My time in New York draws to a close and leave the hotel to head to the airport for my flight home on Emirates.
I enter the new Emirates Lounge in JFK. The lounge has expansive seating with views of the tarmac. There is the standard Emirates buffet selection of hot and cold foods and an extensive beverage selection.
Eventually the boarding call chimes and I leave the lounge and head to the boarding gate. For some reason the flight before us offered direct boarding from the lounge but our flight required everyone to leave the lounge and trek to the gate.
The cabin is located at the front of the upper deck on the A380 which contains are 14 fully enclosed First Class ‘suites’. The cabin is so Emirates: bling to max! It looks like something Trump-esque; if you’ve ever been to Trump Tower you’ll know what I mean. There’s the gleaming faux wood finish, shiny gold rimmed features, bright LED lights, lamps, mirrors and flowers. It’s just oh so insanely over-the-top – I do love it. The suites also have faux wood doors with some ventilation panes which fully close for full privacy.
The seats are a little more understated with ivory grey palettes. There is a touchpad console, which operates the inflight entertainment and all the seat controls, lighting and other functionality; It is very easy to use. There are plenty of power sockets and USB ports to keep you fully charged during the flight.
Next to the seat is a mini bar; it only has non-alcoholic drinks, so I don’t use it. It’s not refrigerated, so you do need to ask for ice. It’s a nice touch, but I do question its usefulness.
There are no overhead storage bins, so the only meaningful storage you have is directly in front of you and a wardrobe next to the door of the suite.
Within the front dashboard of the suite there is back-lit vanity compartment, which has some toiletries and a sleep kit. And if you really wish, there is a drawer with an Emirates writing kit to pen a letter to a love one.
There’s also a snack basket in your seat, which I find pretty useful compared to the mini-bar. There is an eclectic assortment of chocolates, chips and nuts etc.
Champagne and Coffee
Prior to take-off I was offered a welcome drink. The champagne poured was a Veuve Cliquot. Emirates offers Dom Perignon but to avoid alcohol taxes they pour the Veuve on the ground. It is frustrating but I understand their position. I have just a sip and await the Dom Perignon after take-off.
The host comes around to offer me some Arabic coffee and dates, a hot towel, some magazines.
The seat is transformed into a fully lie-flat bed with a comfortable mattress, plush duvet, smooth cotton sheets, and pillows. Soon I drift off to sleep in the clouds.
In flight Entertainment
Emirates inflight entertainment is called ice. There are loads of movies, TV shows and gaming available. There are also external cameras with the view of the skies and an interactive moving map to track where you are during the trip. There is also a news channels to keep you up to date with the happenings on the ground.
I loved their Disney collection and spent most of my time watching the classics. I loved watching Snow White while sipping on a Hennessy Pardis. This is my favourite moment of the movie.
To enjoy the inflight entertainment beautiful Bowers & Wilkins Active Noise Cancelling E1 headphones are provided. These have been specially designed for the cabin and are wonderful to use.
Emirates provide a stylish Bulgari amenity kit and a cutting ‘moisturising’ pyjamas. There are lotions and fragances from Bvlgari and other useful amenities (deodorants, shaving foams, hair brush, tissues and a dental kit) in the kit which are perfect of the inflight experience.
These PJs apparently have mini capsules of sea kelp in the fabric which are gently released when you wear them so your skin remains hydrated even at altitude. They are super comfortable.
Emirates also provide a beautiful carry bag for you to pack the PJs and the amenty kit and carry them off the plane without having to squish them in the luggage.
The Dom Perignon is a keeper. It’s good floral blossoms and hints of nuttiness and sweet preserved fruits on the nose. On the palate there’s a lovely flow of citrus, a lively acidity and a creamy flowy texture. It’s a nice way to start the flight.
The caviar is on point with beautiful rich sea saline minerality, a grainy slimy texture and a nutty aftertaste which lingers. I gently scoop bits onto the pillowy plush bilinis and pair primarily with the crushed eggs for a fuller experience. I avoid the cream on this flight to keep it light. It really is quite a sensation. The Dom Perignon goes with this hand in glove and the experience is one to be remembered!
I sit there watching Alice in Wonderland as she tumbles down the rabbit hole… I do feel in wonderland at the moment.
Pan-fried beef fillet served with thyme jus, gnocchi and grilled vegetables
The beef fillet is on the cusp of medium rare – I would have liked a little more pink, but it is nicely done. Smoky charred on the outside and rich with flowing juices on the inside. The thyme jus is a nice herby overlay and the gnocchi and grilled vegetables adds some weight to the dish which is nice.
Clos du Marquis (2005), Saint Julien, Bordeaux
I pair this with a Clos du Marquis (2005). This wine has a splendour and opulence which I love about Bordeaux. On the nose there’s a beautiful flow of ripe cherries, mint and a touch of tobacco notes. On first sip a nice flow of blackcurrants and sweet spice which is supported by some solid tannins. As the wine lingers, there are notes of cigars, mocha and mint emerge on the palate for a well-rounded experience. It is perfect for the beef fillet.
Chocolate and orange croissant pudding served warm with mascarpone
It’s got the fresh out of the oven feel. It’s an eclectic medley; first comes the crunchy flaky top part of the croissant which has borne the brunt of the grill. This creates a flaky crumbly messy layer along my tongue. Then comes the rich chocolatey, citrus, fluffy buttery rich “middle” of the pudding which has its own texture and creates an equally sensuous flow of taste of decadence on the palate. I love this dessert.
Cramped airplane bathrooms are a thing of the past with Emirates which have two spacious shower suites which have ample room (probably the size of five normal airplane bathrooms). The shower sessions are pre-booked and run for 20 minutes to give you a full experience.
As soon as you step into the shower spa you’ll notice a heated floor gently toasting your feet. It sets the tone for the whole experience. The shower suite has a beautiful walnut wood and marble finishes. There is a marble sink which has lighted vanity mirror and an adjustable shaving mirror stocked with fresh towels.
The light blue wallpaper features the Dubai skyline and there is a TV for you to track where you’re flying over while you’re showering. There are power sockets if you’ve brought your own shavers / dryers etc. There is also a hairdryer within the timber panel on the wall.
There are also designer Bvlgari fragrances and amenities from Irish brand VOYA. These include shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotions / moisturisers, some form of cleanser and the hand wash.
You have five minutes of running water, however you can start and stop the water flow at the touch of a button – so it doesn’t have to be continuous. It is ample time for shower and shampoo. The shower pressure was excellent and better than some hotel’s I have stayed at. The shower floor is also beautiful marble design and there’s a seat for those with accessibility requirements.
Whenever the shower suites aren’t being used as showers you can just use them as bathrooms / change rooms. There are two very attentive shower attendants who both ensure the shower suites are cleaned after every use. Theirs is also a smaller lavatory in the back of First cabin if both the shower suites are in use.
Towards the back of the Business Class cabin is a large onboard bar and lounge, which is accessible to business and First Class passengers. It’s the perfect spot to sip a cocktail and socialise at over 38,000 feet.
The bar on Emirates is fully staffed and the crew pours your drinks, mixes the cocktails and can even take food orders. If you want to have some food with your libations and don’t want to order from the menu there are fresh fruit, sandwiches, olives and other nibbles at the bar.
The only issue if you’re traveling in First Class is the beverage selection is from the business class menu. So, you’ll find Moët & Chandon not the Dom Perignon at the bar. They serve the Hennessy XO Cognac not the Pardis. You can ask the crew to fetch you a drink from the First Class galley but it is a bit of a hassle, so I don’t really stay around.
There is a smaller (and less glamorous bar) for First Class passengers only. Its situated in the front of the cabin and has the full selection of First Class beverages but it’s not really a social area, but you can pour yourself a drink and head back to your suite.
It’s tough to give you the full context / overview of the cabin, the suite, the shower and the onboard bar in just pictures. Here is my video diary of the experience.
Music is: Day For Us by Cargo @officialcargo
Music provided by Free Music for Vlogs youtu.be/ove5pvFNXL4
I will state that with every First Class product there are drawbacks and benefits to each product. Emirates offers a well-rounded First Class product and experience; you have a fully enclosed suite which is quite spacious although it’s not quite Etihad’s Apartment or Singapore’s new Suites but it’s certainly well ahead of the other competition. The suite is well designed (its personal preference as to whether you love the bling or not) but the touch pad is easy to use, the bedding is comfortable, the screen is large and the inflight entertainment is quite extensive and has some old-time favourites which some airlines tend to lack. There are wonderful touches such as extensive lighting options, in-seat massages, private mini-bar and vanity cupboard. There are also additional amenity products within the suite and a writing pad which give it a little extra.
Where Emirates tends to stand out is the service. The Asian carriers (JAL, Cathay and Singapore) tend to lead in this area, but Emirates with its international crew really delivers a friendly service. The shower attendants (Emirates has two dedicated shower attendants) are amazing too and the shower suite was always spotless.
The Amenity kit and PJs are solid – in fact I would rate the Bvlgari products are best in market. While the PJs are super comfortable and do help to keep the skin moist, I must say I still wedded to my JAL Porche PJs.
It’s tough to compare the dining options as all the airlines do something that is a favourite. I have made no secret about my love for JAL’s tasting menu and Singapore’s Book the Cook but I certainly enjoyed the cuisine on this flight. The steak was nicely done, the caviar service was up to the First Class standard and the dessert was extremely enjoyable.
Emirates stands strong on a couple of areas in relation to food and beverage; there is a wide variety of dishes on their a’la carte and their entrée list is particularly extensive. In the wine and spirits, they are for the large part in a league of their own. Most airlines invest heavily in the champagne and Emirates choice Dom Perignon is in the same league as Taittinger Comtes, Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill, Veuve Cliquot Grand Dame. Only JAL with Salon (and now Cristal) has an edge. But often airlines fail to invest in the other wines or spirits. Emirates has a world class selection of red and white wines for you to enjoy and their spirits selection is quite unbelievable. For example, the Hennessy Pardis retails for c.$1,000 a bottle.
For me the two aces that Emirates carries are the shower and the chauffeur service. Only one other airline offers a shower (Etihad) and the shower suite on Emirates is unbelievable. From the heated flooring to the marble finish and sheer space of the suite it’s the best shower experience in the sky. On a long flight, you definitely feel refreshed, awake and are able to enjoy yourself the moment you hit the ground. Emirates is the only airline which offers a chauffeur service for its premium passengers and while it’s not an essential service, it makes it easier and adds a little luxury even before you get to the airport.