I flew American Airlines to Europe for the first time during the pandemic and found it’s back to normal with bad food, uncomfortable seats, and free alcohol

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

  • American Airlines is one of four US carriers flying overseas to Europe and has recently started increasing services as more countries open to American tourists.
  • Transatlantic flights are pretty much back to normal, besides having to wear a mask.
  • Hot meals and alcohol are once again served in all cabins including economy class.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
American Airlines is one of the leading US carriers flying between the US and Europe, especially from its international gateway in New York.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

The summer before the pandemic saw American fly to 23 European destinations from the US. Fast forward to the summer of 2021, however, and that number stood at 11 as American wasn’t as quick to rebuild in Europe following its reopening.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic.

Source: Cirium

But even still, American has maintained service to core cities like London; Madrid; and Rome, while opening new routes including New York-Athens.

Athens
Athens, Greece.

Read More: American and JetBlue just unveiled a new partnership with 33 new routes combined— here’s what it means for travelers

And American has proved to be an inexpensive option when crossing the pond, as I found when planning a recent work trip to Doha, Qatar with flights on American, British Airways, and Qatar Airways.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic.

Read More: Gulfstream just debuted its new $75 million ultra-long-range plane that’s also the world’s largest purpose-built private jet: Meet the G700

I flew American Airlines from New York to Madrid during the summer of vaccinated travel. Here’s what it was like.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

Read More: I booked a flight on American Airlines despite the airline canceling thousands of flights this summer – here’s how I’m preparing for the worst

After recent bad experiences on American, I was a bit nervous to fly the carrier overseas. I made sure to do extra research on backup options in case something went wrong, and even arrived at the airport four hours early.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

Read More: I was stranded in Bogotá airport for 10 hours and it taught me the true value of credit card perks and not taking no for an answer

But having flown American internationally earlier in the summer, I knew how to prepare. The first step was to download Verifly, American’s preferred health passport service that speeds along airport check-in and document verification.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

I submitted all my required documentation and got the green light. As a result, check-in at the airport was less painful than expected as I was able to use a self-serve kiosk to get my boarding pass.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

For those checking a bag, though, there was a bit of a line, as is usually the case in international terminals. I was glad to have only brought a carry-on.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

I was instantly relieved once I had my boarding pass and headed straight to the gate with only a minimal line at security. I felt silly having arrived four hours before departure but as the old saying goes, better safe than sorry.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

One benefit of flying out of American’s Terminal 8 at John F. Kennedy International Airport is that Bobby Van’s Steakhouse is open, and Priority Pass members through Chase can get a free meal. I had the burger and it was delicious.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

Read More: I used a credit perk to dine for nearly free at an airport restaurant and it’s my new favorite travel hack

The rest of the concourse was quiet as I arrived before the bulk of the evening overseas departures. Even still, there were shops and restaurants open for business in a good sign for the industry.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

I headed straight to the gate after lunch and got my first glimpse at the aircraft taking us to Spain, the mighty Boeing 777-200. American now only flies Boeing 777 aircraft between New York and Europe in a win for business class and first class customers that get to enjoy the airline’s best premium cabin products.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

Pandemic-era safety measures including social distancing floor placards and plexiglass portions at the gate counter were still on display.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

Boarding began around 45 minutes prior to departure in American’s standard group boarding procedure. Most US airlines have abandoned back-to-front boarding.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

American’s Boeing 777-200 aircraft seat 273 passengers across three cabins, with classes of service including business, premium economy, and economy.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

Source: SeatGuru

In economy, seats are arranged in a 10-abreast, 3-4-3 configuration that’s standard for most airlines flying the 777.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

Seat pitch in economy is between 31 and 32 inches, according to SeatGuru, while seat width is a standard 17 inches.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

Source: SeatGuru

I booked this flight quite late and there weren’t too many seats from which to choose that didn’t require paying an extra fee. American isn’t alone in the practice of charging for advance seat assignments on long-haul flights but I despise the practice as these tickets are expensive enough as it is.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

But to American’s credit, there were a good showing of complimentary aisle and window seats towards the back of the plane from which to select.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

And to my surprise, the most unique seats in economy were available for selection. The last three rows on this aircraft are arranged in a 2-4-2 configuration meaning there are six two-seat pairs.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

I thought I had lucked out by selecting one of them but my excitement was short-lived. Simply put, these seats were not the most comfortable for a larger traveler.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

The small width didn’t help and I felt like I was taking up part of the seat next to me.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

One thing that could’ve helped was if the armrest for the window seat was moveable, but it was fixed in place. I was so close to the seat in front of me that my tray table couldn’t even lay flat (a problem I didn’t have on the other carriers on which I flew during this trip).

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

My top concern was having enough room once my seat neighbor arrived. But I lucked out and had both seats to myself as nobody showed up to claim the other.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic.

There was a gap between the seat and the cabin wall which offered some additional legroom and a place to store the pillow and blanket kit left on the seat.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

American is quite generous with seat features on its wide-body aircraft. Each seat has an 8.9-inch in-flight entertainment screen with a variety of movies, television shows, games, and music.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

The moving map proved handy during the flight to keep track of our location.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

A tethered remote is also available to control the system and act as a game controller or keyboard for the seat-to-seat chat function. It also comes in handy when scrolling through content since the touch functionality is quite poor in that regard.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

In-flight WiFi is also available on the aircraft for a price. And for those using devices during the flight, in-seat power is offered through USB charging ports and 110v C power outlets at seats.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

The rest of the aircraft was quite full, which surprised me as it was quite late in the season for transatlantic travel. Some passengers were visiting family and friends while others were starting their study abroad term.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

Bad weather in New York wreaked a bit of havoc on the airport but we weren’t overly affected. I was quite relieved that our departure was pretty close to on time as I had a connection to make in Madrid.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

The storm did, however, make for some great views as we blasted out of New York.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

Madrid is quite a short flight from New York and while I wanted to go straight to sleep, I did want to see what the meal service was like. This was the first time I’d had a hot meal on American during the pandemic.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

As I waited for the service to begin, I had a look at what was on offer in the movie department. American had quite a good selection in all categories, and I ultimately picked “The Vault.”

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

First attendants started the drink service first with a selection of soft drinks, juices, wine, and beer. Alcohol isn’t currently served in economy on American’s domestic flights but it flows freely on transatlantic hops.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

I ordered a club soda along with some red wine to help ease my sleep after the meal.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

Next came the meal service as flight attendants quickly passed out the trays. I felt like I was being served in a cafeteria as one flight attendant curtly asked, “chicken or pasta?”

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

I unwrapped the entree to find that not much has changed at all when it comes to American’s economy catering. The chicken dish was accompanied by a side salad, cheese and crackers, and a cinnamon dessert bar.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

I couldn’t describe the chicken beyond that it was served in a tomato-based sauce. I enjoyed the sides more than the main and was glad I had the burger at Bobby Van’s before the flight. Next time, I think I’ll head straight to sleep.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

Flight attendants were very quick to complete the meal service, though, and got it done in under an hour and a half. The flight to Madrid is only six hours and 30 minutes so every second counts.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

Ready for bed with a full stomach, I used the pillow and blanket that American had left on the seat and did my best to get comfortable.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

Another downside of the two-seat row is that there’s a gap between the seat and window, making propping a pillow up against the cabin wall near-impossible.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

But even then, it wasn’t too difficult to get to sleep and I woke just before breakfast was served.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

Flight attendants once more came around to serve drinks first, followed by a pre-packaged cold breakfast.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

On offer for the optimistic morning meal included Chobani strawberry yogurt, a raspberry fig bar, and coconut cashew granola. All in all, it was quite standard but still enjoyable.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

The flight to Madrid was nearing its end and I can’t say I was upset to see it go. American did a great job of getting me to Spain on time but the in-flight experience was exactly what I expected it to be.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

I did appreciate the modernity of the aircraft and the efficiency of the crew but there wasn’t anything memorable about this flight.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

Besides having to wear a mask, though, I’d say that American is back to normal on these flights, for better or worse.

Flying American Airlines to Europe during the pandemic - American Airlines New York-Madrid Flight 2021
Flying American Airlines from New York to Madrid, Spain during the pandemic.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I went to Stew Leonard’s for the first time and the unique customer experience made me actually enjoy grocery shopping

Stew Leonard's store front
Stew Leonard’s store front

  • I went to Stew Leonard’s for the first time and the experience made grocery shopping feel like less of a chore.
  • The store is full of appetizing food and interesting decorations, colors, displays, and animatronics.
  • The $400 million business prides itself on its store brands, which soared 40% in sales during the pandemic.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Many people hate grocery shopping, including me. I have always dreaded the weekly run, but a family-owned supermarket chain in the Northeast added a little fun to the chore.

Stew Leonard's storefront in Norwalk, Connecticut
Stew Leonard’s storefront in Norwalk, Connecticut

Stew Leonards was founded in 1969 and is a chain of seven grocery stores in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York. The iconic business is the world’s largest dairy store and brings in over $400 million in sales each year

Stew Leonard's employees
Stew Leonard’s employees

Growing up in Florida, I never knew the supermarket existed, but I was pleasantly surprised with the unique in-store shopping experience when I visited the Newington, Connecticut location recently.

Stew Leonard's storefront in Newington, Connecticut
Stew Leonard’s storefront in Newington, Connecticut

The first thing I noticed was the store’s rustic feel, almost like it didn’t belong in Connecticut. The wood building looks like a giant barn, complete with a silo, which is in line with Stew’s farm theme.

Inside Stew Leonard's
Inside Stew Leonard’s

When I entered the building lobby, I saw a garden of flowers, plants, and pumpkins – right in time for the fall season. Also in the space was a photo booth and a rock that outlined the company’s policy of “the customer is always right.”

"The customer is always right" policy
“The customer is always right” policy

Once inside the main building, I was immediately overwhelmed with the number of signs, colors, decorations, and displays.

Donut stand
Donut stand

At the entrance sat a mouth-watering donut stand full of fresh pastries. Meanwhile, just past was a stage with five animatronic dairy characters that put on a show every few minutes. I’m sure they’re a hit with the kids.

Stew Leonard's animatronics
Stew Leonard’s animatronics

After watching the show, I made my way to the produce section, which is the start of the store’s single long shopping aisle.

Produce section
Produce section

Stew Leonards is set up like a roadmap, zig-zagging customers through each section of the store via an established path. While shoppers can exit the main path or decide to bypass sections, the store’s pre-arranged route eliminates aisles and streamlines the shopping experience.

Shopper in produce section
Shopper in produce section

Walking through produce was a treat because of all the organic, fresh fruits and vegetables. In the section was the first of eight mini-shows that the store has set up, which are animatronic characters that sing for customers.

Fresh fruits
Fresh fruits

The shows are activated by a big “push” button, which I obviously had to try. The banana was kiddish, but cute, though I’m sure the employees get tired of hearing the same tune every day.

Animatronic character
Animatronic character

In addition to the singing banana, the store also had a parrot…

Animatronic character
Animatronic character

a pig…

Animatronic character
Animatronic character

and chickens.

Animatronic characters
Animatronic characters

A unique service Stew offers that I have not seen anywhere else is the fresh fruit and vegetable stand, where employees will cut produce for customers to save them time at home.

Fruit and vegetable cutting stand
Fruit and vegetable cutting stand

One of my favorite aspects of the store was the free samples. On the day I went, there was a vendor with flavored seltzer water and another with fresh pineapple, both of which were pretty tasty.

Samara vendor
Samara vendor

One useful feature of the store is its in-house butcher. The butcher had all types of fresh-cut beef, like sirloin, ribeye, and filet mignon. I opted for the teriyaki steak tips and they proved to taste much better than pre-packed meat.

Employee prepares steak tips
Employee prepares steak tips

The bread section was also impressive. Stew’s has in-store bakers that produce fresh bread every day, and the store had offerings that I had not seen at other supermarkets, like pre-cut ciabatta bites and pumpkin seed loaves.

Bread section
Bread section

I was also intrigued by the fresh-made bagels, which come in all sorts of interesting flavors, like cheddar, rainbow, garlic, blueberry, and french toast.

Bagels
Bagels

Past the meat and bread is all of the international cheese, which is my favorite section. There was an entire wall dedicated to cheddar and a stand full of other types, like mozzarella, ricotta, and burrata. Stew employees produce over 500 pounds of fresh mozzarella cheese a day.

International cheeses
International cheeses

I also really enjoyed exploring the seafood section, which was full of fresh fish, like salmon, flounder, and shellfish. Every meat looked delicious and I was impressed with the quality of the salmon I took home for dinner.

Seafood section
Seafood section

At the end of the shopping experience are a few places to pick up lunch or dinner before heading to check-out. Stew’s has a BBQ stand…

BBQ stand
BBQ stand

a pizza stand…

Pizza stand
Pizza stand

and a sushi shelf to choose from.

Sushi shelf
Sushi shelf

Customers can buy some hot food to eat at home or take upstairs to Stew’s in-store dining area, which was what I opted for. I ordered the pizza combo for $6, which came with two slices and a drink.

Eating pizza at Stew's upstairs dining room
Eating pizza at Stew’s upstairs dining room

Throughout the store were all sorts of interesting decorations, like Mickey and Yoda doing aerobatics and an upside-down cow. The cow symbolizes the advice Stew got from his friends at Disney when coming up with marketing ideas: “gravity doesn’t matter.”

Upside-down cow
Upside-down cow

Source: Stew Leonard’s

Before check-out, I had to take a look at Stew’s Doggy Bar, which is full of unique treats. I grabbed the doggy pops for my dog Indiana, who gave them a 10/10.

Stew's doggy bar
Stew’s doggy bar

Also before check-out is a gift shop with Stew Leonard’s swag…

Swag shop
Swag shop

and a wall full of fresh-made soups. All of the options looked delicious and I ended up grabbing three, which are the perfect size for an easy lunch.

Soups
Soups

Stew’s does not have self-check-out, which is my preference, but the line went quickly. For customers with only a few items, there are dedicated express check-out lanes.

Check-out area
Check-out area

On the way out, customers can stop by the ice cream shop serving up unique flavors, like pistachio and apple pie. Pistachio is my favorite flavor and it did not disappoint.

Ice cream shop
Ice cream shop

Stew Leonard’s prides itself on its store brands, which make up over 60% of its supermarket. According to Stew Leonard Jr, the private brand boomed during the pandemic, soaring 40% in summer 2020.

Stew Leonard Sr and Stew Leonard Jr
Stew Leonard Sr and Stew Leonard Jr

Source: Store Brands

Leonard Jr explained major brands sold out quickly during COVID, so people opted for alternates, which he sees as a good opportunity for customers to try the store brand. In particular, the company’s organic foods and citrus products did well during the pandemic.

Stew Leonard's store branded marinara sauce
Stew Leonard’s store branded marinara sauce

Source: Store Brands

Stew’s also had to buy products from restaurants because the store and national brands ran out. One five-pound bag of french fries it bought from a local restaurant and sold for $5 was bringing in $5,000 a week in June 2020.

Different brands of peanut butter
Different brands of peanut butter

Source: Store Brands

Stew’s success has been complemented by its eventful history. The supermarket was named the “Disneyland Dairy Store’ by the New York Times in 1983 and ranked in Fortune Magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For in America” list 10 consecutive years from 2002 to 2011.

Stew's farm fresh eggs
Stew’s farm fresh eggs

Source: New York Times, Stew Leonard’s

Furthermore, it solidified its place in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1992 for having “the greatest sales per unit area of any single food store in the United States.”

Guinness book of world records plaque
Guinness book of world records plaque

Source: Stew Leonard’s

The supermarket was also a stomping ground for food celebrities like Martha Stewart, who bought ingredients from the store, and Paul Newman who asked Stew Leonard Sr. for help in launching his salad dressing.

Stew Leonard's cow named after Martha Stewart
Stew Leonard’s cow named after Martha Stewart

Source: Inc

I am not surprised by Stew Leonard’s immense success and love from the local communities. Its unique in-store experience made grocery shopping actually enjoyable, and there is no doubt I will become a regular customer.

Stew Leonards
Stew Leonards

Read the original article on Business Insider

Royal Caribbean has built the world’s largest cruise ship and it’ll set sail in 2022 – see inside the Wonder of the Seas

The Wonder of the Seas sailing
The Wonder of the Seas.

  • Royal Caribbean has built the world’s largest cruise ship: the Wonder of the Seas
  • The ship will begin sailing from Florida to the Caribbeans in March 2022.
  • Take a look at the ship, which will feature eight “neighborhoods” and amenities like a waterslide.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The upcoming world’s largest cruise ship – Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas – will begin sailing in the US next year.

The Wonder of the Seas sailing
The Wonder of the Seas.

Source: Royal Caribbean

The highly anticipated giant vessel was initially set to begin sailing from China in March 2022 …

The Wonder of the Seas sitting on the water as it's under construction in France
The Wonder of the Seas under construction.

Source: Insider

… but on September 15, Royal Caribbean announced the Wonder of the Seas would instead begin cruising from Fort Lauderdale to the Caribbeans in March 2022.

The Wonder of the Seas sitting on the water as it's under construction in France
The Wonder of the Seas under construction.

In May, the ship will then move to Europe to begin sailing from Barcelona and Rome.

The Wonder of the Seas sitting on the water as it's under construction in France
The Wonder of the Seas under construction.

As of late, Royal Caribbean has been seeing a surge in bookings in the US and Europe, Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean, said in a press release.

The Wonder of the Seas sailing
The Wonder of the Seas.

Source: Royal Caribbean

We’re still a few months away from the first US sailing, but for now, let’s take a look around the 1,188-foot long cruise ship.

The Wonder of the Seas sitting on the water as it's under construction in France
The Wonder of the Seas under construction.

The 210-foot wide Wonder of the Seas falls under Royal Caribbean’s “Oasis” class, the cruise line’s group of the “world’s largest cruise ships,” according to Royal Caribbean.

worlds biggest cruise ship Wonder of the Seas royal caribbean
The Wonder of the Seas.

Source: Royal Caribbean

In total, the ship can fit up to 6,988 guests and 2,300 crew members.

The Wonder of the Seas' keel lowering
The Wonder of the Seas under construction.

It’ll also have eight different “neighborhoods” that will each feature their own distinct amenities and entertainment options.

The Wonder of the Seas sitting on the water as it's under construction in France
The Wonder of the Seas under construction.

This includes the “Suite” neighborhood accessible by guests staying in suites. This area will have a sun deck with a plunge pool, a bar, lounges, and a private restaurant.

a rendering of the Suites neighborhood with people laying on pool chairs
The Suite neighborhood aboard the Wonder of the Seas.

Source: Royal Caribbean

 

There’s also the “Central Park” neighborhood, which aptly features plenty of live plants, shopping, and restaurants …

The Wonder of the Seas sailing
The Wonder of the Seas.

… and the Coney Island-inspired “Boardwalk” neighborhood with a carousel and theater.

a rendering of a lit up theater with a crowd
The AquaTheater in the Boardwalk neighborhood aboard the Wonder of the Seas.

The more adventurous passengers can head to the “Pool and Sports Zone” area, which has a surf simulator, what the cruise line calls “the tallest slide at sea,” mini golf, and a 10-deck zip line, to name a few features.

a rendering of people playing in and by the pool aboard the Wonder of the Seas
The pool deck aboard the Wonder of the Seas.

The family friendly ship will also have a “Youth Zone” neighborhood just for infants, children, and teenagers.

a rendering of the Wonder of the Seas sailing
The Wonder of the Seas.

And this same age group can also spend time at the Wonder Playscape, an outdoor playground with a climbing wall and games.

a rendering of people playing in and by the pool aboard the Wonder of the Seas
The pool deck aboard the Wonder of the Seas.

But if you’re an adult looking for a drink under the sun, head to the Vue, an open-air bar on the pool deck.

a rendering of an outdoor lounge area with a bar and seats aboard the Wonder of the Seas
The Suite neighborhood aboard the Wonder of the Seas.

When it’s time for a workout at sea, passengers can hang out at the “Vitality Spa and Fitness Center” neighborhood, which is home to the upcoming ship’s gym, exercise classes, spa, and cafe.

a rendering of an outdoor lounge area aboard the Wonder of the Seas
The Suite neighborhood aboard the Wonder of the Seas.

But if you’re looking for some shopping, afternoon coffee, or entertainment, the “Royal Promenade” neighborhood …

a rendering of people playing in and by the pool aboard the Wonder of the Seas
The pool deck aboard the Wonder of the Seas.

… or the “Entertainment Place” neighborhood – home of the Royal Theater with shows like ice skating – might be more your style.

a rendering of the Wonder of the Seas sailing
The Wonder of the Seas.

Source: Royal Caribbean

 

Sound enticing? US sailings aboard the new ship are now available to book online, and the upcoming cruises start at a little over $600 per night for a five-night cruise.

The Wonder of the Seas sailing
The Wonder of the Seas.

Source: Royal Caribbean

Read the original article on Business Insider

14 easy-to-miss details that set the F-150 Lightning apart from Ford’s gas pickups

The Ford F-150 Lightning.
The Ford F-150 Lightning.

  • I got to check out Ford’s upcoming electric pickup truck: the F-150 Lightning.
  • It looks a lot like a gas-powered F-150, but with some key differences.
  • The Lightning has a front trunk, a new hood, a giant touchscreen, and power outlets galore.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Across a crowded parking lot, you might mistake the upcoming F-150 Lightning for just another gas-drinking Ford truck.

The Ford F-150 Lightning
The Ford F-150 Lightning

But once you dig deeper, the traits that set apart Ford’s electric pickup become clearer.

F-150 Lightning
The Ford F-150 Lightning.

Up front, you’ve got a textured black panel instead of a grille – a tell-tale sign that there’s no engine under that hood.

The Ford F-150 Lightning
The Ford F-150 Lightning

The headlights and taillights have been redesigned with a more angular look.

The Ford F-150 Lightning
The Ford F-150 Lightning

The Lightning also gets an LED light bar spanning the entire width of the truck in front.

The Ford F-150 Lightning.
The Ford F-150 Lightning.

There’s a matching LED strip running across the rear.

The Ford F-150 Lightning
The Ford F-150 Lightning

Lightning badging can be found on the sides of the bed…

The Ford F-150 Lightning
The Ford F-150 Lightning

Along with a more subtle logo out back.

The Ford F-150 Lightning
The Ford F-150 Lightning

The charging port is under this little door on the front fender.

The Ford F-150 Lightning
The Ford F-150 Lightning

Ford redesigned the front fenders, hood, bed sides, and running boards for aerodynamics and to fit the new lights and charging door.

Ford F-150 Lightning
The Ford F-150 Lightning.

But that’s pretty much it for exterior changes.

The Ford F-150 Lightning
The Ford F-150 Lightning

Under the hood, the F-150 Lightning has a roomy front trunk dubbed the Mega Power Frunk.

Ford F-150 Lightning frunk.
The Ford F-150 Lightning’s frunk.

Read More: The Ford F-150 Lightning’s massive frunk is packed with useful features — take a closer look

It has a handful of power outlets…

The Ford F-150 Lightning's frunk.
The Ford F-150 Lightning’s frunk.

An extra storage cubby under the floor…

The Ford F-150 Lightning's frunk.
The Ford F-150 Lightning’s frunk.

… And a removable panel you can use as a storage divider.

The Ford F-150 Lightning's frunk.
The Ford F-150 Lightning’s frunk.

Stepping inside the Lightning, you can’t help but notice the 15.5-inch touchscreen that dominates the dashboard.

The Ford F-150 Lightning
The Ford F-150 Lightning

It’s just like the one in the Mustang Mach-E EV and has an actual volume knob embedded in it.

The Ford F-150 Lightning
The Ford F-150 Lightning

Other than that, the cab is pretty much the same as a conventional F-150.

The Ford F-150 Lightning
The Ford F-150 Lightning

The Lightning has all the options you can get in Ford’s other trucks, like a fold-out work surface and seats that recline 180 degrees.

The Ford F-150 Lightning
The Ford F-150 Lightning

That’s one of the most notable features of the Lightning – just how much it shares with the F-150s people are already familiar with.

The Ford F-150 Lightning
The Ford F-150 Lightning

Ford went through a lot of trouble to give the Lightning’s bed the exact same dimensions as other F-150s, despite the giant battery hidden underneath the floor.

The Ford F-150 Lightning
The Ford F-150 Lightning

That way, F-150 owners can use their existing racks and other accessories on their new EV.

The Ford F-150 Lightning
The Ford F-150 Lightning

The Lightning’s tailgate has the same built-in work surface found in other 2021 F-150s.

The Ford F-150 Lightning
The Ford F-150 Lightning

It also has the same tie-down points that double as bottle openers on either side of the tailgate.

The Ford F-150 Lightning.
The Ford F-150 Lightning.

The preproduction Lightning I checked out also had an optional step that folds out from the tailgate.

The Ford F-150 Lightning
The Ford F-150 Lightning

The EV’s bed does have one thing you won’t find in other pickups (except the hybrid F-150): 7.2 kilowatts of power available through several outlets.

The Ford F-150 Lightning
The Ford F-150 Lightning

Preproduction of the F-150 Lightning started in September and deliveries are set to begin in Spring 2022.

The Ford F-150 Lightning
The Ford F-150 Lightning

Pricing starts at around $40,000 for a basic work truck but can stretch to $90,000 for a Lightning with a bigger battery and all the bells and whistles.

The Ford F-150 Lightning
The Ford F-150 Lightning

Read the original article on Business Insider

I traveled to Iceland as a vaccinated American and the entry and exit process was tedious, but easy if you understand the rules

Icelandair ticket counter at New York-JFK
Icelandair ticket counter at New York-JFK

  • I traveled to Iceland as a vaccinated American and the process was easy, yet tedious.
  • Vaccinated travelers from the US need to present their vaccine card, a negative COVID test, and a pre-arrival form.
  • Reykjavik has a number of testing sites for Americans to get a COVID test before re-entering the US.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Americans are itching for a vacation, and the vaccine rollout has given travelers more freedom to go overseas.

TSA checkpoint at JFK
TSA checkpoint at JFK

Iceland is one of the many European countries that allow vaccinated Americans to enter without quarantine, so I made the hop across the pond in early September.

Luggage for Iceland
Luggage for Iceland

The entry and exit processes were tedious and there were specific steps I had to follow, including getting a negative covid test, having my vaccine card, and filling out pre-arrival paperwork.

Vaccine card and negative covid test
Vaccine card and negative covid test

Accepted vaccines are Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Sinovac, and Sinopharm BIBP and covid tests must be either PCR or rapid antigen. Travelers who do not present a negative covid test will be fined 100,000 ISK ($781) at the border.

Source: Island.is

I flew Icelandair from New York’s JFK International Airport to Keflavik Airport in Reykjavik. Icelandair is very transparent about the entry requirements for Iceland on its website.

Signs at JFK Terminal 7
Signs at JFK Terminal 7

Source: Icelandair

To enter Iceland as a vaccinated American, visitors must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with at least 14 days past the final dose, receive a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours before the first leg of the journey, and pre-register their arrival.

Passport, COVID vaccine card, and mask
Passport, COVID vaccine card, and mask

Certification of previous infection dated between 14 and 180 dates from arrival into Iceland is also acceptable at the border. These travelers do not need to present a negative covid test to enter without quarantine.

Source: Island.is

The pre-arrival form must be done online. I was required to fill out my departure and return date, my personal information, and certify I would get a COVID test before travel. Once submitted, I received a barcode in my email to verify it was complete.

Barcode from pre-arrival form
Barcode received after completing pre-arrival form

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, I was unable to check in online or on the mobile app and was instructed by Icelandair to collect my boarding pass at the desk.

Icelandair check-in email
Icelandair check-in email

When I arrived at JFK, I made my way to the Icelandair check-in counter where signs reminded passengers to fill out the online pre-arrival form. You could not check in without it.

Reminders to fill out pre-arrival form
Reminders to fill out pre-arrival form

The pre-arrival form can be found online.

At the counter, I was asked to present my negative COVID test, vaccine card, and pre-arrival form. The agent checked the date of my test and the result and verified my vaccine card was legitimate before handing me my boarding pass.

Icelandair check-in counter
Icelandair check-in counter

For those who forgot or did not know to get a COVID test, JFK has a few options, including Adams Medical in Terminal 1, Xpresscheck in Terminal 4, and NYC Test & Trace Corps in Terminal 5.

COVID testing site at JFK Terminal 5
COVID testing site at JFK Terminal 5

I did not have to show any COVID-related entry documents again until I landed in Iceland.

Icelandair Boeing 757 cabin
Icelandair Boeing 757 cabin

Upon arrival in Reykjavik, I deplaned and headed to customs where airport employees split passengers into two lines – one for those entering Iceland and a second for those connecting to onward flights.

Two lines at Reykjavík Airport
Two lines to enter customs at Keflavik Airport

The line looked long but only took about 15 minutes to clear. The customs agent only checked my passport but told me COVID documents would be verified later in the entry process.

Customs sign at Keflavik Airport
Customs sign at Keflavik Airport

After passing customs, I made my way through the arrivals hall before coming to a large “Exit to Iceland” sign and a roped-off section for travelers entering the country.

Exit to Iceland sign
Exit to Iceland sign

I made my way downstairs to a second counter where I was asked to present the barcode I received after filling out the pre-arrival form.

Travelers at Reykjavík Airport
Travelers at Keflavik Airport

Once the agents checked the barcode, I was directed to a third desk where my vaccine card, pre-arrival form, and negative COVID test were checked for a second time.

Keflavik Airport
Passengers a Keflavik Airport arrival area

The agent scanned my barcode and verified my vaccine card and test results before allowing me to exit the airport. About five minutes later, I received a text saying I was free to enter Iceland without quarantine

Text saying I don't need to quarantine
Text saying I don’t need to quarantine

If I was unvaccinated, I would need to take a test at the border and undergo quarantine.

Source: Island.is

Getting back into the US was a simpler process and only required a negative COVID test taken no earlier than three days before departure from Iceland. Fortunately, Reykjavik had a handful of testing centers available.

Downtown Reykjavík
Downtown Reykjavik

Source: CDC

I booked my test and received a barcode verifying my payment and appointment. The test cost me $60 and guaranteed I would have the results within 48 hours, which was perfect timing for my flight. Fortunately, I received my negative result in less than 24 hours with a QR code certifying its validity.

Negative covid result
Negative COVID test result

For the return flight, I was once again unable to check in online due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Icelandiar check-in counter at Keflavik Airport
Icelandair check-in counter at Keflavik Airport

When the check-in counter opened at Keflavik, I only needed to show my negative COVID test to receive a boarding pass. After that, I was able to pass through security, passport control, and board the aircraft with only my passport.

Icelandiar check-in counter at Keflavik Airport
Icelandair check-in counter at Keflavik Airport

Upon arrival in JFK, I was not asked again for my negative COVID test and simply re-entered the US with just my passport.

CBP Global Entry kiosk
CBP Global Entry kiosk

Read the original article on Business Insider

JetBlue just began flying between New York and London with the smallest plane of any airline on the route – here’s why I’m eager to book it again

Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class - JetBlue Airways London to New York in Mint business class flight 2021
Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class.

  • JetBlue Airways just began flying between New York and London with one of Airbus’ newest jets.
  • The Airbus A321neoLR is the next-generation variant of the popular A321 and is capable of flying transatlantic flights.
  • JetBlue has packed the aircraft full of customer-friendly features that take away from the fact that the aircraft is smaller than what competitors use.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
JetBlue Airways began flying between New York and London in August, bringing its low fares to Europe for the first time.

Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London - JetBlue Airways London Inaugural Flight
Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London.

Read More: I flew on JetBlue’s historic first trip to London and saw how low fares and great service will give competitors a run for their money

Introductory fares on the route started at $599 round-trip for economy class and $1,979 for Mint business class.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

One way the airline is keeping prices low is by flying smaller aircraft across the pond.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

JetBlue chose the Airbus A321neoLR for its European flights and is currently the only airline to fly a single-aisle aircraft between New York and London.

JetBlue Airways taking delivery of its first Airbus A321neoLR
JetBlue Airways’ first Airbus A321neoLR.

The trend is becoming more common as airlines try to lower costs on lucrative transatlantic flights, and manufacturers like Airbus are accommodating by making the planes fly further than ever before.

Airbus A321neo

Read More: Double-decker planes are going extinct as Airbus and Boeing discontinue their largest models. Here’s why airlines are abandoning 4-engine jets.

Some frequent flyers, including myself, dread the idea of having to fly on a single-aisle plane across an ocean. But after two flights on the aircraft, I was more than happy with the experience and enjoyed flying on it more than some larger aircraft.

A JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways London to New York in Mint business class flight 2021
Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class.

Here’s why I’d book another flight on a JetBlue Airbus A321neoLR when flying transatlantic.

Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London - JetBlue Airways London Inaugural Flight
Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London.

Insider paid a media rate to fly from New York to London and back

As a New Yorker, I’ve taken countless JetBlue flights in my flying career and have seen how quickly the airline has improved its onboard product in recent years. Those improvements culminated in the Airbus A321neoLR, flying exclusively between New York and London.

Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class - JetBlue Airways London to New York in Mint business class flight 2021
Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class.

JetBlue’s latest seat products and satellite WiFi can be found on the aircraft, as well as other features like the JetBlue “pantry.”

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

I specifically book a standard economy seat for the overnight flight to London in seat 24A.

Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London - JetBlue Airways London Inaugural Flight
Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London.

I sat down in the seat and felt surprisingly at ease. It felt like just another flight on JetBlue, an airline on which I’d become incredibly comfortable flying.

Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London - JetBlue Airways London Inaugural Flight
Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London.

Read More: I flew on a newly upgraded JetBlue plane and despite less legroom and slimmer seats, the refresh is exactly what the airline needed

JetBlue offers 32 inches of legroom in these seats as well as 18.4 inches of width.

Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London - JetBlue Airways London Inaugural Flight
Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London.

For a larger traveler like myself, the extra room made a world of difference. I didn’t feel hemmed in or struggling to find a comfortable position.

Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London - JetBlue Airways London Inaugural Flight
Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London.

Those dimensions make JetBlue’s seats more spacious than all of its competitors on the route, despite the smaller plane.

Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London - JetBlue Airways London Inaugural Flight
Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London.

American Airlines offers between 31 and 32 inches of seat pitch for its economy seats on the Boeing 777-300ER, according to SeatGuru, while seat widths range between 16.2 and 17.1 inches.

American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER
An American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER.

Source: SeatGuru

British Airways’ Boeing 777-200 aircraft offers 31 inches of pitch and 17.5 inches of seat width in economy, according to SeatGuru.

British Airways Boeing 777
A British Airways Boeing 777.

Source: SeatGuru

Delta Air Lines’ Boeing 767-400ER aircraft offer 31 inches of pitch and a nearly comparable 18.1 inches of width, according to SeatGuru.

Delta Air Lines Boeing 767-400
A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767-400.

Source: SeatGuru

Virgin Atlantic Airways offers between 31 and 34 inches of pitch on its Airbus A350-1000 XWB aircraft in economy, according to SeatGuru, with a seat width of 17.4 inches.

Virgin Atlantic Airways Airbus A350
A Virgin Atlantic Airways Airbus A350-900 XWB.

Source: SeatGuru

United Airlines offers the closest rival on its premium-configured Boeing 767-300ER with seat pitches varying between 31 and 34 inches for economy seats and 18.5 inches of pitch, according to SeatGuru. The 34-inch pitch seats are paid, extra-legroom “Economy Plus” seats.

United Airlines Boeing 767-300ER
A United Airlines Boeing 767-300ER.

JetBlue’s spacious seats are accompanied by a low-density configuration of only 138 seats across 31 rows. In economy, you can see from the first row all the way to the last with no dividers in between.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

American, by comparison, has 216 economy seats alone on its Boeing 777-300ER flying between New York and London.

American Airlines
American Airlines Boeing 777 at New York JFK airport before boarding passengers.

The only other airline flying planes with fewer passengers between New York and Europe is French boutique airline La Compagnie.

Onboard La Compagnie's Airbus A321neo - La Compagnie Airbus A321neo Tour
A La Compagnie Airbus A321neo.

Read More: I toured La Compagnie, the all-business class airline flying between the US and France. It’s the closest thing to flying private across the Atlantic.

Having fewer seats means it takes less time to board and deplane the aircraft. It might even take less time to board and deplane than JetBlue’s other aircraft that have more seats.

Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London - JetBlue Airways London Inaugural Flight
Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London.

Personally, having fewer people onboard made it feel like there was a lot less hassle during boarding and deplaning. Flying to London felt no different than if I was flying down to Florida, and it made the overall experience a lot less stressful.

Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London - JetBlue Airways London Inaugural Flight
Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London.

Beyond its impressive spaciousness, the economy seat itself had all the usual trimmings for a transatlantic product a 10.1-inch in-flight entertainment screen with a USB charging port, 110v AC power outlet, and adjustable headrest.

Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London - JetBlue Airways London Inaugural Flight
Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London.

Also on display during boarding was the Airbus Airspace cabin found on its newest jets. Mood lighting welcomes passengers onboard with LED lights above giving the impression of a starry night.

Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London - JetBlue Airways London Inaugural Flight
Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London.

Economy seats are configured in a standard 3-3 configuration with an equal number of aisle, window, and middle seats.

Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London - JetBlue Airways London Inaugural Flight
Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London.

It didn’t take long to get everybody onboard and ready for the seven-hour crossing. We would’ve departed right on time had it not been for bad weather in the area that prevented us from pushing back from the gate.

Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London - JetBlue Airways London Inaugural Flight
Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London.

But once we got underway, it was smooth sailing to London. The A321neoLR handled what little turbulence we experienced quite well.

Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London - JetBlue Airways London Inaugural Flight
Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London.

Flight attendants walked up and down the aisle to perform the in-flight service, just like a normal flight. It took a bit longer than it should have but that was chalked up to it being the very first flight.

Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London - JetBlue Airways London Inaugural Flight
Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London.

One cool feature of JetBlue’s transatlantic product is that customers can order their meals from the in-flight entertainment system.

Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London - JetBlue Airways London Inaugural Flight
Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London.

I quickly fell asleep and woke up over Ireland in time for breakfast with only around an hour left in the flight.

Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London - JetBlue Airways London Inaugural Flight
Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London.

The fuel-efficient Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan engines also make the cabin incredibly quiet and conducive to uninterrupted sleep.

Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class - JetBlue Airways London to New York in Mint business class flight 2021
Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class.

The flight ended, as all do, and I was thinking more about how happy I was in London than the fact that I flew across the Atlantic in a single-aisle plane.

Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London - JetBlue Airways London Inaugural Flight
Flying JetBlue Airways from New York to London.

I flew back to New York just a few days later on the very same aircraft. The only difference was that this time, I was in business class.

A JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways London to New York in Mint business class flight 2021
Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class.

JetBlue rolled out a brand-new Mint business class seat for this aircraft to give flyers maximum privacy and exclusivity.

Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class - JetBlue Airways London to New York in Mint business class flight 2021
Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class.

Read More: I flew JetBlue’s new London to New York route in Mint business class. It’s a premium leisure traveler’s dream but some kinks need to be ironed out.

Business class seats are arranged in a 1-1 configuration across 12 rows, taking up nearly half of the aircraft.

Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class - JetBlue Airways London to New York in Mint business class flight 2021
Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class.

Each seat offers direct aisle access and has closing doors for additional privacy.

Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class - JetBlue Airways London to New York in Mint business class flight 2021
Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class.

There were even fewer passengers on this flight so boarding took less than 30 minutes and we were quickly on our way to New York.

Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class - JetBlue Airways London to New York in Mint business class flight 2021
Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class.

The flight time was also around seven hours for this leg thanks to favorable winds. What the A321neoLR lacks in speed, however, JetBlue makes up for in the in-flight service.

Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class - JetBlue Airways London to New York in Mint business class flight 2021
Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class.

A three-course meal was served for lunch, accompanied by multiple pre-landing snacks.

Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class - JetBlue Airways London to New York in Mint business class flight 2021
Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class.

And for those still hungry, the JetBlue “pantry” is available on the aircraft where passengers can take whatever snacks and beverages they like.

Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class - JetBlue Airways London to New York in Mint business class flight 2021
Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class.

Besides the extra flight duration, I could hardly tell the difference or care that I was on a smaller plane.

Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class - JetBlue Airways London to New York in Mint business class flight 2021
Flying JetBlue Airways from London to New York in Mint business class.

Read the original article on Business Insider

South African Airways is flying again after its government cut funding last year. Here’s a look at the collapse and revival of the 87-year-old national airline.

SAA relaunches flights after a year of inactivity
SAA relaunches flights after a year of inactivity

  • South African Airways relaunched operations with a flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town after a year of inactivity.
  • Though not involved in the relaunch, the airline has likely secured a new investor, Takatso Consortium.
  • SAA said it’s optimistic about its revival, but it’s not without its skeptics.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

South African Airways was on the brink of disappearance after years of financial struggles, but it may have received a lifeline.

On Thursday, the carrier relaunched operations on a flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town using money it received from the South African government. After getting in millions from the state, the long-suffering carrier was denied further funding last year, and, as FlightGlobal reported, business rescuers entrusted with the difficult task of rescuing the 87-year-old airline had given it two options: liquidation or a wind-down and sale process.

However, SAA has likely secured a private investor, Takatso Consortium, in June 2021, which agreed to funnel up to $243 million into the crippled airline over the next three years. Takatso Consortium CEO Gidon Novick said the relaunch is independent of the negotiations between the consortium and the carrier.

Take a look at South African Airways’ collapse and rebirth.

The airline itself dates back to 1934 when South Africa’s Union Airways was nationalized to form the new South African Airways. The state-owned airline would become the flag carrier of South Africa, which was still part of the British Empire at the time.

South African Airways
A South African Airways Junkers aircraft.

Source: South African Airways

Initial operations for South African included regional flights within Africa. Intra-African and domestic flights were operated by aircraft including the Junkers Ju 52, Douglas DC-3, and Junkers Ju 86.

South African Airways Douglas DC-3
A Douglas DC-3 painted in South African Airways former colors.

Source: South African Airways

Once World War II ended, South African expanded beyond the shores of its home continent with a multi-stop flight to the heart of the British Empire. The route was known as the “Springbok” service, after the national animal of South Africa.

Avro York
An Avro York aircraft similar to the one used by South African Airways.

Source: South African Airways

The 34-hour, three-day service initially flown by an Avro York aircraft, stopped in Nairobi, Kenya; Khartoum, Sudan; Cairo, Egypt; and Castel Benito, Libya, before arriving in Bournemouth, England.

Avro York
An Avro York aircraft similar to the one used by South African Airways.

Source: South African Airways

Springbok would also become the radio callsign for South African Airways flights.

South African Airways DC-3
A Douglas DC-3 painted in South African Airways former colors.

More modern aircraft from Western manufacturers including the Lockheed Constellation L-749 and Douglas DC-4 were later added, helping fuel international expansion.

South African Airways Douglas DC-4
A Douglas DC-4 painted in South African Airways former colors.

Source: South African Airways

The airline added flight attendants on its services in 1946 and later added in-flight movies to some of its flights in the same decade.

South African Airways Douglas DC-3
A Douglas DC-3 painted in South African Airways former colors.

Source: South African Airways

South Africa entered the jet age in 1953 with a British Overseas Airways Corporation de Havilland Comet operated by South African Airways that flew from Johannesburg to London.

BOAC Comet - British Overseas Airways Corporation
A BOAC de Havilland Comet aircraft.

Source: South African Airways

Intercontinental expansion continued with South African Airways later growing its route network to Australia in 1957 with “Wallaby” service.

South African Airways Douglas DC-4
A Douglas DC-4 painted in South African Airways former colors.

Source: South African Airways

The 1960s then saw further expansion to South America, with flights to Rio de Janeiro, and then North America, with flights to New York, using the Boeing 707.

GettyImages 1080973456
A South African Airways Boeing 707 aircraft.

Source: South African Airways

South African hit a milestone in the 1970s with its first Boeing 747 aircraft, an aircraft that had begun flying passengers only at the beginning of the decade. The quad engine aircraft quickly became a status symbol for the world’s airlines.

South African Airways Boeing 747
A South African Airways Boeing 747 aircraft.

Source: South African Airways

Other new arrivals included the Boeing 737…

South African Airways Boeing 737-800
A South African Airways Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

Source: South African Airways

And Airbus A300.

South African Airways Airbus A300
A South African Airways Airbus A300 aircraft.

Source: South African Airways

South African was also one of the first commercial operators of a unique Boeing product, the 747SP.

South African Airways Boeing 747SP
A South African Airways Boeing 747SP aircraft.

Source: South African Airways

A shortened version of the popular Jumbo Jet but with the same four engines, the 747SP offering extended ranges unmatched by most aircraft of the time. The range of the 747SP was so great that South African flew it from Seattle to Cape Town nonstop, a distance of over 8,800 nautical miles, on its delivery flight.

South African Airways Boeing 747SP
A South African Airways Boeing 747SP aircraft.

Source: South African Airways

While airlines liked the 747SP for its performance capabilities, South African had a different reason involving the country’s apartheid policy.

Boeing 747SP
A Boeing 747SP aircraft.

Due to the discriminatory policy, some African countries had restricted South African Airways flights from entering their airspaces and the airline would often have to fly indirect routes to get to Europe.

South African Airways Boeing 747SP
A South African Airways Boeing 747SP aircraft.

Source: New York Times

The Boeing 747SP allowed for South African to go around the countries without having to stop for fuel on the way to Europe. Other aircraft frequently used Cape Verde as a refueling stop for flights to Europe, despite the archipelago’s location off the coast of West Africa.

South African Airways Boeing 747SP
A South African Airways Boeing 747SP aircraft.

Source: New York Times

A route from Johannesburg to Athens on the 747SP, for example, stopped in Lisbon and Rome along the way. The flight flew direct or with one stop to Lisbon, and then headed into the continent.

South African Airways Boeing 747SP
A South African Airways Boeing 747SP aircraft.

Source: South African Airways

The 1980s then saw turbulence for the carrier as Western nations adopted sanctions against South Africa for its apartheid policies. Flights to the US and Australia were revoked in addition to the countries that had barred South African’s flights.

South African Airways Protest
Australian protests against South Africa’s apartheid policy.

Source: South African Airways

When apartheid ended in the 1990s, South African was allowed to grow its route network once again and the airline no longer needed to fly the long, costly routes to avoid some nations.

South African Airways Airbus
A South African Airways Airbus A320 aircraft.

Source: South African Airways

One of the most notable displays of the new airline came in 1995 during the Rugby World Cups when a South African Airways Boeing 747 did a flyover of the stadium with “Good Luck Bokke,” a nickname for the South African team, painted on the belly. The feat was repeated multiple times in later years by other airlines.

South Africa Rugby
An aircraft flyover at a 2013 Springboks vs All Blacks rugby match,

Source: South African Airways and Safair

The decade also saw the airline win the title of Africa’s leading airline from 1994 on to 2015. The 1990s, however, also saw the airline begin its financial losing streak.

South African Airways Boeing 747
South African Airways aircraft.

Source: QZ

The 2000s saw South African undergo a fleet renewal where most of its long-haul Boeing jets were retired in favor of European-built Airbus planes. The new long-haul flagships became the Airbus A330…

South African Airways Airbus A330
A South African Airways Airbus A330 aircraft.

Source: Planespotters.net

And A340-600.

South African Airways Airbus A340
A South African Airways Airbus A340-600 aircraft.

Source: Planespotters.net

South African was later brought into organizations to which it had been denied including the International Civil Aviation Organization and joined the Star Alliance.

South African Airways
South African Airways joined Star Alliance in 2006.

Source: South African Airways

Its new-found praise and acceptance, however, couldn’t replace the financial woes of the airline. In 2019, South African entered the equivalent of bankruptcy protection and began restructuring after racking up nearly $3 billion in debt.

South African Airways Protest
South African Airways employees protest during the airline’s bankruptcy.

Source: QZ

Despite being in the midst of restructuring, South African leased a new aircraft, the Airbus A350-900 XWB, which ultimately launched on the Johannesburg-New York route in January 2020.

South African Airways Airbus A350
A South African Airways Airbus A350-900 XWB.

Read More: Bankrupt South African Airways just debuted its newest plane, the Airbus A350, weeks early despite verging on the brink of collapse

The swanky new aircraft would be ideal for the ultra-long-haul routes that South African planned to use them for.

South African Airways Airbus A350
A South African Airways Airbus A350-900 XWB.

With the new aircraft in the air and flying passengers, the hope was that South African might have a plan to save itself from collapse.

South African Airways Airbus A350
A South African Airways Airbus A350-900 XWB.

South Africa’s government, which has been incrementally providing relief, however, ultimately pulled the plug in April 2020.

South African Airways Airbus A340
A South African Airways Airbus A340-600.

Source: FlightGlobal

Without intervention from either the government or a private buyer willing to keep the airline going, South African Airways looked like it was going to disappear from the skies for good.

South African Airways Airbus A350
A South African Airways Airbus A350-900 XWB.

However, the airline is back up and running after over a year of inactivity. SAA relaunched operations on September 23 with a flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town using an A320 aircraft, which carried 123 passengers on the maiden journey.

SAA's first flight in over a year
SAA’s first flight in over a year

Source: Aerotime Hub

The relaunch came after months of restructuring, which included reducing its debt and cutting its workforce by 80%, down from 4,000 to 802.

SAA relaunch at Johannesburg airport
SAA relaunch at Johannesburg airport

Source: Aerotime Hub, ch-aviation

The airline will be backed by Takatso Consortium, a joint-venture between Harith General Partners and Global Aviation, which is in late stage talks to buy the majority stake from the South African government in June.

South African union buildings
South African union buildings

Source: africannews

Takatso Consortium is set to be SAA’s lifeline, though is not reportedly involved in the airline’s management, relaunch, or funding. However, Takatso CEO Gidon Novick said in a statement that negotiations to take a 51% share are “substantially complete.”

SAA A320 at Johannesburg airport
SAA A320 at Johannesburg airport

Source: ch-aviation

The consortium’s deal made with South Africa’s Department of Public Enterprises includes investing up to $243 million into the airline over the next three years.

SAA A330 takes off from Lusaka, Zambia
SAA A330 takes off from Lusaka, Zambia

Source: africannews

Without its private funds yet secured, the company is using $33.8 million of the $712.3 million bailout it received from the state to restart operations.

SAA A320
SAA A320

Source: ch-aviation

SAA’s interim CEO Thomas Kgokolo said the company needs a modern fleet of aircraft if it is going to be competitive outside of Africa. Currently, its all-Airbus fleet has an average age of more than 15 years.

SAA plane in Namibia
SAA plane in Namibia

Source: africannews

However, Kgokolo said ticket sales are promising and early numbers indicate flights could be 75% full.

SAA passengers
SAA passengers

Source: africannews

The airline’s fleet has shrunk, having only six of the original 44 it had before insolvency. SAA will start with a small network, operating one domestic route and five regional routes, including to Accra, Ghana; Kinshasa, DRC; Harare, Zimbabwe; Lusaka, Zambia; and Maputo, Mozambique.

SAA plane in Johannesburg
SAA plane in Johannesburg

Source: ch-aviation

While it still has a long way to go, SAA’s relaunch has brought pride and excitement for its employees. Crew members danced and sang at the Johannesburg airport before the maiden flight.

SAA employees dance after relaunch
SAA employees dance after relaunch

Source: Reuters

While the airline is optimistic about its return, skeptics believe it will be short-lived. According to Efficient Group economist Dawie Roodt, Takatso Consortium’s absence from the relaunch is not a good sign.

SAA A340 wing
SAA A340 wing

Source: jacarandafm

He explained that the slow deal with the consortium makes him wonder where the money to keep SAA in the air is going to come from. Without the agreement finalized, the airline will likely have its wings clipped again soon, according to Roodt.

SAA tail at Frankfurt airport
SAA tail at Frankfurt airport

Source: jacarandafm

Read the original article on Business Insider

Netflix didn’t think Roku could succeed. Now the streaming underdog is hoping its original content can take on Disney, HBO and more.

roku founder ceo anthony wood
Roku founder and CEO Anthony Wood in 2014.

  • Roku hasn’t always owned content that it could market to viewers.
  • But that all changed when it bought failed streaming project Quibi this year in a major pivot
  • Now Roku is competing against Netflix, which spun it off back in 2008.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Roku once had a huge appeal for customers: it didn’t own its own content to aggressively push on viewers.

The so-called content-agnostic streaming player had become a household middleman, helping people watch Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, and others on their TV with its easy-to-use hardware.

But in 2021, that all changed.

In January, Roku bought Quibi, the failed pandemic-era streaming project that wanted to capitalize on people’s short attention spans. And in May, Roku started airing Quibi’s programs as Roku Originals for free on its ad-supported Roku Channel.

The move into airing original content is a stark departure from its long-time business model, merely helping streamers showcase their content. It has a long way to go but is now among the ranks of power players like Netflix, HBO Max, and others.

It turns out the company, now worth more than $40 billion, isn’t the discarded Netflix spin-off it once was.

Netflix didn’t think Roku would succeed.

reed hastings netflix
Netflix founder Reed Hastings.

Roku’s first streaming box rolled out in 2008 after being developed while its founder was simultaneously working at Netflix and at Roku.

Reed Hastings and Roku founder Anthony Wood initially worked together to produce a streaming box for Netflix that would allow viewers to stream content from anywhere, including from Apple TV and Xbox, CNBC reported. But those companies were less than thrilled by the idea of people watching Netflix on their platforms, and Netflix opted to divest the division – named Project Griffin – to Roku, and Wood followed.

“There was Xbox and PlayStation and Samsung and Apple TV,” Hastings told CNBC in June. “Frankly, we didn’t think Roku had much of a chance.”

Netflix sold its remaining Roku stock in 2009 at a $4.3 million loss, the outlet reported. If it hadn’t, that stake would be valued at about $7 billion today.

Roku has earned a name for itself in decentralized streaming devices and software. Roku’s own line of TVs holds a 38% market share in the US, according to data from the NPD Group. It also makes other accessories like soundbars.

It’s consumed the largest bite out of the connected TV market in the US, beating out Apple and Amazon, and ended 2020 with 51.2 million active accounts- in other words, 51% of US homes had a Roku streaming device as of last year.

Roku did not respond to interview requests for this story.

Roku’s playing with the big dogs now, including Netflix

Roku Originals

The Roku Channel used to only air lackluster content from other media companies. Its Quibi acquisition represents the first bevy of original programming that Roku will own and stream on its platform.

That includes “Die Hart” starring comedian Kevin Hart, “FreeRayshawn,” “Reno 911!,” and Chrissy Tiegan’s “Chrissy’s Court.”

And it turns out that yes, people are watching. The streaming giant said in June that the top 10 most-watched programs on its Roku Channel between May 20 and June 3 were Roku Originals.

It also expects to air 45 Roku Originals by the end of the year, with the $1 billion that it raised in March could go toward original content production, a former board member told CNBC.

Indeed, earlier this month, the company said it’s writing and producing “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” a canceled NBC program, into a movie in what is another effort to wade into original programming.

However, Hastings told the outlet that Netflix doesn’t see Roku as a competitor. “They’re not a big threat to us,” he said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Small airlines battle to serve the most remote US cities, where even empty flights can be profitable thanks to millions in subsidies

Advanced Airlines Beechcraft King Air 350 aircraft
An Advanced Airlines Beechcraft King Air 350 aircraft.

  • The US government’s Essential Air Service program gives subsidies to airlines serving remote cities.
  • Around $315 million is being spent in 2021 for Lower 48 cities, given largely to the country’s smallest airlines.
  • EAS cities are highly sought after and communities can be very particular with who serves them.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Beckley, West Virginia; Burlington, Iowa; and Clovis, New Mexico are among the countless US cities that have been overlooked and underserved by America’s largest airlines. There’s simply not enough consistent demand to make them profitable.

But one airline’s money-losing route can be another’s profit-maker. In fact, a niche industry of regional airlines seeks out these cities and relies on the US government to help turn a profit when flying to them.

The Department of Transportation’s Essential Air Service program incentivizes airlines to serve more than 100 cities American cities. More than $315 million in yearly contracts is doled out in the Lower 48 alone, and nearly $27 million is given in Alaska.

Any airline can submit a bid to serve EAS cities but regional carriers have cornered the market. The top EAS airlines in the US include SkyWest Airlines, Cape Air, Boutique Air, Southern Air Express, and Denver Air Connection, according to the DOT’s most recent data.

When considering bids, the DOT factors in items including the service reliability of the airline, connectivity to larger airlines, opinions of the community being served, and the cost of the subsidy. The cheapest bid doesn’t always win the contract, nor does the one with the most community support.

Southern Air Express Cessna Caravan aircraft
A Southern Air Express Cessna Caravan aircraft.

In the case of Rutland, Vermont, the DOT chose Cape Air to serve the city with an annual subsidy of $1,959,579 for the first year rising to $2,018,366 the next. Cape Air’s option won out over a cheaper Boutique Air option in part because of a lack of community support for the latter airline.

But what the community gives, the community can also take away. San Francisco-based Boutique Air was forced out of Ironwood, Michigan, for example, after its aircraft suffered two incidents on flights from the city.

The airport board voted to “seek a new air carrier,” according to a government filing, and three airlines – Air Choice One, Southern Air Express, and Denver Air Connection – all submitted multi-million-dollar bids to take Boutique Air’s place.

Major US airlines can also advocate in support of their regional airline partners as ease of connections in major airports can be crucial in securing a contract. Some major airlines, including American, do bid for EAS routes themselves but are a small percentage of the program as of the most recent DOT tally in July.

The unique airlines operating these flights often use unique aircraft, including older models that are cheaper to operate. Aircraft can be more than 40 years old, such is the case with some of Cape Air’s fleet of Cessna 402C aircraft.

Denver Air Connection Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner aircraft
A Denver Air Connection Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner aircraft.

Other airlines, including Boutique Air, use private aircraft intended to transport the wealthy. “Some airlines do feel more like a private [flight,]” Joey Gerardi, an aviation writer who has taken more than 40 EAS flights and has seen the best and worst of the program, told Insider.

Most EAS flights that he’s taken have been bare-bones with no in-flight entertainment or even a flight attendant.

“A lot of Essential Air Service carriers don’t have much service at all and that’s just because of the size of the plane,” Gerardi said, adding that some offer special treats like a snack basket of full-size candy bars.

Alaska sees a lot of EAS flights given the remote nature of the state’s cities and Alaska Airlines is a prominent carrier, using its fleet of Boeing and Embraer aircraft. On those flights, the experience may be indistinguishable from a standard Alaska Airlines flight.

But the type of aircraft used can be a point of contention for communities. Michigan resident Dennis Lennox complained in a letter to the DOT about SkyWest’s Bombardier CRJ200 aircraft operating daily flights between Detroit and Pellston, Michigan under the Delta Connection brand.

Delta Air Lines CRJ 200
A Delta Air Lines Bombardier CRJ200 aircraft.

“This aircraft has outlived its viability, is regularly in bad condition, and provides an unacceptably uncomfortable in-flight experience for passengers even on a flight of only 45 minutes to 1 hour in duration,” Lennox wrote, estimating that 40% of the flight he’s booked on the aircraft have been delayed or canceled.

And with millions in government subsidies, these airlines don’t have to worry about filling every seat, and they often don’t.

“At least 80% of the EAS flights I’ve been on have five or fewer people,” Gerardi said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I went aboard Virgin Voyages’ first cruise ship, and it made me want to book a cruise for the first time ever

The Scarlet Lady sailing
The Scarlet Lady.

  • I took a tour of Virgin Voyages’ first vessel, the Scarlet Lady, and it changed my perspective on cruising.
  • The ship has amenities like a Korean barbecue restaurant, a tattoo parlor, and on demand champagne.
  • Take a look inside the Scarlet Lady ahead of its first US sailing in October.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Group’s cruise line, Virgin Voyages, will begin a series of US sailings this October aboard its first vessel, the Scarlet Lady.

The Scarlet Lady sailing
The Scarlet Lady.

I took a tour around the adults-only Scarlet Lady when it was docked in New York City, and exploring the ship changed my perspective of what a cruise experience should be like.

communal seating options
The Scarlet Lady.

The ship was supposed to debut in New York in early March 2020.

a stairway spiraling down to seats
The Scarlet Lady.

“As we got to Liverpool [to unveil the ship], the headlines were ‘people stuck at sea on cruise ships,’ and it was just the worst week in history to launch a new [cruise ship],” Branson said. “Virgin Group definitely chose its sectors well for COVID.”

Thomas McAlpin and Richard Branson posing for a picture together
Thomas McAlpin and Richard Branson.

But now, 18 months later, the Scarlet Lady is ready to begin cruising from the US after completing a series of “staycation-at-sea” sailings around the UK.

a food counter with tables
The Social Club Diner.

Source: Virgin

According to Tom McAlpin, president and CEO of Virgin Voyages, these UK sailings “solidified the fact that [Virgin Voyages] got the right balance” of onboard amenities like restaurant and entertainment options.

a tattoo and piercing parlor
Squid Ink.

“The team has created a magical experience, the kind of cruise ship that myself and my family would have dreamt of going on,” Branson told Insider.

a coffee shop with pastries
The Grounds Club coffee shop.

“We’ve never been interested in going on cruise ships, so that’s why we set out to try to create something really special, unique, and very Virgin,” he continued.

a rainbow windowed doorway leading to the outdoor deck
The Scarlet Lady.

The Scarlet Lady even won over Branson’s cruise-skeptic daughter, who sailed with her friends and “didn’t want to get off,” according to her father.

a wall of art with swings in front
The Scarlet Lady.

She’s not alone. During the first sailing in the UK, 125 passengers booked additional cruises with Virgin Voyages, a testament to how much the customers enjoyed sailing on the Scarlet Lady, according to McAlpin.

seating by a window
The Scarlet Lady.

Let’s take a look around the cruise ship to see what’s attracting these repeat customers.

seating spaces next to windows
The Scarlet Lady.

To start, Virgin Voyages’ ships are all adults-only.

a spiraling staircase lit up at night
The roundabout.

And the cost of a sailing includes access to amenities like group fitness classes, WiFi, and all of the onboard dining options.

The Extra Virgin restaurant with tables by windows
The Extra Virgin restaurant.

Let’s start with the accommodations. The Scarlet Lady has 1,330 cabins and 78 “Rockstar Quarters” suites.

a cabin with a bed, side tables, chairs, tv, and mirror against a closed curtain
The Sea Terrace cabin.

Virgin Voyages says its cabins are “superyacht inspired,” and it’s easy to see why.

a cabin aboard the Scarlet Lady.
The Scarlet Lady.

Source: Virgin Voyages

 

While I was touring the ship, I got to see one of the two largest suites – aptly named “Massive Suite” – which has the typical living room, bedroom, and bathroom with a hot tub, along with …

a marble shower with rainbow reflective glass doors
The bathroom in the Massive Suite.

… a second bedroom that also serves as a music room with guitars and an amplifier…

a living room and back music room with guitars on the wall
The Massive Suite living room and music room.

… and a sprawling terrace with two hammocks, a hot tub, an outdoor shower, a conversation pit, and an outdoor dining table.

a jacuzzi on a terrace
The hot tub on the terrace of the Massive Suite.

In total, the 2,147-square-foot suite can sleep up to four people.

outdoor tables and chairs
The Dock House.

Now, moving on to the amenities that everyone sailing with the Scarlet Lady can access.

an entry hallway with lights
The Scarlet Lady.

The Scarlet Lady has a variety of restaurants I personally haven’t seen on a cruise ship.

a dining room with a chandelier and staircase
The Scarlet Lady.

This includes Gunbae, a Korean barbecue restaurant designed to have a laid-back, party-like atmosphere …

A neon sign that says "you float our boat"
The Scarlet Lady.

… and Test Kitchen, which also doubles as a cooking school.

dining room with tables and chairs
Test Kitchen.

Unlike most traditional restaurants, Test Kitchen’s menu only states ingredients.

dining room with tables and chairs
Test Kitchen.

There’s also Razzle Dazzle, a vegetarian-friendly restaurant with a drag brunch …

The Razzle Dazzle restaurant with bold white and black stripes on the wall and floor
The Razzle Dazzle restaurant.

… and the more classic cruise dining options, such as a steak and seafood, an Italian, and a Mexican restaurant.

a wall of hard liquor by a dining table
The Pink Agave restaurant.

Instead of a buffet, there’s a food hall with eight stalls, including sushi and taco stands.

a dining room with wooden detailing
The Loose Cannon.

And of course, as an adults-only cruise, the Scarlet Lady has plenty of bars and lounges, including a casino.

slot machines
The casino.

Let’s start with the Manor, a two-floor nightclub and entertainment venue with an Instagram-friendly entrance.

mirrored hallway with sparkling lights
The entrance into The Manor.

There’s also Draught Haus, a taproom with eight beers on tap and a lineup of bottled beers, cocktails, and shots.

tables in front of a stage
The Scarlet Lady.

Not interested in beer? How about champagne. Sip is a champagne-focused lounge with bubbles that range from $9 a glass to $1,000 a bottle.

a lounge full of tables next to windows
The Sip lounge.

Craving a drink but you’re nowhere near Sip? If you have the Virgin Voyages app, you can request on-demand champagne from anywhere aboard the Scarlet Lady.

a bucket of champagne
The Sip lounge.

Source: Virgin Voyages

 

The ship also has several features I’ve also never seen on a cruise ship, such as a record shop …

a wall of vinyls next to a DJ booth
Voyage Vinyl.

… and a tattoo and piercing shop.

a tattoo parlor with two seats
Squid Ink.

But the one feature that stood out to me the most was the spa, which has amenities like a mudroom, quartz bed, and salt room.

a massage table
The spa.

Unlike most spas that are pristine and white, Scarlet Lady’s Redemption Spa has darker colored decor, which made the space feel calm, serene, clean, and luxurious.

a spa with round windows
The spa.

However, the nail salon, barber shop, and hairstyling stores aren’t located in the spa. Instead, they’re next to the aforementioned tattoo and piercing shop.

stores around a hallway
The shopping area.

The Scarlet Lady also has several workout options, including a gym, spin room, boxing ring, track, and yoga and barre room.

yoga mat and blocks in a room of windows and mirrors
The yoga room.

And we can’t forget about the outdoor pools.

a pool on an outdoor deck surrounded by beds and chairs
A pool.

To reduce waste, the Scarlet Lady won’t have any single-use plastic items. This means no non-reusable water bottles or utensils.

a spiral staircase with decor in the foreground
The spiral staircase.

Overall, the Scarlet Lady looked more contemporary and sleek than the other cruise ships I remember being on as a child with my family.

sun deck with a trampoline
The sun deck.

And I definitely never remembered seeing a Korean barbecue restaurant or tattoo parlor aboard any cruise ship I was ever on.

two shuffleboard games
The Scarlet Lady.

And because the space is for adults only, none of the amenities or decor felt childish or tacky.

a pool surrounded by lounge chairs
The wellbeing pool.

I’ve always felt lukewarm about vacationing aboard a cruise ship, but the Scarlet Lady’s modern appearance and plush, hotel-like amenities made me rethink my hesitations.

an ice cream counter
The Lick Me Till… ice cream shop.

And imagine playing in the arcade or at the casino with no children running around. Luxury!

an arcade with games
The arcade.

If you’re also interested in sailing aboard the Scarlet Lady, you’ll have to wait until October when the ship will begin bringing over 2,770 passengers and 1,160 crew members on four to five-night cruises from Miami to the Caribbean.

an outdoor lounge area
The Scarlet Lady.

Passengers will also get a chance to spend time at Virgin’s Beach Club in Bimini, Bahamas.

chairs and small tables in front of a windowed wall
The Scene.

In terms of health protocols, the Scarlet Lady will be sailing fully vaccinated to create a “bubble” and the safest travel experience possible, McAlpin said.

Thomas McAlpin and Richard Branson at a DJ booth
Thomas McAlpin and Richard Branson.

“It’s time to get back out there and convince people that it is safe and have fun,” he said. “Take the masks off and be able to socialize again and have a good time.”

The Scarlet Lady ship and emblem
The Scarlet Lady.

Like other cruise lines, McAlpin noted that there’s “pent-up demand” for cruises.

life preserver ring that says Scarlet Lady
The Scarlet Lady.

As a result, Virgin is seeing a good mix of customers, including first-time cruisers.

a lifeboat attached to the side of the ship that says Scarlet Lady
The Scarlet Lady.

Looking ahead, Virgin Voyages already has plans to debut more ships, including the Resilient Lady and the Valiant Lady. The latter will debut in 2022.

The Scarlet Lady sailing
The Scarlet Lady.

Read the original article on Business Insider