This post invokes the spirit of the Navigatrix’ 6 year old cousin who always asked “what was the best and worst thing about your day?”
We will get the worst things quickly out of the way, as we did not have many of those:
- Marco Polo Airport was by far the worst experience we had all trip – from the long lines to check in, to the baggage conveyer breaking down, to the bottleneck that was passport control and finally the complete chaos at the gate. Never again!
- The customer service on MSC was the worst thing about the cruise. Remember this where they broke our suitcase and it was very difficult to get the problem resolved to our satisfaction. Generally the staff (expect for our cabin steward) seemed disinterested and did not engage with the passengers. Cruising with MSC is not something we would recommend.
Now for the good things, of which there are many:
- Best flight: Finnair, Osaka to Helsinki. Finnair put together the best package, from the amenity kits to the champagne and blueberry liqueur cocktail to the cabin service. We were particularly impressed when our steward went out of her way to do some research for us on mid-summer events in Helsinki. The seat configuration was comfortable and we arrived in Finland refreshed despite the nine hour flight and six hour time difference.
- Best business class seat: Qantas, Sydney to Hong Kong. The Qantas business class seat is massive and the in-built massage feature is especially comfortable. There are plenty of nooks and pockets to put items like phones and glasses, plus when upstairs on the 747 the curvature of the fuselage provides space for storage bins on the floor right next to the seat. We did not find the cantilevered foot rest to be a problem (some travellers complain it sags and prevents a true lie flat experience). The only downside is the lack of direct aisle access for the passenger seated in seat A or seat K.
- Best airline food: Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong to Osaka. The Navigator had Japanese plum noodles with nameko mushrooms, followed by grilled beef, mushroom mashed potato with red onion and Madeira sauce. The Navigatrix had baked yuzu (like a grapefruit but with hints of orange) and pepper chicken, vegetables and steamed rice. There was nothing to fault with either dish.
- Best airport lounge: Cathay Pacific, The Pier Hong Kong. A massive lounge with great food and quiet ambience. It was also one of the few lounges with a view directly onto the tarmac.
- Best hotel: A dead heat between the Marriott Miyako in Osaka and the Venezia La Gare in Murano. The Marriott had the wow factor of the view from the 48th floor, as well as the spacious Member’s Lounge that served a delicious high tea and then a buffet dinner which could not be faulted. The customer service was first class - from check in, to the luggage porter, to the turn down staff from housekeeping, to the Member’s lounge staff. The hotel is ideally located above major railway, bus and metro connections and has a large shopping centre next door. We booked this room using Marriott reward points so didn’t have to pay the nearly $600 per night for our room. Therefore in terms of value for money the Venezia La Gare hotel ($270 per night) was its equal. The room (yes, we were upgraded) was beautifully and luxuriously decorated as well as incredibly spacious with the mezzanine bedroom. The only downside was the bathroom was downstairs. The buffet breakfast in the courtyard was decadent and the vaporetto stop was right outside the front door. It was wonderful to be on Murano in the evening after all the tourists went back to Venice and we had the island almost to ourselves. The Hilton Nordica in Reykjavik ran a close second, from the wonderful staff and convenient food in the Member’s Lounge to free entry into the spa.
- Best destination: Iceland. The scenery of this country was breathtaking and we barely scratched the surface. To describe it factually does not do the country justice: that the landscape is treeless means you can see everything from horizon to horizon; that it is wild and remote means it is unspoilt by development, even the popular tourist spots. Yes it is expensive and yes it is cold and windy even in summer but that does not matter. This country definitely deserves another visit, with plenty of time to explore locations away from the Reykjavik area.
- Best moment: For the Navigator it was swimming with the little dog off the rocks at Dubrovnik. For the Navigatrix it was the central market in Cadiz, which we discovered by surprise and were amazed with the size, variety and freshness of the seafood.
- Best upgrade: Marriott Sky City, Hong Kong: From a normal hotel room to a 1 bedroom suite, this upgrade was massive – and on the first night of our holiday! It was a shame we were unable to take more advantage, as we had to check out early the next morning.
- Best car rental: Seat Alhambra 7 seater, Sweden. This car managed to swallow four adults, a child booster seat and a baby safety capsule and still have room left over. The 2 litre diesel engine drove beautifully and the car never seemed large on the road.
We could go on and on…
See the video below for mussels so fresh they are still spitting water.
- Upgrade count: Eleven – 5 hotels; 4 cars; 1 flight; 1 cruise drinks package (not an upgrade as such but a surprise nonetheless)
- Free breakfast count: Eighteen, including some double counts of hotels and airport lounges on the same day. The cruises do not count.
- Lost property count: There might be a lone sock still on the Disney Magic, or in someone’s luggage on the way back to the USA. This category has been renamed to the “Near Miss Count”, which is as follows:
- Lost jacket in Osaka: Left on the luggage trolley and recovered with the help of Japan Rail staff at Osaka Airport.
- Lost passports in Grindelwald: Left in the (unlocked) secure drawer in the Youth Hostel and recovered after a panicked call to Reception some six hours later.
- Lost computer in Iceland: Left in the seat pocket on our flight from LHR-KEF. The Navigatrix just happened to notice it as we waited to get off the plane.
- Lost camera lenses in Barcelona: Originally thought to be have been left or dropped on the floor at BCN security, it was only in the BA lounge at Heathrow that the Navigator remembered the lenses were in the pocket of the shorts he changed in Barcelona.
- Broken equipment count: One. Each trip we manage to break something to do with our camera equipment. Usually it is a lens but this time it is the camera body itself, soaked by the steam at Geysir and the water at Gulfoss. To make matters worse it broke the day before we went puffin watching, when we really needed the extra zoom and fast shutter speed. Unfortunately it is likely to be too old to claim on our travel insurance.