Archive for March, 2013

Turning Japanese – Part 3: Hot Springs, Maid Bars and Earthquakes (On Assignment)

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics – Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

In our final installment on Japan, we leave Kyoto and head to Hakone, land of Onsen (hot springs), and then to Japan’s modern capital of Tokyo. If you missed parts one and two, click on the links provided to read about things to see and do in Kyoto.

Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji

Our group traveled by train to Odawara Station, where on the way we were able to capture images of the majestic Mount Fuji. Upon arrival, we were taxied to the hot spring town of Hakone and the KAI Hakone, a ryokan, traditional Japanese inn of Hoshinoya Resorts, with soothing hot springs and Japanese-style interiors.

After touring the resort property, we were introduced to traditional, local wooden mosaic lacquer-ware called Yosegi.  This beautiful intricately designed art is formed from varietal wood species and finely cut and pieced together in contrasting patterns resulting in everything from wall hangings to jewelry boxes.

KAI Hakone spa

KAI Hakone spa

Lake Ashi

Lake Ashi

Before dinner, we were escorted to the highlight of our stay at KAI, the onsen bath experience.  Submersion in the KAI natural piping hot mineral bath from a huge open-air spa overlooking a river, is both spiritually moving and divinely relaxing. Believed to have extraordinary health benefits, the water of a Japanese onsen is rich in a variety of minerals and is naturally heated by the earth with water temperatures exceeding 25 degrees Celsius or 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

We wrapped up our stay at Hakone with a visit to Lake Ashi, where we admired mountainous views.  On clear sunny days, one can see Mt. Fuji in the background – a site that the area has become famous for.  Finally, we visited local souvenir shops where we purchased crystals, Yosegi crafts and drank delicious tea infused with citrus and sprinkled with gold leaf, before boarding our train back to Tokyo.

A Day in Tokyo

Maid Bar advertisement

Maid Bar advertisement

We had just a few hours to take in some of the attractions of Tokyo, so we wasted no time.  When we arrived, we took in a guided tour of “First Avenue,” “Character Street” within Tokyo Station and we were met with pop-culture cartoon icons, like Hello Kitty, Angry Birds and Domo.  From there, we checked out some of the more “sub-cultural” sites of Akihabara where we visited a Maid Cafe and crept by a Vampire bar.

When we returned to the Shangri-La Tokyo hotel, we had just ordered a drink and alarms sounded,

Vampire Dining Bar

Vampire Dining Bar

alerting guests of an impending earthquake.  Yes, an earthquake!  Shortly thereafter the building shook and we all held on for dear life – well, I did anyway.  It was over as quickly as it started, thank goodness.  We all wondered if this was Japan’s way of saying goodbye as we counted down our final hours in Tokyo with a tour of the exquisite 5-star Shangri-La, followed by an elegant dinner at the hotel’s gourmet Italian restaurant, Piacere.

Shaken, not stirred, that puts an end to our five day odyssey in the uniquely cultured country of Japan — Shiawasena tabi!

 

“Did you know…MLB Opening Day is March 31st?” (Infographic)

 

Baseball Infographic

One-on-One with Timothy J. Ahern, Vice President – New York and International, American Airlines

In this month’s One-on-One blog, ExpertFlyer talks with American Airlines VP of New York and International, Timothy (Tim) J. Ahern.

As the senior officer managing the competitive New York region, Tim oversees American’s Europe and Pacific operations from that gateway and travels regularly to London.

ExpertFlyer talked to Tim about big changes at the airline, including the impending merger between American Airlines and US Airways and how the new American Airlines will reign as the world’s largest commercial air carrier.

Timothy J. Ahern, VP of New York and International, American Airlines“During the next four years, the new American Airlines is planning to take delivery of 607 new aircraft, including 517 narrow-body aircraft and 90 wide-body international aircraft. Most of the planes will be equipped with advanced in-seat inflight entertainment systems, offering thousands of hours of programming, inflight Wi-Fi, and Main Cabin Extra — providing customers four to six inches of additional legroom in the Main Cabin.”

— Timothy J. Ahern, VP – New York and International, American Airlines

ExpertFlyer’s readers comprise a large group of American and US Airways’ customers. Once the merger is complete, American will be crowned the world’s largest airline. Can you give us your take on how this will improve services overall for the combined customer base?

Together, we will create a premier global carrier with an expanded worldwide network, a strong financial foundation, a modern and efficient fleet, and the industry’s best team of people, who will together offer an unparalleled travel experience for our customers.

As a combined carrier – the new American – we will have an expanded network to even better match where customers want to fly and a greater ability to invest in our fleet, modern technologies, and the products and services customers value most. This combination will enable us to further bolster our offerings for customers and allow us to provide the most connected, comfortable travel experience in the industry. Continue reading →

Turning Japanese – Part 2: Places to Stay in Kyoto (On Assignment)

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics – Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

In part one of our three-part Japan series, we highlighted “must-do’s” while visiting the historical city of Kyoto.  In part two, we’ll feature some “must-stay”  hotel and resort options that one might consider while traveling to Kyoto.

Hoshinoya grounds

Hoshinoya Kyoto

HOSHINOYA Kyoto – After traveling from Tokyo by Bullet train to Kyoto, we were picked up and taken to the Arashiyama district where we arrived at the Hoshinoya Boat Dock. After warming up with some hot tea and sweets in a nearby reception area, we were led back to the dock where we boarded an old-style wooden motor boat to the Hoshinoya Kyoto resort.

After check-in we toured the property where we were unanimously awed by the authentic traditional Japanese atmosphere, grounds and amenities. Elegant, yet simple, Hoshinoya is a five-star property and the flagship of Hoshinoya Resorts.  Our group enjoyed a traditional tea ceremony,  Monko incense experience and superb Japanese-style cuisine created by Hoshinoya’s Michelin star chef, Ichiro Kubota.

Hyatt Regency Kyoto

Hyatt Regency Kyoto

Hyatt Regency Kyoto – After the cultural immersion of Hoshinoya, our next “must-stay” destination was the Hyatt Regency Kyoto, which offered a stylish contemporary feel, interesting art and exceptional service.  Ken Yokoyama, General Manager of the Hyatt Regency Kyoto, demonstrated, first-hand, the hotel’s commitment to exceptional service and personal attention to detail during a dinner that he hosted for our group at the hotel’s Grill Restaurant.

Hyatt Regency Kyoto Spa

Hyatt Regency Kyoto Spa

If you want to treat yourself to an unforgettable spa experience, the Hyatt Regency Kyoto’s offerings are top shelf and the staff are caring experts.  I opted for acupuncture — my first time — and several of my travel mates had massages.  I was impressed with the pre-service consultation and careful implementation that my acupuncturist provided.

Aoi Kyoto Stay — A third option for folks who really like to step into a destination’s lifestyle and day-to-day living is Aoi Kyoto Stay.  We had a guided tour of a Kyoto Stay Machiya, which is a traditional Japanese home.  There is a movement to save these structures, many of which are more than 100 years old.  The homes are being torn down at an alarming rate as Japanese residents opt for more modern domiciles.

Aoi Kyoto Stay

Aoi Kyoto Stay

The Aoi Kyoto Stay provides tourists with an entire house, so a group or family can enjoy private time and space together in an authentic Japanese home.

Part three will close our Japan series with our experiences in Hakone and Tokyo — Sayonara.

“Did you know…OneTravel interviews ExpertFlyer president, Chris Lopinto?”

OneTravel logoOneTravel.com, a leading air travel resource for finding cheap tickets to destinations around the world, caught up with our co-founder and president, Chris Lopinto, to learn more about ExpertFlyer’s new Seat Alerts app for iPhone and Android phones.

Chris also discusses the growing importance of mobile apps for business travelers and the need for businesses to provide mobile solutions for their client base in order to compete.  Read the full post here.