Maximizing Miles in the Maldives: Cathay First, Eating in Singapore, and a Park Hyatt Water Villa – Positioning flights to San Francisco, Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf, and Some Dim Sum for the Day

  1. Introduction
  2. Positioning flights to San Francisco, Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf, and Some Dim Sum for the Day
  3. Cathay’s New San Francisco Lounge
  4. Cathay Pacific First Class, San Francisco – Hong Kong
  5. The Wing and Cathay Pacific First Class, Hong Kong – Singapore
  6. A Grand Suite at the Grand Hyatt Singapore
  7. Eating in Singapore
  8. Dinner at Waku Ghin, Marina Bay Sands
  9. Singapore Airlines Business Class: Singapore – Male
  10. Transfer to the Park Hyatt Hadahaa, Maldives
  11. Park Hyatt Maldives – Part I
  12. Park Hyatt Maldives – Part II
  13. Park Hyatt Maldives – Part III
  14. Maldivian, Kaadehdhoo – Male
  15. Singapore Airlines Business Class, Male – Singapore
  16. Cathay Pacific Business Class, Singapore – Hong Kong
  17. Conrad Hong Kong
  18. Cathay Pacific First Class, Hong Kong – Chicago
  19. American’s Chicago Flagship Lounge and the Final Journey Home

Since I made the decision to give myself a mini-vacation in San Francisco at the start of the trip, as a hedge against weather — I didn’t want to risk mid-February being able to get out of both DC and a gateway city like New York or Toronto — I started off with some domestic flights on American Airlines in first class as part of my travels. After work on Friday, February 17 I headed over to Washington National airport for a flight to Chicago. Yes, in spite of weather concerns I was connecting in Chicago in the middle of February. But I figured since I had a 24 hour buffer between scheduled arrival in San Francisco and departure on Cathay Pacific I’d be fine, I’d find a way to get out there and at most sacrifice some San Francisco time.

Check-in at DCA was uneventful, American Eagle regional jet to Chicago took off on time. There was no meal service, seat pitch felt a bit cramped, but it was first class and it was a short flight. We arrived in Chicago on time, hit the Admiral’s Club, and boarding our connecting flight to San Francisco.

One of the things that’s revolutionized my life, having started flying American a good deal during the oneworld MegaDO‘s executive platinum challenge, is inflight internet. During the month of January I was on a Gogo monthly plan, but since I was going to be out of the country for half of February I cancelled that. Fortunately I had a flight pass from my MegaDO swag bag, and online access was free. That kept me entertained during the domestic flight, along with a bit of dinner, and we arrived on time in San Francisco.

That’s where I used my GroundLink coupon for an airport car service, the now-infamous Jetsetter deal. As much first purchase I had a $25 credit and that covered most of the cost of the discounted Town Car offering. But since I figured I wanted a bit of help with our luggage, I added on ‘inside pickup’. We didn’t get that, I called the driver who refused to come inside, he asked us what door we’d be at for pickup. I had no idea what door! I wasn’t to baggage claim yet. And I was paying for inside pickup. I was getting annoyed.

Bags arrived quickly enough, and I called the driver. Waited about 5-8 minutes and he was at the curb and we were on our way. He said, “I wasn’t supposed to be picking you up, I was a replacement, where am I taking you?” Not what the seamless experience I was supposed to have. I had used GroundLink a few weeks earlier in New York and had a much better experience. Fortunately, though I received an email receipt showing charges for the trip, since it was prepaid with the Jetsetter coupon I wasn’t charged at all (not even for the inside pickup I had requested but not received).

We were staying at the Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf. Not my usual style, but I had some unusual logic for the choice. Back in the Fall there was a TripAlertz offer where if you referred friends, anyone who signed up with their email address got you a $10 site credit. Needless to say I received a whole bunch of credits. Two problems, however.

  • I asked TripAlertz if I could give away all the credits as a contest on the blog, I thought that might interest them for the additional publicity and it wouldn’t cost them anymore because I’d be using up the credits they had already given me. The terms and conditions of the credits said they couldn’t be used for anyone else. TripAlertz likely wouldn’t have known, since all they had was my email address on the account. But even though I had seen at least one other blogger give away credits, I didn’t want to break rules in a giveaway (and I’d have felt awful if I gave away the credits and then recipient had them invalidated). Unfortunately, despite emailing them and tweeting them, I never got a reply. So the giveaway idea was scratched.

  • I quickly discovered I really wasn’t interested in any of the ‘deals’ that they offered. Their focused seemed to be mid-scale all-inclusives in Mexico and Caribbean. Not really my style. So when a decent enough San Francisco hotel popped up, I jumped on it. And since I was flush with credits, I booked two nights instead of one. That way I’d have no problem with a 9pm checkout, which was perfect for my midnight departure.

Arrival was smooth, and despite the photos on the website and elsewhere which make it look almost a boutique property it has over 500 rooms and is a busy property.

Outside the hotel entrance are couches and chairs with fires to keep you warm.

At check-in I was told that our rate included parking (I hadn’t rented a car) and internet. And that we were booked into a room with two double beds. They told me they couldn’t upgrade us to a King room. I asked them to add my Starwood Preferred Guest Gold number to the reservation (benefits shouldn’t apply on a third party booking like this) and they did — and proceeded to find me a king-bedded room. I even earned points on the room rate paid by TripAlertz.

It was a long walk to the rather funky-shaped room, but it was cozy and did the trick.

The toilet and shower were in a separate, tiny room off the sink the area, and one had to squeeze in. It was otherwise spacious, and the only other strange thing about it is that the previous guest had left avocados in the closet, which housekeeping apparently hadn’t seen:

Most of the guests at the hotel were much younger, some interactions at check-in made it seem like they’d never stayed in a hotel before, there was definitely a party vibe to the median guest during my weekend stay but all was quiet in my room.

We had a good sleep and woke up around 6am, nice considering I was on the West Coast but presumably still on Eastern time. There’s a coffee shop in the lobby of the hotel, it’s shockingly expensive, two drinks in the morning were going to be nearly $20 so we went to the Starbucks a block away.

Come 10am we were off to a bit of brunch at the San Francisco staple, Yank Sing for dim sum. There are several locations, I’ve always gone to the one at the Rincon Center.

They didn’t get particularly busy until maybe 10:45am, so we had easy and relaxed access to all the dim sum carts as they went around, and we sampled plenty.

The glutinous pprk dumplings were excellent, though surprisingly not hot. The soup dumplings were good, though not as good as Din Tai Fung in Bellevue, Washington. The egg tarts weren’t quite a hit, but I’d be having some outstanding ones in a matter of days. These were minor quibbles, overall Yank Sing is as good a dim sum as you’ll get in the United States and on the whole the equal of most places in Hong Kong. But it’s pricey for what it is, you’ll often spend $25 per person or more and with all that we tried it was over $40 apiece. Compare that to the $10 or so I usually drop at Mark’s Duck House down the road from my house… Still, it’s not a trip to San Francisco without dim sum at Yank Sing!

After brunch we walked around the farmer’s market on the water.

And spent a few hours at a cooking class held in the home of a chef, all in all a pleasant Saturday afternoon.

Then it was back to the hotel for a bit of rest before heading to the airport. On checkout, it was suggested I see the doorman for assistance with a cab, only there was no doormen and no cabs were queued. I went out on the street and managed to flag one, guiding it into the hotel’s driveway. Another couple that had been waiting for a cab thought that I was doing that as an employee of the hotel and wanted to get into my cab. I explained that I was just a proactive guest, and suggested they follow my lead and flag a cab themselves…

No traffic at that hour, we were quickly back to the airport.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Gary – You don’t stop to amaze me it the positive way…But I’m sure there’s a typo here.. you’re just a lowly SPG Gold ??? This really amazes me.

  2. I was disappointed with Yank Sing. It’s a hugh ‘trendy’ looking place, that doesn’t have any atmosphere. For a more authentic feel, try City View on Commercial St in Chinatown.

  3. You clearly didn’t check out the right dim sum places in Flushing at last year’s FTU. No way does SF have the best dim sum in the U.S. 🙂

  4. I enjoyed the dim sum there too but was surprised to see the bill was about 2X what I usually pay here in the DC suburbs for comparable quality. The waterfall in the center is pretty cool though.
    Looking forward to reading the rest of your trip report.

  5. Hooray for Yank Sing! And City View is good, too, but Yank Sing has the friendliest service, IMO, which is hard to get at dim sum when they’re pushing the carts around and snapping at you for your order.

  6. Din Tai Fung is so severely overrated.

    Best dim sum is still going to be in HKG, although prices are usually around 1.5-2.0x what you would pay in the States

    Tip if you are going to be at the Hong Kong Airport Express Station, there is a dim sum place underneath the airport checkin area, named Tim Ho Wan. It is one of the outposts of one of the best dim sum chefs in HK and actually reasonably priced. Order the baked/crispy cha siu bao.

    http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g294217-d1745792-Reviews-Tim_Ho_Wan-Hong_Kong.html

  7. Gary, next time you’re here, the best Dim Sum in the entire Bay Area hands down is Koi Palace in Daly City, just south of SF. Ask any Chinese person who lives around here and they’ll tell you. A word of warning though… it’s very authentic (meaning its loud, super crowded, and service is brusque as expected).

    @David, I’m willing to pit SF Bay Area dim sum against NYC dim sum any day 😉

  8. I concur with glu800. Koi Palace is probably the best place I’ve been to for Dim Sum in the Bay Area. I’m also with glu800 on the SF vs NY dim sum. Heck, even Boston has better dim sum then NYC. 😛

  9. I like Koi Palace too. But, Hong Kong Lounge on Geary in the City is just as good and less expensive. The Kitchen near SFO on Millbrae is also excellent for Dim Sum. I’ve only heard that Yak Sing is a overpriced tourist place. Also, there isn’t a Chinese restaurant in SF Chinatown that’s worth eating, may be except R&G Lounge. For authentic Chinese food, either the Richmond or Sunset District or the Peninsula.

    I agree that SF vs NY dim sum….SF wins, no contest.

  10. I am Chinese and i have lived in NYC before, but the best dim sum I have ever had in US is definitely the Koi Palace in the bay area. Both locations at Daly City and Dublin are very good. The next best one was Very Fair Restaurant in Toronto (the one in the basement).

  11. Let me know the next time you are in SFO, or NYC in the next month I can get you to the head of the line at Mission Chinese. The NYC location opens in the next few weeks. My nephew is a chef there.

  12. i hope you enjoy your trip. San Francisco is a lovely place and its DIM SUM is the best.you mentioned your annoyance with the rental car service at the airport, i would suggest that whenever you visit again just give a call to SFO LIMO SERVICE even 15 minutes before your arrival .trust me they are always on time and the drivers have a very cooperative and professional attitude. i never tried any other service for rental car.

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