Introduction to a European Birthday Adventure
New Delhi to Abu Dhabi (Jet Airways First Class 777-300ER)
Abu Dhabi to London (Etihad First Class A380)
London to Rome (British Airways Business Class A319)
Hotel Boutique Nazional (Rome 1)
Mainson Tofani Guesthouse (Sorrento)
Best Western Plus Hotel Milton (Rome 2)
Hotel Palazzo Manfredi – Relais & Chateaux (Rome 3)
Aroma Restaurant (Rome Michelin Star Restaurant)
Rome to Paris (Air France Business Class A321)
Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel (Paris)
Paris to Doha (Qatar Airways First Class A380)
Al Safwa First Class Lounge (Doha)
Doha to New Delhi (Qatar Airways Business Class 787-8)
Al Safwa First Class Lounge,
This is an interesting one, because this entire trip I never had the chance to really experience a First Class Lounge (mostly because Jet & Etihad don't have one yet), so this would be the true first test of how good a First Class Lounge could truly be, specifically since it was only 4 weeks since they opened. Keep in mind, I hold the entire class experience as one which includes a lounge and an excellent flight - so Qatar has the step up on this front.
Al Safwa is Qatar Airway's First Class lounge, specifically for those flying Qatar First Class (Regional and International), however, having landed in Doha from a First Class flight, I was allowed access to the lounge since I was flying business on the following leg, and I was curious if the Al Safwa lounge was a step up from the impressive Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge.
Upon having been led from the Gate to the Lounge, I was already impressed with the pro-activeness of Qatar Airways Ground staff, so I was looking forward, and I was to say upon arriving at the Al Safwa, I was immediately taken in by the grandeur or it all - the long corridors, the impressively high ceilings, and the warm tones of the walls - architecturally speaking, it was stunning.
At first I was quite impressed, but I was hungry again, so I decided to head straight to the restaurant and took a seat at the comfiest looking chair, ready to try out some First Class lounge food, where I took my first few images after the entrance. Luckily there was a bag room, so I managed to drop my hand luggage off which really helped with moving around.
I had heard many reviews previously that the lounge was empty when they visted, but it was actually rather packed which surprised me - as none of my first class passengers has arrived in the lounge with me, so I guess they must be either outgoing or regional First travelers.
I had a good view of the lounge and the Restaurant bar from where I sat, as it gave me time to take in the lounge. A few minutes after I settled in, the "waiter" came to take my order, and I chose a few items to eat with some more Krug (fast becoming my favorite champagne). The waiter was fairly attentive and professional, but again there was no friendliness in their service - no doubt a perk of working for Qatar Airlines. The menu itself (sorry no images) was quite small, but there seemed to be enough selections for most people.
The food came fairly quickly, which was nice. I started off with the Beef Cubes on a stick (kebabs) with some harissa sauce. The Presentation was decent, but not overly impressive. As for the taste, it was lacking in taste, and the meat was a little overly chewy - surprisingly since this was made 'fresh' from the kitchen. The harissa sauce was delicious however, and it really spruced up the meat.
I followed up with a Tenderloin with veggies, which was a little better in taste, but it still followed the same 'chewy' route, unexpected from a First Class lounge. I suppose it's a new setup, so if we're being generous we can consider them all to still be learning to routines, but I was still disappointed with the taste. I followed up with a Cheesecake for dessert which was nice at least, but could be improved.
Service was professional and attentive all across, which was a nice improvement over Al Mourjan at least.
The chair I sat in was comfortable enough, but lacked proper lumbar support so it was a fine chair to look at, but not use for extended periods, as you can see above. There is a lumbar 'pillow', but it's not effective. Stuffed, I decided to check out the rest of the lounge to see how came across, having filled my tummy.
I headed back to the central part of the lounge, which was rather empty, and featured a unique pole from the ceiling which took water down towards the 'water bowl' if you will, and it's nice to look at, but not else, so I moved on.
I checked out some of the emptier seating, which looked nice with it's brown leather, but wasn't particularly better than other seats in other lounges, maybe a little plushier, but nothing special. I felt the brown on brown theme was a little overbearing in the lounge though.
One thing I did like is that many seats had both USB charging and 3 pin charging points for your electronics at your side table, along with a tablet to see your flights status, so kudos on this as MANY lounges miss out on this feature, which is quite shocking sometimes.
I also came across another food wing, which had Fresh Sushi and sandwiches, but since there were no signs direction people here, most people may end up missing out on this, like I did as I was already full at this point.
There was also a business center which had a few work chairs along with iMac's to work on if needed, but with most people having laptops I'm not sure how often these rooms would be utilized. It's still a nice place to bring your laptop to get some serious work done if need be.
I decided to walk along the corridor to see what was there, and I realized I needed to take a picture because the main entrance to the lounge (from Check-in Area) is really imposing, but it also feels very soul-less. The corridor itself is quite plain and could do with some more artwork or splashes of color - hopefully this should be coming soon.
I came across another unmanned reception table which led to the game room on one side, and the family rooms on the other side. I decided to check out the game rooms first.
The Games rooms seems to have one room focused towards kids below 12, and one for teens, with a mixture of Xbox/PS3/Wii Consoles, along with some other cool features such as half an F1 car for F1 driving simulation games - which of course wasn't turned on, for some reason, though every other screen was on, though no children were in sight. Still, it's nice for having the option for kids to do something.
Following that, I decided to check out the Family room, which seemed weird to have since there were a LOT of rooms dedicated to families, though again, all were very poorly lit and unused. One interesting thing they did have was a smaller pantry with sweets such as cupcakes, cakes and yogurt (?), which could only be found in this area. Again, I was incredibly tempted to try one since they looked so pretty and delicious, but I wanted to save space for supper on the flight back to Delhi.
The sad part is while it all looked fresh, it all looked untouched the entire day. Moving onto the rooms, I found the decor to me more inviting and pleasant here than the main lounge area, but more lighting was required. The entire concept was also lost on me, since I couldn't figure out if people would really want to use this area when the lounge was perfectly suitable outside, but perhaps as the lounge fills up with usage, the rooms may as well.
Maybe it's to make people feel more at home?
Anyways, by this time I realized I was getting late for my flight, so I had to rush out to get my bag. I snapped one last picture, and headed for my final flight of this short, but amazing European Birthday Adventure. Unfortunately I ran out of time to check out the Spa along with the Rest Rooms, but have to leave something for next time right? 😉