Air Canada Business Class – Toronto to Paris

Another gorgeous day for flying. We arrived 3 hours before scheduled departure due to ongoing madness at Pearson airport and other international airports across Canada. Due to the surge in passenger traffic and people wanting to go on vacation again, all major airports were caught unprepared and could not keep up with demand. This caused severely long delays at security upwards of 2 hours minimum which started as early as 6am. If you were lucky enough to have priority access via business class or one of the Black credit cards or Nexus, then the line up took less than 15 minutes.

The priority check in area for Air Canada.

There were 3 passengers in line before us and we were called up after a 5 minute wait. Check in was a breeze with proof of vaccines provided plus an online immigration form for France.

The priority security line was straight past the check in area. Got into the Nexus queue which was longer than the regular Priority queue. Eventually, a security officer came around and bellowed at the top of his voice to keep moving forward and get your boarding passes ready. Magically, the line moved quickly and we were past security in no time.

Making our way along the neck of the terminal connecting us to the outer pier of gates.

So far, everything is looking good. A foretelling of a wrench in the plans.

We spent some time at the Maple Leaf Lounge as we had a lot of time to kill before boarding. Safe to say that even post COVID, the YYZ MLL still continues to disappoint. It was jammed to the gills. Self service was still non-existent for hot food and drinks. We managed to find two seats and parked ourselves there for 1.5 hours before heading down to the gate.

We went down to the gate as per the indicated time on our boarding passes. When we reached the gate, people were lined up and there was no sign indicating when boarding would begin other than a sign at the front indicating β€œOn time”. An announcement was finally made after 30 minutes of waiting that boarding was delayed due to late arrival of the aircraft which delayed the cleaning crew and then delayed cabin crew from getting onboard to set up everything. Boarding was finally called at 8pm (initial departure was 7:30pm).

Slight line up in the tube but we were on quickly and turned left.

5K

My impressions – this seat is just a poor product that does not even compare to the likes of EK, QR, EY, SQ. It was perfectly comfortable when sitting but the TV was right in your face. When in bed mode, there was little room for your feet in the cubby hole and is tough to sleep if you are a side sleeper like me.

The amenity kit.

Whats for dinner?

Everything was going well until the clock hit 9pm and then the captain made an announcement which no one wanted to hear. As per union rules, a flight cannot be operated with 2 pilots after 9pm and we required a relief pilot to be on board. The oncall pilot was paged and there was no ETA until when he would arrive. The captain promised that he would keep us all updated and true to his word, he came on every now and then to give us updates plus thanked us for our patience. While we were waiting, the cabin crew came by to take dinner and drink choices.

Cant go wrong with champagne in a plastic cup. LOL.

We finally got good news around 11pm and the relief pilot was going through security and he requested to buckle in and get ready. The moment the pilot relief entered the aircraft, the door was closed and we pushed back.

Flight timings:

Booked it out of YYZ like a bat out of hell.

Dinner was served quickly and efficiently and I was done eating 90 minutes after take off.

Appetizer – I only picked at the crab meat and salad. Bun was rock hard.

Beef for me which was delicious and had a good spicy kick to it.

The Mrs went with the chicken and her verdict was β€œgood” πŸ˜€

Lemon tart which was ok again.

I slept for a few hours and got up an hour before landing. The cabin crew came around asking if I wanted anything to eat or drink and I kept it light with a glass of OJ.

Coming into CDG.

EK heading back to DXB.

Once off the plane, we headed to immigration and was past in 10 minutes. Collected our bags and walked to the train station to catch the RER to Gare du Nord.

Emirates Business Class – Dubai to Toronto

Checked out at the ungodly hour of 5am and had to wait for some time before we could get a big cab to take us to the airport. Fascinating watching the hotel staff trying to jam 3 suitcases into the back of a car. We were lucky that a van taxi rolled by and was even funnier with the staff running after it to flag it down.

The hotel.

We were dropped off at the First/Business class area and made our way inside.

The check in hall was busy today with all counters being taken up. We walked down to another section of business class counters and was helped after 5 minutes.

Immigration and security was a breeze as usual and we took the elevator up to the airside concourse.

Definitely busy but not as busy as it was during pre COVID.

Made our way to the B concourse business class lounge. Entrance is now automated where you scan your boarding gass at a gate and enter.

Since the A concourse was closed, it looked like all passengers congregated to the B lounge. Was a complete zoo and seating was hard to come by.

Food selection was “meh” at best … actually, it was terrible. It is not anywhere close to the variety and quality I have seen in past visits to the lounge.

The morning bank.

After Junior was fed, we headed over to the C concourse where our flight was departing from and it was quite a long walk.

“Boarding” was underway but it was just into the holding pen behind, so we waited outside until the “Final Call” message was displayed.

Back in the mini cabin again and this time I chose the A seat.

Gorgeous day.

This was supposedly the menu from the app but the crew informed us that it was totally different. The menu items were read off to us and we made our choices.

The cabin was definitely showing its age (also the lack of care by the engineering crew).

The funniest moment for me was hearing the captain coming on the comm and giving us his intro spiel. Then he gets into the part about how all Emirates aircraft are equipped with hepa filters designed to recycle air and how the plane is thoroughly sanitized before every flight. As the spiel was going on, I saw the dust on the seat area and I laughed. Dont know why it was funny but it just was.

You probably cant see it here but there are dust particles all over the white areas.

The flight was delayed due to a medical emergency. I saw the jet bridge retract and then come back. Eventually, we were underway.

Once the seat belts signs were off, I settled back and watched as many movies as I could.

Breakfast was served and I had no choice to choose the Frittata as the other two choices were out. It was decent.

This was a much quieter flight (with the exception of a crying baby in the mini cabin) and definitely less people compared to our outbound flight from YYZ.

Lunch was served during the mid point of the flight. This was odd as I thought lunch would be served closer to landing but the crew said this was how they were doing it now and they wouldnt serve it later. The lunch menu was totally different from what was provided – the real choices was Chicken Biryani, Prawn Curry and Pasta.

Mezze to start – the outbound version was better IMO.

Followed by the biryani which was absolutely delicious.

Chocolate cake which was meh.

I slept after lunch for 4 hours and woke up an hour before landing.

A very uneventful flight with the exception of the crying baby. Meal service felt like an assembly line. The crew were friendly when I engaged them in conversation but overall were not as outgoing as one would expect.

VIDEOS:

1. Take off from DXB

2. Landing at YYZ

Dubai – Activities

After completing the PCR test formalities, we headed out to the Dubai Frame for the evening.

After paying the entrance fee, we walked to the building entrance where our tickets were scanned. We started off in an exhibit showing the history of Dubai. Everyone walking through the exhibit paid absolutely no attention (yes, including me too) and just lined up for the elevators.

Taking the elevator up to the top.

At the top.

Looking out at “Old Dubai”. More accuately, looking at Karama and the area where I grew up.

High up.

Bit of a line up to get on the elevator going down but it took 10 minutes of waiting. The entire experience took us around 30 minutes (including waiting for the elevator ride down). For 50 DHS per person, it was a decent deal.

Stopped off at the supermarket before calling it for the night.

The next day, we hit up the Green Planet. I tried to buy tickets online but couldnt as the site was not accepting international credit cards. I emailed the company and the agent said I could buy tickets at the gate for the online price.

When you enter inside, you are ushered into the right side where tickets are scanned and you go the turnstile. Through the doors, you enter an aquarium area.

We were then escorted into an elevator to the top of the exhibit. There is a circular path around the edge of the building that goes down where you started.

Hard to see but this was called the Bat Cave.

Hello friend.

Sid was just chilling.

There were other enclosures with tiny friends.

The immortal snail (if you get the joke).

Nearing the bottom.

We came back out to the lobby area and went down into the basement.

Afterwards, we headed out for more shopping and then lunch.

Banana Shake and Orange juice.

Mohammara with unlimited bread.

Grilled Hammour fish

Mixed Grill

Arrias stuffed with beef

To wash everything down, we headed over to Al Hara in Karama for some special tea.

Disco (Cardammon) Tea and Biryani tea (absolutely phenomenal)

Dubai – Sheraton Mall of the Emirates

The taxi ride took around 30 minutes with moderate traffic. It was a complete jam once we exited the highway and was on the road leading to the hotel.

We eventually pulled up where the staff took our luggage, provided tags and indicated to take the elevator to the 5th floor where the check in area was located.

Main entrance area.

Cafe area to the left once you exited the elevator on the 5th floor.

To the right of the cafe, was the check in desks.

Check in formalities was expertly done. I had a minute wait before I was helped. I booked two nights using 2 AMEX Marriott certificates (35k points each) and also used 2 SNA certificates to upgrade to a Junior suite. The SNA for the 2nd night was accepted but the 1st night was rejected (I was notified a couple of days in advance of arrival via the Marriot app). The two ladies assisting me informed that we were upgraded to an Executive suite for both nights. Our room was on the 8th floor and we took the central elevators once I was handed the room keys.

Looking down from the 8th floor.

Junior searching for our room.

All the way at the end.

Entering the room offered two paths.

Turning right led to the bathroom and bedroom.

The main bathroom.

Opposite the bathroom was the closet.

According to the hotel, these are Queen beds …

Back outside and turning left at the main door led to the living room, kitched and powder room.

View from the bedroom.

Entrance to the mall from the hotel was conveniently accessible via the elevator and going down to the 2nd floor.

After freshening up, we went to the mall to get our PCR tests done for our flight to Toronto. We used the DHA facility that is located on the ground floor near the Ski Dubai. Tests were DHS 150 each and our passport information was taken. We were informed that the DHA app had to be downloaded on our phone and the results would be available via the app (results came in 12 hours).

Breakfast was provided at no extra cost and we were also given access to the lounge located on the 22nd floor for happy hour (we didnt make use of it as we were out all day for 2 days).

Breakfast restaurant.

We were escorted inside and was told we could pick any seat in the house. The seating area was massive and there was even space outdoors. There was the typical selection of Western hot food, Indian hot food, Bakery items and Beverage station.

There was also a Saj station which made fresh to order. I topped mine with Zattar, Labaneh, cheese, tomato and onion. The chef prepared it on the board with toppings, then transferred it to the hot plate and rolled it up.

Trans Maldivian Airways + Emirates Business Class – Male to Dubai

Our flight from Male was scheduled to leave at 9:15am. Akram picked us up from the villa at 7am (resort time is 1 hour ahead of the capital).

Once last sunrise pic before leaving.

We waited at the Reception area for the seaplane to arrive.

He didnt want to go.

The plane was supposed to arrive around 7.30am resort time but didnt end up arriving till 8am. We were underway 15 minutes later and would stop to pick another set of passengers before heading back to Male.

Akram and the rest of the St.Regis team bid us farewall from the dock as we taxi-ed out.

We made it back to the seaplane terminal around 8am Male time and the St.Regis staff were waiting for us. Bags were retrieved by them and then the driver gunned it to the airport. We were escorted to the entrance where our health immigration QR codes were scanned (filled out departure forms the previous night) and went through luggage security.

There was no line up at the Emirates counter and we were immediately helped. We found out that check in was still open despite the indicated closing time as there were still other passengers to arrive. Additionally, the inbound aircraft arrived late causing a delayed boarding.

Once the check in was done, the St.Regis staff member escorted us to the escalator where we proceeded through immigration and secondary security. We entered the duty free area and proceeded to the Leeli lounge.

A boarding announcement was made and we made our way to the gate.

We boarded the bus and enjoyed the view.

Our seats were located in the forward business class mini cabin and 6 seats were empty.

Orange juice as PDB and no alcohol served while on the ground. My breakfast and drink order was taken as well.

Boarding was eventually completed and push back began. While final checks were done, BA pulled into the stand. We taxi-ed down the runway and bolted out of there.

Warm fuzzies.

After the seatbelt signed went off, the crew went into action.

Menu.

Nuts and Baileys on ice.

Grilled corn fed chicken – delicious.

Chocolate biscuit pudding – meh.

After the tray was cleared, I reclined back and watched movies till we arrived.

Descending into Dubai.

The plane did the looooooong taxi to the rear of concourse B.

Immigration was a breeze and our bags were already on the belt when we arrived.

In the taxi to the hotel.

TIMELAPSE VIDEOS:

Take off from Male

Landing in Dubai

St.Regis Maldives (Activities and Final Thoughts)

We spent our days and nights doing activities around the resort.

On a couple days, we spent time on the beach. The beach stretched from the Whale Bar and in front of the Beach Villas up to the main dock area (where the seaplane picked and dropped off guests).

While I was relaxing on the beach …

… they were having fun in the pool

This is what the pool looks like when looking out from Alba

Some days, we would hang out of the pool in our villa.

As mentioned in the previous post, we happened to be at the Resort during Halloween. The resort organized an all day event for the kids. One of the Kids Camp coordinators came by to say hi during breakfast and informed us of the event. Junior was more than happy to take part and we did not see him till after dinner.

During that time, the Mrs and I hopped on the bikes to tour the island.

Quick shot of the John Jacob Astor suite.

Poser

The path leading to the other beach area near the Reception and dock area

The Spa

Post card shot

We brought Junior back to this beach area on a different day and he loved it

Obligatory family picture

Beach Villa

The Halloween event for the kids started at the Whale Bar and ended at Vommuli House. This facility houses the kids camp, gym and yoga studio.

The main area was beautifully decorated for the kids.

There is a outdoor area called the Jungle Cinema. Movies are shown every evening (weather depending).

I went scuba diving for 2 days. The first was on the house reef and the second was a boat dive about 10 minutes away from the resort.

Hello friends

Baby shark do do do do …

All PCR tests are done by the resort 48 hours before departure and are sent to the main land for testing. We received our results the next morning. One of the Garden Villas is converted into a medical centre not only for the PCR tests but in case of any medical issues.

On our second night, I was playing around with the DSLR to take some night shots. These are unedited.

Our last day was mostly washed out due to bad weather. We had to cancel our spa reservation as a result – too bad as I was really looking forward to the Blue Hole spa.

The rain stopped around late afternoon. I asked Akram if we could take a tour of Decanter and he picked us up shortly after. Decanter is a private restaurant dining experience for you and your closest friends and is located below Alba (accessible near the bar area).

After the tour, we went to the Alba roof top.

Random pictures.

Turndown service

Final thoughts:

From the moment we stepped onto the island to the time we boarded the seaplane and flew away, service by the entire St. Regis was near flawless.
1. Akram tended to all our needs and was available for whatever we wanted.
2. Our villa attendant Subah always asked us if we needed anything extra for our room and he kept everything spotless during our stay. The room was cleaned twice a day and the attention to detail was amazing. For example – iphone/ipad charging wires were neatly wrapped even though we just left it laying around.
3. Turn down service was not just a 2nd cleaning of the room. Slippers were laid out near the bed and bottles of water with drinking glasses were kept on the night stand (see pic above).
3. All serving staff at the restaurants gave extra attention to Junior and never failed to make him smile or laugh.
4. Any staff on the grounds would put their hand to their heart in a sign of greeting every time they passed us by.
5. All our meals were delicious and we could even order something that was not on the menu.
6. Mrs got a nasty case of sunburn. Akram had extra aloe vera gel tubes delivered upon request but he went a step further and had chamomile cream provided free of charge from the medical centre.
7. The chef from Alba came out to say hi to us during breakfast and it was nice to have a good conversation with him and learn about his passion for working at the St.Regis.

I said near flawless service but this is only due to very minor issues (or first world problems):
During our stay, I asked Akram if it was possible to get an upgrade. He said he would check on it and get back to me but never did. I didn’t push the issue as we loved our villa.
We never saw the GM (even though he was on site but again first world problems) but we did get to meet the F&B director and assistant GM.

St.Regis Maldives (Food)

An early start on breakfast as we all got up early. We walked everyday for breakfast to get our steps in. Breakfast was served daily at Alba restaurant and it was also open for dinner.

Gorgeous.

We were met at the entrance by Pop (one of the many servers at the restaurant) and we were escorted to a table inside.

Physical menus are no longer provided but instead can be viewed online. Printed QR codes are placed on every table. Breakfast was provided as a Platinum benefit. If you don’t have Marriott status, then breakfast comes in at a hefty US$55 per person. Food options are plentiful and you get to choose from an ala carte menu and buffet spread.

The Bakery (foreground) and the main hall (background). All buffet food was served by the staff (obvious reasons).

The main hot food buffet had different items served everyday. You could also orders for fresh made items.

The bar area – three alcoholic drinks were also included in the buffet – Mimosa, Champagne and Bloody Mary. Great way to start the day. πŸ™‚

Plethora of breakfast food pics from all the days we were at the resort.

Aforementioned Mimosa.

Masala Dosa.

Masala Chai

Omelette with lobster, crab and caviar.

Eggs Benny with soft shell crab.

Waffles.

Idli Sambar with three types of chutney.

Puri Bhaji.

Bento box with miso soup.

Uthapam.

Duck Confit.

Lunches was mostly room service but we did have pizza at Crust & Craft for one day. The menu was extensive with a wide selection of wood oven pizza plus other food.

Quattro fommagio.

Junior approved.

Our 2nd room service lunch

Veggie fried rice.

Mee Goreng.

Wonton soup.

Butternut squash soup.

For 3 nights, we had dinner at the 3 restaurants – Orientale, Cargo and Alba. Akram pre-booked reservations ahead of our arrival but he said it could be changed in case we wanted to.

For our 2nd night, we had dinner at Orientale that served Chinese and Japanese cuisine. There were two kitchens for each cuisine.

Our waiter came by and started the service with the hand washing ritual.

Akram came by to check in on us and was showing Junior videos of manta rays.

Amuse bouche.

Seafood siew mai.

Veggie tempura and chicken karaage.

Japanese Veggie Curry.

Our 4th night would be at Cargo that served Indian cuisine.

Pappadums to start.

Tandoori chicken, Malai broccoli, Spicy Chicken Curry, Lucknow Chicken Biryani.

For dessert, Gajjar Halwa and Saffron Ras Malai.

For our last dinner, we dined at Alba that served an International cuisine.

Filler to start.

Chicken fingers and fries for Junior.

Our server brought out the wrong orders but I took pictures before they took it back.

Chilean sea bass.

What we actually ordered – Mushroom risotto, Maldivian Chicken Curry and Barramundi.

To end the night, warm chocolate melting cake.

On one of the nights, we went to Whale Bar to watch the sunset and have drinks.

Since we were on the resort during Halloween, the staff dropped off a sweet surprise for us.

Part 3 to cover daily activities.

St.Regis Maldives (Arrival and Room Tour)

Our butler Akram was waiting for us on the pontoon and welcomed us when we stepped out of the seaplane. It was a fairly quick ride over to the main dock where the St.Regis staff were waiting to welcome us.

Junior was ridiculously over tired but the moment he stepped off the boat and onto the golf cart, it was like he got an energy boost and perked up.

Rejuvinating coconut water.

Akram drove us around the property and gave us a quick tour before driving us to our overwater villa.

To the left of the overwater villa boardwalk, was the beach and the Whale Bar. To the right was beach villas.

We drove past this dock. You can see the John Jacob Astor villa in the back.

We stopped at villa 514 and were escorted inside.

Each villa had two bikes allocated for use around the island. There was one even for Junior.

Inside was another surprise for the Mrs and she was over the moon. Her response was β€œNow I know how it feels when all the Marriott hotels give you attention because of your status!” πŸ˜€

As you enter the villa, there is a liquor cart to the left wall and a writing desk to the right.

Behind the desk was the minibar and a fridge.

The closet is immediately to the left of the entrance door.

Through the closet is the bathroom of which exists in my dreams.

Bed and Living area.

The outside deck.

Stairs leading down to the water.

We were given a bottle of champers as a welcome gift.

A lovely bubble bath was also laid out for the Mrs.

And delicious sweet treats.

Junior was given a plushie as a gift.

Once the tour was completed, Akram completed the billing formalities. After he left us, we decided to stay in the room for the rest of the day. We spent time in the pool for most of the afternoon and eventually got room service for dinner.

Ordered Fish Tikka (top right), Chicken Biryani, Chicken Satay and Nasi Goreng. Accompaniments were provided with no charge. Everything was delicious.

We went to bed fairly early …

… and woke up to a spectacular sunrise.

Next post is up on the blog.

St.Regis Lounge and Trans Maldivian Seaplane

The St.Regis Airport butler was waiting outside and greeted us all by our names. He escorted us to the Trans Maldivian Airways check in area where he completed all the formalities for us. All luggage and carry on bags were weighed to ensure weight requirements were met (20kg for luggage and 5kg for carry on).

We were then escorted to the car waiting to take us to the lounge.

Once seated inside the car, we were offered cold towels and was given access to wifi.

It would take 10 minutes from the airport to the lounge.

The road went around the outskirts of the airport.

We were escorted inside the lounge and told we could sit anywhere we liked. There was another couple already in the lounge.

One of the other butlers came by to introduce herself and gave us an iPad with a food and beverage menu.

The Mrs and Junior were in a sweet tooth mood because vacation. πŸ˜€

We were then shown a welcome video from our resort butler Akram. Every guest at the St.Regis gets a butler to take care of their needs.

I went to use one of the shower rooms to freshen up.

The staff then surprised the Mrs with a birthday cake and sang for her. She was pleasantly surprised.

After an hour of relaxing, we were notified that our flight was ready and we were driven in a shuttle van for 30 seconds to the airport terminal.

Our tickets were scanned and we were told to sit on the left side of the waiting area. Every few minutes, one of the seaplane staff would come in and announce boarding of a seaplane for specific resorts. After 10 minutes of waiting, an announcement was made for the St.Regis and 2 other resorts which I did not hear.

We were then escorted outside to our seaplane. Our names were crossed off the manifest as we boarded the plane.

Our chariot.

Everyone was asked to sit in specific rows so as to ensure proper balance of the plane. We sat in the third row. Along with the two pilots, there was also a cabin steward who gave us the lightning round safety demo – “Here is the emergency door, lifevests are under your seat, do not smoke.”

Up, up and away.

The engines are pretty loud but not loud enough that it hurts your ears. After 40 minutes, we landed at the resort and docked at a pontoon. The resort boat took us the rest of the way to the main dock. Our luggage was handled by the staff and we did not see it until we got to our room.

Emirates Business Class – Dubai to Male

We hoofed it over to gate B29 where our flight was departing from. Pre boarding into the holding pen had already begun.

Boarding then began by zone and was strictly enforced.

We were in the main business class cabin and it was approximately 75% full.

Champers and some healthy juice to start.

The flight attendant came by and kept offering more top ups and I did not refuse. πŸ™‚

The flight was delayed for a bit but eventually we were underway.

Round 4 was served shortly after takeoff.

The window covers were closed to allow everyone to sleep for a few hours and breakfast was served closer to landing.

For breakfast, I went with the omelette again and was delicious.

An hour to landing, we were treated to fantastic views.

The plane taxi-ed all the way to the end of the runway, turned around and taxi-ed back to the stand. The 09:15am EK flight was just departing and was behind schedule.

All F and J class passengers disembarked first while Y was held back. We got onto a bus that took us to the immigration hall. Customs/Immigration was super quick as we were first in line and processing took a couple minutes. For all tourists entering the Maldives, a health declaration form had to be submitted within 24 hours of departure. The declaration was an online form that required a photo, PCR test results and proof of vaccine attached to it. Once submitted, a QR code was generated immediately. When our passports were scanned, the information showed up on the officer’s screen (yes, I snuck a peek).

While immigration was quick, our bags took a while to come out (specifically mine). Once collected, we walked out and was met by the St.Regis Maldives representative.