A comfortable ride across the Atlantic
So, as I have mentioned earlier, I was supposed to go back to Norway January 20, but due to bad weather and maintenance issues with the aircraft, my flying got delayed so I had to postpone my return flight to Norway.
I first called United to see if I could change the return date to January 23, but that wasn’t possible due to my fare being non-refundable (bought off a sale in October) I then tried to look up one-way tickets to Europe, which are not cheap. Not at all. United wanted over $2000 for a one-way ticket MCO-KRS – in ECONOMY!!! A definite no-no. So after being on the phone with United for 30 minutes, I hung up and called my lovely airline Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) who could give me an award ticket, booked with my miles. The agent was very friendly and found a route that suited me perfectly, with short layovers (at this point I just wanted to get home as quick and efficient as possible) At first he thought I needed a round trip (I didn’t specify I would only need a one-way ticket this time) so he gave me an offer, 40000 miles for a round trip in economy. I then said I only need the one-way, and he figured out I had enough points for a one-way in business. I wasn’t hard to convince, and soon I was booked in business all the way from Orlando, via Frankfurt and Oslo, to Kristiansand. 66000 miles and 256 NOK later, I got my ticket by e-mail. A smooth experience, and actually the first time I have redeeemed any of my frequent flyer points.
I returned my rental car at Sixt, was expedited quickly and took the shuttle to the terminal. I checked in using the First Class / Star Alliance Gold check in counter which had no line what so ever. Checked my two bags and headed for security where Lufthansa apparently doesn’t have a priority lane, which I found kind of weird. I got through it with about 10 minutes of waiting, and took the train over to the concourse where my plane would depart in about 2 hours.
Lufthansa doesn’t have their own lounge in MCO, but uses Delta’s Sky Club. Not a very big selection of snacks, but I guess it was late in the afternoon and not many flights departing. Plenty of seating areas, I had no trouble finding a place to relax before my flight. The bathrooms were very nicely decorated and furnished. I had some snacks, changed into my “I’m crossing the Atlantic at night”-attire (sports bra and a sweat shirt. On board the plane I changed into sweat pants) before the Lounge Dragons announced Lufthansa flight 465 to Frankfurt was ready for boarding, and that a Lufthansa representative would meet us in the lounge and escort us to the gate.
WARNING: Text is below the picture!!!
We were then escorted over to the gate where boarding was about to start, but we were the first ones on board the Airbus 340-600 (registration D-AIHH) bound for Frankfurt. They used 2L for boarding and after I entered the cabin I took an immidiate left and found my seat, 8D.
When boarding was announced completed, no one had claimed 08A/C so I moved over to the window seat and got the two-seater all by my self. I like to have direct aisle access on long haul flights, especially at night, but with no one in the C seat I was good to go with my window seat 🙂
A photo I snapped of the leg room in 08D before I switched seats
Once in 08A, I was greeted by the purser with my last name (at first she thought Ms Larsen didn’t board since it was stated in her manifest that I would be sitting in 08D) but I gave her a hint that I just moved seats. She was very polite, and sort of apologetic. She hoped I had a good ground experience in MCO, which I confirmed, but my only complain would be no priority security. I was served a glass of champagne before take off.
Once in 08A, this was my view of the forward business cabin,
On our way to lining up on 35L, ready for take off!
MLB VOR was in our flight plan, but I thought we’d be cleared more direct. But no, we headed south to Melbourne after departure, then started our oceanic crossing from there.
I was handed the menu for tonight’s flight.
I went with the seafood salad as a starter, cod filet as main course and the chocolate for dessert.
But first, time for some beer and nuts. Warsteiner glass bottled beer is a classic onboard Lufthansa in business and first class. Back in economy they serve it on a can.
Seafood salad, probably the best dish in the entire meal. Crisp salad, hot roll and the prawns tasted fresh and delicious.
Nothing left of the seafood salad 😀
The cod tasted OK but the presentation lacked some I thought. Kind of sloppy.
“Would you care for some chocolate, Ms Larsen?” How awesome, they said Ms Larsen to me throughout the meal service. Nice touch! The chocolate was heavenly!
Time to get some rest! The old business class seats on board Lufthansa doesn’t recline 180 degrees. My biggest complaint with the seat, however, is the area around your feet when the seat is fully reclined. It reclines under the seat in front of you, and the space around your feet is very limited.
Never the less, I got 4 hours of sleep and woke up feeling pretty fresh and awake as we crossed in to European airspace. Breakfast service started 1,5 hours before landing.
The breakfast platter consisted of some fresh cold cuts as well as an egg omelet and some potatoes. Fresh fruit, tea and OJ complimented the meal.
Being greeted the best way possible by Europe: With an amazing sunrise
Short final for 07L (new runway) in Frankfurt where we landed 30 minutes ahead of schedule.
D-AIHH parked by the gate after the flight. I disembarked through door 1L and headed straight for the lounge.
Since I had some time until my flight to Oslo, I decided to go to the Welcome Lounge (outside of security) knowing that lounge has more showers than the business/senator lounges airside. Even thought it was kind of a long stroll from Terminal A, it was well worth it. Sophie the Frequent Flyer Bear liked it a lot too 🙂
Feeling refreshed after the shower, I headed to Terminal B where a bus gate awaited my next flight, SK4756 to Oslo. The flight was operated by LN-TUF, a Boeing 737-700.
On board we were served sea bass. The chocolate for dessert was very sweet, but rounded the meal off nicely.
Flying next to Denmark.
North Jylland, Denmark.
I hate transferring international-domestic in Oslo, because I have to go through customs, recheck my bags and go through security again. But it was the only option available on award tickets that day so I just had to suck it up. My bags actually appeared early on the baggage belt with their priority tags, so I headed through customs, up to the departure level and got through security.
Now, remember the girl I met when I departed Oslo 1,5 weeks earlier? Well, guess who I met in the domestic terminal this Thursday afternoon? The same girl! What are the odds?!? We just accidentally bumped in to each other. She was headed to Bergen for the weekend. Our flights departed from the same area of the terminal so we found a place to sit until boarding started.
This is the gate for my flight, SK221 to Kristiansand. You’d think it was the last helicopter out of Vietnam.
I was one of the last to board and found my seat, 11F. Full flight, and all the overhead bins were full. I ended up with my carry on Rimowa under the seat in front of me, with my backpack on my lap and feet on the Rimowa (Sorry, my dear little suitcase)
We took of late, but at that point I didn’t care. To be honest, I fell asleep before pushback and didn’t wake up until we had started our descent into Kristiansand.
It was a very comfortable trip, though it cost me some miles, it was definitely worth it.
The service I received with Lufthansa was very good. They are upgrading their business class seats to something similar to what Swiss offers. I’m eager to try that product out, but for now it’s hit-or-miss if you get an aircraft with the new business class seats.
The meals were consistenly very good.
My only complaint is, as mentioned before, the lack of priority security in MCO for business class/ Star Gold passengers.
That’s all I have for now 🙂 Hope you enjoyed following along my trip home from Florida!
Florida – getting there
Getting to Florida is kind of a long haul for me. My trip started Saturday, January 12 with a train ride from Arendal to Oslo, where I checked in to the Radisson Blu Oslo Airport Hotel which is literally as close to the airport terminal as you can get. Very conveniently located hotel. Grabbed a pizza from the airport and headed to bed.
Next morning, Sunday January 13, started early in the A.M. People next door were playing music very loudly. At 4am I could not sleep anymore and decided to start to get ready, though my flight wasn’t until 11 am and I didn’t plan to go over to the airport until 9. Well, no rush, and after getting ready, I went down to grab some breakfast. A lot of flight crews stay at this hotel, and I saw many first officers and captains eating breakfast before a long day at work. One day….
I headed over to the airport terminal to check in. United had representatives checking passports and ESTAs separately from check-in/ bag drop. United Premier Access Priority tags were put on the two bags I checked in, and I was handed boarding passes for both my flight to Newark and my connecting flight to Orlando. Security was a breeze, as I had access to the dedicated Fast Track security lane.
A funny thing I have to mentioned, it really wasn’t too funny until I returned to Norway, but I met a girl I went to high school with at the airport in Oslo. She was headed to Tenerife with some friends. More on that later, though 😉
After passing through security, I walked through the duty free shop, took the stairs up one level and entered the SAS Scandinavian/Business lounge. In my humble opinion, it is a good lounge with a decent selection of food, drinks and after 0100 pm also liquors (stupid Norwegian laws lol)
Scheduled departure time was set to 11.15a and boarding started around 10.30a. Today’s flight to Newark, United flight 39, would be operated by the Boeing 757-200 (ex-CO) registration N57111 (Ship #3111) – a fifty-seven first delivered to Continental in 1994. I quickly located my seat on row 22, which really isn’t the 22nd row, because United is trying to standardize exit rows as 20 and 21. So my row was the first row after the exit row, and also the first row in economy class. The seats in front are 45 Economy Plus seats and 16 international BusinessFirst lie flat seats.There are a total of 108 seats in (wh)Y.
Being Star Gold and flying United, I’m in boarding group 2. Group 1 is people with special assistance, military and Global Services (the top tier within United’s Mileage Plus program, by invitation only) , as well as First class. Group 2 is business class passengers, United Plat’s and Gold and Star Alliance Gold. I was one of the first ones onboard in the economy cabin and I found my aisle seat and got seated. I figured the flight would be very full, judged by the quick glance I got of the boarding waiting area, and the seats surely filled up. Eventually a guy approached my row and told me he had the window seat. I got up and let him get to his seat. When “boarding completed” was announced, the middle seat between us was not taken. I think it was the only seat not taken in the economy cabin. Intentional or not from the gate agent, it is certainly something I value a lot when flying long international flights in economy/whY.
Well, once comfortably seated, the International Service Manager (a really funny guy) announced that he hoped Newark was in our travel plans, as this flight was a non-stop service to Newark Liberty International Airport. He said we would push back from the gate early, after the fan blades in the engines had been defrosted (freezing fog in Oslo this morning) and we then would head over to de-ice before take off.
Uh. Or not. Approaching the scheduled departure time, we were still at the gate. Turned out the cargo had been loaded too far aft in the cargo compartment, and that they had to move some of it to the front. An operation that took close to 25 minutes. Alright, once the cargo was in the right place, we were ready to go. We pushed back, stopped, then the Engine #2 started. I was anticipating the start of Engine #1.. Which never came. Then #2 spooled down and the Captain announced they couldn’t start #1. Sort of an issue when you want to cross the Atlantic.
Back to the gate, a mechanic got on board, did his magic, left, and we pushed again. This time both engines started and we could set off to the west!
Take off was interesting. I noticed they spooled the engines, with brakes applied, a lot more than usual. I’m sure it had something to do with the engine #1 not starting properly and the Captain would make sure that everything was running smoothly.
Once in the air, 90 minutes late, we were served meal number one. I got the chicken. I don’t trust the beef option on board airplanes.
I watched “The Campaign”, listened to music and read a little. When we approached the Labrador Strait, we encountered some mild turbulence that pretty much lasted for the remainder of the flight. It was so bumpy at times I had a hard time holding my book straight so I could read lol.
We landed 50 minutes late in EWR, I hurried out of the airplane and ran towards the immigration hall in Terminal C. To my big surprise, it was EMPTY, making the process a lot better. And I still had a chance to catch my connecting flight down to Orlando in.. Well, 1 hour. After a few questions, my passport got its stamp and I could head down stairs for the baggage claim. The bags took forever, I must have waited close to 20 minutes before any bags showed up on the belt. Luckily my two bags were among the first bags (Note to self: priority tags in EWR have worked 3/3 times) and I got through customs and to the baggage re-check area. I literally just dropped my bags on the floor by a United employee and ran to the nearest security check point. Having Premier Access with United this Sunday afternoon was not really a benefit, as the P.A lane in security was sooo long. I think only Star Golds flew out of EWR that day lol.
Well, I got through, got scanned by the TSA and started the looong stroll to my gate. In the other end of the terminal. Great.
I made it to the gate just as they announced the gate was closing. The gate agent asked me if I was the passenger connecting from Oslo, which I confirmed. I asked her if my bags would make it on the flight, which she assured me they would. I thanked her, scanned my boarding pass and got on the plane.
The flight to Orlando, UA1262, was operated by the Boeing 737-900 N37408 (Ship #3708)
It was delivered to Continental back in 2001.
The plane was almost empty back in whY and the flight attendant said I could just pick any seat. I originally had 22F, but there was a guy in 22D so I decided not to bother him and took 23F and had the entire row for my self.
After departure I snapped some photos of an awesome sunset and fell asleep.
We landed on RWY18L and taxiied to the gate. Once off the airplane and inside the terminal I got on the free Wifi to check emails, and then headed to baggage claim where my bags were not the first to get on the baggage belt. Business as usual in MCO with the priority tags.
The SIXT shuttle picked me up from the terminal and drove me to the off-airport location SIXT has in Orlando. It’s only a 5 minute ride but still. There was a family onboard the shuttle as well. They were Danish 😛 and arrived with Lufthansa from Frankfurt. I thought that was a long wait at MCO before they got to the car rental shuttle. Lufthansa lands around 0500p and this shuttle ride was around 0800p. Hm..
Once at the car rental place, I got the keys for my rental car for the week, a Hyundai Elantra. Not as powerful as the Sonata I rented in November, but still a good, little car for me.
I decided to stay off the Interstate this late at night (I had been up for almost 24 hours, with minimal sleep on the flight down to MCO) and drove the backroads up to Lake Mary and my hotel there. The Homewood Suites by Hilton.
Home, sweet home 🙂
I got a take-out burger from a nearby restaurant and headed to bed. A long journey was over. A good one, but a little stressful in EWR with short connection due to the delay out of Oslo.
More to come on my biennial flight review and time building later!
Reunited (and united) with family and friends in the Empire State
As mentioned in the previous update on my blog, dated November 6, me and my brother traveled south to Florida instead of visiting family in the states of New Jersey and New York due to the storm Sandy. We had a great time down south, enjoying the nice weather, great local food and visiting friends. Friday November 9th, it was time to head up north.
After a wonderful few days in the Sunshine State, it was time to say goodbye for now. We returned our rental car the night before our flight, and got to our hotel where we repacked everything (my brother is crazy when it comes to shopping!) and got to bed early. Wake up was set to 03.20 am…
0600am-flights should be banned. But until that law goes into effect, we had one of those to catch from MCO to EWR.
We got to MCO, checked in, in the United Premier Access lane (we do have some benefits as frequent flyers) and got all our 4 (!) bags checked in to our destination, Newark, free of charge. I thought we only were entitled to 3 free checked bags with United, but I wasn’t going to argue with them.
MCO is the most typical vacation destination I can think of. Even when we landed in MCO a few days earlier, they welcomed us to Disney World, even though that was not anywhere near where we had planned on going. A typical vacation destination means tons of families traveling with oversized carry-ons, kids, toys +++ That creates this huge line in security, but we went to the premier access line for security because of my frequent flyer gold status and we were through the check within minutes. Nice touch and something my brother appreciated (he does not have any status with any airline but enjoyed the same benefits as I did when travelling with me)
MCO is nothing fancy, but an OK airport to go through in my opinion. It has a good layout and is easy to navigate. Not plenty of places to grab something to eat in the morning, but that’s that..
0530 am and it was time to board the 737 bound for Newark-EWR. Flight was OK but I was sick with the cold and my ears kept popping all the way to Newark which was a pain, but I survived. Never had that happen to me before though, so rather unusual.
We arrived on-time in Newark and after disembarking the airplane we headed straight for baggage claim where our bags were already on the conveyor belt when we arrived! The priority tags apparently work on EWR (as opposed to MCO where our priority tagged bags were almost the last ones on the belt)
When we had picked up our bags we saw two of my mom’s cousins, Karen and Roberta, coming to meet us! Wonderful to see them both again! We headed for the car where we started our drive to their home in Jefferson, New Jersey. It was about an hour drive and when we got to their house we were greeted by Karen’s husband, Tommy. All very nice people! We played a little with my cousin Annie’s, 3-year-old son before my other cousin, Molly showed up! We had lunch together, and Tommy made the most wonderful hamburgers with salad. We had homemade chicken soup and cakes as well. We didn’t leave the house hungry, that’s for sure 🙂
Later in the evening we went to eat at the restaurant where Karen works. Molly, my brother and I then headed to Morristown which is on the way to Newark where we had a hotel reservation for the night. In Morristown we met up with Molly’s cousin, Kristi. Me and Kristi, however, are not related, because I’m related with Molly via my grandmother who was Molly’s grandfather Andy’s first cousin, while Kristi and Molly are related through Molly’s grandmother, who married Andy. Family relations are easier to figure out when you have a family tree to look at haha.
In Morristown we had a few drinks before we headed to Hilton Newark Airport.
The Hilton Newark Airport property is OK for an airport hotel. Rooms were rather spacious and we had a “great view” of the Budweiser factory near the airport. I’m HHonors Gold, and therefore had the option to choose between 1000 extra points or free breakfast. I opted for the latter. They had a small gym that me and my brother went to in the morning the next day. We upgraded our breakfast for $4 per person (the free breakfast voucher was only for continental breakfast, for $4 extra we got the full buffet)
Parking was $12 overnight which is nothing compared to what we had to pay for at the Hilton New York (more on that later..)
Around 11 am we headed for the city. New York City.
Crossing under the Hudson River via the Lincoln Tunnel, rolling down the window of Molly’s car and look up at those crazy, big, huge, tall buildings. It was breathtaking, to say the least. A sky scraper in Norway is a building that has more than 6 floors. You can only imagine how entering New York City was quite the experience for me!
We parked the car in the hotel garage, after navigating NYC’s endless “One way”-roads. Molly did a great job 🙂
Our hotel room wasn’t ready yet, but we left our baggage on a trolley and stored it at the hotel, and decided to start touring the city without checking in. We headed for the nearest subway station where we got a 7-day unlimited pass for $29. Our first destination was Brooklyn and the Bay Ridge area. Before we could get there, we had to change the subway twice because they suddenly announced “next station – last stop” and we hadn’t even gotten to Lower Manhattan yet! But we made it. After disembarking the subway on 4th Ave 77th St in Brooklyn, we walked down 4th to 80th St where we found the current location for the church where my great grandmother was baptized in 1912.
We then walked up 3rd avenue to 69th street where we found this little deli
You can read more about the Nordic Deli store here
We were thinking of having lunch at the deli, but lack of sitting areas brought us across the street to a sushi restaurant were we had delicious sushi 🙂
After eating food with sticks we headed to 59th Street via subway. We walked a couple of blocks until we got to where we wanted, on 59th Street between 7th and 8th Ave.
59th Street Lutheran Brethren Church. The exact church my grandmother, who passed away last year on 9/11, was baptized in 1930.
After a little look of the church building we noticed a guy sitting on the steps of what looked like an apartment in conjunction with the church. He asked “Are you from Norway?” Yes we are, we replied. (In retrospect, we were the only people with blonde hair and blue eyes around, making the guessing simple for him, since the other people around were Chinese.) Turned out the guy was the Youth Pastor in the church and that his heritage traced back to a town here in Norway, not too far away from my home, either! He showed us around, told us the history of the church and the area, how Brooklyn was THE place to be for Norwegian Americans, and how it has slowly turned in to a more Asian district of New York. Until the 1980s they had church services in Norwegian, while now they have it in English and Chinese.
We got to go inside and have a look as well!
After the tour of the church we took the subway to Times Square for some photos. On our way from the subway and to Times Square, we grabbed some coffee from Starbucks. Their Chai Latte is superb, if you ask me. Perfectly spiced and sweet.
Time to get going back to the hotel and check in. Changed to some different clothing and we were ready for what this Saturday night had in store for us. My brother went to a party at the Alex hotel with our neighbor from Norway who is in the Navy and was in NYC for Veterans Day. Molly and I thought we were going to a restaurant near the hotel, but when we met up with Karlene down in the hotel lobby, it turned out we were picked up by Jeremy and Natan in a white limousine and driven out on Long Island to Natan’s house for the Flight For Control book event! Sushi in the shape of an airplane, magic and great friends made this a wonderful Saturday night I will remember for a very long time!
I’d like to thank Natan’s family for having us that night. Very nice people who even opened their home during the storm Sandy for those who were out of power and water.
Limo on our way back to the Hilton New York hotel, too!
Sunday morning we had breakfast together with Karlene before she had to non-rev back to Seattle from JFK. Molly, my brother and I then headed to Grand Central station to meet up with some cousins on my grandfather’s side. I have never met them before, but I’ve met their uncles and aunts in Norway, and visited one of their aunts in Florida many times.
We got on the subway and went down to Ground Zero. We wanted to go into the 9/11 memorial, and was told it would be about an hour wait. That 1 hour turned into 2 hours, but we spent the time in line getting to know each other, some time passed by rather quickly.
Once inside the 9/11 memorial, I couldn’t really (and still can’t) fathom how many people actually lost their lives that horrifying day, and how many families have been directly affected by the twin terror attacks. The memorial itself was peaceful, in a sense, with falling water, grass areas, trees, almost like a nice little park. Though that exact area was so very far from peaceful as you can imagine, September 11, 11 years ago.
After the memorial, we went to a local burger restaurant and had lunch. I ordered a beer (Stella Artois, for the history records) but to my big dissapointment, I wasn’t asked to show I.D. Great, and I waited 21 years for this?
After the burgeres were consumed, we walked to Wall Street and took a subway up to Rockefeller Center where we had tickets to visit Top of the Rock, the top of Rockefeller center, located on the 67th-69th floors.
After taking the elevator down again, it was almost time for my cousins from upstate NY to head home. We got cupcakes from the Magnolia Bakery and then Molly, JC and I decided to purchase tickets for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular from a guy on a street corner. We said our good-byes to our cousins from upstate and got into the Radio City Music Hall.
The show was amazing, and so was my company and the drinks from the Delta 360 Sky Lounge too! Delta Air Lines, along with Chase and Norwegian Cruise Lines, are this year’s Christmas Spectacular sponsors.
We got dinner from a trolley outside the hotel, really good food to be honest! Then we went to bed, our legs tired from all the walking!
Next morning, we headed to Central Park after breakfast to go for a walk in the park. When we saw a horse carriage, we decided to rest our legs for a little while, while taking the horse carriage around Central Park!
After that, we went to the Museum of Modern Art where the famous painting “The Scream” is on display this fall and winter. Painted by the Norwegian painter Edward Munch.
It was getting close to noon and time for lunch. My brother loves the ribs at Hard Rock Cafe, so the to the HRC we went! Nice restaurant right on Times Square. After a delicious meal we headed back to the hotel in a yellow taxi, packed our stuff (we requested a late check-out which was granted earlier that morning) and headed for the car. The price for parking the car for two days in the garage was $142. Can you believe that?
Traffic jam down 9th Ave on our way to EWR, and the planned 20-minute ride took 1 hour and 20 minutes. 17 miles. But we made it in time to check in and off we went through the priority lane for security (once again, I love the frequent flyer gold benefits) and to the SAS Business lounge for some snack and drinks before boarding.
The flight home was rather uneventful, but we had a 7 hour layover in Copenhagen, which was spent sleeping in a sleeping chair. Nice. I also took a shower in the lounge which is probably the best feeling in the world after a night crossing the Atlantic in an economy class seat.
It was an amazing trip, and I’d like to send a special thanks to my cousin Molly who organized everything for us! Too bad the plans were shortened but we just have to come back another time!
Reuniting with Molly and her family, reuniting with my friend Karlene, finally uniting with my family from Upstate New York and pilot friends from New York – it was an honor!
Can’t wait to see you all again – SOON!