November 9th, 2022 – November 10th, 2022
After a long relaxing night in one of the comfiest beds we have slept in, I awoke quite early. I am not really sure why, but something arose me from my slumber a little earlier than I planned. I stuck my head out of the curtains and was really pleased whatever had woken me up had.
Outside the storm of last night had cleared and the marina was experiencing the most wonderful sunrise. I headed out on the balcony and watched the sun come up, while sea lions barked and began their day f foraging in the harbor. It was really magical.
We finished yesterday’s blog explaining we had got some news to make today’s flight go with a swing. We had once again been upgraded to Upper Class and would get full use of one of L.As best Airport lounges.
Our flight was not until 10 pm so we had a lot of time to kill today, the lounge would take care of anything after about 5 pm, and our late check-out would cover us till 4 pm, so we were all set for a day of real luxury. Starting with our complimentary breakfast.
This time we decided we would actually head down to the restaurant. We were much fresher than last night and were really looking forward to our day and flight, not something we often say.
Breakfast was either a Buffet or an A La Carte Menu. We opted to order from the menu as we just wanted something simple and light. An Eggs Benedict and an Omblette hit the spot perfectly, and there were excellent. As was our seat right by the huge bay windows overlooking the Marina
After breakfast, we headed out to explore the area. The Hotel is right on the marina and a short walk to Venice Beach. We walked along the waterfront, and then into the canals of Venice itself. We had a great time just wandering around checking out the quirky homes, and trying to ignore the trash floating in the water…
After Venice, we headed out to Venice Beach. This area is a really eclectic mix of people. And it’s always an adventure wandering along the seafront here. It’s like nowhere on earth, but that’s possibly a good thing. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and possibly not ours but it’s an experience at least.
We checked out muscle beach, which was pretty empty, and then headed out to the skate park which was rammed with local skaters doing their thing. We watched this for a while before heading back up the seafront and back through Venice to the Marina.
It was around this time we realized we had been in the US for over 3 weeks and had still not been to the Cheesecake factory! This was a situation that needed to be resolved rapidly. Luckily there was an outlet right on the front of the marina and we headed over and got a table outside in the sun right by the waterfront.
We were still full from breakfast and would have a whole day and night of eating at the lounge and Airplane, so we just ordered cheesecake!
After this, we just wandered back up the marina front to the hotel.
The late check-out was really a godsend and we just spent the next few hours just relaxing in the hotel. We checked out the pool deck which was super quiet and relaxing, just chilling in the low winter sun.
Then back up to the room to watch Sea Lions hunt in the marina from the balcony. It was really nice to just not have anything to do but relax and enjoy the final hours of our trip.
As 4 pm rolled around we had to face the music and head on back to the airport and join the madness. An uber was summoned and was loaded up expertly by the bellhop despite his college and the Uber driver saying the bags would not fit. He spoke not a word just slotted them in like lego.
Off to the airport and check-in at Virgin’s Upper-Class Desk. This is unfortunately not as fun as Heathrow and you do not really get any perks until you get to the lounge. Luckily this was not too long as LAX’s infamous Security lines were pretty short.
LAX – Star Alliance Lounge
Virgin no longer operates an Upper-Class lounge at LAX, and instead, we were granted access to the Star Alliance Lounge. We first got into the lounge at 5:30 pm and with our flight at 10 pm, we had four and a half hours to really take advantage of the facilities.
The Star Alliance is often rated as one of the best lounges at LAX, and we pretty much contour with this, but it’s not a high bar. Like most things LAX, the lounge scene here is a little behind the curve. It is still a really good lounge though.
The star attraction is the outdoor deck. At night, as it was for us it has a real rustic charm with ornate firepits and waterfall walls and comfy seating areas. However, it needs to be remembered that this is in the middle of the third busiest airport, and the peaceful, almost romantic setting is a bit spoiled but the constant roar of jet engines and the strong smell of Aviation Fuel! Still, it’s a nice place to hang out.
Inside there are lots of different nooks and crannies and various rooms to hang out in. Our preferred spot was out the terminal deck, this was high up and overlooked the main indoor terminal area, like being outdoors but inside.
The drinks were excellent. There was a large self-serve area which always goes well with us, but also a full bar and tender who would mix up cocktails, serve up draft beers, and of course pour the fizz!
Food was less fantastic in our opinion, which is odd as it gets a lot of praise. Maybe it was a case of we just didn’t fancy that much, but compared to the Virgin Lounge at Heathrow or even the Centurian Lounge at LAX, it was a pal comparison.
The highlight for us was the DIY Noodle bar. That was great fun and we got a really nice bowl of Ramen, but the main options all felt a bit basic. There was a chicken curry with rice, Veggie Pasta, some sandwiches, wraps, and a cheese selection. But there was just nothing to really get excited about. What we tried was good, we were just not wowed.
As time ticked on we moved around a few different settings and in the end spent the last half hour back out on the outdoor deck. There was an awful lot of coughing going on indoors and we wanted to be out in the fresh, jet fuel-tinted, air for a bit.
Virgin Atlantic – LAX to London Heathrow – Upper-Class A350
The Upper-Class Cabin was the same as on the outward leg and we had basically the same seats, It’s nice to be sitting so close. In the end, the Cabin was not full and we had got a real bargain as we bid super low for these flights.
However, we had some real issues. Nothing major, but overall it added up to a really poor experience, You can read all about the outward leg here to see what we think of these flights when things go right, but here is a more reality-based rundown of what went wrong. I will write this from my perspective as most of these issues did not happen to Kate, who experienced the kind of service you expect.
The first issue was the Dinner and Drinks ordering. As we were preparing for take-off the Crew Came round and asked everyone what they would like for dinner and their first drink. This is as expected however, on my row, this never happened. This meant well into the flight I had no drink and had not ordered Dinner, whereas 2/3rds of the plane had. It was nearly an hour into the flight before I received any refreshments.
The next big issue and this probably compounded the first, was the in-flight entertainment went down right in the middle of the safety briefing. This was a BIG issue as the plane could not take off without giving us the briefing. The crew jumped to it and did the old-school manual briefing, this was still going on while the aircraft was sitting on the runway lined up waiting to go. The ATC must have been incandescent!
Naturally, this put everything out of whack. Eventually, we got in the air but I was still sitting with no refreshments while most of the upper-class guests were happily enjoying their first drink. And to make matters worse the IFE was still down so I was literally sitting twiddling my thumbs.
When dinner eventually did arrive they had not got my choice of starter and instead was given a Gluten Free Starter, which was basically 3 prawns on some salad. The Smoked Salmon Starter I had ordered, was really epic, and kate loved hers but for some reason, mine had gone missing.
Due to all the issues dinner was served really slowly. This would not be a huge issue, but this was a 10 pm departure, it was getting on at 12:30 am before dinner was close to finishing. We were now really tired and I was pretty irritable. I ordered a cheese board and a nice after-dinner Port, but these never arrived, Kates did, and eventually, I just gave up. Stuck the seat in its fully flat setting and went to sleep.
I had gone for the easy option and just slept as I was, whereas Kate went for the full-on made bed and Sleep Suit. In the end, this was a mistake as this was the hottest flight we have ever been on! We both woke up a few times dripping with sweat.
With around an hour to go, we were awoken for breakfast. The Cabin lights came on and the crew started coming around to serve breakfast. You might think after a good night’s sleep in a fully flat bed things would be great. But this is not the case. Even in Upper-Class long-haul travel still leaves you tired and groggy.
Once again, on my side of the cabin, the service was simply missing. After kate had finished her Breakfast, which was really nice, had her obligatory cup of tea in Virgin Mug, and was getting back into the last of her film, I had still not even been spoken to! Sensing my frustration she asked the Cabin Crew on her side what was going on, he headed off to find out, and on his return said they would be with me momentarily.
After another 15 mins, and with our descent imminent, he came back around for rubbish, realising I STILL had no food, just went and got me breakfast. There was no time for me to have a morning drink!
All in all, these are little things, but they spoil the magic. We have no idea why the level of service was so dire on my side of the aircraft. And don’t like to be too critical, you never know what is going on behind the scenes, and we ensured we remained 100% polite to any member of the Cabin Crew, even though we were very frustrated and they were the source of this.
As we say, it is what it is and we will definitely complain (In the end we received some complimentary Airmiles for our trouble). After sending so much money you do expect a certain level of service and this was WAY below.
Arriving back in the UK is never enjoyable for us. The weather was ok, but the dreary grey dullness of the UK is a million miles from the sunkissed shores of Maui. We also had to deal with UK Customs!
Honestly, they were about the best they have been for our last few trips and the queue was only around 25-30mins, for Kate, my passport failed again, and had another 15mins in the queue for people who fail the Automatic gates. I am not doing it wrong, the passport doesn’t work.
We had a Hotel booked for the evening, and the late departure from LAX meant we arrived around 4 pm and it was nearly 6 pm when we got to the Moxy Hotel on Airport road. This had been a real bargain, only £60 with free breakfast.
it was a nice hotel as well, really trendy and there was even a Mini in the dining room for no reason. It was right on the flight path and we got some nice views of the aircraft coming in to land.
Jet lag was kicking in and our bodies had no idea what time zone they were in. We simply sat in our room, trying to not fall asleep watching some tv. Neither of us was remotely hungry. Then around 9 pm when we were hoping to go to sleep, we both sat up bolt awake ravenously hungry!
We pulled out our phones and ordered a Deliveroo from a local Nando’s which took an age to arrive. We devoured it and then both passed out.
The next day, we woke at a leisurely time, headed down for the included breakfast, and when we were good and ready headed on up the M1 back to our home. Another manic trip in the bag and a ton of content and great blog research done.
While not exactly beaming to be home, we were both ecstatic to be reunited with the other Maui in our lives, and we love this one just as much as the Island.
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