The United island hopper

The United Island Hopper, with Honolulu and Kauai, Hawaii, USA via Alaska First Class


YVR-SEA-HNL (Alaska Mileage Plan Companion Fare 2 for 1)
HNL-MAJ-KWA-PNI-TKK-GUM “The Island Hopper” (United Mileage Plus Award)
GUM-HNL (United Mileage Plus Award)
HNL-LIH (paid)
LIH-SEA-YVR (Alaska Mileage Plus Companion Fare 2 for 1)

Preparation:

In the fall of 2019, MrsWT73 mandated a winter holiday to get out of Vancouver’s wet (and unusually this year, snowy) weather. We had previously made good use of our Alaska Companion Fares for the past 4 years. Thanks to MrsWT73’s Alaska MVP Gold status, we’ve also made good use of First Class upgradable fare purchases. With no set destination in mind for these certificates, I eventually came up with a crazy idea of doing the United Island Hopper nested within an Alaska fare to Hawaii. Unlike these other travel bloggers in their twenties, I actually have a full time career that comes with a schedule, parenting responsibilities and other commitments that don’t make it so easy to undertake in such unusually crazy trips. With little convincing, MrsWT73 gave me a 36 hour kitchen pass away from the holiday to do the UA Island Hopper while she stayed on in Honolulu relaxing and taking in some sun.

For the Alaska Portion, I searched for available “U” space using Expert Flyer, eventually finding seats on the afternoon flight leaving Seattle for Honolulu. The outbound had a 5 hour layover in Seattle, but we had American Express Centurion Lounge access so that dead time was taken care of as comfortably as possible. For the return, we managed to find seats out of Lihue back to Seattle on the overnight with a short 2 ½ hour layover back home to Vancouver, Canada. We used an Alaska 2 for 1 companion fare offer from the Canadian Alaska Airlines Mastercard and immediately confirmed ourselves into First Class at the time of booking on an upgradable fare.

I booked the UA Island Hopper using United Airlines Mileage Plus points transferred in from Marriott Bonvoy. Thanks to a generous relationship between the two, 120,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points became 55,000 United Mileage Plus points with an additional 17,500 UA miles later awarded as a bonus for a total of 72,500 United Mileage Plus points transferred. There was ample economy award availability on this route and I booked the island hopper for 27,500 saver economy reward miles at fixed pricing levels before United switched to dynamic pricing. I booked the return on the non stop United B777-2 service from Guam back to Honolulu the next day. The economy award came to 55,000 United Mileage Plus miles and $40 CAD in taxes and fees. The revenue price for the ticket was listed at $2,934.54 USD making an award redemption an excellent value. I further secured an Economy Plus seat on the Hopper segment for $59 for the 14 hours. I noticed some variability in the Economy Plus pricing with amounts ranging as low as $59, all the way up to $114 for the same routing. Although as a United Silver, I had access to free Economy Plus at check in, I didn’t fancy being shut out of a window seat for the day. It turns out this was a wise move as there were only a few seats in the middle left on my date. Lastly, although the full 5 stop island hopper is only available 2 days a week, I ended up on the 4 stop hopper for schedule purposes, skipping the Kosrae stop in the Federated States of Micronesia. I would have loved to have done all 5 stops, but I also wanted to actually have a restful holiday and not be backtracking all over the place to get back to Honolulu to start the Hopper on one of the 5 stop trips. As a result, I took the shorter version, which was more than enough to experience it. This, I might add, is coming from the perspective of someone who is nearing the million mile mark for lifetime “tail in seat” miles flown and a regular consumer of flown miles for work purposes all throughout sparse Canada. I suppose I could have stopped over on the Micronesia islands for a day or two but also just opted for an out and back return.

In this Report:

Alaska Airlines: Vancouver – Seattle
Alaska Airlines: Seattle – Honolulu
Sheraton Waikiki
United Airlines Island Hopper: Honolulu – Majuro
United Airlines Island Hopper: Majuro – Kwajalein
United Airlines Island Hopper: Kwajalein – Pohnpei
United Airlines Island Hopper: Pohnpei – Trukk
United Airlines Island Hopper: Truk – Agana Guam
Sheraton Laguna Guam
Sagan Bisita Lounge, Guam
United Airlines: Guam – Honolulu
Hawaiian Airlines Plumeria Lounge, Honolulu
Hawaiian Airlines: Honolulu – Kauai
Sheraton Kauai Resort
Kauai
Alaska Airlines: Lihue – Seattle
Alaska Airlines: Seattle – Vancouver

Alaska Airlines
AS 2044 – First Class (U)
YVR-SEA (Vancouver International Airport – SeaTac International Airport)
January 27, 2020
11:40 AM – 12:43 PM
Booked: Embraer 175
Flown: Embraer 175 

Being a noon departure, we had an easier get away from the house. We had a spin through the ever worn for wear Plaza Premium Lounge in the YVR Transborder area. The place is really starting to look quite shabby with seat stains and chips out of tables, counters and furniture. It was breakfast for me with some quick scrambled eggs, white toast and bacon. Most interestingly enough was that the Sal Y Limon Mexican Bar has finally finished construction across from Starbucks and is open for those departing on afternoon flights in the Transborder area.

While we were in the lounge, I checked on today’s flight situation and the Seattle Honolulu flight was totally oversold. Hawaii is a popular place to get to in the winter!

We headed down to Gate 90. The short Alaska flights to and from Seattle have since been upgraded to Embraer 175 over the older Dash 8’s. This meant we actually had a gate to board from, instead of a walk out to the apron. It also meant the disappearance of Alaska’s “A La Carte” self service gate check shelf.

We boarded after children, military and those needing extra time to board. The Embraer product is much more comfortable than the Dash 8 with an actual business class seat in a 1 – 2 configuration up front. Once on board, there was a small Dasani water waiting for us at the seat.

There isn’t usually service on the short 30 minute flights but perhaps a change with the upgraded equipment, there is also a change in process. Today, we were offered a choice of beverage. Today was fresh brewed coffee with a free offer of a Bailey’s upgrade. Being the start to a holiday, why not? It was better than the offer of Dasani water and nothing else.

We were underway quickly behind an Air Canada B787 Dreamliner on runway 08R out of grey Vancouver for the 28 minute flight down to Seattle.

We eventually were shuttled over to the C Gates in Seattle. We had a 5 hour layover which we ended up killing off at the American Express Centurion Lounge. Thanks to connecting boarding passes, we were admitted without a wait at the lounge today. It helped that we were after the bank of morning flights and well before the bank of evening flights. Being that we’ve been through here before without many changes, I didn’t bother taking any new photographs. Well, aside that I decided to have one of these killer beverages earlier than noon…

Alaska Airlines
AS 853 – First Class (U)
SEA – HNL (SeaTac International Airport – Honolulu)
January 27, 2020
5:45 PM – 10:05 PM
Booked: Boeing 737-800
Flown: Boeing 737-800

At about T-60, we packed up from the Centurion Lounge over in the B Gates and started the walk and train over to the N Gates. We made an attempt to get into the brand new Alaska Lounge for our second visit but Alaska doesn’t recognize upgraded First Class space (or U fares) as valid for entry in Alaska Lounge, even on international itineraries unlike United. With only 30 minutes left prior to boarding, we waited out the rest of the time at Gate N13.

We boarded in a busy boarding group and settled into Seat 1A and 1C. We had one of the older “original” aircraft today with the aboriginal tapestry wall liner. Waiting at the seat was the usual bottle of Dasani water and an Alaska branded blanket.

It was a bit of a process getting going today with several non rev’s coming on at the last minute, followed by some seat swaps. Since we were seated in 1A and 1C, we had a prime view of all of this. During this time, a pre-departure beverage was offered of sparkling mai tai which was premixed from a tetra pack. The Alaska Pre-Departure Beverage seems to be hit and miss unlike the other major US carriers. I certainly don’t say no when it’s offered…

We had the usual departure flight time announcements of 5 hours and 55 minutes flying time. We settled in with the menus for the evening as we departed on runway 34/16 with minimal wait.

We had a bumpy ride out with expected turbulence announced for the first 2 hours of the flight. Indeed, it was slow going and the service did not start until 7:30 PM or an hour and forty five minutes into the flight.

We started with a limp towel service, followed by a drink service. I asked for the chardonnay which was advertised as Browns’ but I suspect was something else entirely since it tasted different from the Browns’ that we usually collect at Costco, Bellingham, WA. We never saw the bottle since the drinks are poured in the galley.

We started with a creamy ginger carrot bisque followed by a mixed salad with balsamic vinaigrette. The soup was great, although smaller portioned, where as the salad looked like it had a bad day in the office and was ready to get home for the evening.

This was followed by the main, the roasted pomegranate glazed chicken. I had pre-ordered this on the Alaska App a few days before the trip as I’ve had bad luck generally of airlines running out of my first choice lately. It was a reasonable, if not elecltic taste. MrsWT73 opted for a pre-order of the cheese plate, which she enjoyed.

We finished the meal with Salt and Straw Handmade Ice Cream which was really tasty; Beecher’s Cheese and Peppercorn Toffee. It was to die for… It was a solid upgrade on the dessert offering.

Alaska passes out Tablets’ in first class for movies on its Hawaii flights. I settled into the Hobbs and Shaw movie along with a final Gin and Tonic with lime. The tablet was a nice touch since but the neck down wards looking was a little uncomfortable for me after a while.

The cabin was prepared well early for the descent into Honolulu. The crew were clearing things about 45 minutes in advance.

One of the main drawbacks of the Alaska First Class seat configuration is that there is no where to actually store many items. Aside from a seat map pocket which is shared between the seats in the bulkhead, there isn’t much storage location for phones, passports, charging devices. This ended up being cameras stacked on top of laptop bags, with charging devices and phones stacked on top of the bags.

We had a straight in landing into Honolulu at gate E6. As we stepped off, we saw that the plane was being turned around to depart for Anchorage Alaska. We located our bags and headed off into Honolulu.

All in all, Alaska First Class is a nicer way to get to Hawaii than being seated in the back in economy. It’s a reasonable First Class service; you’ll get fed, have drinks available and probably be entertained through a movie. However, you won’t ever mix up this flight with any wide body service where there’s ample space to move around or advanced entertainment systems or deluxe catering. It’s still an enjoyable way to get to Hawaii.

Sheraton Waikiki
High King Oceanfront Guest Room, 1 King.

When looking to see properties to book, I located the large monolith Sheraton Waikiki. On our last trip, we had last stayed at the Moana Surfrider in the historic wing. While quaint, it wasn’t charming enough to call us back again for another stay. We ended up at the Sheraton Waikiki. It’s been around forever. It was a terrible use of points as a Category 7; a standard night was over 50,000 points asking for a city view back street room. As a result, we ended up with a paid rate. I searched around and the best one that I could find was the American Auto Mobile Association (AAA rate) for $282 USD that included a $50 food and beverage credit per night.

We arrived curbside via Uber and were offered assistance from the Sheraton valet with the bags. There weren’t too many arrivals at this time of night. Surprisingly absent was the lei presentation (we’re closed maybe?). We declined bag assistance and wandered up to the check in counters which were totally empty and line free at 11 PM.

We had applied Suite Night Awards to the property for the Ohana Suites. Unfortunately, they had failed to clear at the 5 day mark. We were then pro-actively upgraded before check in into the High King Oceanfront Guest Room, 1 King from the base level City View room that we had booked, courtesy of MrsWT73’s Titanium Elite status. The pleasant but efficient check in reception agent assigned us #3127 , which was situated on the very top floor. I asked about the breakfast in the restaurant but the only offer / Titanium Welcome Amenity was 1,000 welcome bonus or a box of chocolates; “we don’t offer that anymore” [referring to breakfast in the restaurant]. I didn’t push the issue since I wasn’t actually going to be around for most of the stay; taking off on the UA Island Hopper in 2 days. MrsWT73 prefers the short and sweet lounge food anyways over the proper sit down breakfast. We were presented with the usual hotel information sheet and restaurant / lounge timings.

We were provided the regular Club Leani (lounge) card that stated the hours of operation and the public cash upgrade price of $125 for 2 adults and 2 children under the age of 12. We were given free access to the lounge courtesy of Titanium status.

We also received a letter outlining the conditions of the resort fees. Surprisingly as mentioned, there was no Lei arrival; something that you might expect in the service of a resort fee at $40 USD per day. The resort fee covered 2 bottles of local water and the usual junk you don’t need; photo session, go pro rental and Wi-Fi. It unfortunately did not cover parking which was chargeable at $35 for self park or $45 for valet. I didn’t locate any cheaper options that didn’t involve a major walk or a 7 AM wake up in order to re-position the car.

The AAA rate $50 food and beverage credit came with a letter outlining the terms and conditions. The credit was only valid at the 4 food and beverage outlets in the Sheraton Waikiki (Kai Market, Rum Fire, The Edge Bar and Hapa’s Pizza) and was applied to food and alcohol and was thankfully inclusive of tax and gratitude. The unused balance was not able to be carried over to another day nor applied against room rate or resort charge. There was nothing like passing quizzes of all the information presented to you at this hour. I ended up scooping most of it up to read the next morning.

We navigated ourselves to the assigned room #3127 . The room was one of the newer recently renovated rooms. The full refurbishment has added a nice modern touch to a dated hotel. The room consequently was in great shape. The room itself is a little compact. On the whole, it was a pretty good soft upgrade for a 1,656 hotel room that likely had over 50 – 100 platinum +’s staying during our visit and had a large chunk of rooms 25% +/-?) closed for ongoing renovations.

The bathroom was tiny but fully refreshed. As can be expected, it offered Japanese toilets.

The entry space was also fully refreshed with useful storage conveniences.

There was a small deck out on the 31th floor, with a great sunset view. Some photos from sunrise on our first day…

After arriving to the room on the first night, I couldn’t get the air conditioner to work. It was impossible to sleep and the temperature read 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 Celcius). I had the thermostat cranked down to 65 for about an hour with no luck. I ended up calling Guest Services who indicated that it was broken for the night hotel wide (say what?!?) with and apologies that it would be fixed as soon as possible but likely the next day. Much to my horror, we slept with the patio door open all night (on the 31st floor) just to cool off the room. Thankfully, the issue was fixed the next day by mid morning.

After the first hot evening with no air conditioner, we took breakfast in the Lehani Lounge. The deluxe continental breakfast included scrambled eggs, sausages, Texas fries along with a miso soup station, white rice, croissants, cakes, mango / orange juice and Kona Coffee that wasn’t all too strong. The evening happy hour featured similar snacks, meatballs, breads and house wine and Kona Brewing bottled beer over ice. The lounge occupies a very large area with impressive window views over Diamond Head and the bay. It unfortunately does not feature an outside deck like the Moana Surfrider Club Lounge.

Ultimately, despite the chaos of a busy lounge, the views from the 30th floor were pretty inspiring. The views over the skyline towards Diamond Head were among my favorite.

Overall, we had a really nice stay here aside from all the hidden fees. The $50 food and beverage credit was a nice way to add value to the stay and we’d easily stay here again if the same sort of rate presented itself.

Honolulu, Hawaii,
United States of America
Day 1

We had a 4 days stay at the Sheraton Waikiki. I was staying on for just two nights before the Island Hopper whereas MrsWT73 was staying all four nights. As a result, I had an extra day on the property before the next leg of my adventure.

We spent the next day lounging by the pool. The property features many more sun chairs than the Moana Surfrider and we were able to get a lounger for the day in the adult area Infinity Pool at 8:30 AM without any issues (or payment). The first bank of chairs by the pool with the best views are paid at $30 for the day, whereas the other chairs are free.

We had a full day of sun. We ended up taking a few pictures from the excellent infinity pool on a deck that had full sun exposure from 8:45 AM right to quitting time at about 4:45 PM. The combination of bobbing in the pool, Tom Clancy books, followed by a perfectly cooked mahi mahi burger and a mai tai or two using our daily $50 USD food and beverage credit made for a great relaxing day.

Mid way through the afternoon, I took a break from the pool and wandered down to look at the resort area. We had spent most of the day in the adult section. There were an additional two pools for the kids. There was also immediate access to Waikiki Beach adjacent to the Royal Hawaiian next door.

Some high density seating here. . .

I also located a charming but brief walkway to the Royal Hawaiian lobby next door. It featured some gorgeous mature growth trees.

After the sun tanning session ended, we had sunset and sundowner cocktails up from the 31st floor from our hotel room. The view from the room was a nice spot and pleasant sunset views over the water.

After sunset, we ended up walking down to Duke’s for dinner at about 7:30 PM. There was not much of a wait and we ended up on the lanai after about 15 minutes. There is nothing like an all American Duke’s Cheese burger and fries when you’re in the USA along with a Kona Blonde Ale, while MrsWT73 treated herself to nachos and a Duke’s Mai Tai in the usual Duke’s Tiki glass.

Our time at the Sheraton Waikiki and around Waikiki Beach was absolutely fabulous with a sunny first day. I was a bit hesitant to leave on my adventure after having such a nice time.

United Airlines
UA 154 – Economy Class (XN)
HNL – MAJ (Honolulu – Majuro)
January 29, 2020
7:25 AM – 10:25 AM + 1
Booked: Boeing 737-800
Flown: Boeing 737-800

In terms of the strategic planning for this flight, I read all the CNN, Conde Nast Traveler articles and Flyertalk threads for the flight. It became apparent some travelers (or should I say bloggers / content creators) hadn’t even flown the routes and were copying each other’s information. All to say, the research was quite insightful as to what to expect for the day. I read about tips that indicated that you should call around to have the United reservations agents split the segments / tickets so that you could get access to upgrades, different seats and the like; I didn’t bother following up with much of that. I also read stories about United agents pro-actively moving you off the Island Hopper route in favor of the non stop Honolulu to Guam; this was also not my experience although I did keep a regular eye on the itinerary. The tip that was most useful was to pack substantial food to bring along with you since only the Honolulu – Majuro segment was catered with food. I ended up stopping at the ABC Stores the night before where I picked up some take away sandwiches (which got sent into secondary and swabbed at TSA at HNL), Clif bars and Stanley nuts to snack on. Overall, the preparation was a wise idea and gave me a great idea on what to expect. I had already spent many hours over the course of several years glancing through the United Hemispheres in flight magazine in order to one day take this flight.

I started the day like many other early morning flights. It was up at 4:30 AM Hawaiian Standard Time and out the door of the Sheraton Waikiki at 5:10 AM, leaving MrsWT73 to enjoy her $50 USD food and beverage credit by the pool for the next 2 days. I grabbed an $23 Uber over to Honolulu airport. The older Japanese driver was quite chatty for the early morning hour. If there was any saving grace, it was that 4:30 AM HST was actually 6:30 AM Pacific Standard Time, making the early rise feel a lot less early than it actually was.

I had attempted on line check in but the Canadian Passport I was travelling on didn’t seem to jive with the UA reservation system. It suggested that I upload the document through the camera within the app but it didn’t work in the end, despite accurately grabbing all my document information and expiry dates. As a result, I had to turn up for a document verification at the airport. The system did automatically offer to select different seats for each leg of the journey. It may have been in my nature to jump around to different seats just ten to fifteen years ago. But these days, I am more of a sucker for consistency than experiencing a new economy seat position that you’ve probably already tried several times before.

Since I couldn’t get a boarding card, and I was checking my rolling suitcase, United had a check in cut off time of 75 minutes before the flight for all flights departing Honolulu. It was recommended to check your carry on luggage instead of deplaning with it at each stop. As a result, I had to get to the HNL counters by 6:10 AM at the latest. On arrival to Honolulu airport at about 5:40 AM, I tried again at the kiosk on arrival but ended up getting sent into the short Premier Access line in order to get the final paperwork completed. I indicated to the friendly agent that I was headed on the Island Hopper to which she responded that I “would be on the plane for a long time today”. While I was at the airport at the Premier Access desk, I couldn’t help but overhear an Australian man checking about 6 suitcases to Melbourne via Los Angeles. I guess there are people that take dog leg connections all over the world in order to save a few bucks on a fare.

Despite entering all available information and a Global Entry Pass ID number, the TSA Pre-Check did not turn up on the boarding card. As a result, it was the regular security line for me. There wasn’t much left in terms of Free Economy Plus at check in for United Silvers so I was really happy that I paid for the Economy Plus window seat. For some reason, 7C which is typically occupied by the on board flight engineer was not blocked out; perhaps as this below was showing for the HNL-MAJ flight. The available seat map for free Economy Plus is below at T-70 minutes.

There wasn’t much open on the secure side of the airport at this hour. There was lonely Starbucks and a Burger King that were offering coffee. There were no Priority Pass Lounges open at this hour so I settled for a BK Ham and Cheese Croissant sandwich “gut bomb” to fill me up for a bit.

The flight boarded from Gate F1, which had a special passport check for travelers. As the flight passes through both The Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia before arriving in Guam, it seems to be considered both a domestic and international flight at the same time. They much have a special “cabotage” exemption to allow service from Honolulu (US) to Guam (US). Several weeks before my travels, the Coronavirus outbreak started in China, and had reached the United States and Canada. As a result, there were several screening and inoculation checks for The Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. We had a queue of inoculation checks with confirmation of measles, mumps and other ailments. Passengers were having to produce certificates of measles inoculations “within the past 2 years” and there was quite a bit of confusion over what was acceptable.

Once in the holding area, it was a first glimpse of the plane for the next 14 hours. This is along with a souvenir boarding card photo with the hopper all on one card.

When Group 2 is not Group “2”, I boarded in the seventh group after the 6 other pre-boarding clients; those with disabilities, military, children, Global Services, 1 K, and Group 1. I found myself the Economy Plus seat that I had carefully selected for the entire flight. It was worth it to pay the extra $59 USD for the 14 hour journey. As mentioned, there were only 1 or 2 economy plus window seats open at the check in window at 24 hrs and I was happy to not have chanced it.

I had picked seat 8F; mostly ahead of the wing and engine for unobstructed photo shots. It was also on the northern shady side of the westward bound plane, with the sun coming in from the south; preventing some glare into the cabin. Next time, I would have probably picked 7F in the bulkhead as I still got the engine creeping into my photos more often than I would have liked, and the extra row forward may have made a difference. I was fortunate that no one ended up in 8E for this leg, so I had a little shoulder extra room to stretch myself out. I was also happy that the cabin was refreshed with in flight seat power (rows 1-21 only) that actually worked. I had packed a power bank with me anyway.

On board, the flight started among like any other. Despite what I had read, there was a lot of bin space available for the flight and it was probably only about 60% full. The usual flight announcements consisting of a 4 hour and 24 minute flight time to Majuro. There was also a stern advance public address warning by the pilot surrounding for those travelling to Majuro or Kwajalein to ensure that inoculations had been received so that you would be permitted entry into the country. There was a lot of general chit chatter amongst the travelers; more so than on other narrow body flights. Overhearing the conversations, the passenger ahead of me worked for the US Air Force, where as some of the other passengers appeared to be contractor types headed to KWA. They finalized the load, much of which appeared to be cargo headed to Majuro and Kwajalein.

We departed on the coral runway out of Honolulu. There was the usual interesting plane spotting on the way out of HNL. It’s interesting to see US Air Force jets parked at the nearby Hickham base, along with Jetstar B787’s.

As we climbed, we had a gradual right turn towards The Marshall Islands and we were on our way.

The only meal served on the flight was presented almost immediately. It was a Jimmy Dean Sausage Egg and Cheese on a Muffin, along with a Chobani Greek Yoghurt with a Mixed Berry. I don’t usually go for pop on the plane but they seemed to be giving out full cans so I went with a can of Sprite over ice to keep me hydrated for the long trip.

The meal was also collected almost immediately as well. I hadn’t even gotten through the McMuffin prior to them coming through to collect the trays.

There was a light amount of content on the Direct TV with in seat back entertainment screens so you didn’t have to rely on a tablet. There were about 7 Hollywood movies and the moving map. Unfortunately, the News & Information, Entertainment and Music Channels, Family & Kids Channels were all blacked out and not viewable not being over the Continental US. Most of the early chatter between passengers subsided pretty quickly as the shades went down for most people and they drifted off to sleep.

After breakfast, there was nothing to see but miles of expansive ocean. Much like a trans-continental, there wasn’t much to do but relax and enjoy. The monotony was broken up by some turns over what appeared to be the Johnston Atoll. I wouldn’t have even noticed it but we had a large S turn at 36,000 feet, despite no other aircraft traffic on view.

The Johnston Atoll was claimed by the United States in 1858. It appears to be presently under the control of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service as an unincorporated territory. It included at one time being a refueling stop for the B29 Enola Gay as it transited the Pacific Ocean, in addition to military rocket and launch testing sites over the years.

It took a while before we had anything to look at but eventually we started the approach into exotic Majuro Atoll. The islands and atolls themselves are changed in a flat U shape. Our approach took us over the eastern portion of these islands. We had a fairly quick approach and descent into Majuro in the Marshall Islands.

As we approached, there was the first public address announcement to indicate that transit passengers had the option of getting off, or staying on board for 45 minutes. As with past reports, passengers disembarking had to take all their carry on items with them. The landing cards were also passed out. It seems you have to declare more than $300 worth of clothes if entering the country.

We had a short landing on the sole runway. After we landed, the local fire department came to pace the aircraft.

As I got off the plane, we stepped onto a ramp jet bridge out into a cloudy space. The first sight to see was the small red terminal building with the famous YOKWE arrival sign, welcoming travellers to The Marshall Islands.

Thanks to the early developing Coronarvirus situation, passengers were split into two lines; transit and arrival. I was tempted to line up at the arrivals desk for a passport stamp, but wasn’t able to make it past the screeners as they were all looking for documentation and stamps. The staff I talked to had no sense of humor about the whole thing, making it difficult to be where you weren’t supposed to be. Relegated to the transit lounge, I headed over to a small dark space.

Once in the transit lounge, there was a small “Snack Time” concession stand selling everything from Duty Free, sandwiches, tinned soft drinks, to Newspapers to Hard Boiled Eggs out of a carton. I picked up a local copy of the Marshall Island Journal for “$1 on Majuro” proudly printed on the cover. Surprisingly, the paper was printed +1 day in advance, even with the time zone and international date line change.

I happened to locate the exit immigration booth which happened to back onto the arrival booth. I flagged down the officer when he was done to ask to see if he could stamp my passport. Unfortunately, even with a souvenir patch to offer for him from my home country of Canada as a courtesy, he declined to stamp it; “only if you’re entering”. As with the case in many of these small airports, there is no way to enter the country to get the stamp, since once you enter, there is no way of getting back airside as all the security screeners and immigration people have left their posts. Reluctantly, passport luck was not on my side today with the stamps.

While I was there, I was able to connect to the free wifi. There was no cellular service the entire time I was on the island. I was able to send a quick hello back to MrsWT73 who was comfortably set up at the Infiniti pool having a mai tai.

United Airlines
UA 154 – Economy Class (XN)
MAJ – KWA (Majuro – Kwajalein)
January 31, 2020
11:40 AM – 12:35 PM
Booked: Boeing 737-800
Flown: Boeing 737-800 

The stopover at Majuro was really quick. We moved forward a day with the date line change. We repeated the usual United Boarding process when Boarding Group 2 actually equals group 7 (still funny to me). The sun was shining on us as we left and the photographs came out all that much more brilliant.

In true small town charm, a family of kids was shrieking good bye at their family member as they boarded the ramp jet bridge. I guess some things, even all this way deserted in the middle of the ocean, are the same as back home.

On board, we were joined by the United maintenance engineer who was seated in 7C in uniform, ball cap and N95 face mask. I think that last part was a personal choice on his part. He wasn’t overly chatty with those around him for the duration of this and the other flights. I had a seatmate in 8D, but with good luck, the middle seat next to me in 8E remained empty.

They played the Star Wars featured UA safety video one more time as we taxied down the runway. There was a dilapidated hanger that seemed to house an ATR72 that was backed into it, among other random aircraft lying around.

We had a departure on the sole runway; heading out on the runway itself with a U turn at the end. Some small photographs of the Atoll as we left. It had a pretty special and unique shape to it that I hadn’t seen in many other corners of the world, despite having been to French Polynesia, the Maldives and similar places.

It was a short 45 minute flight over to confidential Kwajalein. As a result, only an offer of water or orange juice was served. It was now 2 PM Hawaiian Time so I thought it was proper to start to dig into the ABC Stores mega sandwich that I had purchased the night before. The flight attendant was so excited when he saw it, he actually said “I am going to have to take that away”. I had a mini heart attack before I realized that he was just kidding. It must be a familiar gag on this particular route.

We had a very quick descent into Kwajalein, likely because there was no other air traffic. The Kwajalein Atoll is part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. It’s the most southern most island of this particular atoll and hosts about one thousand people at the local air force base. It has been used for missile testing of all sorts over the past fifty years.

I had previously read that photography wasn’t allowed on this island. Having had no announcement about it, I kept snapping away until the plane rolled to a stop. We passed by the golf course on the south side of the Island and runway; a strange thing to see greens among manicured palm trees. As we stopped, an announcement was made that “… due to US regulations…” that no photography was permitted. The crew on and off didn’t appear to enforce this, although I didn’t see many seated around me willing to test this rule.

As we taxied to a stop, my Seat mate in 8D indicated that he had spent 10 years here, without specifying exactly what he was doing. I didn’t ask him nor put him in an uncomfortable cover story position. Surprisingly, he also didn’t ask me about my picture taking. . . I asked him how life was here and he indicated that there were no cars on the island and that most got around by bicycle. He was an older man in his late fifties and seemed to be very comfortable with the pace of life here; dressed in polo golf shirts and silver and grey peppered hair… He commented almost stoically that he didn’t know if raising his teenager kids here during that time period had helped or hindered them out in the real world. I bid him farewell and he gathered up his things and headed off to return home on the base.

We had about an hour and ten minutes on the ground. I stood up and stretched while they serviced and fueled the plane. Crawling over to an empty seat on the left hand side of the plane, I happened to spot an entry sign “US Army Garrison Kwajalein Atoll – A Community of Excellence”. Eventually making it back to the right hand side at 8F, I was able to see most of the cargo being off loaded. There was a surprising collection of bicycles, golf clubs and other square card board boxes. As a point of amusement, , almost checked bag coming off the Island Hopper had a bright orange United Priority Tag on it signifying the frequent travellers of this odd ball airline route.

The ground crew serviced the plane; closing the bathrooms. There were one or two confused standby passengers; I am supposed to get off to get my new boarding card, but I’m not allowed to get off? Of a route to fly stand by on, what are the chances of survival if you get stuck somewhere without a planned hotel? They eventually announced that boarding cards would be brought on board and to self-identify yourself to the agents. The lead ground agent came and did an onboard inventory of checked bags. He only seemed interested in the overhead bin ones. My laptop bag and bag of cafeteria snacks were of no interest to him.

United Airlines
UA 154 – Economy Class (XN)
KWA – PNI (Kwajalein – Pohnpei)
January 31, 2020
1:24 PM – 2:09 PM
Booked: Boeing 737-800
Flown: Boeing 737-800

Shortly before it was time to get underway, we had a few thirty something military types board the plane. Based on the way that they were dressed, it seemed like they were about to start their leave. We left confidential Kwajalein. I didn’t have any seat mates next to me for this leg of the journey and had the whole bank of 8D – 8E – 8F all to myself. I was able to snap a few photos on the way out, although I was on the wrong side of the aircraft for the best and greenest looking atoll around the island. We took a hard left turn as we headed westward on our journey, meaning that I had a look at the outer reefs for this particular departure.

Unlike flights around the atolls of the Maldives, flying in this part of the world is mostly an exercise in cloud study. There aren’t many islands or atolls to look at. Occasionally, you can see a series of atolls in the distance, but they are view and far between. Most of the atolls worth seeing are within 60 seconds of take off and landing. When they are, they are sure spectacular.

With this segment being a 1 hour and 45 minute flight, there was an offer of alcoholic drinks available for purchase. Given that they started at about $9 USD, I ended up sticking with a free Minute Maid Cranberry and Apple Cocktail along with another serving of self-catered planters peanuts.

With our descent into Pohnpei, we landed into a place that was much larger than our last two stops. The weather here was a little cloudy on our visit, so it didn’t have that spectacular exotic hideway island look to it. Instead of an airport perched on top of a skinny atoll surrounded by water, we passed over lush mountains in a tropically cloudy environment. There were also medium sized mountains with rock faces as we approached.

As we taxied to position, transit passengers were invited to remain on board or deplane. I took my belongings with me and disembarked into the largest airport that we had seen on this trip since Honolulu.

I was still looking for opportunities to get a passport stamp but none were really presenting itself at PNI either. I suspect that there weren’t any arriving passengers on today’s flight as we were all marshalled into a transit area. It would make sense that most passengers to this part of the world come eastward from Guam since we were more than past the halfway mark of the trip.

The holding area was quite spartan without a customs’ booth either in or out to be seen. I found the international phone that recommended that you wait 20 seconds for an operator in order to be connected to be quite amusing, although I didn’t see anyone use it.

Wondering through the two room Pohnpei airport, I eventually located the main restaurant concession. A bit of a hole in the hall, it was walled off from the main seating area by a wall and glass partition and not an elegant one if you know what I am talking about. At the concession, there was a full bar (not that you’d be expecting that), room temperature resting on the counter bento boxes containing what appeared to be nori and rice among other things, and a small souvenir stand.

I latched onto the souvenir stand and ended up purchasing a small “I Love PNI” wooden magnet for $10 USD and a small container of Kosrae chili salt; presumably organic for $7.50 USD. The Kosrae chili salt must have been popular as the military types that had boarded at Kwajalein came looking for some and I had bought one of the only two remaining bottles. I can certainly affirm having had it back home that it is mighty tasty. I also picked up an ice cold Signature lemon lime soda for $2. Asahi Beer was also available for $3, but I stuck with the non-alcoholic liquids for now. The Pohnpei stop was easily the best “in – airport” souvenir stand on this particular trip.

I was able to locate some weak WIFI within the terminal. Unfortunately, it took forever to sign in and by the time I had passed through that whole process, the first 5 groups of boarding had already been announced and it was time to get back on board. I only had about 15 minutes inside this particular airport. I was fortunate to get a quick email download of all the stuff happening today, which was the initial announcements of British Airways and Air Canada cancelling their flights into China as a result of the coronavirus; among the first flights in the world to be cancelled into the region at the time.

United Airlines
UA 154 – Economy Class (XN)
PNI – TKK (Pohnpei – Truk)
January 31, 2020
3:05 PM – 3:20 PM
Booked: Boeing 737-800
Flown: Boeing 737-800

With our early boarding call, I ended up snapping off a few photographs by this point as I walked back out to the aircraft. Much like my past trip to Easter Island Chile, the rural apron boarding seemed all that much more normal at this time in the sequence of flights.

We had boarded quite early in a surprising era of efficiency for such a tiny outpost. Unlike the earlier segments, this section of the flight was surprisingly full with few empty seats. I was joined by a female seat mate in 8D whom had a traditional patterned wrap and a Micheal Kors handbag, most unusual for this part of the world. I would later discover that she was United crew, based on her interactions later in the trip. Thankfully, middle seats in Economy Plus within Micronesia are not hot sellers so I had another empty middle 8E next to me for this leg. While we waited to get underway, I had enough time to capture a photograph of the souvenirs from Pohnpei. It’s a great photo for the souvenir books…

The pilot came on with the usual introductions and a repeat of the same Star Wars flight safety video. We departed on Runway 9 with peek a boo views of the hills amid the cloudy weather of this particular island.

The crew came around with another pack of almonds and a beverage service. I had a Minute Maid orange juice for this leg. I figured that we were more than halfway through the trip, I would get into the last of my triple stacker sandwich. It was at this point that the clouds actually broke a little and I got some somewhat interesting scenery slipping by through the window.

The segment from Pohnpei to Trukk was only 1 hour and 15 minutes. The pilots offered the usual winds and weather updates just prior to the approach. It was a pretty approach on the right hand side of the aircraft prior to landing in Truk.

We landed on runway 4 and had a taxi to the terminal. As for the last time today, the Chuuk fire truck came out to meet us.

On arrival into the Truk terminal, I kept my eye out for the last opportunity for a passport stamp. As you may have guessed by now, things aren’t as well marked as they should be. We didn’t have many arriving passengers with some that looked like they were headed off with staff members to other parts of the apron. I perhaps should have followed my gut a bit more and pushed the issue headed towards what appeared to be a service door. The area is so well marked, you need to use a little vanishing ink even to see the local airport sign.

Instead, I ended up headed with the crowds to the main transit building. The building was another old utilitarian facility with upright semi portable air conditioners. The hall didn’t have much charm to it. It was packed however and was the busiest hall of the group today. There were some Japanese and American Tourists, some locals in traditional attire and another group of older women who appeared to be on a small group holiday. I took a look at the older women closely and happened to spot United Crew ID cards on lanyards around their necks. On closer examination, they even had old Continental stock luggage tags on their rolling luggage tags. One of them sported a Blue Lagoon Dive Shop Truk golf shirt, the place to be when you come to Truk. I used the local facilities and we were back to the land of waste basket(s) by the toilet for the used toilet paper. There was an odor to match with the same rural smell of sweat in the waiting room that you get when you travel through places like India or rural South America where people don’t have the same access to hot showers like we do in the west. The holding area had a real authentic feel to the place and was a hive of activity during the short time we were there.

Within the Truk holding area, there was a small gift shop and sundries store but it didn’t sell too many interesting things. It did happen to sell rolls of toilet paper that you could select by pointing through the counter glass, along with flower ceramic earrings. There were some wooden carvings for about $35 – 50 USD but they didn’t look all to interesting or authentic for that matter.

Without the ability to get any cell signal or Wi-Fi in the airport, it was a pretty stand- around-and-find-someone-to-chat-to type of layover. The military group tended to stick together, in addition to ordering Asahi beer at every airport opportunity. I’d probably be doing the same thing if I was stuck on a tiny island for months at a time.

United Airlines
UA 154 – Economy Class (XN)
TKK – GUM (Truk – Agana)
January 31, 2020
4:20 PM – 5:55 PM
Booked: Boeing 737-800
Flown: Boeing 737-800

After about 30 minutes, we were called to board. The Truk station was super casual and there wasn’t even a look or check of the boarding card once we exited the airport and boarded back onto the plane.

Once on board, it was back to Seat 8F. For the first time, the plane was completely full. The overhead bins were completely stuffed and there were several bags being off loaded. I was joined by a larger local Pacific Islander seated in Seat 8E. Needless to say, out of five segments flown, with 4 without a seat mate, it was much more compact and tight fitting in the plane without having the seat next to you vacant. While we waited, I happened to see all the igloo cooler containers that were being loaded on into the baggage hold and sent back to Guam full of fish. I had read that they would be returned by other family members back to Truk full of meat. There must have been at least thirty to forty of these coolers being loaded on and they dominated the cargo and baggage belt on arrival in Guam. It was evidence on how much a lifeline these flights are to this part of the world.

We had a small delay while the crew sorted out the standby list and they got the last of the bags on board. The flight crew proudly announced as we started to taxi that this was the last and fifth segment of UA 154 with service to Guam.

On our departure, we used the runway to taxi out to Runway 4 with a u-ball at the end. We had a departure immediately over the Chukk Lagoon. The Chukk Lagoon is supposed to be one of the world’s best dive sites. It has several shipwrecks, although I didn’t to any advance research to see where in the Lagoon that they were to allow for possible aerial spotting. The view of the large area from the air was pretty neat. The water was exceptionally still thanks to the motu surrounding the Lagoon. You could even picture how still it was based on these photos. It has a complete absence of waves or water crests.

The flight this time was a shorter 1 hour and 35 minutes back to Guam. To my surprise, a small ham and cheese sandwich on a cheese bun was offered. It was accompanied by another package of almonds and a fruit tart. Having brought my own nuts, I ate the sandwich but skipped the calories with the almonds that tasted ever so familiar by this point.

Landing cards for Guam were also passed out. I didn’t realize that it was considered a completely separate area of the United States with it’s own border controls.

We had a quick and sharp approach into Guam with a low altitude turn to line up with the runway Hong Kong Kai Tak style. Flying over the island at probably 2,500 feet, I got a look into the houses off the waterfront. They had a bit of a rough edge to them; the weather and the heat wasn’t too kind to a lot of the paint. It actually reminded me of looking down at houses in Tanzania or Nairobi.

We arrived into a deserted airport and were corralled into a maze towards immigration.

All in all, the last segment was among the quickest of the group. I was happy to get the legs moving again after all that cramped seating for the day. Looking back on it all, it was not too terribly bad but I was happy that did the whole trip on my own. I didn’t see or recognize any other travelers on this date doing the whole 5 segment journey with me. Aside from some adventurous standby’s exploring this part of the world, I was pretty much the only one on “through traffic” today.

Guam shares the same time zone as Sydney Australia. Being on a plane breathing stale air for 14 hours felt like I had certainly traveled some distance. On arrival I cleared customs using Global Entry and headed into the baggage hall. After I cleared customs, I went upstairs to the departures hall and was able to check in at the United Airlines kiosk for my next day return flight back to Honolulu. I had tried earlier in Honolulu before getting onto the Island Hopper in hopes of getting some of the free Economy Plus for United Premier Silver members which was made available at the 24 hour mark on a complimentary basis but was also unsuccessful in doing so. Unfortunately, in Guam at T – 12 hours, all of the good economy plus seats on the windows for my return flight were all gone. A friendly agent came around to the kiosk and helped me out with an exit row aisle seat in 39F, which was better than being cramped in regular seating.

I rolled myself back downstairs and over to the Hertz desk where another very friendly agent processed my rental and offered a staff member to walk me out to the lot. I ended up with a brand new 2020 Mazda 3 with less than 793 miles on the odometer. I drove myself over to the Sheraton resort, which was less than 12 minutes and 5 miles drive. I snapped a little sunset photo from the airport parking lot, as this would be the extent of my sunset in Guam.

Sheraton Laguna Resort
Agana, Guam
Oceanfront Corner Suite, King Bed.

Of the two Marriott properties in Guam, this property won out over the Westin, thanks primarily to the great rate at $159 USD for an base level Oceanview Room, 2 Twin / Single Bed(s). It’s was a category 5 hotel during my visit, so I felt that paying cash with the above rate was of better value versus 30,000 Marriot Bonvoy points (at a pre-variable pricing rate). I also considered the Hilton, but the property was wanting around the $350 USD mark for a night, I didn’t have enough Hilton Honors points, and I wasn’t going to be staying in Guam much more than 13 hours.

The unfortunate part about this property is that it is a little ways out of the way from what appears to be the main beach area. The drive over seems a little shabby in comparison to Hawaii, although I can’t say for sure whether that’s just Guam itself. It was through a light retail area containing old hotels, some shops that appeared closed up, along with a main through fare of retail space that is no longer favored.

After that short and convenient 12 minute drive from the airport, I self parked the car. The hotel for some reason, possibly Chinese New Year week, was completely sold out. The parking lot was really full and I ended up at the back of the parking lot next to the employee entrance. I would later learn that the Hilton Hotel was having their Chinese New Year Staff party (at the Sheraton no less), so there were many people in their twenties and thirties having a great time in one of the convention areas. I apologize in advance but my overnight visit to Guam was almost through the darkness of the night. As a result, the hotel photos weren’t as spectacular as they could be.

The check in was friendly and prompt. Typed letters were provided explaining all the restaurants and room features. The front desk clerk had indicated that I had been upgraded to an Oceanview suite, courtesy of Marriott Titanium status. I’ve come to take this news as “I’ll believe it when I see it”. I also ended up taking the 1,000 points as the Titanium welcome amenity since the breakfast did not start until 6:30 AM and I needed to be on my way out well before that. The room hallways are outside and face inwards into a courtyard of the hotel.

On my way to the room, there was an inflatable fifteen-foot whale beached in the hallway on the fourth floor. I found this particularly amusing since it’s not every day that you see a whale in a hotel hallway. I had a good chuckle about it with one of the other Sheraton staff members who saw me taking a photograph of it.

True to her word at the front counter, when I arrived to room #433, it was in fact a terrific ocean facing corner suite. Every now and then, completely Marriott surprises. After probably half a year with no suite upgrades, they go and surprise you with one when you need it the least. Actually, it was great to spread out after being in an economy seat all day. I have some dark room photos but that’s actually as bright as the room got with all the lights on once the sun went down.

Checking out the room, the property is due for a bit of a renovation. The color scheme is the usual Sheraton browns and reds which looks a little tired today. The room had a little wear and tear with a few marks in the carpets. First off the entry way way was a small dining and living area. There was a flat screen television with a separate bose speaker that needed an instruction manual to operate.

There was a refreshment center with free Lite Beer, orange juice, 7Up and Pepsi; all free with replacements subject to charge per the welcome letter. There was also a kettle with powdered freeze dried coffee and tea, which I didn’t end up using.

Surprisingly, there was a large wonderful hot tub on the balcony with a view of two oceans. It was just the thing any single guy traveler needs after a 14 hour flight, with his wife on his mind having the time of her life 4,000 miles away. The deck was pretty expansive and had two chairs along with two loungers. Unfortunately, this was the lightest I ever got to see the outdoor space since my stay was through the darkness and the night.

The hotel was kind enough to offer a complimentary bottle of Banfi red wine as a welcome amenity. It’s all too bad that I wasn’t here earlier or spending more time!! I didn’t end up opening it or taking it with me since I was travelling “carry on only”.

The hotel room also had a separate sleeping area. The bed didn’t appear to be the usual Sheraton Sweet Sleeper bed. It was quite firm like many Asian styled beds. I didn’t mind it at all.

The bathroom area was very spacious for one. It offered a separate bath tub and shower area, along with the usual Asian Toto heated toilet seats; which I am not an expert in operating.

I arrived to the property at about 6:50 PM. Surprisingly, being away from food most of the day, I wasn’t all too hungry for dinner. I made it up to the Sheraton Club Lounge on the 10th floor. I was a bit surprised to see a complimentary open bar for happy hour containing both sprits, Lite beer, and more Banfi red and white wine between 5 – 8 PM since most Sheraton’s in the America’s always have cash bar’s. I guess we are closer to Asia than the US. For some reason, I was expecting more US treatment. The lounge was packed with Asian families and children feeding their family in the lounge. The food on offer was quite Asian based; deep fried ribs, sautéed stir fry vegetables, some limp tomatoes and salads. It didn’t appeal to be too much so I just stuck with a Lite Beer to decompress from the day’s travel (noise vibration and harshness) and worked on the trip report a little.

As the lounge closed down at 8PM, I started to look into options for a light dinner. I got distracted by the hotel souvenir shop. Looking through the usual “I Love Guam” coffee cups, I found one that proudly stated “Where America Starts its Day”; a typical slogan for this part of the world. I ended up with some small fridge magnets with plumeria flowers and turtles on them for souvenirs. After shopping, I was a bit behind the curve as most restaurants closed up at 9 PM. Not only did they close at nine, but as I investigated further, they stopped taking orders (unadvertised) at around 8:30 PM. I didn’t get a resort map at check in so I wandered the property looking at the various options.

As I wandered around, the property was in every way a resort. It was large and sprawling over several different areas. It appeared to have been built on a rock outcropping and as a result, had several different levels and layers. The whole place reminded me of a place that you would have thought was really elegant and deluxe when you were 12 years old. It reminded me of the Sheraton’s or the properties that were once over the top in Africa or Asia that are looking a little older for wear by today’s standards. The property had a very large atrium that dominated the space. It also featured a variety of pools, some for swimming some for decoration. In true “K-Pop” style, some of them were blue and purple tinted with neon.

It was a pretty muggy evening in Guam. The weather was such that condensation was forming on the outside of the windows of most of the air conditioned rooms. I eventually found the Surfside Bar, which was by the pool. It was mostly deserted and there weren’t many eating there. The menu was a cross between Asian delights and an attempt at bar food. Perhaps it was the picture presentation of the menu items but between the humidity and the heat, it didn’t look all too appealing.

I later located the Japanese restaurant which was mostly teppanyaki based. They did have a $25 steak / tonkatsu special that included a small udon, rice, and japenese appetizer that I unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity to try since they were closed / or in the process of closing when I got there at 8:40 PM (last orders 8:30 PM). I didn’t fancy a $40 buffet dinner at the main restaurant and the lobby bar appeared to be closed or closing. As a result, I ended up bypassing dinner altogether which was surprising since I thought I would be starving after the Island Hopper. I did check out the room service menu but it was mostly larger meals which I wasn’t feeling up for. I entered up retiring to the room. I contemplated having another glass of beer or cracking open that bottle of wine but decided that fatigue would win me out and, being midnight Hawaiian Standard Time, I would hit the hay just after 9 PM for the night in favour of some zzz’s.

I had a great one night stay at the Sheraton Guam. I wasn’t expecting much more than a bed coming in, but the hotel surprised me with a great suite upgrade and a bottle of wine. The parking was free and the rate was reasonable without any silly resort fees. I might have chosen a nicer and newer property if I was staying with my wife, but for a quick stopover in Guam, this property fit the ticket nicely.

Sagan Bisita Lounge,
Guam International.

The next day, I had a 4:45 AM wake up in order to catch the flight. After a great hot shower with strong water pressure, I checked out of the hotel. In an old school manner, the front desk printed off a paper bill for me and presented in with Japanese flair with a small bow and two hands side by each on the envelope. It was complete darkness and a stark quiet outside when I rolled to the car. It was very much a contrast from the rowdy train when I had arrived.

I loaded up the car, and headed to the airport at about 5:45 AM. Since I hadn’t left the property during my time in Guam, I took a drive through the water front area along Pale San Vitores Road near Tumon Bay but I didn’t see too much other than darkness and tall white hotel skyscrapers. There weren’t any fabulous beach views worth stopping to take a look at. I bought replacement gas for the rental at a Mobil for $4.14 a gallon for regular and headed towards the airport. I had some bad luck getting to the airport in hoping for a coffee shop along the way. In my short time on the island, there were stacks of advertisements for unhealthy food (KFC, McDonalds) that never materialized on my drive when I needed them the most.

I checked the car in at the roving agent and proceeded inside where my contract was closed out. I had only logged 10 miles on the car, but the $40 USD rental was apparently cheaper than two taxi rides and I at least had some freedom, if I had wanted it. I headed upstairs where the United desks were quite busy checking everyone in. Aside from a stir fry place, there didn’t seem to be many food and beverage outlets on the public side of the Guam airport.

There was no TSA Pre-Check for me on the boarding card today for some reason. As a result, I ended up queuing at security with a bunch of other holiday travelers that seemed really lost at the process. Once I was already committed into the line, I spotted a business class priority line at the other end of the maze near the TSA-PreCheck. Given that there were only about 7 ahead of me in the security line, I chose to stay put.

Once on the secure side, we were immediately dropped into an Asian duty free showcase. There was a particular Guam Cultural Center which turned out to be more of a souvenir shop with articles made likely in China than a center without any real cultural value.

Since I missed the business class reward space, I only had access to the Sagan Bisita Lounge and not the United Club Guam. The Sagan Bisita Lounge was a bit of a dated but hospitable hole in the wall space, immediately located across from our departure gate at Gate 7. Access to the lounge today was granted by Priority Pass Select. It also seems to be the contract lounge for JAL, China Airlines, Eva Air, Korean and Philippines Airlines.

After I was scanned in, the lounge host indicated that they were just in the process of packing up the food. This was a bit surprising since it was only 6:30 AM, but I guess there must not be many flights after the United one. The posted business hours are 12 AM to 10 AM. They offered to keep the food open for me while I loaded up the plate. They had the usual ham and cheese sandwiches but not much on offer. Wine and alcohol was being served at this hour although there weren’t many takers being 6:30 AM. The staff, like most other Guam residents that I had come into contact with, were warm and welcoming.

I didn’t end up staying all too long as the flight looked as though it was getting ready to board. I had a quick download off wifi and headed off to the gate. The lounge itself wasn’t too exciting; just a place to collect some average snacks, perhaps have a cheap drink and hang out somewhere other than a crowded airport bench.

United Airlines
UA 200 – Economy Class (XN)
GUM – HNL (Agana – Honolulu)
January 31, 2020
7:40 AM – 6:55 PM – 1
Booked: Boeing 777-200
Flown: Boeing 777-222A

At the time of writing, this was the only non stop between Guam and Honolulu for the day. Most irritatingly, at the time that I booked this trip at about T – 3 months, United was showing Business Saver availability at 45,000 miles for this segment, or economy saver reward availability at 27,500 in economy. To pay for this trip, I had transferred points in from Marriott Bonvoy. Thanks to their relationship with Marriott, they offered a 30% bonus with an additional fall promotion promise of an additional 30% bonus. Unfortunately, United must have calculated the bonuses in batch processing and although the regular 55,000 United Mileage Plus miles arrived in my account, the 30% bonus equaling 16,500 miles (that would have allowed me to qualify for the business fare) did not arrive for another 2 months. Of course, that business class rewards saver availability evaporated by that time and I didn’t fancy spending 102,000 miles for Business Anytime Award space. I set an expert flier seat alert but the saver availability never came back for my date, even up to the date of travel with one seat left in the cabin. Thanks to Micronesia being a specific zone, Unlimited Domestic Upgrades don’t qualify in this part of the world as a United Airlines Mileage Plus Premier. That left me with my best outcome in this scenario was an economy plus seat redeemed at the 27,500 United Mileage Plus award price point before the change to dynamic award pricing. It turned out that there were over 6 passengers boarding with 1K status anyway, making any operational upgrades unlikely.

A boarding time was posted as 6:50 AM on the boarding card. However, it was already starting when I walked by the gate at 6:30 AM. After the briefest of lounge visits, I boarded through Gate 7 during Boarding Group 2. Immediately after our boarding cards were scanned at the podium, we queued up for an additional screening before the jet bridge by US Customs and Border Protection. I am not sure on the whole Guam being part of the US or not for US Customs / Immigration. I initially though that this was considered a domestic flight but then we had a border screening prior to getting on and a customs card to fill out in flight. My UA boarding card also read “INTL”.

After the agent stamped my boarding card with the US CBP stamp, I boarded the flight. It’s been a while since I’ve been on a wide body United jet. I cross through the galley and located my economy plus seat near the back at 39J. The plane slowly filled up. Most of the passengers were older retiree travelers or younger islanders with short military styled haircuts who all looked like the new version of the dark skinned Magnum PI.

Rarely and unusually, I was wearing Teva Sandals for today’s flight. It’s something I never get to do in Canada.

We were underway fairly quickly. I didn’t get a look out the window being in the aisle seat. As we were underway, US Customs and Border Services cards were passed out, along with the announcement that passengers would have to pass through Customs on arrival into the United States and prior to any subsequent connecting flights.

I wasn’t sure whether United would consider this to be an international flight where meals were provided as complimentary as it seemed to be a pretty hybrid approach to everything else. The crew eventually came around with buy on board. Given that I hadn’t even had a coffee or snack this morning before getting on the plane, I ended up taking a coffee and an $8 USD egg white flatbread with chicken sausage with a red pepper hummus that was reasonably tasty for buy on board. This was paired with a Pacific Daily News newspaper (proudly part of the USA today network) that I picked up from the hotel on my way out.

There were no in seat screens on this flight. The entertainment was provided through the united app. I eventually got into some older movies such as Pretty Woman running in the background.

The crew had regular water service in the usual United cups. I had two small glasses. It’s never enough but at least it’s something.

After we touched down, I had a very brief entry process into the USA. I used Global Entry without issue. The US CBP officer asked if I had been to China due to the Coronavirus-19 which was in it’s infancy at this point and waved me through collecting my stub after I had replied in the negative.

I picked up a Hertz rental car from the HNL depot for the evening and drove myself to Waikiki. I figured, like in Guam, a rental would be just as cheap as two taxis since we were back to HNL the next day. I got a nice Hertz President’s Circle upgrade to a Chrysler 300 in gangster white with black rims. I met up with MrsWT73 and we went to Bills’ Restaurant in order to celebrate the end of an accomplishment; a bucket list item completed. Bills is a 5-7 minute short walk from the Sheraton Waikiki.

We managed to sit outside on the Veranda. Bills Sydney’s is an Australian farm to table concept. It’s most known for its breakfasts and ricotta pancakes. We had a wonderful dinner at Bills Sydneys’. It’s a place that had escaped me the last time I had visited. Tonight’s dinner menu:

Tonight’s dinner after that flight was Flat Iron Chicken with tomato, pomegranate and coriander along with some extra vegetables of a butter lettuce salad and avocado. The avocado was super fresh. They do much better on the produce rotation than I do at home… simply outstanding.

MrsWT73 had a Bills’ salad with add on avocado. She gave it high reports for quality, describing it as a “ A bowl of goodness” The salad dressing was of high marks as well. The meal was paired with a McArthur Russian River Valley Pinot Gris that was very tasty.

The United flight from Guam to Honolulu was a pretty straight forward experience. There wasn’t much to report on, although I was surprised at how little food I found outside the airport prior to getting on the plane. There isn’t much on board in the form of economy food so I’d be prepared (as always) to pack food in advance or eat before you leave the hotel. It’s astounding that, as of the time of writing this post due to COVID-19, United has cut the Island Hopper from its schedule for three weeks, due to the Marshall Island’s refusal to accommodate passengers at Majuro; the typical spot where there is a crew change.

Bill’s Restaurant was a great stop for dinner. The atmosphere was nice despite a late dinner (8PM to close at around 10 PM). It was simple, uncrowded and warm with excellent food. We’d easily visit again. Bill’s was a great place to celebrate the end of the island hopper circuit; a bucket list complete.

Hawaiian Airlines
Plumeria Lounge,
Honolulu, Hawaii.

The other half of our adventure was on the island of Kauai. I ended up just booking a paid first class fare on Hawaiian since the difference between Economy and First Class a checked bag was minimal (less than $30 USD +/-). Unfortunately, Hawaiian Airlines has changed their earning structure and made earning mileage on other carriers much more restrictive so we didn’t expect to earn any useful miles for this segment. Surprisingly though, after entering our number when buying online, we ended up with 125 miles in credit to our AAdvantage account.

On the morning of our flight to Kauai, we left the Sheraton Waikiki hotel around 11 AM. We stopped for gas at a very disorganized Shell near the airport to tank up. I dropped MrsWT73 at the inter island terminal while I went to return the car. Honolulu seems to be constructing a brand new rental car center and the old one is a little disorganized at the moment due to the construction around it. Forgoing the wait of the shuttle bus, I ended up having to do a quick jog back to the inter island terminal.

We had done online check in via the Hawaiian Airlines app. MrsWT73 had taken care of bag drop by the time I had arrived. Our bags were tagged with Hawaiian Airlines priority tags and sent on their way. We met up and we wandered through the Tsa-Pre Check at the North End and eventually into the secure side of the terminal.

We didn’t have a lot of time but we ended up going to the Hawaiian Airlines Plumeria Lounge for a quick visit. Hawaiian Airlines operates a Premier Club for those with credit card or annual memberships. They used to offer access in paid First Class; I’m not exactly sure whether this still applies. We visited the Premier Club Honolulu on our last Hawaiian Airlines flight. This time around, we headed for the International Plumeria Lounge for Hawaiian’s International Business Class travelers. In all things straight forward, the International Plumeria Lounge is located in the domestic terminal (roll eyes), whereas many of their international flights seem to leave from a different terminal.

We should have probably been directed to the “dry” Premier Club but when the agent checked our boarding cards, she granted us access via Priority Pass with a showing of my passport; the passport display a first for me. It was quite lined up to get in and the initial impression was that the place didn’t seem to be all that exclusive.

It was a quick stop in otherwise a similar space to the Premier Club. The lounge was pretty full. The primary difference between the Plumeria Lounge and the Premier Club seems to be available house wine and alcohol.

During our stay, we happened to have a chance encounter with Flyertalk Member 747FC who was based in Honolulu. MrsWT73 and Mrs747FC had a good chuckle; “Is your husband on there [the website] as much as mine?” We shared a good laugh and wished each other safe travels.

The Plumeria Club is supposed to be the more exclusive of the two Hawaiian Airlines Lounges but it just appeared to be another Hawaiian Airlines Lounge space that is brightly colored. Although it offered some house wine, it’s pretty much the same offering that’s in the more mainstream Premier Club. Still, it’s better than nothing.

Hawaiian Airlines
HA 293 – First Class (A)
HNL – LIH (Honolulu – Lihue)
January 31, 2020
1:10 PM – 1:56 PM
Booked: Boeing 717
Flown: Boeing 717

We headed down to the gate at the posted boarding time of 12:45 PM. At about 12:50 PM, they were already on boarding group 6. Fortunately, there was a first class lane and we were able to skip on fairly easily.

On board, we settled into the smaller but plus Boeing 717 seats in a 2-2 configuration. I was fortunately able to find bin space, since only one side is available since the other is occupied with emergency equipment.

There was no pre-departure beverage offered. The kind flight attendant took a drink order for when we were airborne. We had a bit of plane spotting on the way out.

I offered MrsWT73 the window seat today so I didn’t have any window photographs to share on the way over.

Once we were airborne, the drinks were dropped off. In the seat back was the usual Hana Hoku in flight magazine and a local newspaper which was a nice touch. I forgot to take a snap shot of the cocktail.

We landed in Kauai. We happened to be on the wrong side of the aircraft for the coastal views; we should have been sitting on the left side. Another strike for me on this segment (laughing). We disembarked into the Kaua’i airport.

Hawaiian Airlines First Class is a great but simple way to get between the islands. If the price is the same as a regular economy fare, it makes sense to pick up a discounted first class fare for the priority handling.

Sheraton Kauai Resort
Luxury Oceanfront, Guest Room
1 King, Alternate Bed; sofa bed, Oceanfront.

We ended up here as it was a great property that was available on points at the right price. At a Category 5, one of the lowest category of available Hawaii properties, we booked in on an award stay. We used 3 X Certificates: 2 from the Canadian Marriott Bonvoy American Express personal and business credit cards, one night from the additional night benefit from meeting Titanium status after 75 nights, and 2 nights from points alone at 30,000 points per night totaling 60,000 points for the stay. Typically, you get the 5th night free when you redeem 4 nights, but Marriott doesn’t like that option when you apply free night certificates and not actual points outright so we had to “pay” for all 5 nights. Aside from that, it was a very good value as the paid rate was about $300 USD a night at the time of booking and climbed to over $660 USD a night shortly before our stay. Since I always end up with several leftover at the end of the year, I had applied Suite Night Awards to the reservation and they cleared from the base level room into a Luxury Oceanfront Guest Room. I don’t usually use them for non suites, but I figured we would be on the property quite a bit and would appreciate the extra space.

There was also a resort fee of $30 USD per day (for supposed cultural activities), bringing the base stay for our reward for $172 USD for a 5 night stay. Several days before arrival, I received a welcome email indicating that valet parking would be complimentary for Titanium members. We were also informed of the welcome amenity of 1,000 points or complimentary continental breakfast for two in Lava Restaurant. It is too bad that many of the older Starwood hotels are being less generous than in the glory dates of past by limiting the breakfast to a continental version.

On arrival, we were greeted by the valet team and checked into the front desk. The lobby is in an open air concept and features decorative pools that over look the time share (or Sheraton Kauai Villas) portion of the property

We were given a map of the resort and a schedule of the events for the week.

The front desk explained that the room was “over there”, in that building (across the street representing the older hotel) but we somehow got lost getting there. It appears that the resort was initially a beach / ocean front building, but they’ve moved the check in over to the newer timeshare building across on the land side of the street. We left the land side check in and headed over to the ocean front building. The old check in appears to be used for concierge and tour desks, and the old loading zone is now saved for valet parking.

We eventually found the room. Our room was a large size at 532 sq feet. Unfortunately, the two queens look smaller than we had initially expected. The room was freshly renovated and was in excellent condition.

Two sinks were offered in the bathroom, something that made MrsWT73 very happy.

The deck outside was quite large. It had two chairs and would have been quite crowded with private loungers, which were not offered.

For those interested, there does not appear to be many suite upgrade opportunities in the ocean front hotel. As a representative chunk of the hotel, there appears to be one suite per section compared to ten regular rooms.

There was also a gym, although I never got the opportunity to use it.

Every day of our stay, we used our Titanium Breakfast Benefit to have breakfast at Lava. In further experience in life in the new Marriott world, the hotel offers continental breakfast strictly to the terms and conditions of the program. The offering is simple, allowing for bagels, banana bread or toast.

There is also a buy up to a regular breakfast for $10 USD which was much more my speed. The portions were very generous and meat filled. Kalua Pork Benedict with sriracha hollandaise AND a side of bacon is pictured below. Tasty and filling!

We took a wonder through the pool area. The pool area is best described as a family space with both pools and tubs that are accessible to all. The beach here has strong waves and you’d have to be a strong swimmer as a youngster in order to swim here independently.

I really enjoyed our stay at the Sheraton Kaua’i. It wasn’t the St Regis but it was a nice quiet place to exist for several days in Poi’pu on Kauai. It looked more peaceful than the mega resort Marriott Kauai which we passed by on our last night of our stay. The beach was reasonable but a little rough for family swimming. MrsWT73 found the suburban nature a little quiet for her tastes but we both enjoyed the break.

Po’ipe beach and the South Shore,
Day #2 , Kauai, HI

I slept in today. I had the breakfast upgrade this morning to Kalua Pork Benedict with sirracha hollandaise AND a side of bacon which was very full some. They had run out of breakfast potatoes; would I be okay with substituting with white or fried rice, or salad? I ended up accompanying with salad with a sesame dressing. It seems that most of the food for Kauai is important from the larger islands and there were occasionally supply chain issues.

From there, the sun was in full force today so we sacked around the hotel for the afternoon. The book “Midnight Line” by Lee Child was on the menu today and I made a good dent in the book through the day.

I took a walk mid way through the day down the beach. Some major erosion happening against the KoiKo Hotel.

It was Super Bowl Sunday today so the bar was lined up full of people watching the came from 1:30 PM Hawaiian Standard Time. The game was in Miami right at the other side of the country on Eastern Standard Time at 6:30 PM. It was a close game with a lot watching of the flat screen televisions in the Lava Bar in the last 6 minutes of play with an ultimate Kansas victory.

After dinner, we took a walk through the sunsetting darkness to the mall. It was a bit of a surreal walk through the darkness up to the mall with some spectacular sunsets over dark streets.

Dinner tonight was at Merrimans Pizza and Burger house. It was just a simple American Cheeseburger and fries which were fresh and mighty tasty for dinner tonight.

We walked back in the darkness and it was and it was straight to bed. The fatigue of the travel over the last few days was catching up with me so I was happy to sleep it off !

Waimea Canyon State Park
Napali Kona Forest Preserve
Kauai, Day 3

We started out day three with an earlier than usual wake up. We were down for breakfast at 8:30 AM. Today was a local dish, two poached eggs, along with fried rice, crab and sausage, along with scallions and sauce. Ohh, and that side of bacon as well. . . We set up for the morning on the chairs on the ocean lawn.

In the afternoon, we freshened up and headed for our activity for today, a self drive tour o Highway 550. We had planned today’s activities as such…

It was an absolutely spectacular day out for a drive under blue skies.

Highway 550 took us up the Waimea Canyon State Park. Waimea State Park is a giant chasm of ancient lava rock, also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. It’s approximately 3,500 feet deep and also contains one of the wettest parts of the United States.

Without a proper map, we headed up the highway courtesy of Google Maps. We eventually stopped at what appears to be a pull out at Waimea Canyon Drive Lookout #1 . There were gorgeous views over the “Hawaiian Grand Canyon” to our right.

We then followed with Waimea Canyon Drive Lookout #2 , which involved a small trail hike across flat terrain to some great views. It included the retro park signs from an era past.

We eventually made it up to a more official looking Waimea Canyon Lookout that was marked with a proper parking lot instead of a small highway pull over. We paid a $5 USD United States Forest Service day fee for use of (all) the parking lots. We had great views here over an established lookout that was great for panoramic photography.

The parking lot was home to several of the Kauai chickens, a species that seems to have no natural predators on this beautiful island.

We continued on a short distance up the road to the Waip’o Falls Lookout overlooking the vast valley. It was very beautiful and we were fortunate to have a clear day for sightseeing.

We finally arrived to the top of the road where there were several separate attractions. The first one we came to past the not so secret radar installation was the Kalalau Lookout. First off, a gratuitous picture of our “All American Black Rental Car”, a big Chevrolet Impala… along with the radar station that appeared to be manned by government officials.

Unfortunately, the view of the Napali Coast that is on many postcards from here was totally obscured with cloud due to weather. We waited a bit here but we were timed out with no change in the cloud situation.

We continued on to the Pu’u’ o Kila Lookout at the very top and the official end of the road. We had better luck with the weather here with the sea side being obscured but the valley inland side having much better views. This location proclaims to be one of the wettest spots on earth. Surprisingly, today’s visit was dry and mud free on the trails.

With some luck, we were able to get some peek a boo views of the coast from the top. It was enough to give us a sense of what to look forward to if we ever made it back here.

From there, we headed down via Route 552. It was approximately 1 hour to get off the mountain with and enjoyable drive. There were some picturesque turns passing through the descent with ocean spread all around you.

We tried to get toward the Polihale State Park. The last 3 miles of the access road is not paved. The first portion of the road was a little rough 9 mph rough. It rough enough that we opted not to continue with the rental car and headed back towards Barking Sands Beach. I plugged the destination into Google Maps and it led us directly to a manned US Pacific Missile Range testing facility.

With the second idea quashed, we headed a little further down the road, and ended up at wonderfully natural Kekaha Beach Park. It looked like a town immediately out of old school “Fightertown USA” from the original Top Gun movie. The locals were in town with their trucks. We found a comfortable spot on the side of the road to set up for sunset.

From there, we headed back to Port Allen for dinner at the Kauai Brewing Company. It was an authentically local place with friendly service. It was great to be able to get a little off the regular Poi’pe resort tourist trail with some more normal “less resort like” restaurants. It looked like a dive bar but it was pretty tasty overall with a great selection of beers.

It was mahi mahi sandwiches with homemade tartar sauce for us which really hit the spot paired with a Leila Lite beer for me.

The Waimea Canyon drive is a must see when in Kauai. It is reported that there can be a lot of rain on this trip, although we had a really clear day. Although we didn’t get many Napali Coast views, we certainly enjoyed the eastern facing Canyon views. Next time, I would have probably allowed a whole day to explore some of the smaller towns along the coastal drive on the way instead of the half day trip that we did.

Napali Coast Cruising
Day 4, Kauai.

We had an easy wake up today followed by an Eggs Benedict for me along with 4 rashers of bacon.

Based on a selection informed by Trip Advisor, we ended up with a Holo Holo Charters Napali Sunset Cruise today, departing from nearby Port Allen. Our cruise today was departing at 1:30 PM. We booked online via the website, but later learned at the end of the trip that giftcards are sold at Costco Kauai for 20% off $100. If you plan on coming through, perhaps stop at Costco first for some savings. The group at Holo Holo Charters were terrific and we would easily book with them again.

We headed out with plenty of time and located some parking in Port Allen. We attended the safety briefing and prepared to head to the boat. I ended up taking my big SLR camera with me but it got pretty soaked along a pleasant sea salt glow crust over everything else I wore.

We headed out past the Barking Sands Pacific Missle Range Facility (wikipedia link). It’s supposedly the worlds largest missile testing range. There wasn’t much to see there as everything was hidden behind grassy slopes.

Instead, MrsWT73 got into the free pour alcohol right away.

After the Barking Sands beach, we passed by several isolated beaches.

There was frequent conversation amongst the travellers on the boat that it was challenging to get all the way up to the Napali Coast in the winter as the seas were often way too rough. There was one couple that had been on the Napali Coast Cruise seven times and hadn’t yet made it there. Thankfully, the weather held out today with smooth seas and we were able to make it all the way. The scenery got more and more scenic as we moved along the coast.

Eventually, the fully beauty of the Napali Coast was in front of the boat. The coast line was absolutely spectacular. The pictures don’t really do it justice as the green sloping hills cascaded over rocks into the oceans below. Having seen a few coast lines in our travels, there wasn’t many that were as picturesque as these.

After the main event, we headed back towards Port Allen in time for the sunset. We spotted a few wales on the way back,

We also had a beautiful sunset on the water; something that’s always special no matter where you are in the world.

We eventually made it back to Port Allen where we safely disembarked. We wandered across the street for another snack at the Kauai Brewing Company. It worked last night, why mess with success?

The Holo Holo Charter was money well spent. The views were easily the highlight of our trip to Kauai. It’s also an area that would be great to explore hiking for a day.

Kauai, Hawaii,
Day 5

We had a wet last day around the hotel. Instead of being able to camp out on the beach, we were pretty much bound to the room. No fear- we enjoyed the view and continued on our books while we watched the ocean from the comfort of our room.

With a wet departure, and a late night flight, we headed towards the airport part of the island in the late afternoon.

In order to kill some time, we headed over to the Wailua Waterfalls. They were a picturesque stop near the airport adjacent to some of Kauai’s wildlife.

After the waterfalls, it was off to a leisurely dinner at Duke’s Kauai. It was conveniently close to the airport and next to the Marriott Kauai; a somewhat dated mega resort property on a quiet dark bay. It was still a last opportunity to collect a last mai tai for $16 and enjoy an umbrella drink in a tiki mug before we had to leave the island.

Alaska Airlines
AS 816 – First Class (U)
LIH – SEA (Lihue Airport – SeaTac International Airport)
February 5, 2020
11:05 PM – 6:54 AM + 1
Booked: Boeing 737-800
Flown: Boeing 737-800 

Eventually arriving to the airport, I dropped MrsWT73 with the bags at the curb side and proceeded to return the rental car. The friendly Hertz agent met us in the lot and was able to process the return. I wandered past the chickens and made it to the shuttle bus pick up. Thanks to no one around, it departed immediately.

After a baggage re-distribution sort curbside, a first for us, we checked in curbside at Lihue Airport. It was the first time I’d seen a curbside check in for Alaska “elites”. We were encouraged to clear our bags through the agriculture screening while the agent processed the boarding cards.

We processed our checked bags through the agriculture X ray screening, returning to collect our boarding cards. After collecting our boarding cards, we dropped off our bags at the general baggage drop, which was an old school line up of bags corralled together of all kinds. It seemed that the Lihue airport security screened bags on the public side prior to accepting them into the hold area in a conveyor free environment.

We passed through a very slow “blended lane” TSA Pre-Check. My cabin bag, along with 5 others ahead of me were sent into secondary for imaginary items. After we made it through the screening, we found ourselves in front of a tiled mosaic in a very dated and institutional airport similar to other Hawaiian airports. It was a pretty lean flight list departing from Lihue tonight and most of the vendors and bars were closed at 9:30 PM..

There was no lounge here and so we hung out in the open air hallways until about ten minutes before boarding. We eventually passed through the agriculture x ray for the cabin baggage and into the tiny hold room. There was not much leaving from here this evening. The KLM co-share on the flight board was operated by the “other” Canadian carrier Westjet.

Once on board, in a nice change of pace in terms of Alaska Airlines, we had a pre-departure beverage offer of sparking wine, which appeared to be “house wine” from the can. On the seat was a small Dasani water and a half sized Alaska Blanket.

For those that are just joining us, some recycled photographs of the Alaska BarcaLounger…

After we fully boarded, we had a quick departure on runway 3. Unlike on the way out, we had no dinner menus were passed out. We did have a drink order taken from us; a Gin and Tonic with Lime for me and a Red Wine for MrsWT73.

Tonight’s meal offering was a cheese plate as the sole dinner choice. Alaska did not offer pre-order with respect to meal service today so there was no more substantial option. This was accompanied by the usual Tablet offering, which was promptly set up for dining entertainment.

After dinner, it was off to sleep on this red eye flight until the morning for me. We approached into rainy Seattle in February and landed without many challenges.

The Alaska First Class seat is a better but not awesome way to get around. It’s much more comfortable that the back and the stellar points are the friendly staff. Most surprising about this trip was the sleepy hollow airport in Kauai which was among the oldest school airports I’d flown out of in the United States. Truly unique indeed.

Alaska Airlines
AS 2898 – First Class (U)
SEA – YVR (SeaTac International Airport – Vancouver International Airport)
February 6, 2020
9:50 AM – 10:51 AM
Booked: Embraer 175
Flown: Embraer 175

As Canadian’s travelling on Alaska, the trips always require a connection at their Seattle hub. There was no time to visit the Centurion Lounge this time through with only a 1 hour connection and with the lounge only opening at 10AM. Alaska doesn’t offer lounge access to its Alaska Lounge on “U” fare upgraded tickets so we ended up just waiting at the gate for our connecting leg.

Today’s flight left from the usual C Terminal at SeaTac, where there is mostly standing room while waiting for the flight to be boarded. A bit of a treat for us this time since the usual Q-400’s have now been upgraded to more comfortable Embraer’s on this leg.

Today’s flight was in the usual 1-2 configuration in First Class. It was a wet day for ground operations at SeaTac and our warm Hawaiian adventure was most certainly at and end. A predeparture beverage was offered of coffee for myself and water for MrsWT73.

It was a short uneventful 27 minute flight up to Vancouver where we parked at a gate. As is always the case, there is no in flight service on this flight as it’s so short.

All in all, the Hawaiian trip with the Island Hopper tag on was meant to be a “filler” trip prior to more major travel events in 2020. Unfortunately, those future plans have had to be cancelled thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. When we get back to traveling again, the Island Hopper was a unique experience that will hopefully be back to it’s former state in a pandemic free world. Exploring the little stops, people watching and interacting with the other travelers is among the more interesting experiences in this part of the world. Kauai was a unique sleepy hollow that had some of the more beautiful scenery amongst coast shore lines. I’d look forward to getting back there again someday.

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