Cruising to the Land Down Under | But First Los Angeles

Sydney Opera House from the helipad of the Celebrity Solstice
Sydney Opera House from the helipad of the Celebrity Solstice

Everyone has a bucket list, right?  My bucket list is so large that I’m sure there are countries on it that I have yet to discover.  However, there is one that has called to me for some time so when I had the opportunity to arrange travel there, I didn’t hesitate.  When we sailed on the Celebrity Eclipse back in April 2012, I booked a cruise with their Future Cruise Sales department (now Celebrity Destinations) for a South Pacific and Fiji cruise for my husband and myself.  For nearly two years I have planned every facet of this trip and when the time finally arrived, I could hardly contain myself.

virgin-america-logo-1As our cruise would begin in Sydney and we live in Boston, I wanted to break the long flight times up some by having us leave a little early and stay overnight in Los Angeles.  I have previously flown on Virgin America and loved it and decided that would be our best bet for an easy and effortless cross country flight. Since our trip was booked with Air New Zealand, we were given a larger bag allowance than one normally gets with a domestic flight.  When we arrived at the airport to drop off our bags, I had to produce paperwork showing this as initially the desk agent disagreed about our total bag allowance.  Since we were traveling for over two weeks, I needed more bags than I would like to admit.  Luckily, we were able to check the bags and go right to the gate to wait to board.

Sinbad waiting to board our flight.  You can't make this stuff up!
Sinbad waiting to board our flight. You can’t make this stuff up!

As we moved toward the security line, Rich noticed that the man walking up to check in looked eerily like Sinbad.  Remember him?  80’s comedian Sinbad?  Well it was and he was waiting for the flight in the same common area as we were so no special treatment for him.  At least then I didn’t have to obsess about where the Virgin America lounge was or wasn’t.  Why is that I suddenly become obsessed with the idea of having what I can’t have?

Look at all the room in Main Cabin Select!
Look at all the room in Main Cabin Select!

Since we were flying in Main Cabin Select on an Airbus A320, we were afforded priority seating.  Sitting only one row behind the two rows (four seats) of First ClassMain Cabin Select occupies only a few rows of each aircraft, but comes with special amenities such as a 38-inch seat pitch on custom black leather seats (vs. 32-inch pitch in the Main Cabin), select complimentary food and drinks, free entertainment, and dedicated luggage space and one free checked bag.

Pink headphones?  For me?  How'd you know?
Pink headphones? For me? How’d you know?

There were headphones available for us for free in Main Cabin Select and for Main Cabin passengers, they could pay $2 before boarding (drop your cash in the “honesty box”), grab and go.  I opted for the super funky bright pink but other colors like blue were available.

The remote for the entertainment system
The remote for the entertainment system

What I really liked about our seats was a fully functioning remote for the entertainment system.  While it seems like a given that the remote should work, this isn’t always the case.  While some airlines have switched to a touchscreen, others still use remotes and after hundreds or more passengers have used them, they do break down.  The remote is small, but fully operational, and tucks away when not in use in the armrest.

Entertainment system
Entertainment system

As we were seated in the first row behind First Class, our entertainment system was in the divider that separates the two classes.  The entertainment system can adjust, making it easy to view for adults as well as children.

 

Snack one for the hubby: Glenfiddich and popcorn
Snack one for the hubby: Glenfiddich and popcorn

Have I mentioned how fidgety my husband is when traveling?  That’s right – he can’t sit still for two seconds and his nervous energy makes for a completely uncomfortable flight for me.  His way to remedy this?  Have a drink (or two) and snacks to keep him busy.  In the past this wouldn’t have been the best thing for him, but he runs constantly and keeps his weight off so why not.

My snack: Kuko Bites
My snack: Kuko Bites

I realize that getting healthy food and flying usually doesn’t go hand in hand so when I saw these Kuko Bites, I was super excited.  Chock full of goji berries, nuts, seeds, and dry fruit, the three little bites and a bottle of water was all that I needed.

Snack two for hubby: Cheese tray with crackers, Kuko Bites, and Anchor Steam
Snack two for hubby: Cheese tray with crackers, Kuko Bites, and Anchor Steam

Mr. Antsy Pants next to me wasn’t satisfied and ordered the cheese tray and crackers, Kuko Bites, and an Anchor Steam beer to keep him going.  Luckily, he ordered the cheese tray early on as they ran out of these rather fast.  Hint: If you are flying Virgin America and think you might be hungry, order your food early on in the flight and just hold onto it or you might be out of luck with food choices.

Lunch for hubby: Salad and a beverage
Lunch for hubby: Salad and a beverage

Still feeling hungry, he opted for a salad of arugula and roasted pear.  Yes, my husband is a little strange, but what can I say?

What beverage? A Dirty Margarita
What beverage? A Dirty Margarita

What goes better with a salad than a Dirty MargaritaSauza Hornitos Reposado Tequila, Funkin Margarita Mix, Bud Light and a squeeze of lime.  Wasn’t my drink of choice, but I know a certain someone who loved it.  As for me, I had another bottle of water.

 

First class just beyond the velvet rope.  Don't even ask about using the restroom up there!
First class just beyond the velvet rope. Don’t even ask about using the restroom up there!

Since we have flown on Virgin America before, I purposely chose them because of their great service.  The service on flight 365 to LAX was not what I expected or hoped it would be at all.  The flight attendants seemed indifferent at best and consistently screwed up our beverage and food order.  They would forget one of the items, forget napkins, cutlery, etc.  To have to keep asking and then have to wait and wait and wait until you have to ask them again seemed like the system wasn’t really working.  What I really had a problem with was that those in Main Cabin Select, like me, were using the restrooms in First Class.  About halfway through the trip I decided to get up and use the restroom and was chastised by the First Class flight attendant for attempting to enter the First Class cabin.  She had let others use it, but now she was reinforcing the ‘velvet rope rule’ and not letting anyone use it despite the fact that it was a) not in use and b) there was a huge line at the back of the aircraft for the two toilets.  Apparently, it is far safer to have people congregate in the aisle at the back than to have the person one row behind First Class use the restroom.  Seems silly to me.

Forget about walking the length of the plane for the restroom and just watch more TV or movies
Forget about walking the length of the plane for the restroom and just watch more TV or movies

If I were to fly Virgin America again, I would probably employ my husband’s tactic of several drinks and snacks and then sit back and watch a few movies before arriving at my destination.  I was so glad to have paid for internet service on this flight as it allowed me to get work done and to perhaps tweet about my issues during the flight.

We grabbed our bags off the belt in the JetBlue baggage claim area
We grabbed our bags off the belt in the JetBlue baggage claim area

When our flight landed, we headed to baggage claim, which ended up being the JetBlue baggage claim area at LAX.  I was ready to leave behind the memories of our flight, grab our bags, and head off into the California sunshine to begin our extended vacation.

 

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