The five-star Intercontinental Porto lies in the heart of Porto’s historic centre and is the gem of the city’s accommodation choices. The hotel stands prominently at the end of Porto’s main avenue, Avenida dos Aliados, and is hence in the most central part of the city. The São Bento train station is just 100 metres away and the iconic Clérigos Tower is a three-minute walk. The lively large square is a hive of activity but the hotel’s soundproofed windows block out most of the noise.
I was welcomed by charming staff, check-in was done swiftly, and I was escorted to the room. The hotel’s neoclassical design was spectacular. Swarovski chandeliers illuminate the bright, marbled foyer and lobby; and velvet armchairs create comfortable seating areas with an elegant ambiance.
My room was of average size, facing the square, and was decorated in stylish but heavy dark colours. There were all modern amenities including a Nespresso coffee machine, minibar etc. The bathroom was spacious and bright. The bed was luxuriously comfortable and I slept very well. Plenty of power outlets were conveniently located on the nightstand and throughout the room.
The breakfast was my highlight of the morning. The hotel restaurant offers an enormous selection of international dishes. Local and international specialities are offered and, besides the buffet, the staff offer special egg dishes to be served at the table. I had a big pleasure to enjoy this and along with the wonderful service of the hotel’s staff throughout the premises I had an excellent stay.
The TAP Air Portugal Lounge is located one floor above the main departure hall with a panoramic view over the tarmac and runways. The lounge is open to TAP Air Portugal Premium passengers, Star Alliance partner airlines premium passengers and Star Alliance GOLD members.
I visited early afternoon and the spacious lounge was very busy but I was able to find a free table near the food buffet area. There is also a bar with chairs, a napping area, and restrooms with showers are also available. The bright green, white and red colour scheme is a bit odd in my opinion but easy to get used to. The Wifi was fast and there are electronic departure boards which display the boarding times of the flights.
The lounge offered a serviced bar, a self-service wine bar, a coffee bar, and hot and cold food items of a decent quality. The food items were restocked frequently but the tables were not cleared and cleaned adequately. I found this an OK place to spend some time before departure time.
Sofitel Lisbon Liberdade adds sophistication and classic luxury to one of Lisbon’s most stylish avenues, Avenida da Liberdade. If shopping is your thing, then you won’t be disappointed here, as the hotel is surrounded by high-end fashion boutiques. The hotel’s décor blends its French origins with a local touch, giving it a discreet elegance and refinement. Use of dark exotic woods and gold accents; along with some Asian antiques and works of art harking back to the period of the Portuguese colonies lend the hotel a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
These touches make this French chain hotel feel more like an intimate boutique hotel, rather than a big brand. I was greeted in a charming way at check-in and as I am an Accor Club member everything was done efficiently and fast. I was assigned a room facing Avenida da Liberdade with a nice view.
The room was spacious with a large, comfortable, soft bed where I slept very well and a rather small bathroom which featured French Hermès products. There was a minibar, a coffee maker and water kettle available. Turn-down service was also done and little chocolates left on the pillow before the night rest.
I found the breakfast room in the basement rather dark and uninviting; and decided to skip breakfast and rather have lunch upstairs at the popular AdLib restaurant where the service was super friendly and the food tasted ok.
I tried to contact the hotel twice before my arrival for some enquires and both attempts were unsuccessful with no replies, except for the usual e-mail receipt confirmation. I found this rather bad service for a 4 star hotel.
I had a satisfactory stay at the Sofitel Lisbon Liberdade. There were no surprises and if you are able to get a decent rate it is certainly not a bad choice.
Royal Orchid Lounge, Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, open since November 2019:
ROYAL ORCHID LOUNGE:
Thai Airways offers their First and Business Class passengers a separate check-in located at gate Door 1 on Departure Level 4 at Suvarnabhumi Bangkok International Airport. Porters are available and separate areas for First and Business Class passengers are provided for check-in, security screening and Fast Track immigration.
After passing through immigration, an escalator takes passengers down to the lounge level near gate D1. The First Class lounge, and the former Business Class lounge (now used for Star-Alliance partner airline’s passengers), are located in the west zone on the left and the new Royal Orchid Prestige Lounge is located in the east zone on the right and is used exclusively for Thai Airways Royal Silk Class passengers.
The lounge was opened in October 2019 and is approx. 2000 sqm. The lounge offers various seating options (restaurant-style seating near the buffets) and lounge areas as well as rooms for child-care and showers.
There are two bars and a main buffet area plus 2 small corners with a more limited food selection. Comparing this new lounge to the “old” one, the food and drinks options are much more generous and more delicious items are available. Frequent visitors of the old lounge remember the triangle sandwiches and the hot dog sausages that were served for decades.
A fresher look and a wider choice of food offering is now available. This was urgently needed as there are plenty of excellent alternative lounges available at this airport.
I found the new lounge to be pleasant, even though it was a very busy night. This is not the most luxurious lounge that I have experienced but it serves the purpose well.
ROYAL ORCHID SPA:
Thai Airways offers a unique facility to its premium passengers which is the Royal Orchid Spa. This spa offers separate treatments for First Class passengers (full body massages in separate luxury rooms) Herbal Spa or Steam rooms and short neck/shoulder or foot massages are available for Business Class guests. There is a resting area where relaxing Thai music is played and healthy beverages are served. The relaxation and rejuvenation treatments offered a wonderful way to get in the mood before a long flight. I find this a fantastic place to visit, especially in the evening before long night flights.
The Thai Airways Royal Orchid Spa is consistently voted number one airline spa by Skytrax and I find it a true heaven in the busy airport world. I always enjoy this special THAI experience.
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.
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.
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.
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 aircraftwas 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.
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.
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.