I suspect that some of my readers have been appalled by some of the travel conditions we’ve endured during parts of our RTW trip. Cramped buses, dirty hotel rooms, limited food options, etc. Overall it hasn’t been nearly as bad as some might think but I will agree that there were a few days here and there where the situation just plain sucked. November 5th did not fall into that category.
November 5th was the day we were scheduled to take Lufthansa Flight 741 from Osaka to Frankfurt with an onward connection to Berlin. This flight is operated by Lufthansa’s 747 aircraft which they are in the process of retrofitting with a new First Class product. Their product is unique in that it offers first class passengers both a traditional seat as well as a dedicated bed. Many airlines offer lay-flat beds but most are seats which convert into beds – obviously some design compromises must be made there. The icing on the cake is that Lufty has their First Class on the upper deck of the 747.
After climbing the stairs and being shown to our seats we got down to business. Namly, Champagne and macadamia nuts. A short while later, and still during boarding, the flight attendant came through and offered an amuse-bouche so that we wouldn’t starve to death. She also gave us all the other supplies we’d be needing: a stack of food and wine menus, slippers, pajamas (ours to keep) and Bose headsets (ours not to keep!). She also gave us each our Lufthansa rose.
Before even seeing the menus I had decided that I would be selecting the Japanese menu on the flight. It seemed like it was my last chance at some gourmet Japanese food for a while so why not? I started with caviar and a wonderful seared tuna appetizer.
As is traditional in a Japanese Kaiseki meal, there are many many courses. My caviar and seared tuna were followed up with three more dishes in the “zensei sanshu” course (click for enlargements and menu text).
Next up was the beautifully-plated “Hassun” course.
I was getting pretty full by this point but I still hadn’t reached the biggest dish of the meal, the “Omozakana” course. One highlight of this course was the rice. Rice often gets dried out and tough on the plane but Lufthansa has solved that by serving the rice packaged in a bamboo sheet.
To close out the meal they served some miso soup and then some Japanese sweets. Japanese sweets often leave the western palate unsatisfied as they tend not to be very sweet. I enjoyed mine but I will admit that I supplemented with some truffles and a coffee.
Thoroughly stuffed I took a stroll around the plane before heading to the lav to change into my pajamas. The meal took a couple of hours so by the time we finished we were making our way across China and headed for Mongolia. I spent a long while just staring out at the barren terrain thinking about what a wonderful experience it was to travel in Mongolia.
I stirred after a few hours of sleep and decided it was high time to investigate the snack options. I availed myself to both the western (canapes) and Japanese (onigiri) snacks. One of the flight attendants also pointed out that we were half-way to Germany so I decided to order up a nice beer, a Erdiner Weissbier to be exact. Meanwhile, Amy was still chiseling through the movie selection.
Before we knew it, our 12 hour flight was nearing its end and the flight attendants were preparing to serve the second meal of the flight. I scarcely had room left in my belly but I did my best. Even so, I had to skip a couple of the courses.
Sadly, we were right on schedule touching down in Frankfurt (flights like this you always want to go long) but there was more luxury waiting for us in the First Class Terminal (FCT). Lufthansa has a dedicated terminal building in Frankfurt for First Class passengers. The facility is primarily intended for passengers originated in Frankfurt, however, transit passengers such as ourselves are equally welcome. The only downside is that it required us to pass through security and walk down the street a little ways. It is well worth the effort though!
Upon arrival at the FCT our credentials were checked and we were subjected to a respectful screening at the dedicated security checkpoint. Next, we were introduced to our personal assistant who would take care of us during our stay. Normally this person would also collect our passports so that they could be processed at the facilities private immigration facility, however since we had an onward domestic flight to Berlin this wasn’t necessary.
Our first order of business was showers. The FCT has some excellent spa facilities with huge “rainfall” shower heads and enormous bathtubs which are very welcome treat after a long flight. To be honest though, what I was really excited about was picking up a souvenir of the occasion: a Lufthansa Rubber Ducky.
Rubber ducks in hand, we headed to the dining area for some more food. Amy made a pass at the buffet while I ordered a pumpkin salad and the weiner schnitzel. I can also report that dying of thirst is not a risk at the FCT as there is a choice of seven different types of bottled water. Their selection of alcoholic beverages is also formidable: I counted 66 different single-malt whiskeys on the menu! All of this is complimentary of course.
The FCT experience ends with a bang. About 15 minutes prior to our flight’s scheduled departure time our personal assistant came to find us and asked that we follow him downstairs. Waiting downstairs is a row of Mercedes limousines and Porsche SUV’s. We climbed in one and headed out across the tarmac to our waiting aircraft. Our assistant escorted us onboard and introduced us to the crew. As soon as we sat down the doors were closed and off we went – everyone else was already on board! I think that is about as close as we can get to having a private jet.
The flight to Berlin was short and uneventful and we soon made our way out to the curb to find the city bus. I would venture to guess that we were one of the only Lufthansa First passengers to also use a city bus that day. The bus took us from Tegel airport to Potsdamer Platz and the Grand Hyatt Berlin. Of course there is no way that we could afford such fancy digs on our budget but I had a some free Hyatt nights saved up for such an occasion.
Thanks to my soon-to-be-expired status with Hyatt’s rewards program, we were given an upgrade for the night to a suite. The room was spectacular and we made good use of the hotel’s facilities which included a beautiful indoor poor on the top floor. As an added bonus, they even comped the contents of the massive minibar! Too bad we could only stay one night.