG airline transfer program, which allows you to convert SPG points to frequent-flyer miles on over 30 major airline partners on a 1:1 basis (including Emirates). You get 25,000 miles for every 20,000 Starpoints converted, including a 5000 conversion bonus. So I converted 75,000 SPG points to 85000 Skywards miles for booking the ticket.


2. EMIRATES FIRST CLASS LOUNGE AT DUBAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

All Emirates flights arrive and depart from Emirates Terminal 3 at Dubai International airport, currently the world’s largest airport terminal, with over 1,713,000 m2 (18,440,000 sq ft) of space. This terminal comprises two concourses: Concourse A (the world’s first A380 purpose-built facility, accommodating 20 air bridge gates) and Concourse B. Both concourses feature Business and First Class lounges. My flight departed from Concourse A, so this is a review of the Concourse A First Class lounge only.

The Emirates First Class lounge in Dubai is one of the most spacious, unique and innovative lounges in the world. In fact’s, it’s more of an ultra-luxe concourse floating above the terminal’s ground floor than a defined space like you find in other First Class lounges around the world. The lounge is enormous as it spreads the length of the entire terminal, offering direct access to most gates with multi-level boarding. Immediately after you enter the lounge via the hugely impressive reception area, where gigantic pillars seem to reach for the skies, you’ll find yourself in a gallery lined by high-end, duty-free boutique shops, including brands such as Tiffany&Co and Bvlgari. From there, two walkways run along both sides of the lounge, offering nice views of the terminal’s groundfloor in between, and with plenty of seating corners along the way, most of them centered around the gates. At the opposite side of the lounge, the two walkways converge into the main seating area, which features a gorgeous chandelier. It’s pretty insane that this ridiculously overwhelming space and the large number of seats accommodate only a few First Class passengers, but I guess that is what Emirates aims to reach: impress their First Class passengers and make them feel very privileged. And boy, did they succeed at that!

Every seating area in the First Class lounge comes with its own food station, with food varying from light snacks, sandwiches and sushi, to desserts, coffee tables and cheese spreads. The main restaurant is located halfway the lounge, and offers both a la carte dining and an extensive buffet. The restaurant ambience does not feel very cozy or upscale (due to the terminal’s incredibly high ceilings), although the open kitchen creates a sense of intimacy. During my visit (noontime), the food tasted superb. I choose the following items from the lunch menu:

  • Starter: foie gras terrine, served with fig and walnut chutney.
  • Entree: pan-fried Red Snapper fillet, served with quinoa, grilled courgette, and a trio of Mediterranean-flavored purées.

Emirates’ First Class passengers also enjoy complimentary treatments at the Timeless Spa, which is located adjacent to the First Class lounge. The lounge also features a business center, a stylish decorated cigar room, a wine cellar, and two sleeping rooms (each featuring a dozens of day beds).

As already mentioned, the lounge has direct gate access. When it was time to board, a staff member scanned my boarding pass, after which I took the elevator down to the jet bridge which offered some terrific views of the A380, which size never ceases to amaze me. Those four engines are just huge!

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

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FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

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FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

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FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

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FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

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FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: RESTAURANT

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FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

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FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: CIGAR ROOM

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: CIGAR ROOM

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: CIGAR ROOM

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: CIGAR ROOM

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: BUSINESS CENTER

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: BUSINESS CENTER

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: BUSINESS CENTER

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: BUSINESS CENTER

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FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

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FIRST CLASS LOUNGE

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: TIMELESS SPA

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: TIMELESS SPA

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: BOARDING

FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: BOARDING


3. FACTS & FIGURES ABOUT THE EMIRATES A380

Here is some general information about the A380 as provided by Emirates:

  • The Emirates A380 burns up to 20% less fuel per seat than its nearest competitor. This is the most significant advancement in reducing fuel consumption and emissions in four decades.
  • Lower fuel burn means lower CO2 emissions. The Emirates A380 produces less than 75g of CO2 per passenger kilometre, almost half of the European emissions target for cars manufactured from 2008 onwards.
  • The A380 uses a range of lightweight materials that account for 25% of its structure.
  • The Engine Alliance GP7200 engines comfortably meet the strict new ICAO Stage Four noise level standards.
  • Emirates fleet, including our A380s, has 30% better fuel efficiency than the ICAO global fleet average.
  • Larger aircraft mean fewer takeoff and landings (in passenger terms, this would be the equivalent of flying up to seven smaller aircraft types, for certain versions of the Emirates A380).
  • Emirates continues to work closely with Airbus to further reduce weight of future A380s.
  • Emirates average fleet age is less than half that of many European airlines, meaning newer technology and efficiency breakthroughs characterise our aircraft.
AIRBUS A380

AIRBUS A380

AIRBUS A380

AIRBUS A380

AIRBUS A380

AIRBUS A380

AIRBUS A380

AIRBUS A380

AIRBUS A380

AIRBUS A380

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AIRBUS A380

A380 AFTER LANDING IN AMSTERDAM

A380 AFTER LANDING IN AMSTERDAM

A380 AFTER LANDING IN AMSTERDAM

A380 AFTER LANDING IN AMSTERDAM


4. FIRST CLASS CABIN

Upon entering the plane via the massive boarding door, I was welcomed by a very friendly flight attendant who escorted me to  First Class, which is nestled in the forward upper deck of the A380. The cabin features 14 enclosed suites in a 1-2-1 configuration, all of them having direct aisle access of course. The 8 suites along the windows are spread across 4 rows, while the 6 middle suites are spread across 3 rows. All suites enjoy complete privacy, as none of the rows quite line up, so nobody is directly looking into the suite across the aisle, even when you don’t close the sliding doors of your suite.

The First Class suites on the sides are ideal for solo travelers (with a generous 3 windows per seat, offering great views), while the 6 suites in the middle are perfect for those traveling with a companion since dividers between these suites can be raised or lowered to provide a feeling of extra spaciousness.

Despite the high number of suites, the First Class cabin still offers an exclusive ambience. It features a sumptuous and kitschy decor though, with lots of walnut veneer, gold trim and pearlised plastic framing the suites, doors, and seats, which does not completely suite my taste (I prefer the more minimalist and contemporary design of Qatar Airways, British Airways, and Etihad Airways).

Click here for a seat map of the Emirates’ Airbus A380.

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

FIRST CLASS CABIN

BUSINESS CLASS (UPPER CABIN)

BUSINESS CLASS (UPPER CABIN)

ECONOMY CLASS (LOWER DECK)

ECONOMY CLASS (LOWER DECK)

ECONOMY CLASS (LOWER DECK)

ECONOMY CLASS (LOWER DECK)

ECONOMY CLASS (LOWER DECK)

ECONOMY CLASS (LOWER DECK)

ECONOMY CLASS (LOWER DECK)

ECONOMY CLASS (LOWER DECK)


5. THE FIRST CLASS SEAT

All Emirates First Class suites feature the same layout, and are peaceful sanctuaries that make you forget that you are sailing high above the clouds. I was seated in suite 3A during the flight.

With the exception of the window side, the suite is surrounded by high walls, only interrupted by two sliding doors that connect the suite to the aisle and can be closed to create a completely private space. The ergonomic seat, which has a width of 23 inch (58 cm), is very comfortable, and  its various positions as well as built-in massage systems are controlled via a tablet. At the push of a button, the seat automatically reclines into a fully-flat bed of 86 inches (218 cm) long, with fully retractable armrest. When you want to sleep, a member of the cabin crews installs a mattress, fluffy pillow and soft duvet on the seat for impeccable sleep comfort.

In front of the seat, you find a gold framed, 32 inch (81 cm) video screen, the largest of its kind in the skies, with a desk below. The latter features a fold-away mirror with vanity kit, as well as a drawer containing a writing kit. Upon boarding, the crew also puts a basket with several snacks (e.g. dried mango, chocolates, etc …) on the desk, which is removed during the takeoff and landing phase of the flight.

One side of the seat features a minibar with soft drinks and juices (on room temperature). It’s more a fancy decoration to impress passengers than a functional amenity, as you can order whatever (cooled) drink you want during the flight. Besides the minibar, there’s also a tablet to control the seat movements as well as the inflight entertainment system (more on that later).

The First Class suite lacks overhead bins nor does it has large storage compartments, so at first I was a bit puzzled where I had to store my hand luggage. It turned out you just stow away your personal belongings in the (large) space below the desk and entertainment screen.

What are the best First Class seats on Emirates’ Airbus A380? Click here for a seat map.

  • Solo travelers should go fo the window seats, while companions should choose the middle seats.

What are the worst First Class seats on Emirates’ Airbus A380? Click here for a seat map.

  • There are no bad seats in Emirates’ A380 First Class cabin.
FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE

FIRST CLASS SUITE

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A: FLATBED

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A: FLATBED

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A: FLATBED

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A: FLATBED

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A: FLATBED

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A: FLATBED

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A: FLATBED

FIRST CLASS SUITE 3A: FLATBED


6. AMENITIES

Unfortunately, this was a dayflight, and Emirates only provides amenity kits on long-haul night flights and on flights over 10 hours. However, I requested an amenity kit to a member of the crew, who gave me one without any problem.

Emirates’ First Class amenity kit is a large toiletry bag: the men’s kit bags are made from fine leather, while the ladies’ kit bags are made of sophisticated satin. Both kits contain the usual necessities – albeit in luxe edition – such as toothbrush and toothpaste through to handkerchiefs and deodorant. The mens amenity kit also provided Gilette shaving foam and a razor, as well as moisturizers and aftershaves by Bvlgari. The First Class amenity kit’s content is not different from the Business Class one.

In addition I also received a pajama (after requesting one), slippers, eyeshades, earplugs, and a noise-cancelling headphone.

AMENITY KIT

AMENITY KIT

AMENITY KIT

AMENITY KIT

AMENITY KIT

AMENITY KIT

AMENITIES

AMENITIES

SLIPPERS

SLIPPERS

EYE SHADES

EYE SHADES

NOISE CANCELLING HEADPHONES

NOISE CANCELLING HEADPHONES

PAJAMA

PAJAMA

PAJAMA

PAJAMA


7. FOOD

Emirates’ First Class menu is extensive, and you can order whatever whenever. Although the flight was only 7 hours, I had a full lunch (after takeoff) and dinner (before landing). All food was very well presented and executed.

This was my lunch:

  • Canapés: tartlet of marinated feta with aubergine caviar and schichmi; foie gras on gingerbread with smoked salt; and arm salmon tempo sushi with herb crust.
  • Appetiser: caviar, presented with traditional selection of finely chopped onion, grated egg, sour cream and lemon, served with melba toast and blinis.
  • Pumpkin soup with croutons and sour cream.
  • Main course: seafood harra, which is a traditional Middle Eastern dish of oven-baked prawns and fish in spiced tomato sauce, served with saffron rice.
  • Dessert: banana cheesecake with toffee sauce.

And this is what I had for dinner:

  • Chicken consommé with vegetable julienne.
  • Main course: braised beef short ribs, with balsamic juice, braised red cabbage and pan-fired gnocchi with herbs.
  • Dessert: seasonal fruit, an assortment of fresh-cut fruit.
HOT TOWEL

HOT TOWEL

WELCOME DRINK

WELCOME DRINK

MENU

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WINE LIST

WINE LIST

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WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

WINE LIST

CANAPES

CANAPES

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LUNCH

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HOT TOWEL & BELGIAN FINE CHOCOLATES

HOT TOWEL & BELGIAN FINE CHOCOLATES

BELGIAN FINE CHOCOLATES

BELGIAN FINE CHOCOLATES

DINNER

DINNER

DINNER

DINNER

DINNER

DINNER

DINNER

DINNER

DINNER

DINNER

DINNER

DINNER

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DINNER

HOT TOWEL & BELGIAN FINE CHOCOLATES

HOT TOWEL & BELGIAN FINE CHOCOLATES


8. ENTERTAINMENT

One of the strongest onboard products of the Emirates is its inflight entertainment system, designated ICE (information, communications, entertainment). ICE has an extensive range of new-release and classic films, television shows, box sets and audio options to choose from. You can choose from up to 1,800 channels of the latest and greatest movies and must-see TV shows, on demand and in multiple languages. You can also relax to music from around the world or play our range of fun games. The cameras installed in the tail, nose and belly of the A380 megaplane also offer some fun moments, especially at take-off and landing.

The inflight entertainment is displayed on the suite’s giant 32-inch (81 cm) touch-screen that is supported by two hand-held controllers: one tablet-like device that also holds the seat controls; and a small, standard inflight entertainment system controller. The touch-screen combined with the 2 controllers means that there is plenty of options to control your inflight entertainment depending on how the seat is reclined.

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM: REMOTE CONTROL

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM: REMOTE CONTROL

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM: TABLET

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM: TABLET

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM: TABLET


9. SHOWER

One of the Emirates A380 most talked about features is the onboard shower in its First Class cabin. There are two showers (with heated floors!) at the front of the upper deck, each one of them located in one of the two spacious First Class lavatories.  It’s quite surreal indeed to indulge in a refreshing and rejuvenating shower at 40,000ft, using Bvlgari toiletries and Timeless Spa products. Each First Class passenger can shower once per flight, getting five minutes of water when showering (although you can turn the shower on and off as often as you want).

LAVATORY WITH SHOWER

LAVATORY WITH SHOWER

LAVATORY & SHOWER

LAVATORY & SHOWER

LAVATORY & SHOWER

LAVATORY & SHOWER

LAVATORY & SHOWER

LAVATORY & SHOWER

LAVATORY & SHOWER

LAVATORY & SHOWER

LAVATORY & SHOWER

LAVATORY & SHOWER

LAVATORY & SHOWER

LAVATORY & SHOWER

LAVATORY WITH SHOWER

LAVATORY WITH SHOWER

LAVATORY WITH SHOWER

LAVATORY WITH SHOWER

LAVATORY WITH SHOWER

LAVATORY WITH SHOWER


10. OTHER INFLIGHT & GROUND EXPERIENCES

# CREW: this was by far the most friendly and amazing cabin crew I ever encountered during all my years of flying. No less than 4 crew members took care of the passengers in the First Class cabin, which was half empty. They almost made me forget I was flying (although I am a nervous flyer), and genuinely talked about how they loved working for Emirates.

# BAR: At the rear of the upper cabin, you can find the A380 Onboard Lounge – a bar exclusive to First Class and Business Class passengers and a hub of activity throughout the flight. One can choose from premium spirits, exclusive wines, champagne, cocktails and beers alongside hot and cold beverages served by a dedicated bartender. It’s a good platform to stretch your legs while interacting with other passengers and the international crew.

BAR

BAR

BAR

BAR

BAR

BAR

BAR

BAR

BAR

BAR

BAR

BAR

BAR

BAR

BAR

BAR

BAR

BAR

# WALK-UP BAR: the First Class cabin also features a walk-up bar, which is located in the nose of the plane, between the 2 lavatories. Before landing, the bar is transformed into a spa-like lounge with a mini-waterfall.

FIRST CLASS WALK-UP BAR

FIRST CLASS WALK-UP BAR

FIRST CLASS WALK-UP BAR

FIRST CLASS WALK-UP BAR

FIRST CLASS WALK-UP BAR

FIRST CLASS WALK-UP BAR

FIRST CLASS WALK-UP BAR

FIRST CLASS WALK-UP BAR

FIRST CLASS WALK-UP BAR TRANSFORMED INTO A MINI-SPA

FIRST CLASS WALK-UP BAR TRANSFORMED INTO A MINI-SPA

FIRST CLASS WALK-UP BAR TRANSFORMED INTO A MINI-SPA

FIRST CLASS WALK-UP BAR TRANSFORMED INTO A MINI-SPA

FIRST CLASS WALK-UP BAR TRANSFORMED INTO A MINI-SPA

FIRST CLASS WALK-UP BAR TRANSFORMED INTO A MINI-SPA

# INTERNET: Emirates offers 10MB of free WiFi to each passenger during the flight (regardless of the class you are seated in). An additional 600MB could be purchased for $1. If you exceeded that limit, you could purchase yet another 600MB for $1. WiFi worked not so great and it suprized me that you had to pay for internet in First Class.

INFLIGHT INTERNET

INFLIGHT INTERNET

# FLIGHT PATH: normally, the flight path from Dubai to Amsterdam goes straight over Syria and Iraq, but the plane detoured around the current ISIS conflict area by flying over eastern Iran.

FLIGHTPATH

FLIGHTPATH


11. MY VERDICT
  • Seat : 9/10
  • Food:  9/10
  • Inflight entertainment : 10/10
  • Amenity kit: 9/10
  • Service: 10/10
  • Cabin atmosphere: 9/10
  • Overall experience: exceptional: 9,2/10

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Top 10: airlines with the world’s best longhaul First Class cabins

Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.

Today (May 23, 2016): Top 10: best First Class suites in the sky.

The First Class cabin is a slowly dying breed since multiple airlines have dropped it in favor of an improved and competitive Business Class product. These days, First Class is mainly offered on “high-yield” routes with heavy business traffic and enough people that are willing to pay for the privilege (e.g. New York or Los Angeles to London). First Class is, among others, known for excellent ground service (with limo transfers and dedicated lounges), lie-flat seats (with superb bedding), personalized onboard service, as well as superlative meal service (with high-quality champagne, lobster tail and caviar). I hereby present you my selection of the 10 most luxurious First Class cabins in the sky, accompanied by some of my trip reports (I will publish more First Class reviews in the coming months).

There is more info below the slide show.  Think I missed one? Share your favorite First Class product in the comments section, or take my poll below!

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10. JAPAN AIRLINES

Japan Airlines’ First Class passengers can indulge themselves in all the warmth and graciousness for which Japan is renowned. The newly designed suite onboard the airline’s Boeing 777-300ER fleet features a woodgrain interior, 23 inch personal entertainment screens, and ample storage compartments. Passengers rest comfortably on airweave bedding that allows them to drift off into the perfect sleep. Far away one of the classiest of its kind, Japan Airline’s First Class dining sets a high standard with tempting new menus, featuring both Western and Japanese cuisine and created by dedicated chefs.

JAPAN AIRLINES

JAPAN AIRLINES


9. GARUDA INDONESIA

Inside Garuda Indonesia’s new Boeing 777-300ER, eight luxurious private suites with a 1-2-1 configuration await First Class passengers. The newly designed suites are peaceful sanctuaries that will make their occupants forget that they are sailing high above the clouds. The wide suites are equipped with an ottoman and the ergonomic seats turn into luxurious full-flat beds (with mattress, duvet, and pillows). Let’s not forget the dining options that Garuda Indonesia offers: First Class passengers enjoy the finest culinary delights, served by onboard chefs and handpicked from world-renowned restaurants.

GARUDA INDONESIA

GARUDA INDONESIA FIRST CLASS SUITE


8. ASIANA

Asiana maximizes the in-flight privacy of its First Class passengers by providing seats with two sliding doors: close the sliding doors, and the seat turns into a private space. The full flat-bed stretching 82 inch (210 cm) in length is equipped with one of the world’s largest 32 inch (81 cm) HD personal monitor, guaranteeing an unrivaled viewing experience. Mood lightning optimizes lighting conditions for take-off, meals, sleeping and rest, and the Star Light system provides a special in-flight sleeping experience under the stars in the sky. First Class passengers can also enjoy the company of a travel companion for dining since the suite features an extra seat (ottoman).

ASIANA FIRST CLASS

ASIANA FIRST CLASS SUITE


7. SWISS INTERNATIONAL AIR LINES

Switzerland’s national carrier offers eight spacious, fully enclosed First Class suites nestled into the nose of its new Boeing 777-300ER flagship planes. Each suite exudes a warm ‘colour and materials’ palette of browns, greys and accents of European oak wood, while soft walls, woven fabric bulkheads and curtain screens help dampen noise in the cabin. Passengers can use the electric-mechanical window blinds on all three windows in their suite simultaneously. Each passenger has their own personal wardrobe, with a sliding door which creates a partition between the seat and the aisle to offer greater privacy. And onboard entertainment is pure pleasure thanks to the 32 inch (81 cm) video screen.

SWISS INTERNATIONAL AIR LINES

SWISS INTERNATIONAL AIR LINES


6. QATAR AIRWAYS

The First Class cabin on Qatar Airways’ (small) A380 fleet features ultra-wide seats tailored in the softest fabric and with signature design elements. Central and aisle dividers afford more privacy, which can be raised or lowered to provide a feeling of extra spaciousness when travelling with a companion. It is a flexible space: the seat automatically reclines into a fully flat bed, or the table can be extended to allow two people to dine in style. Sleeper suits, flight slippers, and the finest amenities from renowned Italian fashion house Giorgio Armani add extra touches of luxury.

  • Official website: Qatar Airways.
  • Review: read here my review of Qatar Airways’ First Class in an Airbus A380.

5. EMIRATES

If you value privacy and personalised service above all else, you’ll love Emirates’ First Class private, gold-clad suites. Each suite comes fully equipped with a sliding door, a personal mini-bar, adjustable ambient lighting, and its own vanity table, mirror, wardrobe, and privacy divider for central suites. And if you want to stretch out and sleep, the crew will convert your seat to a fully flat-bed with a mattress, so you can arrive at your destination totally refreshed. First Class private suites are available on all Emirates Airbus A380 and A340-500 aircraft, and most Boeing 777 aircraft. First Class cabins on other aircraft offer flat-bed seats or deeply-reclining comfort.

  • Official website: Emirates
  • Review: read here my review of Emirates’ First Class in an Airbus A380.

4. AIR FRANCE

Air France’s new La Première cabin has four exclusive individual suites on board the long-haul Boeing 777-300 fleet. Each suite ensures optimum privacy and enables customers to be totally or partially alone, in absolute comfort. The airline’s “haute couture” suite features a seat that reclines into a bed stretching 2.01 metres long and 77 centimetres across (6 ft 7 ins and 30 inches), one of the most spacious in the world. Each suite is dressed with thick curtains, held back with leather tiebacks, enabling the passenger to decide whether to be totally isolated or just partially. Opposite the seat, a comfortable seat, an ottoman, enables the passenger to invite a guest for dinner or simply for a conversation. Each guest also has a personal 24-inch (61 cm) HD touch screen,.

AIR FRANCE

AIR FRANCE


 3. CATHAY PACIFIC

Following the spectacular refurbishment of their First Class Lounge at Hong Kong International Airport, Cathay Pacific extended the sophisticated, contemporary style into its First Class. The outer surface of the First Class Suite is a dark, high-gloss material, while inside, the side console and the interior of the seat are wrapped in natural leather with subtle linings and stitching for a clean, refined, sophisticated look. Warm-toned natural leather is used extensively on most interior surfaces of the suite for a soft, luxurious feel. The seat smoothly transforms into a fully flat-bed, and the bedding comes with high-quality fabrics for the duvets, pillows, cushions and the mattress to ensure a comfortable sleep.

CATHAY PACIFIC FIRST CLASS

CATHAY PACIFIC FIRST CLASS SUITE


2. SINGAPORE AIRLINES

The Singapore Airlines First Class suites, exclusively on board the Airbus A380 aircraft, provide the distinguished few with their very own haven of tranquility. Here, passengers can luxuriate in their very own private space in the largest ever armchair in the sky, hand-stitched by master Italian craftsmen Poltrona Frau. Each individual cabin features sliding doors and window blinds, offering passengers the freedom to decide on the level of privacy they prefer. While the leather and wood finishes, created in soothing natural hues, enhance the sense of serenity. Singapore Airlines’ signature turndown service, with fine linen and plush, full-sized pillows, ensures a restful slumber.

SINGAPORE AIRLINES SUITE

SINGAPORE AIRLINES  FIRST CLASS SUITE


1. ETIHAD AIRWAYS

The Abu Dhabi-based carrier Etihad Airways pushes luxury to a sky-high new level and beyond First Class with its First Apartments on board its (small fleet of) Airbus A380 superjumbos. More than just a seat, the First Apartment has a large leather armchair and separate bed of 208 cm (6 feet and 10 inches). There is even space to walk around after closing the privacy doors. Six of the First Apartments are interconnecting, perfect for when you’re travelling with a companion. Alternatively you might want to invite a travelling partner from First Class to join you in your apartment for a meal or a meeting.

  • Official website: Etihad Airways
  • Review: read here my review of Etihad Airways’ First Class in an Airbus A380.

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Take Our Poll


AMAZING: preview of the Maldives’ most stunning resort (opening soon)

Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel contests, tips, series, or news.

Today (May 20, 2016): travel news: Soneva reveals details of its newest resort, Soneva Jani!
  • Official hotel website: Soneva Jani
  • Opening date: October 2016
  • Contact me for the best rates & opening offers

This must be thé most anticipated hotel opening of the last years! Soneva, the world-leading luxury resort operator and my favorite luxury hotel brand, has revealed details of its newest and revolutionary resort, Soneva Jani, opening in October 2016 in the Maldives.  The brand’s newest luxury resort offering will comprise 24 water villas and one island villa, with additional island villas planned at a later stage. It promises to outscore all the other hotels in my list of the Maldives’ most insanely beautiful resorts.

Inspired by a word that means wisdom in Sanskrit, Soneva Jani is located on the island of Medhufaru, which is part of an uninhabited five-island cluster in the Noonu Atoll. The highlight of the resort is its location within a 5.6 kilometer lagoon of crystal clear waters with uninterrupted 360° views of the Indian Ocean. The main island is fringed by pristine beaches and blanketed with lush tropical greenery.

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Every water villa has a private pool and opens to its own stretch of lagoon, with some villas featuring slides going directly from the top deck into the lagoon below. The highlight of the villas is the retractable roof in the master bedroom, which slides back at the touch of a button so that guests can lie in bed and stargaze. Like all other Soneva properties, the spacious villas feature beautifully designed interiors by Eva Shivdasani, one of Soneva’s co-founders, and are made from the highest quality sustainable materials.

“When we opened Soneva Gili more than 15 years ago, it stood out as a unique and new concept in luxury travel.  It is my belief that Soneva Jani is even more revolutionary.  There are many small details and improvements, for example at Soneva Gili, guests would often sleep on the top deck so that they could sleep under the stars.  In each Soneva Jani Water Retreat or Reserve the master bedroom roof slides back at the press of a button. It closes automatically if it rains,” said Sonu Shivdasani, founder and CEO of Soneva. 

“We live in an ever more crowded and developed world. Soneva Jani is one of the lowest density resorts in the world. Just 25 Villas are built in an area that stretches nearly five kilometers. It is not an island resort.  It is a lagoon with five private islands where only one of these will have development. When designing and building Soneva Jani, I was very mindful that when we open, the area should seem as natural and beautiful as the first day I laid eyes on it,” he added. “Soneva Jani is one of the most anticipated hotel openings in the Indian Ocean this year. We have already witnessed a huge amount of interest, with the first few weeks fully booked within a few days of opening the booking system to the global travel trade.”

Soneva Jani will include all of Soneva’s popular features including a Spa, a dive centre, an observatory, a children’s den, an Eco Centro, organic gardens and an outdoor Cinema Paradiso. The cinema will be the first ‘silent cinema’ in the Maldives, as guests will be given Bluetooth earphones to watch movies so as not to disturb the nesting wildlife in the area.

The resort will serve global cuisine at five dining outlets, and will feature Soneva’s ubiquitous cheese, chocolate, ice-cream and charcuterie rooms that are complimentary for all guests. Various destination and specialty dining experiences will also be available.

“Soneva Jani is a place of incredible natural beauty. The waters in the lagoon have the most vibrant shades of blue that I have not seen anywhere else in the Maldives. We have an extensive array of marine life, including turtles, rays and occasionally dolphins, and the lagoon is an excellent place for kayaking, sailing and swimming as it is calm, shallow and extends for miles and miles. The villas are stunning and include all the attention to detail that Soneva is renowned for.  Construction is progressing quickly and we are on track for an opening in October 2016,” said Olivia Richli, the Pre-Opening and General Manager of Soneva Jani.

Soneva Jani includes 18 units of one-bedroom Water Retreats, four units of two-bedroom Water Retreats, one three-bedroom Water Retreat, 1 three-bedroom Water Reserve, and one four-bedroom Island Reserve.

In constructing the resort, Soneva kept its environmental impact as low as possible. The pools use seawater with UV filtration and the villas have been built over the sandy floors of the lagoon, with no damage to any part of the reef.  Furthermore, solar PV will be a significant source of power generation at the resort, all waste-water will be collected and treated on-site, and water will also be produced on-site, including drinking water.  Soneva’s Eco Centro Waste-to-Wealth centre will ensure that waste is recycled, while the extensive vegetable garden will give local produce for the restaurants based on organic principles.

The resort’s soft opening is planned for October 01, 2016, while the official opening date is fixed at November 05, 2016. Bookings are now available from October 01, 2016 onwards.

In addition to Soneva Jani, Soneva owns and operates the following resorts:

  • Soneva Fushi in the Maldives. Read here my review of Soneva Fushi.
  • Soneva Kiri in Thailand. Read here my review of Soneva Kiri.
  • Soneva in Aqua, an ultra luxurious yacht offering an experiential travel experience, was launched in the Maldives in 2015 and sails out of Soneva Fushi. Read here my review of Soneva In Aqua.

SONEVA JANI PHOTOS (by photographer Richard Waite)
SONEVA JANI

SONEVA JANI

SONEVA JANI

SONEVA JANI

SONEVA JANI

SONEVA JANI

SONEVA JANI

SONEVA JANI

SONEVA JANI

SONEVA JANI

SONEVA JANI

SONEVA JANI

SONEVA JANI

SONEVA JANI

SONEVA JANI

SONEVA JANI

SONEVA JANI

SONEVA JANI

SONEVA JANI

SONEVA JANI

SONEVA JANI

SONEVA JANI

SONEVA JANI

SONEVA JANI

SONEVA JANI

SONEVA JANI


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Touch The Sky With This New Superyacht Concept

Shaddai whole

Photos Credit: Gabriele Teruzzi

Italian yacht designer Gabriele Teruzzi has towering ambitions for his latest yacht concept – literally. His concept includes a futuristically-designed sundeck that sails above a 492-foot superyacht, called Shaddai, according to The Daily Mail. The one-of-a-kind owner’s cabin sits 125 feet above the water and juts out from the rear of ship, allowing sunbathers to kiss the sky with views never before achieved on a yacht. It features a 1,130-foot terrace with a bar, dining area, and infinity pool. Teruzzi was inspired by power: “From there he can reach the feeling of a higher power, surrounded by the immensity of the sea and sky, reaching the clouds where everything reflects his place in the world: at the top.”

Shaddai alt deck

Befitting such an exceptional boat is its top-of-the line finishes, of course. It will include materials and textiles from top Italian fashion houses, and the lower decks house another infinity pool with a glass floor, as well as an aquarium. As if that weren’t enough, loungers on the aft deck can relax to the sound of water cascading from the infinity pool above it. Teruzzi referenced the Tower of Babel, the Pyramids in Egypt and modern skyscrapers when discussing his plans, which were also inspired by contemporary architecture and the natural human desire to ascend from the ground. This superyacht is truly revolutionary, but there’s just one problem: he hasn’t found a builder brave enough to attempt to construct it yet.

Hotel review: PHENOMENAL Alila Jabal Akhdar (Oman)

Wednesday newsletters always feature a luxury hotel and/or flight review.

A month ago, I enjoyed a terrific holiday with one of my best friends in incredibly beautiful Oman. I will publish my trip reports over the coming weeks:

Today (May 11, 2016): Review of the Alila Jabal Akhdar hotel, Muscat (Oman).

Jabal Akhdar, meaning “The Green Mountain” in Arabic, is part of the Al Hajar mountains range, one of Oman’s most spectacular areas. Set 2000 metres above sea level, Alila Jabal Akhdar provides access to this magnificent landscape of untouched beauty. Overlooking a dramatic gorge and with views of the Hajar mountains, the hotel is perfectly positioned to explore the region’s renowned rugged landscapes, a haven for adventure travellers, nature lovers and those seeking an escape from the desert heat. The resort’s 78 beautifully appointed suites and villas are located within the main hotel building or arranged in individual clusters of four to six suites, generously spaced out around the clifftop to maximise privacy and uninterrupted views over the mountains and down into the gorges.

Alila Jabal Akhdar features in my top 10 list of the best luxury hotels in Oman.

In this review (more info below my Youtube clip & slideshow):

  • Pros & things I like
  • Cons & things to know
  • My verdict
  • Tips for future guests & save money
  • Best time to visit
  • How to get there

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • Alila Jabal Akhdar is located a 2.5-hour drive from Muscat, and the last 45 minutes – only accessible to SUVs because of the steep incline – represent an incredibly scenic journey that takes you high up in the Al Hajar mountains. The rapidly ascending road is dotted with hairpin curves, with every turn revealing another phenomenal panorama of jagged cliffs and verdant valleys. The Government of Oman has spent a lot in building the infrastructure to reach Jabal Akhdar, and consequently, the roads are great to drive and safe too (both day and night).
  • Alila Jabal Akhdar enjoys one of the most spectacular setting of all hotels that I have ever visited in my life. Located in the highest mountain range of the Arabian peninsula, the resort sits on the edge of a spectacular, canyon-like wadi, surrounded by the treeless, soaring Al Hajar Mountains and desert-like vegetation. It almost felt like being at the Grand Canyon (but without  the crowds).
  • Because of its setting, it should come as no surprise that hotel boasts awe-inspiring killer views in almost all directions. Most of the resort’s public terraces and rooms, as well as the pool deck area have a direct look into the gorge. At the farthest end of the resort, Alila also constructed two wooded platforms were guests can take in the breathtaking sights in all silence and tranquility. The views of the gorge and the light on the rugged mountains are especially nice in the early morning, with sunset being another great moment for postcard perfect pictures (although your camera will look directly into the setting sun).
  • The resort is built as a traditional Omani-village and blends seamlessly into the majestic mountainous desert environment. From the entrance gate, a long winding driveway takes you to the lobby, and on the way you’ll get your first glimpses of the resort, which is composed of stone-clad clusters of buildings that are scattered on the edge of the gorge.
  • Although the resort is stark and grey on the outside, it features a very tasteful and welcoming decor nothing bling here), with neutral light and dark colors, wooden ceilings, pale stone floors, and Arabian carpets. Copper ornaments, initricate mandoos chests, and fort-like doors reminds guests of Oman’s rich traditions. The hotel’s public spaces are gloriously large, but still manage to feel intimate and cosy.
  • Upon arrival, guests are welcomed in a traditional Omani way, with kahwa (a strong and bitter coffee mixed with cardamom powder) and dates.
  • The resort’s 86 beautifully appointed suites and villas are located within the main hotel building or arranged in individual clusters of four to six suites, generously spaced out around the clifftop to maximise privacy and uninterrupted views over the mountains and down into the gorges. During my holiday, I stayed in a ridge view suite located in a pavilion at the farthest end of the resort. The suite was very spacious and well-appointed, with a comfortable king sized bed, a separate dressing area and a sitting corner. It featured a contemporary decor, with earthy tones of wood and stone that were accented with rugs and furnishings in bold yet warm hues. It had a lovely, shaded terrace from where to soak in the amazing Grand Canyonesque views.
  • One of the accommodations’ best assets are the beautiful bathrooms, which deserves a separate paragraph in this review. These vast, light filled space feature two sinks, a rain shower and a freestanding marble, ovoid bathtub alongside a big window that frames the mountain views. Bathroom are stocked with lovely Alila toiletries, which – IMHO – rank amongst the best in the hotel industry and are manufactured in Bali, Indonesia.
  • Surrounded by plenty of comfortable lounge chairs as well ass a couple of cabanas, the curved outdoor infinity pool offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.
  • Just behind the outdoor infinity pool, there’s a smaller indoor plunge pool, framed by imposing stone columns, inviting loungers and mood-setting candles. The water is heated to the temperature of warm bath, making this more a large jacuzzi than an actual pool.
  • The resort lies within the interior region of Al Dakhiliyah which, besides being blessed with spectacular scenery, is the cultural heart of Oman. The region comprises eight ‘wilayats’ or districts, among them Adam, Bahla, Al Hamra and the regional centre of Nizwa. Known as “The Pearl of Islam”, Nizwa is one of the oldest cities in Oman and its former capital, once a sanctuary for scholars and a stronghold for powerful leaders. Today the rich history of this region can still be seen in an array of ancient forts, castles, mosques and UNESCO heritage sites.
  • Featuring seven treatment and changing rooms, a Vichy shower room and Jacuzzis, Spa Alila is a peaceful sanctuary dedicated to pampering guests from head to toe to restore a sense of total well-being. Besides a wide array of Asian-inspired treatments, the spa experience is infused with the essence of the destination. Here, you step back in time in the steam room, the air filled with a mist of heady, earthy and cleansing oils, grounded in frankincense and juniper berry, reminiscent of ancient Oman. I had a massage during my stay and it was terrific. Highly recommended!
  • Named after the juniper trees that grow in the highlands of Oman, the resort’s only dining venue – Juniper Restaurant – satisfies all culinary cravings, from breakfast through to dinner. Cuisine is international with an Arabian twist and the food tastes delicious (although it’s more bistro style than fine dining). The dinner menu changes every night, so you will not get gastronomically bored during a multiday stay.
  • Service is impeccable. All the staff are very attentive and will take care of your every need without hesitation and all are trained to deal with any request.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

This is hands down one of the best resorts I have ever stayed at. The phenomenal setting on the ridge of a steep gorge in a remote part of Oman is surreal and is by far the biggest draw of the hotel. And with a brilliant design, jummy food, beautiful suites and excellent service, Alila Jabal Akhdar offers an experience that matches is spectacular location. It’s a no-brainer if you want an exceptional hotel stay in Oman! It’s hard to find any faults as my holiday at Alila Jabal Akhdar was an overwhelmingly positive one, but you may want to known the following nonetheless:

  • With the exception of the computers at the library, internet connection is patchy and slow, which is probably due to the hotel’s remote location. This should not be too much of an issue as being disconnected from the outside world and getting away from it all is part of the charm of the resort experience. The hotel is working on the WiFi issue though, so things may improve in the near future.
  • The outdoor pool is advertised as heated but still feels very cold. Fortunately, the jacuzzi-alike indoor pool (located behind the outside pool) makes up for that.
  • While the breakfast buffet is excellent and a welcome and healthy respite from the lavish buffets you see at other hotels, I found the breakfast range a bit limited for a hotel of this standing. I especially missed some cold meats and/or salmon.
  • The hotel has no adults only corner, so there is no alternative to get any peace in case that the outdoor pool is taken over by families with young and loud children (which did happen during my stay). Perhaps the resort management should consider constructing an adults only pool over time to guarantee tranquility for those in need of that.

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 10/10
  • Design: 10/10
  • Rooms: 9/10
  • Food: 8/10
  • Service: 9/10
  • Overall experience: exceptional: 9/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Alila Jabal Akhdar (and/or receive many free perks).
  • Before one enters the mountains where Alila Jabal Akhdar is located, there is a police check-point where one has to register for safety. Only four wheel drive (SUV) is allowed in the mountain as the roads are steep with many hairpin curves. The resort can arrange the roundtrip from Muscat for you for 160 OMR (including taxes).
  • It’s cooler and wetter in the mountains than on the coast, so pack accordingly ( you’ll still need sunscreen though).
  • I recommend staying at a ridge view suite, as it offers the best view from the hotel directly into the canyon.
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

BEST TIME TO VISIT ALILA JABAL AKHDAR

With its mountain location, Alila Jabal Akhdar enjoys a refreshing climate year round. The temperature at the resort is around 15 degrees cooler than in Muscat year round, making it a great place to escape from the heat of the lower plains in the summer months, or to enjoy a refreshing break and perhaps a view of snow-capped peaks under the winter sun. However, the best time to visit most parts of Oman is during the winter months (October to March). The average temperature in Oman during the day is about 30 degree Celsius while the nights are cooler with the temperature dropping down to an average of 15 degree Celsius. Days are sunny most of the time (although recent years have seen an increase of the number of overcast or rainy days). Summer season (April to September) is extremely hot and humid and very unsuitable for travel in the country. The average temperature during this season peaks up to an average of 40 degree Celsius. Sometimes the temperature can go as high as 50 degree Celsius during the day.


HOW TO GET THERE

Alila Jabal Akhdar is located a 2.5-hour drive from Muscat International Airport and less than an hour from Nizwa, accessible only via four-wheel drive. Check the Wikipedia page of Muscat International Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Muscat.


DRIVE TO THE RESORT

DRIVE TO THE RESORT

DRIVE TO THE RESORT

DRIVE TO THE RESORT

DRIVE TO THE RESORT

DRIVE TO THE RESORT

DRIVE TO THE RESORT

DRIVE TO THE RESORT

DRIVE TO THE RESORT

DRIVE TO THE RESORT

RESORT ENTRANCE & DRIVEWAY

RESORT ENTRANCE & DRIVEWAY

RESORT DRIVEWAY

RESORT DRIVEWAY

RESORT DRIVEWAY

RESORT DRIVEWAY

RESORT DRIVEWAY

RESORT DRIVEWAY

RESORT DRIVEWAY

RESORT DRIVEWAY

DRIVEWAY & EXTERIOR

DRIVEWAY & EXTERIOR

EXTERIOR

EXTERIOR

EXTERIOR

EXTERIOR

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EXTERIOR

EXTERIOR

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EXTERIOR

EXTERIOR

EXTERIOR

EXTERIOR

EXTERIOR

EXTERIOR

LOBBY: ENTRANCE

LOBBY: ENTRANCE

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY: WELCOME RITUAL

LOBBY: WELCOME RITUAL

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY: TERRACE

LOBBY: TERRACE

LOBBY: TERRACE

LOBBY: TERRACE

LIBRARY

LIBRARY

LIBRARY

LIBRARY

LIBRARY

LIBRARY

LIBRARY

LIBRARY

LIBRARY

LIBRARY

LIBRARY

LIBRARY

LIBRARY

LIBRARY

LIBRARY

LIBRARY

LIBRARY

LIBRARY

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE

RIDGE VIEW SUITE: VIEW

RIDGE VIEW SUITE: VIEW

RIDGE VIEW SUITE: VIEW

RIDGE VIEW SUITE: VIEW

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL

OUTDOOR POOL: CABANAS

OUTDOOR POOL: CABANAS

OUTDOOR POOL: CABANAS

OUTDOOR POOL: CABANAS

OUTDOOR POOL: CABANAS

OUTDOOR POOL: CABANAS

OUTDOOR POOL: CABANAS

OUTDOOR POOL: CABANAS

OUTDOOR POOL: CABANAS

OUTDOOR POOL: CABANAS

OUTDOOR POOL: CABANAS

OUTDOOR POOL: CABANAS

OUTDOOR POOL: CABANAS

OUTDOOR POOL: CABANAS

INDOOR POOL

INDOOR POOL

INDOOR POOL

INDOOR POOL

INDOOR POOL

INDOOR POOL

INDOOR POOL

INDOOR POOL

ROSE LOUNGE

ROSE LOUNGE

ROSE LOUNGE

ROSE LOUNGE

ROSE LOUNGE: TERRACE

ROSE LOUNGE: TERRACE

ROSE LOUNGE: TERRACE

ROSE LOUNGE: TERRACE

ROSE LOUNGE: TERRACE

ROSE LOUNGE: TERRACE

JUNIPER RESTAURANT

JUNIPER RESTAURANT

JUNIPER RESTAURANT

JUNIPER RESTAURANT

JUNIPER RESTAURANT

JUNIPER RESTAURANT

JUNIPER RESTAURANT

JUNIPER RESTAURANT

JUNIPER RESTAURANT

JUNIPER RESTAURANT

JUNIPER RESTAURANT

JUNIPER RESTAURANT

JUNIPER RESTAURANT: TERRACE

JUNIPER RESTAURANT: TERRACE

JUNIPER RESTAURANT: TERRACE

JUNIPER RESTAURANT: TERRACE

JUNIPER RESTAURANT: TERRACE

JUNIPER RESTAURANT: TERRACE

JUNIPER RESTAURANT: TERRACE

JUNIPER RESTAURANT: TERRACE

JUNIPER RESTAURANT: TERRACE

JUNIPER RESTAURANT: TERRACE

RESORT SHOP

RESORT SHOP

GYM

GYM

SPA

SPA

SPA

SPA

SPA

SPA

SPA

SPA

SPA

SPA

SPA

SPA

SPA

SPA

SPA

SPA

SPA

SPA

SPA

SPA

RESORT MAP

RESORT MAP