Floating Dutchman

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.