Sunday, August 06, 2017

Honeymoon Day 1: United Polaris Global First?!?

12/30/2016
Honeymoon Day 1: United Polaris Global First?!?

And... off we go!! As explained in the previous post, our honeymoon was totally, epically insane. We began by dropping a huge amount of United miles (Saver, of course!) on a United Polaris Global First flight. It was INSANE.

As is always the case before a huge trip, our day began with a mad scramble to wrap things up and "close up" the apartment for 3.5 weeks -- made sure to take out the last garbage and recycling, unplug all the powerbars and computer stuff, etc. We took off to SFO with our extremely-carefully-packed ONE MEDIUM SUITCASE ONLY each. Expertly packed: since in here we needed room for snow-ware, bathing suits, shorts, winter hats, winter gloves, safari clothes... and it all needed to be below 40lbs so we could take only one suitcase each with us on a tiny plane to the island of Praslin in the Seychelles (Air Seychelles has a low weight limit since the planes are tiny).

All our bag(s) are packed...
Well, we did forget one small thing. "Oh no, the Delta credit!" We had received $500 each in Delta airlines credit when we had a cancelled flight a year prior and it was going to expire in a few days. We had used most of it but had another $120 each of credit to use.... well... may as well book another trip! So, literally in the Lyft on the way to the airport to go on our honeymoon, we booked another trip. To Seattle. In May. We're nuts.

So after booking another trip (?!) we got to Terminal 3 at SFO... and the excitement started right away. I had been reading about this crazy weird fancy checkin area that is only for the secret special "Global Services" extreme United members... but you also get to use that crazy personal checkin desk if you're traveling United Global First. This service (Global First) is going to go away soon since both International Business Class and International First Class will be combined and fully replaced by the new United Polaris class. Note that United had only done a "Soft Transition" to the new Polaris service at this point -- meaning the new seats and fancy cabin was not yet available, the "old seats" were still in the planes, but the "soft" features of Polaris (new food, new bedding, etc) had just started in early December. At some point all of these remaining "Global First" lounges will also be replaced with new Polaris lounges, so it was fun to try this to be able to be one of the last group of people in this lounge, too! History!




But I digress. We got a special checkin area for Global First customers and it was super funny. It's on the side of the normal checkin in Terminal 3, you go through some fancy doors and then there are like 3 attendants in there looking a bit bored since no one is crazy enough to take Global First except us on points for our honeymoon. They checked us in and then we skipped the line for pre check and went straight to the front of it. Cray. "This is gonna be nuts" I said to Michal. I guess the checkin desk has to be private cause if you're not the usual rif-raf (like we usually are) and you're taking Global First, you're probably a movie star, so you don't really want to wait in line... or something. Crazy. Well we're not movie stars (though technically I was wearing a Pixar shirt...). We called both sets of parents excitedly from the airport and then went off to the Global First lounge to check it out while it still exists!

Here it is!!
Uh... so they're gonna let us in here?!?!
We got into the United Global First Lounge and it was just what you might expect -- very private. Sticking with the same theme as the Global Reception checkin area... "movie stars". My first thought: "Is Bill Gates here?!"

The snack game was on-point in there. We just had some light snacks so as to not ruin our multi-course (seriously) dinner on the plane. Haha. Crazy. This new Polaris "soft product" was gonna be epic and darned if I was gonna spoil my appetite.

We perused the food and had a few small snacks.




They even had Balvenie Doublewood here!

That pasta was gooood.
So this was all totally ridiculous, but nothing more crazy than the famed fancy champagne they had in there. Obv. we had to have a small toast to get this party started.



L'chayim!

This is gonna be eppiiccccccccc
So that was a fun little spot to check out and we excitedly then headed to the plane... here we go!! We arrived on the plane and... OMG THE SEATS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We had never seen anything like it. We were lucky to score Polaris "Global First" over Polaris "Business" -- originally when I booked these tickets I didn't realize that this was going to be the Polaris "soft product" only. It takes a long time for airlines to change all the cabin seating (and they sometimes even introduce the new seats only on new planes!) The new "Polaris seat" will eventually be available and will be more like the current "Polaris Global First" seat with all these great extra spots to put stuff and fully lie-flat and private and all that insane stuff. So we really did score with this and get a super epic experience. The business seats on this plane were super weird too -- you had 4 in a row and many of them were facing backwards!!! Facing backwards for a 10 hr flight?! Super odd, never seen that before. Anyway... holy crap!! This was nuts.

Check out these crazy seats!

"Oooh, cushy!!"
This is really way too exciting
The recline of the seats was so hilarious and so cool. This was very reminiscent of the only other time I've ever taken an international business class trip (that was for work with Matt Parrott to Singapore in 2010). On that trip I took a video of me laughing my head off as I reclined the seat all the way... just cause it is so fun and we were having an awesome time. Similar situation on this flight :)

A mimosa and a chocolate, why yes!
Cheers!

"Holllly craaapppp"


Tons of fun buttons to press
Well that was awesome. After playing with all the seat features (I am basically a small boy disguised as an adult, in case it wasn't obvious) I then started to peruse the very extensive menu. Super cool options including late night snacks (more on that later).








"Anytime a la carte menu"?! Nice!


Cheers, indeed.
I was just getting ready for the first appetizer course and looked over and Michal was ALREADY asleep!! haha.

Fancy soaps and stuff to use on the flights
Apparently Polaris Global First gets an EXTRA ROW of free shiz in this facekit pack!! Booyah! Take that Business Class, we've got earplugs and you don't... or something like that?! Seriously though this was mental -- a mini toothbrush and toothpaste and a bunch of other useful stuff. Nice Polaris socks too :) There was even "pillow spray" in here, what is this place?!! Super soft "Saks" comforter and pillows too. Ridiculously epic.

Panorama of my seat
And then began the food.

This is what the seat "pods" looked like.
Appetizer and wine cart
Funny white wine "flight" on the plane... generous pours!!! This was Robert Mondavi Chardonnay 2014, Matua Sauvignon Blanc 2015 from New Zealand, and L'Ecole Semillion Sauvignon Blanc 2014. I liked the New Zealand one the best. And... the famed Skewer!!! I was reading up in advance trying to determine if we should spend the extra saver award points on Polaris Global First instead of Polaris Business and some dude was a super hater on the forums making fun of GlobalFirst saying that all you get different from business class is "one damn skewer" and a "bowl of soup". Turns out the seats were WAY more epic on this flight so I'm actually super glad we went for it and blew the extra points on this. It rocked. So darn it, I am gonna enjoy this skewer! Haters be hatin' on skewers!
Initial smoked duck appetizer with cranberry pumpkin seed farro salad, brined carrot and whole-grain mustard!
As the first course came out I commented to the stewardess, "I love the dishware! It's so modern!!" She said "Oh, thank you so much for saying!" hahaha. Especially awesome was the "Death Star" salt and pepper shakers (see above photo). People had noticed that the 3D United globe logo salt and pepper shakers (especially the dark pepper one) looked a lot like the Death Star from Star Wars. :) It's pretty hard to believe we were having this whole experience. What a start to the trip.

The service was also INSANE! Napkins, multiple cutlery for the meals.... crazy. After the famed "skewer" we moved onto the next course.

Butternut squash leek soup
This was the other thing the forum people made fun of saying all you got with the GlobalFirst upgrade was a skewer and a soup. Some fancy jerk (look who's talkin') on the forum spoke up in defense of the soup saying that it was "quite good", and then got made fun of for blowing extra miles (or money) for a cup of soup. It was pretty tasty though. haha. Was it worth the extra 22,500 points upgrade from business class to first class??!? It better be made out of gold... (right colour anyway)

The next courses came pretty quickly one after the next (presumably a little faster than they will usually as this was only a month after the Polaris "soft product" launch). Tasty stuff. I got the Portobello and Caramelized Onion Ravioli (Garlic parmesan alfredo, kale, baby portobello, leek), and a cheese plate.



After the cheese I had to get up to go use the bathroom and since they were bookin' it through the courses I ALMOST MISSED THE ICE CREAM SUNDAE CART. Holy sweet crap. Also: there's an ICE CREAM SUNDAE CART ON THIS PLANE. They hooked me up still even though the cart had passed by my chair already and it was super fun and crazy to order an ice cream up in the air. "Would you like whipped cream, sir?" The answer to this question is, invariably, yes.



Whew! So now we were pretty glad we hadn't overeaten in the lounge since there was so much food on the plane. Pretty nuts!

After dinner, the stewardess asked "Shall I set your bed?" They folded down the bed entirely and rolled out the crazy Saks sheets and pillows, as well as providing a memory foam pillow and another mattress cover for extra comfort. Cray. Despite how amazing this bedding was, I was way too excited about this experience to sleep so I watched a couple of Simpsons episodes on the seatback TV.




Late night snack of grilled cheese (on an airplane!!!) and a cup of tomato soup. And an episode of The Simpsons on demand. I could get used to this!

I managed to sleep for about 3 hours of the flight and Michal was out pretty much the whole time. I definitely insanely over-ate on the plane cause there was so much food, but it was a super fun once-in-a-lifetime experience and what a way to start the trip. Also: ice cream sundae bar! In the sky!!

They woke us up before we were getting into London airport with some breakfast stuff. More food!


I slept pretty well (for me anyway) on a plane, and it was such a fun experience. The flight attendant was lovely and said we are "such a lovely couple". She signed the menu with a note to us which was SUPER nice. "Would you also like the Pilot to sign it?" she asked. Really?!?!?! Dang! "Sure!" I responded, of course. 5 min later she came back, nervously, to say, "The Pilot will need to sign it when we arrive, since the descent has begun." Haha, i.e. "We'd love to get him to sign this, but he's gotta, you know, land the plane first." Minor details, minor details. Haha.

We arrived in London (en route to Zurich for New Years Eve celebrations), ready to explore and well-established already that this was truly a grand adventure.

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