Girmaldi Line Ferries

Grimaldi Lines
M/N Cruise Roma

Barcelona 22:15 05/03/2017
Civitavecchia 18:45 05/04/2017
Fare Breakdown (2 people): 79EUR Base + 38.64 Accommodation = 117.64EUR Total Non Refundable.

There are a few options for travel between Spain and Italy if you don’t want to fly or take the bus. You can go by train via the French Rivera, Switzerland or Paris, but these options are expensive unless you book way ahead and/or are extremely flexible. Grimaldi lines has a ferry which you can often get for around 50% off of the full fare if you are willing to waive refund-ability. Ferries go to either Genoa or Civitavecchia which is outside of Rome. The Civitavecchia ferry runs more frequently and with less seasonal variation.

The fare structure is two part. There is a base fare and accommodation charge. We were foot passengers and choose an outside sleeping cabin. The booking engine on the website is easy to use and took our US based credit card. The site has multi lingual options which include English.

At the port of Barcelona there is a terminal exclusively used by Grimaldi, which has a cafe and waiting area. A taxi from the city center should be less than or equal to 15 EUR. Check in was open when we arrived at 18:30. So you can get there early if you want, but 19:30 is more than sufficient. Do note that the website indicates check in closes two hours before departure. After queuing you provide your booking number then are given a boarding card which doubles as your accommodation key. Boarding for foot passengers started about 90 minutes prior to departure. Please note that the whole process is not what I would call organized. Look out for crew in reflective vests that start the boarding or just watch out for mob movement. If you have a lot of luggage you can take on whatever you can carry, though I didn’t see any porters. Once onboard, if you haven’t purchased accommodation you can access a salon which has aircraft style seating.

I would rate the general cleanliness of the ship as marginal. The sheets and towels were sanitized, but both were stained. Also, many of the nooks and crannies in the cabin and public areas had grime, dust and sometimes leftover hair.

On board there is a cafe/bar, lounge, self service restaurant and full service restaurant. Also, there is a video casino, video game room and gym with spa. Most of these services carry additional costs. Wifi is advertised and can be accessed in multiple wifi zones around the ship. However when we tested it, the internet connection was so slow that all we could do was download a few emails.

The food in the self serve restaurant was passable and although not cheap, it wasn’t a complete rip off. We didn’t try the full service restaurant.

It wasn’t explicitly stated but you are expected to vacate your accommodation about two hours before arrival. This is so cleaning can begin before the return trip to Barcelona. Most passengers moved to one of the lounges to wait to disembark. The crew asked that passengers not congregate by the gangway entrance.

I hope this report outlines the service for you. We would take it again as long as we were not pressed for time. Price wise it’s a very good value. However it’s important to go in with reasonable expectations and I’ve tried to set those here.

British Airways Club Europe Review

BA477

BCN   Sch 7:55 Actual 7:53

LHR    Sch 9:20 Actual 9:16

Flight time 2hrs 1min

Business (Club Europe)

Aircraft A320

Seat 4F

350 GBP Return

Check in was smooth, although it looked like the cleaners had gone on strike.  The trash cans had not been emptied and their was shredded paper all over the floor.  The lounge for BA is the Sala VIP lounge.  It is certainly serviceable, but not special.  There was a continental breakfast available with alcohol and soft drinks.  I will note the chairs are very comfortable with soft leather and great cushions.  

The flight was boarded and pushed back a little early.  The only observation I have is that everybody on BA seems to have Fast Track.  With airlines like American there is separation within the elite boarding process.  BA could break Fast Track down more to alleviate congestion.

After a short taxi we departed to the east and turned north to London.  It was a beautiful morning with great views of Montserrat and the Pyrenees off the starboard side.

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Legroom was the typically tight european style business class.  Also, as usual, the middle seat was blocked with a tray covering it.

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A full breakfast was served, but with only one choice, a hearty english breakfast.  There were no alternative for vegetarians, but one can pre book a special meal on this flight.  However, I was happy being a carnivore and pretty hungry.  As you can see it was the whole affair with eggs, bacon, sausage, tomatoes and mushrooms.  Also, available was yogurt, granola bites and a choice of warm breakfast breads.

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As we were over the english channel, according to the crew, there were no delays into Heathrow.  As we arrived though we held to the west for about 10 to 15 mins before heading eastbound towards Heathrow.  A very crisp morning brought nice views of London as we made our final approach after turning back west to land.

Our taxi was about 10 mins to the stand having us in London 4 minutes early.  Overall this was a very good intra european business class flight.

Japan Airlines First Class ORD-NRT

JL9 ORD-NRT

Class: First

Flight time: 12h:04m

ORD 12:34 NRT 15:08 +1

62,500 AA Miles + $5.00

Seat

The first class seat is a middle of the road choice.  A similar seat can be found on Air China for example, which overall is not inspiring. However, Japan Airlines has invested some time in the finishes.  A high quality brown leather has been chosen for the main upholstery and minimalist dark accents complement it nicely.  There is a 23 inch multimedia display which is positioned at a proper distance for viewing and the content selection was good.  Unfortunately the multimedia controls are not intuitive.  In fact some of the features, such as the at seat food ordering, I could not get to work at all.

The sleeping arrangement is very good.  In particular I thought the mattress pad was excellent.  One side of the pad is hard and the other soft. I’m not sure whether there is actually a difference but either way the pad and bedding made for a very comfortable bed.

There are plenty of pictures of this seat published in other trip reports, so I will continue with what was unique to this flight.

Food

Menu

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Setting with a fancy tea that was served in a wine bottle with wine glass.

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White Asparagus Velouté with Sweetbread and Balsamic Vinegar

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Caviar

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Roasted Challandais Duck Breast with Eggplant Purée & American Cherry Sauce

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Cappuccino Mousse with Strawberry Sauce

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Mid flight Snack: Vinegared Mackerel & Salmon Pressed Sushi

I also had the Japanese Seafood Curry with Steamed Rice before landing, but I can’t find the picture.

All the food was excellent.

Service

The service on this flight was phenomenal. Certainly superior service is something that Japan is known for and this experience was no exception.

JAL F is an extremely comfortable and enjoyable way to travel to Japan. One thing that would be nice is if JAL had an arrivals lounge like ANA. After a long flight I like to have the option to freshen up before leaving the airport.  So, this was a bit disappointing especially considering the fact that the trip from NRT to Tokyo is around one hour.

 

 

Vonlane Review

Houston Hyatt Regency Downtown                         18:00

Austin Hyatt Regency                                               21:00

Cost $99.00 (Discounts Available)

Booking is seamless on both Vonlane’s normal and mobile website. During the booking process you can select your seat.  There are no tickets or boarding passes to show you just give the attendant your name upon boarding.  Your space on the manifest is then checked on a tablet and you are directed to your pre assigned seat.  Waiting at each seat was a cold bottle of water and a menu.  Beverage selection is typical of what you would find on an airplane.  It included beer, wine, spirits and soft drinks. In addition there is a snack basket filled with pre packaged goodies as well as sandwiches and salads during meal times.

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After departure the on board attendant came by for drink selections and then with the snack basket.  She passed through at least every 30 minutes to make sure everyone had what they needed.  There was also a call button in case you didn’t want to flag her down.  An announcement prior to departure encouraged passengers to only get up if they needed to use the restroom.  Speaking of the restroom this isn’t your ordinary bus affair.  This one was larger than a typical lavatory on an airplane, it was clean and smelled perfectly pleasant throughout the journey.

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Unfortunately Vonlane has some cons. Notably the seat is not very comfortable.  This is a three hour trip so seat comfort is high on my list of priorities.  The overall design is poor.  The foot rest is configured in a way which completely blocks your ability to place your feet under the seat in front.  This severely limits foot room and should have been obvious during the testing phase of the interior design.  The actual seat padding and width are excellent, but do not make up for the lack of legroom.

The arrival was on time, any jackets that had been collected returned and goodbye mints available.