You may want to read the introduction for this trip report, Tripping through Scandinavia.
We reached the Delhi Airport around 3:30 am, considering I was with my parents and did not want to rush them in the end. The economy counters had about 15-20 people waiting in queues whereas Business Class counters looked relatively empty. There were two counters and both of them had passenger’s checking-in. After about five minutes of wait we were attended at the counter. I requested the agent to credit our miles to JetPrivelege (Contributing to my target of next summer’s European holiday on award business class seats). Check-in process was smooth and we were all checked in to Zurich, through Istanbul. My folks were also handed their Plaza Premium lounge passes.
Security and Immigration took another 15 minutes, mainly because the Immigration officer decided to tell us the advantages of traveling to Andaman & Nicobar Islands over Switzerland for a holiday. I actually appreciated his passion for domestic tourism and promised him that we will certainly consider for the next family trip. I escorted my parents to the lounge upstairs and then came back down to the Delhi Daredevils Sports Bar. After all, where else would you get a full buffet meal and drinks for Rs.2? All thanks to my Visa Signature card.
Turkish Airlines 717
New Delhi (DEL) – Istanbul Ataturk (IST)
Saturday, July 12th
Departure: 0608 hrs (3 minutes late)
Arrival: 1003 hrs local time (22 minutes earlier)
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
We arrived the boarding gate around 5:15 am and boarded the aircraft pretty soon after that. Turkish, English and Financial papers were placed on a cart just before aircraft entry and I picked couple of them. The cabin crew greeted us warmly, my parents were shown to the left and I turned right for economy “cattle” class. I was sitting in 6D, the very first bulkhead middle row.
There was plenty of leg space, but I was wishing for an empty next seat, which eventually turned out to be exactly that. I absolutely love the 2-4-2 seating configuration, especially if sitting next to the window seat. Even though I was in the middle row for this flight, I wasn’t complaining. The flight was 75-80% full in economy class. The view on the left looked something like this.
Besides the proximity to Lavatory and resulting commotion all the time, my other gripe with Bulkhead seats is placement of the IFE screen inside arm rests, which makes it inconvenient besides reducing the seat width slightly. I guess nobody has found a better solution yet so I’ll shut my rant now.
Our flight started pushing back from the gate at exactly 0600 hrs and we were up and away within the next 8 odd minutes. Climb was smooth and soon seat belts signs were off. I also got to know that Turkish Airlines CEO, Mr. Temel Kotil was on the flight. He was in New Delhi for Air India’s induction into Star Alliance the day before and was on his way back to Istanbul.
The first service was the delicious serving of Turkish Delight. Can one ever get enough of it?
The meal service started with pre-booked special requests. I had requested an Indian vegetarian meal for my parents and they weren’t impressed with their South Indian upma meal, as I got to know later. Economy passengers were given couple of menus for breakfast, which I thought was a nice touch by Turkish Airlines.
I went with Turkey and Kasar Cheese Toast along with “No.1 Mediterranean Beer” Efes. I loved the crunch of the Borek and thought it was well made. I pretty much skipped most of the other items as they just did not appeal to me.
There was a round of Coffee/Tea and I politely declined the offer. After the meal, I thought of getting some shut eye and was about to press the call button for an eye patch when the attendant handed me an amenity kit pouch.
It had a pair of socks, an eye patch and some ear plugs. Not bad, TK! I treated that, as a sign that even god wanted me to have some rest. How wrong did that turn out to be? After 40 minutes of battling with various sleeping positions I gave up and thought of visiting my parents in the front, make them feel guilty how their son was cringing in the back while they lay comfortably on their flat beds, etc. Expectedly, the seat was actually quite nice and had a foot rest just below the IFE screen, which doubled up nicely as a temporary settee. While they were telling me how uninspiring their economy class upma vegetarian dish was, I started noticing the upkeep of business class cabin.
The fabric of the seat was completely torn from the seat and there were other elements of the seat, which were asking for attention. For an airline, which prides itself as Europe’s Best Airline, this was mighty underwhelming. While going back to my seat I requested the cabin attendant to please serve some vegetarian snacks to my parents, as they were quite hungry. I must add that all cabin attendants during this flight were warm, efficient and looked keen to help out. I was promised that she would look after them well. Later on I was told by my parents that they were served vegetable samosas by the In-Flight chef, which were quite delicious.
About eighty minutes before arrival, the second service of the flight was started, where economy passengers were given a choice between a cheese sandwich or a cherry cake.
If your answer was both, I’m happy to tell you, you were absolutely correct. The sandwich was just above average but I was happy with the cherry cake. It was just the right amount of sweet and tangy for me. I gulped both of them down with a small glass of Apple juice. Other options in beverages included tomato juice, orange juice, regular and diet sodas.
At no point during this flight I bothered with the IFE screen, and taking it out of the armrest. An initial overview told me it had enough content for a 6 hour flight, though definitely not for a 8-10 hour route. Usually I’m happy with the Live Route Map, and the big screen on Bulkhead exactly in front of me kept me busy.
On our final approach to Istanbul Ataturk Airport, the captain activated the bottom fuselage camera and he was thoughtful enough to turn it to the nose camera for fantastic views as we descended on the runway.
The landing was smooth and after about 8 minutes of taxi we arrived at our gate. The first flight of my trip was comfortable and efficient. The cabin crew was nice (presence of CEO on the flight?) and the food options were reasonable for a medium haul flight. Now it was time for me to do a quick hop to the Turkish Lounge, before catching my connecting flight to Zurich in 100 minutes.
Have you flown with Turkish before to Istanbul? What has been your experience?
Related Trip Posts: Tripping through Scandinavia: Introduction
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In the middle of January 2014, planning for this trip started taking place. I usually plan my travels well in advance, mainly due to cost benefits and the time to plan most trip components to the T. Travel planning is something, which I thoroughly enjoy, and this was going to be no different.
The only difference going to be however was tagging along my parents and convincing them. My mom is relatively easy and I won’t even try to delve on “How I convinced my Dad for this vacation”. I’ll save that for a self-help book later.
Anyways, once all that was finalised, it was time for me to decide on the destinations. I had gone to Switzerland with my friends in 2005 and since then always thought that my parents would love the Swiss sights. So the first city was decided as Zürich, where we made our base for 5 days to explore the neighbouring areas. Next up, I decided to venture up slightly north to Hamburg for 3 days, mainly because of the Airbus Factory Tour. For the remaining 8 days my long pending dream of exploring parts of Scandinavia was realised as Copenhagen and Stockholm were chosen as the last two cities. and That’s where the name of this trip came about to be.
After a through deliberation, I booked Turkish Airlines for our trip. Mom & Dad were booked upfront in the Business Class, and I resigned myself to Economy. Turkish is known for their flat beds in Business and the fantastic cuisine catered by Do & Co, although both my parents don’t drink and are vegetarian, I suspected they would still enjoy the hard product. Plus the opportunity to experience Turkish CIP Lounge at Istanbul was too good to pass.
The Intra-Europe routing was made with the help going through “Man in Seat Sixty-One” extensively (Highly recommended for train travel, especially European). The traveler in me was stoked by trying out three completely different trains, while keeping in mind it would be more comfortable for my parents as well, compared to taking short flights. Train travel in Europe is comfortable, scenic and expensive but if you book out 91 days in advance (62 days for some train companies), advance deals are great value for money.
and if your routing is good enough, you might just get your Train placed on a Ferry too 😉
Following was the final routing for the trip
12/07 TK717 New Delhi to Istanbul departing 0605 hrs arriving 1025 hrs
12/07 TK1913 Istanbul to Zurich departing 1145 hrs arriving 1340 hrs
16/07 Deutsche Bahn CNL 478 (City Night Line) Zurich HB to Hamburg Hbf departing 2042 hrs arriving 0828 hrs (+1 day)
19/07 Deutsche Bahn ICE 37 Hamburg Hbf to Copenhagen departing 1528 hrs arriving 2014 hrs
23/07 SJ2000, Train 530 Copenhagen to Stockholm Central departing 0828 hrs arriving 1339 hrs
27/07 TK1794 Stockholm to Istanbul departing 1145 hrs arriving 1615 hrs
27/07 TK 716 Istanbul to New Delhi departing 1955 hrs arriving 0420 hrs (+1 day)
This allowed us to check out the following
Turkish Airlines A330 Business Class
I had flown Turkish few years back to Paris, and had liked their service in Economy. However, during this trip I was keen to see how they will serve my parents traveling in Business Class. I was in economy but secured bulkhead seats on both A330 routes. Who minds extra legroom, right?
Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge, Istanbul and SAS Lounge, Arlanda – Stockholm
Let’s admit it, each & every self-respecting aviation geek out there knows about the legendary Turkish Airlines lounge at Istanbul and has read plenty of reviews terming it one of the best Star Alliance Lounge in the world. Therefore, I decided completely skip reviewing this lounge and instead focus on SAS Star Alliance Lounge at Arlanda International. PS: Turkish CIP Lounge is indeed fantastic.
Last time I was in Zürich, I was staying in a Hostel. I figured with family in tow, I had to look at something way more comfortable and convenient. Swissotel Zürich is right next door to Zürich Oerlikon station, has a great breakfast spread, plus every stay at the property gets you 500 JP Miles.
Arcotel Rubin, Hamburg
At Hamburg I wanted a hotel close to the main Hauptbahnhof station as we were using trains for both arrival and departure into the city. The city centre is also close-by and after extensive research I chose Arcotel Rubin. In fact, while other hotels were finalized more than two months in advance, I confirmed Arcotel Rubin only two weeks out.
Bella Sky Comwell Hotel, Copenhagen
This was my first visit to Denmark, let alone Copenhagen so I was looking for something striking, modern without breaking the bank. Bella Sky Comwell was perfect in all departments. Apart from being a stunning design hotel from the outside, there were plenty of great details inside which I appreciated. While checking-in, I got a great deal on a paid-upgrade to the top 23rd floor and the views from the room more than paid for it.
Hilton Stockholm Slussen Hotel
To end the trip I figured it would be best to do it with some added luxury and I chose Hilton Slussen over Sheraton Stockholm. Besides getting a great deal, I also stood a chance for free breakfast, room upgrades (which happened second day into the stay) and other amenities due to my Hilton Gold status. The views from the room, the proximity to main attractions & the executive lounge access made last four days of our trip memorable.
This trip turned out to be exactly as I imagined it to be and beyond. Liechtenstein, Denmark and Sweden became #29, #30 and #31 in my countries visited list. I also visited two new lounges, three new train services, thirteen different beers, got my Burger King fix for the year and of course visited the Airbus Plant in Hamburg. I’m excited to share my experience in detail with all of you in the days ahead.
Thanks for reading, let me know if you have any comments or questions.
Related Trip Posts: Train on a Ferry!
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Being a longtime listener and viewer of the Amateur Traveler podcasts I jumped at the first opportunity of speaking with Chris Christensen about travel and his perspectives of things that enable and supplement our travel experiences.
Chris of course is the host of the Amateur Traveler, an extremely popular online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations. It includes a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog. The Amateur Traveler audio show started in 2005 and has averaged 1 million downloads over the last 3 years. Chris also is one of the 3 hosts of the award winning This Week in Travel podcast. Clearly the only thing “amateur” about it all is the name of the show itself.
Chris is a regular speaker at various industry events as well, and was recently involved in couple of sessions at TBEX 2013. TBEX is where world’s most prominent travel bloggers, writers and new media content creators gather to talk all things travel.
Apart from travel, I share with Chris another huge interest, that of podcasts. I like to describe myself as a podcast junkie and by his own admission Chris subscribes to over 70 podcasts himself. The idea of “The Amateur Travel” was germinated through his obsession with podcasts.
Excerpts from our chat:
- I read that your love affair with traveling started way back in your childhood through your parents. Those road trips as a kid taught you a lot. That fascination has clearly trickled down quite well. I was curious to know if you’re a full time traveler now?
Chris – Actually I have a day job, I only worked as a full-time blogger for 8 months in 2010. While I did quit my day job last week, I plan to support myself with software development, not blogging.
- With all the high quality work you produce regularly, it’s hard to believe this is not your full-time job. What do you think about flying? Any recent and notable flight experience?
Chris – I love flying. You get to soar through the air like a bird. I don’t see how anyone can tire of that. I had a chance to fly on one of the first Boeing Dreamliner 787s out of San Jose to Tokyo recently as a guest of ANA. Great plane to a great destination. (Read his report here)
- Airports are an integral part of flying. Which one do you prefer?
Chris – I like San Francisco, which is my usual airport. Modern, spacious and my gateway to the world.
- And which city has impressed you most while traveling? Any outstanding experience you would like to recall?
Chris – I loved Istanbul, Tanzania and Egypt. Egypt and Istanbul for the history, and Tanzania for both the wildlife and its people.
If I had to pick my very favorite day traveling it would probably be visiting the Ngorongoro Crater on a safari in Tanzania. Being three feet away from a lioness (fortunately with a good strong car window in between us) when she growled was outstanding all right.
- How would you like to improve the current crop of airports? What one addition (except Wi-Fi) can be most helpful for travelers in your view?
Chris – Lots and lots more places to plug in a laptop.
- Traveling is not your full time day job but you still manage to balance your passion with profession pretty well. What advise can you give other aspiring travelers reading this?
Chris – Don’t quit your day job might be an odd advise to come from me, so let’s say at least don’t over estimate how much money you can make as a blogger until you are making money as a blogger. It can take a while to build up an audience and most full time bloggers are either a second income or live someplace cheap.
- Wise words. Tell us your deep dark secrets of pre-travel research.
Chris – We look up hotels on TripAdvisor. I like visual guidebooks like the Eyewitness Guides and often where I go these days is influenced by episode of Amateur Traveler where someone has come on the show and told me of some amazing place.
- And finally Chris, give us your 3 must follow twitter accounts.
Chris – My passion for travel predates social media by decades but I do like keeping in touch with social media. Some of my favorite twitter accounts to follow are:
* If you liked this post, why don’t you join many other amazing readers who have followed this blog to receive blog posts via email. No spamming guaranteed
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter – an Introduction (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Gary Leff (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Johnny Jet (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Ben Schlappig (One Mile at a Time) (vishal1mehra.com)