Introduction: A Hop to the Maldives
Review: Park Hyatt New York
Review: Emirates Lounge JFK
Review: Emirates First Class A380 JFK-DXB
Review: Park Hyatt Dubai
Review: Emirates First Class Lounge Dubai
Review: Emirates First Class 777 DXB-MLE
Getting to the Park Hyatt Hadahaa
Review: Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa
Review: Etihad Business A330 MLE-AUH
Review: Etihad First Class Lounge
Review: Etihad First Class A380 AUH-JFK
Review: American Business A321T JFK-LAX
My heart beat quickly as we walked (skipped) down the jet bridge toward the Airbus A380 that would be taking us to Dubai. Was this really happening? I thought to myself. It seemed surreal. This is too cool! I thought to myself.
Moments later I was onboard, handing my boarding pass to the purser and being escorted to the left, into the first class cabin. Score!
It shouldn’t have felt too surprising, but the cabin looked just like I’d seen in the pictures. But that was just the point. Emirates had seemed to me a thing of dreams (and now, given the Alaska devaluation, it may be just that), so it was surreal to actually be on board.
Emirates fits 14 closed-door suites into the front of the upper deck on the A380. While these are huge airplane seats by any measure (especially compared to the 399 economy seats downstairs), you can feel that this is a squeeze the second you enter the cabin. There’s a ton of bling, including the signature “Emirates” signage at the front of the cabin, but it almost feels as if the bling is all there to help obfuscate how relatively small these first class seats are.
Inside the suite was a 23 inch wide seat that fully reclined into a bed. While that’s incredibly spacious by any measure compared to an economy seat, for first class on an international carrier that’s as skinny as seats get. For comparison, on Asiana I had a 25.5 inch-wide seat, and I had 26.5 inches on Korean Air. The real winner in terms of seat width is Singapore Airlines, which offers 30 inches in business class and 35 inches in first on its A380. That’s a foot wider than Emirates!
Everything inside the suite (and the plane, for that matter) was glitzy and over-the-top, with polished wood, gold trim finishes and the like. To the right of my chair, tucked back in the corner, was all the bedding I would need to get a comfortable night’s rest, including a blanket and a mattress pad. To my immediate right was a small touchscreen device for controlling everything inside the suite, including the chair and the TV.
In front of the touchpad was my suite’s mini-bar, which popped open to reveal an assortment of drinks. While in theory it’s super cool to have a minibar in-suite, it’s not refrigerated, so the drinks are warm. Also, the whole point of first class is the extremely attentive service; I could get anything I wanted for the next 12 hours at the touch of a button. Needless to say, the minibar went unused for the entire flight.
Why have the minibar then? Because, Emirates. You realize very quickly once you’re on board this plane that they go out of the way to make the absurd real just because they can. Gold bling? Check. Second serving of caviar? Check. Shower? Check. Why? Emirates.
In front of me, there was lots going on.
First, the TV. Very big, beautiful, awesome. Had I watched any movies, I would have loved doing so on such a large screen. Below the television was a small vanity, with a mirror and various creams and products. To the left of the vanity sat a small snack basket. I was still full from the lounge, and craving to be hungry before dinner once we took off, so I didn’t even look at what was in the basket, which was taken away prior to take-off, and returned after we had reached cruising altitude. In one corner up front was a small lamp, and in the other was a fresh rose. Nice touch!
Also, there was a drawer in the console, which opened to reveal a small writing kit, with paper, envelopes and a pen. Now, if only Emirates had a post office on board!
With everything going on, ready for take-off, I was getting super excited. Clearly, it was time to bust out the selfie stick.
Last touch before take-off, the flight attendants distributed amenity kits, which were very well stocked with expensive, though overly-scented Bulgari bath products.
While I received a men’s amenity kit, the women’s amenity kit was equally well-stocked.
I decided it was time to walk up to the restrooms and change in to something a little more comfortable. The flight attendants had distributed pajamas, but I normally find airline pajamas to fit weirdly and be too warm for comfortable travel, so I brought my own and saved the specially-branded clothing for later.
At the front of the First Class cabin are two lavatories, branded “Shower Suites.” These lavatories are as large and fancy as they come in the sky, with heated floors, a bench, tons of bath products and, of course a shower.
There are two Shower Suites in the First Class cabin, mirror reflections of each other, one on either side of the plane. See that perfect pyramid of small towels? Every time someone used the lavatory throughout the flight, one of the two lavatory attendants cleaned things up and topped off the pyramid. By the end of the flight I craved for paper towels!
Having changed into athletic shorts for the long flight, I returned to my seat and was offered a date and arabic coffee. I don’t like either, but didn’t want to be rude! Now, finally, we were ready to go. I switched on the tail view camera on my television to watch as we prepared to take off.
I had never before been on a plane with a tail camera before, and enjoyed being able to watch our travel from “outside.” One thing I did notice is that there is a 1-2 second delay on the video, which means that when you feel the airplane bank on a turn you watch it a few moments later on the screen. I found this to be a bit disorienting. Danielle and I had middle seats (perfect for couples; otherwise I would have selected a window) so this was the only option for seeing outside, and I made do.
Take-off roll was smooth and quiet, as per usual on a plane of this size. Sitting as we were on the second deck, we were relatively far away from the engines. It hardly feels like you’re on an airplane in the A380, and you definitely do not feel like you’re moving fast enough to get into the air when you lift off. How a structure as large and heavy as that plane is able to fly with such ease I will never fully understand. Oh, aerodynamics!
Once airborne, the flight attendants jumped into action, distributing menus and reminding us that Emirates has a “Dine on Demand” concept. Rather than serving a set, multi-course meal at standard times (the norm for most airlines) Emirates lets you order what you want, when you want it.
We were already a half hour into flying, so I wanted it now. I had to maximize every one of the precious minutes I had on board, each of which was costing me 125 Alaska Airlines miles (yes, I did the math)!
To start, I was poured some champagne, 2006 Dom Perignon, to be precise, which was served with warmed nuts. Then, I was brought a trio of amuse bouche, which I didn’t touch, and didn’t regret not touching. The champagne, though, was fantastic.
After that, the flight attendant set up my table for a proper dinner. The serving ware on Emirates didn’t strike me as particularly fancy (certainly nothing like I would come to experience on Etihad later in the trip), and had more of the feel of a nice business class setup. Not that this was a big deal, but I want to be comprehensive in my review. I was also given a bread basket, with an assortment of breads.
Now was the time for caviar. I was super excited. I love caviar, and have been fortunate enough to enjoy it during my short years, as well as share the love affair with Danielle. Unlike many airlines, Emirates doesn’t even serve you a small container of caviar. Rather, they give you a big ‘ole scoop of fish eggs. The caviar came with all the usual fixings, including egg, onions, and blinis (3, to be precise; I asked for more). I was so exited to devour the caviar that I forgot to take a picture until after I’d eaten the whole thing. Apologies.
Next up, I ordered the Arabic Mezze, which came as trio of plates with many small dishes. The mezze was good, but not fantastic. On a future flight, I would probably pass on this dish.
At this point, I was stuffed. Like totally full. And I hadn’t even ordered my main course! I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to comprehensively review the meal service, but I was not about to make myself sick before being stuck in my seat for ten more hours. I sat and rested my belly for a few minutes, got antsy, and settled on ordering a cheese plate for dessert before calling it quits. I owed it to my readers!
This was no cheese plate. This was a cheese platter, more than a meal in and of itself. The picture does not do justice to the sheer amount of cheese I was given, and then completely wasted, but try to remember that the grapes were tiny, and then you can better appreciate the portions. Each cheese was delicious. Well done, Emirates!
To round things out as I finished up my dining extravaganza, I took a look at the alcohol menu, and decided it was time to order a glass of Hennessy Paradis, an extraordinarily expensive cognac that Emirates serves on board. I knew to expect this alcohol prior to my flight, and had written about it before hand. While I was on the ground, I caught a glimpse of the cognac being sold in duty free. It does, indeed, retail for almost $1,000 a bottle.
I ordered a glass, and was excited to try it out. I’d never had cognac before, so this was a big deal. And, it tasted exactly like what I would expect cognac to taste like. I’m sure that there are those for whom the stuff is delicious and worth every penny, but it was beyond me. Oh well.
I finished up as best I could and asked the flight attendant to clear my setting. I putzed around the airshow map a bit to see where we were (over Maine), and looked through the pictures I’d taken already, then got the itch. I wasn’t hungry (I was stuffed), nor was I thirsty (I intentionally didn’t document the number of refills I received on my Dom) but it seemed to be the appropriate time to head to the on-board bar!
At the very back of the plane on its A380s, Emirates has a large bar. Technically, it’s the Business Class Bar, as you go through the business cabin to get there, and there’s a separate small (tiny, un-staffed) first class bar at the front of the plane near the Shower Suites. But the Business Class Bar is the only bar worth writing home about. We walked to the back of the plane to check it out.
We got there, took in the site (very cool) and then wondered what to do next. We weren’t hungry, and let’s just say that the walk down the aisle on the way there was difficult enough to justify getting another drink for David. We might have stuck around longer, but no one was back there save one rather creepy dude, who was overly chatty, overly drunk, and overly talking up the Eastern European woman bartender. I snapped a picture and went on my way, grabbing a photo of the Business Class cabin on the way back.
Back at my seat, I found that the flight attendants had made my bed, and between the mix of too much food and too much drink, I was ready to make use of it!
I was able to sleep, off and on, for a few hours. I’m not a good airplane sleeper, even with first class suites, duvets and the like. The noise, the dry air, the turbulence all inevitably get in the way of me getting a good night’s rest. On top of that, the cabin was uncomfortably warm – like, super hot. I complained to a flight attendant, to no avail. Oh well. There was lots to do – who needs sleep!?
I turned back on the tail view camera, and was able to watch a spectacular sunrise over the horizon, which kept me busy for the better part of an hour.
I sat back and passed the time with a movie or two. I fell in and out of sleep all the while, so don’t remember well, but I recall watching The Huntsman. I think. It passed the time.
Not long after, the flight attendant informed me that it would soon be time for my shower. Yes! I was informed that it was time for my shower. As many times as I write that, it never gets old. It was time for my shower. Shower! AAAAAA! Emirates!
I was on the edge of my seat excited to finally make it happen, to shower at 40,000 feet. I prepared my belongings, toiletries and the like, and eagerly awaited my turn.
Inside the Shower Suite, little was different from when I had previously used it as a lavatory, save the unique bath mat placed at the foot of the shower and the full body (and extremely plush) towel set out for my use.
As a first class passenger aboard the A380, you are entitled to one shower during the flight. You don’t have to, but you can reserve a spot ahead of time, which is especially smart if you hope to shower close to the time of landing, which is the most popular option available. Prior to departure, I had received a showering time of about 2.5 hours prior to landing, perfect in my book. It would be late enough in the flight that I would definitely be in need of the refresher, and yet early enough before landing that I wouldn’t feel rushed and would have time to eat breakfast afterward.
The shower is pretty straightforward. The stall is small, but large enough that it’s not cramped. There is a bench inside, which you are advised to sit on in case of turbulence. The shower will not turn on until the door is securely closed, so no, it is not possible to accidentally flood the plane. The water flow turns on at the touch of a button, and there is a knob to adjust the temperature. You are allotted a total of five minutes worth of water, and given twenty minutes total to use the shower suite.
While you are showering, a timer counts down the remaining allotment of water for you, so you won’t get stuck covered in soap when your time is up. You can stop and start the flow of water as much as you want, so I chose to get wet, then turn off the water to lather on soap and shampoo, then rinse off, leaving me with a few minutes to just stand under the hot water washing away the stress of first class travel, on an airplane, somewhere over Iran, at 40,000 feet in the sky.
When the timer gets down to 1/4 of the remaining water, the flow temporarily turns off to alert you.
Let me summarize my experience showering on an airplane like this: I spent five minutes giggling like a child. There is no way to express how thoroughly awesome it is to shower on an airplane. Of course, there are showers everywhere, and we were able to enjoy many fine showers in fancy lounges around the world on this very trip. And of course, there’s nothing stopping you from enjoying a shower two or three times bigger at your hotel once you land, where you’ll have an unlimited supply of water, not just five minutes’ worth. But the sheer absurdity of showering, on a commercial aircraft, seven miles up in the air makes the entire experience absolutely delightful. For five blissful minutes I enjoyed every drop of water to its end, giggling, with a smile ear to ear.
After I was clean as a whistle, I exited the Shower Suite to find a blissful display of tea awaiting me where there had formerly been the First Class Bar setup.
Back at my seat, I found fruit with a honey dipping sauce, standard for all passengers after they shower. Why, thank you!
Now it was time for breakfast. I wasn’t particularly hungry, but I wanted to start calibrating my body clock, so I ordered some yogurt, fruit and a few mugs of freshly-drawn americanos.
The breakfast setup was as fancy as had been dinner. The setting came with a huge bread basket, which I tasted (for informational purposes only, of course), including a chocolate muffin (decent), a roll (bleh), and a warm, freshly baked croissant (absolute perfection, I’d take the flight again just to enjoy that flakey goodness).
And, with that, it was almost time to land. Express entry cards were distributed to help us get through customs more quickly, and I turned back on the tail view camera to watch as we passed through the clouds.
We had a smooth touchdown in to Dubai, and soon enough had pulled in to our gate. We exited by taking the stairs down the front of the plane and leaving through the front door on the economy level. Customs took only minutes to clear, not long after that we picked up our bags and headed on our way to the Park Hyatt Dubai.
Emirates First Class was but a retreating memory, but one I would cherish for a very long time.
Flying First Class on Emirates was an experience in flying on a level completely above and beyond anything I had experienced or expected before. The service was impeccable, the food and drink delicious, and the suites well-stocked. Everything about the experience was over-the-top, in a fantastically enjoyable sort of way. And there is nothing more ridiculously absurd than showering in the sky.
The fact that I was able to book these $21,000 tickets using points (90,000 each, through Alaska Airlines) only makes the experience more incredibe. I’m super satisfied with Emirates and all it has to offer, and will definitely fly them again.
My only regret is that I didn’t, like Jennifer Aniston, ask them to circle the plane for an hour longer.
Up next on #pointedout, our stay in Dubai, and then on to paradise, all free, using points.