DAVID INTERCONTINENTAL HOTEL, TEL AVIV, ISRAEL

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The hotel’s massive lobby is anchored by two chandeliers of floating brass tubes and features Israeli art work behind the check-in counter and along the walls.

I arrived in the middle of the night was given a warm welcome. The agent was super-friendly and explained all features of the hotel including the different breakfast options due to the late arrival.

My room was on the 22nd floor and had a nice city view. The room was decorated in shades of brown and beige and seemed to be a clean standard business traveller room. However, it offered plenty of thoughtful perks for the frequent traveller such as USB ports and power outlets on both sides of the bed, as well as on the working desk. There was a water kettle and I missed my Nespresso maker. Minibar was empty and only filled on request.

The bathroom was of a good size with modern lighting, a separate bath tub and a large shower including a rainfall type shower head.

The bed was equipped with ample pillows and a comfortable blanket for a good night’s sleep. 

The gym seemed to be small at the first glimpse but it was well equipped and was nicely illuminated by a blue light. There is a large pool area with plenty of loungers, a pool bar and plenty of tables to sit and sip a coffee or have a drink and overlook the beach.

The David Intercontinental Hotel is located at the southern end of the beach which makes it easy to go out for a stroll along the sea which I enjoyed very much and made my stay very pleasant and relaxing.

https://telaviv.intercontinental.com/

GRAND HOTEL KEMPINSKI, RIGA, LATVIA

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The Grand Hotel Kempinski Riga was originally built in the 19th Century situated in the heart of Riga. The National Opera house is opposite and the world heritage history centre (Old town) is in comfortable walking distance.  

The hotel offers 141 rooms and suites, a rooftop restaurant with indoor/outdoor seating, a bar, a cigar lounge and an all-day-dining restaurant on the main level. The hotel features the Kempinski Spa with 6 treatment rooms, a full gym and a swimming pool and sauna.

I booked a deluxe room which offered a generous size of 44 sqm with a separate walk-in closet which could be fully closed. The room was tastefully appointed and everything was still very new. A minibar, a coffee maker and water kettle was available.

The large bathroom was equipped with a separate toilet, a bathtub and a shower which had a rain-shower option. The usual luxury amenities were available and a nightly turn-down service was performed. I found the bed super comfortable and I slept very well. 

The breakfast was wonderful with a wide choice of breads, cereals, fresh fruits, cold cuts and salmon, a hot section and a chef who prepared fresh egg dishes daily. A daily “healthy-shot” was offered as well as all the usual breakfast drinks and juices including sparkling wine. 

The hotel is pet-friendly and offers special features to guests which travel with their little loved-ones. (Pic of the “hotel-dog”)

I tried the gym and the swimming pool and found the facilities very modern and chic. Unfortunately, I did not have to time to do any spa-treatments or massages.

The best asset of this luxury hotel (beside the location) are undoubtedly the staff members. Everybody that I have met from the check-in agent to the concierge, the breakfast team and even the housekeepers were all very friendly and helpful. I felt like I was staying with friends and I can only praise them. I highly recommend this hotel and already look forward to staying there again.

https://www.kempinski.com/en/riga/grand-hotel-kempinski-riga/

PRIMECLASS LOUNGE, RIGA AIRPORT, LATVIA

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The Primeclass Business Class Lounge at Riga International Airport is used by the airport’s major carrier, Air Baltic, and other airlines which offer a Business Class product to their passengers.

The lounge is always available for Prioritiy Pass holders and entry can also be purchased for 40 Euro per person.

The lounge is located in the Schengen departure area offering 100 seats (830 sqm) with open views of the tarmac and runway. A bar, food options, a shower and restrooms are available. Food quality and choice was mediocre, the bar was often unattended and people had to search for staff to be served. The tables were also not cleaned  and cleared frequently and some were dirty for more than 20 minutes.

I found this lounge experience to be subpar and I would not pay the money if I had to. Sometimes it can be better to find a quiet and comfortable space in the airport restaurant to get a drink and a snack rather than using a poorly managed lounge.

http://www.primeclass.com.tr/en/Services/Pages/Riga-International-Airport-primeclass-Business-Lounge.aspx

AIR BALTIC

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Air Baltic is the flag carrier of Latvia with its head office on the grounds of Riga International Airport. Its hub is Riga, with further bases in Tallin Airport and Vilnius Airport. The airline was established as a joint venture between Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)  and the Government of Latvia. In January 2009, SAS sold its entire stake in the company.

Air Baltic operates 12 Bombardier Dash 8 aircraft with 76 seats, 4 Boeing 737-300 aircraft with 142 seats and 22 newer Airbus A220 aircraft with 145 seats. 

I took a morning flight from Zurich to Riga and checked-in online. As gate seat changes cost extra (12 Euro) I waited to board last and then took an emergency exit seat which offered a fantastic legroom. The aircraft was a 20 year  old Boeing 737-300 and Air Baltic offers BOB (buy on board) menu offering food and drinks for purchase.

The crew conducted a manual safety demo and a special “overwing” exit briefing which I found to be very professional.

Most passengers did not buy anything from the options so the flight was very relaxed. 

Air Baltic offers low fares and I found the service in a good price/performance ratio representing good value for money.

They will start nonstop flights between Zurich and Vilnius and Tallin this Spring (2020) and I hope I can soon try the newer A220.

https://www.airbaltic.com

ANDAZ by HYATT, MUNICH, GERMANY

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Andaz by Hyatt is an upscale lifestyle boutique-style hotel chain intended for cosmopolitan travellers. The Andaz Munich Schwabinger Tor is strongly connected to the heart and soul of Munich.

The hotel features the city’s highest rooftop bar, a full-service spa with swimming pool, event and meeting areas, and four food/beverage outlets. The M’Uniqo is the hotel’s trendy rooftop bar which offers a stunning view over Munich and the nearby Alps. The Lonely Broccoli restaurant is the hotel’s main dining restaurant where breakfast, lunch and steak-house style dinner is served. The Andaz Lounge Bar is more than a classic hotel lobby bar. There is a classic bar, a lounge type seating area which invites guest to sit down, unwind, have a drink, charge their mobile devices  or use the golden brezel for Instagram photo shots. (I found the lower lobby restroom to be the most popular Instagram hotspot). Bicicletta is a coffee bar where healthy smoothies, bowls and other savory snacks and coffees are served. The is a small outside terrace available for smokers or people who prefer to get some fresh air.

My check-in at the Andaz Munich was smooth and efficient. My 9th floor room was large, bright with a fantastic view over Munich and the nearby Alps. The decoration was contemporary and stylish. There was an openly designed bathroom with an oversized shower sporting a rainforest showerhead. The toilet was separate and a small walk in closet was provided. Flat screen TV and a complementary minibar with local drinks and snacks were also offered.

I found my stay at the Andaz Munich Schwabinger Tor very pleasant. This new lifestyle hotel concept, when combined with the hotel’s super-friendly staff, made me immediately feel at ease and at home.

https://www.hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/germany/andaz-munich-schwabinger-tor/mucaz

AIR DOLOMITI, ITALY

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Air Dolomiti is a 100% owned subsidiary of Lufthansa with its base in Munich, Germany. The airline’s name derives from a section of the Alps known as the Dolomites. It started operations in January 1991 and mostly operates flights between Munich and Italy as well as some other destinations which allow operations with Embraer aircrafts.

I flew from Zurich to Munich and I found the aircraft appearance to be clean and comfortable. However the seating was on the narrower side. The configuration is 2-2 where in Business Class always 1 seat per seat-pair will be kept unoccupied for privacy reasons. This procedure is well known by carriers such as Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian.

Service consisted of a pre-departure bottle of water, a refreshing towel and a pack of sweets. During the flight a cold tray was served with a full range of beverages including coffee and tea. The flight was half empty and I expected a friendly service, but the crew seemed to be annoyed working and made a rather depressed impression. What I really liked is that there was free wifi available on board. This is a nice feature, even though most of their flights are an hour or less flight time.

The Flight operated on time and arrived in Munich at an outside tarmac position. There was no separate bus for Business Class passengers available. I took Air Dolomiti on the same route back to Zurich, it was a similar experience.

https://www.airdolomiti.eu/

CONRAD HOTEL, DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

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The sky-scraping Conrad Dubai is a view-star hotel with popular night sports, a premium spa, and a completely unexpected palm-filled pool deck for this downtown hotel. 

The World Trade Centre Metro Station on Conrad Dubai’s doorstep provides easy access to several attractions, including Dubai Fountain and Burj Khalifa, both just three stops away. The airport has a station too, but the 10-minute cab ride is quicker. 

I arrived late night with my Uber and was led to the Executive lounge right away to complete my formalities there. The agent was very efficient and within minutes I was done. She explained all the facilities to me and offered me a drink before I retired to my suite.

I booked a King Deluxe suite which was 100 sqm. with a separate living room, a large bed, a bathroom and a separate guest toilet. There was a small kitchenette as well and it was located on the 43rd floor offering splendid views of the city. A Nespresso maker completed the usual luxurious amenities.

I enjoyed the size of the room very much and the services at the Executive Lounge were fantastic. Breakfast offered a wide choice and many items were available upon order as well. 

The Happy Hour offering comprised a full buffet of pre-dinner snacks and a wide selection of beverages. Staff was always attentive and very charming, ready for a little chat when times were more quiet.

The gym was open 24hours and unfortunately I did not have chance to try the spa, but overheard other guest being happy about their treatment.

The pool area was very nice and large enough to accommodate large numbers of users. The pool had a refreshing waterfall and was nicely decorated.  What I did not like about the pool was the very loud music and the ugly cream coloured plastic loungers. 

My stay at the Conrad Dubai was very pleasant and I would return to this hotel without hesitation. The Executive Lounge was the highlight of my stay.

https://www.hilton.com/en/hotels/dxbcdci-conrad-dubai/