Nov 142011

This is probably a good time to explain why we chose Mozambique in the first place. Yes, we’d heard it was pretty cool with a decent amount to see, was pretty easy to get to from Swaziland but most importantly….there was a daytime flight to Europe from Maputo! We actively try and avoid redeye flights as much as possible, and there was a daytime flight to Lisbon that would not only get us there in time for dinner but also…had a really good fare! Sold!

We got up early, since upon asking the night before the hotel had told us that breakfast started at 630am. Only one small problem: that was for weekdays…it was 7am on weekends! The buffet staff was great, however, and let us in at 630 for some coffee and pastries – more than enough to hold us over until the airport. We were determined to get in as many pastéis de nata (portuguese cream tarts) as possible when in lusophone countries, so it was a good thing!

Hotel arranged a taxi to the airport which was completely reasonable and put it on the room. At this point, I need to gripe. We stayed at the hotel Cardoso, and were quoted our room price in dollars. Upon checkout, it was converted back to Metecais before being billed. They used a rate which was around 5% disadvantageous to us…I absolutely detest when hotels in developing countries pull this scam. We asked to pay in US$ cash at the quoted rate, and they refused. GRRR! Another thing…we had asked to borrow an outlet converter since Mozambique uses strange non-standard plugs. It appeared on our bill at a rate of over $30. These things can be bought in local markets for $3, and it was a battle getting them to take it off even though borrowed had been made very clear. Staff at the Cardoso were friendly, rooms were cool and clean, and no complaints other than the feeling they were trying to fleece you at every turn.

Got to the airport, and here’s where things went tits-up a bit. Despite being in business class, the check-in agent refused to let us carry on our rolling bags because they were over 8kg each which was the limit. No amount of arguing would help. Fortunately, they were just filled with clothes and replaceable things, so it wasn’t a big deal if they went missing (which they didn’t.) Passport control and the lounge were completely uneventful, and soon it was time to board.

TAP Portugal Flight 264
Maputo, Mozambique to Lisbon, Portugal
Depart 8:50, Arrive 19:00, Flight time 11:10
Airbus A340-300, Registration CS-TOA
Seats 1H and 1J

I’m not going to comment a whole lot about this flight because, well, it was pretty much exactly as expected. A few thoughts:

The seats: They were old-style business class seats, but perfectly comfortable for a daytime flight. They went flat or nearly so, were the shell-type, and in the bulkhead just fine. No complaints at all about the seats. They had power adapters, movies were adequate, so overall…nothing special.

The crew: Unfortunately, they were of US-standard and seemed to be doing the absolute minimum…except with the non-rev passengers. There were clearly several TAP employees on board, and they were plenty chatty with them. They also seemed to warm up more to the other Portuguese-speaking passengers…and it wasn’t a language issue. Their English was fantastic, but they just seemed cold and bothered towards us. Even requests for water or a diet coke seemed a chore for them most of the time.

Now…the food. All in all, it was a pretty standard business class meal, although I found the portions rather smaller than one would normally expect…even when compared to United or Delta which are the ones I’m most familiar with.

First, there was an amuse-bouche…a nice start, since you never see this in US business class any more:

This was followed by a soup and salad which were perfectly adequate, if not a bit small and on the stingy side. The salad was made to order from a cart, but when you asked for an ingredient, you literally got one small piece of it. Pretty stingy!

Next up was the main course, and I can’t for the life of me remember what this uninspired meat was. I ate it…because a growing boy needs his protein, but seriously? This passes for a business class meal?! Come on folks!

The last was a dessert…which honestly made me so upset I didn’t take a picture. Those of you who fly United will understand when I say the cheese choice made United look like a gourmet cheese platter (yes, it was THAT bad) and the “special desert” alternative was even worse than the United options. Major disappointment.

All in all – thoughts on TAP in business class. For what we paid, we expected legroom and a better seat, in-seat power, and a slightly better meal and that’s exactly what we got. It didn’t come anywhere close to comparing with the better business classes in the world, but then again neither did the price. If I was on the same route again, I wouldn’t hesitate to book it is the bottom line.

We landed on time, bags were more or less waiting after we finished walking halfway to Spain for them, and the taxi queue was only about ten minutes…and the taxi driver was honest. All in all…nothing at all to complain about. Except…we had made no plans for Lisbon beyond our hotel!

It was a quick layover, and all we knew is we wanted a special dinner for the last night of the trip. Our first time to Lisbon several years ago, we had a hard time finding fun restaurants that weren’t tourist traps, and we wanted to avoid that this time. I texted a coworker from Lisbon in hopes she might be able to come through…and did she ever! It was an absolutely perfect end to the trip!

We arrived at the Sheraton, where we’d also been semi-disappointed a few years prior. Not this time. The staff was great, and went out of the way to find us a suite. It was a smoking suite, but they convinced us to try it out because “most of the time, you can hardly tell.” I’m glad they did, because even though I’m usually very sensitive to smoke, I couldn’t smell anything…it was a great upgrade!

Got to dinner at Restaurant Pinoquio in the Restauradores neighborhood, and it was absolutely amazing. The food was good – above average – but it was the atmosphere that was a real winner. We ate outdoors at small tables with dozens of mostly locals, and the atmosphere was really lively. They had giant jugs of amazing sangria, and everything we had to eat was awesome. A shrimp cocktail, grilled squid kebabs, a seafood risotto, and everything we had was amazing – a true win…and a fantastic last night to the trip.

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