Sydney to Amsterdam the long way - QF & AY in J and a river cruise

smckay

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Posting this retrospectively, as we started on May 3 2024.

We booked a Viking River cruise leaving from Amsterdam so the next step was to book rewards flights. As a QF WP should be simples, log in, grab some primo seats and forget about it. No, what ensued was 6 months of research, changes, cancellations hassles until we finally ended up with
QF59 SYD-HND (11:10 - 20:15), AY62 HND-HEL (21:50 - 04:40) and AY1301 HEL-AMS (08:10 - 09:45). The only concern was the 1:40 connection in Haneda.

Sydney - Pre flight

To start, we arrived at the airport around 7am as we'd stayed the night close by in a hotel.
WP benefits kicked in and we swanned past the business check in and hit the First check in. Quick and pleasant interaction but they did need to open the flight as we were the first arrivals. This is my last year as WP and I'm making the most of it so 4 hours early is OK with me.
Customs and security were reasonably quick due to dedicated lanes.
Into the First lounge and the trip was really underway.
A side benefit was we scored 2 spa spots at 10am - opening time - so feeling chuffed and a valued WP.
Next challenge was breakfast
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Setting the trend for the next 40-odd days, I started with Eggs Benedict. Not trusting the chef/cook to not drown them in sauce I had it on the side
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They were a decent portion with plenty of ham.
My wife took on the corn fritters
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Along with juice, coffee and tea we were well refreshed for our trip ahead.
At 10am we duly trotted off to the opposite end to the Spa, for our facials. I've had massages there previously which are good but this time thought I could potentially have an improvement in looks (didn't happen).
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The treatment was good, nicely done and gentle, The products they used were quite nice with a distinct lavender(?) smell. Some hot stuff, some cool stuff and 20 minutes later I was a new man.

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But then the problems started. The A330 we were due to ride on was delayed in arriving, so we were late in departing. Conscious of the short transit time I spoke with the lounge staff, who were excellent. They assured me they were tracking the issue and would be taking steps to make it good if it weren't. The Desk guy even said look my way when you leave and I'll give you a yes or no on the connection.
We did board ok, albeit about 40 minutes late. The pilots acknowledged the delay and said they would try to make up the time enroute and would let us know closer to Japan.

Next.... The flight
 

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On board with you @smckay

Keen to know how you went with late departure and MCT, it is stressful.

Had similar issue with KLM AMS-LIS last September, had to make a run for it - literally! We made it as the door closed behind us and it was the last flight out for the day.
 
Yes, may be doing similar next year, so interested in AY62 in particular :) . (Just looking for SYD-HND rewards today, as a matter of fact.)
 
QF59 - Sydney to Haneda. 2K, 3K

Boarding was as expected on an A330 - straight to our seats, stuff taken from carry on, settled in and pre departure drinks served.
I can't remember the CSM greeting but he did acknowledge my very valued status and thanked me for flying.

Sparkling and coloured sparkling PBD
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Amenity kit at the seat on arrival and Pyjama's delivered soon after
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The menu was slightly different to the North American one's I'd been used to, but still provided a decent selection. Not being too adventurous, and not having seen reviews, I opted out of the bento box and went boring Western with the Prawn salad to start and then the Bannockburn chicken broth, thinking it was actually a parmy or snitty. Never mind, both were tasty and filling
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The Neil sides were just as expected - not much to get excited about with soft limp leaves and hard bread. I'm sure chef school teaches you it ought to be the other way around.
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I paired dinner with a nice Shiraz but also got my wife's off-cast bottle of Sake. I'm not usually in this market but I'm on holiday so up for anything. Half a bottle later I realised why Hoodoo Guru's wrote a song about it and why all in that song were bent, that stuff is potent!
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Dessert made an entrance and I went the cheese and chocolate thing, Because I could.
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The flight itself was uneventful, except for my pet peeve of those damn seats. I just cannot find a comfortable reclining position but maybe I am expecting it to be like my recliner chair at home. But, I managed to sit it out for 10 hours. I'm not a movie watcher on planes so I don't recall if I watched stuff.
Closer to landing the CSM came with updates. They had not been able to make up time along the way but we'd land with 60 minutes to spare and we'd get an assisted route through transit to make the flight. Surprisingly, there were another 3 PAX on the same AY flight.
Despite the short transit time, I thought there may be an announcement for everyone else to stay put until the 3 others (I think they were all in Economy) got to the front, but there was not. At any rate, all the other 3 were on the air bridge with us so off we went.
Despite being able to see the Finnair plane 2 bays away, we seemed to go right into the heart of the terminal before turning and coming back out. Transit security was a bit complex, I still cannot figure out why screening lanes do not have large clear signs saying take this out, leave this in. I had to remove my shoes and wear slippers which was a bit of sign language and Charades.
We got to the gate just as they started boarding which was a surprise as I thought the flights and airport would be as efficient and on time as the trains are in Japan.
But it appears they were late which was good for us although it was still a fast walk through the terminal with a lady who didn't have much English.
Now for the SNAFU - the delightful lady at the gate when she checked our boarding passes smiled sweetly and said "Do you mind if your bags aren't loaded"?
Well, what does one do in this position? Does one throw themselves on the ground and throw a tantrum? Does One smile sweetly back and say "That's totally fine" or does One do what I wanted to do and say the freakin' plane is just over there, I can see it, go and get the damn bags off it.
Remember that 7am check in? Opening the flight for us? First bags on, last bags off.... (Forget that One World Priority shiite, it doesn't happen for this little duck).

So, reluctantly we smiled sweetly and said that's totally fine and acceptable, we won't need those clothes for some time.... and boarded.
 
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AY62 - HND-HEL

But we also queried what was happening with our bags. The gate staff apparently said they would be on the next AY flight, but that was a day ahead as they don't fly each day. I was pretty shattered by this time - early start, Sake and all - so didn't quite pick up on it.

So, we boarded sans checked bags but comfortable knowing they were being handled and went to our seats - 2K for her, 3K for him. Another WP perk, we got front row seats. I can't recall the reasoning why but I think the LH 'A' side was booked.
First time on an A350 and was quite impressed. Finnair have removed the central bins so there is a feeling of spaciousness. The side bins are huge as a result and you won't run out of room.

By this time, with the long day, stresses of missing bags and whatever I was quite worn out.
The amenity kit was on the table on arrival, as were blankets and the 2 pillows supplied in Business. Still haven't opened the amenity kit so nothing to report there sorry.
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The seat itself was new to me, but I sort of kinda think its' OK; lots of room to spread, plenty of storage for an iPad and flotsam, power points and also wireless charging in the desk.

The seatbelt is a lap/sash but it also retracts on the lap side, which is a bit of an issue when sleeping.
The menu was actually not very inspiring or appealing to me as it was quite Japanese-orientated. That was sort of good, as I was too tired to eat so just asked for a beer (I am grass roots beer drinking yob, FYI)
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Whilst enjoying that, I looked a bit more closely at my surroundings:
Headphone and ancillary storage:
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iPad storage in the main seat:
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Additional power close to the floor

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I elected not to eat and made the bed up.
My experience of night flights is that once One goes to this prone position the crew leave you alone. Not for me, not on Finnair - I had a nice hostie shake me by the shoulder (I was on my side) asking me if I wanted to eat. Huh? I should have let out a large snore but I just ignored it and stayed still.
As has been reported, the cover/comforter/underlay is really not made for the purpose it is designed for. It got screwed up, twisted, messed up and basically made a nuisance of itself. That seatbelt also clamped you down and stopped you from tossing and turning as I do. The pillows are large and small but neither suited me for sleep.
The seat becomes a bed by flipping up a 2" wide piece that sits on the fixed part of the seat. Then you you just schmooze yourself down the back part until you are flat and there's ya bed. With the actual seat being so wide there is plenty of room for your arms to flail about but the foot section is quite small. Plenty long enough for those Norwegian frames, but not very wide.
There is also not much to stop your body parts form falling out of the pod so your arms may encroach into the aisle. Wasn't an issue for me, but I had time to imagine all sorts of things going on.
So, I got a bit of sleep but nothing worthwhile or decent. I think I was down for about 8 or 9 hours but maybe half of that time asleep.

Other things noted was the cabin was not full. I think there were at least 4 seats empty, which coming form a QF base were every premium seat is hotly sought after was of interest. As this was a reward flight we had no problem getting them about 6 months prior, as a result of changes to the original bookings.
I also noted the J cabin had some nicely printed certificates statin g that we had flown over the Polar circle of North Pole, or something. They were just sitting on a bulkhead so I thought we would be handed one on disembarkation, but nothing was said or given and we went out the middle doors not the front anyway.

next..... waking up and brekkie
 
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AY62 - awake at stupid o'clock, snack and a wander
Not being a frequent flyer enough to get used to sleeping on planes, I was awake at stoopid o'clock. My wife had beaten me to it and already had a tea and a bun to hand.
Being the curious person I had a look around this plane.
First stop - bathroom. The size was better than a QF J offering and possibly on par with an A380 F bathroom. It even had a window.
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Enough room to actually move and do stuff like brush your teeth.

There was only one FA in the forward galley, who was Norwegian and very nice. She took my order of a cappuccino and a roll/bun easily and soon enough it arrived.
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Not what I was expecting - wrapped in cling film and no pretentions but it was not bad and was fresh. Neil Perry eat your heart out the lettuce was crisp and the bread was soft. The coffee was acceptable for an airline effort. Plus it came with a little chocolate thing.

Some ice and snow action to keep you entertained:
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The table set up was very large and usable; lots of room to put the various things you end up drinking and eating.

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Along with folding, it also swung back and forwards so had plenty of options.

In due course, breakfast was served. I don't have a shot of the menu so not sure what choices there were but here's what I had;
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Blueberry juice seems to be the Finnair 'flavour' and it's worthwhile having. No particular taste but easy enough to drink. As we're European, we get the meat, cheese and bread that is favoured over there. The egg thing was memorable for being not memorable and I didn't finish it.
The fruit was fresh and tasty
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But I don't know how to approach butter that has flown more miles than yourself
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If I were reliant on this as my only breakfast for the day I'd be disappointed as it wasn't my typical selection. I'm all up for a greasy bacon and egg roll but a bit of salami - even if it is good stuff - is not my preferred waking meal.

Overall the flight was pleasant. Nothing outrageous, nothing offended and it did what it was supposed to. The seat I didn't mind but it may have been first-time joy.

Next..... HEL arrival, transit and the Schengen lounge.
 

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Helsinki arrival, transit and Schengen lounge.

We arrived a bit earlier than planned but not by much. Disembarkation was easy, we found the lines to the transit gates and then it all fell apart.
I somehow misplaced by onward boarding pass so there was a frantic bag reshuffle in the midst of it all. Meanwhile my wife whom I am normally reminding to get out passport, boarding pass, put away passport and now boarding pass, was standing aside with the female attitude that says nothing but screams loudly.
Finally, I found the pass and in we went. My pet peeve was raised - no signs saying what and not to remove from bags. A bit of to-and-fro and we finally got the bags into the scanners.
Whence they immediately exited stage left to the checkers and not to us. Sigh.
I was lucky in that I had a younger male with some sort of humour. My problem was I had some bottles of liquid - I don't recall what - not in plastic bags. He explained the issue and I said "Thanks mate, love your work". To which he enquired what does this mean, and we had a banter about what context to use it in, mainly at the Barbie with a few beers that arvo. Which required more analysis. Suitably distracted he stuffed the offending bottles into a snap lock bag and gave it all back to me.
My wife, however, got Mr Grumpy and he was not happy. She also found out that touching the bin, bag, desk or anything close to Mr Grumpy elicited a stern rebuff. No helpfully finding the items for him, no sir. Admonished for not putting her liquids in a snap lock, he proceeded to put them in a bag and then placed them back into the scanner. Now cleared, off we went in search of the lounge.

Vaguely knowing the Schengen and Non-Schengen stuff I trundled off at a tangent to the Schengen lounge, where we found it closed. Realising my mistake, we back tracked and finally found the Non-Schengen security about 6 miles away.
Going through security/immigration was easy, couple of questions and a stamp and were were in.
First order of the day was to hit the showers. Prior research let me know that there were only 2 and may be busy, but there is no queuing or number system, it is first in. The showers are just off the main lounge area. In terms of quality and presentation I'm putting them at a solid Holiday Inn Express level:
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With everything needed but no real class about it. A bit tired and used but they were welcome after some many hours of travel. Shaving kits and hair dryers are a nice addition.

In the lounge itself, it's hard to compare to a QF lounge. I'd put it at QF pub level for food and Brisbane QF J lounge for presentation. There were no outstanding spaces to sit but nothing that you didn't want to be in.
The usual items were on offer for Europe; meats, breads, cheese, pastries, porridge along with tea, coffee, juice (selected by an iPad menu) and booze.
My wife jumped on the cereal whilst I tried to hash something up with a bread roll, cheese and tomato.
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The lounge was very large with multiple places; tiny kids area, the photo above, around the corner with a different runway view and then 2 more rooms facing the main runway, one being a dedicated quiet room.
They also had pods for those loud phone talkers who have to make calls in an inappropriate space (you know who you are, don't deny it) that were soundproof to the outside world.
Wifi was good and strong and there were regular sweeps by cleaning staff.
We had about 3 hours in here and it was enjoyable. I did notice that most people seemed to be holidaying (it was a Saturday morning) and seemed to come in and out quickly, using it as a quick start to their trip.
No boarding calls were made but they had plenty of screens so you could check your flight.

Next..... AY1301 to Amsterdam
 
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AY1301 HEL-AMS

What I really like about Europe is the way they board planes. Serious stuff, they have barriers with gates that stop unauthorised boarding. And so it was for our A350 flight to Amsterdam. Group 1 were called and a few of us stepped forward. In front of us was Dad, Mum and the teenage girl. Well, Mum and Dad got the green light and an open gate but the daughter caught the red light and a buzzer. How embarrassment. Turns out they were in Economy and whilst their status let them in, hers did not. Gate staff let her through a side gate.
Being in J, we both breezed through fine.
This trip we were in the A seats, 4 and 5. Again, the J cabin was nearly empty with about 6 seats occupied. Didn't mean more/better/faster service though, the FA found things to do.
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In case you were on the wrong flight?
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Being a 3.5 hour day flight the seat was going to get a bit more of a run. I think for day flying it is good, simply because I like the ability to stretch out and spread out, rather than being stuck into one position. The pillows do assist in filling the gaps where you may slouch instead of sitting upright and it does not feel as firm as it does as a bed.
one thing I forgot to add in the night flight is the sead (seat/bed) is too firm for me as a bed and it is uncomfortable. But as a seat, strangely I thought it good.

Moving one, we come to breakfast. I don't have a picture of the menu nor can I find one in my stuff so maybe no menu was offered. That may be the case as I know we did a swap of plates on this flight - my wife doesn't do meat or egg so she would have got the tomato, beans and mushrooms whilst I would have had the rest.
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The fruit was fresh and crisp, I recall the eggs not being too bad. Overall, not a bad portion size and if used to the European way of eating it probably represented and decent breakfast.
I didn't use the IFE this time, looked at the maps and such but that was it.

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Arrival into Amsterdam was straight in and no problems and the flight was on time.

What did I think about Finnair?
The overnight flight was OK but the firmness of the sead was a problem. The mattress topper and blanket were too small - for me, I don't want to be showing skin or worse on planes when sleeping and I thought these didn't really cut it.
Meals I can't comment on as I only had 2 breakfasts, but they were decent sized and good variety so I can only think the dinner meals would be the same.
Crew were pleasant enough, but I don't know why an obviously in-bed, leave me alone passenger would be shaken to be offered food.
The cabins were quiet, mainly due to lack of people. Toilets were a decent size so you could move around.
I'd certainly consider them again as an option to get to Scandinavia if I were to fly J. I'd want to make sure all flights were eligible for lounge access - as a NB flying J, I was surprised my wife was denied access in Helsinki.
 
Amsterdam arrival and the missing luggage.

Being eternal optimists, we waited at the baggage carousel in Amsterdam for our bags to arrive. Sadly, they didn't so off we went to the luggage query place in the arrivals hall.
My recollection is a bit vague (this was a month ago) but we did receive a text from QF saying our lost luggage was being monitored. However, this seemed to have been transferred to Finnair as I got some message from them.
The luggage place had a smart girl on duty and she got us to fill in a claim form, looked up the bag tags and told us they were in Japan and Finnair had them, but they weren't leaving Japan until that night and we'd likely get them the following afternoon.
It seems that rather than stick them on the next One World flight from Japan to Amsterdam like I sort of expected would happen, the bags followed our original routing of HND-HEL-AMS. WTF, don't worry about your poor passengers, multi-national airlines. We'll get by with our cabin luggage for the next cuppla days. Like, you can use undies 4 times by rotating them in and out and back to front, right?
The only saving grace was they would deliver them to our hotel for us but we were not to expect them until after 3 pm but before 5pm.
With the comfort of knowing we had (QF) travel insurance, we were lucky that out hotel had a Lidl minutes away and we were able to buy a few personal things to cover us.
When I went to look into placing a claim, then the red tape started;
Proof of the lost luggage, via a letter from the airline.
Proof of the time taken to receive the luggage.
Receipts for the replacement items bought.
For an out of pocket of about 50 bucks I don't think I'll bother with a claim and to be fair this is the first time we've had luggage go astray in over 15 years so I might just call it even.

The happy ending is the 2 bags were delivered to our hotel and were waiting for us when we got back from a days sight seeing at 5pm. No damage, nothing lost out of them so that was good.

We've always had a policy of arriving at a destination a few days early as contingency. In this case, it was only due to the woeful availability of reward seats that we were there 4 days early, as if we had only done 2 days like we normally do, we'd be on a river ship at 3pm and sailing at 5pm. I wonder how they'd deliver bags in that instance when the next stop was 150km down river?
 
An eventful start to your trip!
We did similar to you but we flew JAL J to Haneda, a few hours in the JAL lounge and then a late departing JAL flight to Helsinki. Then Helsinki to Budapest to start a river cruise to Amsterdam
Our transit time in Helsinki was cut to 50 minutes. I was stressed and the security check process was stressful. Both our bags got moved to the checked line, which had about 10 bags ahead of us. The processing staff were in no hurry, at one stage a waiting passenger said something to the woman opening and checking the bags. She snapped back at her and moved her bag to the far end. Although mindful of our short transit, my lips were sealed. Finally she got to my bag and it was a very small tub of face cream (about 15 mls) she seemed satisfied and we took off quickly to go through immigration, which included a rather stern officer who questioned where we were going, how long in Budapest and then where afterwards and then after that. Just as well he didn't ask my husband he would have had no clue.
We joined the racing people running to their gates and made our flight. Which was a full Finnair plane travelling to Budapest. We were front row seats and watched as people literally ran onto the plane.
I will look forward to your views on your Viking river cruise.
 
Thanks for all the detail. I'm on AY SYD-xBKK-HEL at the end of this year, and I'm beginning to regret it. Before then, I was looking to book them again HND-HEL, your flight, for next year (AY RTW). I think I'll pass on that, now. Not just what you've said here, but the accumulating opinion on that shell bed thing.

Oh, and I have a 60min transit at HEL. Looks like that'll have to change.
 
You seem to have handled the luggage issue very calmly...hope the rest of your trip gets better
Well, there's not much I can do. I'm annoyed that they elected to not send the bags on the next flight to my destination and make things better for us, but that's just large corporations who cannot react quickly to issues.
The insurance is what I expect from insurance - all promises and gloss but nothing when push comes to shove.

This report is retrospective, starting on May 3. Didn't have time to do this amount of posting whilst holidaying.
 
Group 1 were called and a few of us stepped forward. In front of us was Dad, Mum and the teenage girl. Well, Mum and Dad got the green light and an open gate but the daughter caught the red light and a buzzer. How embarrassment. Turns out they were in Economy and whilst their status let them in, hers did not. Gate staff let her through a side gate.
Happens in a few places in 2017 the AA staff did not want to let my daughter board, from memory we were in group 1 or 2 and all flying AA dom F. My daughter who was on the same ticket was told she could board with Group 5, she was 9 at the time and after a discussion at the gate she was allowed to board with us. Fast forward several years and in Japan a month or so back when group 1 was called JL would let my wife and I board but would not have a bar of letting our daughter through with us, we were all on the same ticket in JL J class. It was evident that the JL staff were not budging from the OWE only standpoint so my wife stayed with our daughter until she was allowed to board and I boarded early with the cabin luggage. I have been to Japan enough times to know there are many rules and some you just do not challenge or mess with.
 
Your trip report looks good, and helpful for MrsK and my planning for a big trip at end 2026, where we are looking at the Amsterdam to Budapest (or vice versa) river cruise.

And I feel for you on the delayed luggage. I always try and carry about 3 days worth of socks, tops and undies to overcome any issues.

Not just what you've said here, but the accumulating opinion on that shell bed thing.
Maybe a case for the Rooflyer patented hiking mat topper?
 
QF59 - Sydney to Haneda. 2K, 3K

Boarding was as expected on an A330 - straight to our seats, stuff taken from carry on, settled in and pre departure drinks served.
I can't remember the CSM greeting but he did acknowledge my very valued status and thanked me for flying.

Sparkling and coloured sparkling PBD
View attachment 390601
Amenity kit at the seat on arrival and Pyjama's delivered soon after
View attachment 390610
The menu was slightly different to the North American one's I'd been used to, but still provided a decent selection. Not being too adventurous, and not having seen reviews, I opted out of the bento box and went boring Western with the Prawn salad to start and then the Bannockburn chicken broth, thinking it was actually a parmy or snitty. Never mind, both were tasty and filling
View attachment 390602View attachment 390604View attachment 390606
The Neil sides were just as expected - not much to get excited about with soft limp leaves and hard bread. I'm sure chef school teaches you it ought to be the other way around.
View attachment 390605
I paired dinner with a nice Shiraz but also got my wife's off-cast bottle of Sake. I'm not usually in this market but I'm on holiday so up for anything. Half a bottle later I realised why Hoodoo Guru's wrote a song about it and why all in that song were bent, that stuff is potent!
View attachment 390609

Dessert made an entrance and I went the cheese and chocolate thing, Because I could.
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The flight itself was uneventful, except for my pet peeve of those damn seats. I just cannot find a comfortable reclining position but maybe I am expecting it to be like my recliner chair at home. But, I managed to sit it out for 10 hours. I'm not a movie watcher on planes so I don't recall if I watched stuff.
Closer to landing the CSM came with updates. They had not been able to make up time along the way but we'd land with 60 minutes to spare and we'd get an assisted route through transit to make the flight. Surprisingly, there were another 3 PAX on the same AY flight.
Despite the short transit time, I thought there may be an announcement for everyone else to stay put until the 3 others (I think they were all in Economy) got to the front, but there was not. At any rate, all the other 3 were on the air bridge with us so off we went.
Despite being able to see the Finnair plane 2 bays away, we seemed to go right into the heart of the terminal before turning and coming back out. Transit security was a bit complex, I still cannot figure out why screening lanes do not have large clear signs saying take this out, leave this in. I had to remove my shoes and wear slippers which was a bit of sign language and Charades.
We got to the gate just as they started boarding which was a surprise as I thought the flights and airport would be as efficient and on time as the trains are in Japan.
But it appears they were late which was good for us although it was still a fast walk through the terminal with a lady who didn't have much English.
Now for the SNAFU - the delightful lady at the gate when she checked our boarding passes smiled sweetly and said "Do you mind if your bags aren't loaded"?
Well, what does one do in this position? Does one throw themselves on the ground and throw a tantrum? Does One smile sweetly back and say "That's totally fine" or does One do what I wanted to do and say the freakin' plane is just over there, I can see it, go and get the damn bags off it.
Remember that 7am check in? Opening the flight for us? First bags on, last bags off.... (Forget that One World Priority shiite, it doesn't happen for this little duck).

So, reluctantly we smiled sweetly and said that's totally fine and acceptable, we won't need those clothes for some time.... and boarded.
It started out one afternoon
Hot sake in my living room
Among some special friends

And it goes downhill from there
 
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