Dubai

What Dubai Again?

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So I had one last trip to Dubai, going there three times in 8 weeks was crazy. Downright crazy, but with the really great fare I picked up I had no choice. Yes I know I did, but who could resist. In any event on this trip I ventured out to a few different spots then I had not gone to before. I went to the Dubai Marina and also The Mall of Dubai. The Mall was fine, once you’ve seen one mall in Dubai haven’t you seen them all. The one thing here that was different, was the indoor ski slope. It was interesting, but not worth a trip to the mall to see. In any event I had a pretty decent time here, and look forward to a “real” trip here where I can see a bit more of the Middle East, there’s so much more I wanted to do, but in eight hours you can only do so much. Continue reading

Categories: Dubai, Photography, Travel, Travel Blog | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Airport Lounge Review: Lufthansa Senator Lounge Dubai

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My tour of Dubai international airport continues…I’ve now been her twice and both times have enjoyed the Lufthansa Senator Lounge located near gate 23 in terminal one. To access this lounge you have a few options. First if your a member of Lufthansa’s frequent flyer community and had status with them you can enter, or you can purchase an annual membership. Since I’m not part of their scheme I really have no idea what the criteria actually is but, since I hold Star Gold status with United Airlines, I get access to all Star Gold lounges around the world when on an international itinerary. Hey it’s a nice perk when you get it and can use. In the case of United to get Star Gold you must fly 50,000 miles per year with them or at least credit your Star Alliance flights to United. In my case I also qualify for Star Gold as being a Million Miler.

In any event usually Senator Lounges are pretty good. They have a great coffee machine, beer/liquor selection, and some ok food in most cases. In this case it was not too bad, not great but it’ll do. This was a tiny lounge as you can see from the pictures, there was a seating area with tables and chairs to eat at and then a few loungers to nap in and lastly an open seating area.

By far not a big lounge overall so get here early or stand. On my first trip through here a few weeks ago I got in before the crush and as people came in there was just no place to sit it was really awful. This time though it was full but not to bad. Not sure what the difference was last time was a late Saturday night this time a late Sunday night. Regardless it seems if they are so full you’d wonder why it’s such a small lounge. It makes me wonder if they restrict access to it when full and only let in their members.

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Categories: Airport, Dubai, Lounges, Lufthansa, Travel, Travel Blog | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Airport review: Dubai Al Maktoum International Airport

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Dubai Al Maktoum International Airport consists of two terminals name creatively Terminal 1 and 3. United Airlines uses terminal 1, and shares this massive terminal with airlines such as Lufthansa, Emirates, Oman Air, Fly Dubai, Go India and a whole slew of carriers you don’t normally see here in the States.

Comprised of two levels on the ground floor you have arrivals and the transportation hub for taxis, busses, hotel shuttles, foreign exchange and family meet and greet. Additionally there’s a food hall with the likes of Starbucks and a Maharba Lounge, that offers internet and seating. Although I’m not sure what the criteria is to use this lounge. Also on this level by door E is a luggage storage area where you can leave your bags for 20 Dirhams per 24 hours (about 7 USD). They did have an extra charge for larger bags, although I don’t know what it is though. It’s also open 24 hours a day and seemed like a safe spot to leave stuff if you don’t want to lug it around the city or if you have a long layover.

The main floor is where departures are. The terminal is broken out into lettered sections starting at A and going to at least E, I didn’t go further. There appears to be one security check point with customs and immigration as well. The check in facility is sort of a madhouse, with Dubai being so centrally located and offering so many worldwide one stop options plus being a jumping off point for so many contractors, military, and the like in the region there just seems to be a lot of hustle and bustle here. I was really expecting this airport to be pretty just like the city, but at least at this terminal inside and out I was not impressed. Don’t get me wrong it’s nice large and open, but I was expecting it to be on par with Singapore or Hong Kong and it was not. Again since I was in terminal 1, I didn’t get to see the other side terminal 3 which might just be better.

Also on the main level are escalators to the Dubai Metro that is very conveniently attached to both terminals. It’s a really great way to get in and out of the city and for 16 Dirhams you get a one day pass that gets you access to the metro and bus system. Not a bad deal for about 5 USD, which won’t even get me to SFO on Bart from my house one way. There are other ticket options, but for me this was the easiest one. Additionally when I needed assistance the gates at the terminals were more then glad to help me out. It was really great. Just be ready for packed trains since it appears many locals use it too.

After check in, you have to navigate the customs and immigration area, which is pretty large but also very crowded, this is a 24/7 airport and there are flights leaving and arriving at all hours so it’s just busy. There was a Fastpass option if you were a premium passenger, sadly I didn’t qualify. So that meant long lines, that took about 30-45 minutes to navigate just to have your passport inspected and to clear customs and immigration. Think Costco on a Sunday times 10, at least the people were friendly and there didn’t seem to be much cutting, which can happen in some parts of the world. Once through customs you still have to clear security, so a trip through the metal detectors are in order, again more waiting and screening. The nice part here is only metal and cell phones need to come out of your pockets, I didn’t have to worry about liquids, jells or computers. Also I imagine if I was carrying a large water bottle they might say something. On a side note, there’s secondary screening at the gate too, where you again go through a metal detector and have your bags searched pretty well, and here you needed to take shoes off, in fact they thoroughly hand inspected them too. Finally though once through customs and immigration you’re free to move about the terminal.

Inside the terminal there were two sets of the usual duty free stores with all the usual trappings, plus several spots selling local crafts and souvenirs. For me the duty free stuff didn’t seem cheaper then I can get at home, so I just moved on. Ironically since the country is supposed to be dry but many hotels and restaurants can and do sell alcohol the duty free area seemed pretty well stocked with popular brands of liquor. Otherwise there were lots of restaurants including a Nestle ice cream shop, Paul’s, McDonalds and Texas Chicken. It’s just funny seeing so many US chains outside of North America.

If you’re a lounge whore like me, you have many to choose from including Lufthansa Senator lounge, Emirates first and business class, Delta/KLM, Oman Air, Air France and several contact lounges for many other carriers including two Priority Pass ones too. Stay tuned for my photo review of the uber tiny Senators Lounge.

A couple other data points, if you are a transit passenger, once you deplane you can most likely get a copy of your ongoing boarding pass at the transit area, airside. Although if you have a long layover like me try and get it printed prior since it’s possible there may not be someone to print it depending on who you’re flying. I also found they like the real boarding passes, and my print at homes were not acceptable not sure why. With my onward boarding pass I had the option of hanging out in the terminal prior to leaving the airport, which let me get in a shower after my 13 hour flight. Otherwise I would have had to immediately go to immigration and not have been able to stay airside. Then when I was ready to leave the airport, I went back up to the transfer area and the security agents there let me back through so I could head to customs and immigration and enter the country. This process was super simple, but it was because I had a onward boarding pass, without it, I don’t think this would have worked.

Overall DXB terminal 1 is not to bad, if you have to hang out someplace for a few hours you could do worse, is it my favorite airport, no but it’ll do, and I’ll be happy to transit it again.

Categories: Airport, Dubai, Photography, Review, Travel, Travel Blog | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Can I wear these shoes?

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Dubai here I come again. Yes it has only been two weeks since my last visit, but man I loved you so much I had to come back. Well seriously I did like it, but regardless of that I still would have come back when I only paid $300 for a roundtrip ticket back in November.

Funny enough I can be a terrible planner, when it comes to activities related to a non work trip and as I sit here on the airplane heading to Washington Dulles from LAX to catch my connection to Dubai I really have no idea what I’m going to do with my 1/2 day there. Last time as you may recall I went Malling (is that even a word) and visited the base of the worlds tallest building the Burj Kahlifa as well as Metroed around the city a bit.

For this trip I had grand intentions of going to high tea at the Burj Al Dubai, the iconic sail hotel sitting on the gulf. And it’s possible I might actually do that but I got lazy and didn’t make a reservation, which is a must. You can’t even get on property without a room or meal reservation. Besides that, I can’t really do high tea, because it’s at a set time and I won’t be in Dubai yet. But they do offer an evening tea in their lobby restaurant and I was thinking about that as an alternate, but since it was not in the Sky Bar, and is marketed as an evening high tea with cocktails and appetizers, I just can’t get too interested. Oh yeah and you have to dress business casual so that means slacks, collared shirt and dress shoes. They specifically say no trainers or running shoes. So I think these are out of the question, and to have to cart nice shoes half way around the world for tea, seriously. Remember I said I was lazy. Maybe during my lay over tonight in Dulles I’ll be motivated to book the tea, or I’ll get on the ball and book it for my third and final trip next month. Regardless of the location, I hear it’s a really fun thing to do and the hotel although a sort of tourist trap is really beautiful and worth the time.

So what should I do? Who flys half way around the world with no plans spends two nights on airplanes just to show up in a foreign country with zero agenda. This guy!! I know sounds kind of silly. But like I said earlier, I can be a terrible planner, usually for me it’s getting there that gets my juices flowing it’s not the destination per se. Don’t get me wrong there have been many vacations and activities that will forever leave a mark on me, like the Great Barrier Reef, Bali, Dachau, Ground Zero and Oktoberfest. But for most trips I’m just if not more jazzed about getting there then being there.

So when I think about my soon to be here half day in Dubai, I’m still wondering what I’m going to do here. Anyone have any suggestions? Please hurry though, because tomorrow will be here before you know it.

Categories: Dubai, Travel, Travel Blog, Wandering the city | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Dubai: Vegas without the Casinos

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Alright so I had half a day in Dubai, what to see. There are so many options. The Burj Al Dubai (the sail hotel), Burj Khalifa, Atlantis, Mosques, indoor ski center, a ridiculous amount of malls, the Arabian Sea and a ton more. What did I decide to visit the world’s tallest building The Burj Kahlifa standing 163 stories tall, a mall and a Hard Rock Café. I know so so sad but with three trips here, I wanted to get a general idea of the lay of the land and on the next trip do something even more touristy and visit the sail hotel and have high tea.

Sure I didn’t step foot onto the 124th story observation tower, that would be crazy, but I did check out the super cool building and the mall in its basement that puts any American Mall to shame. What’s crazy is that each mall here is just big and has every store and restraint chain known to mankind. It was rather odd. I mean where can you go and find a Starbucks, Tim Horton’s, Caribou Coffee, TWG Tea store, N’spresso store and at least five other coffee and tea shops I’ve never heard of. There was even an aquarium in the mall I visited. Just unreal.

This town is just so metropolitan and traditional all at the same time. Take for example the busses and metro have sections for women and children. I saw tons of men and women in traditional garb and then lots of locals, tourists and visitors in every other type of garb. It truly felt like Vegas, with all the tall glistening buildings, malls and water fountains just no casinos in sight.

Honestly I was just speechless, what an amazing place. I can tell you that everyone I met was friendly and super helpful and I felt incredibly safe everywhere I went. I’m looking forward to my next trip and a chance to really check out the city and spend a bit more time looking at some of the older part of town and Souks and Bazars.

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Categories: Dubai, Photography, Travel, Travel Blog, Trip Report | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Dubai or Bust

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Sometimes you just gotta do it. In this case it was going to Dubai for half a day. Yup that’s right I said it, I went to Dubai for half a day. Sure call me crazy I have flown this far (to some other amazing places) before but only to turn back and get on the same plane and head home. But this time I decided to stay a while and enjoy the sights. Last October, there was an amazing mistake fare posted by a very small airline/website, in Norway, that allowed you to purchase tickets for travel on United Airlines or codeshare partner. The “deal” was only alive for 24 hours tops but, the website/airline http://www.Wideroe.no was selling flights all over the world originating from the US to points unknown without the fuel surcharges. That translated to fares from the East coast to Europe under $150 US roundtrip, or from the West Coast to Europe or the Middle East and Africa under $300. In anyone’s book that’s a good deal, you just had to find the right dates and viola all was set. There have been many stories posted about the “mistake fare” and I’ll refrain from rehashing it here, but if you’re curious juts google the website name and “United mistake fare” or check out this amazing deal post on Flyertalk to get more info.

So in my case I picked the furthest place I could fly on United at the cheapest price and booked it. For me that translated to Dubai, UAE. This was and has been someplace I’ve always wanted to visit but have not had time and or opportunity, until now. But since I could get a fare under $300, I signed myself up. In fact I did that three times, yes I am that loony. For me the prospect of getting 60,000 miles in the span of three quick trips that will get me 60% of the miles I need to keep my status for next year was just that hard to pass up. Plus I’d get a chance to do what I love fly, sleep, eat and sightsee. How bad can it be.

On this trip I HAD “got” to fly United, as some of you have noticed over the past year I’ve been having a hate hate relationship with them. They used to be my go to carrier of choice for domestic travel, and the airlines that has allowed me to experience some amazing trips on other carriers, with the miles I’ve earned from traveling them, they used to have the best premium reward redemption but not anymore. And with all of the shenanigans they have gone through with their merger with Continental, I’ve just gotten more bitter with age, quite the opposite of a fine wine. In any event the flights were actually pretty good, it just goes to show you how a good crew and decent seat can sure make a HUGE difference. This was a very simple routing to boot, San Francisco>LA>DC>Dubai and the exact return. Since I think I’ve covered many domestic trips on this blog, I’ll only talk about the flight from DC to Dubai. In fact on the trip home I think I slept 11 of the 13 hours between Dubai and DC, so there’s really not much to talk about anyway.

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United flies a Boeing 777-200 between DXB and DC in a three cabin configuration. I was booked in coach all the way, YIPPEE and although on the free upgrade list for the domestic portions, with my new status (read that as downgrade), I had a snowballs chance in hell of being upgraded. Consider that I was number 25 on the upgrade list from LAX to DC after they upgraded 12 customers into a cabin that seats 24, that’s how low I have fallen. Ouch. But upon arriving in DC I went to the kiosk to look at possibly changing my seat on the long 13 hour flight, I was hoping I could get a row with an open middle seat or better a whole open row. But to my surprise they were selling upgrades to business class. UA like many other carriers will try and sell upgrades at time of check in, and in this case I lucked out and was able to secure one. Sure it cost me a few miles, but hey to be able to enjoy a 13 hour flight in Business instead of Coach is always enjoyable. So I bit and took the offer. Not a bad middle to my trip.

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The super cool limited edition amenity kit with various covers featuring the United hubs. I got Cleveland…rocks…sadly come April it’ll no longer be a hub for UA. As for the fun stuff inside, they contain the usual hand of hope lotions and lip balm, socks, eye mask, pen and a few other goodies.

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The food was really great. I started with super jumbo shrimp and a spicy cocktail sauce, followed by a fresh green salad with creamy garlic dressing. My dinner was supposed to be Chicken Tikka Masala, but wasn’t. It was Beef curry rice lentils and spinach. Although not what I ordered it was super delicious. Somehow catering just swapped out the chicken for beef, but still an amazing dish, although not very appealing to look at. Somehow United does Indian food really really well.

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One dead soldier

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Oh and for desert yup an ice cream sunday with all the fixings. Sure it’s not Fentons, but for some reason getting ice cream on an airplane is just so darn decadent. It was just a fitting end to a nice meal, and to top it off with a little Baily’s on the side.

As I mentioned service was actually really good, and the food was also very good too. Food at 35,000 feet is always a crapshoot, and in this case I rolled the point so I was happy. Besides that I got to watch a couple of really good movies and enjoy about five hours of sleep so I was very happy when I landed at 3:00 PM an hour earlier then expected.

Categories: Dubai, Food, Travel, Travel Blog, Trip Report, United Airlines | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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