February 25th, 2022
The Covid-19 Pandemic has taken a terrible toll on so many lives and livelihoods over the past two years. And we have been no exception. The Travel Industry has been decimated by the Shutdowns and Border Restrictions imposed by so many and we have been kept out of the Country and unable to really do any real blogging. It has been a nightmare. Endless trips canceled, we really can’t remember how many times we have canceled and rearranged our plans.
Then Finally in December, we got on that first post-pandemic flight. We had an EPIC time in New York at Christmas and we were so happy to now be back in the USA. But this was just the Appetiser. Our next trip was to be a colossal West Coast odyssey that would take us to Vegas, Hawaii, and California as we crammed 2+ years of canceled and rearranged trips into a 3-week period as we raged across the states! This is that trip and it all starts at a cold and soggy Heathrow Aiport.
We had driven down from Manchester the day before. Our overnight stay was in the Skyline Shereton which also provides our parking for the duration of our trip to the States. The Hotel is perfectly placed and has some decent amenities, including a once tropical pool and a fun American Burger Restaurant to get us in the mood.
Things are still far from back to normal. Virgin is only operating a few flights out of Manchester, and the prices are still pretty horrific so we need to make the journey all the way to Heathrow. The USA Still requires proof of Vaccination and a Pre-Departure test the day before the flight. We were booked in with Randox who are located just a few hotels down from ours. We have been in semi-self isolation prior to the trip in order to ensure our negative result, and this came through in less than 20 mins confirming we were all good to go.
Maybe soon some of these measures may be lifted but we are happy to jump through any hoops to get us on that plane. Case rates in the states are plummeting and restrictions are being lifted really fast and we were hoping for a fairly relaxed stay, unlike New York where covid measures were very much in place.
Our flight was at a reasonable hour, 11:30 so we set the alarm for 7 AM and had a fairly relaxed morning.
We took an Uber to the Airport where Check-in was reasonably easy. Economy Delight affords you access to the Premium Check-in, but the queue for this was longer than the regular, and the Fly-Ready Checkin was only 2-3 people deep. We had already submitted our docs and were ready to fly so jumped in the Fly-Ready Queue and were checked in and bags checked in no time. It is amazing how few people use this free and easy service that offers the easiest way of verifying the required docs to ensure everything is ready for the flight and gives you aces to the fastest Check-In line. We don’t see the US dropping these requirements any time soon so get using the service!
Security was also pretty light and within 30-mins of hitting the airport, we were in Duty-Free!
Aspire Lounge T3
With the check-in and security going smoothly we headed to the Club Aspire Lounge T3 after a little shopping. Last time out we checked out the current situation at the No1 Lounge so thought we would compare the two lounges, both available on the Priority Pass we use.
The Aspire lounge was smaller and not as well-appointed as the No1 Lounge and the drinks selection was not as good with no Fizz on the complimentary menu (Champagne and Prosecco are available to purchase), the beer on tap was Birre Moretti which makes me very happy, and the food quality was pretty good.
Overall it was a good place to grab a bite, a few drinks, and relax before our flight. We were able to enjoy this period a little more than last time as the stress of flying so close to the border re-opening ad the rising Omicron wave was pretty intense and we really never quite believed we would get there. This time things were a lot calmer and we could actually relax and enjoy our Lounge.
However, given the choice, we would still take the No1 Lounge over the Aspire!
Virgin Atlantic Economy Delight – London Heathrow To Las Vegas – 787 Dreamliner
This was the first time we had used the new Economy Delight Product that Virgin recently introduced. Well, we say recently the new three-tier Economy was launched in 2018, nearly 4 years ago, but for much of that time the fleet was grounded so it still feels new. We have always flown either Economy Classic or Premium Economy since the introduction so this was our first chance to try it out.
We look at the product in-depth in our upcoming review so we will keep it brief here. Essentially all you get for the £100+ it costs to upgrade is a larger Seat Pitch, with 3 inches extra of legroom. Premium Check-in, Priority Boarding, and a separate Cabin which receives the Service first. But the actually inflight service is exactly the same as in Economy.
With the length of the Premium Queue exceeding the Economy and the fact we were late to board as we were enjoying our lounge, really the only advantage was the added Seat Pitch. Is that worth £100+ (£50 per flight)? If you are tall maybe, but you could always buy an economy-preferred seat that includes Exit Rows.
The main reason for the upgrade for us is we could see from the seat plan, we were going to have a seatmate! We have never liked sharing a seat row with a randomer. And during Covid, this is even less appealing. One way to avoid this was to upgrade to Economy Delight. While it was possible we could end up with a seatmate, this late in the stage it was looking unlikely, and in the end, we didn’t, So Wall-e, out on his first trip got a seat all to himself.
The larger Seat Pitch was nice and the seats on the Virgin 787 are really comfy, although not as plush as the A350. The Service was MUCH improved from the scant offering we received on our last flight to New York, but we were unsure if this was due to a return to form or just because the flight was longer.
We got a Drinks service, Main Meal with wine (in bottles!), and Tea and Coffee Service. Later on, we got a Cheese Toasty that was accompanied by another Drinks Service, then an Ice Lolly, and finally before landing the Mile High Tea. We are also pleased to say the Tea was served with Clotted Cream, so the missing Cream was just a supply issue.
Inflight entertainment has improved a little, but there is still a big lack of content and we still need to monitor this to make sure there is a bit more to watch going forward. There were a few new releases but the back catalog is still pretty small.
Overall it was a very pleasant flight. Mask Wearing was still very much mandatory and enforced which no one enjoys but it’s part of traveling for the time being.
The route took us over some very cold and wintery landscapes of Green land Canada and North America and things only started to thaw out as we got really near to the desert of Las Vegas. We came into Macarran, or more accurately the newly renamed Harry Ried Airpot via the Grand Canyon, and were on the ground early, 14:30.
This advantage was lost via a really slow and cumbersome Immigration hall that has a lot of questions to ask every visitor and no automated check-ins. As I was on a New Passport and New ESTA these would not have worked regardless.
Eventually, through the Immigration hall, we ordered an Uber. What turned up was very American and giant GMC Sierra Pickup Truck. Plenty of room for the bags and we headed off to our first hotel…
We have three hotels for our stay in Vegas and the first is going to be the Venitian. This Italian Themeed Hotel is a High-End All Suites Hotel with a host of plush amenities and restaurants. We had booked d a basic Suite and used the $20 trick to secure a nice high-floor with a strip view from our very friendly Check-in Clerk.
We headed up and really liked what we found. These are beautiful rooms. A huge King Bed, with stunning two-level design and luxury fixtures and fittings. This is what Vegas is all about and we really were massive fans of the space. The view was so-so. The Venetian towers are not really oriented that well to provide great views so while we got a Strip View and a nice high-floor, there are still better out there. We looked north, up the strip ut there is only really the Pallazo, Wynn, Treasure Island, and the New Resorts World left to see that are higher up the strip. Still, it was a pretty pleasant scene to gaze out on in the evening.
Forum Shops and Cheesecake Factory
After settling in we were pretty tired but were instant on pushing through to combat Jet Lag. So we headed out for dinner and a little sightseeing. We headed into the Forum Shops and to our Guilty Pleasure, The Cheesecake Factory. As we wanted Cheescake we know better than to tackle a full Entree, so ordered a couple of appetizers, Cheeseburger Spring Rolls and Fried Mac and Cheese, then a couple of indulgent Cheesecake Slices.
After dinner, we headed back out for a little more sightseeing, but we were really running out of energy and headed back to the Suite to test out that huge Super King Bed.
Walking Total – 3,289 Steps – 1.7 Miles
A very low total of steps and possibly missing a few due to the time differences, but there is plenty of time to makeup and we will end up doing A LOT of walking this trip, starting tomorrow!