Edinburgh & Mediterranean Cruise | Australian Frequent Flyer
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Edinburgh & Mediterranean Cruise

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This trip is taking me to Edinburgh to catch up with family and then an 11 night Holland America cruise, mostly around Greece. The long haul flights are with EY in J, and I have some local flights with VA, BA, BE and VY, the last two being Flybe and Vueling (to save you looking it up!) My partner has left a week before me to spend extra time in EDI while I complete work commitments.

My first flight is LST/MEL/AUH/MAN/EDI. I'm departing LST rather than my home base HBA as my work takes me there. So I've hired a car from Europcar that I can leave at LST. I'm still a Privilege Elite from being a VA WP. Although they enhanced the program, I am still eligible for a two class upgrade, and after booking an i20, I get an Outlander which provides a very comfortable ride up the highway.

I've chosen to fly to MAN to avoid LHR. In MAN I've booked a BE flight to EDI on a separate ticket. EY interlines with BE but VA does not. I have a scheduled short 1.40 transfer time in MAN so I plan to initially check by luggage at LST to MEL and then recheck it, hoping EY will check it though to EDI. Otherwise I might struggle to make the connection.

I initially had some trouble booking LST-MAN in J as VA does not sell J out of LST. So EY struggled to sell me this route online and I ended up booking through the VA GCC. The plane was an E190 and I was in 1A, so still a J seat. I was pleasantly surprised to hear announced that they were offering complimentary beer and wine throughout the cabin. It was a 5pm flight so they have finally extended the evening drinks service to Tas flights. When the trolley came around I noticed spirits so asked for my customary G&T, but on being asked to pay $10 I gave it a miss and settled on a pleasant enough SemSauvBlanc. I was offered the paltry cheese and bikkies for the flex fare but gave it a miss.

The flight is otherwise uneventful, but on arrival in MEL I learn that the EY flight, scheduled for 10.30pm, is delayed 90mins. So I store my bag in Luggage storage and head for the VA dom lounge, where once again I am pleasantly surprised to see that a very tasty chicken korma is being served.
 
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At 8.30 I retrieve my bag and head for EY check in. No wait for J as you would expect and the very good and friendly clerk from Menzies Aviation not only checks the bag through to EDI, but also gives me my BP for MAN-EDI.

Through security and off to the NZ lounge. My partner flew out of SYD and got to enjoy the new EY lounge there. It will be great when the EY MEL lounge finally gets done. In the meantime the NZ lounge is OK, nothing special, but still 100% better than waiting in the zoo.

Finally close to midnight we get to board the plane. This is my first EY flight and I'm looking forward to it. I have my customary champagne on boarding and pre-dinner G&T, and its only on the first sip of the G&T that I truly feel relaxed and holiday ready.
 
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The menu is really tempting and as much as I would have liked the Arabic entree and dessert, given I've eaten in the lounge and its so late, I'm just having the lamb shank, and it is delicious.

I love, and drink a lot of, Australian wine but when I travel I look forward to drinking international wines, especially French. But in this case I stick with the Shiraz with the lamb, really something just to wash it down with, rather than savour over a longer dinner.
 

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I've brought my favourite VA PJs with me and am disappointed to see that they have shrunk in the wash, so a bit short! No matter, they do the job. The seat is very comfortable but there's no mattress for the bed. Its cushioned enough to not really need it but a mattress, even the thin type that VA and QF offer, would enhance (in the true sense of the word!) the bed. I get my usual 5hrs deep sleep and a few hrs dozing.

Breakfast is excellent a the egg souffle a winner. I notice there is a chef on board for F, so I'm guessing the souffle is cooked fresh.

After a movie on the huge screen (the biggest I've seen in J), its not long before we're descending into AUH.

In the end I am thinking that despite the flight meeting expectations for J, there was something missing, something that makes it a special experience. Was it the late departure and night flight? Have I become blasé about J? Then I realise it was the service. The staff were extremely professional, proficient and polite and certainly did not put a foot wrong. But they lacked warmth, that extra intangible something that the Asian airline staff have, or that friendliness and sense of fun that I have got on VA and NZ flights.
 

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kevrosmith

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Friends of mine are heading to EDI soon so I'll get to see what they might see through your eyes. Good report so far... Looking forward to the rest.
 
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markis10

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Agree on the comments re the staff and a lack of warmth. I think EK is miles ahead but they are smart enough to put Australian crew on Australian flights.
 

jetlagger

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Agree on the comments re the staff and a lack of warmth. I think EK is miles ahead but they are smart enough to put Australian crew on Australian flights.
Agreed. IME some of thee Eastern Euro crew that ply various sectors have rather strange attitudes relating to customer service &/or at least going beyond a fake smile.
 
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EY has two "First and Business" lounges in AUH, in each of the old and newer terminals, which are linked by a 10min walkway. As a VA WP I can used the Flounge. My BP for AUH/MAN notes that I am departing from the older terminal, where the flight is arriving. But the transfer information on the screen on board says the departure is from the newer terminal. So on arrival I head for the new terminal, not thinking to check the terminal screens, and when I get there, I'm told that I am in fact departing from the gate on the BP. So I head back to the old terminal lounge, where I discover to my disappointment that they do not have an Flounge. Because the flight was late in I choose not to shlep back to the new terminal but have enough time for a good shower before heading back to the boarding gate. This lounge is certainly nothing special, and appears quite small. I hope I'll be able to check out the proper Flounge on the return journey.
 
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The flight to MAN is a daytime flight so I settle in for the ride with my usual champers and G&T. I plan on having the three Arabian themed choices for lunch but there's no chicken left by the time my order is taken and I settle on the beef. The Mezze plate is delicious, as is the beef, and the Bordeaux. I indulge in the dessert wine with the summer pudding. I'm enjoying the European views immensely and wondering why, when I've flown to the UK so many times, when I realise that this is the first long haul daytime flight I've had, with all my previous One World flights arriving at the crack of dawn. I enjoy this flight more that the night one, even though the staff remain extremely proficient but still lack warmth. On the last flight, I ended up with an aisle seat (even though I had pre-selected a window), but this time I get my preferred window, and with the way the EY seats are laid out, this feels much better and much more private, like a little suite, whereas the aisle seat felt a little exposed.
 

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Globetrotter

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Which med cruise are you doing? I just got back a month ago and had the best time of my life. I'm still going through post holiday depression :(
 
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Which med cruise are you doing? I just got back a month ago and had the best time of my life. I'm still going through post holiday depression :(
Its the Mediterranean Dream, Venice to Rome, mostly around Greece. Its our fourth cruise, the third around a part of the Med. As you would appreciate, we love cruising.
 

Globetrotter

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Its the Mediterranean Dream, Venice to Rome, mostly around Greece. Its our fourth cruise, the third around a part of the Med. As you would appreciate, we love cruising.
Sounds great. I went on the new Regal Princess from Barcelona to Venice. Wish I never got off!
 
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During the flight to MAN, I notice that we are flying directly over Bagdad. I'm surprised that we are flying directly over Iraq, so I take a photo of the flight path on the screen. I presume that planes are probably flying over trouble spots constantly, and think nothing more about it. About four hours later we land in MAN, and 12 hours later I learn about MH17, which would have been hit about the time I landed in MAN. Its so unbelievable and so random and so very sad. We all know know how those 300 people were feeling when they boarded but we can't imagine what it would have been like when the plane was hit
 
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The transfer at MAN was a bit of a schemozzle. First up, the exit path of arriving passengers crosses directly with the path of boarding passengers at each gate, so staff have to hold up each line in turns to let passengers through. At a booth with UK landing cards, all five pens provided are not working. Then when taking the Flight Transfer corridor, there's only a couple of staff at security who seem surprised to see us, and there's a frantic series of phone calls while they try to get more staff and an immigration officer. *It seems like there would have been only a few of us except that there's a bunch of Aussies who it seems missed their connection to LHR because of the delay out of MEL, and have been rerouted to MAN then LHR. *They don't have BPs and are uncertain if they are in the right place. *Fortunately, as one of the first off the plane, I am ahead of them and eventually I'm the first to immigration and back in the terminal. *Even with all the hiccups its still an easier and quicker transfer than LHR so worth it. *Later I learn the great news that EY is commencing direct AUH-EDI flights next year.

With no status on BE, I get to use the Escape Lounge, courtesy of the Privilege Pass program gifted as part of getting a Citibank Signature Visa, for which I have to thank AFF for alerting me to it - one of the many benefits I have gained from this forum. *The lounge is nothing special but again it provided a sanctuary from the zoo downstairs, and I'm in there for only about 30mins before heading for the gate.


The BE flight is a Dash 8 and a short 45mins in the air, so after nice sightseeing over the Lake District, I'm on the ground in EDI, collecting my luggage and in a taxi to The George Hotel.



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We are also interested in a Med cruise, so looking forward to your TR
 
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The George is in a great location on George Street, from where you can walk to Princes Street, Waverley Station, and the Old Town quite easily.* The Georges's magnificent facade hides the modern part of the hotel, where the rooms are.* We last stayed here three years ago and had a huge room at the rear looking out over the New Town and down to the Forth.* This time we're in a room half the size, just barely adequate with a small bathroom, but compensated by the view out the window on to George Street. Breakfast is
quite a good fare with hot and cold buffets and options for a la carte, and its cheaper if you pre-book the night before.* But the bed in this room is saggy and with no pillow menu, sleep is not great and I end up with a sore back, so its hard to think we will be returning to this hotel; and we are regular Edinburgh visitors.
 

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One of our favourite restaurants in the world is Number One at The Balmoral, which has a Michelin star.* We make a point of going on each visit and look forward to the degustation menu with matching wines.* On this occasion the deg menu is not to our taste so we choose from a la carte and at the end of the night Number One is still number one with us.
 
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Soon it is time to leave Edinburgh for Venice, where our cruise departs.
Using QF points on BA, we can't make the trip, which is via London, in a day in time for the departure.* So we fly to LGW for an overnight at the
Hilton, then on to VCE the next morning.* Its a chance to catch up with friends, and we choose to overnight in London to do this, having spent a fair bit of time in beautiful Venice already.

The BA lounge at EDI has moved to a bigger location since we last used it and has a good selection of continental breakfast items.

The EDI LGW flight does not offer business, but we are seated in row 2 and good old BA still provides a hot breakfast to all passengers. Its basic
stuff but of course miles ahead of what QF or VA offer.
 

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