An evening at Epicurean, Crown Towers, Sydney.

There is a waiting list for this restaurant for a reason. There is a reason why the cost for this meal required you to really eat as little as possible for the day. This was a restaurant that really compared it with the best out there.

I normally do flight reports, but this restaurant was and this experience was worthy of a report away from my normal reports. I just hope I do it justice.

Having been put on the wait list for this restaurant for about 2 and a half months, the day had finally arrived for us to experience what is one of the most talked about restaurants in Sydney.

We arrived early (at about 5.05pm) to find the restaurant was not open as yet. We walked around Barangaroo and look it was a nice place, but not really many shops and amenities outside of the Crown precinct. It was hard to see any other shops open or did I not search enough?

When we finally were welcomed in, we were wowed even before getting to our table as we walked past the dessert bar and the fresh seafood bar. The kids were already eyeballing what to have for dessert, whereas my wife and I were eyeballing the seafood (priorities!). We got to our table and our host introduced themselves and then we went and started.

Foodwise: A vast selection of food which included multiple types of food, cuisines and even a noodle, sushi and savory station. WOW was all I could say. The pictures, well they don’t do it justice.

The Sashimi bar had three staff members there who were slicing the fish accordingly. The only disappointment for this was the fact the soy sauce and the wasabi were from packets. Just putting it out there, you’d think for the price you pay the wasabi and soy sauce wouldn’t come from packets!

They had a Chinese stand, where you could get dumplings, noodles, rice, Roast Pork, Char Siu, Duck. An Indian stand had various sauces, papadums and lentils. There was the sashimi bar, which included various Japanese dishes, the seafood stand which had crabs, Balmain Bugs, prawns, oysters, lobster and seafood salad at least. But the list went on. There was the savoury stand along with dessert and of course the chocolate fountain. That is just a taste of the food at this restaurant.

Service was undertaken with a smile. The staff at Epicurean really kept a close eye on your table and cleared it promptly after service. They were also able to tell me the type of prosciutto they were serving which was even tastier than the San Danielle which we normally eat.

While they allocate 2 hours for you to eat till your hearts content, I didn’t feel at anytime they were trying to rush us out at the 2 hour mark. We did leave at the 2 hour mark because we were very full. It was a lovely evening and we have already booked for the next visit.

So, is Epicurean worth the wait? Yes. Is Epicurean worth the money? Well, if you strategically plot what you eat then absolutely! Would I go back? Absolutely, already doing it in October 2022. Go for the food, soak in the sunset. The sunsetting and the mood it sets at the restaurant is lovely.

Enjoy the pictures (the few I took!) and thanks for reading!

Qantas Scenic flight – Great southern land (QF787 Sydney – well, Sydney, 10 October 2020)

Wow. Spectacular, amazing and breathtaking. Some of the simple words I would use to describe today.

I was one of the very fortunate 150 passengers on QF787, the Great Southern Land Scenic flight that Qantas sold out in about 10 minutes when it went for sale.

The morning started on 10 October 2020 with passengers requested to arrive at the airport by 8.30am. Boarding started at 9.45am for a 10.30am departure. Departure gate and arrival gate at Sydney was Gate 10. A number of formalities took place at the Qantas Business lounge, where all passengers were served breakfast, drinks and given a set of pyjamas to wear on the flight. There was also a drinks station serving alcohol with Australian natives. For a Qantas flight it was interesting this stall used an old Ansett Australia trolley cart to serve the drinks off.

Anyway, moving to the food, we were served a bacon and egg roll. Not long after 9.30am the formalities started, with Jim Wilson being our MC. Jim Wilson, an Australian TV presenter now works for Channel 9, but was formally a sports presenter with Channel 7. Jim gave a quite thorough run down of the flight today, spoke with one of the Captains who gave a big run down of the flight path for the flight. Then, we had an auction for some 747 memorabilia. The items on auction were a 747 intercom phone, call panel, Exit sign. Other items included 2 787 flight simulator experiences and a NT experience. All up the auction raised over $12,000 for charity. Not bad for a 20 minute (if that) auction. Prior to boarding we were given entertainment by a member of Icehouse Iva Davies, singing two songs, one of which was ‘Great Southern Land’ and Shannon Noll, who also performed at the gate as we boarded. The Captain explained that the plane was actually woken up from her sleep last week to do this flight.

I boarded ‘Emily’ or Yam Dreaming, the Qantas 787 Dreamliner registered VH-ZND, MSN: 63390, Ln: 669 and took my seat in 51A. This was luckily my second flight on the 787, with my first one on VH-ZNC. The flight, QF787 then pushed back at about 10.35am with takeoff towards the south and then going around the city. We were warned by the flight crew that the power would cut so we could climb to 3000ft instead of 5000ft, standard so we weren’t alarmed (I don’t know the exact term but yup, the captain wasn’t wrong, we were climbing and then the engines didn’t make a sound). Hearing those engines roar to life during the take off was a sound I missed! Emily was woken up only a week prior to the flight and the crew did a test around Sydney the day prior. Firstly, we turned right over Kurnell and then headed around ANZ stadium before tracking through Darling Harbour before heading out and taking a left near Bondi before tracking north.

The flight headed up north past Newcastle, and then up to Byron Bay via Ballina. We snaked our way up the coast before heading to the Gold Coast where we saw the beaches. The weather was amazing. After the Gold Coast we headed up to the Great Barrier Reef. We saw multiple places along the way, one of which included Whitehaven Beach. We flew over heart reef (which is very small) before eventually finishing up near the reefs and heading to Hamilton Island. Hamilton Island was only really seen on the right hand side. Once we finished looping around the reef and islands (apologies if they weren’t in the right order), we headed to Townsville, before turning left heading inland to Mount Isa and then to Uluru via Alice Springs. Once we turned left after Townsville we were served lunch, created by Neil Perry. The food was amazing for economy class food. The time taken to Uluru was about 2 hours. We also watched the movie ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood’. It was timed quite perfectly. Once we finished we were over Alice Springs. Then came probably the highlight of the day, Uluru. The weather was perfect and we flew as low as about 1800ft (Uluru itself is already elevated. Captain Lisa told us it was about 1800ft once we took everything into consideration). Everyone on the plane was amazed. Others were more worried about people on the ground thinking we’d be crashing because we were so low. Throughout the whole flight the altitude was a lot lower than normal. A very amazing experience flying so low. Pictures really didn’t do it enough justice.

After doing a few loops around Uluru and the surrounding national park, we then headed back for Sydney. Really powering up the engines, we cruised for the best half of 90 minutes before being told we are about to start our descent to Sydney. On the way back to Sydney we were treated to the movie Jumanji the next level. Scenery was breathtaking the whole day and flight. The entertainment on the plane was provided by the Pathfinders people, varying from a Austin Powers inspired parade to a sneak peak new line of apparel appearing on the Qantas Store website next week. Throughout the WHOLE day we were given commentary by the flight crew. Very valuable and insightful. We were also given a commentary by experts of the National Park and also the Great Barrier Reef.

We landed on the main runway at 7.09pm to claps and applause. We made our way back to Gate 10 before everyone slowly but surely disembarked. All up we were away 8 hours 26 minutes. So worth the money paid given the time away.

It was a long day, but it was so worth it. If anything it was inspiring to see what parts of Australia were like that I had never seen before. There was a bit of turbulence but you know what, no one complained. Would I do the next scenic flight? Just tell me where and when and I’ll be there.

I would like to thank the crew, both flight crew and cabin crew for making the day so enjoyable, memorable. Thanks also to the Qantas crew for organising the flight, Jim Wilson the MC and Neil Perry for creating the menu for the day. Everything went quite close to clockwork. To the flight and cabin crew, the professionalism and service you provided was top notch.

Pictures (In no particular order. The last picture was the completed flight route as per You can see how low we were during the flight):

Thank you for reading and please share / comment if you like the post.

Qantas Farewell to the Queen of the Skies… QF747 Canberra – Canberra

It doesn’t happen often, let alone in Canberra, but 17 July 2020 was a memorable day.  The queen of the skies, the Boeing 747-400 came to my hometown airport for one last hurrah.  Booking this flight was challenging, given it sold out in 14 minutes, as the Qantas Executive said.  With my ticket booked, I arrived at Canberra airport early and went to Gate 4 to get my boarding pass and my goodie bag.  The goodie bag consisted of an amenity kit, a Farewell Qantas 747 flag and the Qantas 747 cap.  that was the economy class bag.  Sadly, I was not fortunate enough to get a business class ticket.  They got a pretty nice looking retro bag.

By the time I got my goodie bag and boarding pass, the queen had already arrived and parked at the gate.  The flight crew and some PR people along with some dignitaries came around the waiting area to talk to people.  I felt they were still only talking to Qantas staff as opposed to the general public like me.  That’s what I felt it was like.  With some entertainment at the waiting area and then a presentation for Qantas from the Air Transport Safety Bureau, we all started boarding the aircraft at Gate 4.  Flying under COVID-19 conditions meant that for the first time in a long time, I boarded the aircraft from the back of the plane.  No complaints though, I got a good shot of the plane prior to boarding.  I will say though, those stairs are VERY steep heading to the 747.  It felt so much like climbing a steep flight of stairs!

Canberra – ZZF (Mystery Flight – Canberra)
12.26pm – 1.31pm (1hr 6min)
Boeing 747-400ER
VH-OEJ ‘Wunala’
Pax 263 / 364

Once on board, I waited in my seat patiently while the plane progressively filled up.  263 passengers boarded this last 747 flight.  Eventually the doors shut and in true fashion, we still couldn’t find a few passengers but when they were found, we started pushback not long after.  We were given the safety briefing before we headed down to runway 35.  I will say though the taxi was very quick.  We then took off and boy will I miss those engines coming to full life.  We then headed according to the flight plan (Today the very last Qantas 747 will take off on her final passenger flight, soaring over the nation’s capital for the last farewell joy flight from Canberra. She’ll take to the skies around 12pm, heading north and then to the west to take in the sites of the Snowy Mountains, passing over Tumut, Talbingo, Kiandra, Mount Kosciusko, Jindabyne and Cooma before approaching Canberra from the south to pass Woden and fly over Parliament House, down Anzac Parade, over the War Memorial and towards Mount Ainslie. She will then fly down the length of Lake Burley Griffin and loop back for one final stretch down the lake to give everyone stationed shore-side a second look, before returning to the airport around 115pm) The shots of the Snowy Mountain region was amazing.  It was a perfect day for flying.  On the plane to be honest the people on the window seats would have gotten the best view of the actual overfly of Canberra, as the seatbelt sign was on and we were all seated for probably the best part of the flight.  I was in an aisle seat and while I could see Telstra (Black Mountain) Tower from above and it was lovely, I couldn’t get decent pictures.  We made a  turn and went back to Lake Burley Griffin before landing from Runway 17. one last time.  It was bittersweet, as applause filled the cabin and the cabin services manager said her farewell, fighting back emotions doing it.  She was retiring after many years with Qantas.

We taxied back to Gate 4, not before getting a water cannon salute and then finally arriving at the gate.  It was bitter sweet for me, when I heard the engines being switched off.  It’s hard to explain, but to me (the 747) it’s not just a plane that got me from A to B, but it’s a plane that made flying fun, it’s a plane that I am used to seeing whenever I go to Sydney and it’s a plane that I can so associate with the Qantas colours easily.  Economy Class passengers were asked to disembark from the back of the plane, not before being given opportunity to take pictures with the queen on the other side.  I took my last pictures with the Queen of the Skies before heading back into the terminal where afternoon tea was served and then I eventually, reluctantly left the terminal.

The one thing I was disappointed about with regards to this flight was that Qantas advertised that there would be a guided tour of the 747 by the pilots.  This never occurred.  There was NO behind the scenes peek of the crew rest area after the flight as well.  I don’t know if we had to ask, but there was also no opportunity to visit the cockpit as well.  I would not have minded visiting the cockpit one last time or even seeing the crew rest area for the first time…  I know this will never occur so hey… maybe Qantas could keep to their inclusions or not advertise it if they don’t plan on delivering on the inclusions.

Apart from that blemish, I reckon Qantas did the Queen of the skies proud, giving people a final opportunity to say farewell and thank you.  I am just thrilled to be part of this little bit of Australian history.  This was the first commercial 747 flight in Canberra with passengers.  Ironically it will most likely be the last one as well, with so many 747 operators announcing the retirement of their fleets.

Living close to the airport, I got one last picture of her leaving Canberra as the 747 positioned back to Sydney as QF6161.  I will say, thank you Qantas for making this happen.  Thank you Qantas for all the memories with the 747 (I, like many of you will have many stories about your adventures on the 747) and thank you Canberra Airport and everyone who made this day a day to remember.  I will say if this is my last 747 flight, it’s a great way to sign off on this bird.

I didn’t do a video trip report on this flight as there were so many people with go pros, video cameras and every other recording gadget known to man on the plane.  I captured my pictures and am happy with it.  Please enjoy the pictures and thank you for reading this history making trip report.  I don’t know what my next trip report will be, but it’ll be hard to beat this one.

Part 2: Sydney – Auckland – Rotorua (Holiday Inn Auckland Airport / NZ8149)

So arriving in Sydney International after the transfer from the domestic terminal, the bus drops off at the entry way to the immigration area.  My wife and I were able to use the e-gates which made the clearing very swift.  Once cleared, the duty free always seems to greet you straight away.  We didn’t really need to buy anything so walked through it.  I will say to everyone that whatever you want or see in duty free, please check the local shops etc… prior to checking duty free as it isn’t always cheaper.

Having access to the Qantas International Business Lounge, we headed up the escalator to the lounge, passing the Qantas First lounge, which I am determined to visit one day.  We arrived at the business lounge which was quite full.  I think the Dallas, San Fran, Singapore along with the evening NZ flights were all due to leave so a lot of people in the lounge.  QF1 that day was delayed to 7.00pm at least.  Nevertheless the selection was decent.  There was 2 meat selections and one vegetarian option.  The views of the lounge allowed me to see the runway for most of the takeoffs from Sydney.  Nothing spectacular happened after settling down for some food and drinks.  Pictures of the tarmac are below.

After about 2 hours in the lounge, contacting hotels to inform them that we weren’t able to arrive in time, boarding commenced for our flight to Auckland, onboard the 737-800.  The aircraft is VH-VZK, which used to fly as ZK-ZQF in its early days with Jetconnect NZ.  The plane was full.  I think there was only 2 or 3 seats spare but very random seats were spare.  Flight time was about 2 hours and 45 minutes.  We would be arriving on time in Auckland.  During the flight, we were offered a selection of pork, chicken or a salad.  The flight crew you could see had a lot on their plates, getting everyone served, with drinks and a meal.  They did it with a smile though.  Incoming Passenger cards were also handed out to passengers arriving in New Zealand as well.  After the meal, I explored the entertainment options on this trans-Tasman flight.  It was limited.  For whatever reason, the movie selection was only restricted to the new releases and nothing else.  I couldn’t watch classics or any other genre of movies.  I watched sitcoms for the whole flight, knowing that I preferred a laugh on planes than to watch a serious film unless there was enough time, which in this case, wasn’t enough time.

Soon enough, the flight crew came on the PA and said that we would be making our descent through to Auckland.  At about 10.25pm we touched down at Auckland airport and taxied to I believe gate 16B.  We parked next to a fellow 737 that had arrived not so long prior.

Once I stepped into the terminal at Auckland, I realised that I didn’t miss certain elements of the airport.  It is still a rather dark airport in colour and I think certain parts should really undergo an upgrade.  We arrived at gate 16 and the airport looked welcoming, bright and colourful, but once you got past the duty free shopping, it started to darker and darker until probably after immigration when it got a little brighter again.  This had nothing to do with the fact that it was about 11pm at night because these were all lights inside the terminal.

Once we had cleared customs and immigration in New Zealand, we made our way out to the arrivals hall.  Tip to Auckland Airport, please make signage clearer for the local airport buses because the signage is quite poor.  I was extremely lucky that my wife found the ticket machine for this bus and that’s how we knew we were at the right place. The Yellow Bus is a bus that services the local hotels near Auckland Airport.  Auckland Airport is some distance from the city, so a lot of people, like us would choose to stay closer to the airport rather than Auckland City proper.

The hotel for the night was the Holiday Inn Auckland Airport.  I didn’t really have much choice in this hotel as it was the only one available for me to use with my IHG points.  Lesson learnt from this is to really have some points lying around for that rainy day!

The hotel itself is actually quite nice.  It looked like a boat, or was it an aeroplane?  Anyway, staff were quite happy given the late time in the evening (it was about 11pm).  Once checked in, we headed to our accommodation for the next 8 hours.  Like literally it was about that because our flight out of Auckland was 8.35am the next morning.  The hotel was missing one thing and that was a lift.  I couldn’t find it, but maybe it was hidden.  A hotel with no lift and my room being through 2 flights of stairs was not going to be fun.  Apart from that, the hotel had decent facilities and amenities, with the bathtub, bed and it seems its just a New Zealand thing, but the air conditioning units are on the floor.  Most of the other hotels around the world I’ve stayed in (New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong etc…) seem to always have the units on the roof.  Nevertheless, the room was a room.  I was very appreciative that hey at least I could get decent sleep for the night.

14 February 2020: Valentine’s Day.  I didn’t really have anything ready for my wife, but hey a flight to Rotorua doesn’t sound too bad a Valentine’s day gift right?

We left the hotel quite early, but it was later than what the staff said.  Our flight to Rotorua was at 8.35am and having checked in already, we knew that we just had to be there by 8am at the latest.  We were there earlier.  Catching the Yellow Bus again, we arrived at the domestic terminal.  This flight was always going to be interesting as I have yet to experience Air New Zealand domestic.  Anyway, check in was fine, kiosks and then approaching baggage drop, it was not crystal clear that my flight being regional, bag drop needed to occur further down.  I was informed of this by a staff member.  Fine, no issues, I’ll drop it further down.  For peak hour though, there seemed to be a very very small amount of actual baggage drop stations for regional flights.  Anyway, bags dropped, boarding passes issued I thought to explore the terminal.  Now from one end to the other, you have Regional flights to Air New Zealand Domestic flights (Queenstown, Christchurch, Wellington, Dunedin, basically anywhere the A320 flies to) and then you have Jetstar domestic.  Amazingly though, all the food was down near the Jetstar end of the terminal!  There are no real scenes of the tarmac as our flight was a regional flight and the waiting area was before the boarding gates.

I guess problem 8 (are we up to that?) occurred when we were informed by the ground staff that our Air New Zealand plane would still go ahead, but there would be no toilet on the plane as it was broken.  Hmmm… I’m ok with that but come on Air New Zealand, Auckland being your major hub, surely you could have subbed in another plane to do what is in essence a 90 minute round trip?  Anyway, I think a lot of the passengers then just headed to the facilities before boarding.  We flew on ZK-NEG, a Dash 8-300 in the original blue and green livery.

Getting a seat and bag fare, I did pre-purchase my seats, which was more forward on the Dash 8 but given the last minute change, for some reason Air New Zealand didn’t allow me to even re-select my seat.  I wonder if that is fare, given I did pay to select specific seats which I was not given on my actual flight in the end.

Once on board there was only 1 flight attendant.  We headed to our seats which was the back of the plane.  Interestingly enough, there was at least one clear row between us and the rest of the passengers on this light flight.  Wonder what was happening there?  Anyway, flight time was given as a very short 27 minutes and we would be climbing to 7000ft, if I am was not mistaken.  Once we took off, service commenced.  Now, it said on the ticket that I would get a snack and drink.  We did get a drink, water.  We did get a snack, those Air New Zealand famous lollies.  I get it, it was a short flight, but hmm… a muesli bar is better than those lollies…  Virgin Australia even offers a muesli bar between Canberra and Sydney!

The snacks aside, the scenery in New Zealand in amazing.  To see it from above is even more spectacular!  We landed not long after 910am at Rotorua Airport.  It was 2 sheds pretty much and I got to admit a cute little airport.  It was raining when we landed, well lightly drizzling which didn’t help because there was no covered walkway!  We then got our bags and picked up the rental car, which again TIP: You will need a car in Rotorua to get around the place.  It’s going to be very hard to do a lot of things without one.  Just remember to leave yourself enough time to return the car just prior to any flight because there’s nothing to do at the airport if you return the car early.

All in all, getting to Rotorua, we arrived about 13 hours after we were meant to arrive.  We had about 8 problems along the way, saw the staff at Qantas in Canberra work tirelessly to get me to my destination and through this experience will have many dinner stories to tell at the parties we attend.

Would I fly Qantas again? YES.  Without a doubt I know Qantas have gone above and beyond to help me out in my time of need.  They didn’t leave me high and dry and heck, even a ground staff member was offering to give me a lift home if I didn’t make it out.  I would say to Qantas though, for even trans-tasman flights, please unlock the classic movie collection on the 737 that we were able to browse though on the dreamliner back home.  The very limited selection of movies was a bit of a bummer for the flight to Auckland.

Would I fly Air New Zealand again? Well, yes (I write it in normal letters).  I think I would drive the next time to Rotorua.  For the exorbitant price I paid to fly to Rotorua, it really isn’t worth your money.  To only be given lollies and water on the flight, what’s worse on a flight without a working toilet… I get it Air New Zealand, you just want our money but come on, at least give us something more substantial than just water and lollies, even for a short flight like ours.  Virgin offer something more substantial for an equivalent short flight!  I would fly them if I had to.  But I wouldn’t mind experiencing their A320 service to compare next time.

I’ll post up in due course our return flights, featuring the Qantas 787 dreamliner.

A trip report that nearly never occurred (Canberra – Rotorua with QF, NZ and VA) Part 1

This trip report is on a Valentine’s Day weekend that originally was meant to be to Perth on Virgin Australia, but due to a very frustrating and disappointing time taken trying to sort the issue out with Virgin Australia, my wife and I decided to go somewhere else for a Valentine’s Day getaway.

So here is to the trip that just about had it all.

Before I start, for the record, I would like to take my hat off to the front line staff of Qantas who have to deal with the various customers good and bad.  It is amazing though to see the Spirit of Australians hard at work and so alive.  The trip nearly didn’t go ahead but the Qantas team at Canberra airport worked tirelessly to get us on our way.  To Cara and the team at Canberra Airport, we did it!

You maybe thinking how did a Virgin Domestic flight to Perth end up being a Qantas International flight?  It was simple.  For the amount of money I would have had to spend in Perth, the amount was pooled and this amount was roughly equivalent to the amount of money spent on this trip.  Therefore, the logical choice was to go somewhere we hadn’t been before.  TIP: for any trip, take the costs and then decide, for what you are spending, decide can you go further, to a place you want to go?  My wife and I have done this twice, once to London, instead of Los Angeles and this time, Rotorua instead of Perth.  This is another story for another day.

So we tried to book flights to Asia, Singapore in particular, but the only problem was COVID-19 (aka Coronavirus) still at its peak.  The risk was too high to go.  Having been everywhere else in the area, we decided to settle on Rotorua, New Zealand.  Why Rotorua you ask? Multiple Hot Springs, Lake Taupo and Hobbiton.  My wife and I sure needed R&R so this would be a nice opportunity to achieve it.

Having decided on the flights, it was booked and nerves were a lot calmer.  The day of travel had arrived.  Very specific flights were booked to get to Auckland, as I wanted to fly on the Qantas widebody fleet and get to Rotorua on the same day.  The flights booked were QF1516, QF145 to connect to Rotorua NZ8159.  On the way back I booked specific flights that would allow me to experience the Qantas 787 Dreamliner.

Date: 13 February 2020, day of travel.  Also, a day of multiple problems!

With a 945am departure, we left our place and caught an Uber, which was excessively expensive, $50+, especially when I changed extra for a rush where I only changed the booking by 10 minutes.  This was a day of multiple problems.  It really felt as though we were not meant to travel.  We got to the airport and started checking in for our flight to Sydney, QF1516.  Problem 1 then surfaced.  This was the New Zealand Tourist Authority was saying that my wife didn’t have a valid authority for entry.  No problems, this was resolved quickly.  TIP: Always get the NZ Visitor Waiver Visa from the NZ Government website.  A link is included here:  But then Problem 2 surfaced.  I was told by the check in team member that the flight was delayed, possibly due to a lightning strike.  This was never confirmed, but they said it was mechanical in the end.  The new scheduled departure time was close to 12pm.  I informed the team member that this was going to be hard as we had a connection to Auckland at 1215 and then a connection to Rotorua at 1950.  Qantas said we can get you on a flight that can get you to Auckland, but getting to Rotorua would be very hard.

Problem 3 then surfaced, which was that my wife’s residential return visa had actually expired.  5 years it is valid for but no reminders were given.  So another phone call and another massive wait.  This was truly the worst part because to get this fixed, it could have taken anywhere from 4 minutes to about 5-7 days.  This was eventually resolved.  But let’s just say that was 40 minutes of my life.  Worst time to spend over $400 to get the Visa renewed, but hey… it was worth it.

Once problem 3 had resolved, the ground crew at Qantas in Canberra airport got my wife and I underway, with the final itinerary as QF1478 and then onto QF147 for Auckland.  We had to stay in Auckland for one night because there was no possibility of getting to Rotorua on the same day.  Problem 4 was telling Air New Zealand this and compassionately asking them to change a non changeable flight, otherwise as everyone knows, miss the first flight, you miss all your flights.  Luckily calling Air New Zealand a second time, they were able to change us to the following mornings first flight to Rotorua.  All up a 13 hour delay from our original arrival time.

We didn’t have much time to relax in the lounge at Canberra airport.  Our first flight, QF1478 was boarding within about 30 minutes.  We headed to the gate, gate 13 and boarded the plane.  We were relieved that after the number of problems we encountered, we’d finally be on our way.  Or were we?

Problem 5 then surfaced.  5 problems just getting out of Canberra was a first for my wife and I.  My wife was commenting that we should never have taken this trip and these 5 problems were a sign.  As we were taking off, I could hear the plane at full throttle, but then within 15 seconds it felt the engines were CUT.  The plane stopped very quickly and the plane was moved onto the taxiway.  We were then told that the flight had experienced an aborted take off (Problem 5) and that we would be underway momentarily.  My wife and I were thinking can it get any worse?

We finally took off to Sydney towards the south.  Flight time was about 45 minutes and we were in Sydney by about 2pm.  So far, 5 hour delay from our original departure time.

The trip across to the International Terminal always is a great one.  Some photos below (I didn’t get many, given the problems I had experienced along the way):

Part 2: Sydney – Auckland – Rotorua to come.




Part 2: Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour stay and a trip on Virgin’s ATR 72-500

So this is a continuation of my pre-launch stay at the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour.  I am continuing this from our exploration of the hotel and then the charity event before our departure and flight home on the Virgin ATR 72-500.

So my wife and I explored the hotel, as instructed by the staff at the hotel.  We left the room and explored the 4th floor, which was where the pool and the gym was located.  It was like a little paradise on the 4th floor.  There were many reclining seats and a lot more space to allow  people to admire the infinity edge pool and the bar area as well.  I’m a bit fascinated by the fact that the pool isn’t a swimming pool, more it’s just a pool to be a pool.  It’s not a big pool.  The poolside bar was nice and the area as a whole really sets the mood for just a relaxing area.

Onto the evening.  The Sofitel put on a special charity canapés where the guests were invited to get together and mingle over canapés.  Canapes have always meant that it would be like finger food, but boy was I happy to be wrong this time.  There were three areas for this function, the lobby area outside the main ballroom, the ballroom itself and the Atelier Restaurant.  We managed to get a table next to a lovely couple from the Blue Mountains.  From the pictures you can see below, the canapés were impressive.  I think overall the function was great, but there wasn’t anything official, despite the fact there were rumours of David Koch and Samantha Jade being part of the entertainment.

Breakfast at the hotel was busy.  But the selection was nice and staff were friendly.  We got our table quickly and enjoyed the food.  It was rather disappointing to see though that it took a long time for tables to get cleaned.  Most of the staff were run off their feet to ensure tables were cleaned for new guests and other tables were cleaned in general.

Despite the fact it was a full hotel for the night, when we checked out, there was no wait. We were advised to use express check out to avoid any waiting.  Luckily there was no wait.

We headed to the airport via a taxi.  Cost was about $45.00.  This was quicker than walking to the nearest train station though, getting the Redy2Go airport shuttle may have been better which would have only saved us about $3.00 in the end for 2 people ($21 each was what we were quoted).

At the airport, we went to our priority checkin line being a Gold Velocity member with Virgin Australia.  We then headed to the busy club before boarding our flight back to Canberra.  Sydney’s Virgin lounge was busy at about midday.  The view is not spectacular unlike the Qantas Club and unlike the Qantas Club, there was only beers and wines but no spirits.  Food wise though, Virgin has really got an upper hand compared with Qantas.

The flight home:

Flight: Virgin Australia flight VA654
Origin: Sydney
Destination: Canberra
Aircraft: ATR 72-500
Registration: VH-FVX, MSN: 986, Delivered May 2012.
Load: 63/68 passengers

Not many pictures were taken of this flight.  It was a very typical ATR flight, however the seats for some reason had the area under the tray table ripped.  That was rather disappointing.  Otherwise, we were served a chocolate chip cookie for the flight.  We left at 3.45pm from Sydney and arrived in Canberra at 4.28pm.  It was a 43 minute flight.

The Captain did announce that we weren’t expecting much turbulence as we got closer to Canberra, however as we landed, we had turbulence.  We arrived at gate 7 at Canberra Airport.  The bags did take what seemed to be a LONG time to arrive.

Pictures, as always are below.  Thank you for reading.

The Hotel Review: Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour – Soft launch (Pt 1) and a farewell to the Embraer 190

I have been waiting a while for this day to come.  It finally has.  This is my review of the newest 5 star hotel in Sydney’s CBD, The Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour.

But first – my very brief flight report on the Embraer 190 up to Sydney.

Airline: Virgin Australia
Flight: VA637
From: Canberra
To: Sydney
Aircraft: Embraer 190
Registration: VH-ZPO
MSN: 321, Delivered November 2009
Load factor: 61/98 (2 in Business Class)
Departure Time: 0915 (Take Off: 0921)
Arrival Time: 1001 (Landed: 0955)
Flight Time: 34 Minutes

I arrived at Canberra Airport at about 0745 for the scheduled 0905 departure, only to discover that the flight was running late from Brisbane.  The lounge was not too busy at about 8am in the morning, however there were a number of Virgin Australia flights awaiting departure.  I didn’t actually realise that Virgin operated the Boeing 737 on some Sydney – Canberra flights, let alone the Canberra – Sydney flight since I was under the impression that the flights were exclusively ATR72’s.

Never the less, when the aircraft finally arrived in Canberra from Brisbane it took what seemed to be an eternity for the aerobridge to be connected.  There was a good 10 minutes after the aircraft arrived at the gate before the bridge was connected.  Everyone disembarked quick haste and I could see the luggage being loaded as I waited for boarding.

I boarded the plane from gate 8 at Canberra airport.  Most passengers had already boarded.  In the seat pocket was the Voyeur Magazine from Virgin Australia and the Menu along with the vomit bag.  The manager announced that the flight time was 30 minutes.  We pushed back on the new scheduled time of 915am and took off at 0921.  Once in the air, I was offered a snack and cold drink.  It was announced due to the turbulence, no hot drinks were offered.  (I don’t know why… There was no turbulence in the end).

A quick flight is a good flight and this is what this flight was.  We touched down in Sydney at 0955 on the main runway, 34L.  A short taxi and we started disembarking at 1003am.  The luggage arrived about 10-15 minutes later which was a little disappointing.

Overall – Impressed this time with the service from Virgin Australia.  Thank you, looking forward to the trip home.

I took the train to St James and started walking towards our digs the for evening, the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour.

… The Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour …

Given I was very fortunate to be one of the first to stay in this hotel, it was a no brainer to do a report as well and give my recommendation.  First impression – Impressive.  We were greeted by a number of staff members when we arrived in the lobby.  It is directly opposite the International Convention Centre, very convenient as a conference hotel.  Check in was very swift and our room was ready without a wait (Well it had to be… No one stayed in it prior!!)

We (my wife and I) were told we were the first guests to stay in the room.  It definitely showed.  Why? that new room smell was like a new car smell.  The view was amazing, we had about 180 degrees which was City and towards the airport.  The ambience of the room was nice.  The colours weren’t overpowering and quite nice. The bathroom was even more impressive.  Bathroom was one with a view, so was the toilet!

The bed – lovely king size bed with decor similar to a lot of luggage bags.  The TV was large and the size of the room was adequate for 2 and a sitting lounge near the door.  As can be seen from the pictures, there isn’t much room for anything else if you still want to move around.  The wardrobe was adequate, with a top opening safe.

We then explored the facilities… Most of it was open, however Club Sofitel or its equivalent was off limits.  I went to the pool, which gave a relaxing atmosphere, infinity pool, but it was small.  I am pretty sure the main aim is just for people to lounge around.  I went to the gym, which had GREAT views.  All the equipment was new and the room smelled nice and new. There was no sweaty smell like it had been used.

The hotel conference facilities were next, and can be seen in the next post, the area was spacious.  The restaurants had the very new smell and the staff were getting everything prepared for the gala charity event of the evening (on the next post).

My first impressions of the hotel is great.  Would I stay here again?  Absolutely.  Especially if I have conferences at the ICC (International Conference Centre, Sydney), which is right next door.

More to come… The overnight stay and gala event, along with the trip home, on another type of plane Virgin Australia plans to retire, the ATR-72-500.

Some pictures below:

A Tale of Two business classes – Virgin Australia vs Qantas (VA252 / QF422)

I decided to take a detour in my routing from Canberra to Sydney and travel via Melbourne to try both Virgin Australia’s business class and Qantas’s Business Class products.  Both fares were quite cheap and I needed to gain some status credits.

I will admit that the comparisons were between the Boeing 737-700 from Virgin Australia and the A330-200 from Qantas.  It’s a little skewed, but I think there are little bits there Virgin Australia could do to improve their service.  I think they have, given what I have read today as well.


Flight 1: Canberra – Melbourne

Flight: Virgin Australia flight 252 (VA252)
Aircraft: Boeing 737-700, VH-VBY, ‘Kingston Beach’, S/N: 34323, Ln: 1751, First flight: July 2005.
Aircraft Load: 107/128 (2 in Business Class).
Seat: 1A
Departure time: 0620 (Actual: 0620)
Arrival Time: 0730 (Actual: 0723)
Actual flight time: 55 Minutes

I arrived at the airport early, in anticipation of having some time at the lounge before departure.  Check in was quick and efficient.  However, I forgot that Canberra Airport’s security check does not open until 0500.  I had about 15 minutes to spare having completed formalities.  Once through, I went to the Virgin Australia lounge.  It was a decent sized lounge, with a simple array of hot food on offer for breakfast.  This included Bacon, eggs and pancakes.  I chose the Bacon and eggs.  The crowd was light, given there were only two departures leaving at that time.

I eventually made my way to gate 8 for departure.  Being in seat 1A, I pretty much boarded the aircraft immediately once they announced boarding.  I finally arrived on board the aircraft to be greeted by Amanda and Carmen.  Carmen was the supervisor of the flight and welcomed me on board.  We had a quick chat about the plane and she said that there’s only 1 (I think she means 2) of these planes (the -700 series aircraft) flying so they find it a little harder to adjust to when they know they are flying it, since they are used to the -800 series.

The seat was simple, a recliner seat, however no legrest.  I think I was disappointed at that in the first instance.  I was offered a Juice or water prior to departure and I opted for the Orange Juice.  We pushed back at 0620 and were told that we would be having a flight time of 55 minutes and who the rest of the crew were for the flight.  We followed pretty much the whole time the competitors Melbourne flight, QF795, VH-VXL which left literally seconds before we did.  It also arrived literally seconds before we did.

We took off towards the north and then turned left and headed for Melbourne.  I was offered a breakfast of spinach and mushroom omelette with smoked salmon and fruits.  It was tasty, however I would have liked more than 5 pieces of smoked salmon on the plate.  The omelette was a little dry however tasty, nevertheless.

The entertainment options on the Boeing 737-700 were limited as it was the portable devices only.  I had to be content with watching Iron Man for the majority of the flight.

We started our descent through to Melbourne and landed at 0723.  We taxied to the gate and left not long after 0730.  All in all it was a good flight, the business class seat wasn’t really that great.  Definitely not worth the business class price they charge.  I was very fortunate to get it for a decent price.

Some pictures:


Now the competitor: Qantas and their A330-200 Business Class.

OK, as said above, it’s a little harder to give the best comparison since I took this flight on the A330-200, which does have the International Business class product.  Nevertheless, given the similar prices, I thought it would be a nice comparison.

Flight 2: Melbourne – Sydney

Flight: Melbourne – Sydney, Qantas Airways flight 422 (QF422)
Aircraft: Airbus 330-200, VH-EBO ‘Kimberley’, MSN: 1169, First Flight: November 2010.
Seat: 4A
Departure time: 1005 (Actual: 1007)
Arrival Time: 1135 (Actual: 1106)
Actual flight time: 1 hour 18 minutes (shorter due to great tailwinds).

We left from gate 23.  The plane had arrived from Sydney as QF411.  It was late in, however we left on time.  There were a lot of people to board, it is a credit to Qantas to use dual bridges for boarding on the Airbus 330-200.  Eventually boarded the aircraft to be greeted by cabin crew and was shown to my seat.  I note there were a number of crew members travelling to Sydney on board this flight.

My first impression of the Business Class seat: For the price that I paid it was very impressive.  I tried the recline position for takeoff.  It’s not a full recline because as the flight attendant said you need to be able to be able to escape if in the event of an emergency.  I was offered sparkling or still water prior to take off.  Admittedly I thought at least a juice would have been offered too.  Nevertheless, I started watching my TV shows (Modern Family) for the flight, as I knew I couldn’t watch a whole movie.

We took off and not long after the crew served our meal.  On this flight, were offered a beef sandwich, salad and another meal which I forgot.  I chose the beef sandwich and boy was it good.  (It could be that I was just hungry as well).  The seat itself was good.  Row 2A, 2K, 4A and 4K at least I know have the table side of the seat on the aisle.  This is advantageous because it gives you access to the window more.  That was great.  I tried the seat in the full recline position as well.  I could get used to it.

We were told by the captain that we would be landing early, however there were winds of up to 40 km blowing from the west.  This meant that rather than landing originally from towards the north, we actually landed from the east (I think – It was opposite to the side where the runway meets the international terminal).  The landing was bumpy and I can only put that down to the winds.

We taxied to gate 4 and left the plane promptly thereafter.  My bag came out not long after.  There was a slight delay due to a pram clogging up the conveyor belt.

Given the price I paid for both flights (~$499 each), the products I got to experience, I would say Qantas is the winner quite comfortably on this one.  I couldn’t compare it with ‘The Business’ but I will compare it with ‘The Business when I get a chance.

Thanks for reading.  I have a few pictures of the flight, however not many as there as a lot of pictures of VH-EBO out there. 🙂


Jetstar Asia from Singapore to Penang: 3K677

This is the final leg of our trip to Penang.  We were at Singapore’s Changi Airport during transit, which was shorter than expected due to the late arrival of our aircraft from Sydney.  Our plane to Penang was already on the ground waiting for us, 11 year old aircraft with msn 2356.  Sorry a lack of pictures here, it was a long day!


Jetstar Asia has 2 flights a day to Penang from Singapore.  This 3K677 is a daily rotation leaving at 7.30pm and there is a daytime flight which varies between early morning (4x weekly) and afternoon (3x weekly).

When I arrived at the gate, there was the secondary security check which was quick and easy.  I have to admit, I think Changi Airport has the most sensitive machines around.  It’s definitely a good thing, but unexpected, considering when I cleared Canberra and Sydney, I didn’t have the same problems.

After the check, the staff were on hand to scan the boarding passes and then it was pretty much time for boarding as they had announced boarding for families.  The flight was not full for this trip to Penang.  At best I think it was about 70%.  There were 4 flight attendants on board this flight, 2 male and 2 female.


A view from outside the window.  Parked next to us was VH-QPF, heading to Sydney as QF82 after arriving as QF35 from Melbourne.

IMG_0103.jpg Picture was taken roughly mid-flight on the trip to Penang.  the co-pilot announced that the flight would take 1 hour once we were in the air.  The problem was we took forever to take off because we headed to the runway that seemed to take forever to get to.

Jetstar did their manual crew demonstration and then we took off and headed towards Penang.  Flight was quite uneventful and we got our sandwiches and drink during the flight.  At about 8.10pm, the flight crew announced that we would begin our descent to Penang Airport.

At about 8.40pm we landed at Penang airport.  Immigration was completed and then our bags were already waiting for us.  We left the airport by about 9.10pm and headed to our home in Penang.

I don’t know how successful this route is, however I wonder why the Qantas group don’t consider putting on a more premium aircraft for this route, say wet-lease the Qantas bird that arrives from Perth as QF71 to continue to Penang and turn around?  At least this would give a higher product compared with the likes of Silkair.  I’d fly Jetstar again to Penang only because I had to due to its affiliation with Qantas, however if there were alternatives, I’d consider it.

QF81: Sydney – Singapore A330-300 with the NEW Qantas economy class seats

Hello again,

Welcome to my International experience with Qantas onboard their Airbus 330-300 aircraft flying from Sydney to Singapore.  The overall flight was most enjoyable, even though we had a delay which would have meant and on time arrival time (so something Qantas could control) but this was eliminated by the fact we were delayed due to weather and it caused us to arrive last in the end, (something Qantas couldn’t control).  Comments always welcome, enjoy the report.

Airline: Qantas Airways

Flight: QF81

Route: Sydney to Singapore


Route frequency: Qantas flies this route on a double daily rotation, with QF5 being the other flight that plies this route.

Aircraft: Airbus 330-300 VH-QPE msn 593, first registered 2004 (so 12 years old).  Aircraft was named: Port Lincoln.

Seat: 28G.  I wouldn’t recommend row 28 for the window seats, as they are actually windowless.  Or at least 28JK had one window instead of the usual 2.

Gate of departure at Sydney: 54, which was odd because normally I would expect to see all Qantas departures between gates 8 and 37.

Gate of arrival at Singapore: C22.  Aircraft would be turned around for Melbourne as QF36.

My thoughts:

This is a continuation of the first flight, QF1514 from Canberra to Sydney, so there were no issues with check in. One thing I did notice when we got the boarding passes for the flight to Singapore was the fact that boarding time was 0935. Given we arrived into Sydney International at 905am, sadly a visit to the lounge was not possible. What I didn’t discover was that the boarding time printed was meant to be the time Qantas wanted passengers to clear customs and immigration. They should really state that because this would have meant I could have visited the lounge.


(A glimpse of our bird for the day from Gate 54 at Sydney Airport).

Never the less, we walked to our gate, 54 which was on what is known as the other concourse because Qantas normally parks around the gates up to 37. Today there were at least 2 birds parked on the ‘other side’. I saw our aircraft for the day, which had previously operated service QF118 from Hong Kong. The crew were waiting at the gate and I was told that there would be a delay of about 30 minutes due to the late arrival of the inbound aircraft. So there was a wait, not long enough to venture to the lounge, but enough to cause frustration while waiting.  There were multiple passengers very concerned about their connection in Singapore for onward India flights.  This would prove to be a non-issue because they had time when we arrived in Singapore for their connections!

30 minutes later, the crew were still awaiting to board. The explanation given was that the plan arrived late and they had to clean it up. Finally at about 11am started boarding the aircraft. Being one of the first to board, I actually like the refreshed A330 cabin. The seats were quite nice and seemed comfortable. The red gave the cabin a nice atmosphere to it. Settling into the seat, I found the new touch screen quite sensitive, which is good and the little compartment under the screen nice. The only thing I think that wasn’t as appealing was the fact that the box for the IFE was not as small as I thought. It wasn’t too bad though, very small thing to complain about.


The load if I was not mistaken was about 291 passengers including 8 infants. Even though the flight was two days before school holidays, you could definitely get the feel that the school holidays had already started. The crew were attentive and assisted in getting people settled in quite fast. We were introduced to the first officer who informed us that the flight to Singapore would be 7 hours and 45 minutes. The crew also profusely apologized for the impending late departure. The cabin services manager then introduced himself and apologized for the late departure but assured us that the competent pilots would do their best to make the time in the air.

We pushed back at 10.57am and headed to runway 16R for a departure. There were delays in getting to the actual runway because the weather changed and this meant changing the direction of takeoffs. That was very annoying because the flight eventually took off at 11.41am, some 1 hour and 20 minutes after the scheduled departure. Apologising again, the CSM went to assure everyone that we would do our best to get everyone in on time and if there were any tight connections, Qantas would rebook the passengers concerned no questions asked.

About 15 minutes into the flight, the crew jumped into action, first came the water for the flight. Then came a quick snack before the kids meals arrived. I must say, Qantas for this flight understood the needs of the kids and we had no problems with the kids eating the meal. I have heard worse, but apart from that chocolate brownie thing, the kids enjoyed their meals. We reached a cruising altitude of 38000ft for the duration of the flight.


My meal came not long after. It was the Duck A l’orange and I must admit it was very tasty, pity the serving was actually quite small. I could have sworn I preordered my wife’s meal but her beef cheeks didn’t arrive until everyone else’s meal arrived as well. This was a pity because having pre ordered, I felt as though Qantas overlooked it. The beef cheek serving was very small. A pity because it was tasty. IMG_0084.jpg

After the meals were served, the lights were dimmed for the flight. People utilized the entertainment system which I must admit is really good given there is no cables for the remote. I managed to watch about 3 films during the flight.   I did my routine exercise and had a nice chat to one of the flight attendants at the back in the galley. The crew were nice and attentive as mentioned. The only blemish would have to be the flight attendant who didn’t help me when I wanted to place the order for my wife who went to the toilet with my daughter. The response she had was that she couldn’t give me a meal because she was seated on the other side. Hmmm… I don’t know whether that would make the cut as an excuse.


The Airbus A330-300 doesn’t have a flight attendant rest in like bunks per se, or that I could see. They have a curtained off area at the back of the 1st main cabin. 4 rest at any one time and the rest are on duty (as shown in the picture below, behind the curtained off area). I didn’t get to see the business suites but upon landing in Changi got a quick glimpse as I left the aircraft.


We were served a Turkish gozleme meal about an hour before landing at Changi Airport. The light meal was very basic, but tasty. It was a pity that they had a lemon inside the very hot box. The lemon kind of melted and didn’t produce any juice when I squeezed it. I also tasted a new drink which is vodka ginger beer. Not bad, but I still prefer my vodka lemon lime bitters. The co-pilot came over the PA and said that we were about 15 minutes away from our descent into Changi and that we would be in the end about 45 minutes late at the gate. Good, given that we left over an hour late. The CSM then came on and announced that the India flights would not be affected and that any Kuala Lumpur flights would be rebooked to later flights, with the maximum delay of about an hour.  We started our descent and we landed from the north and on the right hand runway not long after that announcement. The terminal was the left as we landed.

Once we landed we taxied to our gate at C22 of terminal 1 at Changi airport, Singapore. The plane stopped and the seatbelt sign was switched off before everyone started moving (I will mention why I said this in my final report).

I left the plane at 5.45pm and made our way through transit at Changi before arriving back at gate C11 for the flight to Penang. I did stop off at the Qantas Singapore Lounge in between as well, which is always nice.

I enjoy the Qantas experience and I really appreciated the fact that I got to finally try the new cabin and cross another variant off the Qantas fleet. The A380 now eludes me.

Would I recommend Qantas? Definitely. The food, while small was tasty, the entertainment while vast was enough to get me to Singapore and the crew were enjoyable.

Thank you and stay tuned for the other halves of this flight:

QF1514 from Canberra to Sydney AND
3K677 from Singapore to Penang