In case you want to take a trip in your imagination--which Somerset Maugham said was the best kind--I offer a photo to stimulate your thoughts.
Why is there no internet site—something like Guestadvisor, instead of Tripadvisor--that provides space for hotels to comment on guests?
Hotels are not able to choose their guests, but they should be able to praise nice ones and warn other hotels of horrible ones. Even better would be if guests could find out who has booked into the same hotel and decide if they want to risk sitting near such people in the hotel restaurant or beside the pool. Hotels can see what kind of people have received a room and treat them accordingly upon check-in…such as putting them in a bad room.
Rating could include polite/arrogant; neat/messy; easily pleased/demanding; thankful/entitled; pleasant to staff/nasty; scrounge amenities/demand more; generous tipper/stingy; steal towels, bathrobe, etc; spend on extras/bring own alcohol; and so on.
This is a lame one, because most people should know this word...
I had heard of Wanderlust, a German word that has insinuated itself into usage of English speakers, but have not really suffered too often from the urge. I am happy to stay at home, but do enjoy a good trip. Lately, I have had the urge to travel somewhere interesting. Perhaps, that is because summer suggests vacation travel or because I have difficulty waiting for future travel that I have booked.
Summer school vacation—when students have no classes, schools are closed, and families tend to go somewhere (if they have money)—tends to demand travel. The problem is to find lodging that is available and not over-priced. In Europe, prices tend to sky rocket in the summer. This is understandable, since many establishments must earn their money in a few months. The highest prices tend to be in August.
German states stagger their vacations, which tend to last for six weeks, and the times rotate each year. For example, if a state has vacation from mid-June to the end of July one year, it might have vacation from early August to mid-September in another year. Early vacations tend to be more favourable, because European vacation spots are less crowded than in August, when all France and all Italy head for the beach.
The state in which I live, has a late slot this year, so we are faced with the dilemma of finding something adequate at a decent price. In the past, we would often fly to Florida, where low season prices offset the cost of flying. I do not want to travel to a state that requires everyone to carry a firearm, so I considered options. I like Asia, but monsoon rains can spoil even a low-priced hotel stay. I like the Maldives and the Seychelles, but ditto. Dubai is too hot, with daytime temperatures often hitting 50 degrees centigrade (that’s boiling point in fahrenheit, I believe). I thought about South Africa, but it is winter in the southern hemisphere and ocean currents deliver cold water from the Antarctic.
Viewing a world map, my eye fell on Mauritius. We have avoided this island in the past, because there have been more attractive alternatives closer to home. Even the Seychelles and Maldives are closer. Although winter reigns in Mauritius, temperatures are only slightly lower than in their summer and it is the “dry” season. If I read correctly, the climate is fairly mild all year, not unlike Hawaii, but with hurricanes (cyclones in the southern hemisphere, for the pedants out there) in their fall (our spring).
So, we have booked a trip to Mauritius in August. Everyone can now look forward to hearing my opinion (which is why people check this worthless blog!). Because it is off-season, prices for flights and hotels are less than half the peak season costs. And, I do not expect to find crowds, like those one must endure along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
Stay tuned…or stop by in August…
How can you keep them down on the farm--or on the ground--once they’ve flown first class...
During the flight from Dubai to Frankfurt, I recalled some of my previous flights. My experiences could be a metaphor for my life: things kept getting better as I grew older.
My first flight was from Norfolk, Virginia, to Boston on an Eastern Airlines (which no longer exists) propeller airplane. The ticket cost $18, which was a large sum. One could drive the same distance for a few dollars worth of gas. Both the price of gas and airline tickets provide a lesson in inflation, for anyone interested in such trivia. Anyways, I had escaped from a school trip to perform a play at Black colleges (I was in the stage crew) to visit my uncle and cousins and needed to get home. My father was angry at the school chaperone for letting me leave, but scraped together the money for the airfare. Boarding was different in those days: I showed my ticket at the door and was pointed to a plane parked on the ramp. No jetways. No body searches. Fortunately, there was no rain. And, I have no photos from that time.
My next airplane experiences were in the back of a 707 crossing the Atlantic to Germany to visit my brother, who was defending the “free” world against the threat of communist invasion through the Fulda Gap. All I recall is that I was stuck for eight hours in a middle seat between two heavy smokers and food arrived on an aluminum tray, not unlike a TV dinner. For some reason, chicken comes to mind.
On my second flight I across the Atlantic, I had a camera and must have had a window seat. I was fascinated by views of Greenland, which I had learned in geography is not green
Various flights within the United States are memorable only in comparing them to flying now. Everything was easy. I do not recall any longing to sit in first class; I merely wanted to get from point A to point B. Fares were cheap.
My first flight across the Pacific was in a civilian 707 (company offering chartered flights to the military) from McChord Airbase in Washington to Cam Rahn Bay Airbase in Vietnam. I was fortunate enough to be sent to Vietnam late in the war, when the military was flying replacement troops and not sending them by ship.
The only privilege afforded officers was to seat in the front, but we had the same three across seating. Once again, I ended up in the middle seat. I recall the flight being very quiet, because no one seemed to be celebrating arrival at the destination. Every passenger wondered, I am certain, if they would be making a return flight.
We stopped in Anchorage and Tokyo for fuel, which provided a chance to stretch our legs. My strongest memory of the flight is the emotional speech made by one stewardess, after we landed at Cam Rahn Bay, wishing us all luck. It worked for me. I do not recall the flight home, other than that we landed at some air force base near San Francisco and I caught a flight to Denver to visit friends.
The following years saw several flights back and forth across the Atlantic on charters and various airlines.
In the late 70s, the exchange rate for dollars fell precipitously and prices took some time to level off. Anyone traveling to the United States from Germany benefited, so flying first class was downright cheap. Of course, flying economy was even cheaper, but I was young and foolish and on vacation. Those were the final days of luxury first class in the United States, where caesar's salad was mixed at your seat, chateaubriand was sliced on a cutting board at your seat, and ice cream was served by the scoop, not in a plastic container...or at all. That beats even the best first class service of late. Seats have improved, but food has not. Business class had yet to be invented.
Prices caught up with exchange rates, which even swung back the other way every few years. The best I could afford--or was offered by my employer--was business class. Plus, I had the burden of filling more seats. And, spoiling my kids, so that they did not have to suffer on a charter flight.
I became addicted to first class travel during my years as an executive for a global company and learned the subtle differences between airlines. Since then, I strive to avoid US carriers, all of which are far inferior to international brands. First class of some US airlines is inferior to business class on the best “foreign” carriers. And, even on the best of airlines, first class seats do not protect you from a hard landing any better than the ones in the back...and perhaps less, because they have individual speakers.
My wife and I have decided that, if we have to fly economy, we will not fly. That sounds arrogant, but it is merely a question of comfort and traveling only for pleasure. We prefer to stay home than to ride in the back of an airplane. Of course, this often limits destinations, because one can reach islands only on regional carriers
. Therefore, we will no longer visits places we enjoyed in the past, such as Abacco in the Bahamas or Ko Samui in Thailand. That is not a problem, because the choice of destinations reached by real planes is great. Some carriers offer very favorable rates on business and first class fares...which explains why I travel to and through Dubai so often. I have learned that the only thing better in airline travel than first class is an empty first class.
What is not good is a standby first class ticket, which one can buy if related to a Lufthansa employee. We learned that this is not such a good deal, when we were downgraded to economy, despite having a first class ticket. Paying customers and employees with a higher priority get the seats. Lufthansa economy is better than most, if not all, other airlines' economy, but it's still economy.
Somerset Maugham is supposed to have said that the best trips take place in the imagination. There is some truth in that, but one must get out and see places to feed the imagination. And, the guy never experienced first class travel in a modern jetliner. An old ad for ocean liners once claimed that getting there is half the fun, which was written in a time when trips took days. In the age of jet flight, getting there needs to be comfortable, not fun.
For example, Emirates business class is excellent and even good enough (here is a comparison photo, showing those suffering in the back).
But a first class cabin is the way to go (unless your ego--and net worth--is so large that you demand flying by private jet).
Like at Cheers, everyone knows your name at the Jumeirah Vittavelli. Some people like this, because recognition boosts his or her ego. But, some might find this a bit scary, if you think about it. When greeted by someone, who you have never seen before, you wonder how he or she knows your name. I believe that the hotel forces staff to memorize faces and names from the welcome photo taken upon arrival. And, they learn your room number and departure date.
Then again, living in the age of NSA surveillance, something as simple as a hotel trying to make a guest feel welcome is seemingly harmless. This is evident, when the manager and his staff show up to wave you off on the boat trip to Malé to catch your flight, even at night.
Or are waiting at the airport dock to carry your bags and escort you to the check-in counter.
One leaves with pleasant memories of the resort and its staff. What more could one want from a vacation?
Modern travel includes a whole bunch of technology. Every device has a different set of cables and batter charger. One needs an extra bag only for cables, chargers, plugs, and adaptors.
I fondly recall the days, when one traveled with a pen and paper...which I still carry.
I do not travel as much as I used to, and my itinerary tends to always include Dubai. That said, I cannot imagine better first or business class lounges than those of Emirates Airline in the new terminal of Dubai Airport. Besides the scale, service, quality, and food provided, the best feature is that you can go from the lounge by elevator to the jetway.
You avoid the lines and crowds of the terminal and the gate area. The lounges fun the length of the building--first class on the floor above the departure level and business class on the floor above, so there are many elevators--one for each gate. One does not see one’s fellow passengers before, during, or after the flight. I imagine that this is what travel by ship was like during the Golden Age of the ocean liner: classes of passenger never came in contact with one another, having separate gangways, separate decks, and separate lives. I am pleased that fate has permitted to have experience all the decks and to end up on the upper one..
Besides pricing policy and operating under very different labor laws/tax structure, I have noticed one big difference between Lufthansa and Emirates.
Emirates pilots switch on the seatbelt sign at the first hint of atmospheric stirrings and leave it on longer than necessary, seeming until the memory of “turbulence” has subsided. Lufthansa pilots, seemingly, start to think about the seatbelt sign whenever the first flight attendant is heading towards the ceiling.
Another aspect of turbulence, that I have often noticed, is that it always shows up at meal time. I have spent many minutes holding my wine glass to prevent the red wine from sloshing out. Eating is not a problem during rough weather, but one would hate to spilling wine and stain the table cloth or one’s clothes. Of course, one does not have that problem on most US carriers, especially in economy where spilling peanuts is not a problem.
Warning: anyone of a jealous nature should stop reading this blog, until mid-January. I travelling...in luxury.
At the moment, I am sitting in the Emirates lounge in Frankfurt Airport. We were picked up at home by a Mercedes 500, which is included in the price of an Emirates business or first class ticket. This service is provided on departure and arrival. Eat you heart out anyone forced to endure air travel in North America...or Europe.
This lounge beats any I have visited at a US airport, and Emirates has only a few flights a day. The offer of food and drink is almost obscene. Anyone questioning why I do not want to travel to the United States, must merely hope to experience travel in the Middle East and Asia.
We are on the way to Dubai, where we will change to a flight to Male, which is the main airport of the Maldives. The lounge in Dubai is even more extravagant. I will report...if I feel like it...
Headlines predict that a bunch of folks will suffer in the coming days. I cannot imagine a worse fate than traveling home for Thanksgiving in the United States in winter weather. There’s a John Candy/Steve Martin movie that displays some of the agony.
Travel can be an ordeal, but the combination of the busiest travel period and bad weather raise the stakes geometrically. I feel sorry for anyone caught in the storm or the crowd...or both.
Fortunately, we had our turkey feast last Saturday. That was the only day on which we could get all the necessary players together around a table. The meal was a success, partly due to the arrival the day before of a care package from the US with Pepperidge Farm stuffing. No Thanksgiving meal is possible without that ingredient. You cannot imagine how happy I was to greet the DHL driver at the door, especially since I had just fired up my laptop to look for a recipe for stuffing.
At the end of the day, what was stuffed was all the dinner participants...but all left just enough room for a piece of my apple pie just like my mother used to make.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.