I am in Amsterdam, after a very uneventful and relatively easy journey.
The Delta representative in the Madison airport showed me how to move from an aisle seat with 6 other people to an aisle seat with just one other person. Being on the aisle is a must on these 8 or more hour flights. This flight, from Detroit to Amsterdam, I was very clever and put everything in the luggage rack above my head, so I had nothing under the seat in front of me.
Again, people were very helpful when I had to lift my heavy carry on way above my head to go into the luggage rack. Later, I returned the favor for a woman seated behind me who couldn’t reach the rack, either.
Delta has come up with a funny and charming safety video. It kept the attention of even this seasoned traveler.
For this trip, I paid attention to various benefits. For example, I am apparently a Sky Miles special cardholder. This means that I could board early. I’ve never noticed that I had that option before.
I also selected my seats online (my client’s travel agent does not generally put me in an aisle seat) as well as selected a low fat meal option. Selecting a special food option is a wonderful thing to do, because you get served waaay before any else. I was completely done with my meal before they even started to serve others in my section of the plane.
How cool is that?
It was fascinating to see that there were several quite elderly (my age?) male and female stewards. This is the first time that I’ve seen stewards this age, and I travel a lot. They were very pleasant, as were all the Delta staff on this flight.
I was worried that I would have difficulty: (1) finding my luggage in Schiphol airport and (2) getting the shuttle to my hotel. Not only was my luggage already available when I reached the baggage area, the shuttle to my hotel was right there when I went outside to find it. Easy peasy.
As the shuttle driver was putting my luggage into the van, he joked that I must be staying for several weeks since I had so much luggage (two huge heavy suitcases, mostly filled with training-related materials, video camera, tripod, etc.; and one heavy carryon). When I told him I was going to Nairobi, the father of the very large family that had just disembarked said that they were just then on their way to move to Nairobi since he works for CDC.
It wasn’t until after I was on the shuttle and on my way to the hotel that I realized CDC stands for Center for Disease Control. Ebola. Yikes!! And he was taking his entire family, which included four small children under the age of 10.
The hotel (Holiday Inn Express Schiphol, which I booked online through Expedia) was only 10 or 15 minutes away from the airport. Since our plane had arrived early, my luggage was right there and the shuttle immediate, I arrived at the hotel around 8:15 a.m., long before normal check-in.
However, they told me that they would let me know when a room was available, stored my luggage, and let me go have the continental breakfast. Which was lovely! All kinds of rolls, croissants and, my favorite from past trips, chocolate filled pastries. Yogurt, juices, cereal, fresh fruit (oranges and apples), cheeses, meats, and hard-boiled eggs. I actually didn’t even realize they had the eggs (which were in a large basket) until someone passed by with them on his plate.
By 10:15 a.m., I was in my room. I took a shower immediately and then went on line to check my reservation for tomorrow. Absolute panic occurred when I realized that my receipts and itinerary for the trip (which I had printed out in Madison) showed NO flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi. After much hysteria, I was finally able to log onto the Delta website, where I found that there indeed was no reservation for tomorrow’s flight. I was beside myself. I went on line to Delta, used Skype to call the international number and couldn’t get through. Finally, I was able to locate a Delta number for Amsterdam, called and was advised that KLM did indeed have my flight reserved, they just sometimes didn’t completely upload that information onto the Delta system.
When I went onto the KLM website, yep, there was my reservation. A huge teary sigh of relief.
While I was on the website, I was able to change my seat to an aisle seat and order a special meal. There was the silver lining!!
I also checked my email and saw that, in response to my request, I had been sent photos of the training room. It is lovely, with large windows on three walls. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that my huge agenda map is going to end up covering one of those wall windows.
My contact, Alma, has been terrific. Responsive, efficient, capable, professional, and effective. I’m looking forward to meeting her on Sunday when I go to set up the training room.
The hotel is very compact, very modern, very basic. It definitely caters to travelers. The shuttle runs every 30 minutes, only back and forth to the airport.
The room is small but comfortable. Internet is free. The door to the bathroom and the entire shower and shower fixtures are all glass. There are no amenities (such as soaps, shampoos, etc.) There is a wall soap dispenser next to the sink and another one in the shower.
The lobby is huge and very comfortable, with lots of red leather armchairs and loveseats. There are fascinating kiosks. One has small ½ pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Another has various meals (Indian tikka masala was the only one left when I looked) that you can purchase and then microwave right there.
They also have a tiny bar as part of the lobby desk, where you can get basic alcoholic beverages, sodas and bottled water. Two guys were happily ensconced at the bar, while a woman ate her dinner, worked on her laptop and was on the phone at a large dining room-like table in the lobby. I later had my own dinner sitting at that table.
There is also a clever spinning rack with small credit card sized discount cards and direction cards, etc. for local restaurants and tourist places. It is so much easier to pocket little cards than the larger brochures, which were also available.
I’d like to say that I got a little sleep and then went out to explore Amsterdam. However, since I didn’t get to my room until after 10, had to shower, manage the apparent travel snafu and then get a nap, that didn’t happen. I slept from about 12:30 to 6 p.m., which was wonderful since (of course, unfortunately) I can’t sleep on the plane.
When I got up, I found that it was raining outside. So I didn’t feel so badly about not venturing out. Instead, I went down to the lobby to book the shuttle for tomorrow morning and find out where I could get dinner. They gave me two options, to have something delivered or to go out. I was too tired to go out, so they handed me a book of menus.
I finally decided on chicken pad tai, which the hotel ordered for me and said they would charge it to my room. While I waited in the lobby, I read through a lovely magazine on current Amsterdam events, shops, museums, tours, canals, bars, etc. I also discovered that the sun doesn’t set until 10 p.m. in the early summer here!
I really would have loved to see the Van Gogh and Rembrandt museums, gone on a canal ride, walked in the center of the city. But it was much too late and I was still very tired.
When the food came, the hotel staff handed it to me with a china dinner plate, real silverware and a napkin. So I settled in at a table and read my Nook while I had a lovely dinner. There was enough for three people, so needless to say, I didn’t finish it. I had thought about saving the rest for tomorrow, but there was no point. There is no mini refrigerator in the room. The continental breakfast is plentiful. And my flight leaves at 11:15 a.m., so lunch will definitely be served onboard.
My only two complaints about my room are first, my standard complaint about there being no good reading light, and second, the inability to adjust the thermostat. The entire hotel has been a tad too warm for me, cold-blooded Wisconsinite that I am.
Stopping here in Amsterdam was a great idea, thanks to Piotr, who takes very good care of me when he schedules these trips. What is also great is that there is only a 1-hour difference between Amsterdam and Nairobi, so when I arrive after 8 p.m. in Nairobi tomorrow I won’t be reeling from the huge time difference as I did when I arrived in Amsterdam. Hurray!
Well, it is almost 10 p.m. and I’m going to bed.
More tomorrow. Thanks for coming along on this trip.