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Day 1: The Flight from New York to Beijing, China

Beijing, China

Day 1: Saturday, December 12th, 2009

Flight to Beijing, China

Our Asia Adventure begins! Hunter and I are taking another “trip of a lifetime” to round out 2009. It was a pretty last minute trip, planned just a few months prior ,when we realized we had the time and money this year to make a trip to Asia a reality. We always wanted to see that part of the world, because it is so different from the US and Europe, and after discovering a Princess Cruise that toured six Asian countries over the winter holidays, we knew we found a way to realize this vacation goal!

We are booked on a 17-day / 16-night Southeast Asia Explorer cruise on Princess Cruise line that departs December 18th from Shanghai, China and makes the following stops: Okinawa, Japan; Taipei, Taiwan; Hong Kong (overnight stay/2 days); Hue, Vietnam; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Singapore; Ko Samui, Thailand (beaches); Bangkok, Thailand. Disembarkation is in Bangkok. Hunter and I added on an extra 5 days in China so we could visit the Great Wall, because after all, what is a trip to China if you don't see one of the great wonders of the world? And so we are flying to Beijing for 3 ½ days before flying to Shanghai for 2 days before boarding the cruise.

I did extensive planning for this trip, over the weekends in October and November, as there are 10 cities to plan. We wanted to minimize the number of Princess-led excursions to save money and see more, and so I researched transportation and key sights to see in every port. TripAdvisor.com and CruiseCritic.com were extremely helpful for their message boards. Someone on TripAdvisor even looked up Taipei train schedules for me!

Packing was very difficult for this trip, as we need clothes for 30 degrees (Beijing/Great Wall) and for 91 degree weather (Thailand). We somehow managed to get all of our formal cruise wear and winter and summer clothes into one 22-in roller board, one 28-in duffel bag, and one 28-in Samsonite suitcase, plus two carry-ons, one of which is a giant beach bag and holds the video camera inside.

Hunter and I decided to get some immunizations pre-trip and met with the Passport Health Center in Virginia Beach to see what we needed. We got the first dose of Hepatitis A vaccine, a Polio booster vaccine, and a DPT which was overdue (every 10 years). We also got the seasonal flu vaccine the first weekend in October and I was one of the lucky ones to get a H1N1 vaccine.

I think I covered enough of the pre-trip details, so let the adventure begin!
Our 12pm flight from EWR was scheduled as on time and when we arrived at the gate, we saw a VERY long line. We assumed it was for people without seat assignments as they made an announcement that the flight was oversold by 7-8 seats and they were looking for bumping volunteers for a $800 travel voucher and a confirmed seat out on the one Continental flight tomorrow. Definitely not! We need all the time we have in Beijing! The crew started boarding us around 11:30am for our 12:15pm departure and we got to board early because of Hunter's status. We took up most of the overhead bin space and lamented at our tight seat quarters. I later put my carry-on bag in the overhead bin so we could have more leg room. Continental only gave us a pillow and blanket and free headphones – no sleeping mask or booty slippers or earplugs AND they charged for alcohol!!! I thought alcohol was free on international flights!

Our flight started off on a rocky start as I was looking for the outlet that I had seen on SeatFinder.com as Hunter really wanted to plug in his netbook. I couldn't find it on the armrests and so I pushed into a panel on the wall, thinking maybe they were up in there, by the seat lights. I was wrong! When I pulled on a section of the panel, out popped all three oxygen masks! I couldn't get them to retract up, so the flight attendant had to call maintenance to come out and fix it. It was a tense 5 min as Hunter and I watched, hoping he could fix the paneling so we wouldn't get booted off the plane or delayed. Luckily, he did fix it, but that wasn't the end to our problems.

The plane pushed off at 12:20pm from the gate as a full flight. Hunter and I were one aisle behind the bulk head and I had the middle seat. About five minutes into taxiing on the runway, the pilot announced that we had to go back to the gate as one of the passengers who gave up his seat still had checked luggage on the plane. It was supposed to take 20 min to pull the bags from cargo, but that turned into almost a 2 hour delay. Then the pilot came on and said that there was a passenger on board with a connecting flight in China that would be missed and this person didn't have a Chinese visa to stay in the country and needed to be re-booked on another flight. The crew then asked if others were in that situation, and luckily no one was. After a 2 hour 15 min delay, we were taxiing back onto the runway and up in the air. At least they let us cut the runway line!

There were 3 stewards for our section of the economy class cabin, and 3 for the back section. One handed us a menu pretty quickly:
Dinner: Salad w/ 3 cocktail shrimp and lite ranch dressing, choice of Beef Stir-Fry or Pollack fish with rice and bok choy, a cookies and cream brownie and a dinner roll.
Mid-flight snack: Pulled BBQ pork sandwich and a haagan-daaz vanilla ice cream cup
Pre-Arrival snack: Fruit salad, roll and a choice of a swiss cheese omelet/turkey sausage and potato gratin or Shanghai Noodles (dim sum) w/ pork and veggie potstickers. Both came with an almond cookie.

Hunter and I continued to read our magazines for a half hour before starting one of the 350 movies offered on individual consoles. However, only a few were “New releases” but there were three we wanted to see: Transformers 2, 500 days of Summer, and Up. There was also Julie & Julia and My Sister's Keeper. Surprisingly we only had time for one movie! After reading, we turned on Transformers, paused it during dinner, and then finished it up before bed. Hunter and I were each going to have a different meal, but the steward mistakenly gave us both the fish. But it was pretty good.

Towards the end of the movie, we each took two Tylenol PM tablets and then used the restroom before bed. Hunter fell right to sleep but I tossed and turned for an hour and a half before finally getting up and buying 2 bottles of red wine. I had asked the steward during one of his hourly water runs, but he forgot to come back, so I had to walk to the back of the cabin to get it. Once I guzzled a whole bottle and turned on the Classical music albums, I fell asleep. I slept a good 2 hours straight before being woken up for the mid-flight snack, and then I had another half bottle of wine and fell back to sleep for a straight 4 hours. It was then time for breakfast. I wasn't too hungry and ate the potato part of the omelet while Hunter ate his whole dim-sum. After eating, we whipped out our netbooks for the first time – we didn't even need the outlet which the attendant had pointed out was on the bottom of the seat, near the floor! Hunter did some programming while I typed this journal entry.

The steward handed out immigration forms to complete, along with a health questionnaire. We completed those and then read our magazines while the plane descended. We arrived 1 ½ hours late, which wasn't too terrible. The pilot said he had permission to increase the speed. The flight was 13 hours long and because we slept over 7 hours, it actually passed quickly! However, overall I was not impressed with Continental's seats or quality of service and would not recommend it for international travel. But our tickets were free (120,000 miles each) and it was a direct flight eastward over the north pole (Greenland, Russia and Mongolia) so I can't complain too much!

(Continue to next travel blog for Day 2 - arrival and first evening in Beijing)

permalink written by  mohicanfan on December 12, 2009 from Beijing, China
from the travel blog: Beijing/Shanghai and a Princess Southeast Asia Cruise - Dec 2009
tagged China, Beijing and Asia

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mohicanfan mohicanfan
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At the time I am writing this bio (Jan 2010), I, Meredith, am a 28-year old woman living in Virginia Beach, VA with my husband of almost 6 years, who works in New York 4 days a week. We are both avid travelers and beach lovers and I enjoy writing and reading. I am also a fastidious recorder of...

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