Day 0: A Royal Departure
Here we go! After months of planning and anticipation, the ultimate trip around the world in business class is here. I had booked this trip about 5 months prior with 105000 ANA Miles, mostly transferred from American Express points. This allowed me to stitch together a route around the world, pretty much any way I want, flying in business class on Star Alliance Airlines. To kick off this trip, I was starting from my home base of Seattle, flying to Taipei on EVA Air’s flagship product, their Royal Laurel Business Class.
I arrived at Sea-Tac at around 10:20pm, about 3 hours before departure. With a big smile on my face, I walked past the Royal Laurel sign towards the Business Class check-in counter for EVA Air. It was quick and easy, and I was handed my boarding pass along with an invitation to the British Airways Terraces Lounge. EVA doesn’t operate a lounge in Seattle so it contracts with British Airways for its Business Class passengers. Despite the late departure, there was still quite a line at security, with an estimated 45mins for general screening. I was able to use the premium security lane for the first time and got through in about 15mins.
I took the train to the S-gates and headed up the stairs to the British Airways lounge. I had heard this was a basic and old lounge so I didn’t have any expectations going in; however, it actually looked quite nice. The seating consisted of large leather armchairs, which were clean, seemed new, and were comfortable. There was a selection of simple but high quality sandwiches, cheeses, soups, and snacks. While the spread was pretty small, for a late night flight with a big dinner service coming up, it was more than sufficient. In addition, there was a full bar menu that you could order from by ringing the attendant, but I was saving myself for the vintage Champagne on board. There were also showers rooms, although I made sure to take one before I left.
I had a glass of a honey lemon drink with some small bites, as well as a hot chocolate with cookies. Service was good, with attendants quickly cleaning plates and refilling the food. The lounge was medium full, so it didn’t seem too crowded but I didn’t feel comfortable taking pictures. Despite the people, it was extremely quiet, much more so than other lounges I’ve been to that are accessible via credit cards.
About 10mins before boarding, I headed back down to the main gate (S16). The seating area was full but still orderly. There was also an area for hot tea available to all passengers waiting at the gate, a nice gesture that I haven’t encountered for economy class in the past. I took my place in the Royal Laurel line, which was first to board. As I walked down the jet bridge that’s when it really hit me that this was happening. I was greeted at the second door of the two year old Boeing 777-300ER by the friendly EVA flight attendants, and escorted to my seat 2A near the front of the first cabin. I put my carry on in the overhead bin, which I had all to myself. Royal Laurel Class is laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration with reverse herringbone seats. For an aircraft as wide as a 777, this meant an incredible amount of space for each person.
I found the EVA “Thunder” noise-cancelling headphones, slippers, a pillow, and a hefty down blanket was already placed on my seat. Shortly after, one of the flight attendants introduced herself to me and offered a welcome beverage of water, orange juice, or sparkling wine. I had the orange juice, which also came with a hot towel and a piece of dark chocolate. I was then offered pyjamas, designed by Jason Wu, a Taiwanese-Canadian fashion designer. Only a handful of airlines still offer PJs, and it's even less common in business class.
After that, I was given an amenity kit by Salvatore Ferragamo. EVA usually gives the iconic Rimowa kits on flights out of Taipei; but this black leather kit looked very high quality and stylish. There was a huge assortment of goodies inside (socks, eyeshade, earplugs, toothbrush, toothpaste, glasses cloth, floss, comb, another pouch of hand cream, body lotion, and lip balm).
Next, I got the food and beverage menu, which I took some photos of (and I am glad I did because they quickly took it back). My order was taken for the post-departure beverage, which I opted for the Champagne (Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2006 Vintage). This is a very high quality champagne and retails for over $160 US a bottle – usually reserved for first class. EVA doesn’t have a first class cabin so their soft product has to be highly competitive with first class offerings from the other excellent Asia-Pacific airlines (Cathay, ANA, Singapore, etc).
The attendant also confirmed my pre-ordered main, my choice for the Chinese breakfast, my morning beverage, and whether I wanted to be woken up for breakfast. Royal Laurel passengers are able to pre-book their main course up to 3 weeks in advance online (for free), with a much larger selection of entrees than what’s offered on board (which was a sea bass and filet). For my first business class flight, I pre-ordered the lobster.
After a smooth taxi and take off, meal service began. A very large and sturdy table came out of the console of the seat, and the flight attendants set it with a beautiful table cloth and a silk napkin, alongside a large assortment of metal cutlery. The first course was an amuse bouche of Glazed Honey Ham on Toast and a Dill Salmon Gravlax on a Spoon Cracker. This was served with my champagne in a chilled glass flute – a nice touch. The little bites were delicious and the champagne was fantastic.
Continuing the seafood theme of the dinner, the appetizer was a Crab Meat Salad topped with Guacamole. A bit unconventional but also very delicious. This was served with a cute little tray of salt and pepper, butter, balsamic olive oil, and bread. Another flight attendant also came around with a bread basket of hot options, so I also got a couple slices of fresh garlic bread.
Next was the main course, lobster with a ginger onion sauce served with rice and vegetables. The flight attendant also topped up my champagne and poured a glass of Evian water. The lobster was delicious, with the meat coming out of the shell very easily and in whole. A full tail was served but they also had a whole piece of claw meat in there. The lightness of the sauce and sides gave it a great balance, so as to not overpower the lobster. Sipping champagne and eating lobster at 35000 feet – what more can you ask for.
Finally, it was time for dessert, which was an apple tartlet and fresh fruit. I finished the meal with a cup of hot oolong tea. Wow what an experience.
After dinner, it was around 3am Seattle time so people were settling in for the night. I went to the business class bathroom right behind the cockpit to change into my new PJs. The bathroom was clean, well lit, had a nice fresh orchid, a foldable leather dressing table, and a full length mirror. There was an assortment of amenities and products by HARNN next to the sink. I used the facial mist every time I went to the bathroom, which was very refreshing and smelled great.
By the time I got back, the flight attendant had already put a mattress cover on my seat and left a bottle of Fiji water. Holding down the night time seat control, the seat quickly turned into a lie flat bed. The bed was a great size. I had no issues with the length and enough room to toss and turn. The footwell was also sufficient and I didn’t feel it was too narrow at any point. Once the seat is in bed mode, the top of the seat is like a big shell that blocks you from the rest of the cabin. So even though this was not an enclosed suite, it still felt very private. EVA also lights up their cabin ceiling with stars, giving it a really soothing vibe.
I slept for about 5 hours in what was by far the best sleep I’ve had on a plane. I usually struggle to sleep on these transpacific flights, so this was really nice. When I woke up, I could hear someone slurping noodles which got me excited to get up. The cabin did not have much foot traffic, with the flight attendants staying in the galley most of the time. I pressed the attendant button on the remote and immediately someone came. I asked for a shrimp wonton noodle soup with another oolong tea. There were a few other snack options including a beef burger, instant noodles, hot chocolate and cookies, that were available on request; but I was feeling something warm and hearty. The flight attendant quickly arrived to set my table and brought out a nice big bowl of wonton noodle soup. I also asked for some chilli sauce, which I knew EVA was famous for. That sauce was incredible, the best I’ve ever had. It seemed like a mix of chilli oil and XO sauce as I could taste the dried shrimp and scallop. The wontons were also great, with nice big chunks of shrimp and an aromatic broth. That really hit the spot.
I continued watching A Star is Born on the inflight entertainment. There was a large screen that could flip out to face you directly or you can stow it when sleeping for more space. Next to the seat was a small PSP-like tablet that could control the main display or also act as a second display. Both were easy to use and the selection was fine. The seat controls were all placed next to me, along with convenient locations for USB, power outlet, reading light, headphone jack, and tray table. The seat has 3 preset settings for takeoff/landing, lounging, and sleeping. It also had unlimited adjustment of every portion of the seat, so there was no way to be uncomfortable. There was a large table area next to the window and as well as a cubby for addition storage. Next to the footwell were two other cubbies, so there was plenty of storage space. I think this seat is very well designed, easy to use, and all controls are available exactly where you want them.
About 2 hours before landing, breakfast service commenced. The meal started with a hot towel, new tablecloth, and my morning beverage of choice which was a cappuccino. Instead of a regular sugar packet, the coffee came with this rock candy on a stir stick which would slowly melt as you continue to stir. The cappuccino was well made with a nice frothy milk foam and topped with some nutmeg. I’m usually not a fan of spices in my coffee but this worked really well. I went with the Chinese option for breakfast which was Congee with Traditional Delicatessens. This included a really tasty egg omelet, sautéed chicken and veggies, pork floss, preserved vegetables, and preserved tofu. Meal service concluded with a refreshing plate of fruits and another cappuccino.
I finished the rest of the movie while sipping on my coffee for the remainder of the flight. We landed just before 5am local time at Terminal 2 of Taipei Taoyuan International Airport. We were the first flight of the morning so the airport was pretty empty and there was no line at customs. I was out in the arrivals hall by 5:20am.
This goes without saying, but what a fantastic flight. This was the longest flight I’ve been on but felt like one of the shortest. Never did I get the “are we there yet” feeling that usually happens on these long transpacific crossings. The food, service, and sleep were all top notch. Can’t wait to fly Royal Laurel again!