Posts Tagged Dubai

Airline Rankings Around the World

We ended up flying on 8 different airlines during our 30/40 World Tour, since we booked our flights individually.  Below is our ranking of airlines from best to worst.  This is not meant to be a comprehensive study; it’s merely our impressions from the economy flights we experienced during the summer of 2011.

View over New Zealand

View from our flight over New Zealand

  1. Air Emirates (Mauritius to Dubai; Dubai to Munich)
  2. Air New Zealand (Auckland to Nouméa)
  3. American Airlines (DC to LA)
  4. United Airlines (Madrid to DC)
  5. Qantas Airways (Nouméa to Sydney)
  6. Air Mauritius (Melbourne to Mauritius)
  7. Air Pacific (LA to Fiji; Fiji to Auckland)
  8. Air Berlin (Munich to Barcelona)

To learn the price of each of these flights (ranging from $137 to $946 per person), see the previous post on the cost of our trip.  But price did not directly correlate with a positive experience on an airline.

Air Emirates

Air Emirates flight attendants

The signature red hat and sweeping scarf of the Air Emirates flight attendants

We were so impressed with our Air Emirates flights.  The uniform of the flight attendants with the red hat and sweeping white scarf is quite striking and exotic.  When we first boarded, I wondered about the practicality of such an outfit.  But after we were airborne, the hats came off.

The Air Emirates food was delicious.  I’m sure you’re laughing about delicious airplane food, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Perhaps it’s because I haven’t eaten hot food on an airplane in years!

The personalized entertainment screens for each seat were the best of all of our flights.  The screens were the biggest of any airline and provided on-demand entertainment options including movies and games.

Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand was another of our favorite airlines.  Their economy seats were beautifully passenger centric.  The back of each seat had a drink pouch that fit my water bottle perfectly.  It’s so easy and obvious, but I’ve never seen it on another airline.  I usually have to stuff my bottle into the magazine compartment, which forces the whole pocket wide open and takes up far more space in already cramped quarters.

We also loved the personal entertainment screens for each seat, and both watched Cedar Rapids at our own pace.  I started my movie slightly earlier than Mr. HalfFull, so I was pre-laughing at all the funny parts.  Finally, he asked me to pause so that he could catch up and we could laugh together!

I think it’s wonderful when airlines let you play and pause your own movie.  You can sleep when you like, use the restroom whenever, and still catch the full movie.  It’s so nice to be in control!

American, United & Qantas

I don’t really have any strong feelings one way or the other about American Airlines, United Airlines, or Qantas Airways.  I’m also not married to that specific order.  All the flights were fine; nothing stood out to me positively or negatively, so they are all nestled in the middle of my list.

Air Mauritius

Air Mauritius only issues paper tickets.  Enough said!

Air Pacific

Air Pacific

Our Air Pacific flight landed early in the morning in Nadi, Fiji

Air Pacific ranks toward the bottom of the list because of their carry-on policy.  We specifically purchased our bags to be compliant with carry-on size restrictions.  But we had no idea that Air Pacific also has a weight restriction for carry-on bags.

I’ve never had my carry-on bag put on a scale.  But our bags turned out to be too heavy, and we were forced to check them.  I think this may have been because it was a double-decker plane which required more attention to avoid being top-heavy.

I don’t particularly mind checking my bags if I don’t get charged an extra fee.  But the problem was that we had packed with the intention of carrying our bags, meaning that we had our rain jackets rolled on the outside and other items clipped to the outside of the bags.  It’s stressful to repack a bag at the ticket counter with a line of people staring me down for being ill-prepared, especially when I thought I was perfectly prepared!

The other problem with Air Pacific is that they don’t have a regular counter in the LAX airport, so we couldn’t check in when we arrived from Washington, DC.  We we returned to the airport hours later, the line was frustratingly long and we didn’t get the seats we wanted.

Air Berlin

AirBerlin plane

Air Berlin was our least favorite airline of the 30/40 World Tour

Our original plan was to travel via train through Europe on a Eurail pass.  But for our specific plans, it wasn’t cost-effective or a good use of our time.  So we decided to book a budget flight from Germany to Spain.  It was our worst flight of the trip.

It included our only airport layover and our only flight delay.  Double whammy!  Plus, the children on the flight were unbearable and my sandwich was inedible.

In retrospect, maybe it wasn’t as bad as it seemed at the time.  Perhaps our recent awesome flights on Air Emirates skewed our judgement.

 

  • What’s your favorite airline?
  • Have you had a delicious airplane meal?
  • Do you know of another airline that still only uses paper tickets?
  • Have you had a carry-on bag weighed?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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Coffee Around the World

Mr. HalfFull got his photo op around the world. Now it’s time for mine.

If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know I drink coffee.  In fact, when I ventured around the world on the 30/40 World Tour:  Quest for Passion, I found that my passions are coffee and napping.  I learned this through various opportunities to enjoy them and be deprived of them.  Undoubtedly, coffee and napping are essential to my life.  Deep, I know.

Let’s take a photo tour of my coffee encounters around the world…

Capitol Grounds lattes

I was armed with a latte from Capitol Grounds on my very first flight out of Washington, DC.

Fiji, our first country on the 30/40 World Tour, was not coffee aficionado friendly.  At our first coffee stop, they tried to tell me that Coke was just like coffee!

Ms. HalfEmpty eats breakfast

Much of my time in Fiji was spent on primitive islands with instant coffee.  Quelle horreur!

I didn’t get real coffee until our final night in Fiji when we checked into Sofitel and I had an amazing cappuccino.

My coffee experience in New Zealand was the complete opposite of Fiji. New Zealand has the most coffee roasters per capita of any country in the world.  They take their coffee culture very seriously; even gas stations have espresso machines with baristas, and no one serves drip coffee.

Coffee @ Mecca Stonehouse

My first full day in New Zealand included a latte (and internet time) at Mecca Stonehouse in Mission Bay outside Auckland.

Blogging in Paihia

I seem to always have coffee while on the netbook, including here at Paihia wharf.

Volcanic Latte

We learned that coffee drinks come from volcanoes at the museum in New Plymouth.

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

I even had a coffee in hand outside the Te Papa Museum in Wellington.

Circa Theater

Later that same day when we went to see a show at Circa Theater, just across from the museum, I had another coffee.  Zoom to see me drinking it.

New Zealand was perhaps the best coffee country on the 30/40 World Tour, but the French-speaking countries like New Caledonia weren’t bad either.

Café Malongo in Nouméa

While waiting in line at Café Malongo in Nouméa, I considered my espresso order.

Change in Nouméa

After using bills to buy coffee, we count our change in Nouméa.

Coffee at Le Surf Hotel

Once again enjoying coffee with a side of internet at our hotel in New Caledonia.

Coffee School

When we reached Sydney, Australia, I considered joining coffee school, but decided I didn’t have enough time.

Australian Parliament

I brought a cup of joe with me to the Australian Parliament Building in Canberra.  They wouldn’t let me bring it inside, but I had no problem devouring it quickly!

Phamish in St. Kilda

The coffee drink and coffee netbook seemed to pair well at a restaurant called Phamish in St. Kilda, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia.

Heidelberg Train Station

After visiting our new Australian friends in Heidelberg (another suburb of Melbourne), I waited for the train with coffee in hand.

Latte Art in Melbourne

Loving the latte art at a café in Melbourne before our flight to Mauritius.

Turkish Coffee in Dubai

Enjoying turkish coffee in Dubai with Sir Expat

Coffee in German Biergarten

Coffee in a German biergarten on Lake Starnberg with my cousins. Yes, I know you usually drink beer in a biergarten, but we had done plenty of that the night before!  Don’t I look just like a beermaid, but with coffee and less cleavage?

Coffee @ Marianplatz

Any time of day is a good time for coffee — even late night at Marianplatz in Munich.

Lunch @ Barcelo Sants

A cappuccino complemented my 3rd course of lunch nicely at our hotel in Barcelona, Spain.

  • Do you try to limit your coffee intake?
  • What things/actions are essential to your life?
  • Do you have any coffee location recommendations for me?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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Dubai Whirlwind

Yoga in the Desert

Mr. HalfFull and I arrived in Dubai at 4:25 AM for the start of our 36-hour whirlwind tour of the United Arab Emirates.

You may be wondering why we spent less than 2 days in Dubai.  Valid question.

Travel Plans

We wanted to minimize airport layovers during the 30/40 World Tour.  But sometimes there are no direct flights.  Usually, we were able to make week-long layovers in a separate country, as we did in Fiji and New Caledonia.  But sometimes it just didn’t work out.

International flights only entered and departed Mauritius on Wednesdays, so that was a limiting factor.  The original plan was to fly from Mauritius to Munich to visit my cousins, and the best flight was via Air Emirates with a layover in Dubai.

We really had no intention of visiting the desert in the middle of the summer.  But my mom’s cousin, Sir Expat, a British gentleman (in the most chivalrous sense of the word) living in Dubai was willing to host us!  He has lived there for years, speaks Arabic, and has a car and an extra bedroom.  What more could we ask for?

We figured we could handle 104° temperatures for 36 hours and booked the layover.  It turned out to be a great decision!

Dubai Airport

Ms. HalfEmpty at the baggage claim in the Dubai airport

Airport

We experienced one of our best flights on Air Emirates and arrived in Dubai very early in the morning.  The UAE customs agent was perhaps the least friendly we encountered.  He didn’t seem to think traveling around the world was a valid reason to visit Dubai.  Perhaps it was because we were spending such little time in his country.  But after some stern looks, he stamped our passports.

The airport was expansive and modern with cultural touches.  For example, there were huge rugs with cushions and trunks in various locations like baggage claim.

Please don’t blow up the picture and look at my sleepy expression after our red-eye flight.  I kept wanting to cuddle up on those cushions while waiting for my luggage.  But after the encounter with the customs agent, I thought it was probably best to wait for an invitation before sullying a ceremonial area.

Despite being before 5 AM, Sir Expat was waiting for us at the airport to shuttle us back to his flat.  As we stepped outside the heavily air-conditioned airport, the blast of heat hit me.  The sun wasn’t even up and we were in a covered parking garage.  What had I gotten myself into?

Sir Expat asked if we wanted to drive with the top down.  Ordinarily, this would have been a rare treat.  But it just seemed too hot.  How does anyone drive with their top down in Dubai???  I guess they can only do it in the dark before 5 AM in the summer.

Driving Tour

Driving in Dubai

Driving toward Atlantis, The Palm Resort

Thankfully, Sir Expat invited us to nap for a few hours before setting out to see the city.  The city is filled with skyscrapers and lush manicured lawns surrounded by desert sand.  It is decidedly non-environmental.  But it’s an architect’s dream.

One of the trends in the UAE is land reclamation.  Basically, they create more land by filling in the sea.  But they don’t just dump the rock and sand in a circle or rectangle.  Of course not!  This is Dubai.  They do things big.

No Boat Parking

It seems like they are really big on rules in Dubai!  (In case you can’t make it out, those are a bunch of boats around the No Parking For Boats sign.)

Dubai is home to the Palm Islands, where each man-made island is in the shape of a palm tree — a tree trunk with a crown of fronds surrounded by a separate crescent-shaped island.  The original plan was to create 10 islands, but the real estate bust hit and they only completed 3.

Sir Expat drove us to the first palm island — Palm Jumeirah.  The trunk is populated with apartment buildings, while the fronds are filled with private villas.  We drove through an underwater tunnel to reach the crescent island that surrounds the palm and is home to Atlantis, The Palm Resort.

Armadillo Subway Station

View of the subway station on the left nicknamed “The Armadillo” because of its color, shape, and scale-like exterior

The next artificial island project in progress is World Islands, which will be a map of the world in the ocean.  How crazy is that?  We were able to see some of the progress looking down from the top of Burj Khalifa — the tallest building in the world.  But I wasn’t really able to make out any specific country.  Pretty soon, I guess you will be able to say that you live in Japan — Japan Island off the coast of Dubai!

Souk Madinat Jumeirah

Mr. HalfFull and Sir Expat marvel at the architecture in the Souk Madinat Jumeirah

Next on the tour, Sir Expat shuttled us to Souk Madinat Jumeirah, a traditional Arabian souk with wind towers and lantern lit hallways.  It’s filled with boutique shops and restaurants throughout the beautifully adorned hallways.  We sat down to enjoy iced coffee and a snack before proceeding on our 36-hour whirlwind tour.  Plus, it provided a great view of another architectural icon — Burj al Arab.

Burj al Arab

Sir Expat found the perfect photo-op location to capture Ms. HalfEmpty & Mr. HalfFull with the Burj al Arab

Remember how I told you about the heat? It’s so hot that it’s illegal to labor outside between noon and 3 PM. Sounds a bit like Spanish siesta time, but I’m not sure that’s the custom. I’ll tell you more about my Spanish siestas when I update you on our trip to Spain in a post to come.

Dubai Creek

Ms. HalfEmpty along Dubai Creek with the sacks of goods and crazy painted boats

Sir Expat also took us for a drive along Dubai Creek where we were able to see the import/export business. We saw fleets of decrepit multicolored boats that didn’t look especially seaworthy. But apparently, these ships travel back and forth from Dubai to India carting all sorts of goods including refrigerators, car parts, and sacks of unknown goods. It was crazy to see stacks of all these items along the shore. I was only out there for a few minutes before I was too hot to move — and I wasn’t even lifting goods!

Shopping Mall

Dubai International Mall

Look at the tile work on the ceiling of the mall!

Since it’s so hot in Dubai, malls are a favorite hangout. These malls are magnificent…if you like that sort of thing. I don’t really find malls to be exceptional havens of culture, but when in Dubai, do as the Emiratis.

Dubai International Mall (Spain section)

Ms. HalfEmpty and Sir Expat walk around inside the mall designed to look like Spain at night

We visited a couple impressive malls over our 36 hours. One had each section decorated in the style of a different part of the world – China, India, Persia, Egypt, Spain, etc. It was almost like a museum. We saw ships, elephants, and impressive tile mosaic work. Don’t worry, the mall has stores and restaurants too. I even saw appropriate Muslim swimwear for women.

Mulism Swimwear

Ms. HalfEmpty finds swimwear for Muslim women

Matt wanted to hold my hand in the mall.  Ordinarily, this would not have been an issue, but Dubai has fairly strict PDA rules.  In fact, Sir Expat told us about a recent case where a British couple was jailed for kissing in a restaurant.  I only had 36 hours; I couldn’t end up in jail!  When Mr. HalfFull tried to be funny and touch my booty in the mall, I just about lost it. Why is he such a rule flaunter?

Desert Safari

What trip to Dubai would be complete without a desert safari? Sir Expat booked us on a tour at the hotel next door. He knows about everything!

Mr. HalfFull, Sir Expat and I piled into a Land Cruiser with our driver, Ahmed, for the drive out to the dunes. First there was a stop at the gas station so we could caravan to the dunes with the rest of the fleet of Land Cruisers. Little did we know how important it would be to have those other cars with us.

Sand Dune Driving

Roller coaster ride through the sand dunes

Before driving on the dunes, each SUV pulled over to let air out of the tires for optimal sand driving conditions. Of course, I sat in the front seat to truly experience the thrill of the drive. It was a bit like a roller coaster, but without the safety features. At any time, this SUV could flip over. I’m not sure my already battered neck appreciated the ride, but how could we not do it?

Climbing up the Sand Dune

Sir Expat lends a hand to Ms. HalfEmpty as she ascends a sand dune. It was a workout!

Remember how I told you that my mom would have freaked out on the narrow, curvy roads along cliffs in Australia? I’m not sure she would have survived the sand dunes. She’s the type of person who would grab the “oh sh!t” handle in a car on a normal drive and use her pretend passenger brake pedal. But even I was grabbing the “oh sh!t” handle on the sand dunes. I’m not sure I would have been able to stay in my seat otherwise!

Sand Dune Jumping

Mr. HalfFull gets mad air

A few paragraphs ago, I mentioned how being in a fleet of vehicles turned out to be a good thing. Our driver had only been driving the dunes for 6 months. One of the keys to driving on the dunes is never, I repeat NEVER, drive along the top ridge of the dune.  Or you will get stuck!  Like we did.

Our Land Cruiser was straddling the top of the sand dune with the undercarriage resting on the sand and the wheels touching nothing.  Ahmed tried several times to move, but we were stuck.  Fortunately, another vehicle from our group was nearby.  We all hopped out while they towed our Land Cruiser (in case it tipped over).  The first time, the belt came loose.  But eventually, our wheels were back on the sand.

Dining Bedouin Style

Sir Expat and Mr. HalfFull dine Bedouin-style at a low table in the desert

We drove further into the desert until we reached the camp.  There, Mr. HalfFull and I rode a camel together.  It was pretty much what I expected until it was over and the camel made an abrupt drop down.  Perhaps they should have told us to hold on.  But this was more about adventure than safety.

The camp was also our dinner location at low tables surrounding a stage.  Apparently, the camel knew where the food was too.  After we all got through the appetizer line and the camel rides were over, the camel decided he would enter the walls of the camp and help himself to a few hors d’oeuvres as well!

Henna Tattoo

Ms. HalfEmpty shows off her “poop finger” tattoo

I also got a henna tattoo in the camp.  My original idea was to get my name in Arabic, but the woman doing the tattoos didn’t know Arabic.  Instead, she had her own style of tattoo swirls.  It all looked fine and dandy until she got to the end of my finger close to my nail.  Instead of a nice elegant line, there was a blob of paint.  For the rest of the trip, Matt called it “poop finger.”  Of course, “poop finger” was the darkest and therefore, the last part of the tattoo to wear off.

Burj Kalifa

Burj Kalifa

Mr. HalfEmpty and Ms. HalfFull pose outside the Burj Kalifa

Sir Expat made us a reservation to go to the top of the Burj Kalifa on our final day.  Yes, it’s the same building of the Tom Cruise stunt in Mission:  Impossible — Ghost Protocol.  We only went on the inside of the building, Tom was on the outside.  Minor difference.

Gold Machine

Mr. HalfFull discovers the gold vending machine at the top of the Burj Kalifa

Have you ever seen a gold vending machine?  We encountered one at the top of the Burj Kalifa.  It only takes cash and this one contained gold nuggets in the shape of the building.  So it’s a souvenir AND and an investment!  No, we didn’t actually buy gold to cart around in our duffels.

The entrance to the Burj Kalifa is actually in a sprawling shopping mall.  So after our building tour, we walked around our second mall of the trip.  This one had a wing of super high-end stores, an aquarium, and a skating rink!  One of the most interesting things for me to witness was women in full veils, with nothing showing but their eyes, eating in restaurants.  I’m not sure I would even want to eat out if I was so encumbered.

Apparently, we also exported Kim Kardashian to this Dubai mall.  There was a larger-than-life poster announcing her appearance at the grand opening of a new milkshake shop in the mall.  Aren’t they lucky!

Kim Kardashian at the Mall

Ms. HalfEmpty poses next to Miley Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan, La Toya Jackson, Shaquille O’Neal, Pamela Anderson, and the larger-than-life Kim Kardashian in the mall

After our final mall adventure it was time to grab our bags and head to the airport for our afternoon flight.  Dubai reminded me a bit of Vegas.  Both are deserts filled with skyscrapers and the craziest things.  When considering if they should build the next outlandish feature, they probably ask why not rather than why.

  • Excluding airport-only layovers, what’s the shortest amount of time you’ve spent in a country? 
  • Have you found customs agents to be generally friendly or gruff?  Did the length of your stay matter?
  • Have you visited super hot climates?  How did you fare?
  • What crazy things have you seen in a shopping mall?
  • Have you ever required a tow out of an unusual place?
  • What atypical item have you acquired from a vending machine?
  • What American “exports” have you been surprised to see overseas?
  • How do you feel about turning a desert into a lush, green oasis with air-conditioned skyscrapers?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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