Next stop: Amsterdam!

I’ve been experiencing a bit of a travel drought lately, as I’ve been (mostly) at home for about three weeks now. On one hand it’s kind of nice to have a normal(ish) schedule and wake up and go to bed at a reasonable hour, though on the other hand as someone that gets restless pretty easily, it has been damn near torture to be in one place for so long.

I’ve been meaning to try American’s new business class for a long time now. Initially I was going to fly their inaugural 777-300ER flight to Sao Paulo late last year, though that got pushed back, and I’ve had several schedule conflicts since then. Anyway, American invited me to experience their new business class product early in the week, so I’ll finally get to experience it to London and back. I’ll be flying the New York to London service, and funny enough I flew exactly the same flights just a few weeks ago before the route started being operated by the 777-300ER, so I doubt much will change on the service front. That being said I’m really excited to try the new seat, which looks spectacular. I’ve flown Cathay Pacific’s new business class, which is a similar type of seat, and thought it was on par with many first class products out there. I’m hoping American’s is the same, and will have plenty of updates from onboard given that the 777-300ERs are equipped with wifi.


Cathay Pacific’s new business class

I’ll be spending two days in Europe and rather than terminating my travels in London (which I’ve visited several times) I figured I’d go somewhere new. As a result I redeemed some Avios to fly to Amsterdam for two nights, and will be staying at the new Andaz there.

I’m still trying to decide how I’ll pay for it, since I have two nights there. The rate is 242.12 Euros (~$316USD)  all-in or 18,000 Gold Passport points per night. I value Gold Passport points at 1.6 cents each, so that means I value 18,000 points at ~$288USD. As a Diamond member I earn 6.5 points per dollar spent at Hyatt, so I’d be giving up ~2,000 Gold Passport points per night by booking an award stay, which I further value at $32. So in other words an award stay would really “cost” me 20,000 points per night, or $320 factoring in the points I’d be giving up. This is about as close to breakeven as I’ve ever seen on the redemption front.

In instances like this I usually just split the difference. I book an award stay for one night and a paid stay for the other night. This is because Hyatt doesn’t award stay credits for award stays, and I’d get one elite stay credit whether I book a cash rate for one or two nights. I’m always thinking about requalifying for Diamond status, so I “value” a stay credit at maybe $60. Anyone else use the same strategy when they’re faced with choosing between a paid stay and award stay when it’s otherwise a “breakeven” proposition?

If anyone has any (non-brownie/red light district) tips for what to do in Amsterdam I’d love to hear ‘em!

Comments

  1. Bill N DC says

    WE love Amsterdam. if ur there from March 21 on you must go see the Tulips @ http://www.keukenhof.nl/

    The big museum just opened after renovations, the close by Van Gogh Museum is great. Heineken Experience is fun if you like the beer. we spend a lot of time walking around

    Enjoy!

  2. Rado says

    We were there just before New Year and it’s a truly amazing hotel. I think pay cash for the 2 nights and spend 6000 points to upgrade to a suite.

    Will PM you some pics and recommendations.

  3. Belgiumfflyer says

    Definitely go and see the nightwatch. It’s the most famous painting of the Netherlands and actually quite impressive in real life. With an estimated value of +100.000.000usd it would not be a waste of your time. Other things to check out maybe are the ajax amsterdam football arena, an impressive piece of sports achitecture, the hotel de l’europe supposedly the best hotel in AMS and last but not least a stroll to the pc hooftstraat, amsterdams most famous shopping street. No dutch people to be found here, for some reason all customers are russians or some sort… Lastly: visit the jordaan district and if you really want to get in the thick of it. Rent a bike!

  4. Sean says

    I second that the Van Gogh museum is a must. Audio tour is a bit pricey but if you don’t know much about him it’s a great mix of storytelling about his life while walking you through his progression as an artist.

    You should also try some Indonesian food while there (it was brought to the Netherlands after the Dutch colonized Indonesia). Blue Pepper and Sama Sebo were two recs I had received.

    Finally, if you’re feeling adventurous I would recommend at least walking around the red light district. I’m not a pot smoker and definitely had no interest in taking advantage of other aspects of the red light district but found it an “interesting” place to walk around for 30 minutes.

  5. Susan says

    I almost always book one paid night with award stays.
    Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities and I try to visit at least every other year. The Rijksmuseum has just finished its renovations so that might be worth a visit – but you must, simply must, visit the Van Gogh museum. Brilliant!
    It may sound corny, but a canal boat tour is worth experiencing as well. Not only do you see Amsterdam from an entirely different perspective, you’ll get a little history lesson on this fascinating city.
    If you do decide to visit the Anne Frank Museum, plan on being there by 8 or 8:30 in the morning to avoid the long queues. There is a very nice little Japanese restaurant about three blocks walk from Westerkerk as well…and it’s not far from the Andaz – either on Runstraat/Huidenstraat or Berenstraat/Wolvenstraat.
    Amsterdam is very walkable… but the tram system is brilliant as well.
    Have fun!

  6. Belgiumfflyer says

    Oh and if AMS really sucks, remember its just an hour train ride from the most beautiful railway station (ny times)/city (me) in the world: Antwerp!

  7. AUSTEX says

    What Bill N DC said. I visited the Keukenhof right around Easter several years ago. Well worth the visit. I didn’t know I was so interested in tulips! The other thing you should do is take a canal cruise. When I clicked on the Keukenhof link supplied by Bill N DC, there was a offer for a free canal boat tour if you visit the Gardens. Might check it out.

  8. Suzzanne says

    Go to the Anne Frank house but pay the small reservation fee online so you don’t have to stand in the super long line to get in.

  9. Alan says

    Interesting dilemma – not something I’m bothered with by Hilton given they recognise both award and paid nights for elite credit. I normally end up looking more to stay in two properties than one to get two stay credits ;) If very close-run I used to err on the paid/earning side, but given the recent devaluations I’m much more likely to burn points!

  10. Lark says

    “Anyway, American invited me to experience their new business class product early in the week, so I’ll finally get to experience it to London and back.” Worthy of further disclosure?

    Here are the top Amsterdam attractions:

    1) Heineken tour
    2) Vondelpark
    3) Leidesplein (and other locations with street performers)
    4) Museum of Bags and Purses – this was truly one of a kind… http://www.museumofbagsandpurses.com/

  11. lucky says

    Thanks for all the suggestions, folks!

    @ Lark — Hopefully you know the answer to that!

  12. Jes says

    Amsterdam is my favorite city in Europe these days and the Dutch are lovely. IMO one of the best things to do in Amsterdam is just walk around the canals and take it in. The Andaz is nice but I am partial to SPG’s Hotel Pulitzer, which is several blocks down Prinsengracht, about a block or so away from the Anne Frank House. I like the location a lot more and it’s just such a charming property.

  13. Jorge says

    Amsterdam is so much fun, but I think that foreigners are not allowed into the “Coffee Shops”=MJshops anymore. You can sample some good coffee at any Kaffe. I second the Rijsmuseum and Van Gogh and maybe you will be “lucky” to see the early Tulips, depending on your departure.

  14. says

    My favorite part of the new B77W was the Business and First Class bar. They had amazing snacks there during the flight! Internet didn’t work properly the whole flight. Can’t wait to see your review!

  15. Zz says

    You’ve probably been to enough museeums in your life. I’ld recommend strolling thought the inner city area. Check out the buildig,canals, the local pot and of course the red light district area Lots of Chinese visitors enjoy them too. But as you know the weather is likely to be bad =rainy and gray skies. More like Seattle than Tampa, but with a greater sex and pot scene.

  16. Jane S. says

    They just reopened the Rij Museum and I would highly recommend that. I’ve done both the Van Gogh and the Anne Frank House. I also did the Botanical Gardens which we enjoyed in the Fall but not sure about the weather now. Of course, you have to do a canal cruise. Watch out for the fast moving bicyclists. Have a great trip!

  17. Winston says

    I’m here now Ben. When were u coming? How much time were u planning on spending here?

  18. Lively says

    The Van Gogh Museum is closed until April 25th ;). I’m going to Amsterdam on April 1st and leaving April 4th. In addition to the museums, we want to see The International Court of Justice in the Hague (1 1/2 hour train ride).

  19. Nicholas T says

    Be careful of the pickpockets! One actually took my wallet and lucky for me I was sharp enough to realize it. Actually got off the tram and got it back from the guy!

  20. Mark says

    When we went a few years ago, there were tours of the ICJ, but they had to be booked in advance – very few and very small groups. But worth it. Check the website.

    As for Anne Frank house, pre-ordered tickets are an excellent idea. And be sure to use the correct door so you don’t stand in line. When we were there, it was NOT at all apparent which door we were to use; the door was not marked for those with advance purchase tickets. Don’t be shy about going in a door with no line and asking.

  21. MSJ says

    I love your blog but I am becoming a little skeptical. On 2/25 you posted about your temptation to fly to Dublin or Dusseldorf in economy on American for a 10,000 point bonus. I thought that was crazy…you flying in economy across the Atlantic for 10,000 miles. Now you “are invited” to fly the new Business Class on American. You are starting to sound like a shill for American and that would be sad because you have the most interesting travel blog out there.

  22. lucky says

    @ MSJ — Appreciate the feedback, though to be clear I was never tempted to fly American in coach to Dusseldorf or Dublin. I was tempted to pay for a coach ticket and upgrade using my systemwide upgrades. The very best thing about top tier status with American for me are the eight systemwide upgrades. I try to use them to requalify for status by doing international flights. I just got back from London using systemwide upgrades, and have an upcoming trip to Rio using systemwides.

    I’m always excited when American has a) new destinations and b) offers bonus miles, because it’s usually the more interesting way to burn systemwides.

  23. hobo13 says

    Just cut to the chase — tell them if they want any more favorable reviews, it’s Concierge Key or else!

  24. hobo13 says

    Or a plane named after you. That would work too. I want to fly the ‘Lucky Plane’!

  25. says

    I live in Amsterdam, If you want detailed tips email me!

    AMS Schiphol airport has a nice behind the scenes airport tour. Takes an hour a you get to see a lot of stuff you normally don’t see at an airport. Check the site. http://www.schipholbehindthescenes.nl/en/

    For sure visit “De Pijp” Area. Great restaurants and bars without (only) tourists.
    Vist hotel Okura. A hotel with two Michelin star restaurants (Ciel Bleu and Yamzato) and a rooftop cocktailbar with an amazing view over the city.
    Also the Jordaan and “De negen-straatjes”(the nine little streets) is a ‘up and coming/hip’ area for shopping/drinks/dinner.

    Definitely rent a bike. You won’t earn miles with it, but it’s the best way to see the city.

    If the weather is nice, it’s also nice to walk around in “Het vondelpark”.

    And all of the above mentioned museums are recommend as well.

  26. Shirley says

    Arrived home last evening from spending several days in Amsterdam. Although the Van Gogh Museum is currently closed, a lot of the more well-known pieces are at the Hermitage Amsterdam, and there is a Peter the Great exhibit going on as well. The one thing I regret not doing was reserving a ticket in advance for anything at the Concertgebouw. Tried to obtain one on site, but the only seats available were on the stage for either a jazz concert or a classical music concert. Also, knowing you enjoy European breads, I highly recommend De Bakkerswinkel. It’s a small restaurant with a terrific breakfast menu. I already miss having toasted sourdough bread with fried eggs and unbelievable Dutch cheese on top along with a latte to start my day. Hope you have a great time!

  27. Lively says

    Mark, Thanks for the heads up about booking a tour for the ICJ. I just checked their website and they only provide tours for the on the weekend. >.<

  28. Rick says

    AA invite, while awesome,is worthy of further disclosure. No different than a car manufacturer giving an automotive journalist a car for the weekend, but that car has been earmarked as a demonstrator and will be passed off from journalist to journalist for the same purpose. Not questioning your ethics, but this biz class seat means the airline is forgoing revenue by comp’ing you. Couple this with the fact that I – why only a reader of your blog for a few months – have never heard you reference being gifted seats by an airline. First I’ve seen of it. Simply out, would like to hear more background knowing i am not attacking you in any way. Just curious.

    Thanks and keep up the great writing and blog.

  29. Randall says

    You should check out the Sex Museum, it’s really interesting and quite a bargain for 4 euros.

  30. Tom says

    Hi Lucky – Many of the important points have already been posted…it’s a great walking city to get lost in, with the canals (take a boat ride) and funky houses adding so much atmosphere. The museums — especially the Van Gogh (though someone said it’s closed ?!?) & the Rembrandts at the Rijk — filled me with awe. There is also elegant food…but MOST IMPORTANT, you have to try the PANCAKES! This is not your grandma’s pancake, my friend. Creative, fun, absolutely brilliant comfort food that my wife and I — Michelin snobs — talk about at least once a month. We’ve even planned <24 hour stopovers at AMS on our way from the U.S. to Africa, just to make the pancake trip into the city. The Pancake Bakery http://www.pancake.nl is our favorite (and it's a short walk from the Anne Frank house, which makes it a welcome counter of humanity after the vital hurt you will feel) and I've heard great things about Pancakes http://www.pancakesamsterdam.com, too.

  31. Michael T says

    I’m also a big fan of the Pulitzer in case you want to add an SPG hotel your experience. That said, it seems like you lean toward more modern properties, which it certainly isn’t.

    Amsterdam is a great city. Enjoy!

  32. Rami says

    Amsterdam has some of the best Indonesian food (cannot remember any specific restaurant) and a few really good “Argentinian style” steak restaurants with excellent meat

  33. Mel says

    House of Bols: interesting experience and to admire the KLM Delft Blue miniature houses that they give out in KLM business class.

  34. Tara says

    Whatever you do, rent a bike. There’s a few companies that offerrentals – google will turn up some good options. It’s by far the best way to get around – so much fun! (And safer to bicycle here than in almost any other city in the world).

    Also must see the Anne Frank house. The Van Gogh museum was amazing but a PP said it’s closed for now. Not sure I would bother heading out of town to go see the tulips when you only have 2 days there. AMS is so welcoming and laid-back. Love it!

  35. Carl says

    as others have mentioned, Anne Frank house is incredible. Also, Rijksmuseum is one of the best art museums in the world.

    Otherwise, i don’t care much for Amsterdam, the drug culture is horrible there. 2 nights is just about right i think.

  36. Dima says

    You could book a flight simulator expirience..
    There’s a guy who build his own Flight Sim using real 737 parts.

    Thing is, it isn’t the real professional FS, but it’s cheap (around 100€)
    http://www.simflying.nl/
    (site is only in dutch, but just google translate it)

  37. Xandrios says

    AMS is my home city so let me know if you have any questions.

    Depending on the days the weather might be less than perfect in april. Only if the weather is good (Meaning sunny and 20+ degrees C) I would recommend going to see the Tulips.

    Other cities to visit (if you want to go outside of AMS at all) are Haarlem, Utrecht and perhaps Den Haag. All transportation is easiest with public transport: Trains go every 15 minutes, are clean and very fast. They also offer free wifi.

    Within Amsterdam there are a lot of art museums, but that is not for everybody. You can rent a bike if you are comfortable on two wheels, or use the metro and tram to get around.

  38. Mark says

    Lively, Even if you can’t get a tour, why don’t you contact the court (email address on website) and see if there is a proceeding underway that you could observe.

  39. Tom says

    Don’t forget to factor in the hefty 39+ euro nightly tax into your award/paid decision. That pushed me over to award.

  40. MSJ says

    Frankly…the more I think about this the more I think you should not take the trip. Accepting a free trip from American is like going down a slippery slope. Your reviews will become suspect. Why risk it?

    Please maintain your impartiality and integrity. It will pay you greater dividends in the long run! You will no longer be one of “us” if you take the trip.

  41. Susan says

    The comp biz class seat could go either way. If it’s on a plane full of journalists, the food and service are likely to be atypical and even one of Lucky’s usual exhaustive reviews would be compromised. If he’s given the option to fly any time on a normal flight, I’m sure he’ll provide his usual comprehensive description of the experience, complete with the temperature of the nuts and the temperament of the FAs. Lucky has a track record of telling it like it is.

    Besides, he’s already announced that he’s been offered a freebie, what else do you want besides a mention in the review itself?

  42. Jetstream007 says

    Hi Lucky, I’m sure you will like Adam a lot!

    Must see:
    - Rijksmuseum (Top 3 artmuseums in the World)
    - Van Gogh is closed but almost all the paintings are on display at The Hermitage. (Warning: do not go to a ‘van Gogh exhibition @Beurs van Berlage, just replica’s, tourist trap)
    - Anne Frank House
    - Canal cruise (yes..odd, but true)

    The rest is not a must but lots of stuff that is still very nice. Right at your hotel is ‘The Stedelijk’ Museum http://www.stedelijk.nl/en
    You can go see flowers and tulips right from Schiphol airport by bus (15 min drive or so) http://www.keukenhof.nl/en/
    Or see the beautiful building of the new filmmuseum http://www.eyefilm.nl/en
    To visit Eye take your bike (rent one) and just hop on board of a small ferryboat across The IJ.
    Have fun just pedelling around, it’s a great place to do anything!

  43. Grant says

    The Andaz Amsterdam is a beautiful hotel and my first chance to experience Andaz luxury. The hotel will let you borrow bikes for free and ride around the city. Anne Frank Huis (House) is 2 blocks away from the hotel.

  44. Susan says

    @Mel – Thanks for suggesting the House of Bols. I took that tour and would like to add that at the end, you are given two drinks…one a mixed drink (like a Tom Collins) and another straight shot of one of their Genevers (sort of a gin alcohol drink) – I ended up getting the coupons from someone who didn’t want them so I had four drinks. Ended up in the little send a video home booth having the time of my life obviously (as evidenced by the video) – anyway, it was definitely lots of fun… and rather informative too.
    http://www.bols.com/about-house-of-bols-2/

  45. Jetstream007 says

    Lucky, if you visit the House of Bols I have a friend who works there, can get you in on a discount. Let me know.

  46. BrewerSEA says

    I’ll be the third to suggest the House of Bols. You like liquor now, right Ben?

    And to everyone kvetching: AA/AMEX/Hyatt paid for Ben’s trip to Mendoza for the Masters of Food and Wine two years ago in business class and he wrote an objective review.

  47. Michael says

    If you like cheese, and Hwillig is spectacular. Amsterdam is one of the great walking cities and, in my opinion, you don’t need a bike. I love café hoppe for great beer – two euros!

  48. says

    I echo the recommendations for the Anne Frank House and the van Gogh museum.

    Apple Tart at Winkel!

    A friend made me try herring last time I was there. I found it great for testing out my gag reflex.

  49. lucky says

    Thanks for all the suggestions, folks, I really appreciate it!

    To those of you concerned over a comped flight, I certainly understand your concern and appreciate it. I’d like to clarify a few things, though:
    – I’m completely transparent when it comes to disclosing when any part of my travel experience is comped, and you’ll see it at the top of each post.
    – This isn’t my first comped travel experience. Check out my review from Mendoza or my stay at the Marina Bay Sands. You draw your own conclusions as to whether I’m a shill or not.
    – The reason I’m actually perfectly willing to take this comp is because I feel I can be objective with what’s important. The food and service are hit or miss on American. There are no two ways about it. The food isn’t as good as Singapore first class, and it’s better than McDonalds. I’ll post pictures, and I’ll let y’all be the judges. I can assure you the nuts won’t be especially warm and crunchy just because it’s a comped flight. But what this review really comes down to for me is the new hard product. I flew Cathay Pacific’s new business class last year, and I RAVED about it. It’s the best business class product out there. If America’s is more or less the same, does it matter whether the trip was comped or I paid $1,000 and a couple of systemwide upgrades? You guys tell me.

    Anyway, appreciate the concern, though would also appreciate if you guys could reserve judgment till I post the report. If anyone thinks I’m not being fair there, I invite you to blast me in the comments section of those posts, and I won’t do any moderating.

  50. says

    Definitely take a boat cruise… its worth it and they might offer a free drink with the purchase of a ride… I recollect that they had one departing fairly close to the Marriott, but not sure where the Hyatt is in conjunction with that.

  51. hobo13 says

    So it occurs to me — how will we know if you’re being objective Ben? No matter how bad of a review you might write, the service could still have been worse, right? I mean, bad service knows no bounds! The only way I can see to deal with this is to bring along an auditor….. I volunteer to be the auditor for your readers. You comp me a C ticket, and I’ll sit in the row behind you. I’ll count the number of times you have to ask for your Diet Coke to be refilled, thus providing independent verification of your review for your readers. Sound like a plan? When do we leave?

  52. says

    If you do canal tour definitely book the private boat at the Pulitzer Hotel it’s lovely way to see the sights (not sure though if they start in April) With only a few people. The tulips are fantastic I was surprised by how much I liked it there as city girl not into gardens. after that tour did VanGogh museum and then bike tour (busy day)
    As for bike tour I did two with JoyRide and they were fantastic (one city, one country) not sure if they are in season yet but if so they are fun. make sure you get Stroopwafels they are caramel cookie treat

  53. Mark says

    Mike’s Bike Tour is great. Gets you out of the city, which is surprisingly not far, and into the countryside.

  54. cedahm says

    Someone mentioned Beer above, and I can’t add much to the excellent recommendations already, but if you want to sample some good craft beers in neat places:

    ‘t Arendsnest (Jordaan): Dedicated to Dutch craft beer. Goal to have at least 1 beer from all breweries in the Netherlands (though sometimes there are a few missing due to supply constraints). Great pub on the edge of the Jordaan.

    in de wildeman: in an alley off behind the Dam. Great beer-pub

    In general – pop in to any of the old Brown Cafes for a drink. Great atmosphere. Cafe Chris near the Westerkerk is a personal favorite just because it shares my name.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *