Alex’s Honeymoon of a Lifetime

Introduction

It’s a brave man that reads a random report on a travel blog and thinks “forget where I was going to take my new wife on our honeymoon – I’ll go there”, but that’s exactly what Alex did when he paid a random visit to Schofs’ Travels around this time last year.

Was it what he expected? Read on…

London – Los Angeles, British Airways Flight 279, FIRST Class


As with so many trip reports our story begins with a harsh alarm breaking our slumber. It was 5am and we had a very long day ahead of us…

This was the beginning of our honeymoon, a trip planned almost a year earlier and inspired by Schofs’ very positive write-up, an Amex 2 for 1 voucher and 125,000 BA miles sitting in my account. Admittedly the other flights in the trip were expensive but I really wanted to go all out for this once in a lifetime trip…

Andrew from the excellent ‘Platinum Cars’ had arrived early as usual and was soon at the door, umbrella in hand to help us with our bags and to show off his new long wheelbase Mercedes S500.

The weather was horrendous and progress on the M25 was slow. We weren’t worried about missing our 10:15 departure, but any delay would eat into our Concorde Room time so I was keen to get moving. However the traffic cleared and we were dropped right outside the most Southerly entrance to T5 not long after 7am.

I’d been through T5 many times but this was a first for Kat, the new Mrs Alex. We headed to the First Class check in area and were greeted with a fairly lacklustre welcome and given directions to the bag drop. With our check-in luggage in the hands of anther half-hearted agent we made our way over to ‘fast track’ security line. I was disappointed that there is no totally separate First Class security line but we were through within about 5 minutes before heading over to the ‘secret’ entrance to the Concorde Room.

Once inside we dropped our hand luggage and started to explore. The Concorde Room is smaller than I expected but very nicely finished. We particularly liked the animated artwork over the fireplace and the ever amusing horse-lamp.

Kat soon made herself at home
We were now hungry and so we headed to the dining area. Here the staff were much more energetic than we’d experienced thus far and our order of egg and soldiers for the Mrs and Eggs Benedict for myself were well presented and very tasty.

The next stop was the spa. I’ve had mixed success in securing treatments but I figured that it being before 8am would ensure success. I was soon disappointed as no appointments were available. They could however provide us with a massage chair each and so we went for that.

The chairs have received mixed reviews and whilst not really representative of a ‘real’ massage I’m basically happy with them. It was a more or less pleasant experience except for the outside noise of the terminal which the curtains could not keep out.

After the spa we headed back into the Concorde Room for our first Bolly of the day. While the Mrs went to find a seat ‘outside’ I waited at the bar for some drinks. Then I waited some more as the bar staff finished their conversation. I then waited some more while they shuffled some glasses and only after a prompting cough was I able to get a drink. This wouldn’t have happened on Eos.

Within an hour or two our flight was showing as boarding, so following the ‘always use the lifts at T5′ rule we headed down to the B gate transit. Within a couple of minutes we were at the gate and had found the priority boarding line. There was a small queue at the L2 door before we handed over our 1A / 1K boarding passes.

We were welcomed enthusiastically and escorted to our seats and settled down with more Bolly.

What followed can only be described as a perfect flight. The crew were enthusiastic and keen to hear about our trip. We were referred to by name throughout.

I made use of the 1K buddy seat for lunch which was perfectly acceptable (although I agree with ContinentalClub’s comments on the presentation of the soup, sans the sloppage) and delivered exactly at the time we requested. We couldn’t decide which wine to go for and so the FA suggested that we try them all and arranged a little tasting session.

High-tide in the soup
After lunch the excellent crew kept us topped up with champagne as we played a few rounds of cards. They even went back to the club kitchen to secure me some ice cream!

After a couple of rounds of cards I looked up to see an unfamiliar face. It was the Captain who had come down to congratulate us and to thank us for flying with BA! We chatted for 10 minutes about the flight, the aircraft and the delights of Bora Bora. This was a really nice touch and we really appreciated the special attention.

Later in the flight, as we took afternoon tea in 1A we received another visit. This time from the entire First Class crew who came with a signed menu with messages of congratulations from themselves and the captain, along with a take-home bottle of Bolly. We were really impressed at this very generous gesture.

We landed a full 30 minutes early at LAX and were quickly at the gate. The crew had blocked the exit of Business passengers at the L2 door and we were soon into the Tom Bradley terminal.

I’ll admit that I was a little nervous about this transfer. I’d allowed 3 hours for the connection which I assumed was generous but I’d heard nightmare stories of immigration and security queues at LAX and so we proceeded briskly up to the immigration area. Nothing could have prepared me for what we were presented with‚Ķ

LA – Tahiti, Air Tahiti Nui flight TN21, Business Class

There must have been 40 open booths, fully manned and no more than 1 or 2 people in the lines at each. Despite some questioning about a recent trip to the middle-east we were through within minutes. Similarly there was no delay with baggage, with ours being about the 10th bag onto the belt.

Within a few more minutes we had got back up to departures, checked in for our Air Tahiti Nui flight, cleared security and found a seat in the not too salubrious lounge. With at least 2 hours to spare the flight was now showing as delayed so I really didn’t need to be concerned about missing the connection!

With time to kill we made use of the free wifi internet access to update our relatives on progress, chat to Schofs and to view some of the pictures from the wedding.

Boarding was announced in the lounge and so we headed to the gate to find that boarding was still a while away. However once the announcement was made I was impressed to see the priority boarding was clearly announced and was well enforced.


We quickly found our seats and got settled. The plan was to not sleep too much on this flight to ensure that we would be able to sleep once we finally got to Tahiti. This turned out not to be a problem as the ‘Z’ seating of the Air Tahiti Nui business class seat whilst comfortable isn’t conducive to sleep.

We were offered a hot towel (one of four offered throughout the flight!), dinner (which I declined) and refreshments. The flight was 2 hours longer than I thought much to the distress of Kat who was getting tired at this point.

The delay meant we arrived into Papeete quite late but we were still welcomed with a flower and to the strumming of a local band. Immigration was very swift for EU citizens.

Tahiti

We were met at arrivals by Katie from the Intercontinental and within 5 minutes we were being welcomed to the hotel and enjoying a fruit cocktail. A number of gifts were waiting for us in our over water bungalow but we didn’t get much chance to review them before we fell asleep.


The next day we awoke to clear sky, a wonderful view of the nearby island of Moorea and not a hint of jet lag. The plan was to stay for 5 nights at the InterContinental Tahiti to allow ourselves time to get used to the time zone before we headed to Bora Bora. The resort has been pretty well covered by Schofs but here are a few observations…

  • The main pool is very nice but is quite busy, the pool by the Lotus restaurant tends to be quieter and has a sand floor which is unusual.
  • You can take a bus into the town (800XPF return) but I wouldn’t bother, it’s not that nice and there’s not much to see.
  • The fish feeding session at the Lagoonarium (15:00 every day) is worth seeing. Watch out for the sea gull!

    The pool by Lotus

    Fish feeding

    Dusk at the InterContinental Tahiti
    The 5 nights really flew by but we didn’t mind as were excited about the next stage of our trip, Bora Bora. This was what we were really looking forward to as the reviews from Schofs and others were so positive.

    Tahiti – Bora Bora, Air Tahiti Flight VT 260

    We arranged for Katie to take us back to the airport at 6am. 10 minutes later we were checked in for our Air Tahiti flight and were enjoying coffee in the airport. We’d learned that it was best to be on the left-hand side of the plane and with no allocated seating that meant being towards the front of the boarding queue.

    We took our positions at the front of the gate but as soon as boarding was announced at least 30 people managed to push their way in front of us. It wasn’t a problem in the end as there were plenty of seats available on the left-side.

    The flight was pleasant and being less than an hour the only refreshments were a much appreciated Pineapple juice.

    We saw a few islands go past on the left hand side but as the plane started to descend we got our first sight of Bora Bora… across the aisle on the right hand side of the plane!

    We were welcomed at the airfield by a solitary fire tender and wandered into the ‘terminal’. A very enthusiastic representative from the Intercontinental Thalasso Spa then took our bags to a waiting shuttle boat and we were on our way!

    Bora Bora

    A golf cart was waiting at the dock and we were immediately welcomed and given a tour of the site before being dropped at the reception lounge. Check in was pretty painless with one exception, the complementary upgrade from Emerald to Diamond that I’d arranged in advance had been ignored. Fortunately I had copies of the emails with me and this was quickly resolved.

    We then had our photo taken, it wasn’t explained quite why…

    Our villa wasn’t yet ready and so we were shown to a reasonably comfortable day room.

    Again the resort has been pretty well covered by Schofs but here are some observations / highlights:

    • The villas are really nicely designed, a good size and very comfortable. It’s wonderful to jump off the deck into what is basically an enormous swimming pool.
  • The views and grounds are all fantastic, it really is a paradise.
  • The staff are all very friendly, helpful and welcoming.
  • Bubbles bar looks like a footballer’s living room, is expensive and has zero atmosphere. If you fancy an evening drink I recommend taking the free shuttle to the InterContinental on the main island. The bar there is unpretentious, cheaper and has a pool table.
  • I recommend making use of the free snorkel and kayak hire as a fun way of exploring the lagoon.
  • It’s possible to take a kayak over to the neighbouring resort. We didn’t do it but a couple we met took some snorkels over to explore their Lagoonarium and said it was well worth the trip.
  • We did the 4×4 safari on the main island which was great fun.

    A view from the 4×4 tour

    • The restaurant Villa Mahana is well worth the trip, just make sure you book well in advance. It was booked solidly for 6 weeks ahead when we were there. They’ll pick you up from the InterContinental on the main island and will be sure to get you back for the last boat.
  • We didn’t try Bloody Mary’s but the reviews from people we met continue to be mixed.
  • The lobby has a ‘bring a book, take a book’ library system. If you go, see if you can find one of ours!
  • Had a couple of massages in the Thalasso Spa which was expensive but pretty pleasant as you look through the floor of the treatment room at the fish below. Included in the treatment charge is access to their range of bizarre water treatments including ‘The sheep dip’, ‘The steam room’, ‘The Blooming-Cold Pool’ and a number of private Jacuzzis. All together a nice way to pass a morning.The 8 nights flew by and eventually it was time for us to leave. The hotel had arranged a shuttle to take use back to the airport and we were collected by a golf buggy which took us over to the dock. Just as we were leaving we were given some shell necklaces and a copy of the photo they’d taken when we arrived.

    Here are some photos from our stay…

    View from the mutu back to the main island

    Balcony of our villa

    View of the villas

    Me enjoying the necklaces
    Bora Bora – Tahiti, Air Tahiti Flight VT445


    This time I’d observed the wind and likely takeoff direction and decided that the right hand side of the plane would give the best view. I was not mistaken as we got a wonderful view of the island and the Thalasso Spa as we went past.

    On the approach to Tahiti we also got a great view of the InterContinental there.

    Katie met us again and once again we enjoyed a first class welcome to the hotel. We once again received an upgrade to an over water bungalow and even received yet another welcome gift in the room.

    We spend the day relaxing, I used the business centre to check in for our return flight and made use of the free laundry facilities to ensure that our clothes would be fresh when we finally got home.

    Our flight back to LAX was at around 11pm so we requested a late checkout (4pm) and then spent the evening having a relaxed dinner before Katie took us back to the airport for the final time.

    Tahiti – LA, Air Tahiti Nui Flight TN22, Business Class

    At the airport we were greeted with some huge queues as two Air Tahiti Nui flights were due to leave within 90 mins of each other. Fortunately there was a premium check in line and we were through to the lounge within 20 minutes.

    Once on the plane sleep didn’t come easily but we managed a couple of hours before touching down at LAX. Only 2 hot towels were offered on this flight so 4 remains the record!

    Once again immigration was a breeze, a friendly official saw us through in minutes, our bags were out shortly afterwards and within 20 minutes of landing we were at the check in queue for our Club World return flight (showing a 1 hour delay).

    LA – London, British Airways Flight BA 278, Club World

    The One World lounge at LAX is pretty pleasant with lots of computer terminals a good selection of food and drinks. The chicken broth was particularly good, the “Chandon” sparkling wine less so. Eventually boarding was called and we made a bleary-eyed trip to the gate to find that (once again) this was a lie.

    To make matters worse priority boarding was part of a garbled message and so we had to queue for a while to get on. Once onboard we made our way to 62A/62B and made ourselves comfortable.

    The flight was pleasant enough, the AVOD system required one reboot and there was no ice cream to be had (although thanks must go to the crew member who searched the whole plane to try and find me some). We awoke to the smell of coffee and landed approximately one hour late.

    Terminal 5 managed to produce our bags in record time and we were soon met by Andrew who was ready to waft us back around the M25 and home to a mountain of post!

    In summary it was our perfect honeymoon. We just wanted somewhere quiet, relaxing and warm and Bora Bora really delivered. Food and drinks were very expensive but we did well with the Royal Ambassador benefits at the Intercontinental Hotels so that helped to off-set the costs.

    We plan to go back for our 10th anniversary, we just hope that it isn’t overdeveloped by then…