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
with what ended up being a very short connection in Detroit and a rather long one at Schiphol. The whole itinerary was
NW2834 CRJ-200 (only a CRJ, sorry for missing the registration)
NW68 747-400 N675NW, in Delta colors
KL1601 737-900 PH
KL1666 737-900 PH
-BXP "Crested Coot" -with a video of our go-around
NW57 A330-300 N808NW
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
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."
Famous picture of the DTW
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.
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
, 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.
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.
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
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.
Inside bird 675
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!
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!
Finally approaching Schiphol
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!
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!
Inside ship PH
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).
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
Train to Civitavecchia; beautiful ride, truly a poetic sort of trip, in my opinion
Our Stateroom onboard the Azamara ship
Eating a nice breakfast on board, docked outside of Livorno
We continued on to Florence; it was a typically steamy 37 degrees because the city is located in a valley.
Small, colorful towns on the Italian Riviera, Ligure
Monorail used to haul grapes up the steep mountains, Cinque Terre National Park
Lover's Lane, Cinque Terre; called this for a reason!
Monte Carlo, Monaco
Cours Saleya, Nice
Lion's Rock, Corsica
Tunis, Tunisia - Day 6
The hot Tunisian sun makes everyone sleepy!
The ruins at Carthage
Making traditional Berber clothes; the Souks, Tunis
Handmade rugs for sale
Final Day - Barcelona
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!