Since I have so much to write about, I decided to split this trip into five posts.
Back in July of 2016, my sister and I booked our tickets to Guam and Tokyo. For only 130,000 United miles and $74.36 in taxes each, we were able to book two tickets to Tokyo with a free stopover in Guam in United’s Polaris Business class.
We’d seen a good portion of Europe when we were younger and we both enjoy sushi and roller coasters, so we figured Japan would be the next logical trip to take. With good flight availability, warm weather, diving, and lots of beaches, Guam made for a good stopover. As an added bonus, I’d get to fly the upper deck of a 747-400 on the way home.
I already had a sizable amount of miles from several signup bonuses over the past couple months myself. For Elizabeth, I referred her to a couple cards: the Chase Sapphire Preferred and a 50,000 mile offer for the MileagePlus Explorer Card for an easy 100,000 miles between the two cards, which she accumulated over the course of a few short months.
ORF [Norfolk] to ORD [Chicago O’Hare]
February 15, 2017
Depart: 6:00 AM
Arrive: 7:32 AM
For our first leg, we took an ERJ-175 from Norfolk to Chicago. The seats were comfortable and the flight went smoothly and on time. It was too early/too short of a flight for meal service, but I was saving my appetite for the Polaris Lounge.
Polaris Lounge, O’Hare
As soon as we disembarked in Chicago, we headed over to the Polaris lounge. Exclusive to international first and business class passengers, it opened back in December of 2016 and was reviewed by multiple sources as being the best lounge of any US airline.
It certainly did not disappoint.
My sister and I headed over to one of the tables for a sit down meal. Our amazing waiter came by immediately to present us with menus and take our drink orders.
He mentioned that everything was prepared from scratch in the in-house kitchen and made several recommendations.
The waiter convinced us to order one of nearly everything, as portion sizes were not extravagant, to allow you to sample multiple items.
After ordering a round of mimosas, we ended up sampling the Greek yogurt parfait, smoked salmon, eggs benedict, sausage, bacon, Belgian waffle. and bakery basket. All of the items were amazing. The quality and presentation of the items was easily on par with a fine restaurant. The real show stopper was the bacon though. With no exaggeration, it was the best bacon I’ve ever had in my life. The texture was perfect and it was cooked in a small amount of maple syrup, giving it impeccable flavor.
After indulging in all of the breakfast items, I decided to check out the shower suites and attempt to take a nap in one of the relaxation suites.
The showers were the best I’ve experienced in an airport lounge thus far. Spotless heated floors, quality amenities, towels by Saks Fifth Avenue, and multiple shower heads made it one of the best showers I’ve ever taken.
After freshening up, I decided to check out one of the four relaxation suites.
Overlooking one of the gates, each suite had a day bed, Saks Fifth Avenue pillow, white noise machine, chocolates, and a bottle of pillow mist. After we got settled in, one of the attendants came by to offer us bottles of water and blankets.
After a futile attempt at napping (I was far too excited for this flight), we headed over to the bar to check out the drink selection.
The bar had multiple top shelf options on the menu to choose from, plus a self-serve whiskey bar as well. As the lounge was brand new, multiple staff members were in the process of being trained, so our bartender had a gentleman shadowing him while he served drinks. Even though he looks very serious in the picture, he and everyone else working there seemed to be genuinely excited about the new product.
As the clock ticked closer to noon, we headed towards our gate to begin boarding. I snapped a few photos of the lounge as we headed out. I’m not sure how busy it gets in the afternoon, but it was relatively quiet all morning. Definitely a big difference from a standard United Club
ORD [Chicago O’Hare] to NRT [Tokyo Narita]
February 15, 2017
Depart: 12:00 Noon
Arrive: 4:30 PM
Our next flight would be my first flight with the new Polaris soft product. New seats are in the works, but the current seats aren’t bad if you’re traveling with a partner.
We flew in seats 6J and 6K on the pre-merger United 777-200ER. The pairs of seats in row six are probably the most desirable in business class, as they are forward facing and have a bulkhead in front, where you can store your pillow and blanket for easy reach.
We were greeted with amenity kits and Saks Fifth Avenue bedding at our seats.
Soon after boarding, we were offered a pre-departure beverage and menus for the flight while we got settled in. On this flight, they offered a Japanese dining option in addition to the Western dining service.
After a few minutes of looking over the menu, our flight attendant came by to take our meal orders.
After a long taxi to the far side of the airport and a climb to cruise altitude, the beverage and lunch service began. Morning Polaris flights feature a bloody mary cart while afternoon and evening flights allow for the option to do a wine flight.
The meal was just the right amount of food, even for me. The appetizer was absolutely delicious and the short rib was cooked perfectly. If you like spicy food, the Asian fusion chicken soup is pretty solid, but it was a tad too spicy for Elizabeth.
The ice cream sundae was also delicious and a nice novelty. There’s just something special about having ice cream in the air.
For the majority of the flight, I entertained myself with a couple movies, some video games on my laptop, and the airshow system. Towards the middle of the journey, I decided to sample the grilled cheese sandwich and see what all the fuss on the forums was about.
About an hour and a half out of Narita, the cabin crew turned up the lights and began with the breakfast service. I went with the omelet and Elizabeth picked the cereal and fresh fruit.
After breakfast, we made our descent into Tokyo’s Narita airport and were presented with boxes of chocolate before disembarking.
Narita United Club
Although we had just eaten breakfast before landing, we arrived at Narita around 4:00 PM Tokyo time. After a swift walk through security, we made it to the United Club at Narita to wait for our flight to Guam.
This club is definitely one of the largest United Clubs I’ve been to so far and has a significant number of window seats with great tarmac views.
I sampled some of the noodles, sushi, and Japanese beer for a light dinner before our late night flight to Guam. Even at the airport, the sushi was already better than most of the sushi back home.
I then decided to grab a shower so I could head straight to bed after our 2 AM arrival in Guam. The showers weren’t as flashy as the Polaris lounge but they were still in better shape than the ones at Newark.
NRT [Tokyo Narita] to GUM [Guam]
February 16, 2017
Depart: 9:20 PM
Arrive: 1:55 AM
Our next flight from Narita to Guam was on one of the recently converted domestic 777’s that is also used on the Hawaii routes. In the front, it’s better than the old Hawaii plane with its lie flat beds, but in economy, an additional seat was added to each row during the conversion process, marking shoulder room a bit tight.
We chose seats 2K and 2L for this flight. One of only two pairs of seats on this aircraft that face forward and don’t receive any residual light from the galley.
The seats up front were marketed as United Business instead of Polaris for this short hop, so the meal and amenities were simplified a bit compared to the previous flight. Even so, the service on this flight was the best of the entire trip. The all-Japanese crew was very attentive and ensured all of our drinks were full and that we got all the bread that our hearts desired.
Our flight attendant came by before pushback with a laminated menu with pictures of our meal options. I assume this was to negate any language barriers between passengers of nationalities who speak something other than English or Japanese. The options were either seafood or chicken. I went ahead with the seafood and Elizabeth picked the chicken.
Overall it was a pretty good meal. Nothing too spicy and everything had a good amount of flavor for 30,000 feet.
After a little over three quick hours, we were finally in Guam. After making our way down the single jetway, we headed to customs and immigration. Then headed to grab our rental car and check in to our Airbnb apartment for some much needed shuteye.
Stay tuned for the next post!