To China

This post is being written from Las Vegas about our trip from Japan to China on September 27th. Sorry I have fallen so far behind.

The picture above is Mike in Kyoto as we boarded our bullet train to the Osaka airport for our flight to Xi’an China. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

After our long day to, from and in Hiroshima and knowing we would be going non-stop for the next 7 days we decided to take it easy on our last day in Kyoto. We had thought about seeing another sight or two but the remaining ones required a trip away from the city so we decided…”next time”.

After sleeping in, we had a tasty last lunch in our hotel’s buffet restaurant. We hadn’t planned on eating there but after peaking in and seeing it was all locals, we decided to try it. Very tasty salad makings and Japanese versions of European dishes but also some delicious tempura and other Japanese noodle dishes. It was interesting watching the locals use chop sticks and raise their plates to eat non Asian dishes.

We had originally intended to use the same luggage service to take our bags to the airport and for us to take the subway to train station. But we found out we had to send the luggage two days ahead and that the cost of a cab was cheap much less than the luggage service, we decided we would handle the bags ourselves. The hotel called us a cab and I’m glad we had that experience.

Like so much in Japan, it is still old school. The driver wears gloves (some wear suits and hats), the cab is immaculate and the seats are even covered with antimacassars!

We arrived at the station and quickly boarded the Hello Kitty Express to the airport. Everything on the train was themed even the bathroom mirror and the antimacassars!

We arrived at the HUGE (well we thought it was huge until we saw China’s airports) too early to check in so had to cool our heels for a bit in the checkin area which wasn’t much fun as apparently half of everyone leaving Osaka was doing the same thing.

But after we checked our bags, and after spending a bit of time in the lounge we found ourselves aboard our plane for our 4.5 hour flight to Xi’an. When we booked the flight on Hainan, we discovered for less than $100 more over what an economy ticket plus the exit row seat fee cost we could be in Business (which came with extra bag weight which we needed 😢) it was a no brainer to ride up front. The service and food but most importantly legroom were all great.

We arrived in Xi’an at 11:35 pm. We had used a Chinese tour agency, China Highlights to book our hotels, tours and transfers in China. We don’t normally use an agency but as Asia was completely new to us and frankly we were a bit afraid to plan our travels without help. Thank goodness we did, as it turned out to be the National Holiday in China. If not for the advice of the agent we worked with, we would likely have been trying to see the sights along with thousands and thousands of Chinese. She advised us to arrive earlier than originally planned which we did. All of that is to say that we were pleased to see the smiling face of our guide “Rocky” waiting at the door when we exited customs. He and our driver drove us through dark but heavily decorated streets to our hotel in the center of the city where we arrived about 1 am.

Our room was large but Asian standards but when we walked in I was sad to see what I thought was a very ornate footboard. I had told Lily (our travel agent) that I was very tall and that I’d appreciate it if we could be assigned a room without a footboard. Oh well, it was only two nights. But wait, that is a strange looking footboard. What is it?

Yes, apparently the hotel had taken Lily’s request to heart and using some ballroom chairs, and extra pillows and a folded comforter, they had extended the bed! Wow, this was a new one! Mike said, “can you imagine the conversation the housekeepers must of had while setting this up!”

So after a long day, we fell asleep in a very long bed in a brand new country!

Tomorrow, we are off to see the Terra Cotta Warriors.

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Final Thoughts

After several weeks to contemplate our spring trip, I think all three of us will say it was most enjoyable.

Mike and I enjoyed our return to Viking and noticed some differences none of which negatively impacted our time onboard. The food portions seemed to be slightly smaller which given all the good food available was appreciated by our waist lines. This transatlantic seemed to be more crowded than last year but perhaps that was due to us eating earlier than just us two would normally do. We don’t know whether it is a cruise line initiative or simply the difference between Hotel Directors, Chefs and Cruise Directors but there were many more “special” events this year-pool side lunches (Cesar Salad, Mexican, etc.), pool side events (two or three dance parties, ship building competition), Port Greetings when we returned to the ship, Sunday Brunch in the Winter Garden and of course this year they made an event out of our passing of Gibraltar-even though it was still too dark to really see it.

We missed having the Virginia Gentleman aboard but the entertainers did a fine job despite there being two less singers and no dance couple. The shows seemed a little more professional and used the show band more than the prerecorded music that was typical last spring. There was at least one more lecturer than last trip and their topics were more diverse as well as interesting. There was also a bridge instructor on this crossing which I don’t recall from last time.

You may recall that part of the last minute deal we got was to pay for the lowest category cabin -Veranda (V) and reside in a higher category – Deluxe Veranda (DV). The staterooms are identical except the DV comes with a coffeemaker. I thought this would be great but turns out I only used it once. The other differences are “soft” ones-the sodas in the fridge get replenished daily and we could make reservations for the alternative dining venues before we boarded. Since one staying in a Veranda could replenish the soft drinks by asking at the bar during meal time for an extra can or three and we ended up changing all our reservations once onboard (so as not to miss lobster nights) I don’t think the perks of a DV would be worth paying any extra. Guess we are just too frugal. But when offered for free, they were great!

We also enjoyed the included airfare although I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see whether we could deal with long haul economy if it was “free”. Well maybe not really disappointed, the ice cream sundae in AA business class fixed that!😂

The Viking officers and crew were just as friendly and helpful as previously, the room lovely and we continue to think that Viking is a great value for their repositioning cruises. Lois really enjoyed herself and now is sold on the benefits of smaller ships. Having John the Scotsman aboard and his friendliness to her and willingness to have two special meals made just for her probably helped in this regard.

Of course no one aboard will ever forget the Great April Fool’s Day Toilet Paper Fiasco! LOL

Our post cruise time in Barcelona was great as it was in Rome. I think the highlight for Lois in both was Sagrada Familia and I certainly was blown away again by it. Even though it had only been 6 months since our last visit, we saw progress so maybe they will be finished with construction by 2026 as they are predicting (while crossing their fingers according to our guide).

Thanks for following along, hope you enjoyed it as much as we did…and that you will stay with me as I blog about our upcoming North American roadtrip (hopefully with a cruise to Japan 😲🤞thrown in). We leave Danville on Friday headed for DC and don’t expect to be back to the southeast coast until Christmas. Stay tuned for details…

We’re Back!

Had an uneventful flight back, immigration let us back in, and now sitting waiting for our flight to Raleigh. As you can see above, Lois’s couldn’t wait to talk to her boytoy. He will be picking us up in Raleigh. We should board in about an hour and after landing in Raleigh about 8 we will have about a 1.5 hour drive to Danville (in the pouring rain it appears.)

I was impressed with American’s service and seat. It’s the old USAirways Envoy seat which has a bigger footwell than their newer seats, so plenty of room for my big ole feetz!

I enjoyed both meals. For lunch We all selected the Korean beef. It was tasty as were all the sides.

Starter which I had with the Tuscan white

Entree which I had with that Tuscan red

Sundae time!

The flight attendant said no one wanted the other dessert!

I failed to take pictures of the arrival snack-I had the Thai salad and really liked it and the chocolate mousse was really tasty!

I watched three movies and took an hour nap or so. Saw the Melissa McCarthy, “Can you ever forgive” movie, followed by “On the Basis is Sex” the dramatization of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s early career followed by “The Notorious RBG”. She is quite the lady! I had no idea of the impact she made on gender equality in the country.

All in all a good flight but it’s been a long day. Got up at 7 which was 1am US time. So I suspect we will be sleeping late in the morning!

In the Lounge.

Got out of the van at 8:34 and checked into the lounge at 9:34. So an hour to find the correct checkin counter (why is that always the most difficult part in an European airport?) which of course was at the opposite end of where we entered the building, checkin, go through USA only security, then walk back to where we started, them passport control leaving the EU, then walk through the huge duty free, then walk past 10 gates, then upstairs, wait on a train, ride it ala Orlando, exit train, then walk past four gates, then ride elevator down to lounge. Phew. .82 miles before 10 am, I’m tired already!

Upgrade!

Almost forgot! When we checked in today, it appears our request to use miles (25,000) + dollars ($350) to upgrade our fre..ahem included in our cruise fare by Viking economy seats to business had cleared. So all three of us will be sitting in comfort from Rome to Philadelphia. We are all so excited. What was going to be a dreadful flight is now going to at least be tolerable and hopefully comfortable in these lie flat seats.

Unfortunately it appears Lois’ and Mike’s upgrade for the short flight from Philly to Raleigh didn’t clear…but mine did!

So the question now is, should I be the good Son-in-Law and let Lois sit up front?

Decisions Decisions.

San Juan

Landed a little early in San Juan and got to our hotel about 9 pm. Tired after a long day but glad to be here.

It was nice to have some space on the 2 hour flight from Miami but dinner left a little to be desired.

Salad, salty twice (maybe thrice?) baked potato and salty rubber chicken with a hint of salty mushroom sauce and a dry wheat roll. #FirstWorldProblems. Thankfully the white wine was nice and not at all salty. The predinner hot nuts and G&T were tasty as was the post dinner hot snickerdoodle cookie (biscuit for my British followers) with a glass of Bailey’s!

We intend to leave the hotel by 10 or so in the morning and drop our bags at the ship and then show Lois around our 51st state before boarding the ship in the early afternoon. So I’m off to bed!