How we traveled to Cape Town and back

18

In my recent Qatar QSuites review, I mentioned that my wife and I flew QSuites on our way to Cape Town, South Africa. But I didn’t then report how we got back or where we stayed while in South Africa. Here, briefly, is the rest of the travel story. Below you’ll find how we got there, where we stayed, and how we got back…

Detroit to Cape Town

Qatar QSuites JFK to Doha

Here’s what we flew and how I booked it:

  • Detroit to JFK on Delta. Booked economy with Delta SkyMiles. My wife had Diamond Medallion status and so we were upgraded to first class. We had too many bags to bring onboard so we checked bags through to JFK and hoped for the best. At JFK, one bag was slightly damaged, but otherwise they made it.
  • JFK to Doha on Qatar QSuites 777-300ER. I paid 70,000 AA miles per person. This was a great flight! Details and a full review can be found here.
  • Oryx Airport Hotel in Doha. We arrived at the Doha airport in the evening and had our continuing flight the next morning. For convenience, I booked us into this hotel which is located in the international terminal. As such, there was no need to go through any kind of security in Doha. The next morning we simply checked out, walked to our gate, and boarded the next flight. That was an awesome way to do an overnight layover! This was a cash booking of around $300, which I paid partially with One Key Rewards left over from the old (and much better) Hotels.com rewards program. I also earned over $25 back from Capital One Shopping.
  • Doha to Cape Town on Qatar A350-900 business class (not QSuites). I paid 45,000 British Airways Avios per person. If I had been able to book this flight at the same time as I booked the JFK to Doha leg, the two flights together would have cost only 75,000 AA miles (instead of 70K for the first leg and 45K for this one), but it didn’t work out that way. Fortunately, transfer bonuses to Avios are common and so it cost me considerably fewer than 45,000 transferable points per person for this leg. While this flight wasn’t nearly as great as the QSuites flight (both the physical space was less appealing and the service wasn’t as great), it was still very good.
  • We checked our bags through from JFK to Cape Town. When we went to the Qatar business class check-in desk at JFK, I asked to check our bags all the way through even though the two segments were booked separately. They told me to go over to another desk where they could connect the segments and then to return to the first desk to check bags. I did that and it worked. Our bags made it all the way to Cape Town. For our overnight at the Doha airport we had brought a small carry-on bag with toiletries and clothes to cover the one night.
Oryx Airport Hotel Doha International Terminal. A sliding wall cut out all of the light of the airport when closed. This was a great way to handle an overnight layover!
Qatar A350-900 business class Doha to Cape Town. No, it definitely ain’t QSuites, but it’s still a very comfortable way to fly especially for a daytime flight (which this was).

Cape Town Area Lodging

Hyatt Regency Cape Town. We spent our first two nights in Cape Town here.
  • Hyatt Regency Cape Town (2 nights): I booked with Hyatt points for 8,000 points per night. We thought the hotel itself was very good, but we didn’t love its location.
  • Cellars-Hohenort Hotel (2 nights): We loved this hotel! This hotel is located on the other side of Table Mountain from Cape Town’s downtown. It’s close to the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, and Groot Constantia, South Africa’s oldest wine farm. This is an SLH hotel which we booked for 12,000 Hyatt points per night (actually, I used soon-expiring category 1-4 free night certs). We even treated our friends who live in Cape Town to a staycation with a room of their own. See my full review here: Cellars-Hohenort Hotel Cape Town South Africa: Now Greg’s favorite points-bookable hotel
  • Le Quartier Francais (2 nights): This is a very upscale hotel located in Franschhoek, which is in the heart of South Africa’s wine region (it’s about an hour drive from Cape Town). We booked this one night at a time through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) and paid with our Platinum cards in order to get back $200 for each night along with FHR benefits like free breakfast, room upgrade, etc. This too was a fantastic hotel with great service. Unlike the Cellars-Hohenort, though, this one had a pretentious air about it that I didn’t love.
  • Sanbona Wildlife Reserve (2 nights): We splurged for 2 nights in this reserve’s all-inclusive luxury Dwyka Tented Lodge for around $850 per night all-in (including two game drives daily). This was great! And 2 nights were the perfect length of time.
  • Cellars-Hohenort Hotel (1 night): We originally planned to spend our final night in Cape Town at the Hyatt Regency, but we loved Cellars-Hohenort so much that we switched plans during our stay.
a blue flowers in a garden
The Cellars-Hohenort Hotel in Cape Town. We absolutely loved everything about this hotel.
Le Quartier Francais. Terrific hotel in Franschhoek. The included breakfast could be taken as room service and so we ate breakfast each morning at a table in our room’s private patio.
Sanbona Wildlife Reserve’s Dwyka Tented Lodge

Cape Town to Detroit

I had found a number of business class award flight options for our return to Detroit, but none were perfect. Most award flights departed a few days later than we preferred (we wanted to have several days back home before leaving to see family for Christmas). And some had logistical issues (such as flying into JFK and then continuing to Detroit from La Guardia).

On a whim I tried logging into Amex Travel to see if they had any good cash deals. Sometimes they have good Insider Fare deals. Surprisingly what I found wasn’t listed as an insider deal or as a special deal at all. But it was a far cheaper one-way business class fare than I could find anywhere else. And it offered, by-far, the best route I had looked at (only one stop), and best timing for our needs. And it married together two airlines (British Airways and Air France/Delta) that aren’t usually seen in the same room together. For $2,127.65 per person, the business class ticket included Cape Town to London on British Airways (with the new Club World Suites) and then Delta One (marketed by Air France) non-stop from London to Detroit. I paid with points on my Business Platinum card in order to get 35% points back. We credited the BA leg to Alaska Mileage Plan and the Delta leg to Delta. We earned tons of miles with each program.

Summary:

  • Cape Town to London on British Airways 777 with Club World Suites: This was an overnight flight. I found the suites to be very nice for sitting, but uncomfortable for sleep (see the caption in the photo below for details). Food and service was fine but unremarkable.
  • London to Detroit on Delta A330 Delta One (not Suites): This is Delta’s very old business class product that sorely needs a refresh. It has very little privacy and almost no storage space at all. That said, this was a daytime flight and so the lack of privacy wasn’t a big deal. Service was “oddly excellent”. While my flight attendant came across as a surly New Yorker with nary a smile, she was excellent: she checked on me regularly, proactively brought snacks from the gally, etc.
  • We checked our bags through from Cape Town to Detroit: I was super surprised at check-in in Cape Town that they were able to check our bags all the way through to Detroit. This meant that our bags flew British Airways to London Heathrow, changed terminals, and flew Delta to Detroit. And they made it unscathed!
British Airways Club World Suite from Cape Town to London. This was my first time flying this configuration. I loved the plentiful storage, and I liked the overall look of the suite and the fact that it has a privacy door. I hated the fact that when flat, there was a sizeable uncomfortable gap between the top section of the seat and the bottom. My wife later told me that she rolled up the cloth bag that the bedding came in and inserted into the gap and so she had a nice comfortable sleep. If only she had told me that trick earlier I might have slept well too!
a man sitting in a chair
Delta A330 from London to Detroit. This is actually a photo from a different flight, but with (I think) the same seat configuration. I forgot to take photos on the actual flight.
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