Friday, May 18, 2012

Arriving at HNL and Hawaiian Airlines Baggage Claim

Passengers arriving on Hawaiian Airlines flights should be aware that baggage claim is at the inter-island terminal but the flights arrive at the overseas terminal. So deplaning passengers have the option of walking (about 10 minutes) or using the airport's intra-airport shuttles. For the most part shuttle drivers attempt to be waiting for an arriving flight. The buses do crowded once you factor in everyone's carry-on bags.

Arriving at HNL tonight, I opt to walk. It's late evening and cool and I get to stretch my legs. At baggage claim are the usual lei greeters for passengers who have booked the packages.

I was originally scheduled to arrive at 7:15am on an American Airlines flight via a connection made in Los Angeles after what would have been an 11:35am departure from Vegas. But after my flight was cancelled and rebooked on a non-stop flight on Hawaiian, only get in two hours later. The Hawaiian flight left Vegas at 6:15pm and arrived in Honolulu at 9:30pm.

This is the last of my "Las Vegas May 2012" posts. I'll again posting feature articles until my next big trip which is my annual visit to New York City in June.

Hawaiian Airlines First Class on Boeing 767-300

Macadamia Nut Pistachio Pate, Braised Spicy Chicken and Asian
Mixed Greens.
Tiramisu (above photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
Hawaiian Airlines has updated their fleet of wide-body long-haul jets with Airbus A330-200 jets and has place them in service on a few routes including select flights between Honolulu and Las Vegas. These jets are replacing the airlines aging fleet of Boeing 767s. This evening flight HA 5 to Honolulu has been assigned the airlines 767 jet. It'll be interesting to compare it to the A330 which was used on my flight three nights ago to Vegas.

There are 18 seats in first class and the remainder of the cabin devoted to coach class. The modern elements of the A330 are obviously missing like the spacious overhead bins and lighting. In lieu of the on-demand systems stored in the armrest for first class passengers, entertainment is via portable Digeplayers that are pre-loaded with movies, television programs, music videos and music and distributed by flight attendants. Coach passengers can rent the players for $15.


A330 Planes

767 Wide-Body Planes

Hawaiian's new wide-body A330s carry more passengers, fly farther, and are more fuel-efficient than our existing wide-body fleet of B767s.


  • Seating Capacity: 294 Seats
  • First Class
    Pitch: 45" to 46"
    Seat Configuration: 2-2-2
  • Coach Class
    Pitch: 31 to 32"
    Seat Configuration: 2-4-2
The twin-jet B-767 has earned an industry-wide reputation for being comfortable, fuel efficient, easy to maintain and environmentally friendly.


  • Seating Capacity: 264 Seats
  • First Class
    Pitch: 42"
    Seat Configuration: 2-2-2
  • Coach Class
    Pitch: 32"
    Seat Configuration: 2-3-2

The first class seats on either jets do not recline flat.

Hawaiian's first class meal service is comprised of the "Your Way" menu created by Chef Chai Chaowasaree. It's different compared to other airlines and it would be a success if it weren't for the time it takes for each passenger to be served made obvious by the duration between the first passenger served and the last. The fault has to be in the six selections of which passengers choose three. It appears its a time challenge for the flight attendants to prepare the trays for each passenger.

I pick the Macadamia Nut Pistachio Pate, Asian Mixed Greens and Braised Spicy Chicken. Flavor profile wise this is the best prepared combination of plates between the four Hawaiian Airlines flights I've taken in the past two months. Though each are mini-entrees, it was a nice progression from the appetizer-like lightness of the pate to refreshing tones of the salad to the heartiness of the chicken. I just wished the chicken had a bit more sauce. As common with these tiny plates, neatness is complicated when cutting the chicken on the bed or rice.

Thank goodness no rock-hard frozen dessert. If old-fashioned but still satisfying, the Tiramisu closes out the meal. But where's the coffee. For first class service, there shouldn't be a wait or the need to order a cup of coffee. I finally get some java and watch a movie on my iPad before resting my head for the remainder of the flight.

Hawaiian Airlines is well-known for their in-flight hospitality of the flight crew and that politeness was evident even if the crew on this flight seemed a bit more harried than on previous flights I've taken.

I've learned that American Airlines have again allowed the earning of miles in their reward program on Hawaiian Flights. Back in the mid 1990s American had nixed any mile earnings on Hawaiian other than on inter-island flights. The rule is still in place that you can't earn Aadvantage miles on Hawaiian's West Coast flights. However Aadvantage members can now earn flight on Hawaiian to destinations elsewhere including to the East Coast. This summer Hawaiian is flying non-stop to New York's JFK.

Hawaiian's "Your Way" menu. First class passengers choose three
of the six selections.
One of Hawaiian's 767 jets sits at the gate at McCarran. Strip hotels
can be seen in the distance.
(above photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
Interior of Hawaiian's 767 first class cabin.
(photo: Rick Schmitz/flickr)

Cancelled and Delayed at McCarran in Las Vegas

Terminal 1 has lot of eating and shopping options. American Airlines
departs from this terminal. Little did knew when I took this photo I
wouldn't have time to visit any of these retailers.
(above photo: TheHopefulTraveler)
 If you read my post from May 15th called "HNL to LAS: Solving a Delayed Flight Problem" one would think history would not repeat itself on the same trip. But my cell phone started ringing just a few steps from my gate at McCarran International Airport to catch an American Airlines flight to connect in LAX to head back home to Honolulu. It was one of those automated message letting me know (less than an hour before departure) my flight was cancelled and I was placed on another flight to leave the next day.

Now I would have loved to spend one more day Las Vegas but things would have been different if I was notified before I checked out of my hotel rather than minutes before my flight was supposed to have departed. So I had to rely on experience, knowledge and patience to solve multiple problems to get things in order to return home.

First thing I sat myself at the gate with a pen, paper and my boarding pass and called American Airlines. The airline was maintaining they could not get me on any American flight on the same day. This is where I had to interject and ask if they can get me on one of the Hawaiian Airlines flights that was scheduled to depart that day with non-stop service to Honolulu. After 45 minutes on the phone, I was confirmed on Hawaiian flight HA 5 that would depart McCarran at 6:15pm and arrive at HNL at 9:35pm. Problem 1 solved.
(story continued below)

Terminal 1 passengers take a monorail after security to the airline gates.
One of the stations to catch the Terminal 1 monorail.
(above photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
 Since I had already checked one bag, the gate agents informed all passengers that were booked on AA1308 from LAS to LAX that our bags were still at check-in. So it was return trip on the airport monorail and then another hour waiting in line at American's check-in desk to get my bag. There were only three agents working the counters so the long wait was compounded by passengers who were checking in combined with passengers who needed to be rebooked in addition to the added time for airline personnel to search for the checked bags. One passenger got so impatient that there was near fist fight when others complained. But by that time I had got my checked-bag and Problem 2 solved.

Now when American rebooks passengers on other carriers, the airline confirms the reservation but not the passenger's seats. So rather than waiting to check-in at the Hawaiian Airlines for a seat assignment, I was back on my cell phone calling Hawaiian customer service. Luckily the airline already has my reservation in their system and the rep was able to confirm a coach seat. I mentioned that I was an elite member holding Puulani Gold in their HawaiianMiles reward program. The agent confirmed that I was able to use my perks and have priority check-in no checked bag fees. Problem 3 solved.

Waiting out the time between my original departure of 11:35am to 6:15pm
cost me $25.35 for starters.
Booked in Hawaiian first class and my tags bagged.
(above photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
 My original departure from Vegas on American was at 11:35am and now I was to depart at 6:15pm on Hawaiian. So I would have time to spare at the airport. What to do? I headed over to the retailers outside of security and picked up some basics from Hudson News that would tide me over until my flight. This included a magazine, tropical trail mix, honey cashews, potato chips, bottled water and a Listerine pocket mist. Combined with my iPhone and iPad, I would be able to keep myself entertained until the 5:30pm boarding time. Problem 4 solved.

After spending more than a couple of hours on my phone calling the two airlines, my battery was extremely low. Finding a free outlet outside of security was not easy. A hallway on the departure level of Terminal 1 leading to airport office and a floor above baggage claim got me a free outlet and peace and quiet. I decompressed while I charged both my phone and tablet by sitting on the floor and closing my eyes. My electronics were fully juiced in less than hour and I headed to the Hawaiian Airlines terminal. Problem 5 solved.

From Terminal 2, one can get a view of many of the hotels along
the Las Vegas Strip: Mandalay Bay and Luxor to...
...Excalibur, Tropicana to New York New York.
(above photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
 I felt like I did everything I could do and just had to wait out the time until departure. Hawaiian Airlines departs from the McCarran's dilapidated Terminal 2 so it was a ten minute walk in the Las Vegas heat from Terminal 1. Waiting for Hawaiian check-in to open, I reconsidered my option and called Hawaiian. Could I upgrade? The answer was yes. Logging into my HawaiianMiles account I checked-in online even though I had no way to print my boarding passes. But it would allow me to upgrade to a first class seat for a fee of $270 based on my elite level with Hawaiian. I was feeling like crap after waiting at the airport for most of the day, stressing over re-booking my flights and walking through two terminals so the restful flight with a hot meal would help bringing this trip to end on a high note.

Once the kiosks at Hawaiian check-in were available for check-in, I printed my boarding passes. An agent working the kiosks tagged my bag and I was on my way to security. I could only hope there would be no further interruptions between now and my arrival in Honolulu. If life's problems were not solved, at the I worked the ones to get me back home. Thank goodness.

The view at Gate 5 at Terminal 2 offers a view of the hotels north
of the MGM Grand.
Pointing my camera further both, I can make out the Wynn and Encore.
(above photos: TheHopefulTraveler)

Express Checkout at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

Most Las Vegas hotels will not slip your bill under your door overnight. You can have one emailed or pick it up at the reception desk. Since I had time after a morning of slot play I did the latter and headed to the The Cosmopolitan reception lobby. I didn't even have to wait in line. In fact I didn't even make to one of the actual receptions desks. Instead a roaming attendant in the lobby with an iPad in hand got me a printout of my bill. I mentioned I still had to retrieve my bags from the room so I was not ready to check out. She said just use the phone when I'm ready. I had to think about that one.

Low and behold on the phone was an option for an Express checkout. I always hated using the remote and television at other major metropolitan hotels to do the same task. This was way faster and easy. Got my bags and headed straight to the taxi stand for a ride to McCarran airport. This visit started rocky but the things were great after that. Can't wait to head back to The Cosmopolitan for another stay.

The Casino ATM at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

Gone are the days of coin buckets but this changed with the advent of coinless slot machines in casinos everywhere. Once you complete playing the slot the machines of you choice, hit the "cash out" button and a voucher is printed with the amount of the payout in lieu of coins. These are redeemed at the cashiers cage or the on the ATM redemption machines located throughout the casino floor.

For casinos, coinless slots and redemption machines meant reduced the labor cost for slot/change attendants. In turn it made it faster for for players to cash out rather than having to stand in long lines or carry buckets of coins. Players also didn't have to worry about machines running out of coins and then waiting for attendant to refill them.

The vouchers are almost as good as cash when switching machines. Cash out of one machine and use the voucher to continue playing on another. In a rush and don't have time to cash out, save it and play it later. Currently for accounting purposes, these vouchers cannot be played at other casinos even ones owned by the same company.

By the end of my stay at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas I had accumulated six vouchers and remembered to cash them before checking out of the hotel.

For the beginner, using a redemption machine is much simpler than using an ATM for a cash withdrawal. Take care when handling vouchers or tickets. Should you find yours unacceptable in the machine, there's always the cashiers cage.

Insert voucher/ticket in redemption machine.

The machine will read your ticket and display its amount.

Once approved, the machine will cash out your payout in paper pills and coins.

Collect your payout.

It would be wise to check your wallet a day before departure for any vouchers especially if you played at multiple casinos. This will give you the chance to return to the casino for the redemption. There is an issue of forgetful players forgetting to cash out and are not being able to return to the casino because, for example, they live in a different city. Each casino has their own policies and it would be wise to call the hotel for more information should you find yourself in this situation. It's possible the vouchers may still be redeemable for 30 to 60 days which still doesn't help if you're not able to get back to the casino. But since the vouchers are transferrable, cities with gambling heavy travelers such as those from Hawaii should not have a problem of finding an acquaintance who may be able to help to cash out the voucher on their own vacation.

Va Bene Cafe at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

Va Bene Cafe is The Cosmpolitan's version of a Starbucks with style. It's a polished and modern take on an Italian coffee bar serving paninis, gelato and salads in addition to coffee and pastries. Outside of Secret Pizza, this is the second cheapest place to grab a meal in the hotel.

Knowing I'll have a busy late morning heading to the airport and wanting to make the most of my last hours in Vegas, I opted for a healthy menu of a yogurt and berries parfait ($6), a banana ($1) and orange juice ($4.50). The selection of baked goods looked delicious also but I knew if I got hungry there would still be time to return and grab something quick before heading to the airport.

Va Bene Cafe is located on the second level of The Cosmopolitan. Hours: Daily 6am-11pm.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Scarpetta Restaurant at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

Peeking into the entrance of Scarpetta, the restaurant looks like it may just
be bar with a few tables but hidden beyond is the main dining
room overlooking the Bellagio's lake and fountains.
The main dining past 11pm. A few guests remained but including myself
but I was never felt rushed to finish my last dish.
(above photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
For my last night at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, I knew I wanted to try one of the hotel's fine dining restaurants. Despite having already tried six of the on-site establishments, there were still seven left to try. I normally have an early dinner to beat the crowds but I opted to enjoy the Dr. Dog concert at the Boulevard Pool viewed from my private terrace. It was nearly 9pm so I wondered if I would be able to find a table.

Italian food is one of my favorites and so Scarpetta from Chef Scott Conant was my destination. One can be intimidated by unfamiliar Italian words in a menu and unusual preparation or ingredients or by the well dressed diners sipping glasses of wine and staff who feel they know more about all cuisines than you do. So it's a credit to the hostess and wait staff at Scarpetta that they eased me into a comfortable experience to enjoy what I came here for: the food.

The hostess asked if I was a guest of The Cosmopolitan, which I was, and found me a table with a view of the Bellagio. I ordered the Signature Tasting Menu ($110) which cured my indecisiveness. Though the tasting would be comprised of six dishes according to the number of selections, by evening end it appeared I tackled an undertaking of ten if you include the excellent bread of dipping sauces and a couple of extra plates offered by chef. But it was the best way to savor the array of Conant's signature dishes across the menu.

A selection of Italian breads (Filone, Ciabattini, Rosemary Focaccia and Stromboli) served with Mascarpone Butter, Citrus Olive Oil and Eggplant Capunata. The breads could have been a meal in themselves especially with the hearty capunata of chopped eggplant in a sweet and sour sauce.

A duo of Raw Yellowtail in olio di zenzero and pickled red onion and Tuna 'Susci' with marinated vegetables and preserved truffles. The fresh taste of the yellowtail melts in your mouth while the tuna is the perfectly paired appetizer.

Crispy Fritto Misto is comprised of layers of tender squid, vegetables, artichokes, herbs and lemon. It's crispy exterior reveals a sweet and tender seafood that lacks oily characteristics one would expect.

Creamy polenta with a fricassee of truffled mushrooms. A signature dish that will leave you wanting more of it.

The remains of the Roasted Sea Scallops, Truffled White Asparagus, Pink Grapefruit and Uni Aioli. I love scallops especially in this well executed dish.

Spaghetti with tomato and basil. It's all about the pasta which is made fresh daily at Scarpetta. Delicious simplicity.

Short Rib Agnolotti with brown butter horseradish and toasted breadcrumb. One of the best pasta dishes I've ever tasted. The crispy topping melded perfectly with the creamy sauce and savory pasta stuffing.

A flaky and bold Fennel Spiced Black Cod with concentrated tomatoes and black olive oil followed next.

Spiced Duck Breast with endive, preserved orange and cippollini onions. Thick pieces of excellently prepared duck which I would have preferred with a bit more sauce.

Amedei Chocolate Cake, Toasted Almond Gelato and Salted Caramel Sauce. A rich chocolate doughnut balance by the delicious gelato and sauce made for a decadent end to a wonderful dinner.

I have to admit I was dazzled by the presentation of every plate and I love how multiple servers proudly present and describe each dish. Leaving the restaurant I'm still thinking about the agnolotti. I could have taken a plate to go. But it's a reason to return to Scarpetta.

On the name 'Scarpetta': An Italian expression meaning 'little shoe' (or the shape bread takes when used to soak up a dish) that represents the pure pleasure of savoring a meal down to the very last taste.

The restaurant was dimmed for dinner and every table tonight was in use for most of my evening here. The long narrow dining room and bar feels cozy without being cramped. The atmosphere feels like a sleek modern restaurant transplanted from New York city if it weren't for the massive Bellagio marquee outside as a reminder of your true location. Prime tables have an unobstructed view of the Bellagio's lake and fountain show.

Click HERE to view the menu. Visit for more information. Scarpetta is located on the third level of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas resort. Hours: daily 6pm-11pm. Additional Scarpetta restaurants located in Beverly Hills, Toronto, New York and Miami Beach.

About Chef Scott Conant: He has appeared as a guest judge on the Food Network's "Chopped" and in various seasons of Bravo's "Top Chef." One of New York's most beloved and respected chefs through his deft touch and unwavering passion to create food that is unexpected and soulful. Rave critical reviews and enthusiastic following for Scarpetta in New York and Miami has established him as one of the country's preeminent Italian chefs. He also brings to The Cosmopolitan a second restaurant and wine bar called D.O.C.G.

"Scarpetta" means "little shoe" or the shape break takes when used to
soak up a dish.
Scarpetta's dining room has a cozy yet big city feel.
The restaurant's bar serves as the hallway to the dining room.
Guests seated by the window have a view of the Bellagio hotel tower...
....or a view of the Bellagio lake...
....or a view of the Bellagio marquee.
(above photos: TheHopefulTraveler)

Wraparound Terrace Suite EVENING VIEW FROM THE ROOM at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

The Boulevard Pool at night and The Cosmopolitan marquee.
Dr. Dog performs at the Boulevard Pool.
(above photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
This is one a series of posts covering aspects of the Wraparound Terrace Suite.

Staying at this 17th floor corner room at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, I had no idea that the Boulevard Pool which was a couple of floors below my room was also used for concert events. Guess what on this last night I got treated to a free concert event with an unobstructed view. Indie rock band Dr. Dog performed and I had never heard of them before tonight. Seeing the stage being set up earlier in the evening I thought I would be subjected to some hard rock music but their melodies have a more classic pop feel.

Also tonight I got enjoy the evening view from my room for a last time this trip. The views at night are more dramatic especially with the Las Vegas Strip resorts fully lit. From my room I had great view of the Paris and Planet Hollywood as well as The Cosmopolitan's ever changing video artwork screened on The Cosmopolitan marquee.

The view of the illuminated Paris Las Vegas resort.
The glow of Planet Hollywood.
(above photos: TheHopefulTraveler)

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