Wednesday, March 25, 2015

13 hour layover in Abu Dhabi via Etihad Airways

On Christmas morning, the Mo woke up to let the pups out while I was still in bed.  He ran up the stairs frantically and was like "Don't freak out but I just did something stupid."  I automatically assumed he left the door or gate open and the dogs ran away.  That wasn't it, he announced that he booked us flights for March to a destination that we didn't spend months discussing or planning as we do with our other vacations.

Still half asleep, I was like
"Huh?!?!" WHAT DID YOU DO????  (you'd think I'd be delightedly surprised but if you KNOW me, you KNOW that I HATE surprises and I ALWAYS need to be in control of things)

A little background story, the Mo has recently become obsessed with all things credit card & miles related. ( I have to admit, it has rubbed off on me too) He's been following a few different blogs and read about an Etihad computer glitch  on the Points Guy.  The blog stated that Etihad Airways was offering fares for as low as $187.00 round trip to Abu Dhabi from JFK.  Frantic that the deal would expire, he looked on Google Flights for options. Typically we take beach vacations and Seychelles kept coming up the blog forums so the Mo went ahead and tried for the archipelago destination.  So that's the story... that's how the Mo ended up booking Seychelles.

He doesn't tell me where we are going.. he just says Abu Dhabi is our layover and I do my own investigating. I did know it was some kind of beach in Africa just not sure which one.  I question our hotel reservations and itinerary and he assures me that we are not "backpacking" and it will be a much needed stress free relaxing vacation with minimal activity.

Three months later, I'm all packed for a "beach vacation."  We use our True Blue points to get us from Logan to JFK. We grabbed a couple of beers and a burger and dog from Shake Shack at the terminal for a quick dinner.  The meal and drinks costs about $26.00 with tax, cheaper than eating at one of the restaurants in the terminal.

Shake Shack at JFK Terminal 4
I found out we were going to Seychelles when we checked in at JFK.  I was ecstatic to learn we were going to Seychelles.  I kind of had an idea that it would be Mauritus, Zanzibar, Tanzania, Madagascar or Seychelles.  (Thank you Google Search!)

The Etihad ticketing agent kept harassing us to upgrade to business class for an extra $1400.00 per person. We weren't interested but he was persistent.  We assume he could tell we got the great deal on Christmas day and wanted to make up for it.  The Mo knew the flight wasn't full and booked us seats in the middle section with 2 empty seats between us so we had extra space.

The Boeing 777-300ER was a newer plane but the decor and color scheme of the Etihad colors (brown, tan, mustard) made it appear dated.  Boarding was quick and on time and we were on the runway in no time.

Just as any other flight to Asia, we had our choice of unlimited beer, wine and spirits.  Of course I went with the red wine and the Mo had the Dewar's.

Etihad JFK to Abu Dhabi inflight menu
 I was a bit disappointed with the socks since I'm so used to Korean Airs slippers, oh well, beggars can't be choosers. The kit came with a toothbrush, eye mask, socks and the premium headphones came separate.

Etihad economy class amenity kit
 The movie options for the inflight entertainment had a wide variety of new Oscar nominated movies as well as some classic all time favorites.  I got drunk and watched "The Good Lie" about the Sudanese refugees and cried.

About an hour after take off, dinner was served at midnight.  I didn't have a choice since they ran out of rice so I was given the lamb casserole with potato gratin and green beans.  I have to admit, it was really delicious. The lamb was tender and not "gamey" at all. Check out my two glasses of wine! The flight attendants sure did take care of me.

Etihad economy dinner Lamb casserole with rosemary potato gratin, green beans and red pepper
 The Mo got lucky and ended up with the VERY last chicken biryani meal.  After I saw his dinner, I wasn't as jealous anymore.
Etihad economy dinner Chicken biryani
 In between meals, there were light snacks available. I didn't care too much for the tuna salad sandwich on stale bread. Once we were closer to Abu Dhabi, they served a light vegetarian meal of vegetable curry and eggplant masala with rice and peas.

Etihad Economy dinner Vegetarian curry and masala
We arrived in Abu Dhabi a little past 7:00 PM local time.  Since we didn't have any baggage, customs and immigration was a breeze. We were out of the airport in less than 15 minutes.  We walked over to the airport taxis, which were Mercedes vans.

image via Pointguard
The 35 minute drive to our hotel in the Corniche area was 100 AED (about 27.00 USD).  We booked an overnight stay at the Khalidya Palace  for about $66.00 via Orbitz.  The hotel boasts a beachfront location and a beautiful pool, not that we used any of the amenities.  Their onsite Arabic restaurant, Kamoon,  is also highly rated on Tripadvisor.

Pool View from our room at Khalidya Palace
We checked into our hotel and took a nice shower and got dressed to go out. I wasn't sure about the dress code, so I tried to "cover" up.

We found a "Ladies Night" lounge where girls get to drink for free between 10 PM and midnight.  There were martinis, margaritas, wine, beer and champagne available. I went with the white wine and bubbly.  The Mo had to pay premium price for his drinks which were 50 AED each ($ 14.00 USD est)

The bar/lounge was pretty happening on a Tuesday night.  I met some fun girls from South Africa and we danced the night away to 80's and 90's songs by an amazing cover band. The music also switched between the house DJ every 45 minutes and  he would spin the latest tunes.  He was kind enough to take my requests for Beyonce, Shakira and Danza Kuduro.

After all that drinking and dancing, we got a bit hungry and started walking aimlessly in town.  We saw some teenagers that were leaving a formal dance and asked them were we could get late night grub. They pointed us into the direction and we made our way to a a 24 hour shawarma Lebanese place.

The restaurant served complimentary home made pita bread along with pickles and two kind of olives.  We ordered the meat spring rolls, potatoes and a meat shawarma. The food was good and the price was even better! All this for only $15 USD.  So much for my plans of going out to eat at fancy restaurant!

Abu Dhabi late night dining
We got back to the hotel around 2 AM with only 3 hours to sleep before we had to catch our flight. What a fun night in Abu Dhabi!