Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

Floating bus tours now operating at Schiphol Airport

In July, StuckatTheAirport.com and many other outlets shared news of the Floating Dutchman tours being offered at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

Well, we all jumped the gun. The service was supposed to kick off in July, but was delayed for about a month waiting for paperwork to fall into place for marine and road licenses.

Now everything seems to be in order and this week the first paying customers were able to climb on board.

Here’s my Floating Dutchman story from msnbc.com’s Overhead Bin:

If you’ve got a long layover between flights, your choices at most airports are to eat, drink, shop or attempt to nap while sitting up − and without drooling.

But passengers with at least five hours to wait at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport now have a new, entertaining and amphibious option.

On Wednesday, after a month-long delay, the Floating Dutchman welcomed aboard its first paying customers. The service is a cross between a bus and a boat and drives tourists from the airport to the city, enters the water at a specially-built ‘Splash Zone’ to give passengers a floating canal tour and then returns, via the highway, to the airport.

Speaking to Overhead Bin during the canal tour portion of the tour on Thursday, Annette Fatael of Toronto, Canada, said: “We have a nine-hour layover on our way from Toronto to Tel Aviv and chose this from several tours offered at the airport. It’s a huge tour bus and it was hard to believe that it was going to go into the water.”

Floating Dutchman Amsterdam

The amphibious bus carries 48 passengers, cruises the canals on battery power and is a partnership between the airport, the city of Amsterdam and a local cruise company.

The swimming boat concept is much like the Duck Tours offered in many U.S. cities. “But our floating is different because it is a luxury touring car and a fully equipped boat,” said Freek Vermeulen, managing director of Great Amsterdam Excursions. “We have a license plate and a marine certificate, so we can go everywhere. Duck Tours often use old army vehicles, are very noisy and only have permission to operate on a certain route.”

Tours last two hours and 45 minutes and are offered three times a day. Tickets cost about $56 (39 Euros) for adults and about $28 (19.50 Euros) for children. Booking online offers a 10 percent discount.

“It may prove to be one of the best ways to explore Amsterdam during a connection,” Cristian Petre of Romania wrote in the Flying Dutchman guestbook after the first day of tours on Wednesday. “We’ve now got an idea what the city is about and would return for more exploring,” noted the Kireta family of Australia.

It’s not as if Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is such a terrible place to spend a long layover. To serve the 40 percent of passengers making connections through Schiphol, the airport offers amenities that include a casino, in-terminal hotels, a library, more than 100 shops and restaurants and an outdoor observation deck. There’s also a park (with trees) inside the terminal and a branch of the Rijksmuseum.

A few other airports, including Incheon in Seoul, South Korea, and Hong Kong International Airport also offer transit passengers organized city tours. Singapore’s Changi Airport offers complimentary tours of the city. Turkish Airlines passengers stopping over at Istanbul Airport also receive free tours.

Schiphol Airport’s floating bus tour

Where I live, it’s called Ride the Ducks and, corny as is it when a bus/boat of quacking tourists drives by – which is fairly often now that summer season is in high gear – this does seem like a really fun and unusual way to check out a town.

In Seattle, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Branson, MO and the other U.S. cities where these amphibious adventures are offered, the tours start in town.

But for anyone who might find themselves stuck at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport there’s now a Dutch version of the ducks designed specifically for people like you.

Powered by 198 batteries, the carbon-neutral Floating Dutchman bus boat picks up its passengers right at Schiphol Plaza, drives into town and then drives into the water for a tour through the city’s canals. When the tour is over, the bus emerges from the water and drives back to the airport.

The time in the water is about 45 minutes, but the entire tour will take about 2 hours and 45 minutes. So if you’re thinking of doing this on a layover tour operators suggest you choose this as an option only if you’ve got at least four hours to spare.

Sound like fun? Here’s more information about Schiphol’s Floating Dutchman.

(Tip: Book online and you’ll get a 10% discount)

And if you don’t have quite enough time to take the tour, there’s plenty to keep you entertained at Schiphol.

The airport recently opened a lovely indoor/outdoor park and not too long ago, the airport opened a library.

Park yourself at Amsterdam Airport

If you’re going to get Stuck at the Airport, you’d be lucky to get stuck at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

Amenities include a great play area for kids, a top notch art collection, plenty of lounge chairs for napping, an observation deck, free Wi-Fi (for an hour), a library and lots more.  You can even get married at the airport.

So I was pleased – but not surprised – to learn that the airport was rolling out something new: an in-airport park filled with greenery and gadgetry.

Here’s the story I wrote about the park for msnbc.com travel.

A new park-like space at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport offers a breath of fresh air for weary travelers.

Airport Park, which opened Wednesday, features a post-security “haven of tranquility” that employs imagery and technology to help set the tone. Photos of famous parks and projections of butterflies adorn the walls. The piped-in sounds of animals, bicycle bells and kids at play create a park-like soundtrack. Wooden picnic tables, chaise lounges, trees and chairs upholstered in “ivy” complete the scene.

Hungry travelers will find food and beverage nearby. Travelers who want to work will find power outlets. Those who want to get some exercise can ride stationary bicycles that generate energy to recharge portable gadgets.

The welcoming indoor/outdoor green spot is the newest addition to the airport, which already invites travelers to spend their dwell time at a casino, a library or at the airport’s branch of the famed Rijksmuseum.

For those who find the indoor park too much of a tease for the real thing, there’s also an outdoor terrace with real greenery and trees, benches, picnic tables, views of the airfield and that much sough-after airport amenity: fresh air.

It’s “a good example of how airports around the world are increasingly upgrading the airport experience in order to become a preferred hub for travelers,” said Raymond Kollau of airlinetrends.com, an Amsterdam-based consumer trends research agency.

Kollau concedes that parks won’t be popping up inside airports everywhere, but said Schiphol’s new park is “relevant and fun.”

 

More posh airport amenities

From my recent Bing Travel slide show, here are a few more posh airport amenities:


 

Offering travelers the world’s largest airport slide, a transit hotel with a roof-top pool and free foot massages, live entertainment, movie theaters and computer games, Singapore’s award-winning Changi Airport consistently tops the posh chart. Posher yet: five fanatically-tended-to themed gardens displaying, respectively, ferns, orchids, cactus, sunflowers and more than 1,000 live butterflies.

Posh perusing is available at Taiwan Tayoun International Airport, which now has a library with 2000 paper books and 400 e-titles for passengers on layovers. The much larger Airport Library at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport opened last year. The “sitting area with added value” offers a multi-media collection of books, films and music about Dutch history, culture, art and literature.

Maintaining a posh state of mind in transit is easier if you look and feel great. Thankfully, spas offering manicures, haircuts, facials and back, neck and foot massages are becoming commonplace in many terminals. At Finland’s Helsinki Airport, relaxation goes a step further: a Finnair-branded spa offers a choice of spruce, stone, steam or a traditional Finnish sauna.

They say music hath charms to soothe the savage beast. So can music relax stressed-out travelers? We think so. Especially if you catch one of the regular concerts offered at airports in Austin, Nashville, San Diego or San Francisco. The poshest airport musical act may take place at Portland International Airport, where John English (“The Voice”) delivers Frank Sinatra tributes twice-weekly.

For more, see the full posh airport amenities slide show on Bing Travel – or check back here tomorrow.

Winter art exhibit at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport has a lot going for it.

Besides being just 20 minutes from downtown Amsterdam, the airport is just a fun place to hang around.

Amsterdan Schiphol play area for kids

There are really fun play areas for kids, a casino for adults, a short-stay Yotel hotel perfect for napping and refreshing up, lounge chairs, a library and some really great artwork.

The airport is also home to a branch of Amsterdam’s infamous Rijksmuseum.

Loocated on Holland Boulevard, post-security, between Piers E and F, the museum is open every day and there is no admission fee charged.

The museum has a permanent exhibition of ten works by Dutch masters of the Golden Age as well as temporary exhibitions that change several times a year.

The current special exhibition, ‘Dutch Winters,’ will be up through March 2011.

Isaac Israëls, Two Girls in the Snow, ca. 1890-94