Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Qatar Airways Cardiff To Doha Business Class Flight Review

If you live in Wales or the South West of England and want to fly long haul, there aren't many alternatives other than going from London or Birmingham. However, did you know you can now fly to Australia and the Far East from Cardiff with a stopover in Doha with Qatar Airways? I bet you didn't, right? 

Doha in Qatar sounded like an intriguing destination in its own right too with a vibrant culture, interesting architecture and top class food, so when Cardiff Airport and Qatar Airways invited me to try out their flight from Cardiff to Doha recently and spend a couple of days there I thought it sounded an interesting opportunity. 
Qatar Airways 

Cardiff Airport

A little bit of background here - Cardiff Aiport is the largest airport in Wales and handles over 50 direct routes. With a recent investment of 4 million pounds to improve the customer experience and developments to both the terminal and the airport’s surrounding infrastructure, the recent improvements have been much welcomed.

Cardiff Airport

So off Mr W and I drove from our little seaside town 20 miles away and before I knew it we were at the airport. So much quicker than driving the three hours to Heathrow. We were given complimentary Meet and Greet parking so we drove up to the barrier, pressed for a ticket and parked in the Meet And Greet parking area. All we had to do then was hand in our keys and that was it. Simple. The parking area is literally a two-minute walk to the terminal. If you have mobility problems or just want less fuss it's something you can consider paying extra for. 
Business class

We were greeted by the lovely Danielle from Cardiff Airport and a number of local bloggers and journalists, including my friend Kacie Morgan from The Rare Welsh Bit blog. 

Danielle had a surprise for us, we had all been upgraded to business class! WOW is all I could say, I was speechless, and more importantly so was Mr W, a first for him!  I've flown upper class to the US with Virgin Atlantic, and business class to Europe with BA but never business class long haul with a carrier like Qatar Airways before.  I just hoped it lived up to my expectations. 

Check in then was a breeze, and you get to bypass the queues at security. Always a good thing.

Penderyn whisky

The duty-free section at Cardiff Airport has a decent selection for a relatively small airport. Nice to see lots of local Welsh products on sale, such as Penderyn Whisky and Clogau Gold. 

Duty-free

I had my eye on some Clarins and a cute little jewellery case but resisted the temptation - this time.

I should have bought this!

As part of the business class experience, we were given complimentary entry to the 51° Lounge which was next to the Executive Lounge that you pay for. 


51 Lounge

The 51 ° Lounge provides peace and quiet with complimentary snacks, soft drinks, tea, coffee and alcohol for those in business class. I will be frank here, I liked the lounge but it's small and the food options are limited, but there was a tasty cawl, a Welsh lamb soup available.  Other food options were scones, pastries, Welsh cakes, crisps and fruit.  I would have liked a couple of extra choices like some fresh sandwiches for example. What I did like, again, was their use of Welsh food products such as Welsh ale and if you like a little tipple before the flight champagne was available. You are not paying extra for this lounge however so at least you get some refreshments and snacks. They also brought soya milk when asked, so that was a big plus point for me.

The other facilities in the airport include two Costa Coffees - one in arrivals and one in departures, WH Smith, Italian cafe Ritazza and the Beer House bar.
Not long now

Before long it was time for our flight, and I must admit, the nerves I usually have flying didn't seem quite so bad as I knew I was going business class.

Business Class Qatar Airways


Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Turning left on the plane was a lovely feeling and I loved the look of the cabin. It seemed spacious and airy, the ceiling seemed higher than on some planes I've been on before - apparently, this is due to the vaulted ceiling. The plane we were on was a Boeing 787 Dreamliner,  a state of the art plane, with mood lighting, adjustable blinds and a system of air filtration that removes more contaminants than ever before. This means you should get less of a drying effect on your eyes and your throat. Apparently travelling on this plane gives you less of a chance of jet lag too, due to more oxygen saturation in the air.

Seat in business

The seat was spacious with plenty of room for your feet. 
My W is nearly 6 foot and could easily stretch out.


Lots of leg room
The padding was comfortable too and the seat had a decent width. You are given a pillow and a blanket for the journey to aid your comfort, and the blanket was really cosy and super soft. I was sat in the centre and storage was above the seats by the window but there was also ample storage by my legs, a small tray storage on the bottom left by my feet and there was storage on the side too. There was also a small compartment that stored bottled water and noise cancelling headphones.

Very professional staff

The cabin staff were friendly and helpful and introduced themselves by name. A welcome drink was offered before we took off and I ordered some excellent fresh orange juice as well as a small glass of champagne.  Qatar Airways isn't a dry airline.  The drinks were accompanied with some nuts which were warmed up - a nice touch. Then they came around with a selection of newspapers if you wanted one to read.

Amenity kit

As I settled in, I checked out the amenity kit from Italy’s Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio brand which consisted of a lip balm, hydrating face mist, ear plugs, City Cream moisturising cream, socks and eye shades. All the skincare products are made with olive oil and felt special on the skin and are expensive to buy, so use them!   


Menu

Menu

The dining was on demand. The menu gave you a selection of options and you could order either at the beginning of the flight or later as you saw fit. I liked the options, they were slightly different with an Arabic feel but not too unusual. and if you wanted to have food that was simpler in presentation, the tenderloin or beef was a good option. Vegetarians were catered for with the mushroom tortellini. So I ordered and waited for the food to arrive. There is also a wine and beverage menu that you can order your drinks from too. Options included champagne, cocktails, mocktails and soft drinks.

Entertainment

Oryx One entertainment system

As I waited for takeoff I was offered a hot or cold towel to refresh myself and I then started to get to grips with the entertainment system. The Oryx entertainment system had a proper flat screen TV and was either touch screen or you could use the small handheld controller to navigate the system. 

Choices included Hollywood, Bollywood and Arabic movies, which were a mix of fairly new and older films, TV, games and audio. We watched a range of movies including The Commuter, Ocean's 8 and Deadpool 2.  The audio selection was particularly good I thought and included jazz, blues, country, movie soundtracks, children stories and audiobooks. Languages were not just in English and included Arabic, Cantonese, and Korean options.

Noise cancelling headphones

The noise cancelling headphones provided were very good too, I couldn't really fault them.

The internet options allowed you 15 minutes free and then you had to pay. I was a little disappointed when I tried to connect and couldn't, maybe it was my fault though as Mr W had no problem. If I was paying for business class, I would have liked the internet for free. 

I was pleased to see powerpoints for UK and US plugs as well as a USB charger.

Dining

So once we were up in the air, the food was presented. The table which folds away was laid down with a tablecloth, proper cutlery, salt and pepper. A basket of warm bread and a pat of butter was added to the table as well as olive oil and balsamic dressing. A cute little tea light powered by a battery added a finishing touch (no candles are allowed on the plane).

Amuse bouche of salmon

The presentation was exceptional. Don't forget this isn't in a top class restaurant, this is 35,000 feet up in the sky. Firstly an amuse bouche of salmon was a little taster before our main course.

Starters

Then before long, my starter arrived. The grilled prawn salad has a little spice to it and the endive added a satisfying crunch. The red pepper mango salsa was a nice sweet accompaniment. Very good indeed.

Main course

For my main course, I picked the tenderloin of beef. It was well cooked and tasted great. I could have kicked myself though for not being more adventurous when I saw Mr W's Chicken Kabsa dish which looked intriguing. Sorry, I didn't take a photo of it, he ate it so fast!

Dessert

For dessert, I opted for the sticky toffee date pudding, which was just SO good. I honestly could not believe this was plane food. Mr W even topped it off with cheese and biscuits and there was an option to have a port with it too.


Chocolates to finish.

A little box of Godiva chocolates added the finishing touch. 

So sated and actually so full I could hardly move, I decided to have a walk around. 

The toilets


Popping into the toilets to check out the facilities, I noticed they had razors and shaving cream you could use and toothbrushes and toothpaste all hygienically sealed.  There was even a window, something I've never seen in plane toilets before.


As I came out of the toilet I noticed a small section with fresh flowers and magazines to read, and later on, there was champagne that you could help yourself too. 

The flight didn't have any turbulence and it was a comfortable flight. It was a little hot on occasion but the stewardess did apologise and adjust the temperature lower when I mentioned it. 



We returned business class too a few days later and I was pleased to see that the seats did recline fully flat. Mr W slept for the whole flight, so that must be a recommendation to the comfortable seating. They also gave out a White Company set of pyjamas and slippers to use. 


Giant teddy bear at Hamad Airport

The airport in Doha - Hamad International airport is exceptional. With the usual shops, restaurants and cafes it also has a hotel in the airport, a swimming pool, spa and jacuzzi, oh and a giant teddy bear! You could happily spend some time here comfortably. If you are flying into Doha, there is also a visa-free entry into Qatar.

The business class service here was very good, they took our bags off us quickly, and we went through priority security with no one before us. We were given a tour of the airport so didn't spend much time in the business class lounge but it looked very good indeed. 

Swimming pool at Hamad Airport

My final thoughts

First-course breakfast with more to follow

It was a real treat to fly business class with Qatar Airways. The seat was very comfortable, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane with its mood lighting added a cool ambience, and the service was impeccable. The staff looked very smart in their uniforms and were professional but still super friendly. 




Pin for later

The food was exceptional and beautifully presented.  A major plus point for me is to fly from my local airport, no three-hour drive back from Heathrow or Gatwick. From Doha, you can connect to a number of destinations such as Austrailia, Sri Lanka and other destinations in Asia. 

As I like to be balanced for my readers I feel it's only fair to point out a couple of little things. I think that it would have been nice to have free internet for an hour, not just 15 minutes,  enough time to check emails and social media. I also found it a little warm on the plane, as I was sitting in the middle of the business class section with no individual air vents, so if this bothers you, book a window seat. A quick word to the stewardess and she adjusted the cabin temperature.  These are small things, however, and as you can read from my review, the business class on Qatar Airways is an exceptional product.  

If you are looking for a treat for a special occasion, anniversary or birthday I would say book it, you are worth it!  Let me know, what you think of my review. Would you fly Qatar Airways business class?

*Thanks to Qatar Airways and Cardiff Airport for this press trip. I was not paid for this trip but received flights, accommodation, food and tours on a complimentary basis. 
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Monday, 15 October 2018

Staying In A Luxury Villa In Orlando With Contempo Homes

As a travel blogger, I have to make a confession, I've actually never stayed in a villa. I really don't know why either, so when Contempo Homes invited us to try out their villas in Orlando Florida I could hardly say no, I mean, would you?


Contempo Homes have a range of accommodation from 3 star to 5 star accommodation in the Orlando area. Each villa is privately owned and furnished to the owners' specification and then rented out by the company. The villas are in a range of communities through the Orlando area including Tuscan Hils, Highlands Reserves and Championsgate.



The villa we were reviewing was based in Providence Golf Resort. This private gated community is set within 2,200 acres of well-manicured lawns, beautiful lakes and palm tree-lined roads. In addition to the beautiful golf course, Providence also offers an exclusive clubhouse just a short walk from most homes. 


The villa in the Rosemount Woods area of the Providence Golf Resort was built on one level and had 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, as well as a garage and drive, lounge and dining area with kitchen, laundry room and it's own private pool.












Bedroom 1 and bedroom 2 uses a shared bathroom with toilet, sink and shower. The decor is classic white walls and neutral tones and both these rooms have single beds. Everything was immaculate and clean. Complimentary toiletries were provided for a couple of days as well as towels. If you are staying longer I would suggest you bring your own toiletries.






Bedroom 3 has its own sink, shower and toilet ensuite. 








Bedroom 4 again has it's own shower, sink and toilet too.


Each bedroom has wardrobe space as well as a TV with cable TV channels. We used the Chromecast on the TV to watch Netflix, so just sign in with your Netflix account to use.





The lounge area is beautifully decorated with a dining table just off the lounge and an open plan kitchen behind the seating area.









The kitchen area had everything you would need to cook a simple meal. There was a full oven, microwave, coffee machine, blender, toaster and kettle. The fridge freezer was large and contained an ice machine too.



It is always useful to have a washing machine and dryer especially to freshen up your clothes in the Orlando heat and the villa had both as well as an iron and ironing board.  We used the washing machine and it was excellent. One small point there was no washing line but we improvised and put our clothes in the garage to dry. It was so nice to be able to do our washing and come home without a load of clothes to wash.



The welcome pack was really useful. As well as it containing that important information we all need - the Wi-Fi code, it also contained how to operate the appliances, information for check out, and local area attractions and restaurants and emergency information.


A major plus point of this villa was the pool area. The pool area had a table and chairs for dining as well as sun loungers. It was so nice to relax in the pool after a day enjoying the theme parks. 


Safety is obviously important to the villa owner and there was a fence around the pool to keep little ones from wandering in unsupervised. Of course, never leave your kids unattended near water. The pool had a netting around it to get mosquitoes out and we found it really effective. 


What we both liked about the villa was the space. In fact, it is probably just as big as our flat at home! Having more than one bathroom was a huge plus point too as Mr W does like to hog the bathroom at home. This makes it easy to get ready if you are going out early to get to the theme parks. The garage was also a bonus to keep our rental care safe, although this is a gated community and we felt very safe at all times too.



If you are on a tight budget staying in a villa can keep the costs down on food if you cook and prepare your own, and if you have a restricted diet it can often be easier to cook your own meals. The nearest Publix supermarket is about 6 miles away and stocks a wide selection of food and drink. We didn't find it particularly cheap but it's convenient for sure.



The villa is in a good location if you want to explore the Orlando area, being 30 minutes drive to the Magic Kingdom and 40 minutes drive to Universal Studios. You do need a car to stay here and there aren't any restaurants within walking distance except for the restaurant at the Providence golf club which we didn't use. There is also a clubhouse here with an outdoor pool.



After our stay here I can say we are definite converts to staying in a villa. Here is a video we made for the couples travel blog and YouTube channel I create with my husband.  



Staying in a villa from Contempo Homes gives you the luxury of space with the amenities and the convenience of a self-catering holiday and the added bonus of a pool all to yourself. It can also be surprisingly affordable. For our dates in September 2018, the price was £130 a night. Would we stay again? Most certainly. We loved it! Highly recommended.

Contempo Homes
http://www.contempovacationhomes.com/
Phone: +1 (863) 424 2226
Email: frontdesk@contempogroup.com


*We were given a complimentary stay for a review, all opinions are my own

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