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Beauty & Beast -TATL On The 747, A330 & NW/KL Pt.1  
User currently offlineTJM321 From United States of America, joined Jun 2009, 34 posts, RR: 0
Posted (4 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 13998 times:

Hello everyone,

With the NWA color scheme and brand image disappearing day by day, I thought it would be a nice experience to try one of their overseas flights while still available. This worked out well, as my Dad wanted to spend some bonding time after my first year of college. Wake Forest ends classes in early May, which makes it easy to find good fares overseas, before the summer rush. We booked a Mediterranean cruise on the Azamara Journey, part of Celebrity Line for those of you who are cruise-savvy. Ports included Rome; Livorno/Florence Italy; Portofino, Italy; Monte Carlo/Nice; Bonifacio, Corsica; Tunis, Tunisia (Carthage); and Barcelona, Spain. It had been a very long time since I had been back to Europe, and I was very pleased to finally have some time away from Accounting, Economics, and the various other business school courses - who wouldn't?!

As a preface, this report is quite a long read. I've included many of the pictures I had taken at port, just to give some flavor and context to the actual air trip. This is my first trip report (and one of my first posts in general), but I've been an onlooker for several years now, and I've absolutely enjoyed some of the incredible pictures posted on some TR's here. Feel free to make any suggestions regarding this first attempt, though try to remember that I'm definitely not yet a pro at this!


The cruise itself began in Civitavecchia, Rome's port. The routing from CMH would prove to be a bit difficult, as I wanted to catch NW68, the 747 flight to AMS. We ended up flying CMH-DTW-AMS-FCO with what ended up being a very short connection in Detroit and a rather long one at Schiphol. The whole itinerary was

CMH-DTW NW2834 CRJ-200 (only a CRJ, sorry for missing the registration)
DTW-AMS NW68 747-400 N675NW, in Delta colors
AMS-FCO KL1601 737-900 PH-BHX, "Zeestern"
---------------
BCN-AMS KL1666 737-900 PH-BXP "Crested Coot" -with a video of our go-around
AMS-MEM NW57 A330-300 N808NW
MEM-CMH NW2834 CRJ-200 Didn't catch the registration; sorry again!

As some may agree, arriving at the airport early is best, for the spotting, of course. Fine machines to be seen even at a place like CMH, where pigs do not fly, but mad dogs, Barbie jets, and 757's from Delta and United (seasonally) do. Check-in was expedient, something NWA has sometimes botched, in my experience. Surprisingly, the ticket counter displayed the old (2003) colors. Each check-in machine also offered ticket jackets, which I believed to be a thing of the "past." Apparently not yet at Columbus!

We dropped our bags with a friendly thumbs-up from the police officer and proceeded to breeze through security, and to our gate, B36. CMH is a middle-sized airport, with a significant number of flights departing from Terminal B, which is "T" shaped. B feels older than A and C in my opinion, and to its credit, it has seen crowds of people from America West and Skybus through the years. Before long, I'm sure they will replace the bowling-shoe signage for NW.

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Not much to say about the short, 30 minute hop on the CRJ, except that it was one of the few US regional flights I have taken in a while that was perfectly on time. Disembarking, however, took some time, though not enough for serious concern. Upon arriving in DTW, we transferred to the McNamara Terminal under the famous lighted walkway

How nice of DTW to provide AMS-bound passengers with a preview of the neurological effects of Amsterdam "cafes."
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Famous picture of the DTW fountain

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There were a couple of old color 747's parked, but ours, N675NW, had the Delta scheme.

McNamara is a convenient place to connect internationally. I had been through a number of times on domestic connections and found it good there as well. Atlanta and Chicago can be a headache sometimes; here, things are much quieter and organized.
Until....

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you board your plane. I really don't understand why NWA boards this way. I remember flying with them back in 2004 on a 753 MSP-SEA, when they used "zones." This is a much better system, in my opinion. Boarding a 747 full of people at one time, through one gate, is a proverbial zoo. Not surprisingly, it smelled as such.

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As impressive as NW/DL's 747's are on the outside, their interior is indeed terrible. This one was in particularly poor condition, with hard, frayed seats and the expectedly outdated IFE- I really can't imagine flying coach to Asia in one of these. I was whisked to me seat, 37K, by a friendly but winded female FA. NWA gives you a blanket, headset, and a pillow, typical for the US international flights I have been on.

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Taxi and take-off were prompt. Flying out of DTW was a soupy mess today, so please excuse the poor quality of this take-off video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBt1T-iPP8o

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Still unpleasant outside

A few minutes after we had cleared the weather and began our cruise, the captain announced our flight altitude and time (my apologies for forgetting the specifics). After we cleared the heavy clouds, the flight attendants announced that they would be serving beverages, then later, dinner. I noticed that the flight attendants on NW68 today widely varied in personality; our section was served by an anxious younger man (to describe it best, I think he would have preferred tending a bar than tired overseas passengers) and the ever-cheerful Jennifer. The other side's crew seemed a bit snappy, although I could certainly relate with being overworked, if that was the case.

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Inside bird 675


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Finally, dinner was served. The choices were (plainly) "chicken" or vegetable curry, for those who follow restricted diets. I never realized the popularity of this flight with Indians, but it certainly makes sense with the KLM availability from AMS. I had lively conversation with my row, which defused a bit of annoyance at the portion of my meal- it was much smaller than it looks in the picture. While the economy meals on Swiss and AF are hardly Alain Ducasse masterpieces, this was honestly a disappointment. Hopefully Delta will inspire some dessert variety, anything other than the Oreos (not that they're bad or anything, but...) To be fair, the chicken was flavorful, the rice was fluffy, and neither were overcooked. The salad was, well, a few pieces of iceberg with a couple tomatoes. It wasn't a bad meal, just not much of one at all.

The passengers settled in for the long flight to Amsterdam, and the flight attendants came around with coffee and tea. Finally, the feeling of crossing the Atlantic in a 747 began to set in; even despite being only nineteen years old and not having experienced the timeless experience of flying on the upper deck of 100-series, it's difficult not to at least smile after realizing that you're on board one of the greatest human feats of engineering of all time. The seats were hard, the cabin wreaked of curry, and we didn't have PTV's, but we still sat above four engines and a massive, graceful wing that gave way to the setting sun. Life is good!

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Flight attendants came around several times with water, though they left out a cart for people to help themselves, which was nice.

Morning finally came, and then came breakfast- an egg muffin with American cheese, mixed fruit, and orange juice. I needed to review my Italian!

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Finally approaching Schiphol

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We landed gracefully and taxied for a few minutes. There were many American families onboard this flight- not necessarily with children, but more couples like the ones we would meet on the cruise. There were a few for whom this was the first trip to Europe, which, I'm sure, was exciting- and then there were my rowmates, who were halfway, and needed to catch the flight to India. One kid a couple of rows ahead of me, who was competing in an international soccer tournament, was also pleasant to talk with.

De-boarding was actually quite quick. The flight attendants wished us a pleasant time in Amsterdam, and I disembarked, happy to be on vacation, but admittedly a bit sentimental leaving the big machine.

KLM representatives immediately greeted us gateside to assist passengers with their connecting assignments. I was very impressed with their helpfulness and enthusiasm- I'd have to say that the KLM staff is among the most cohesive that I have met in my travels, so for any staff out there, thank you for your hard work!

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Our plane for KL1601 to Rome, 737-900 "Zeestern"

Customs was not busy, and did take long to clear, thankfully. Another thing AMS does really well, in my inexperienced opinion.

I had never flown in a 739 before, so this was a new experience, and a good one to add to the logbook. Boarding took forever; so long, in fact, that I actually left for a while to browse AMS's excellent shops. Eventually we were allowed on, though not after standing for around 55 minutes. Call me a lightweight, but standing that long after a seven hour flight is difficult!

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Inside ship PH-BHX

We pushed back quickly. The FA's on today's flight were friendly, but not too much so. I would compare them to those I have met on Continental, especially transatlantic- professional and friendly, but not memorably warm (though I actually like it this way).

http://i599.photobucket.com/albums/tt73/TMurck/Med%20Flights%202009/Picture022.jpg

Flight attendants came around for drinks and sandwiches. Although the packages were pretty flashy, the sandwiches themselves were very simple, one meat and another cheese. Not having flown KLM in a very, very long time, I'm not sure how much of a decline in catering this is; I can say that it was nice to get something/anything, since it had been awhile since we had eaten.

We arrived safely and soundly in rome, took the Leonardo Express to Termini Station, and proceeded to our hotel in the outskirts of town. This was best, in my opinion, because we got to experience the "real" life of the Romans. The rates were cheaper as well.

Day 1 - Roma

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Train to Civitavecchia; beautiful ride, truly a poetic sort of trip, in my opinion

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Our Stateroom onboard the Azamara ship

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Eating a nice breakfast on board, docked outside of Livorno

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We continued on to Florence; it was a typically steamy 37 degrees because the city is located in a valley.

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Small, colorful towns on the Italian Riviera, Ligure

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Monorail used to haul grapes up the steep mountains, Cinque Terre National Park

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Lover's Lane, Cinque Terre; called this for a reason!

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Monte Carlo, Monaco

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Cours Saleya, Nice

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Lion's Rock, Corsica

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Tunis, Tunisia - Day 6

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The hot Tunisian sun makes everyone sleepy!

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The ruins at Carthage

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Making traditional Berber clothes; the Souks, Tunis

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Handmade rugs for sale

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Final Day - Barcelona

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Sagrada Familia

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Las Ramblas and famous street performers

The cruise was an amazing experience, and a true privilege. Truly, a memory I'm not sure I'll ever be able to relive (though that's what a college education is hopefully for!) Feeling tired and a bit ready to go back to the states, my Dad and I got a good night of sleep at the Villa Emilia Hotel; this is an excellent place to stay when in Barcelona, as the rates are generally quite reasonable, the rooms are spacious and modern, the hotel itself is very close to the subway, and free internet is offered.

Part two to come very very shortly, including my KLM and NW flights home, and a video of our go-around at AMS. Hope you all enjoyed this report, and feel free to comment and constructively criticize!

Pax,

Thomas

12 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineSKYYBLUE From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (4 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 13880 times:

You're TR was an excellent read. I loved seeing pictures of 'off' places such as Tunis, Corsica, and Monaco. Looks like you had a good time seeing all those places. Great pics, too!

User currently offlinePlaneHunter From Germany, joined Mar 2006, 6639 posts, RR: 78
Reply 2, posted (4 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 13797 times:

Hi Thomas,

let me tell you my congratulations - your first trip report is great, well-written and accompanied by many nice pictures. Keep them coming!

Quoting TJM321 (Thread starter):
I really can't imagine flying coach to Asia in one of these.

Exactly my opinion.

Quoting TJM321 (Thread starter):
I had lively conversation with my row, which defused a bit of annoyance at the portion of my meal- it was much smaller than it looks in the picture. While the economy meals on Swiss and AF are hardly Alain Ducasse masterpieces, this was honestly a disappointment.

Oh yes, it's so disappointing. Small portions and a terrible presentation. Why on earth do they use these cheap-looking black plastic bowls?

Quoting TJM321 (Thread starter):
The seats were hard, the cabin wreaked of curry, and we didn't have PTV's, but we still sat above four engines and a massive, graceful wing that gave way to the setting sun. Life is good!

Well said!

Quoting TJM321 (Thread starter):
KLM representatives immediately greeted us gateside to assist passengers with their connecting assignments. I was very impressed with their helpfulness and enthusiasm- I'd have to say that the KLM staff is among the most cohesive that I have met in my travels, so for any staff out there, thank you for your hard work!

I have to agree - KLM ground staff members and (most) flight attendants have always been very friendly and helpful during my trips.

Quoting TJM321 (Thread starter):
I had never flown in a 739 before, so this was a new experience, and a good one to add to the logbook.

Lucky guy. They are hard to get. I just managed to include a CO 739ER flight in an upcoming trip, but I gave up on finding an appropriate Alaska 739 non-ER flight...I'll try again next time.

Quoting TJM321 (Thread starter):
Not having flown KLM in a very, very long time, I'm not sure how much of a decline in catering this is

Not a decline actually - good to see you still got a sandwich. I only got cookies on my last AMS-MUC (afternoon) flight. Two years ago they still served sandwiches on that particular flight.


PH



Nothing's worse than flying the same reg twice!
User currently offlineATLTPA From United States of America, joined Nov 2007, 127 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (4 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 13763 times:

Loved the trip report-- good job.

And more importantly, (from a Wake Forest alumnus and a.netter), GO DEACS!


User currently offlineBAViscount From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2004, 2338 posts, RR: 4
Reply 4, posted (4 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days ago) and read 13255 times:



Quoting TJM321 (Thread starter):
Wake Forest ends classes in early May

Oh, you're in Winston-Salem?? My cousin and her husband both work at Wake Forest...great part of the world!! Nice trip report...always good to see destination photos too...good work!



Ladies & gentlemen this is Captain Tobias Wilcock welcoming you aboard Coconut Airways flight 372 to Bridgetown Barb
User currently offlineSemsem From Israel, joined Jul 2005, 1779 posts, RR: 3
Reply 5, posted (4 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 18 hours ago) and read 12808 times:

I can't believe Delta serve Oreo cookies as a desert. At least CO serve Pepperidge Farm, though that also is not a proper desert. Good to know. Will avoid if I can.

It is great that KLM still serve a sandwich. Effective September 1st, British stopped all food on flights less than 2 1/2 hours in Y. They don't even sell food.


User currently offlineRyanair!!! From Australia, joined Mar 2002, 4738 posts, RR: 26
Reply 6, posted (4 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 12768 times:

You gave me some very vivid flashbacks about NWA. I have done more than my fair share on board the 747-400 across the Pacific (to/from from DTW, MSP, SFO) with them pre 9-11 and it seems the seats are still of the same variety n YCL from the look of your pictures. Hey, not to mention those black plastic meal boxes with the transparent film. Like I said, nothing's changed.

Thanks for the report, Rome looks wonderful as always.

Cheers
Ryan



Welcome to my starry one world alliance, a team in the sky!
User currently offlineTJM321 From United States of America, joined Jun 2009, 34 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (4 years 6 months 3 days 11 hours ago) and read 11332 times:



Quoting SKYYBLUE (Reply 1):

Thank you for the nice compliments! The trip was incredible, especially seeing, as you mentioned, more unique places. I think cruising really allows you to see things you couldn't if you rented a car on land. Glad you enjoyed the trip report!  Smile

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 2):
Lucky guy. They are hard to get. I just managed to include a CO 739ER flight in an upcoming trip, but I gave up on finding an appropriate Alaska 739 non-ER flight...I'll try again next time.

Agreed; there aren't very many of them here in the US, or anywhere, really. It's a nice addition to the logbook, of course, but obviously, in terms of comfort, they're not too different than the other 737 NG's. They are great rides, though, so keep trying!!!

Quoting ATLTPA (Reply 3):

Haha, thank you, and of course, Go Deacs! Although after that ugly game yesterday, not so sure how much school spirit there is to go around! A lot of us here are really banking of basketball, so hopefully they can pull through for us this winter.

Quoting BAViscount (Reply 4):

Wow, small world, I guess! I actually do happen to know a few faculty pairs here, so there is a chance that I know your relatives! The Piedmont region here in NC is very nice, especially in the fall. Glad you enjoyed the pics  Smile

Quoting Semsem (Reply 5):

Yeah, I'd have to agree; it really was disappointing to get that little on a transatlantic. I wouldn't necessarily tell someone to avoid DL on such flights, as they were overall decent in service etc, it's more that the Y seats are incredibly uncomfortable (they are NW's, so they will probably be replaced sometime, though). Not sure I mentioned this, but the food itself was a pre-packaged TV dinner, and didn't really appear to be made by a catering service. Like you said, though, it was nice to get something on KLM.

Quoting Ryanair!!! (Reply 6):

Haha, yes; glad to give you (fond?) memories! Not sure about 8 years ago, but I can agree that NW is the exact same thing, at least from my experience, as it was in 2004. The seats are so uncomfortable for a large airliner, and definitely need to be changed. I'm glad to hear you made it on one across the Pacific, but I'm admittedly not quite sure how!  Smile


Thanks, everyone, for the kind comments, and glad you enjoyed the read. As soon as midterms quiet down, I'll post part II.

-Thomas


User currently offlineAirbuseric From Netherlands, joined Jan 2005, 4207 posts, RR: 51
Reply 8, posted (4 years 6 months 3 days 9 hours ago) and read 11210 times:

Hi,

nice report, good pics. Won't like to be on those NW/DL 744's. Longhaul travel deserves a bit more quality nowadays...

The registration of the KLM B739 is not stated correct. Or it is B737-800 PH-BXH but that's called Goose. Therefore, Sea Tern is PH-BXT, your aircraft on AMS-FCO.

Quoting Semsem (Reply 5):
Effective September 1st, British stopped all food on flights less than 2 1/2 hours in Y. They don't even sell food.

I flew BA on a 45 minute international flight 28Sep last, and got a sandwich and free drinkservice. So your statement is not completely correct.

Regards,
Eric



"The whole world steps aside for the man who knows where he is going"
User currently offlineLAXdude1023 From India, joined Sep 2006, 7320 posts, RR: 24
Reply 9, posted (4 years 6 months 3 days 8 hours ago) and read 11096 times:

Thank you for that. That was one of the best TR's Ive read!  Smile

I look forward to part 2. Im particularly interested in the AMS-MEM segment.



Stewed...Lewd...Crude...Irreverent...Belligerent
User currently offlineFlyKev From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2006, 1376 posts, RR: 1
Reply 10, posted (4 years 6 months 3 days ago) and read 10870 times:
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An excelent report, I love the enthusiasm and it sounds like you had a really enjoyable trip - The 744 is definatly on my favourite aircraft list.

kev.



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User currently offlineRyanair!!! From Australia, joined Mar 2002, 4738 posts, RR: 26
Reply 11, posted (4 years 6 months 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 10798 times:



Quoting TJM321 (Reply 7):
Haha, yes; glad to give you (fond?) memories! Not sure about 8 years ago, but I can agree that NW is the exact same thing, at least from my experience, as it was in 2004. The seats are so uncomfortable for a large airliner, and definitely need to be changed. I'm glad to hear you made it on one across the Pacific, but I'm admittedly not quite sure how!

One of my more tortourous journey was SIN-NRT-SFO-MSP-ORD. You pay cheap, that is what you get, multi-stop itinerary. Many people complain about airline food but for me, I'll eat anything. Therefore whiile those transparent-filmed black boxes looks tacky presentation wise, the contents were passable enough to satisfy my palate and fill my tummy. I do not expect restaurant style quality food up in the air. I could not say the same for the domestic sectors though because as we all know, there is almost no food. Although they did give me a banana, an apple and a bagel. These days you would be lucky to get a pack of crackers.

I am not exactly a tall person at 170cm. But I found the pitch of the seats to be rather tight on the 747s, and even worse on the DC10s.

Inflight service was abysmal once we said goodbye to the Asian crew in NRT. To be honest, I thought the American crew who took over could not give two hoots what the passengers thought about their service. Unpolished, frumpy, curt.

So no, the memories weren't of the "fond" variety.



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User currently offlineAkhmad From Netherlands, joined Sep 2005, 2429 posts, RR: 53
Reply 12, posted (4 years 6 months 7 hours ago) and read 10240 times:

Hi Thomas,

Nice report! It looks like you enjoyed your holiday very much! Your scenery pictures are superb! Well done!

The B744 looks great in the DL scheme. The interior was unfortunately less attractive.

I look forward to your return trip!

Cheers,
Suryo



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