Emirates Airbus A380-800
Emirates on-board bar and lounge.
First class cabin in the Airbus.
Sabering of a champagne bottle at the St. Regis.
Meredith Harrell and Julian Leaver
Take-off prep for the sunrise hot-air-balloon ride
Dubai Miracle Gardens
Twenty-nine hours in the City of Gold has never been quite this glamorous — or fleeting. Dallas event planner Julian Leaver checks one extravagant trip off the top of his to-go list.
We all have that one thing — the top-of-the-list fantasy we never imagine will actually happen. For some, it might be skydiving in the Nevada desert; for others, perhaps hearing Andrea Bocelli sing in his Tuscan hometown.
For me, it’s quite simple. I have always been fascinated with flying. Sure, I have adored luxurious vehicles and dreamed of riding the Orient Express, but my big transportation obsession has always been planes. Private planes. Fast planes. Vintage planes.
The one that tops my list, though, is the most high-tech plane there is: the Airbus A380. This double-decker bad boy is the world’s largest, most luxurious commercial aircraft in the skies today. So, when my friend and regular travel companion Meredith Harrell suggested a jaunt to Dubai for dinner by way of Emirates’ Airbus A380, I couldn’t resist.
After all, what better way to experience the full glory of this groundbreaking aircraft than to hop a ride to one of its most exotic and furthest destinations from the United States? Herein, a minute-by-minute account of our fast-paced transcontinental adventure.
9:27 am EST: After leaving Dallas and spending a few days in New York, we depart the Iberostar70 Park Avenue Hotel in Midtown and Uber to JFK. The quest begins.
10:27 am EST: Arrive at Emirates check-in counter. “Welcome to Emirates,” says the desk agent. “Are you checking any luggage?” Why, no, I tell her. We’re only staying for 29 hours, so we both have carry-ons.
10:40 am EST: All things airport-security are made better with a Business Class Priority Pass. We arrive at the gate just in time, as boarding begins five minutes later. Having carry-ons does have its benefits.
10:50 am EST: Down the jet bridge we go, up the A380’s grand staircase, and into the lap of business-class luxury. The amenity-laden cocoons that are our seats provide every possible luxury for our journey across the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the Red Seas, en route to the playground of the Middle East.
11:10 am EST: “Would you like some Veuve?” asks the lovely hostess as I familiarize myself with the sophisticated in-flight entertainment system, fully reclining bed, mini bar, Bvlgari dopp-kit, and push-button windows. I am also making mental notes of the fully equipped bar at the rear of the plane, the wine and lunch menu that has just been dropped off to my seat, and, of course, unlimited, ever-flowing Veuve Clicquot.
2 pm EST: Lunchtime. Who can complain about an in-flight meal that begins with an authentic Arabic Mezze and ends with a cheese course. Bonus points for the crisp white tablecloth, Emirates branded china, and silver-plated flatware.
8 pm EST: Time to sleep. My compartment converts to a plush bed with feather mattress. The Bvlgari eye mask comes in extra handy.
10 am GST: Touchdown Dubai International Airport. A quick trip through customs with our Emirates Business Class Fast Track Pass, and we are whisked to The St. Regis, Dubai.
11 am GST: Knock, knock. Who’s there? Our butler, naturally. Following quick introductions and a pot of hot tea, our new friend departs with my tuxedo over his shoulder on its way to be pressed, and we head to the nearest souk for a bit of shopping.
1 pm GST: Teatime at At.mosphere atop the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. Having tea 123 floors up proves a divine, ear-popping experience.
3 pm GST: Drooping eyes call for a quick nap back at The St. Regis, to rejuvenate for the night’s activities.
6 pm GST: Have you sabered? My favorite St. Regis tradition is the sunset sabering of a Champagne bottle to signal the beginning of the evening. Thank you, John Jacob Astor.
7 pm GST: A house car takes us from The St. Regis to the Burj Al Arab, the world’s only seven-star hotel, which is shaped like a large sail on the edge of the Persian Gulf. Après canapés and sweeping views, we head to dinner.
8 pm GST: We refer to our trip as Dubai for Dinner, and the time has finally arrived. What better place than Buddha-Bar at Grosvenor House Hotel to spend our sole evening in town. We start with homemade dim sum (chicken siu mai, green vegetable dumplings, and spicy scallop har gao), followed by sushi and vegetable yaki soba noodles.
The culinary experience was made all the more entertaining by the ministrations of DJ Glass Coffee, straight from London’s famous members-only club and hotel, Shoreditch House.
10 pm GST: The beds at The St. Regis call our names, and they do not disappoint. Morning will be here sooner than we are accustomed to.
3 am GST: The early bird gets the best view. We head deep into the desert for a sunrise hot-air-balloon ride. There is nothing like pure silence at the top of the world (4,000 feet up), punctuated only by the blast of fire from the burner, to allow you to take stock of new beginnings. Safety first: Our balloon captain has a direct line to Dubai Airport Traffic Control.
8 am GST: Following breakfast at Brasserie Quartier at The St. Regis, we head to the Dubai Miracle Gardens. Thanks, Instagram, for the heads-up about this colorful, unexpected oasis in the middle of the desert. (It brings to mind the zaniest Wonderland.) If I had a million dollars a month to spend on watering, I would certainly plant my own miraculous flower garden.
10 am GST: America, here we come. In an Emirates Business Class transport, we are whisked to a terminal reserved strictly for First and Business Class check-in. Bespoke service at its best.
9 pm EST: Following another perfect flight aboard the Emirates A380, we arrive at JFK. After 25.5 round-trip hours in the air, and 29 hours on the ground in Dubai, our adventure comes to a close. But we fret not. Next up is an all-American trip to Maine, plus a jaunt to San Francisco.