Vacation Report, India: Departure

Vacation Report, India: The Arrival

Vacation Report, India: Poetree Sarovar Portico

Vacation Report, India: Periyar National Park

Vacation Report, India: Grand Hyatt Mumbai

Vacation Report, India: Airport Lounges

Vacation Report, India: Departure

COK-DOH

Upon arriving at the airport I inquired to see if it was possible to upgrade to Premiere (Business Class). Finding out that there were seats available, we opted to pay the difference (cheaper than a single ticket from COK to DOH, amusingly enough) for the upgrade.

The seats were noticeably wider than economy, as to be expected, but were not lie-flat as it was a Boeing 737-800. They did, however, have extra recline and calf-rests which helped considerably. We were offered per-departure beverages and we were soon on our way.

Premiere Seating
Comfy!
Leg-Rest controls
Power!
Plane Demographics for #AvGeeks
MInt-Lime and Watermelon Juices

The only frustrating thing was that the TV screens were shared and were always on for the duration of the flight, so it made sleep a little difficult.

Warmed Nuts and Wine
Murgh Muligatawny
Chicken Shish Taouk / Laham Kefta / Grilled Prawns
Dessert!

DOH-LHR

For the flight from Doha to London-Heathrow, I opted to take the backwards facing window seat on the B777. While this made for some frustrating navigation when leaving my seat, it offered some excellent views of the terrain!

As we boarded, I managed to capture a few pictures of the suites available in the First Class cabin.

First Class Cabin
First Class Cabin
Scotch and Nuts!
Mezze Sampler
Poached Salmon
Lamb Shank
Sandwich Selection
Desserts!

Full Menu

Terrain Shots

London Approach
London Approach

Sheraton Skyline

With a 20 hour layover in London, we took some time to really catch up on sleep. After having spent a lot of time with recycled air and confined spaces, a nice big bed was definitely appreciated.

As a pleasant surprise, I was given a toy Mini-Cooper upon check-in (the local specialty) and was given a customized fruit basket! Talk about service! It is nice to see brand loyalty rewarded, truly.

LHR-DTW

The Champagne Belle

From London to Detroit we used Delta SkyMiles to book Upper Class tickets on Virgin Atlantic’s VS107. This flight is serviced by an Airbus A330-300. This was our first experience flying Virgin Atlantic, let alone their Upper Class product, so we were both extremely excited. The seats were arranged in a herringbone configuration with the ottomans facing the aisles.

Leather!
Seat Controls and IFE
Stowed LED Reading Lamp
Aux Inputs and USB charging (110V under the seat)
IFE
Swanky toiletry kit!

Though we already had a feeling we were in for a treat from everything we experienced getting situated, the meal service is what really made that clear to us. In addition to a private bar available (not pictured) behind the Upper Class cabin, the menu is carefully thought out with fairly healthy options. Furthermore, everything was adorable.

How can you not love this mug?
The other side of the mug
Salt and Pepper shakers!
Wholemeal dinner roll
Tomato Basil soup
Chicken Breast!
Steak and potatoes
Cheese for dessert
Pre-Landing Quiche

One interesting feature of the flight-map is that it also showed various landmarks, like the location of the Titanic, in addition to cities.

The “fun fact” map!

Full Menu

DTW-RDU

The last leg of our flight was by far the most frustrating. Instead of the initially scheduled 5 PM departure, our flight was moved up to 3 PM, which left very little time to get through customs and re-check all our bags. Thankfully, the Diamond Medallion line was very helpful and took care of rebooking both of us on the 8 PM flight (keeping us in First Class, no less). Though it took a fair amount of time on hold, everything was sorted out before we even boarded our flight in London. I love how helpful Delta staff are – they go above and beyond, consistently!

Instead of a regional jet, we returned home in a Boeing 717-200, which offered a lot more room for our cabin luggage (to our relief!).

Vacation Report, India: Airport Lounges

Vacation Report, India: The Arrival

Vacation Report, India: Poetree Sarovar Portico

Vacation Report, India: Periyar National Park

Vacation Report, India: Grand Hyatt Mumbai

Vacation Report, India: Airport Lounges

Vacation Report, India: Departure

Cochin International Airport

Cochin International Airport (COK) is the fourth busiest international airport in India and the seventh busiest in India, overall. Despite thisย  volume of traffic, on August 18th 2015, it became a fully solar powered airport. In fact, it is the first of its kind in the world.

Currently there are two terminals (T1: International, and T2: Domestic), with a third terminal under construction to take over international traffic, leaving the current international terminal to handle domestic traffic. The existing domestic terminal would then be for private planes only.

To give you an idea of the destination served by COK, I did a quick search on Google Flights to identify non-stop destinations. In addition to various location within India, there are flights to Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, various cities on the Arabian Peninsula, and Malรฉ.

Non-Stop Flights

Both domestic and international terminals have lounges available to PriorityPass members. While both lounges are named “Earth Lounge”, they offer different amenities. You can see the details of each lounge on the PriorityPass website, above.

International Terminal Lounge

Known as the Earth Lounge and available to everyone with a Priority Pass membership, or traveling Business Class, the lounge in the international terminal at COK is found on the third floor (level ‘2’) of the airport. It offers expansive views of the apron, which makes for some excellent plane watching! There is a buffet that is stocked with a decent spread of Indian goodies, as well as a bar.

Entering the lounge
Lots of seating!
IndiGo
Jet Airways B738
Saudi Arabian A330
Air India Express
AirAsia

Doha – Hamad International Airport

Though I might not agree with all the social policies of Qatar, the Doha airport was by far the safest I have felt throughout my entire vacation. The Hamad International Airport is positioned for expansion and has received many awards over the years. In fact, it is currently rated as having the best staff service in the Middle East and being the best airport in the Middle East. Any interaction with the staff will immediately make it clear why they have consistently won in these categories. They are spectacular in these regards.

In addition to having a truly world-class airport, the surrounding areas of Doha are being developed quite nicely. Driving from the hotel to the airport, we noticed that a large amount of plants were being planted. Though this serves multiple purposes, the one that has the most noticeable impact is that it reduces the dust in the air. In fact, within the next 10 years it shouldn’t be surprising to see this turn into a tourist destination.

Al Mujra Business Class Lounge

Since we weren’t flying Qatar airways from Doha to London-Heathrow, the lounges that were available to us were the Al Mujra Business Class Lounge or those available from Priority Pass. We opted for the former and we were not disappointed! The lounge itself is very spacious and offers ample seating and outlets to charge your devices. There are also many personal flight kiosks so you can remain up to date on your own departure time.

Lounge Seating
Fountain!
Personal flight-tracking

London-Heathrow

As we were departing on Virgin Atlantic flight 107, we made our way to Terminal 3. Thanks to the miles available and given the duration of the flight, I had booked Upper Class tickets. This allowed us entry to the Upper Class wing of Terminal 3, complete with private security lines as well as access to the expansive Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse.

Upper Class Wing Entry

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse

The Clubhouse itself is located beyond the shopping in Terminal 3, and is a fair distance from most of the gates served by Virgin Atlantic and Delta. Upon entry we were informed that in addition to a concierge, there was a deli, bar, spa and hair salon, and that we would be waited upon as soon as we were seated. Since this was our first time in a Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, we weren’t really sure what to expect, but the treatment blew us away! If you ever have the opportunity to visit a Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, you will not be disappointed.

Seating across from the deli
The bar and many leather couches
Seating across from the concierge
A full map of the facilities

As promised, as soon as we were seated, we were greeted by a very friendly waitress who took our orders for a quick breakfast. I opted for an Egg Royale, pictured below, and also poked about the deli. For those curious, the full menu can be found below as well.

Egg Royale!
Full Menu

Vacation Report, India: Grand Hyatt Mumbai // @HyattConcierge

Vacation Report, India: The Arrival

Vacation Report, India: Poetree Sarovar Portico

Vacation Report, India: Periyar National Park

Vacation Report, India: Grand Hyatt Mumbai

Vacation Report, India: Airport Lounges

Vacation Report, India: Departure

Grand Hyatt Mumbai

For our brief stay in Mumbai (Bombay), I opted to reside at the Grand Hyatt. Located near the airport it offered some appealing amenities, including a spa and multiple restaurants.

Upon arriving at the airport, I was greeted by a driver from the Grand Hyatt and promptly taken to the hotel. There, I was greeted by a personal assistant and taken to the room. Talk about service! All members of the staff that I had the pleasure of interacting with were incredibly helpful and polite.

Room

I stayed on the second floor (third floor for those of you in the US), and though no suites were available for upgrade, this room was spectacular. Certainly not disappointed!

Somewhat narrow, but packed full of features!
The left side of the room…
…And the right!
Closet and a restroom that can be sealed off from the room
Robe!
Bath salts and other wonderful things
Massive tub with extra hose!
Shower stall!
Yet more complimentary water
A second robe and some other treats…
Like a shoe-shine kit!
And two pairs of slippers!
The view from the room… with a private park below
Lighting controls on the right side of the bed, window shade controls on the other side (not pictured)
Universal power outlets!
A crunchy snack – complimentary
I feel wonderfully welcomed! ๐Ÿ˜€

Amenities

As I mentioned earlier, the Grand Hyatt houses more than one restaurant. Of these is one of the highest ranked Italian restaurants of Mumbai. Impressive!

Also at the hotel is the Oasis Spa, which I had the pleasure of experiencing. The prices are more than reasonable and I can’t recommend it enough. Do it!

Complimentary transfers are offered for those residing in suites, but as my upgrade request did not clear, I was only given a one-way transfer because of my status with Hyatt. Definitely not complaining, though, as it was the best hotel pickup experience I have had to date.

Vacation Report, India: Periyar National Park

Vacation Report, India: The Arrival

Vacation Report, India: Poetree Sarovar Portico

Vacation Report, India: Periyar National Park

Vacation Report, India: Grand Hyatt Mumbai

Vacation Report, India: Airport Lounges

Vacation Report, India: Departure

Periyar National Park

Periyar National Park, and the tiger reserve, is located in Thekkady within the state of Kerala. Situated around the Periyar lake, it is a protected region that offers for some spectacular views. Unfortunately, given the diurnal nature of tigers, we weren’t able to see any of them during our visit. ๐Ÿ™ Alas!

I have quite a few photos, below, from our recent visit to the region. You can see that the water level is considerably lower than normal due to a few years of consistent drought. Given the use of hydroelectric power in Kerala, this has implications beyond that of the animals in the region.

Rawr!
Beautiful sculpture expressing the relationship between animals
Map of the reserve itself
Snackable Tortoise
An old palace… now on-park accommodations!

Regional Flora

At the entrance to the park are specimens of trees that are found in the area. They were kind enough to attach placards to the trees to identify them as well as their fruit and purpose!

Teak

Wild Fig
Kindal

Longan
Karakil
Charcoal
African Tulip

Animals!

As I mentioned earlier, we weren’t able to see any tigers, which was sad though not unexpected given their diurnal nature. If you want to see tigers, the best times are early in the morning or during twilight hours in the evening, as that is when they are most active.

We were able to get rather close with many monkeys, however, as well as see water buffalo, an elephant, and many birds.

Monkey!
“If you aren’t going to give me treats, I’ll get my own!”
No trip is complete without a selfie!
Water Buffalo
Stork!
Wild Boar!
Or as our guide called them “Wild Piggies”
Elephant!
Google kindly auto-animated for us

Now… remember kids… silence is a best. ๐Ÿ™‚

Shhhh!

Vacation Report, India: Poetree Sarovar Portico

Vacation Report, India: The Arrival

Vacation Report, India: Poetree Sarovar Portico

Vacation Report, India: Periyar National Park

Vacation Report, India: Grand Hyatt Mumbai

Vacation Report, India: Airport Lounges

Vacation Report, India: Departure

Poetree Sarovar Portico

This branch of the Sarovar resort chain is located in the hills of Thekkady in Kerala. Though not a long distance from Kochi, because of the switchbacks and road conditions, it took more than six hours to arrive.

Arrival

On the way we drove past quite a few tea plantations, which piqued our interest as all of us enjoy a nice cup of tea! (Though you’ll never hear me turn down a cup of coffee, regardless of the hour!)

Kerala is known as “God’s Own Country”
So. Much. Tea.
Delicious caffeine…
Can you smell it?

The resort entrance was tucked away behind a few backroads and further up a hill, which made for an adventure in and of itself, but once we were there, it was smooth sailing.

Resort entrance
Gorgeous from both sides!
Beautiful wall-art in the lobby
More wall art

Rooms

Our rooms were located a short distance away from the main building, and offered an excellent view of the valley. Most mornings we were greeted by the sounds of wildlife from outside.

Spacious bathroom
Gorgeous views!
A second window and the bed itself
Back-lit art!
A bench for luggage or to put on shoes
The view from the balcony!

Christmas Decorations

The infinity pool area was completely decorated for Christmas Eve dinner, and looked quite lovely.

The infinity pool on arrival
Decked out for Christmas Eve!

Upcoming Deals

Sarovar Vasundhara
Sarovar Portico

If you have some vacation time coming up and don’t mind the trek, I highly recommend taking advantage of some of the deals at the Sarovar properties!

 

Vacation Report, India: Arrival

Vacation Report, India: The Arrival

Vacation Report, India: Poetree Sarovar Portico

Vacation Report, India: Periyar National Park

Vacation Report, India: Grand Hyatt Mumbai

Vacation Report, India: Airport Lounges

Vacation Report, India: Departure

The Route

We took a rather round-about route because we wanted to land directly in Kochi as opposed to another city (like Delhi, Mumbai, etc.) and go through customs there. To achieve this, we flew Delta to London, British Airways to Doha, and then Jet Airways to Kochi.

Outbound Routing

RDU-ATL

On the flight to Atlanta, we had the opportunity to try Delta’s new premium peanut snack. No more self-branded nuts!

Honey Roasted!

We had a short five hour layover in Atlanta, so we went to the SkyClub in terminal E and stretched out a little. We took this opportunity to get a quick nap before our next leg.

ATL-LHR

Selfie!

On our next leg, we flew in DeltaOne on one of Delta’s 767-300ERs. This meant we got Westin blankets and pillows, as well as Tumi toiletry kits. On longer flights, this makes all the difference in the world.

Lie-Flat Seats!
Personal lighting, 110V outlet, and USB charging.
Ridiculously comfortable bedding and the Tumi kit
Lumbar massage? YES PLEASE!
Passive noise-cancelling headphones
The Tumi Kit
Older OS but the screen tilts!

For our snack, we were given spiced Georgia pecans. These were offered with our selection of water, orange juice, or champagne.

Champagne and Juice
Spicy!

We were then introduced to our purser and given our dinner menus. I opted for the lamb while Carrie opted for the fish.

Once we were in the air, we were given our three course meals: appetizers, main course, and our choice of dessert.

Starters
Creole Blackened Fish
Lamb!
Wine for my lamb
Cheese plate for dessert
Snack!

We made excellent time thanks to some storms in the US giving us a very strong tailwind. The downside being that parts of the flight were bumpier than normal.

Zoom!

Closer to London, we were given the option of having breakfast. Unfortunately, they didn’t bring the cabin lighting up so we weren’t able to get a very good picture of it, but it was delicious!

London-Heathrow Sheraton Skyline

We planned a nice long layover in both London and Doha to give ourselves some padding for local customs, and time to leave the airport to find a local hotel. Here, we opted for the Sheraton Skyline. They offer discounted cabs to the hotel and since I had SPG Ambassador service, I was able to arrange everything well in advance!

London-Heathrow South Gallery

Upon returning to the hotel, we had plenty of time to relax at the South Gallery, as we were flying Club World to Doha. The WiFi was nice and fast, and the food was quite nice. The cheese and wine were probably my favorite – no surprise, there!

Waters
Wines
Quiche
Cheese!
Sammiches?
Juices…
More juices!
Chili… rice… pasta…
Soup!

LHR-DOH

Though we were late in leaving for our plane, we made it with plenty of time thanks to heavy fog which delayed our departure by an hour. Once we were in the air, it was smooth sailing, though! This was my first experience with a Club World seat, and though we didn’t have Westin bedding, the seat itself was much more comfortable than on Delta (even without the massage).

The Boeing 777-200 we were on was divided into four cabins: First Class, Club World, World Traveler Plus, and World Traveler. The Club World cabin was arranged in a 2-4-2ย  configuration, which was a little cramped compared to the 1-2-1 layout of Delta’s 767. We also do not have direct aisle-access for all seats as we do with Delta. The nice thing was that since the seats were arranged facing each other, Carrie and I were able to talk to one another without having to turn constantly.

Conversations without twisting…
Makes for happy necks!
The seat!
TV controls
Folding TV and table
Seat controls
Bubbly!

Instructions for operating the seat!

As with our DeltaOne experience, we were given our menus by our purser and asked to select both our appetizer and main course. I opted for the steak while Carrie went with the chicken.

Mezze plate!
Dessert!
Delicious steak…
Chicken!

A very cool feature of our Boeing 777-200 was that our in-flight-entertainment OS showed us what we were flying over from different angles!

Viewing Options
Over-Wing View

Close to landing, we were given a very quick breakfast. Pastries, smoothies, and fresh fruit.

Pastries and fresh fruit!
Buttermilk and oat smoothie
Mozzarella danish

Doha Airport

Upon landing in the Doha airport, we made our way to the arrivals area to collect our bags. I was lucky enough to notice a very distinct curved wingtip and was rewarded with a sight of one of Qatar Airway’s Airbus 350s! For an AvGeek like myself, this was a real treat!

A350!
Another shot!

Doha Marriott

Since we had 13 hours in Doha, we opted to head to the nearby Marriott. Thanks to my status, I was able to guarantee a room for the same day! Gotta love it! The light poles we drove by were actually laser etched with the Qatari National Anthem, which I thought was a nice touch. They also change color periodically!

The beds!
The TV and table
Amazing shower
Opulent bathroom!
The balcony!
Balcony view at night
They CHANGE COLOR!

DOH-COK

Our last flight was in economy on Jet Airways, on a Boeing 737-800. Since it was just 3 hours and 40 minutes, we thought we could tough it out. It was fairly cramped, but we were still given a full meal service and fresh tea, which was nice.

Overall it was a very positive experience, and I am decidedly pleased with my expenditure of miles!

@SPG & @Marriott Q1 Promotion

Starwood, now part of Marriott, has announced their Q1 promotion for 2017. Called SPG Double Take, you earn double-points on your first three stays and some decent bonuses beyond that. An extra 10,000 points once you hit 20 nights, for example.

Promotion Details

You can register on the SPG Promo Dashboard. Registration is between December 15th and March 15th, and the stays have to be completed between January 16th and April 15th.

Read up on the details over at One Mile at a Time!