Dispatch, Bali: Thankful for the upgrade on a long journey

The Qatar Airways lounge at Hamad International Airport in Doha.
The Qatar Airways lounge at Hamad International Airport in Doha. © TW photo by Tom Stieghorst

Cruise editor Tom Stieghorst is in Bali for a Star Clippers cruise near the Indonesian island. His first dispatch follows.

The first question that arises about cruising in Indonesia is how to get there? We were booked in March on Qatar Airways, well before the recent diplomatic spat between Qatar and its Persian Gulf neighbors.

As the trip approached, my wife and I worried that flap might upend our flights, but it turned out to be a nonfactor, as was a ban on using laptop computers onboard on flights from Qatar to the U.S., which was lifted about a week before our scheduled departure.

Still, our flight aboard a Qatar Airways B-777 started inauspiciously. About the time we pulled away from the gate, the skies over Miami opened and a thunderous storm left us inching toward takeoff while lakes formed on the tarmac.

Luckily, the two-hour delay was the only bad part of the flight. Being upgraded to business class was everything we could have asked for to make a 29-hour air trip bearable.

The business class cabin of a Qatar Airways B-777.
The business class cabin of a Qatar Airways B-777. Photo Credit: TW photo by Tom Stieghorst

Qatar has a new business-class configuration called Qsuites that has been introduced on some of its jets, but this was not one of them. Instead, there were pairs of seats arranged in four straightforward rows, with three pairs of seats in each row.

Before the deluge, we had a chance to sip a glass of pre-flight champagne. Qatar offers a Piper Heidsieck Rose Sauvage and a Billecart-Salmon Brut. I had the rose and my wife, the blanc. Great way to start a lengthy flight.

Pre-flight champagne on in the Qatar Airways business class cabin.
Pre-flight champagne on in the Qatar Airways business class cabin. Photo Credit: TW photo by Tom Stieghorst

We were excited to find a pair of noise-cancelling headphones for the entertainment system. Prior to leaving, we had dusted off an old pair Bose headphones at home that failed to work and got left behind. I was glad that my wife would get to see how much difference the noise-canceling technology makes.

After settling in, the cabin crew brought our dinners, which we had ordered before takeoff. They had obviously been well-trained. The service was considerate, thorough and precise, delivered by a team of young women from various countries.

The first leg of our flight was scheduled for 13 hours. I slept for the better part of seven hours in the gray pajamas provided by Qatar. We landed in Doha in a sunset haze and proceeded through the airport to Qatar's lounge, which was a comfortable place to wait out our 2:30 a.m. departure to Bali.

Food in the lounge was familiar Middle Eastern nibbling fare, such as pita bread with hummus or baba ganoush. There were baggage lockers and a darkened room of recliners meant for sleeping. The shower I took to freshen up was so good I didn't want it to end.

But the second half of our journey awaited. After hiking around the Hamad International Airport a bit to keep our legs nimble, we boarded the plane, another 777 with the same business class configuration, bound for Denspasar.

Nine hours later, we arrived in Bali. It was dusk again and we headed for our hotel at the end of our journey to Asia.

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