Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Preferred Seat (also called Emergency Seat) Airbus A350 Economy SIN to MXP Seat 47J

Flew on SQ's Airbus A350 from Singapore to Milan Malpensa recently. It was a red-eye flight and I decided to pay the additional USD90 for what is called a 'Preferred' Seat, which is more commonly known as Emergency row seat or Bulkhead seat.

Here is the direct marketing video from SQ, trying to get me to snag a preferred seat for my MXP-SIN leg, a USD90.  Alluring picture.  

The plane, Airbus A350 serial number 9V-SMO, was a 6-month old aircraft at the time of my flight. I've flown with SQ many times before, but this experience was still novel because I haven't flown in their Preferred Seat before.

This is what my seat, 47J, looked like. 47J is the left seat in this picture, where the green jacket is resting. For row 47, it is built in a 2-3-2 configuration, due to the aircraft door at both sides of the aircraft.

Location of 47J
This graphic of the seat map gives you a good idea of where my seat was located.

I jump straight to whether the additional USD90 was worth it, given that at time of booking, I already could get an aisle seat.

Verdict? It depends.

The Pros.
No doubt that the legroom was plentiful. I could stretch my entire leg horizontally, with no issues. This allowed me to have a very good sleep. But take note the disadvantages below.

The Cons

Next to toilets
1. Preferred seats are right next to the toilets. Hence, this place could get very busy indeed, especially during peak hours for toilet use (e.g. after meals, before landing).

"Ding, Ding and Ding!"
2. At 47J, you will hear a 'ding', 'ding', 'ding' (see 9:26 of the video below), and a blue light coming on. What was that all about? Turns out that whenever a passenger presses the call button for a flight attendant, the ding sound will happen, and a small blue light will be activated. (9:26). The ding beeper and blue light is located right above the aircraft door, near 47J. You can imagine the 'ding', 'ding', 'ding' throughout the night. Fortunately, they gave me ear plugs, and I managed to sleep through. I think this wasn't an issue for 47B and 47C (i.e. the preferred seats at the other aisle), although I'm not sure.

Backpacks overhead
3. Preferred seats have no space to put your backpack under the seat in front of you, since there is no seat in front of you save for the crew seats. Everything must go overhead.

IFE stowed away until airborne
4. The inflight entertainment screen can only be deployed when the aircraft is in the air. So you don’t have access to movies when the plane is on the ground, during take off, and during landing. Other passengers in normal seats have access to the IFE throughout. This can be irritating because you can't watch movies the moment you are seated. Sometimes, it takes a while for the plane to get airborne, with all the taxi-ing.

Overall? Given that I had a good sleep (which was very important to me), the USD90 was worth the money. However, if I flew again, I would try 47A, 47B or 47C next time. (i.e the other side of the aircraft)

Seats-aside, the rest of the flight was good. We were served supper shortly after takeoff from Singapore Changi. I chose the Beef with Noodles option. I found the beef a bit tough, but it didn't bother me too much as I wasn't hungry. We were given a Magnum mini as dessert - that was nice. I slept a lot and woke up about 3 hours before landing. Breakfast was ok. I chose the noodles again. Everything went like clockwork and we landed in Milan safely.

Here is a video review of my flight.

Happy Flying!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Mediterranean Cruise MSC Meraviglia 7N Genoa Civitavecchia Palermo La Valletta Barcelona Marseilles Day 2 Bad Weather & Cirque De Soleil

Day 2 of our cruise!  #MSCMeraviglia Today, the ship was scheduled to arrive at 0800hrs, and depart 1800hrs.  It was designed to be a relatively long port of call, as some pax would want to take a day trip to Rome, and that would take 9 hours (according to the excursion booklet).  Simple reason, Rome was about 80km from Civitavecchia.

For our last cruise (on the MSC Preziosa back in 2015), we were far more adventourous.  We decided to rent a car from a nearby Avis/Budget, and drive ourselves to the Castel Romano Shopping Outlets.  Looking back at my video from 2 years ago brought back fond memories.  Here it is again (gosh, the weather looked good then!).

This time round, the plan was to take a shore excursion organized by MSC, to Tuscania and Tarquina.  So we woke up in good time, to have breakfast in the YC restaurant, and were all ready to go.  This was my MSC Express breakfast.

And some of the finger food available in the Top Sail.  I enjoyed a small cup of Bircher Muesli.

However, something was amiss.  When we were having breakfast at about 0715hrs, I noticed that we were nowhere near the port.  In fact, the ship was still quite some distance from the land.  When we asked the staff, we were told that there were high winds at Civitavecchia, and our ship was waiting for the winds to die down.

In the video below, we had some breakfast and then waited in the Top Sail lounge.  After about 30 minutes, we had enough to eat, and the ship still didn't look like it was headed to the port.  Anyway, the seas were rather rocky, and we all decided to head back to our cabins to lie down.  Yes, it was really quite rocky.

And as we were lazing in our cabins, suddenly the announcements came on, in many languages.  Before it got to the English announcement, we figured that the ship would not be docking at Civitavecchia.  Instead, we were headed for some place us.  I managed to record the entire english announcement.  It is not everyday that one hears such an announcement.  We were now heading towards Naples!

True enough, when I turned on the cabin interactive TV, this was what I found.  We were not scheduled to arrive at 1700hrs.  All aboard time was 2230hrs.  There would be no shore excursions.

Wow, this was certainly unexpected.  Anyway, the rocking got so bad, that I had to lie down.  I ended up skipping lunch because I slept through lunch till mid afternoon!  (Yes, the rocking was not a joke)

By the time I woke up from my morning sleep(due to rocky seas), it was mid-afternoon.  Thankfully, by now, the ship was less rocky.  I assume we had fled from the storm brewing near Civitavecchia.  I still felt a bit woozy.  So I decided to head out to the balcony to get some fresh air, and to eat a green apple in the process.

Here is the video.  Compared to our cruise 2 years ago on the MSC Preziosa (also in December), this cruise was turning out to be much more rocky!  By now, I had puked once already.  But the cruise must go on! Nothing was going to stop us having fun.   Fortunately, my parents were most resilient.  They had a hearty lunch (in the YC restaurant) and subsequently spent a fun afternoon roaming the ship (it was their first time on an MSC ship), and patronising the casino.  Glad that they were ok.  Do you get less sea-sick when you get older?

These days, with mobile phones and roaming plans, we can monitor the ship's location right from our own mobile devices.  Glad to say that from our phones, we could see that the ship was making good progress towards Naples, and the weather looked to be calm enough for docking. As the sun set early, it was dark as the ship approached Naples port.  Here was my kid looking out for the port. Land ahoy!

Well, we were now feeling hungry (since we skipped lunch), and it wasn't time for dinner yet.  So we headed to the Top Sail lounge to get some drinks and food.  We were all feeling much better, since the ship was not rocking anymore, and we all had a good sleep.  It was time for some more bonding over food and drink!

In this video, while the ship was docking in Naples, we were in the Top Sail lounge, for drinks and some finger food before dinner.  It was father and son bonding time! I had the Long Island Iced Tea, and he also had the Long Island Iced Tea sans Alcohol.  Later on, we did the same with the Mojito. It was good fun! Not everyday you can bring a kid to a lounge and enjoy great drinks.  Happy sailing!

Day 2 Dinner - Yacht Club Restaurant
As usual, we headed to the dinner venue at around 6:30pm.  We liked to eat early. The House White for this evening - Tenuta Di Blasig Chardonnay.  All was good.

And this was the House Red. Regale.

Some pictures of the food we enjoyed.  This was the Bauletti pasta filled with lobster.

Speciality Dining Experience - Tex Mex.  Lamb chop, Beef Sirloin, Chorizo Sausage. (From Tex Mex restaurants aboard MSC Fantasia and MSC Splendida)  This was awesome!

Here is a video of our Day 2 dining experience in the Yacht Club restaurant.  Everything tasted wonderful.  It helped that we were hungry. (Remember, I skipped lunch)

Post Dinner & Cirque Du Soleil At Sea Show 
You may have figured out by now that we decided not to leave the ship for Naples.  A few reasons.  It was already dark outside, and there were no shore excursions running.  We didn't want to be wandering around the streets of Naples in the dark, since we were not familiar with the place.  Anyway, we had been to Naples before, so it wasn't new to us.  All that said, at dinner, our waiter told us that a good number of pax had disembarked to walk around Naples.  So the YC restaurant was a lot quieter that evening.

After dinner, the plan was to go for the Cirque Du Soleil at Sea show.  We had purchased our tickets in advance (from travel agent).  I think it cost 15 Euro per person, with a drink.  You can also have dinner plus show, that would be more expensive.  As our show only started at 2200hrs, we had plenty of time to walk around the ship.

Looking across the atrium towards Plaza Meraviglia.  It is designed to remind you of an upscale shopping mall.

One of the bars, which I recall was next to Kaito.  This place was quite happening, i.e. I heard a lot of music coming out during the evenings.  People were dancing too.

I like the sign - Galleria Meraviglia.

I thought these packages were of good value. And I think if you purchase them in advance (from your travel agent), you may even be able to get further discounts.  At 26 Euros for 15 cappuccinos, that works out to be just 1.7Euro per serving.  At 59 Euros for 14 Beers, that is 4.2Euro per beer.

And some live music to add to the atmosphere.

And check out this video compilation of our walk in the Galleria Meraviglia. See how the LCD Dome changed, from a fresco to pillars which made it look like a Cathedral.  There were people boarding the ship at Naples (whom I told were bussed from Civitavecchia). We also looked at the menu of Kaito Sushi bar.  Geisha set menu for 19 Euros. Looked reasonable.  We also checked out the Chocolate Shop (Jean Philippe). Chocolates were 1.2 Euros per piece.  Macarons were 1 Euro per piece.  We saw a Chocolate Octopus (display only), Chocolate Shoes, as well as dark and white chocolate on tap!  Fascinating.

Entrance to the Main Dining Room, full of bottles.  I thought this concept was cool.  They had to store many bottles of wine, and that required space.  Why not use some of these bottles as a display of sorts?  All these unopened wine bottles made for a very impressive display before you entered their Main Dining Room.

Another perspective of this passageway.

So, tonight, the plan was to go to the Cirque Du Soleil show.  This show had a dedicated theatre, which we found.  The setting is relatively small, which makes for a more intimate setting.  So here is a video showing you excerts of the show, which lasted about 40 minutes.  This was our first time watching any Cirque production.  It was an interesting experience.  Plenty of sound effects, lighting effects, acrobatics, dancing, all very well put-together.  Experience Cirque Du Soleil @ Sea on the MSC Meraviglia!

Well, this about sums up Day 2 of our cruise. Tomorrow, we arrive in Palermo, Italy.