Oct 112011

Ok, first off, I need to do a few mea culpas….after the first week or so of the trip we were cramming so much into every day that I just wasn’t able to keep up with the blog during the trip. Oh, and my laptop died…the hinge cracked, turning it into the world’s largest iPad. More on that below…

So it was up early to get to the airport in Panama. First, a bit of explanation on this random routing. We could have just flown Panama-Houston-Honolulu, but that would have just meant more time laying over in Houston…and via Newark was the same fare, roughly another 5,000 miles towards elite status, and more time in Business First. Easy choice! Check-in in Panama was completely uneventful, and soon we were hanging out in the Copa Airlines Presidents Club. Stomach was still less than thrilled from the earlier food poisoning, so I was keeping to coffee and water while we waited to board. Lounge was basic, but more than adequate with quick WiFi…and it was right above our gate, so we could wait until the very last minute to board.

Continental Airlines Flight 1022
Panama City, Panama to Newark, New Jersey
Depart 10:05, Arrive 16:17, Flight time 5:12
Boeing 737-900, Registration N78438, Delivered 2009
Seats 2E and 2F

Honestly, there’s not a whole lot to say about this flight. Service was adequate, not overly attentive, but after my years of flying United I’ve gotten pretty used to that on domestic and regional flights. A copy of the menu for the flight:  (it’s important my ‘preferred cocktail or beverage’ was the famous Continental margarita)

I went with the mixed grill, which was probably a mistake. The chicken was decent, but the beef was cooked to the texture of a hockey puck and even though I’m never one to turn down a big helping of protein, I had to pass on it. It was simply inedible. Disappointing, because Continental used to be (in my experience) one of the few airlines who could get beef right!

Landing in Newark was on-time, and thanks to Global Entry we were through immigration in less than five minutes, and our dangerous one hour connection was easily going to happen. The problems, however, started when we got to the gate. Our plane was an international configuration 757-200 which was initially coming from London, but there had been several 757 diversions for low fuel/weather, so we ended up getting a plane coming from Manchester. No biggie, and we eventually left an hour late…and not a single announcement by the gate staff about the delay. Major thumbs down for the gate staff. Oh wait, this is Newark….

Continental Airlines Flight 63
Newark, New Jersey to Houston, Texas
Depart 17:25, Arrive 20:17, Flight time 3:52
Boeing 757-200, Registration N33132, Delivered 1998
Seats 1E and 1F

Honestly, not much to say about this flight at all. Meal was decent, more margaritas were consumed, and we landed just under an hour late in Houston. Can’t ask for much more than that. Oh, we did get one lesson on the margaritas. This was a Houston-based crew, who informed us that there was a definite way to improve continental’s margaritas. They would have preferred to put a Chambord float on top, but since Continental didn’t stock it, she recommended a Grand Marnier float….um, yeah, much better and…much stronger. Made the flight fly by!

We did the overnight at the Houston Airport Sheraton, and the less said about that the better. Room was adequate, staff was efficient (which is usually all you want in a hotel) and things were clean. Shuttle ran on time, and honesty nothing more to say. Nothing special, nothing bad, it just did its job.

Next morning we were to Houston early…and oh yeah…I was 40! Woo freaking hoo! Of course, when it’s your birthday, you can do whatever you want, and for some strange reason I really wanted a McDonalds Egg McMuffin. Now, I never ever eat McDonalds, but for some reason, it sounded great. Of course, our terminal in Houston was the one airport terminal on the planet without a McDonalds…figures. A quick trip on the AirTrain to the other terminal solved that, and we boarded our flight to Honolulu happy. 😉 It doesn’t take much!

Continental Airlines Flight 1
Houston, Texas to Honolulu, Hawaii
Depart 9:35, Arrive 12:55, Flight time 8:20
Boeing 767-400, Registration N76064, Delivered 2002
Seats 2K and 2L

I was actually looking forward to this flight. First, it was my birthday, and second, it was proper international business class seats. Unfortunately, Continental was a bit of a let-down. It started with an announcement by the captain telling us to “Enjoy the fine CONTINENTAL service, because with United taking us over you probably won’t see it again.” Come on folks, let’s be professional! Since when is badmouthing your employer to the customer acceptable? It really set the tone for a crew who did the bare minimum for all eight hours. Oh well! We were off to Hawaii!

Oh…and the power ports at our seats didn’t work. Fortunately between laptop movies and tv and books we kept occupied, but it was overall a very very disappointing flight. What happened to the Continental I remember from five to six years ago? The menu:

Arrival into Hawaii was a few minutes early, and we were off to Avis to pick up our car. We got exactly what we reserved, and were off to the Royal Hawaiian on Waikiki to begin the celebration in earnest. Check-in was good, and unfortunately our room wasn’t ready…but don’t worry…you’ll really like what we’ve given you! That just gave us an excuse to head down the beach a few blocks to take care of my Macbook Air problem by replacing it with a new one! Happy Birthday to me!

Back to the hotel, and it was time to check-in, and we were given an upgrade to a fantastic suite. We’d only been in there a few minutes when the doorbell rang, and a few staff members showed up. In came a cake which Matt and his folks had arranged…complete with champagne and singing room service delivery people. I have to say, waiters who sing happy birthday when delivering are going WAY beyond the call of duty. It was a special touch, and very memorable!

After chilling for a bit with the champagne, it was down to the beach for some pre-dinner Blue Hawaiians at sunset:

Then, it was off for the birthday dinner at Alan Wong’s. To me, this place is what the “new Hawaii” is all about. A fusion of local Hawaii foods and cooking along with a modern twist. It’s absolutely awesome.

For starters, I had the “Mini Loco Moco” which is poached quail’s eggs served over unagi (eel) meatloaf. It’s absolutely amazing, and you have to try it to believe it. I did the ginger-crusted pacific red snapper for a main, which was also absolutely amazing. As a nice touch, the menu they brought to our table had been customized:

Dinner was finished off with a custom-plated desert, which was a perfect touch to an amazing birthday! Many many thanks to Matt and his folks for making it such a special birthday!

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