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EVA Air Royal Laurel Class (Business Class) ORD-TPE

EVA Air boards Business Class passengers directly from the Air France / KLM Lounge for our flight to Taipei. I was the third person on board and quickly took my seat of 9A. As I was getting situated (you know, tablet, headphones and chargers out), Daisy, the flight attendant working my portion of the cabin approached, delivering menus and a warm moist towel to help you get refreshed before the 15 hour flight.

On the Ground

EVA doesn’t serve champagne on the ground, at least in Chicago. Cook County taxes are very high and they don’t want to pay them, so they serve an inferior sparkling wine, they wouldn’t even tell me what kind it was.

Champagne and chocolate with a view

Pre-departure champagne and chocolate

Daisy asks if I want the seat cover – not a mattress pad mind you, just a quilted cover over the seat. I took it. I’ll take any additional padding I can get on airline seats. Pajamas were delivered and I immediately hopped up and changed. The lavatory between the two business class cabins is much more roomy, making it much easier to change. The front lavatory is a standard sized room…small, very small.

1-2-1 Business Class Configuration

These private business class seats are some of my favorite in the sky.

1-2-1 Business Class Configuration

Loves these very private seats.

1-2-1 Business Class Configuration

These private business class seats are some of my favorite in the sky.

Leg room and pop-out IFE

Lots of leg room on EVA Air’s Business Class Seat

New Pajamas for Me

New Pajamas!

Boarding continued and I sat back and enjoyed my drink, in my new pajamas, and thought about my trip. Was I crazy for flying so far for just a couple of days? Maybe, but I am going to enjoy the journey. The door closed at 00h20 and we were pulling away from the jet bridge at 00h23. It was fast. Then we sat on the tarmac for about 20 minutes.

Amenity Kit + Champagne + Airport = Happy Tim

Business Class Amenity kit. Not the fabulous Rimowa kit, but Georg Jensen was still nice

Amenity Kit Contents

The amenity kit was a little lean

Copa Airlines

Departure – Copa Airlines off to Panama City

In the Air

Once airborne, the crew sprung into action. It was late, people wanted to sleep and the sooner they can put us to bed, the easier their flight will be.

I had preordered the duck for my entree, which was easy to do on the EVA website. EVA offers some additional entrees that aren’t normally stocked on board, but they are catered upon request.

Another glass of champagne arrived as did the amuse bouche. It was quite lovely, Turkey Ham (huh? What’s turkey ham?) with Asparagus with champagne was a great way to kick off this Business Class Meal.

Appetizer of Turkey and Onion Tart

Prelude
Turkey Ham with Green Asparagus – Brie and Gouda Cheese with Onion Chutney Tartlet

The lobster appetizer arrived fifteen minutes later. It was served with drawn butter and a quinoa salad that was just packed with flavor. I skipped the quail egg though

Lobster Appetizer

Hors D’oeuvre
Maine Lobster – Quail Egg – Quinoa Salad

Lobster Appetizer

Hors D’oeuvre
Maine Lobster – Quail Egg – Quinoa Salad

Right at 01h30 my duck arrived. I asked for a glass of Bordeaux to accompany the duck, but it never arrived. The duck looked…well…strange. I’m not sure what happened to it, but about three-quarters of it looked and felt like it had been eaten by someone else then spit back onto my plate. I was disgusted. I couldn’t eat it. Daisy came by and saw that I wasn’t eating and she asked a couple of questions, then took it away. The purser came back to talk to me and she was mortified. She suggested I choose a different entree, which I did. The kung pao chicken sounded good to me and it was delivered moments later.

Special Ordered Duck Breast Entree

Duck breast with rice and broccolini

Special Ordered Duck Breast Entree

Duck breast with rice and broccolini

The chicken looked strange too. It was stuffed with a truffle brioche that just seemed off when paired with a kung pao truffle jus. I scraped out the stuffing and ate the chicken. Quite a disappointing entree selection.

Second Entree - Chicken

Main Course
Truffle Brioche Stuffed in Pan Friend Chicken Brease with Black Truffle Jus – Mixed Vegetables

The fruit and cake plate and was delivered. There was no cheese course. When I asked about it, the matter of fact answer was that “There was no cheese course tonight.” Hmmmrph.

The disappointing dessert

Sweets
Fruit – Blueberry Cheese Cake

At 02h00 the dinner service was over, plates and linens cleared. I was a bit disappointed.

It was time to turn in, so I laid my seat out to a bed and put on the EVA provided headphones and listened to the Big Bang Theory as I slept. It is a great plane show – as it always makes me want to sleep.

I woke up after about 5 hours of sleep and decided to watch a movie I brought (Indiana Jones) and get some work done. The internet was slow and cost $16.95 for three hours of service. It did what I needed it to do, but it was soooo slow.

At 08h00 I ordered the vermicelli with pork, which was a great choice. I should have had three of those for dinner.

Amazing Mid Flight Snack

Snack
Stir Fried Vermicelli with Pork in Taiwanese Style Sauce

I napped intermittently until breakfast, which was served promptly at 12h30. The lights popped on with a never before seen intensity! I’m not a big breakfast guy, so I skipped the cereals and I chose to have the fruit, pastry and the bread pudding. It was all pretty great. The fruit was a little under ripe, but it was still flavorful.

Croissant with Butter

Breakfast Pastry – Croissant

Simple Breakfast of Bread Pudding.

Breakfast
Butter Bread Pudding with Cherry Ragout

At this point, breakfast is done and we are still two hours from Taipei. US and European carriers don’t start serving arrival meal until 90 minutes before landing. We had lots of time left, but now I wasn’t really in the mood for sleeping.

Landing

As we come into Taipei, the flight crew sprung into action. Unlike the rest of the trip, they seemed like chickens with their heads cut off. Seemingly executing their landing procedures in a near panic mode. For example, I had five sheets of paper stored in a cubby behind my shoulder. I was told that I couldn’t stow anything there and as I was grabbing it another stew comes over, repeats the request, then the first grabs the paper, ripping it, then shoves it in another cubby (that also said No Stowage During Taxi, Take Off or Landing). Theses were just notes I had taken to prep for my trip – not a big deal, but the service sure went south fast. The crew all took their seats and we still had 30 minutes until we touched down.

We rolled into TPE at 04h05, 11 minutes early. Despite this flight being more than 15 hours, I wasn’t ready for it to end. I really do love EVA. The flight timing is great – I can work a full day, leave at 00h30 and be anywhere in Asia by noon the next day. That’s no small feat from Chicago. The seats are among my favorite in Business Class. If you are traveling with someone it is a bit difficult to chat, but for a solo traveler, you can’t beat these seats. The food is usually pretty good – the entrees on this flight were pretty abysmal, but the other courses were enjoyable.  Loved the noodles.

The Cost

I used 90,000 United Miles (Saver Award) on this Business Class flight (including the next one), the value can’t be beat. I haven’t ever checked the actual cost of the flight, because I’m not expensing these flights back to a third party. I’m not paying thousands of dollars this flight (likely) costs in Business Class.

Have you flown EVA Business Class before? Do you dig their service? What do you think was wrong with that duck entree I had? Have you ever not wanted to get off a flight after more than 15 hours of flying?

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EVA Air ORD-TPE (BR 55)

After leaving the abysmal lounge at O’Hare International Terminal 5, we boarded through door 2L and turned left to our seats in EVA Air Business class.  We elected to use United MileagePlus Miles for our international flights on this trip.  We were able to find tickets from Chicago to Yangon at preferred times at Saver Prices — so this trip cost us 80,000 miles each, in Business Class from Chicago all the way through to Yangon.

Flight: EVA Air 55 (Business Class)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300
Seat: 3D
Departure: 00h20 (00h00)
Arrival: 05h00 +1 (04h36 +1)

Pre-Departure

Royal Laurel Class occupies the first ten rows of the Boeing 777 and is broken into two cabins. The first with six rows and a galley separating the final four rows.  All seats offer aisle access and are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration. The reverse herringbone layout is one of my favorites. It offers you privacy as every seat faces away from the aisle. Although it isn’t even fully enclosed suite, so people can see you, but it’s pretty difficult.

The view from my seat on EVA’s Royal Laurel Business Class. I kind of dig the cabin art work.

We were one of the last to board in Royal Laurel Class. Of the 22 business class seats in the forward cabin, 19 were occupied.  I found my seat and began getting prepped for the flight – grabbing my tablet and headphones. I noticed the Rimowa Amenity Kit was already and the my seat. It was filled with Harnn products, including lip balm, hand lotion, a hairbrush, a toothbrush and even a screen cleaning cloth. The real beauty of this kit is the carrier itself. Made by Rimowa, this hard sided case is really practical for future uses – United offers those tin amenity kits from time to time and they dent and bend so you’d never want to or be able to use them again. I snagged one of these kits when we flew First on Thai a few years ago.

My seat for the next 15+ hours. Loved every minute of it.

Seat and Controls

As I sat in my seat, the flight attendant approached asking if I would like a pre-departure beverage. She also addressed me by name – as did every other flight attendant on board. I wasn’t allowed champagne, but could get some sparkling wine. The tax laws in the US frustrate me. If the airline opens a bottle on the ground they pay tax on it, but not in the air. I had a lovely sparkling wine and a water while we boarded. I was also quickly told that I couldn’t leave my tablet in the stowage area near my seat…and she stood there until I moved it.

We are ready for take off – I’ve got my chocolate, a beautiful amenity kit, a hot towel and a glass of sparkling wine.

The menus were handed out at that point – a food menu plus a separate wine list were opened to the appropriate pages (English language and direction of travel). I was excited to see EVA was serving Krug on this flight, I thought they were serving Veuve Clicquot Grande Dame, but they made a change. The champagne was good…just not enough of it, as they ran out halfway through the flight.

Dinner Menu

Snack and Breakfast Menu

With about five minutes to review the menu, the flight attendant came back asking about my selection. I had been researching the options for a couple of days, so other than the Krug, I knew what was up. I was surprised when they were quasi demanding our selections right then. Pajamas were handed out while the dinner orders were being taken too.

I love airline Pajamas. Yes, I am the guy who complains about people wearing yoga pants to fly, but that is different…somehow.

The captain came on telling us details about the flight and that the door was closed and we were ready to depart…20 minutes before schedule. The Taiwanese appear to be an efficient bunch.

In Flight Service

Climb out of O’Hare was about bit choppy, but just a few minutes off the ground the flight attendants jumped into action, serving our drinks and setting our tables. Before my table was set, I took off for the lavatory to change into my pajamas. Surprisingly they fit pretty well…maybe a little short in the legs, but that is to be expected – I’ve got long legs.

I’m modeling the pajamas offered to Royal Laurel Business Class Passengers. I guess black isn’t as slimming as people say.

The tray tables are very large and we’re covered with a beautiful cloth – not those thick white bland clothes United uses, but a delicate fabric with a beautiful and intricate design.

Beautiful Table Cloth was rolled out for every meal and snack service.

Dinner was served.

Amuse Bouche of Bresaola and Grilled Pumpkin , Brie Fig Chutney Topped with Green Grape.

After the amuse bouche, the bread course was served.

Veal Tenderloin and Grilled Artichoke with Truffle Cream Sauce.

Lobster with Cashew Nuts and Braised Pork with Mixed Vegetables and Steamed Rice.

Fruit and French Kiss Strawberry Cream Tart

Throughout dinner I was watching the Brad Pitt movie Allied, which I thought was pretty good,  but was it just me, or did you think you were coming in late to the movie?

From the time we took off until dinner service was completed and cleaned was less than two hours. I just hate when the meal service takes a long time. A flight leaving at midnight has two types of people, those who want a sleep immediately and those that want a quickly eat….then sleep immediately.

I converted my seat into and bed, cozied up under the duvet and went to sleep. While it wasn’t solid sleep, it was good sleep. I woke up and few times. It always surprises me how freaking hot it gets on these planes. That’s what really kept me from getting proper sleep…it was just too blazing hot. That being said, I woke up at 09h30 (CDT) after going to bed around 02h15…that’s pretty solid sack time for an airplane.

When I woke up, I polished off a bottle of water and order another meal. This time I wanted the chicken and rice in a lotus leaf. I hit the flight attendant call button and before I could even ask myself “Wait…did that work?” the flight attendant who had been taking care of me all night was by my side. I ordered the chicken, some water and a glass of champagne, which is when I found out they were out of champagne.

Steamed glutinous rice with Chicken Wrapped with Lotus Leaf.

This on demand meal took about 10 minutes to arrive as they had to make some more rice. The midnight snack was really great. I paired it with as French white wine. I wasn’t sure if you were supposed to eat the lotus leaf that the chicken and rice was wrapped in, or not. Cutting it was nearly impossible with the cutlery on the plane, so I made the assumption that we weren’t to eat that. What do you think?

After my midnight snack, I decided to watch Arrival, which was on my list since it came out in the theater, but I kept dozing off.  The seat was quite comfortable for napping, I’ll give them that.  After a few attempts, I finally made it through Arrival. Afterwards I decided to watch A Street Cat Named Bob, which was surprisingly good – if you haven’t seen it, put it in your queue.

Breakfast was served about 90 minutes before landing. I had the western style breakfast – I just can’t get into congee – can you?  The breakfast service was fine – the fruit was really fresh, although, I’m not a big fan of papaya, kiwi, cantaloupe or honeydew — the pineapples and berries were quite good.  The yogurt they served with breakfast was very thick – like paste from a school project. The thick texture and a slightly off flavor from a traditional yogurt.  I tried a few bites of it, but decided I’d hold off. I still had two more international flights in Business Class this day, I did eat the omelette with bacon and grilled veggies. It was great – even for a guy who doesn’t really like eggs.

A surprisingly good omelette with bacon.

Breakfast was finished about 45 minutes before landing and I decided to order a Bloody Mary, which was on their cocktail listing.  It was a little watery and not all that flavorful – I’d skip it if I were you.

My watery Bloody Mary – I didn’t drink much of this.

Landing

About 25 minutes before landing, I headed back to the lavatory to change into my street clothes and brush my teeth.  The lavatory was stocked with toothbrushes, individual mouthwashes, toothpicks as well as soaps, lotions and facial sprays.  The lavatory was a little tight for changing. I was constantly concerned my street clothes would fall to the ground and thus need to be burned.  Airplane bathrooms are so gross.  That being said, the lavatories on EVA were all cleaned by flight crew immediately after a passenger used it.  As I was waiting to change, a passenger came out of the lav and a flight attendant asked me to wait a couple minutes, while she refreshed the area.  Very nice.

Toiletries by Harnn in the Business Class Lavatory

Personal care items stocked and restocked in the Business Class Lavatory.

Something as simple as a flower in the lavatory can really brighten up a traditionally gross airline bathroom

We landed in Taiwan about 25 minutes earlier than scheduled and headed off to the lounge for a shower and to wait for our flight continuing on to Bangkok.

At the end of the day, I really enjoyed this flight.  The seats on EVA’s Royal Laurel class are second to none for an international business class product.  They offer privacy that can only be beat by a fully enclosed suite – which is tough when traveling with someone – it is almost impossible to have a comfortable conversation with them.  The flight crew was stellar – they weren’t hovering over you (except during boarding when they were taking orders and being very strict about certain rules), but when you needed them they were there in a flash.  While I have not flown Cathay Business Class from Chicago, I’d say EVA provides the best business class product and service from Chicago to southern China and for only 80,000 MileagePlus miles, you’d be hard pressed to find a better value.

After May 31, 2017, EVA will be operating this flight with their Hello Kitty Branded Plane from Chicago.  I’m torn; on one hand I don’t care about Hello Kitty and I’m glad we weren’t annoyed with all the HK branded materials on the plane, but on the other hand, it is such a unique product, I’d like to give it a try — maybe next time!

Have you flown EVA?  Were you surprised they they called themselves E-V-A (the actual letters, versus Eva, a name)?  What is your favorite ultra-long-haul product out of Chicago?  When are you taking EVA Royal Laurel Business Class?

Popular Blog Posts

A couple weeks ago I posted my 2016 Travel Year In Review and I’ve done so for the past several years (2015, 2014, 2013, 2011 – yeah, I don’t know what happened with 2012).  I thought I’d share with you my most popular blog posts from 2016.  Let’s look at that metric two ways 1) The most popular post that was issued in 2016 and 2) The most popular post from any period in 2016.

Interestingly enough, both of these posts are reviews of premium cabin airline travel.  First, let’s take a look at the most popular post I wrote and released in 2016.  This post comes from February 2016 and goes into the details of my flight in Business on Austrian Airlines from Chicago to Vienna (OS66).  Such a great flight and a perfect way to kick off a long weekend in Vienna.

Austrian Appetizer

Austrian Appetizer

The most popular post of all time (and the most popular post viewed in 2016) is another airline review.  This time it is on Asiana’s unfortunately named Business Class called Quadra Smartium from Seoul to Chicago (OZ236).  I had two disappointments on this flight – they weren’t serving bibimbap (breakfast service only) and the outlandish fact that they ran out of champagne midway through the flight).

ROSSINI BEEF TENDERLOIN WITH DEEP FRIED POTATO AND MADEIRA JUS ON ASIANA OZ236 IN BUSINESS CLASS

Rossini Beef Tenderloin with Deep Fried Potato and Madiera Jus on Asiana OZ236 in Business/ Quardra Smartium Class

I’m not sure why these two posts are the most popular – I figured my flight from Frankfurt to Bangkok (TK 941) in First Class would have been the number one post.  They were some of my favorite flights I’ve taken and perhaps they are more approachable – business class seats cost fewer dollars and fewer miles than first – plus usually there is more availability for award seats in business class than in first.

UAL 1095 EWR-LIM

We are United guys.  If we can’t fly United we’ll do what we can to fly a Star Alliance carrier.  Luckily United flies to Lima – from Newark and Houston, not Chicago.  We figured the airfare would cost about $1,500 each, but were shocked to find it was going for only $700 per person round trip — on the dates we were looking at, no less.  The flight down to Lima would eat up an entire day – leaving at 09h00 (from ORD) and landing at 21h15, while the return is a redeye, leaving at 22h30 and arriving the following day at 07h30 (arriving in Newark, not Chicago).  I wasn’t too keen on flying coach all night so I decided to check the cost of going Business.  Low and behold – the actual cost of Business was around the price I originally expected to fly coach.  I decided to pull the trigger and fly in United’s BusinessFirst for this trip.  Not only would I have a better opportunity for sleep on the return redeye, I’d get double elite qualifying miles for this trip.

Our flight out of Chicago to Newark left at 09h05 on Saturday morning.  The news was full of warnings of horrific TSA delays for a couple weeks leading up to this trip.  Leaving early Saturday morning in May didn’t cause me much concern regarding either vehicle or people traffic.  I was right – no traffic en route to O’Hare and once there, we had checked our bags and made it through Pre-Check within about 20 minutes and made it to the newly opened United Club near gate B14 in Terminal One.

The flight to Newark was completely uneventful.  I like that United is now serving sparkling wine onboard, but their selection is utter turpentine — but I still drink it.  In general I’m not a breakfast guy and really not an airplane breakfast guy.  United has upped their food game and the French Toast they served was surprisingly tasty – and at the advice of the Stew I started drinking mimosas.  The mediocre OJ really cut the awful sparkling wine and made it a quite enjoyable cocktail.  Who knew?

French Toast with Fruit - United Domestic First to Newark

French Toast with Fruit – United Domestic First to Newark

We had a couple hour layover in Newark and spent a little bit of time in the United Club there as well, then headed off to board our Boeing 757-200 to Lima.

Flight: United Airlines 1095 (BusinessFirst)
Aircraft: Boeing 757-200
Seat: 3F
Departure: 14h15 (14h15)
Arrival: 21h10 (21h05)

The plane we were on was a bit beat up.  My IFE screen seemed to have a pretty big dent in it — like someone smashed their head into it (accidentally?) – it worked pretty well, but the touch screen was a little finicky.

Once we were seated the Stew, who was quite sassy — in a very good way, mind you — served us some more of that awful sparkling wine.  I know, if it is so awful, why do I keep drinking it?  I don’t have an answer for you, honestly.  I like the idea of bubbles onboard and the other wines were just marginally better.  I figured after a couple glasses my taste buds would be ruined and I could enjoy the alcohol and bubbles.  Menus and amenity kits were distributed.  We were given the standard BusinessFirst amenity kit with XXXX products.  I was hoping we’d get the new Rio Olympics kit, but those weren’t being rolled out until June 1.

I’ve mentioned it before, but United has indeed upped their food game and I find that the items served in BusinessFirst are actually quite edible.  Here are the options from our flight down to Lima.

United BusinessFirst Menu to Lima

United BusinessFirst Menu to Lima

I opted for the pasta.  I’ve had both the chicken and the short rib before and both were pretty good.  For some reason I didn’t snap pictures of any of the food on this flight – I’m not sure what I was thinking, perhaps I was too engrossed in a classic James Bond film I was watching.  I do love watching Bond while in the air.

Our flight was quick, quiet and unlike almost every other flight I’ve had with a lie flat seat, the cabin temperature wasn’t sweltering, so I was able to take a little cat nap while en route.

We landed in Lima just a few minutes later than scheduled.  We made it through immigration and customs to baggage claims pretty quickly, where we waited for about 20 minutes for our luggage to arrive.  Lima airport personnel were at each baggage claim area checking your luggage claim checks to ensure you picked up the proper bag.  In all my travels, this has happened only one other time for me – at Heathrow in January 2000.  It’s a nice thought that someone is looking out for you, but at this point, I just wanted to run my bags through the last x-ray machine and officially be in Peru.

We were greeted by dozens of taxi drivers offering to take us anywhere we wanted.  It was a little overwhelming at first.  We went to a stand in the airport, told them where we were going and asked for a price quote.  To the Westin, they said it would cost 90.  We asked 90 what – dollars or soles…and their response was “Either one, which ever you prefer”.  So we could pay in either currency and according to the taxi starter, we could pay $90USD or 90 soles – the equivalent of $30USD if we paid in local currency.  We went off to find another ride, which was quick and ended up costing and equivalent of $30USD.

Traffic was quite intense from the Airport to the San Isidro neighborhood – taking us nearly an hour to make the journey.  Next up: Our experience at the Westin Lima Convention Center – where we spent our first night and our last two nights of the trip.

Have you been to Lima? What airline did you fly?  Would you have paid for the BusinessFirst airfare or would have saved the money and flown in coach?  What do you end up drinking when you fly United — do you ever get use to that awful sparkling wine?

Inca Travel – Introduction

We decided that our big trip this year would be to Peru and Bolivia.  Neither of us had visited these two countries before.  I had never been to South America, unless you count Trinidad, which surprisingly stirs quite the reaction when I ask is it part of North America or South America?

We wanted to visit Machu Picchu and we’d read some pretty great things about the Lima food scene.  MS wanted to visit Bolivia, wanting to experience the world’s highest capital city – La Paz – and visit Lake Titicaca.  La Paz is also home to a restaurant by the creative geniuses who gave us Noma in Copenhagen.

A beautiful day at Machu Picchu

A beautiful day at Machu Picchu

We selected Memorial Day weekend for our visit, so I could parlay the holiday into not using a vacation day.  Since I don’t get much vacation, I always try to throw a vacation around a pre-existing holiday weekend.  Memorial Day weekend is also our wedding anniversary, so I expect this weekend to be one where we are often traveling.

Making my way down the World's Most Dangerous Road in Bolivia

Making my way down the World’s Most Dangerous Road in Bolivia

Our trip to Peru and Bolivia was full of some ups and downs.  We had some great food, stayed in some wonderful hotels, saw some amazing sites and we also had pretty severe issues with altitude sickness, food poisoning, awful airline seats and copious amounts of bureaucratic red tape.  I’ll be sharing with you all the highlights of our trip, including:

Have you traveled to Peru or Bolivia?  What surprised you about the visit?  Did you love Machu Picchu?  How many tasting menus did you enjoy?