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36 Hours in Dubai

36 Hours in Dubai
36 hours in Dubai
via Emirates amazing New First Suites
December 2020

Off to Dubai

One of my travel buddies, Flyertalker batmands, and I do an annual 72 hour RTW First Class trip.  Last year's trip revolved around dinner at Gaggan in Bangkok and included ANA First, Singapore New A380 Suites, Thai First and Air France La Première.  This year, we had planned and ticketed Emirates A380 First Class from Houston to Dubai to Melbourne with lunch in Melbourne, dinner in Sydney, JAL First Class to Toyko, 24 hours in Tokyo and finally ANA First to SFO.  As COVID took hold and shut down travel in much of the world, we first eliminated Australia and finally Singapore and Japan.  When the dust settled, Dubai was the only one standing and welcoming tourists.  As EK dropped US cities, we changed our EK booking to JFK-DXB as we figured that it would be the one route unlikely to be cancelled.  Earlier this year, we booked two easy to find A380 First Class award seats on November JFK-DXB A380 flights that were temporarily operating with a New First Suites 77W.  We eventually won our gamble that the 77W substitution would continue and lucked into 27 hours in new First Suites when Emirates swapped their daily double A380 to a single daily New Suites 77W.  

So early Sunday morning, I headed up the 405 from OC to LAX.  And only 45 minutes today what little traffic there way flowed at a consistent 85 MPH all the way.  I've never seen the Sepuveda exit off the 105 this empty.

7am Thanksgiving Sunday at LAX is very quiet.

Navigating my way thru construction to T5 parking.

I was one of only two passengers at T4 PreCheck.

I had planned on visiting both the Admirals Club and the new Centurion Lounge.

The AC was reasonably crowded.

Full bar service but limited food options.

After a few minutes and some pics, I headed over to the Bradley Temrinal to check out the new Amex Centurion Lounge... or so I thought.  On the way, right by my Gate 41.

I was warmly greeted by five Centurion Lounge staffers, who sadly informed me that Lounge was closed due to the same LA County edict that shut down Catalina restaurants.  Apparently AA didn't get that memo or chose to ignore the edict.  I was permitted to use the lav and then took a few pics along the way.

And was given a take-away food box. 

Not bad for a picnic box.  Mabe someday I'll get to experrience the real thing.

Los Angeles LAX to New York JFK
American AA 2
November 29, 2020
Departed 39/39


I had originally booked this flight when it was still a three-class 32T... then used a Business Extra upgrade certificate to upgrade from Business to First.  Alas, American has gone from 10 daily 32T JFK-LAX nonstops to just 2 wided body 772s with no First Class cabin on either.  

Maybe it's COVID-fatigue or New Yorkers, but gate lice have returned.

Premium Economy seats are similar to AA's narrow body domestic First seats. 

Today's menu...

Ready to go.


Excellent inflight service today.

Even though I was in the last row and last to order, they still had an egg dish available.  COVID-era service means everything wrapped. 

Unwrapped, it looked pretty good. 

On approach to JFK.

At the gate, we were met by National Guard checking for our NYS Traveler Health Forms.  What a farce as this email could be weeks old as all they look for is the Green check.  And this appears to be all for show as no troops met our Emirates flight when we landed back at JFK today. 

With time to spare and in need for a printer to print out my UAE health info page, I headed to the Admirals Club.

The usual COVID-era Admirals Club packaged small bites.

Or made to order guacamole.

After half an hour, I headed out to wind my way to Terminal 4.

Still with nearly 6 hours to kill before our 11pm Emirates departure, I decided to check out the new-ish TWA Hotel.   T8 was sadly dead at 6pm on Thanksgiving Sunday.

Off to the JFK Airtrain for the ride over to Terminal 5.

Forrtunately, there are lots of signs and even arrows pointing the way to the TWA Hotel.

OK, this place is really cool and so nostalgic.


On the mezzanine level is a fabulous display of TWA uniforms from over the years.

And on the other side of the mezzanine, a Jean-Georges restaurant.

I headed up the walkway to check out the rooftop Pool Bar and Observation Deck.

This would be a great place to hangout and plane spot... in warmer weather.

Back downstairs and outside to AirTrain for the short ride to Terminal 4.

Terminal 4 looks sadly empty tonight.

The Centurion Lounge is located just after security next to the Etihad Lounge.

The JFK Centurion Lounge is huge with a lower level as big as if not bigger that the main level. 

With a "secret" behind the unmarked door speakeasy bar.  Very cool. 

The regular lower level bar.

Lots of interesting New York themed photos on both levels.

The fried maitake mushroom poyboy was yummy.

batmandds arrived earlier in the day to visit familly and an early dinner at Babbo.  He arrived JFK around 7pm when the Emirates counter opened.  Although it took a half hour as EK computers were down for a while.  He finally arrived and we shut the lounge down a little bit after the official 8pm closing tiime.   

Emirates First Class to Dubai

After the Centurion Lounge closed, I walked landside to get my boarding pass and do the doc check dance,  Looks like a pretty full flight tonight.

And the usual non First pax in the First Class line.  Yeah, you know this is not going to be fast tonight.  After a couple of minutes, I gave up and used a Business Class line.

Back airside with batmandds, we had 90 minutes to kill with no lounge.  Most EK outstation lounges are closed including JFK.  As are all bars and sit down restaurants, despite websites claiming they were open until 11pm.  We walked to the Delta concourse to 1) kill time, 2) see if there was anything open, or 3) buy a day pass at the Delta Club.  We struck out with all three including the Delta Club.   So we headed back to A6 to wait.  The wheelchair brigade lined up and ready.

New York JFK to Dubai DXB
Emirates EK 202
11:00p-8:20p +1 (sked)
11:45p-9:05p +1 (actual)
November 29, 2020
First Class Suite 2K
Departed 6/6


Boarding started around 10:15pm with the wheel chair brigade followed by Emirates usual not very First Class boarding.  "...First Class, Business Class, Skywards Platinum and Gold..."   But once on board, all is forgiven.  OMG. This is gorgeous.  Simply spectacular. 

My home for the next 14 hours.  

Great space and legroom.

On the ground, our pre-departure champagne was money-saving Veuve.

On board, lots of COVID precautions... a PPE kit in each suite, with all staff wearing masks and plastic coveralls and gloves.

Arabic coffee prior to departure.

Lots of cool electronics and controls in the suite.

And the suite control panel.

Today's menu.

And wine list. 

Not that we cared in our luxurious suites, but we were delayed for some 45 minutes for reasons unknown.  Once in the air, outstanding service, starting with Dom.

Delicious canapés.

The only COVID-catering change is wrapped bread.

But unwrapped, as good as ever.

The Vitello Tonnato was excellent.

The Beringer is a solid cab, but sadly today's was undrinkable.  I'm guessing corked.  Switched to the Léoville-Poyferré.

For my main, the beef fillet wiith sesame jus, potato terrine, asparagus, cipollini onions and red pepper coulis.

It was excellent, despite being a little well done.

For dessert, the Sticky banana pudding with warm caramel sauce was fabulous.  With a glass of Paradis. Heaven.

By 3am Easterrn time, I was ready for bed.   Very cool.

But before, I checked out the cool light show and full color palate.

I slept for a solid 5 hours.

Gorgeous sunset over Iraq.

The lights of Baghdad...

Great IFE options.

Dubai on our approach to DXB.

We arrived at the gate just after 9pm local.  What an incredible flight.  IMO, Emirates new 77W First Suites is the best First Class product in the skies.  Add in exceptional service, and this was a flight for the ages.  And in a recent First Class upgrade perk, we were escorted to fast track immigration by an Emirates First Class agent.

And we were in the beautiful arrivals lobby a few minutes later.

Grosvenor House
Dubai Marina


Alaska award tickets mean NO complimentary EK chauffeur service.  No big deal as Uber is alive and well an inexpensive in Dubai.  And our Uber Black Tesla arrived 3 minutes after I confirmed.  $40 and thirty minutes later we were at Grosvenor House in the Dubai Marinia.

I found a terrific $140 a night IBM partner rate and my Marriott Platinum status got both us room upgrades, complimentary breakfast and club lounge access.  Pretty sweet deal.

My one bedroom suite.

We tossed our bags in our rooms and headed downstairs for dinner at one of the hotel's dozen restaurants. 

Sweet ride.

Across the street the other GH tower is ToroToro, a Richard Sandoval restaurant. 

It was a gorgeous evening, so we opted for outdoor dining.

Amazing menu.

We ordered three starters each of which were incredible.

Beef steak anticucho.  Wow.

Crispy prawns.  Sensational.

Soft shell crab tacos.  OMG.

Chilean Sea Bass.

and Seafood Tacu Tacu.

 By now it was after midnight, but just across the street, Buddha-Bar was still open.

After 4 hours of sleep, I headed to the gym.

And then to breakfast around 8am, at Sloanes.

With a massive buffet spread.

Back in the suite, morning views of the Dubai Marina.

Dubai Marina Day

After a completely decadent 24 hours, we decided to try to work some of it off with a walk around the beautiful Marina.  Grosvenor House in the daytime.

Fascinated by the army of workers at this construction site.

Who knew that installing flooring took two workers and three supervisors?  LOL.

We logged nearly 5 miles according to my FitBit and then headed for the hotel pool.

And some shade in the available quasi-cabanas.

Great poolside service.

And a lighter lunch, excellent chicken caesar salad.

At 6pm, we headed downstairs... 

... and across to Tower 2 and the Siddharta Lounge by Buddha-Bar.

And a panoramic pic from marriott.com...

For dinner tonight, we decided to go off property to the Ritz-Carlton and Amaseena, the hotel's Arabic-themed restaurant.   A pleasant 3/4 mile walk.

Pic from ritz-carlton.com...

Our delicious starter.

And a variety of spreads and dips.

Live musical entertainment but sadly, no belly dancing as truth in advertising is an apparent casualty. 

The main course from the grill.  Simply wonderful aromas.

OMG, the best lamb chops ever.

And as if we hadn't had enough to eat, a wonderful dessert spread.

Back in the Ritz-Carlton...

... and then the walk back to Grosvenor House.

Where we headed up to the 44th floor bar for a nightcap.


Heading home.

We left the hotel at 6am and our Uber dropped us off at 6:30am at what appeared to be the First & Business Class check-in area.  Unlike SQ, EY, AF and others, not very impressive or very First Class.   This was downright chaotic and annoying.  There were separate First Class check-in counter but to get there you have to queue with the masses for pre check-in security questioning.  Did you pack your own bags?  Have they been in your possession?  Blah, blah.  

Then the long, long walk to the real security with the only advantage of Smart Gates being a somewhat shorter queue.

The Economy security setup, which was definitely closer and more convenient to the B gates.

The real Emirates First Class Lounges are currently closed but there is a temporary First Class area in the B Business Class Lounge.  The entrance is another 100 meters past the Business entrance.

Another 100 meters inside is the First Class lounge area, a lovely but rermote oasis.

Unfortunatelty, it took a ridiculous 45 minutes to get here from our arrival.   Our first glass of champagne of the day, a nice not extravagent Moet et Chandon Brut Rosé.

But then, making a rounds of the wine selections, batmandds made the discovery of the trip... a 2014 Eisele Cab.  

With that discovery, it was game over.  OMG, one of the most amazing cabs I have ever tasted.

And only $550 a bottle.

We did our best to polish off the bottle but didn't quite succeed as we had to get to the gate before boarding closed. 

Dubai DXB to New York JFK
Emirates EK 201
December 2, 2020
New First Suites
Suite 2K and then 2A
Departed 4/6


The best jet bridge feeling... boarding Emirates New First Suites.

Ah yes, the good stuff on the ground at DXB.

Today's amenity kit.

After take off, another glass of Dom from our wonderful First Class flight attendant today, Tatiana from Belarus.

Today's menu.

Today's dellcious canapés...

... smoked salmon crepe parmentier with poached pear, houmous with lamb baharat and sweet potato tartlet. 

Yummy carrot and ginger soup with cheese croutons.

Traditional Arabic mezze.

Back for another round of Beringer. Much better today.

And the Léoville-Poyferré.

My Thai red prawn curry was excellent.

And chocolate brownie for dessert.

batmandds were chatting in his Suite 1A when hit a spot of turbulence.  Uh-oh.  There goes the Beringer.

So I relocated to Suite 2A, and promptly went to sleep for a good 5 hours.

About three hours out, I sampled the Light bites menu.  Sandwiches were a meh.

But the Murgh mahkanwala (aka butter chicken) was delicious.

And the pastry selection.

OK, really good.

Approach to JFK.

Cool view from tthe nose cam.

Eastern Airlines flies again.

Suite 1E with the crazy simulated windows with amazing HD camera view outside.

Another amazing Emirates First Class flight... in the best First Class cabin in the skies.  Truly a game changer.

T4 CBP was completely empty when we arrived as the only flight arrival around this time.

batmandds and I bid adieu after security as he headed for Delta to stand by for an earlier JFK-MSP flight.   With three hours to kill, I headed back to the Centurion Lounge.

With the same food options as three days earlier.

My first Po'Boy of the day.

And the beef which was excellent.

At around T-60, I headed off for SkyTrain and the short ride to Terminal 8.

AA 3
Ancient 777-200
December 2, 2020
Business Class
Seat 1A

Tonight's 772 was an old bird with forward and reverse seating.

My 1A.

Tonight impressive menu.  Eat your hearts out, Delta nOne pax who get no meal service on the same route.

FIFO was followed and despite being in 1A and one of the last to choose, I was stilI able to get the Chicken Parm.

Which all looked very nice when unwrapped.

Tomato goat cheese strata was quite good.

And the Chicken Parm was excellent.

This was so rich that I could only eat half of it.

We landed nearly an hour ahead of schedule but waited nearly 30 minutes for a gate to open.  And back in Orange County well before Governor Hairdoo's 10pm curfew kicked in.  What a wonderful 3 days of Emirates and Dubai.  Thanks so much for following along.