Back in November, I booked at award trip to Amsterdam, Netherlands.
This is my trip report, several months after-the-fact:
Day 1 is over and I’d thought I share my trip report with you. Day 1 was pretty uneventful. On Saturday AM, I flew up to JFK to have lunch with some relatives. We had a fantastic lunch at the 7th Street Cafe, and then drove back to the airport for my flight that evening.
My remarks on JFK — checking in was no problem, however I had an issue actually trying to find the check-in desk (regrettably, I should have just done this on my phone but figured I would just wait to do it unperson in case the flight was oversold, etc.). There’s no area clearly labeled “KLM.” Everything says Delta on it, and you have to actually look for the sign that has both Delta’s and KLM’s logo on it to find where the chi-in desk is. Really, I think they should brand it better, but with their new joint trans-atlantic venture, they seem to be merging everything to under one roof which make it particularly difficult for the passenger. In any event, the flight check-in was absolutely packed, given 2-3 tour groups were headed back to Amsterdam.
After checkin-in, I headed over to security, only to experience probably the word bottle-neck in my entire life. In trying to check-in, I could have chosen two options — there was a smaller business/first class line, and there there was a combined business/first and Pre-check line down at the other end, so I chose to walk it down to the other end just so I wouldn’t have to take off my shoes and belt. Unfortunately, after my boarding pass was scanned, I was not cleared for pre-check, which happens probably on every 20th flight or so (Papou – regardless of the fact of whether you have the Pre-Check service, the TSA can randomly select you to still go through the full screening process on occasion, usually every 20 or so flights…unfortunately, this was my time). I wasn’t exactly thrilled considering there was absolutely NO ONE in the pre-check queue to get screened, so I begrudgingly walked in with the rest of the folks to the regular line…and this is where New York’s famous traffic issue comes into play. They had 3 separate lines full of coach passengers, and these tour groups all converging into one scanner machine. It was an absolute nightmare. To make matters worse, these foreigners who obviously underestimated the power or NYC traffic were all cutting the line claiming they were going to miss there flight back to Moscow – which, to be honest, I’m betting they all did, because I saw the flight pull away as I was walking to my gate. In any event, the lines merged together and I got through after having to go through the tedious process of removing my computer, shoes, belt, etc. Clearly, Pre-check is something to not take for granted, because it truly is worth it when you’re able to use it.
Walking to my gate, I had enough time to spend about an hour or so in the SkyClub before boarding. The SkyClub isn’t exactly close to gate B24, but I like walking, so didn’t mind having to go to the other end of the terminal. I relaxed in the SkyClub for about an hour, had a chance to get a drink, and use the restroom, before heading back to the gate for boarding, which started about an hour and 10 minutes before departure. Once boarding started, I was actually the first person onto the plane behind a handicapped gentleman who got on during pre-boarding. The crew was very welcoming, and I took my seat in 1G, an aisle seat in the bulkhead. We had about an hour or so left prior to pushback, so they offered champagne, amenity kits and other goodies to keep the time occupied. Luckily, I picked up a newspaper on the way in, so I read that, and had a chance to review my Rick Steve’s guidebook before the cabin door closed. Unfortunately, KLM isn’t one of the airlines that’s adopted the gate to gate electronics policy, so I had to stow my phone and iPad. We hit a bit of traffic on the unwary and left about 45 minutes after the scheduled take-off time.
In the air, dinner service was started. For an appetizer, there was a plate of vegetables and cheese, served with a Greek salad. For the entrée, a Indian chicken breast with couscous, and then for dessert, a raspberry cheesecake serve with fruit salad. They also came around with chocolates too, made in Amsterdam. I ended up watching some movie about a string quartet, which wasn’t that good, but felt obliged to watch the entire thing since I started it. After finishing the movie, and after the meal service ended, I reclined my seat into the flat position and went to bed. KLM’s seats aren’t “fully-flat” but angled-flat, which makes for an interesting sleep, but definitely better than sitting in the back.
In the morning about an hour out from landing, breakfast was served. I had the apple-cinamon French toast, which was really great. After breakfast, the purser came around and passed out a tray of Delft houses, which seems to be a big thing onboard, as there were business people looking at each one for certain identifying numbers and features. They must be a collectors item. We landed, and I went quickly to the KLM Crown Room to check email before heading to the train which would take me to the city.
I purchased tickets for the train into the city, which departed only a few minutes later. Once I arrived in the Central Station, I ended up walking to the hotel, across many canals and passage ways. My first impression of the city is that it was a bit dirty with trash on the sidewalk. After about a 20 minute walk to the hotel, I was able to find it located directly on the canal. It’s the Andaz Amdsterdam Prinsencracht, located right on the Prinsengracht canal. I checked in (around 9a), and while they didn’t have my particular room ready, they did have a better room ready which they were able to upgrade me too since I was a Platinum member. Actually, it’s probably a better room than they originally had me in since this one is right on the canal, and I can see outside onto the historic row-houses. The room is small, but nothing surprising for European standards. It’s very very modern, with a sink actually sitting in the middle of the room. The toilet is in a separate closet looking door, while the shower actually sits off to the side of the room — so in other words, the bathroom is actually part of the room itself, and there’s no separate door. Its interesting to say the least. The room comes with a complimentary mini bar stocked with plenty of sodas and waters, which is great that I don’t have to pay for these items when I go out.
I decided to take a 3 hour nap, having been absolutely exhausted from the previous day’s travels and time change. I woke up around noon and decided to explore the city, and pick up my museum pass at the local tourist office. There’s a busy shopping area right next to the hotel, and lots of museums nearby.
After walking around, I decided to head back to the hotel for directions to the Heineken brewery, since I wanted to see this today since it wasn’t included in the museum pass. It’s about a 20 minute walk from the hotel itself, but nothing unbearable. The Heineken factory is absolutely huge, and inside you can purchase tickets for tours inside, which I did. The tour was very interesting, and you could see the process of making beer from start to finish, as well as history of the Heineken name. I thought some parts of the tour were a little “PR-ish” where they were clearly trying to imbed their brand into your brain, but for the most part it was very nice. There was a beer tasting room at the end, which was included with the price of admission where they showed you how to drink the beer, similar to a wine tasting. After the beer tasting, there was a hands-on demo in another room where you could learn how to pour beer from a tap. I messed up several times before they finally gave me my “official pourer” certificate, so clearly bar tending is not in my future plans.
After leaving the factory, and walking around the nearby streets, I decided to have dinner from a nearby Italian place. It was good – nothing special – and I wasn’t really into a full meal since I was tired and not terribly hungry. I walked back to the hotel and called it a day.
On the agenda for Monday: Haarlem (having lunch there), and then returning to the city to begin work on the museum pass.
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