This past August we took what was probably our most ambitious vacation ever — a nine day cruise around the Baltic Sea, stopping off in quite a few countries along the way. I say “ambitious” because frankly, we ran ourselves ragged in the course of things by trying to do as much as humanly possible and then some, and as a result, didn’t have as good a time as we probably would’ve if we just flew to some random island in the Caribbean and drank mai-tais for a week.
Our plan was to fly to Copenhagen, take a couple of days to adjust our internal clocks, then hop on a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship for nine days of port calls around the Baltic Sea… followed at the end by two more days hanging out in Copenhagen to relax before having to fly back.
Day 1 of our trip was Wednesday, August 15. We flew United to Chicago and SAS from Chicago to Copenhagen. It made for a long day of flying, especially with a nine hour layover between flights thanks to United dropping the later flight we were originally on and putting us on an earlier flight that got us to Chicago around noon. So, we actually used some of my Hilton points and got a room at the O’Hare airport hotel and crashed for a few hours, then headed back over to the airport proper for our 10 pm red-eye flight to Denmark. My United Club membership and Star Alliance Gold standing got us into the SAS Lounge in the O’Hare International terminal, which was interesting because a) it was about the size of a phone booth and had no restrooms inside, so you had to go back out of the club to use the facilities, and b) had TONS of liquor and meats and cheeses and things, INCLUDING RAMEN NOODLES. The United Club lounges I use for business trips may be huge, but they don’t have all the goodies European airlines consider de rigeur.
The flight proper took about nine hours and we tried as much as possible to just sleep, hoping to arrive the next day in Copenhagen somewhat refreshed. Bizarrely, SAS planes do not have air vents over each seat and it got very stuffy during the flight. Apparently this is common to European carriers — no air vents. We got free seatback TV and movies (they had pretty wide assortment of movies, available in English, Danish, French, German, and Japanese) not to mention a free “comfort kit” which consisted of a sleep mask, toothbrush and toothpaste, ear buds for use with the TV system, and a “shoe bag”. They served us a hot dinner a couple hours into the flight and another hot meal — not breakfast, exactly, but more of a hot lunch — an hour and a half before landing. We were glad for the food, but all in all we’d have traded it for cool air and fewer disruptions.
People who fly to Europe and elsewhere routinely won’t be surprised to hear us say it, but SAS coach class travel beats the hell out of US domestic coach class travel. All except for that “no air vents” thing.