Trip Notes: Vancouver. Plus A Comparison Of Cathay Pacific Business Versus First Class

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Background:
A couple weeks ago I asked for your Vancouver tips and got lots of them, so first of all thanks for your help!  The suggestions were great and anyone going to Vancouver should definitely look through them.

 

Last week I wrote “Tips For Flying With An Infant…33 Flights Later And We’re Still Learning The Ropes” based off our flying experience to Vancouver.

The flight:

-After creating a boatload of BA Avios (avid DDF readers had fun with this last month) I wanted to come up with a way to quickly burn ’em. We didn’t want to go too far and we loved our experience on Cathay Pacific previously so I figured we’d try them out again on the only flight they run within the Western Hemisphere, between JFK to Vancouver. I redeemed 18K on 2 coach tickets from Cleveland to NYC and back, 112.5K on 3 first class tickets from JFK to Vancouver and 75K on 3 business class tickets from Vancouver to JFK.

We flew Sunday morning from Cleveland to LGA and Monday evening from JFK to Vancouver. The flight continues on to Hong Kong and is timed to arrive there in the morning. It does make for strange hours though when just flying to Vancouver, departing from JFK at 10:40pm and arriving in Vancouver at 1:30am. Flying time is 5 hours and 30 minutes there and under 5 hours back to JFK. We flew back on the red-eye to JFK Thursday night and had to switch airports to fly from LGA back to Cleveland on Friday morning.

-Cathay First class award availability is excellent, and it gets progressively better closer to the day of the flight, so keep on checking!

-Cathay Pacific operates 3 types of aircraft from North America. They operate a 777 without First class from Toronto. They operate a 777 with First class from Chicago, JFK, Los Angeles, S. Francisco, and Vancouver. And they operate a 747 with First class from S. Francisco and Vancouver. If you are a couple traveling together I’d highly recommend trying to snag seats 1A and 1K on the 747, right in the nose of the plane for a trip you’ll never forget. Otherwise a couple will want to go for 4A and 4D and if you are traveling by yourself go with either 3A or 3K. In general I preferred the 747 First Class to the 777.
On the 777 if you’re traveling alone you’ll want to sit in 1A or 2A, and if you’re a couple you’ll want to sit in 1D and 1K or 2D and 2K.

-The difference between Cathay First and Cathay Business may be smaller than the difference between Coach and Business, but it is still quite big, even for people who only eat kosher like myself. True, you do have lie-flat seats in either class. In First however you get true one-on-one attention. This means your glass will rarely be empty and service is top-notch. The seat itself is significantly wider and longer and you have a lot more personal space then in business. In first class the flight attendants will make your seat into a full bed with sheets, comforter, and a great pillow, in business there’s just a thinner blanket and lower quality pillow. The drink selection is much better, again even for kosher folk who can’t imbibe in the on-board champagne. In first you have choices between 18 year old single malts and Blue Label. In business there’s Chivas and Gold label. I dealt with the infant seat issues we had in a previous post, but in first you would be able to bring a forward facing carseat onboard, while in business this isn’t possible due to the airbag seat belts used there. In first you are given a set of great Shanghai Tang pajamas (top and bottom) along with slippers, an eye mask, and a Zegna amenity kit. In business there are no pajamas and the amenity kit is lower quality. The first class bathroom is cleaned throughout the flight, often after every use. In first you can eat a meal together with your traveling companion. The first class cabin is much smaller than business and much more personal. All in all I do think it’s worth the extra miles.

-Rafi dropped his book at the first-class checkin in JFK without us realizing it. I was paged in the lounge (post security) and the agent hand-delivered the dropped book. Talk about service, this just would never happen on a US airline.

-On the other hand Cathay is a stickler for rules, as I talked about with regards to carseats previously. While other airlines would have no problem heating up your own food (and a double wrapped shnitzel sandwich or some chinese food that is warmed up will beat airline food any day), Cathay is quite strict. Most attendants will not heat up your own food for you, no matter the situation. If you can get a restaurant to double-wrap and seal the food with their own label then you may stand a small chance, but otherwise it will be difficult.

-The BA lounge in JFK is OK. Cathay passengers do not get free massages like BA passengers do but you can take a shower and enjoy the snack and drink selection (single malt scotch on hand is Glenlivet 15). Cathay First passengers can access the dining room area, but they can’t get kosher meals there. There is a first class section of the lounge, though the offerings were identical to the business section. There is a nice kids play area in the business section.

-The Cathay Pacific business lounge in Vancouver is pathetic, just a terrible excuse for a lounge. Amazing that they can operate great lounges in Hong Kong yet are incapable of doing the same elsewhere.

-Even though I wound up staying up for the entire flight to Vancouver to keep an eye on Rafi sleeping without his carseat, it was a very nice flight. The in-flight entertainment system has tons of viewing options, though you have to use their mediocre headphones as they use a non-standard adapter.

-Immigration into Canada was quick and easy and Avis stayed opened as promised until passengers from the flight picked up their cars. I used 3 coupons from Daily Getaways for a premium car for less than $30/day and was given a Hyundai Genesis. What a great car, fun to drive and tons of space for all the stuff you need when traveling with kids.

The hotel:

-We stayed at the Fairmont Pacific Rim, right on the Vancouver Harbor. This hotel was just built a couple of years ago for the Olympics and it’s one of 4 Fairmont hotels in the city. We arrived at 2:30 in the morning and went through the least painful checkin ever. No ID or credit card was required and within 5 minutes of arriving we were in our room!
We used Fairmont free nights and a suite upgrade from my favorite deal that I’ve ever done, the Living Social lifetime Platinum special.

The hotel itself is modern, yet warm with wood tones. The suite we were booked into was excellent and had an awesome view of the city and harbor. There were 2 full bathrooms, a living room, bedroom, and a jetted tub. There’s a even a TV in the mirror to watch while you soak in the tub. They had a crib waiting for us in the room with a kids kit, diapers, an infant bath, a diaper trash can, and an adorable infant robe.

There is an iPad in every room that is programmed for anything you can possibly need. From it you can schedule housekeeping and turndown service. You can request anything you can possibly need for your room, from towels to shampoo to toothpaste. You can have your car pulled up, schedule spa appointments, or pull up city maps and attractions. You can even control the lights and temperature of your room! A very neat use of technology indeed!

There is a rooftop pool that is heated to perfection and a hot tub. There was also lots of room to lounge outside with flat screen TVs. Spa access is free for Fairmont members. It’s quite a serene space and very under-utilized. There are separate changing rooms with steam saunas that lead outdoors to a lounge area and a couple of hot tubs with TVs and an infrared sauna. We used our Platinum willow stream spa certificates for free hot stone massages and still had extra certs to buy some shoes and other sundries from the spa store.

-The hotel has a fleet of 7 series BMW’s that will drive you anywhere downtown, free of charge. BMW bikes are also available on the house.

Overall this is a gem of a hotel with incredible service and I heartily recommend staying there. The only cost of our stay was $43 for 3 nights of valet parking. Hard to beat that!

Vancouver and Activities:
-The Fodor’s guide for Vancouver was accurate and helpful for tips.

-Landing in Vancouver I experienced what I’m used to when landing in Hawaii. The air, fresh off the Pacific Ocean, is simply awesome. Clean and refreshing, it will definitely relax your senses. It’s a beautiful city based around the Vancouver harbor. Now it’s not Sydney beautiful, but it can give most North American cities a run for their money for its looks. Throughout the trip I did find myself continually comparing Vancouver to Sydney, two cities very much in touch with their harbors and the water.

-Traffic during rush hour did get pretty bad and it’s exacerbated by the fact that all traffic is routed through downtown and there are very few dedicated left turn lanes.

-When the forecasters called for rain it was sunny and when they said it wouldn’t rain it rained…what else is new. The climate of Sydney it is not, though many people swear by the Pacific Northwest temperate climate.  A little too cloudy for my taste though. Vancouver locals will brag about their nice beaches, but let’s face it, they aren’t Sydney nice!

-I was debating when to use my Freedom card, which has a 3% foreign exchange fee, versus a card like Sapphire Preferred without a foreign exchange fee. In the end I just used the Freedom card for parking meters and for dining/gas, transactions where you earn more than on other cards due to the 5 point categories and the 10 point per transaction bonus even though you are paying a foreign exchange fee.

-When traveling with a 1 year old you will always be a slave to their schedule. The trick is just to make the most of awake time that you have. Luckily for us Rafi slept on the flight to Vancouver and fell back asleep once we arrived in the hotel, so he quickly switched to Pacific time. On the way home he lost sleep due to the loss of 3 hours, but slept a lot once we got home and was back on his regular schedule within a day!

-We started our first day strolling through Stanley Park, a massive and beautiful park just minutes from downtown. There are lots of paid activities to do within the park, but we enjoyed just walking along the seawall and walking into the interior along paths and past waterfalls. There are lanes for bikes everywhere in the outdoorsy city and in the park was no exception.

-From the Fairmont it was an short walk to Gastown and Chinatown. Both are definitely worth strolling through.  We paid to access the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden, but there is a free public chinese garden literally next door that was just as nice, I’d recommend skipping the paid one.

The world’s first steam powered clock is worth checking out in Gastown, it whistles the time every 15 minutes.

-As per recommendations we skipped the expensive Capilano suspension bridge in favor of the free Lynn Canyon suspension bridge. It was empty when we got there. It’s not something you can do while holding a baby, even taking pictures while on the bridge is scary. However the view is simply incredible. As you gather the nerve to look down you’ll see waterfalls and beautiful pools of water and greenery everywhere you look, it’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous. I may be wrong, but I can’t imagine Capilano being that much nicer than Lynn Canyon to be worth $38/person with tax. I was ready to go though by the time other people showed up and decided to jump on top of the bridge, which sends anyone at the valley of the bridge flying upward.

-We took the gondola car up Grouse Mountain. It’s definitely worth trying to have a window view as the scenery going up and down the mountain is amazing. Paths up here are paved and are easy to walk around with a stroller. We timed the visit to catch the lumberjack show which did not disappoint. It started off a little corny, but they do a good job keeping kids and adults entertained. We were honest about Rafi’s age when they were giving away a wooden chair “accidentally” created during the show to the youngest audience member but another toddler that looked to be 18 months old was apparently the oldest looking 4 month old ever…

-I took the ferry one night from downtown to North Vancouver. It was just $2.50 as it’s intended for local commuters, not tourists. While in Sydney we took ferries around the harbor that are also affordably priced, but on the Sydney ferries you can actually sit outside and enjoy the harbor while in Vancouver you are stuck inside of what’s practically a floating bus. Not something you need to do.

-It’s fun just walking the streets of Vancouver, definitely be sure to walk around on streets like Robson, though beware that sales tax is 12%.  When in Canada I always love to check out what’s kosher parve in the grocery store that I can’t get kosher back home.  This time we picked up some Dutch Gourmet Potato chips with flavors like Slow Cooked Ribs, Honey Dijon, and All-Dressed. We also got cereal like Quaker Oatmeal Squares (Original and Maple Sugar) and Cinnamon Corn Pops along with some Granola Bar flavors that they don’t sell in the states.

-We drove for about 20 minutes along the Sea To Sky highway towards Whistler. We didn’t have time during our 69 hours in Vancouver to make it all the way, but the scenery is very nice along the highway. It can’t really compare to the Hana Highway on Maui or the Great Ocean Road outside Melbourne, but it’s very pretty nonetheless.

-Granville Island has lots of markets and cute shops and is definitely worth a stroll around for a couple hours.

-We didn’t have nearly enough time to check out Vancouver Island, though I would’ve liked to take a seaplane tour of it or of the mountains around Vancouver. On such a short trip though none of that was in the cards. I don’t get worked up over things I miss in a city though, gotta leave some new stuff for the next time!

Restaurants:

-I have mixed feelings about Maple Grill, where we went for dinner on all 3 nights. They make some menu items better than anywhere, while others can be very mediocre. Service was very speedy and attentive on one occasion while excruciatingly slow and poor on another. Ambiance is nice, though on one night there was a major issue with flies. At any rate the Golden Tomato Roast Garlic soup is outstanding, one of the best soups I’ve ever had. The Beef Sliders are excellent and the Pulled Chicken Spring Rolls, the Maple Glazed Salmon, the Maple BBQ Chipotle Burger, and the Onion Rings are all very good. The rib-eye steak though was underwhelming, as were the short ribs and the sweet potato fries. The martinis and mojitos are all fun, though they were better on some nights than others. The hot chocolate cake with ice cream, lemon tarts, and chocolate cappuccino mousse desserts are all well worth the calories.

-We went to Sabra one day for lunch. The place is not particularly attractive and the overpriced pizza is even worse. The crust was burnt while the middle was underdone. Neither of us felt very good after eating it. The cinnamon danish was pretty good though. There is also a meat side of the restaurant that we did not try.

Zaatar Hummus Bar is located right downtown and is open from 10am-3am! The place is clean, food tastes fresh, and most importantly their felafel is outstanding, the best I’ve had in North America. Their hummus and baba ganoush are excellent as well. The vegetarian menu is somewhat limited, but with a felafel like that does it matter? Don’t miss their caramelized onions or their bourekas as well and bear in mind that with every 2 items you order you get a free drink!

-So, there’s an expensive place to find subpar pizza, and a nice place to grab a felafel and a nice grill…hmm where did I find a city like that before? 😀

-We never made it to Felafel Plus. We went to Zaatar twice and would have gone back a third time had there been time!

-The kosher food on the plane from JFK to Vancouver was pretty good, however the food from Vancouver to JFK (sourced from Omnitzky’s in Vancouver) was completely inedible, not even a dog would touch that stuff. I did convince the flight attendant to warm up a burger from Maple Grill for me, but after warming it up she told me that she should not have done that as it’s against Cathay policy and that in the future I should not expect that again. Ouch. Then she came by and commented how good the burger looked… The onboard food was nothing like the top-notch Hermolis kosher meals that Cathay serves for flights from Hong Kong. If only all airline meals were sourced from Hermolis!

Pictures (Click to enlarge):

BA Lounge JFK

 

BA Lounge JFK

 

 

BA First Lounge JFK

 

Cathay Pacific First Class Seat

 

An edible kosher meal, JFK-Vancouver

 

Hot Entree, JFK-Vancouver

 

Cathay Pacific First Class Seat

 

 

Cathay Pacific First Class Seat

 

Growing my collection of Cathay First Class Pajamas. Every flight has different colors!

 

Cathay Amenity Kits.

 

Cathay Business Class Seat

 

Waterlogged pasta and dry brownie, Vancouver-JFK.

 

An inedible hot entree, Vancouver-JFK

Cathay Pacific Business Class

 

Fairmont Pacific Rim

 

Fairmont Pacific Rim, 2nd suite bathroom.

 

Fairmont Pacific Rim, master bathroom.

 

Fairmont Pacific Rim, master bathroom.

 

Fairmont Pacific Rim, living room.

 

 

Fairmont iPad

 

Stanley Park Seawall

 

Stanley Park

 

 

A grey day in Stanley Park

 

Fairmont Pacific Rim

 

Fairmont Pacific Rim

 

 

 

Fairmont Pacific Rim

 

7 series BMW fleet, Fairmont Pacific Rim

 

Jacuzzi, Willow Stream Spa at Fairmont Pacific Rim

 

Steam powered clock, Gastown

 

Gastown at night

 

Steam powered clock, Gastown

 

Free public chinese garden

 

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden

 

Gas station in the harbor.

Vancouver Harbor

 

Gobs of glare on the ferry to North Vancouver.

 

View of the Vancouver Harbor from the hotel room.

 

Vancouver Harbor

 

Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, the view really is jaw-dropping!

 

View from the gondola, Grouse Mountain

 

View from the gondola, Grouse Mountain

 

Lumberjack show, Grouse Mountain

 

Black Bear, Grouse Mountain

 

Grouse Mountain

 

If only more words had numbers in the middle of them.

 

Sea To Sky Highway

 

 

Maple Grill

 

Delicious Golden Tomato Roast Garlic soup, Maple Grill

 

Mojito, Maple Grill

 

Yummy Onion Rings, Maple Grill

 

Mediocre Short Ribs, Maple Grill

 

Delicious Maple Glazed Salmon, Maple Grill

 

Excellent beef sliders, Maple Grill

 

Delicious Maple BBQ Chipotle Burger, Maple Grill

 

Excellent pulled chicken spring rolls, Maple Grill

 

 

Meatball Sliders weren’t bad, Maple Grill

 

Rib-eye Steak, Maple Grill

 

Lemon Tarts, Maple Grill

 

 

Chocolate Cappuccino Mousse, Maple Grill

 

Burnt Pizza, Sabra

 

Felafel Plate, Zaatar Hummus Bar

 

Boureka, Zaatar Hummus Bar.

 

Leave a Reply

33 Comments On "Trip Notes: Vancouver. Plus A Comparison Of Cathay Pacific Business Versus First Class"

All opinions expressed below are user generated and the opinions aren’t provided, reviewed or endorsed by any advertiser or DansDeals.

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Hotel

How was the hotel booked?

Moishebatchy

Three words:

Wow. Wow. Wow!!!

moish

nice report!

curious

awesome, beautiful, TR!
btw which BA AVIOS deal are you referring to, of last month ?

hi

LOVE!!!

GadgetDeals

Nice!

anon

how did you get the other two nights in the fairmont for free, since the deal you mentioned only included the suite free one night per year?

Richard

#Jealous

Sky121

Another great trip report! I like Vancouver so was extra excited to read this. Glad you had a nice time!

Spoketoborders

Same question as Anon. Do you have multiple fairmont platinum memberships?

Hello

Wow! Wee!

Glad u enjoyed & utilized some more miles!

BTW
I did a 2BM for a SP MC (I have a SP Visa), & a Freedom card. I got 2 letters, 1 tells me that I already have a SP & I can’t have another one. The other 1 denied my Freedom on the basis of “Too many accounts open with us”. I first called about the SP MC. After not being allowed to have both, I agreed to close down the Visa to open the MC. I was put on hold. When the rep returned I was told that she pulled a credit report, and I was approved.
Does this mean that I had a separate credit inquiry for the SP, & a separate 1 for the Freedom in the original 2BM?
Is this a normal procedure?
Thank You for responding.

Richard

@anon: Of the 90 or so people on the web that got in on the Farimont status, I am sure that many of them were referrals from Dan. He was therefore able to sign up for numerous accounts for members of his family (which he controls)at little or no cost.

Ari Hoffman

If you would ever like to come out to Seattle we would love to show you the town 🙂

jj1000

@Richard: Source?

AWESOME TR! Seems like your expectations of new cities are pretty high. Just remember no one city can have everything, and Sydney most definitely does not have world class skiing half the year.

Me

Thank you for the new format with the post. I like that you left the full article off the homepage since these travel posts are really long.

jj

@ari hoffman……I might have to go to seattle for business, any good sights and kosher restaurants there?

GoCanucksGo

Nice!

AJK

Great TR.

Ram

Very nice photos and great trip. Thanks for sharing.

ih

I also went this past summer CP first class!

Vancouver is beautiful & the weather is great.

I scanned the post – did you go to Whistler? One of the most beautiful places I have seen – The views are stunning!!

aaron

I just came back from vancouver and everything you wrote about was great except Zaatar was so bad and so over rated its nice and clean but you pay $9 for a plate of falafal and you get nothing on the plate and there is nothing else to order! I walked out of there so hungry.

elliot

Dan I am going to Vancouver, and I plan to stay at the Fairmont Pacific Rim. My stay includes a Shabbos. Are there any issues with a shabbos stay in this property that I should be aware of ? If I have to stay cooped up in my room for the entire Shabbos, I will go somewhere else for Shabbos.

Dan

@elliot:
I didn’t check to see if the stairwell has motion sensitive lights.
Best bet would be to call them and let us know what they say.

elliot

@Dan:

I just spoke to the people at the Fairmont Pacific Rim and they told that there are sensors in the rooms that control ac and lighting. They will get back to me on Tuesday with more information and as to whether the sensors can be deactivated. I didn’t even get up to asking about the stairwells.

Anonymous

Dan, you won’t believe this but all 3 Fairmont hotels in Vancouver do not have guest access to the stairwells (unless there is a fire, of course) So far, I have spoken to the Westin Bayshore and was informed that there is access and the light are always on. I am planning to also make inquiry with the Westin Grand, an all suite hotel.

elliot

@Anonymous: @Anonymous:
Here are the results of my last conversation with the Fairmont Pacific Rim.
a) There actually is access to the stailwell (always lit) from the guest floors. I will have to go thru some staff area. They will meet me and show me how to navigate it.
b) They will shut off the electric lock on my door. (I dont mind that the door is open. I put all my valuables in the safe.)
c) They will put my room on a ‘kosher setting’ They AC will not go off after we leave the room
I did not even request all this. They just want to accomodate everyone as much as possible.

Dan

Awesome! The hotel and the spa are just great, you’ll love it. Don’t forget to join FPC to get driven in a 7 series for free to zaatar and for free internet and spa access.

elliot

@Dan:
Dan, I am already a member. I and my wife each got the Chase Fairmont card with 2 free nights each. Our four night stay will be free (a $2650 value including our upgrades), plus the free spa certicates. We will be flying in on Cathay Pacific business class using our Avios points (1st wasn’t available). We will also be spending 1 night in Whistler (I haven’t decided yet on either the Westin or the Hilton). Does the Fairmont spa have separate men’s and women’s facilities ?

Sol

Great report is not the word, I’m happy for you.
I guess the hotel is not avail so please suggest a great hotel as yours using SPG or other points.

Gary

@Sol: Just returned from trip to Vancouver/Whistler. Was worth it just to be able to take the return flight on Cathay Pacific in business class. It was awesome. *BEWARE* Falafel plus is no longer kosher (as told by the store worker when I walked in with my yarmulke on). Maple Grill is certainly the only worthy dining choice. We sampled many dishes and all were good.

Yossi

Zataar is closed.

Esti

There is a new dairy cholov yisroel cafe in Chabad’s headquarters on oak and 41st called cafe forty one. Be sure to visit next time you’re in Vancouver. The food is phenomenal!

dans fan

hi I am in Vancouver for the day and the café 41 changed name and its delicious food

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