Air Seychelles CDG-SEZ Pearl Class: Flying the Creole Spirit
After a lovely two day stopover in Paris, which consisted of red wine, stinky cheese and the Park Hyatt Vendome, it was time to head to De Gaulle for our 7:30pm flight to Mahe, Seychelles. Once again, we took the RER to the airport, which was convenient, except for the fact that the trains have no air conditioning and little window ventilation.
At CDG terminal 2, we checked the board to see which terminal our flight was located- which ended up being 2F, the new international terminal. We walked down to see if there was an Air Seychelles counter, which there was not, but there was small
signage at a business class check-in counter, that it was also for
Pearl Class (Air Seychelles' business class product). After a quick check-in with a friendly Air France agent, we were given lounge passes and directed to priority security (Access No 1).
The priority security area was tucked away behind business class check-in and it was completely empty. We got through in less than 5 minutes, which we were not expecting for CDG. Once through security, we headed to the lounge, which was down the escalators and at the end of the hall.
At the lounge, we were greeted by multiple friendly agents who welcomed us to the lounge and ushered us in. The lounge was what you'd expect, though somewhat small since it was the only lounge in the terminal. There was free wi-fi on the
â€œorangeâ€ network, free snacks and workstations. The lounge was somewhat hot when we entered, which I guess was because it was encased in glass that looked out on to the terminal, which meant nice plane watching, though not as good as the Concorde Room in Heathrow.
The food was minimal and consisted of bagged chips, cookies and a couple platters of eggplant tartlets and white chocolate chip cookies. All I cared about was my Perrier and strong internet connection and before I knew it, it was time to board.
The gate area consisted of mostly honeymooners and Europeans heading for holiday. I am pretty sure we were the only Americans, which I loved. 40 minutes before takeoff, general boarding was announced and everyone queued at the both the Pearl Class and regular check-in. Normally a lack of priority boarding annoys me, but I was so excited for this trip and everyone was orderly and polite that it didn't matter.
Once on board the old 767-300 aircraft, we were welcomed in French and shown our seats. The cabin immediately reminded me of the Delta 767 BusinessElite cabin, which has recliner-style seats. The main difference in this cabin was the artwork- huge paintings on the front and back bulkheads of underwater scenes with fish and coral.
The seats were comfortable- cloth recliners with leather trim. Another difference was the manual seat operation- there were three buttons- the first to recline, the second to get the footrest down and the third to get it to the upright position. However, the seat didn't recline on its own- you had to push back, like a living room recliner. Definitely old-school, but I'm always up for new experiences! At a very minimum, I had tons of leg room, which I am forever grateful for.
Boarding was orderly and we were soon ready for takeoff. They made an announcement about spraying the cabins with pesticide to comply with international regulations, so I assumed it had been done before boarding. Wrong- before I knew it, they mentioned something about covering our mouths if we wanted and flight attendants were storming down the aisles spraying pesticide with big smiles on their faces. The spray was pungent and reminded me of bathroom soap.
Soon after, hot towels were passed out and tropical juice and champagne were offered in Pearl class. Pushback from the gate happened soon after and we were off in the air minutes later. It was a clear day and we got great views of the city, including the Eiffel Tower.
Once we reached cruise altitude, menus were passed out and the dinner service began. My first thoughts were- wow- this is a ton of food! There were at least double the options that Air France offered on our JFK-CDG flight and they all sounded good.
Air Seychelles' motto is â€œFlying the Creole Spiritâ€ and their national pride of their culture was evident during service. The flight attendants were very attentive and seemed proud of the service. While we were waiting for dinner service to begin, I checked out the amenity kit, which was in a tropical cloth bag. Inside, the contents were much different than any other amenity kit I've seen:
1) Aromatherapy oils â€œUplifting tropical oilsâ€
2) Anti-itch skin soothing cream
3) Flower essence calming drops for your tongue- â€œNature's helperâ€
4) Run of the mill socks, eye mask and tooth brush.
There were swivel In-flight Entertainment TVs in the arm rests, but we were told they have limited programming, so we were given hand-held units that were pre-loaded with more programming. I didn't even use mine, since I planned to sleep after dinner service, so I'd be rested for day one in the Seychelles.
Dinner service soon began:
The flight attendants came through with a beverage cart and gave out fried bananas and coconuts to start (a common Seychellois bar snack). They were nice to snack on- not too salty or sweet.
1) For the first course I went with the Pan Fried Scallops and Prawns with Pineapple, tomato and fennel salad. The other choice was Foie Gras served with Smoked Duck Fillet, apricot chutney and slices of sweet potato. I had a glass of the champagne with this course- a Raoul Collet Cuvee du Fondateur- which is described as an â€œintensely effervescent, green gold champagne with an attractive mousse at the surface of the glassâ€. It was indeed tasty and not too sweet.
2) For second course I went with the Seared prawns infused in a coconut curry serviced with blanched bell peppers, spinach enriched with onions and Creole style basmati rice. Other main course options were Tartlet of shredded braised beef, topped cinnamon and star anise gravy served with sweet potato mash, asparagus and orange zest or Chicken break fillet marinated in a brown sugar and tumeric, topped with a spicy crust, on a bed of Creole sauce served with banana and cassava mash and broccoli enriched with cinnamon and butter. My partner go the chicken, which he enjoyed. With this course I went with the French chardonnay- a dA Chardonnay Reserve 2008 which is described as â€œAn intense bouqet, flavoured with pineapple, mango, hints of grass and a touch of toasted bread and vanillaâ€. It was decently dry and oaky- which is how I like my chardonnays.
3) Dessert was brought on a try and I got a delicious upside down pineapple cake enjoyed with a glass of port (enough to put me to sleep!).
Sufficiently full and ready for bed, I reclined the seat and broke out the comforter, which was similar to Air France's. I slept pretty well for about 6 hours, only waking up to turbulence while over Mogadishu, Somalia (ironic, huh?). The seat was comfortable, because I could stretch all the way out, but it was nowhere near lie-flat. However, I was more comfortable in this old-school seat than I was on Air France's angled lie flat.
We woke up to a beautiful sunrise over the Indian Ocean and had a full breakfast service. I went with the Scrambled eggs enriched with smoked salmon, served with rosti potatoes topped with parsley and tomato. The other choice was Apple pancakes served with vanilla sauce. As shown, breakfast was substantial and served with a large, warm croissant.
Landing at Mahe, was a little choppy, but the view was gorgeous. This was my first time seeing the Indian Ocean, so I was very impressed with the landscapes.
Deplaning was quick and we were the first ones off the plane. This was a blessing, because there were only a few customs agents and the lines quickly backed up after us. Customs was relatively painless, though they did ask for proof of return tickets, so luckily I had printed out a copy of my itinerary. I always do this when traveling internationally and recommend everyone else to do so. This has also happened to me at Heathrow.
We made our way through the small terminal and went to the Hertz â€œboothâ€ where my name was displayed on a piece of paper. The friendly agent welcomed us to the Seychelles and after seeing how tall I am, offered us an upgrade to a larger jeep at no extra cost. I am a Hertz Five Star preferred member, but I have a feeling this upgrade was due more to island hospitality than my loyalty to the company.
We got some Seychelles rupees at the Barclays ATM (15 rupees per Euro) and were on the road en route to Le Meridien Barbarons on the west coast of the island. Driving was a bit tricky at first because it
was a manual car and the drivers side was on the right and driving was on the left. Once we got on the road, the natural beauty of the island kicked in and I was amazed at the contrasting landscapes- tall granite mountain peaks covered in thick clouds juxtaposed against tropical white sand beaches and lush
rainforests along with evergreen trees. The climate was also interesting- quick rain showers, followed by sunny patches then cloudy patches.
Overall, we knew we were in for a treat upon landing at Mahe, and Seychelles did not fail to deliver!