Day 15 – Empire State Building – Virgin Atlantic Premium – JFK to London Heathrow

July 16th, 2022

We awoke on our final day in the small and cramped room in the New Yorker, we looked out over our neighbor’s room, and ruminated on the $300+ we had paid for this room! We tried making a coffee but even this didn’t work and we were left with a cup of clear liquid instead. Time to get out!

Check-Out – The New Yorker

City View New Yorker Hotel

We headed downstairs to the desk to check out and leave our bags with the Bell-Hop as we do in most hotels we stay in on check-out day. For the first time in our extensive traveling adventures, we were asked for a fee to leave our bags. We were, to be honest, incredulous and we were informed this was industry practice. Not in any hotel we have ever stayed in, New York, L.A, Vegas, Hawaii, anywhere in the states, Iceland, The UK, All across Europe, even Australia, never have we faced a fee just to leave our bag for a few hours. They insisted just across the street it was the same, so we listed the hotels we have stayed in NEW YORK that do not charge this.

At this point we were discussing it with the Bell-Hop, and frankly, it’s not their policy and they kinda agreed with us, but what could they do? We made it clear we understood it’s not their fault and we did something we never do…asked to speak to a manager! That’s twice this trip, what have we become?

If it were just the fee, it was $5 per bag btw, we would have swallowed the cost and moved on. But the palaver with the rooms last night and the fact we were charged for something we didn’t receive, a city view, and then given a free downgrade, it was too much when we were only staying a night and paying exorbitant rates. The Manager was apologetic about the room, but proffered no solution, while he stood his ground on the company’s bag policy, he did agree to waive the fee. We handed over the bags and assured the Bell-hop we would sort them out later with a tip.

We need to be clear here, we hate complaining, either here, to the managers, on review sites afterward, it’s just not us, but sometimes things really rile us. We get SO much great service and fantastic experiences when the staff or company refuses to comply and the issue is avoidable it gets our goat a little.

The issues here are clear, don’t sell upgraded rooms that are NOT available, Don’t charge unnecessary fees, and don’t lie to customers. It’s not hard. Yes, the room was small, but this is New York, on its own that’s no issue really, but the way the business is conducted is not acceptable and that we won’t accept.

We have said this is the worst hotel we have stayed in New York, and that is definitely true, but to be clear, if you are thinking, this doesn’t sound too bad. That is because we have always loved our hotels! We have never had a bad thing to say about our New York Stays before, it takes a lot to annoy us really.

Empire State Building

Anyway, and onto the final part f our trip. Way back in what felt like months ago (less than two weeks) we had a 5 attraction Go City New York Explorer Pass. We had used just 4 of the attractions on this pass, and as such, it had not saved us that much money. However these passes have a 30-day expiry limit from first use, so that pass was still live and we had on attractions left, honestly it’s not a trip to New York without heading up the Empire State Building!

The Empire State Building requires you to book a reservation to go up to the top, and we had left this a bit late and it was only letting us book at 1230am. So we just winged it and headed straight to the Entrance with a 12:30 am booking even though it was only 10 am. We just blagged it and said our timed ticket was for now and no one really checked, they just wanted to see the booking page, to ensure we had a booking.

The Building has had a big refurb and you now pass through a museum/attraction on the way to the top which is a lot of fun. The Kong Exhibit is especially fun. You then head into the elevator and power to the 80th floor. Here is another exhibition about the construction of the building, there are also some fantastic windows with just incredible views out over the city. People get a bit hung up here, not realizing the best is yet t come!

The final elevator takes you up to the 86th floor and the outdoor deck. We just love being up here. We freely admit the views are not quite as good as the Rockefeller or the Summit, mainly as they have the Empire State Building in their views, but it’s still a steering site. The City is just something else from up here and it’s a view we can never tire of.

It was also nice to be able to relax a little and take out time. We usually visit New York in winter and with the added wind sheer it can be FREEZING up here. but today, after sweltering in the south for two weeks this was blissful. It’s quite amazing, New York was unbearable when we arrived but having acclimatized for two weeks, and having endured 95% humidity, the city felt absolutely fine now.

Full review of the Empire State Building

After enjoying the beautiful morning from the top of the best building in the City we decided we should check out the newly re-furbished 102nd floor.

102nd Floor

This is the highest point reachable in the Empire State Building situated at 1,250 feet above street level, we used to not be fans of this deck. It was too small and the views not that great, but it has been renovated and now is larger with floor-to-ceiling windows, so we needed to check it out.

Getting Tickets was challenging however, there was an automated machine, and whenever we tried to book it just said sold out. We asked an attendant and he advised us to just keep refreshing and eventually they “may” come available. Hmmm, this didn’t sound that great advice, but he had radioed down and they confirmed there became available in batches as the time approached. So we kept at it and eventually, availability popped up.

This was great fun observing people’s behavior. The lift for the 102nd floor and the Elevator down were next to each other, and there was a big queue to head down. People looked at that queue and thought “Nah, we are special, let’s go in this line instead”. This was the line for the 102nd floor and when they got to the front with no ticket they were sent back to the end of the line. This happened a lot.

Likewise, as we were at a machine doing something, people automatically got in line behind us, out of courtesy we explained the situation. 9 times out of 10, they didn’t want tickets and had just got in line as there was a queue, they didn’t know what it was for! Again this happened a lot.

Eventually, with our tickets in hand, we headed for the real Top of the Empire State Building. The New Floor is really nice with fantastic floor-to-ceiling windows and incredible 360° views. There is a lot of “Stuff” up there that gets in the way, but this “stuff” is pretty essential as it’s part of the building.

The deck is right up in the spire and is the last bit of real building before it becomes a metal spire. It’s pretty impressive up here, but it was a $38 upgrade and we are still unsure if this is worth it, we explore this in great depth in this article: Is the empire state building 102nd floor worth it?

Overall, we feel this is a FOMO experience. It’s there and you don’t want to miss out on something, but on the whole, it’s not that great. and from a photography point of view it’s awful we HATE indoor decks and their stupid reflections! But most people don’t have that issue.

Check out our Full 102nd Floor Review here

After taking in the views for a good while we headed back down to street level.

Bryant Park

We didn’t really have anything else planned, we just had to grab our traditional Italian Fairwell meal and then head to the airport. However, we still had quite a bit of time. So we just headed to Bryant park to relax in the wonderful morning sun,

We had somehow managed to completely avoid Times Square this trip, which was quite a triumph really, but Lunch was calling and our restaurant choice was going to bring us so close that we had to take a peak at the Chaos. It was moderately calm for Times Square and we just grabbed some photos and headed off to lunch.

Tony Di Napoli

We have accidentally started a tradition of always dining at an NYC Italian restaurant, just before we leave. We never intended to start this it just kind of happened but now it’s a must. Our favorite of the touristy joints is Tony Di Napoli, a real traditional Red Sauce Italian.

Many Head to Carmines, which is epic, but the portions are just too large and we feel we waste too much. Here they offer half portions which is much more to our liking, especially for lunch. We had the Bolognese Pasta and Shrimp Linguine and both were amazing. The whole restaurant has a real Mobster vibe and we love the look, feel, and taste of the place! And it is not overly pricy for a Times Square Eatery.


After a great meal we headed back to the Hotel to retrieve our bags, we naturally tipped the Bell Hops generously. We still had a while to wait for our Uber so we settled down in a booth, chatting with another couple who had endured equally horrible service from the New Yorker. We had met them this morning while we complained.

Our pre-booked Uber arrived just a few minutes late which was no problem at all, we had bags of time. As we left the Island the heavens completely opened. There was a horrific storm rolled in and the Freeway became a river. It was quite spectacular and scary, especially the speed the Driver was going! The Driver was quite a character and kept us entertained the whole way, how wanted to take us for Tea somewhere, but we declined that kind offer as we wanted to get started on Security, as we know Airports are struggling at the minute.

Well, at least UK Airports are. We were through Check-in and security in less than 30 mins. Admittedly we were Premium and got priority Check-in but there were very few queues anywhere. After a quick bit of shopping, we realized we had plenty of time to hit the Lounge.

Wingtips Lounge – Priority Pass

With our Priority Pass, we get Lounge entry for £20 (US$25approx) and it really does not take long in an airport to hit that. We were in the Wingtips lounge just last December, and we were not big fans, but the lounge has had a total make-over.

it really was quite nice and we found some nice seats looking out over the Runway. The best change we found was the bar was self-service. There was a nice wine fridge with White, Rose, and Fizz (Obviously Red outside the Fidge too), and there was a small but comprehensive selection of spirits and a fair pick of Craft beers.

Naturally, there were plenty of soft drinks and several, Tea and Coffee Machines.

Food on the other hand was diabolically poor! A chopped Chicken Salad, a Chick Pea Salad, some leaves, and a bowl of gherkins, plus a soup, without bread. Luckily we were not planning on eating, and we just had a few of the Cookies that were available.

While we relaxed and waited for boarding we had more than our fair share of drinks and just enjoyed the peace and quiet of a pretty empty lounge.

Virgin Atlantic Premium – JFK to London Heathrow

We headed to the gate a bit earlier than usual, we tend to rock up late as we are not in a rush to get aboard an aircraft we are going to send the next 6-7 hours aboard. However, the gate announcement was pretty late and we figured it best to get to the plane pretty fast. However, boarding had not started and we needed to mil around for a while while the boarding process began. First the extra assistance, then first class, and finally us Premium Guests (oh, and then the rest). Boarding on these upper classes was a bit pushy with very little queueing and a lot of entitlement so we are glad we usually miss this!

On board, we got our welcome drink of fizz and then settled in ready for takeoff. Which didn’t come, well no for a while. There was nearly an hour delay due to Baggage Handling issues. Eventually, we got into the air and the service started pretty quickly

There was a round of drinks, then dinner which was Fajita Chicken, Salmon Thai Curry, or vegetarian Shepherds Pie (we will ignore the fact that Shepherd’s pie HAS to have lamb in it!). This came with a nice Mozzarella salad and a tasty cheesecake for dessert. There was the now standard wine in a can, and I was very happy to see Brewdogs Punk IPA on the trolly!

Overall a really nice meal, followed by a tea and coffee service (Ask for alcohol if you like), and then pretty much it was lights out and let everyone sleep. We were on the slightly older 787-Dreamliner and the seats on here are not quite as comfy as the new A350, But they are still pretty plush. As it was a night flight in Premium, seat reclining was pretty much accepted and everyone was fully back, so it was wise to join in.

Katie, as usual, dropped straight off, whereas I lagged a bit quite enjoying the film “The Northman” but soon enough I dropped off too and managed some pretty decent sleep. However not for long!

The Pilot had sounded pretty annoyed at our tarmac Delay at JFK and had vowed to make up time en route, and 4 and a bit hours in, we were less than an hour out of Heathrow so the Cabin crew woke up the Cabin to serve Breakfast. That was one fast crossing!

Breakfast was a choice of Bacon Sandwich or Belgian Waffle and Syrup. The waffle looked great but just could not face that much sugar right now. A Bacon Buttie and a brew seemed perfect. This also come with a Coconut Rice with fresh fruit and that was really wonderful, cool, and refreshing! They normally offer you too much for breakfast in the hope there is just something you can manage, but in this case, we ate the lot!

Virgin Atlantic Premium Breakfast

We got some nice views over London before dropping down into Heathrow. Being Premium meant we got priority Disembarking, which was pretty pointless as there were 4-5 planes landing before us and their passengers already on the queue for Customs.

This was manic. The queue led down several corridors that were well before the actual customs hall and we were queued as far back as the gates with people leaving their plane straight in to the queue! Finally got to the Customs hall after nearly 30 mins and the queue was huge but did seem to move pretty fast.

after around an hour we got to the E-Gates and Kates breezed through whereas my passport was rejected. Since getting the new French-made Black passport that is meant to be blue I have had no luck getting through these gates and need to see a human agent, who always claims there was no issue! This extra queue was long and a couple of passengers with a poor grasp of English(expected at an international airport) seemed to completely break the queue…another 30 mins and I was finally let through.

Full Premium Economy Review here

We had Hotel parking so needed to get back to the Renaissance which is just over a mile away. This is pretty annoying at the minute as Heathrow has destroyed the Uber Service away from the airport. You need to get to the short stay car park and it can take 30-40 mins for the ber to arrive (it’s 200m away) and the same again for them to get out the car park, all for a 10min drive!

On this occasion we tied the much-touted Heathrow Hoppa, this was basically unusable garbage. The Fare system is so complicated it’s insane, and the busses only run very sporadically, we waited 45mins for our bus, and we got lucky as the timetables were showing the next one was 3 hours away!

Finally, back at our car, we headed off but we were not heading home, we had one little treat left on this trip and while it was not a USA-based attraction we think it will be interesting to most of our readers

Walking Total – 9,496 Steps – 4.8 Miles

Just being in New York means you end up running up a healthy step count even if you do not really go anywhere, that was the case today

Live Blog – Trip Report

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