I have recently had the opportunity to fly first class from Australia to Spain. This journey is approximately 26 hours in the air so why not first class. I entered my chauffer driven town car at 2.30pm, precisely the time it was booked to take me to Melbourne Airport for my first class Emirates flights through to Barcelona. It would also mark the time that I was no longer Darren Freak but rather “Sir”.
The only exception to this was a flight attendant who decided that my last name was the perfect opener to a conversation where the primary objective was to hit on me. Finally my last name has a benefit!
First class with Emirates means no queues at check in, border control or boarding. The Priority Pass gets you not only to the front of the line but all the way through without breaking stride.
|Melbourne first class lounge|
|Melbourne first class buffet|
The first class lounge was empty which lead to me getting A LOT of personalised service. Coupled with complimentary top shelf wines and spirits and quality food this was the most enjoyable 2hours I have ever spent waiting for a flight.
I selected steak, chicken, couscous, sautéed vegetables, cheese, and chocolates… and did I mention the alcohol?
Upon boarding Sir was ushered to his pod at which point all of the first class cabin crew introduced themselves and presented me with an essential item for the flight; Dom Perignon champagne, leather toiletries bag (deodorant, shaver with cream, toothpaste and brush, cologne and male perfumes), pyjamas, a basket of nibbles, slippers, newspapers, magazines, hot scented towel and more champagne.
Just before take off there is the offer of a shot or Arabic coffee and stuffed dates, apparently it is important to Emirates that regular bowel movements are maintained during the long haul flight. I now understand why it tales so long for a plane to take off after boarding. It has nothing to do with readying the aircraft and cross-checks it is about pampering first class passengers.
Only four of the fourteen first class pods were occupied so again the service was very attentive if not just to keep all of the staff occupied. And then of course there was special attention from the attendant who thought my surname was interesting.
Then there were the instructions, how to operate the seat, the leather seat. Yes the seat has enough functions that a tutorial is required. The multi-setting massage function was a welcome surprise. The 200 channel flat screen television, the personal mini bar, the writing material – with on board Wifi, in 2016 I am not sure who is penning a handwritten letter, though the pen itself makes a nice souvenir. Then there is the menu.
|Emirates first class pods|
Everything in the pod, including the privacy doors, electronic window shades and three different lights can be controlled from the tablet-style control panel. It can take a good 30 minutes for Sir to familiarise himself with the capabilities of his pod.
As soon as the seatbelt sign is switched off attendants arrive with the twelve page menu including more alcohol, appetisers, entrees, mains, desserts and - for those who are still hungry - light snacks.
Sir skipped the appetisers. For entrée I had the Arabic mezze consisting of 4 different dips, artichokes, stuffed vine leaves, lamb kibbeh, cheese sambousek, spinach fatayer, cherry tomatoes, pastries and five different types of bread. For an appetiser it is filling. The quantity resembles the spread that would be put out to welcome guests to a small dinner party, or an average individual American.
It is to be noted that the tray table is not in any way a tray. It is a table. Big enough to warrant a linen table cloth when the endless parade of food is served.
Grilled chicken with roast potatoes, steamed carrots and beans for main accompanied by a glass of 2000 Chateau Montrose. This was a more modest portion size. All delicious. Then topped this off with a chocolate and caramel dome. A mousse/cake mound with a caramel sauce centre served with a raspberry coulis and an accompanying glass of 2005 Chateau d’Yquem dessert wine. This could be one of the best desserts I have ever had.
Of course the 21 year old Chivas Regal Royal Salute Whisky (limited edition to celebrate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth 11) kept coming, each time with a serve of warm salted nuts. What man does not like his nuts warm and salty?
It goes without saying that all of the beverages are served in quality glassware with alcohol served from real bottles – no little plastic replicas in first class. The food all served on fine bone china with metal cutlery.
|First class shower|
For first class, there is an on-board shower. And, yes, Sir would like to avail himself of this service before changing into his pyjamas. It is a point of frustration when a on board shower is larger than Sir’s own shower at home. On returning to my pod my bed had been made up for me complete with a mattress and a duvet for a few hours sleep, drift off to the realisation that the cabin ceiling is covered in tiny twinkling lights replicating the night sky.
A brief one hour stop in Singapore first class lounge which is just enough time for a hot chocolate some cheese and a brownie. It is to be noted that the Singapore and Melbourne lounges are almost identical, just like any “new” estate developed by a land lease company.
Boarding the plane for the Singapore - Dubai leg of my journey it all starts again. I now have two toilet bags, two sets of pyjamas, two baskets of nibbles and two Emirates biros. If only I ever hand wrote things.
|Chocolate mousse mound with caramel centre|
Having already eaten a full dinner bigger than the weekly rations the Australian government provides refugees in its off-shore processing centres I selected a light snack on the second flight – a chicken pie. Sir had to wait 15-20 minutes for this order as the food is cooked to order – with sincerest apologies. As everyone knows there is a separate stomach specifically for desserts, so Sir chose the selection of pastries consisting of a pistachio japonaise, two fruit tartlets and a slice of cheese cake, with a glass of Taylors 40year old tawny port from Douro Portugal.
Dubai first class lounge is different from its cousins in Melbourne and Singapore. First of all it is lager than some airports with couches some bigger than a single bed. There is a separate dining room and a massage/spa centre. The general are also has two fountains AND a still water feature. Full buffet continental or hot breakfast (or both) – amazing croissant! There is alcohol available in a very strict non alcohol consuming country which begs the question why was there no bacon?
|onboard entrance to first class|
|Dubai first class lounge|
Upon boarding for the final leg of this journey to Barcelona Sir had to briefly mingle with commoners at the gate before being called to board first. This time we all entered through the main cabin door and then ascended the stairs. Sir had the very first suite which gave great pleasure watching the faces of business class passengers faces change from one of quiet smugness as the also climbed the stairs to the dimming in the eyes as they walk through what the first class cabin and realise that they are getting better but not the best.
Being in the first seat, although exciting in its own right does mean that the suite is approximately 20cm narrower to the suites from the third row back. They are all just over 2m long.
More Dom Perignon and more Chivas Regal.
|Braised beef cheek|
For lunch Sir selected the chicken and sun dried tomato tapende with a mushroom salad with peppers and fennel entrée followed by braised veal cheek with mashed potato carrots, beans and horseradish, with a side of 4 different breads including fresh toasted garlic bread. This was by far my favourite main and well worth the 25 minute wait for it to be prepared. The accompanying wine was Sarget de Gruaud Larose 2003 from Bordeaux France – a very light and smooth wine with a hint of red wine on the palate and after tones of yummmmmmm.
For desert Sir had the chocolate and apricot pudding and another glass of 2005 Chateau d’Yquem dessert wine.
A sneaky 2 hour sleep and another shower.
On arrival at Barcelona my Emirates driver was waiting with his Mercedes resplendent in leather and timber interior finish. No longer Sir but now “Mr Darren.” Combined, I have my new moniker – Mr Darren, Sir.
From apartment to hotel it was 32hours; three flights, three lounges, at least six meals, bottomless alcohol, two showers, two town cars and more warm nuts than any man needs Mr Darren, Sir has arrived…having left my hotel once Mr Darren, Sir has already been lost for over an hour.