Of everywhere I’ve traveled and eaten the last few years, I receive the most questions about the underwater restaurant I visited in the Maldives! Named Ithaa, meaning “pearl” in Dhivehi, the local language, Ithaa is a restaurant 5 meters underwater at the Conrad Rangali Island resort!
After a very, very long year with hardly any travel since mid-March (aside from a quick getaway to Antigua over the July 4th holiday), Dan and I spontaneously booked a real live getaway to French Polynesia just as it reopened to the World in mid-July! There were a lot of unknowns due to COVID, but everything ended up working out splendidly. However, literally until we boarded our Air Tahiti Nui flight, we were not certain our getaway to French Polynesia would happen… I’ve detailed our trip for those visiting, or dreaming of visiting, French Polynesia!
Mount Otemanu in beautiful Bora Bora, French Polynesia. August 2020. Continue reading
Excitingly, JFK recently added two (!!) Priority Pass lounges to its roster: the Primeclass Lounge in Terminal 1 and the Air India Maharaja Lounge in Terminal 4. This makes 3 Priority Pass lounges in Terminal 1 and 2 Priority Pass lounges in Terminal 4! Very exciting since the current Priority Pass lounge situation in both terminals is busting at the seams. For example, a 30 minute wait for Wingtips Lounge last summer…
Both the Primeclass Lounge and the Air India Maharaja Lounge opened to Priority Pass members in mid-November 2020, and Dan and I just happened to be flying out of Terminal 1 on Thanksgiving Eve for our trip to South Korea and Japan – perfect timing! Of course, we had to visit the new Primeclass Lounge in Terminal 1! Plus, a visit to the Primeclass Lounge fit perfectly into our late night departure (or rather, early morning – 12:50 AM), as the other Priority Pass lounges were not open during the majority of our time in Terminal 1. For example, Korean Air Lounge closes at 8:30 PM and the Air France Lounge does not permit Priority Pass members until 11:30 PM (they do also allow Priority Pass guests in the morning).
The Primeclass Lounge is located in JFK’s Terminal 1 post-security all the way in the back of the terminal, near Gates 8 and 9. Walk all the way down the terminal to find the entrance; a bar/shop in front of the entrance to the Prime Class lounge nearly blocks view of the entrance entirely from a distance.
Our flight left the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and Terminal 1 was, not surprisingly, super crowded when we arrived, even though it was already late in the evening. after searching for the Primeclass Lounge, we eventually found it, and luckily only had to wait behind one person to check in. However, a line multiple people deep quickly formed behind us. Sign-in was not as quick as it should have been, and required our Priority Pass and boarding passes, per usual. The person doing the check-in also gave us two free drink tickets and explained how the lounge works. I think this “explanation” is part of the reason why checkin was not quick. The same could have been accomplished by a handout of signage inside the lounge.
Access to the lounge is down the stairs behind the check-in desk; the lounge is actually located below Gates 8 and 9. There is also an elevator.
Upon entry into the actual lounge, our first impression was that the Primeclass Lounge is crowded. I’m not sure if this is due to the date we flew, the newness of the lounge, or if its always this way, but it was packed. We managed to snag two seats at the bar and set up there, as that was all that was available. The crowds did disburse by the time we left at 11:00 PM, but not until just before then (Terminal 1 is know to have some very late flights!).
Setting aside the crowds on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, guests enter the lounge in the bar area, which consists of a bar and some bar top seating, then opens up into a room with a food buffet and standard lounge seats, which were almost all taken on our visit. Toward the back of the lounge, there is a non-alcoholic beverage station, as well as private bathrooms (which could have been cleaner). Primeclass was decorated nicely, with some very cool New York famed pictures around the lounge and mirrored ceilings.
Since we sat at the bar, I’ll start with my review of the drinks. As mentioned, every patron receives two complimentary drink tickets to be exchanged for an alcoholic beverage at the bar – but only certain beverages, which are explained on a little menus sprinkled around the bar. On our visit the complimentary drinks were a selection of red, white, or sparkling wine and a few types of beers. However, the fancier beers, such as Blue Moon, took two tickets. In addition to the complimentary beverages, cocktails were on sale for $18 US (!!) and you could buy extra wine and beer, too. I tried the complimentary sparkling and red wines. Both were just ok; I would have been annoyed if I had paid for them. The bartender was pleasant and she made drinks pretty quickly.
In terms of the food, all food is set up on a buffet in one corner of the lounge. Almost as soon as we arrived, the lounge announced that it would stop serving food in a few minutes. We visited the buffet shortly after that announcement, but there was almost nothing left (in the lounge’s defense, it was nearly 10 PM at this hour). In fact, the only things left were a few yogurts, a couple pieces of fruit, a bowl of pasta, and some couscous. I imagine the buffet would be more robust during normal dining hours. I would like to come back and try the lounge when it is fully functional. We did try the pasta, and it was quite good. Know that if you have a late flight, there may not be food in Primeclass.
I also grabbed a lot of bottled waters and a Diet Coke from the self-serve drink area near the restrooms. I also looked at the restrooms, which while spacious and private, could have used a cleaning. I will write that off to it being a very crowded travel day.
We stayed in the Primeclass Lounge for our 2 drinks and then left around 11:15 PM and got in line for the Air France Lounge on the opposite side of Terminal 1, and yes there was a short line! You can read about the Air France Lounge here and yes, it is by far the best Priority Pass lounge in JFK’s Terminal 1. Of note – Priority Pass members are not granted access in the evening until 11:30 PM and lines start to form around 11:15 PM. There is actually an entire area set up for Priority Pass members waiting to get in to the Air France Lounge in the evening. If your flight time works out, the Air France Lounge is completely worth the wait. A full buffet was still operational until at least 12:20, when we left for our flight. The pumpkin pie and whipped cream was a special Thanksgiving Eventreat!
In sum, the Primeclass Lounge fills a time void for Priority Pass lounges in JFK’s Terminal 1 and provides additional lounge space, which is much needed in Terminal 1. Hopefully we just visited on an extremely busy day and Primeclass will perform better in the future. I am excited to return and try it at normal hours.
STEAL OUR LOUNGE
Primeclass Lounge: JFK Terminal 1, Post-Security, Near Gates 8 & 9. Open Monday, Thursday, and Sunday 05:30 – 00:00, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday 09:00 – 00:00. May 4 hour stay. Two complimentary alcoholic drinks per person. Other alcohol and “premium” drinks and cocktails cost money. Printer available in the lounge. Complimentary access for Priority Pass members. The General Public can buy access for $59.00 for four hours.
Korean Air Business Lounge: New York JFK, Terminal 1, air-side (post-security), near Gate 3. Open 14:00 – 20:30 daily. Accepts Priority Pass and Lounge Buddy, and possibly other cards.
Air France Lounge: JFK Terminal 1, airside near Gate 1. Open daily 6:00 – 17:30 and 23:00 – 1:00 (it is actually open all day, but shuts out Priority Pass members between 17:30 and 23:00). Offers wifi, showers, and refreshments – including Champagne and a Clarins wellness area (“during certain times”)!
ON A BUDGET
If you’re traveling on a budget, I would not pay for entrance into the Primeclass Lounge, – its not worth it. But the food options in Terminal 1 are generally terrible. Eat before the airport and maybe grab a beer and a snack at that bar/kiosk obscuring the Primeclass Lounge entrance.
Dan and I flew through Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla airport this summer on our vacation to Montenegro. We connected in Belgrade after flying Air Serbia’s sole transatlantic flight from JFK, which is almost 10 hours long… Landing in the morning, we exhausted tired and ready for a rest and some food before flying the last 45 minutes to Tivat, Montenegro (50 minutes, also via Air Serbia).
Lucky for us, or so I thought, the Belgrade airport is home to a Priority Pass lounge, and not much else. After deplaning, we found the Business Club pretty easily; it was located quite close to where we entered the airport. Delirious, we did not do much looking around aside from locating the lounge.
Checkin to the Business Club was quick and easy. We simply presented our boarding pass and Priority Pass card. A quick swipe and we were in!
The Business Club is on the smaller side, and you can view the entire lounge at checkin. The lounge is separated into three main parts: a food service area, an eating and business area, and a lounging area. The most comfortable of these 3 areas is what I dub the lounging area. This area is slightly removed from the food and is filled with couch-like chairs and sofas. There are numerous coffee/end tables in this area, too, and it makes for a comfortable place to relax before your flight. There are TVs scattered throughout this area playing CNN. This area was pretty crowded when we landed on Saturday morning, so we set up shop in the business/food area (yes, odd pairing).
The business portion of the business/food area is comprised of several kitchen-style tables that are perfect for eating and drinking, they also make a good desk for getting some work done (there’s the combo!). Just behind these tables is a row of computers that can apparently be used for working. However, I didn’t see anyone using the computers when we visited.
Next to the business area is the food, which I found to be lacking. We visited the Business Club twice during breakfast hours, which once spilled into lunch. At breakfast, the food options are slim, with a cold buffet and a few slices of cold cuts and cheese playing the starring role. There were also some pre-packaged tuna sandwiches in one of the fridges and some odd salad fixings. Hard pass.
When lunch rolled around, the lounge staff, who were very nice, set out soup, pasta, and rice. Nothing looked too appetizing or tasty, so I skipped it all around. I believe Dan tried some of the pasta. He didn’t get sick, so that’s a win.
The drink set-up was only slightly better, although since it was so early, I didn’t properly explore all the options. There was a decent espresso machine, as well as soft drinks and plenty of bottled flat and sparking water. There was also this really popular Serbian energy drink called Guarana. Dan tried one and seemed to like it. It was all the rage in Belgrade!
In terms of alcohol, I was excited to try the wine after noticing a sweet set-up in walking in. To my disappointment, this was simply a set-up and there were only single bottles of wine in the mini-fridges, as well as a few types of beer, including Leffe (not bad!). There was, however, a decent display of rakijaa, but it was all warm…. I would note that people were still drinking it, and I probably could have found some ice.
In addition to the above, the lounge has a small bookshelf with reading materials and basic clean WCs and the staff was pleasant and constantly replaced the limited food options. In a small, not-great airport, the Business Lounge was a welcome distraction and an easy place to waste a few hours. I probably would not pay to enter, unless I planned to drink a lot of warm rakija!
STEAL OUR LOUNGE
Business Club Nikola Tesla Belgrade Airport: Between Gates A4 & A5. Open 5h30 – 13h. Complimentary access to Priority Pass members.
When passing through London Heathrow after an overnight flight from JFK, we spent a few hours in the SkyTeam Lounge in Terminal 4 before our connecting flight to Malta via Air Malta. We had a number of options through Priority Pass in selecting our London lounge, including a couple in Terminal 3 (where we landed), and multiple options in Terminal 4 (from where our Malta flight departed) – a branch of the Art & Lounge, a Plaza Premium Lounge, and the SkyTeam Lounge. We opted for the SkyTeam Lounge in Terminal 4 based on other online reviews, and we were not disappointed. The SkyTeam Lounge was a GREAT Priority Pass lounge! Side note – Heathrow is almost always a mess, so I always recommend lounging in your departure terminal rather than the arrival terminal and, more importantly, leaving LOTS of time between connections, especially coming from the US and then connecting elsewhere in Europe.
En route back from Malta, Dan and had a little over three hours to kill in Heathrow’s Terminal 3 before flying back to New York via Virgin Atlantic. Since we flew economy class, we had two options for airport lounges via Priority Pass – the Aspire Lounge and the No. 1 Lounge. Since we had visited the Aspire Lounge (albeit in Terminal 5) previously, we decided to check out the No. 1 Lounge this time, as it was new and it gets pretty good reviews.
The No. 1 Lounge is part of a chain of lounges in the UK. The public can buy access to the lounge for 40 Pounds, and the No. 1 Lounge also accepts Priority Pass, Dragon Pass, Diners Club, and Wexas, and acts as a lounge for certain carriers. As such, it can definitely fill up and lock out Priority Pass members. To avoid this, the No. 1 Lounge offers an option for Priority Pass members to purchase guaranteed access for 5 Pounds/person. We did purchase this option, but it ended up being unnecessary.
The No. 1 Lounge is located post-security on the second floor of Terminal 3 of Heathrow Airport, just next to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse and very close to other airline lounges. It was easy enough to find, just follow signs for airport lounges and don’t get distracted in crazy Terminal 3! There is an elevator and stairs to access the lounge. Entrance was quick and easy with our Priority Pass, and there were no restrictions for entry at 11 AM on a Sunday morning in June.
Upon arrival, you are given a menu with hot meal choices for the day, a bit of general information on the lounge, and the wifi password.
Upon entry, the No. 1 Lounge is quite large with decent airport views (the exact same as the Virgin Clubhouse, only 1 floor higher). Just past checkin is a pretty large bar with bar stool seating. Just past the bar is a small buffet and coffee area with table seating.
Moving around the corner from the buffet area, there is a lot of seating, both nice sofa like chairs, tables, and seating overlooking the runway. While there was a lot of seating, it was pretty crowded. In addition to this area, there are a few private rooms that can apparently be rented out for private groups (or possibly airlines). We ended up in one of these rooms at a large table just in front or a large TV playing BBC. These small side rooms also had small fridges with soda and water.
Since we had limited time in the lounge, we decided to order hot food as soon as we sat down. Dan took our two menus to the bar, where all orders are placed, and placed our orders. The way the hot food works is that your menu is a ticket for one meal. We just missed breakfast, so I ordered the truffle mac and cheese and Dan ordered the bacon sandwich. Our food came out about 15 minutes later and both were quite delicious!! My only complaint is that the dishes were a little small… But we ended up lucking out and our neighbor gave us his menu (he was not eating) and we ordered a third fish wrap, which was served with potato chips and was SO good!! We were definitely plenty full at this point!
Aside from order from the menu, which is a really fun option in an airport lounge, we also visited the little buffet area. We visited just as the lunch portion was going out. When we visited, the buffet consisted of a hot soup, a beet salad, a small lettuce salad with some vegetables, fresh fruit (whole apples, oranges, etc.), and some nuts and dried fruit. The nearby coffee bar doubled as a dessert bar and offered cookies and a couple different types of tea cakes. The desserts were really good and the buffet food was high quality, but I was looking for something a little more unhealthy on my last day of vacation….
While the hot food is understandably limited at the No. 1 Lounge, the drinks (well most) are free flowing (unlike the Aspire lounge). At the No. 1 Lounge, all alcohol beverages come from the main bar, and there are a lot of options. Seriously, Prosecco, numerous types of red and white wines, draft and bottled beer, and cider. There is also Champagne available for purchase. Between Dan and me, we tried the Prosecco, cider, and the Spanish Rioja red wine. I do not recall the brand of wine, but the Spanish Rioja was an excellent wine for a Priority Pass airline lounge.
In addition to alcohol drinks, the No. 1 Lounge offers complimentary bottles of flat and sparkling wine, a variety of sodas, juice, and a large coffee machine making all of the standard espresso beverages. These drinks are all unlimited and are self-serve via several small fridges spread out throughout the lounge.
The No. 1 Lounge has in lounge lavatories, which were clean and large enough to change and freshen up. The No. 1 Lounge also offers showers for 15 Pounds, nap pods for 20 Pounds, and apparently spa services! We did not use these features, nor did I see anyone else using them, but they apparently exist…
All in all, the No. 1 Lounge was a good lounge, and I think that I liked it better than the Aspire Lounge, but only slightly.
STEAL OUR LOUNGE
No. 1 Lounge Heathrow: Post-security in London Heathrow Terminal 3. Follow signs for Lounge F access. Directly above the Virgin Clubhouse. Open daily 4:30 – 22:30. From 34 Pounds in advance, 40 Pounds at the door. Priority Pass, Dragon Pass, Diners Club, and Wexas members have complimentary access. Showers are 10 Pounds extra for patrons with complimentary access. Pass members can also guaranty entrance for 5 Pounds per person online in advance.
Prague’s Vaclav Havel Airport is home to four Priority Pass lounges. When we visited in October, we spent a little over an hour in the MasterCard Lounge in Terminal 2. We had an enjoyable time and would definitely go back without question if in the Prague airport.
As you probably gathered from my previous post about the American Express Centurion Lounge in Mexico City, Dan and I did a bit of lounge hopping when flying back from our trip to Mexico City earlier this year. We had a bit of time to kill in the airport (although not as much as I would have liked…), so we first hit the American Express Centurion Lounge and then jumped to The Ground Lounge Elite, a few minutes walk from the Centurion Lounge, via our Priority Pass.
Like the American Express Centurion Lounge, the Grand Lounge Elite is airside not too far from the departure gates. The entrance is marked by a visible sign and entrance is complimentary to Priority Pass members. We checked in quite quickly despite the lounge being crowded.
American Express offers a series of airport lounges in the US, as well as a few outside of the US, which are complimentary for certain cardholders, including American Express Platinum cardholders. Since I have the American Express Platinum, I enjoy free access to these lounges. I first experienced a Centurion Lounge in Buenos Aries Ezeiza Airport (EZE), and have been a bit obsessed ever since. The Centurion Lounges in the US are rumored to be much nicer than the international lounges, but I, unfortunately, have not visited enough of these lounges to make a firm decision.
Before visiting Siem Reap, Cambodia (the town from which you visit Angkor Wat!), I researched the airport and was super excited to learn that the tiny Siem Reap “international airport” was home to a Priority Pass lounge! I was even more excited to learn that it was rumored to be really nice, recently re-done, and among the best in Southeast Asia. We got to the airport early to use it! Side note – this ended up being a waste as our check-in for Malaysian Airlines did not open until about 2 hours before our flight and checkin was extremely slow… In any case, we still got to use the lounge, just not as early as we had expected!