September – October, 2016
This time it’s the Emirates experience flying from Rome to Australia during another unfortunate saga…
After last year’s episode with Cathay Pacific and adamant that I don’t want to be on a plane for two consecutive nights ever again, I book with Emirates. After all, this airline does have a great name, right?
Booking with Fly365, I receive excellent service and support from Scott – and ready to leave Italy for the long-haul flight to Australia.
Emirates experience Rome to Dubai
The service on Emirates is excellent and the food is very good.
If it’s this good in Economy, imagine what it must be like in Business or 1st Class?
Our A380 plane even has a Top Deck, which I’ll never see…
What to expect
The alcohol flows freely and liqueurs are also on offer – even Baileys.
It’s the little touches that makes a long journey pleasant. The endless choices of movies. The food. Apart from the 3-course meal with accompanying bread, there’s cream cheese and biscuits, Melba mini Toasts with Peri Peri sauce, a dark chocolate morsel, even a little pack of 4 Tic-Tac mints, and real cutlery – all this served on your tray.
During the flight water and juices are handed out, as is ice cream. After all, it is important to keep yourself occupied on a long-haul flight and what better way is there to occupy oneself than with food?
This plane is serviced by 25 attendants and 17 different languages.
Transit at Dubai Airport
Although the plane is about a half-hour late taking off, we arrive at the massive and very modern Dubai Airport on time, for some window shopping as I have over three hours to kill.
Only ever stopping here briefly in the past, this time I notice that the Duty Free is no longer Duty Free. Everything is very expensive, unless you want trashy Chinese-made souvenirs.
Ushered to another holding area for the flight and although we’re supposed to board at 02:00am for a 02:45am take-off, an announcement finally advises:
“due to technical issues, which we are trying to fix right now, we won’t be boarding until 03:15 am”.
Damn. Do all my flights to Australia always have to be delayed?
Emirates advise passengers to return to the lounge and wait. Not a good sign.
I can’t seem to get the free wi-fi here – manage to display the logon screen but the logon wants to charge me USD$7.95 for a 24-hour period.
I’m starting to fade now and my bloodshot eyes are hanging out of my head. I hope we board soon as there’s only 15 minutes left before take-off…
The saga begins
The saga starts to unfold and is reminiscent, bringing back nightmares from the flight to Australia last year.
We finally board at 3:30 am…a relief. Short-lived as we sit on the plane and wait until 4:30 am.
The technical issue, which is something to do with the hydraulics in the engine is now fixed and undergoing testing.
We sit and wait some more, before the dreaded message blares over the speaker: “the plane is grounded as it did not pass testing – everyone has to go to a hotel”.
We’re ushered off the plane and to the Emirates counter to pick up hotel and food vouchers.
With hundreds of people on the plane and a lot of hotels already booked, it’s a long wait. Emirates has to split passengers up and shuttle people to different hotels.
We’re first advised that the hotel is in the airport. Then, next to the airport. But ends up a ten-minute drive from the airport.
Poor communication from the Emirates staff and everyone has to wait for available shuttle buses – this takes ages.
Finally, I’m standing in the rammed tiny shuttle bus to the hotel, with Dubai’s airport fading away into the distance like a mirage in the dessert.
The real salt to the wounds and quite annoying is that as we leave, I spot dozens of Emirates planes just sitting at the terminal.
There is loads of sand in Dubai. Everything is built on sand. It’s hot, dusty, and dry. My camera battery dies, so no photos.
With this bad luck during the last two times returning to Australia, I feel that I’m not supposed to return.
I’m knackered as I’ve been awake for over 28 hours and still have the 13-plus hour leg to Australia.
Arriving at the Arabian Nights
Quite a nice hotel but think staff are stressed, with all the grumpy passengers from the grounded flight.
Checking in with the hotel voucher produces a breakfast voucher in return.
For some reason I receive 2 separate vouchers. After a quick bite to eat from the impressive buffet breakfast, I finally enter my room at 7:30 am. Everything is provided in the room. Also very thick blackout curtains conducive to sleep.
I can’t sleep – overtired.
A long-needed hot shower then lay my weary head on the fluffy pillow and lay horizontal for about two hours tossing and turning.
Hard to sleep when doors are slamming, people are speaking loudly, and sounds as if a bunch of hungry wilder beast are emerging from the Serengeti.
Before leaving Dubai airport, Emirates advise: “passengers would get a wake-up call at 12:00 pm for a 12:20 pm return shuttle bus from hotels to the airport. Do not miss this shuttle bus”. This is the other reason I can’t sleep.
After a very fast 15-minute buffet lunch and nearly missing the shuttle bus, it’s back to the airport.
Returning to Dubai Airport
Another wait at the airport for the plane – dazed and extremely sleepy.
An announcement of yet another delay for our flight – sidewards’ glances amongst passengers. Here we go again…
Luckily, the plane is only delayed for 15 minutes, not so bad. Are planes ever on time these days?
Board a little late but alas, we do take off, finally. I let out a small loud cheer to the amusement of my surrounding passengers. At last, we’re on our 13-hour journey to The Land of Oz!
Excellent service on the Emirates flight. All is well with the world once more.
Overnight in Rome before flights to Australia
The Roma Termini train station appears to have grown somewhat since 2009. Although the old part still exists, there seems to be a lot of modern extensions added on.
Accommodation in Rome is always hit and miss, so read the reviews.
Hotel Fiamma – 1st stay Rome to Australia
Great location as this hotel is only about a 10-minute walk from the train station with big backpacks.
The room is clean albeit a little dated. Bar fridge, AC, and toiletries are provided. Breakfast is included in the €106/night double (expensive for this room).
Don’t forget on check-out you’re charged €4/person Tourist Tax, which is different to the City Tax. Reception staff are friendly although, the breakfast staff are quite miserable. The breakfast (07:30-09:30) is buffet style with a selection of fruit, breads, cheeses, meets, tea, coffee, juice, yoghurt, and cereals.
Hotel Fiamma 2nd stay – Australia to Rome
Returned to this hotel from Australia but this time we’re in room 501 -strange as the lift only goes to the fourth floor…could be interesting.
Once out of the lift and turning the corner, a steep narrow staircase leads to a door 501. The staircase is so narrow it reminds me of Anne Frank’s hideout.
Trudging our heavy packs up the narrow rickety staircase, it feels as though my foot will go through a tread at any moment.
The room is rundown compared to the previous room.
The air-conditioner doesn’t work on heating. The radiator and hairdryer are broken, paint is peeling off the walls, and the room needs a major vamp up.
There is a small bar fridge for our water, crispy clean sheets, plenty of extra pillows and blankets, hot water, and an extra bed…so all is not lost.
This room feels as if it is an afterthought – an outhouse and definitely not worth the money.
Don’t forget when checking out of a hotel in Rome, you’re charged city tax of €4 per person per night, which adds up if you stay any length of time. You cannot evade this nice little sting on your way out the door.
Finding a nondescript restaurant near our hotel, it proves to be touristy.
A cappuccino is €4.50, espresso is €3, Primi Piatti €6+, Secondi €8+, pastries are also expensive. My Tortellini dish is tasteless and disappointing, especially for the price. Most pasta dishes are drenched in a white sauce.
Nestled at Fumicino Airport I waited for 4 hours for my partner’s flight from the UK. This café at arrivals serves wonderful Italian coffee (€1.50) and Panini with tomato and fresh Mozzarella (€4.50). What else do you do at arrivals? At least there’s an arrival board that is updated constantly in real-time. With nothing to do, the board is mesmerising, whilst sipping coffee.
Antico Caffe de Brasile
On via Serpenti 23, serving Rome since 1908 the caffe claims, and very good prices, excellent coffee (€1.50), pastries (€1+), and great staff. Service is good.
Wander along via Di Serpenti to try some Sushi (rare in Cosenza, Calabria). The raw fish Sushi is good but a little pricey (€2+ for 2 tiny slivers) compared to Brisbane, which is still the cheapest and best in the world I’ve found so far. The carton of fried rice with egg (no meat) for €7 isn’t bad but think we’ve been spoilt in SE Asia for this type of food.
If you don’t want to pay Rome’s restaurant prices for not great food, then there’s quite a good supermarket in the train station. This supermarket is a little more expensive than other IperCoops in the country, but this is Rome.
Cheap transport to and from Fumicino Airport
Walk to the back of the Rome Termini train station and you stumble upon via Marsala.
From here, buses run every hour to the airport and for €6/person, it is the cheapest way. The train is €14. An Airport shuttle from our hotel is €48 for 4 people, but if the hotel cannot muster four people together, you must pay for the full fare.
Be at the bus stop 10 minutes before departure. You can buy tickets on the bus – seats are tight. The journey takes about 50 minutes and only picks-up once along the way.
The bus stops at Terminal 3. This is the spot to take the return bus back to the train station, which runs every 15-20 minutes from the airport and stops twice. On returning to Rome, this trip took 1.5 hours due to peak-hour traffic.
Returning to Cosenza with Trenitalia
I have to say, not only is booking the Trenitalia tickets from Rome to Cosenza (Calabria), easy to do online from Australia, but the very comfortable train actually is on time. This is the same train as coming up from Cosenza over 5 weeks’ ago. The 09:26 am train (€50) leaves right on the dot and not too crowded yet. I’m sure it will fill up quickly.
And as the train glides its way smoothly down to the deep south, the ever-changing landscape gets better and less congested. It’s as if the south is swallowing you up into the last frontier – exaggerating.
Arriving at the change-over station of Paola, the train is 10 minutes late…no big deal really, as time is on our side. The connecting train to Cosenza (€2.40) is on an older train and a slightly smelly one at that – it’s only about 20 minutes to Cosenza.
Great to be back!
It is great to be back in Italy.
Hearing the passionate language, seeing the local hand gestures, smelling the wonderful aromas of homemade pasta, bread, pizza, sweet pastries, and espressos – but also the whole vibe of this country, makes it very welcoming.
Here starts another chapter in Italy.
I hope this chapter is a fruitful one as I really can’t wait to explore more of Italy but also, absorbing the culture more. Searching for our own apartment is the next cool job on the list this week.