If you are from North America or from Europe, no matter how you cut it, getting to Bali, Indonesia, takes time. More than 26 hours passed from the moment I checked in at Copenhagen Airport to the moment my feet were treading the gangway leading onto Silver Shadow in Bali.
From North America, the journey takes even longer. Departing Los Angeles, for example, the shortest flight durations are around 24 hours. Checking in two hours before flying and allowing 90 minutes between disembarking the plane and getting to the ship, you’re looking at more than 27 hours travel time to Bali — on the shortest of flights from Los Angeles.
Still, if you’re at all the curious traveler that I am, a journey to the exotic is worth the effort, and I felt that immediately upon stepping into the open-air arrivals hall at Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport. The temperature registered a pleasant 86F (30C), a stark contrast to Copenhagen, where the mercury was hovering around the freezing mark.
Standing in the Indonesian warmth, I reflected on how easy the journey had been, thanks to the fact that I had flown Business Class and had taken advantage of all of the Business Class perks. I also took some pride in the fact that I had traveled in comfort for less than the cost of an Economy Class ticket.
This post deals largely with the task of getting to Indonesia — and other long-haul destinations — and how to turn getting there into a memorable part of the journey, rather than a grueling exercise in perseverance and what can seem to a long-legged traveler like me, punishment in the form of being forced to contort those long body parts in a seat too small for hours upon hours.
First off, I know that flying Business Class can be a pricey proposition. But it doesn’t have to be. This past Sunday, I wrote about how I managed to snag a roundtrip Business Class ticket for about $1,800 using points I had purchased from US Airways. Had I bought the ticket outright, the cost would have been more than $6,000. See Cruising Indonesia On Silver Shadow, Plus Saving $5,000 On Business Class Air To Asia.
Many airlines sell miles/points, but they’re usually not a good value, unless you find a special offer where you receive bonus miles/points with each purchase. I have seen bonuses for as much as two additional miles/points for each mile/point purchased. This week, in fact, US Airways launched a targeted promotion offering a 100 percent bonus on purchased miles/points to those who have a US Airways co-branded credit card. And American Airlines is running two simultaneous promotions on the purchase of AAdvantage miles, which together lower the cost of purchased miles to below two cents each.
One of my favorite points-for-purchase programs is Avianca’s Lifemiles, which recently awarded three miles/points for each one purchased. Avianca’s Lifemiles can be used to fly on Star Alliance carriers. Using Lifemiles that I purchased, I’ve flown Lufthansa’s First Class product across the Atlantic a couple of times for the equivalent of about $600.
During the past 12 months, in fact, I’ve flown several long-haul Business Class — and First Class — flights for only a little more — and sometimes less — than I would have paid to fly Economy Class. I did so by using purchased points as well as points acquired through credit card sign-up bonuses.
Business Class (or higher) is virtually essential to a long trip like the one to Bali. You don’t want to arrive worn out and destroyed, forever lost, like Bill Murray, in translation.
Flying Business Class allowed me to use Business Class check-in, which meant that I could show up at the check-in counter in Copenhagen one hour before my flight instead of 90 minutes to two hours before. I used that extra time to sleep in. Because I was flying the first leg on SAS, I was able to use the expedited security program in Copenhagen, known as SAS Fast Track. No more than five minutes passed between my being on one side of the security scanner to my being on the other side and in the SAS Lounge, where I enjoyed a quick complimentary breakfast and free WiFi before flying.
Airport lounges can make quite a difference in your travel experience. They are like mini oases where you can recharge before beginning the first leg — or the next leg — of your journey. Usually, you’ll find complimentary food, hot and cold beverages, internet access, comfortable sitting areas and even showers in some lounges. Access is included free of charge for International Business Class — or higher — travelers.
The first leg of my journey took me to Stockholm, a one-hour flight from Copenhagen. Had I booked my award ticket earlier, I could have flown from Copenhagen directly to Bangkok, but the only availability when I booked my award ticket (only a few weeks before flying — another advantage of using award tickets) required me to fly first to Stockholm on SAS, one of my favorite carriers — to one of my favorite cities.
At Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport, I had a three-hour layover and again used the SAS lounge before heading to my Thai Airways flight to Bangkok.
As I stepped across the threshold and into the 737-300, Thai Airways’ flight attendants extended a warm greeting, placing their hands together beneath their chins in prayer-type gestures, bowing slightly and welcoming me on board with a Thai greeting. Already, I was experiencing exotic Southeast Asia.
My seat was roomy and large, and fortunately, it converted to a flat bed that could accommodate all 6’5” of me. For long-haul flights, flat-bed seats are generally preferable to those that only recline, and most airlines are converting all of their seats upfront to flat-bed configurations. Still, it’s a good idea to check. Sometimes choosing one flight over another will mean the difference in a flat-bed seat and one that only reclines.
A flight attendant brought me a menu where I could choose a main course for dinner. Fine wines and champagne were available on a complimentary basis.
The dinner menu suggested that I was in for a treat. I opted for the Prawn with Honey and Chili Sauce, which seemed appropriately Southeast Asian.
During dinner, I watched a movie, Host, which was horrible. I stuck with it nonetheless, finding it hard to believe that William Hurt could stoop to starring in such a production. After dinner and the movie, I pushed a button that extended my seat to its flat-bed position, put a pillow under my head, pulled a cover over my body and slept for about six hours.
Breakfast was served, and shortly thereafter, we landed in Bangkok.
We had arrived in Bangkok as scheduled, and as my luggage was checked through to Bali, I headed straight to the Royal Silk Lounge for a shower. I was surprised that the shower was so spacious and clean. Everything I needed to clean up was provided — soap, shampoo and a towel. It was refreshing to wash off the road grit, shave, brush my teeth and change into a short-sleeve shirt for the duration of the journey and arrival in Bali.
You might wonder where I got the short-sleeve shirt. I always pack a carry-on bag as if my checked luggage is not going to make it to the ship. In my carry-on, I had packed additional shirts and slacks and other necessities for the voyage. If my checked bag didn’t make it, I’d still be good to go, but with fewer changes of clothes.
Afterward, I headed into the lounge for a couple of cups of coffee and some fruit, using the complimentary WiFi to see who had won the Super Bowl and check email. Outside the lounge windows, the sun was a giant, orange orb, rising through a misty sky. In a room beside me were saffron-robed Buddhist monks, their heads shaven. They reminded me of my time here nearly 30 years ago when I visited a monastery, but that is for another story. I had a flight to catch.
I headed to the next leg of my journey, a four-hour flight to Denpasar in Business Class on a Thai Airways’ Airbus 330. Another movie, lunch and soon we were landing in Bali.
Upon arrival at Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport, the first order of business was to take care of the required visa, which could be purchased for $25 before proceeding to passport control. Be sure to hold onto the visa and the departure card (which you are asked to complete on your flight from Bangkok to Denpasar). You’ll need both to present at passport control and to leave with the Reception Desk on Silver Shadow.
After passing through passport control, I entered the baggage hall, where my luggage was conveniently waiting for me in a specially designated “Priority Baggage Collection” area. I thought this was a particularly nice touch, the first time I had seen baggage handled so efficiently. It meant that I didn’t have to wait for my bag to appear at the carousel.
I had arranged my transfer to Silver Shadow with Silversea and was met by Widi, who was wearing a traditional Balinese sarong. Clearly, this was not Copenhagen. Widi extended a warm greeting and helped me with my bag. No waiting. We went directly to a van that would take me to the ship.
Before we drove away, a young girl approached me with a necklace made from fresh marigolds that she put around my neck, a typical Balinese greeting, Widi told me. Silversea had arranged this as part of the transfer service, and I thought it was a particularly nice touch.
At the terminal where Silver Shadow was docked, check-in, as it always has been with Silversea, was swift and efficient. Not more than 30 minutes passed from my exiting the baggage hall at the airport to my being on board Silver Shadow.
Being back on Silver Shadow felt pleasantly familiar, as I have been on this ship and her sister, Silver Whisper, a few times. I recognized quite a few of the crew members, and as always, I was impressed by their warmth and genuine hospitality.
I had rested well on my long journey, but nonetheless, being several time zones’ away from home, I was tired. I settled into my suite and ordered room service. I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep before beginning my first full day in Bali and an experience that I looked forward to, an Elephant Safari Adventure.
From stretching out on flat beds in Business Class to sitting atop an elephant, my Bali-to-Singapore voyage on Silver Shadow was quickly turning out to be quite an adventure. Thinking of all that had passed and what was ahead, I got into bed, slipped under the soft cotton sheets and closed my eyes, excited about the day ahead.
|Day 1||Boarding Silver Shadow In Bali|
|Day 2||Riding Elephants In Bali|
|Day 3||Lombok, Indonesia|
|Day 4||Probollingo, Indonesia|
|Day 5||Surabaya, Indonesia|
|Day 6||Borobudur, Indonesia|
|Day 7||Semarang, Indonesia|
|Day 8||Jakarta, Indonesia|
|Day 9||Sea Day|
|Day 11||Disembarking In Singapore|