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TR'14 2/6: Garuda Indonesia B77W AMS-LGW In F

Wed Dec 10, 2014 1:13 pm

TR'14 2/6: Garuda Indonesia B77W AMS-LGW in F
also including my experience with Stena Line's Rail & Sail package, Overnight Ferry from London to Amsterdam - see Post #2

This Trip Report is the second of a series of six, beginning with the Final MD11 flight. Check out all the Trip Reports of this series!
  • TR'14 1/6: KLM Last MD11 in J, US CRJ PHL-YUL-AMS

  • TR'14 2/6: Garuda Indonesia B77W AMS-LGW in F

  • TR'14 3/6: KLM 747s New J:AMS-BKK,HKG-AMS,AMS-ORD

  • TR'14 4/6: Thai AirAsia, Nok Air, 3rd-class train

  • TR'14 5/6: Emirates A380 BKK-HKG (F Suites)

  • TR'14 6/6: To Macau on TurboJET & Cotai Water Jet

TR'14 2/6: Garuda Indonesia B77W AMS-LGW in F

After arriving from YUL on KLM's Final MD11 flight, I completed customs and immigration into the European Union, and arrived to Garuda Indonesia's check-in area, only to find it had not yet opened. Ten minutes later, and I was the first person to complete an in-person check-in today. I had purchased this ticket through Delta, on 006 ticket stock, to be able to get Medallion Qualification Dollars on Delta SkyMiles. A side effect of this is that I could not select a seat or check-in in advance. At airport check-in, I requested a window seat, checked my bag, and was given a cardstock boarding pass in a Garuda Indonesia First Class boarding pass holder. I was also given an invitation to the lounge - KLM's Crown Lounge; since GA is a member of SkyTeam, they share KLM's lounge at Schiphol. The check-in agent said something about boarding time being 09:45, due to EU daylight savings time having ended, but UK daylight savings time continuing. I wasn't sure the exact departure time of GA88, and my boarding pass only listed 09:45 as the boarding time, with no departure time or arrival time on the pass, so I was a little confused about the correct boarding time, but didn't worry about it. After check-in, my First Class experience began as another agent personally escorted me to immigration to exit the EU. With no line, I was quickly through. At Schiphol security isn't centralized; instead, security screening takes place at each gate individually, something I hadn't seen before. The agent continued escorting me all the way to the KLM Crown Lounge before bidding me farewell. So this is what it's like to travel in First Class as opposed to Business Class. I only just got off my first ever Business Class flight, and now was onto my first ever First Class flight. It was also my first flight with Garuda Indonesia, my first flight on any sort of Boeing 777, and my first flight into London-Gatwick.

In the Lounge I found a wide array of food and drinks, with everything complimentary. Also, the Lounge was huge! And there were people everywhere. Having just gotten off my flight on the MD11, an overnight flight where I slept through breakfast, I decided to have a light breakfast and then take a shower. I requested a shower through the automated system, and was assigned a number. While I waited, I had breakfast. This was my first airport lounge shower, and it was a great way to wake up and feel refreshed after an overnight flight. I could get used to this!

Breakfast in the KLM Crown Lounge:

KLM Crown Lounge Private Shower Room:


Garuda Indonesia GA88

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Departure: 10:45

Arrival: 10:50

Seat: 1K First Class

Boeing 777-300ER

After this leisurely time in the Lounge, it was getting close to the time that the GA inbound plane was due to arrive to the gate. The lounge had no view of this particular gate, and I figured that I had just enough time to walk to the gate to see the aircraft arriving. I got to the gate area just in time, and saw my Boeing 777-300ER pulling up.

Garuda Indonesia Boeing 777-300ER arriving in AMS:

At the gate in AMS:

Today's 777-300ER was PK-GIA. Built in 2013, she was delivered to Garuda Indonesia in June of that year. By now it was almost 09:45, the stated boarding time on my boarding pass, so I decided to hang around the area. Security had not yet opened, so I could not access the gate area, so I waited outside of security. Soon enough, security opened, my boarding pass was scanned, and I was one of the first to go through screening into the gate area. Schiphol has US-style full body scanners, but interestingly, they allow shoes to remain on. I guess the full body scanner isn't the reason they must be removed in the US. I got into the gate area but the plane wasn't boarding yet. Instead, I had no idea when boarding was even going to start. It was after 09:45, the time on my boarding pass, but the plane wasn't boarding, and showed no signs of boarding. The flight crew hadn't even boarded yet. I settled into a seat and waited for boarding to begin.

View of PK-GIA from the gate area:

It was actually a pretty long wait until boarding actually started. The boarding time of 09:45 was very incorrect; that was simply the time that security opened. With no other boarding time, and no departure time on the boarding pass, I hadn't known any better, and had waited in the gate area far longer than I should have. Pretty annoying, when the KLM Crown Lounge was at my disposal.

I was finally able to board. Boarding was through Door L2. As I entered the plane, a flight attendant escorted me to my seat. We turned left and walked through a mini-cabin of Business Class into First Class, to my seat 1K. I placed my backpack (my only carry-on) under the ottoman in front of me (instead of the seat on front of me!) Garuda Indonesia's First Class aboard their 777-300ERs consists of eight seats across two rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. Today there were three passengers in First Class: 1A, 2G, and myself in 1K. Each seat is in its own cabin with sliding door, coat closet, huge flat bed seat, wood trim, ample storage compartments, and a giant IFE screen. There is also a touchscreen control for the seat and screen, and you get three windows to yourself. As I settled into my seat, I found it to be very wide and comfortable, with plenty of legroom. I could hardly reach the ottoman, which is part of the seat when it's a bed, and which allows another passenger to dine with you in your cabin.

Entering the First Class cabin:

My seat 1K:

Legroom shot:

Welcome IFE Screen:

Touchscreen Control for Seat & IFE Screen:

Overhead view (overhead bins only above center seats):

Looking all the way across to 1A - only 4 seats across a widebody jet:

Already in my mini-cabin were a selection of newspapers and magazines, noise-cancelling headphones, and a large amenity kit, hardly necessary for a short flight like this, but a nice touch all the same. A flight attendant, in a traditional Indonesian uniform, offered me a pre-departure beverage and snack. She offered fresh-squeezed orange juice or champagne, and I asked for one of each. She also brought fresh warm macadamia nuts. As she brought each item, she asked if she may place it in my cabin, and waited for me to say yes before she served me.

Pre-departure beverages and macadamia nuts:

Oh. My. God. This was the most delicious pre-departure service ever. I could not believe how delicious the warm macadamia nuts were! The champagne was good as well, and the fresh squeezed orange juice was also very delicious. Nothing compares to fresh squeezed orange juice! I thoroughly enjoyed each item of my pre-departure snack. I cannot recommend those macadamia nuts enough! Fortunately, a flight attendant came and asked if I wanted a refill. I wanted a refill of all of them! I quickly had another set of macadamia nuts, champagne, and orange juice to enjoy while the rest of the plane continued to board. After relaxing and settling in, enjoying the nuts and beverages, it was almost time to depart, so a flight attendant appeared and asked permission to tidy my cabin and secure items before departure. We pushed back at 10:53, almost ten minutes late, but I wasn't one to complain. I changed my watch to 09:53, since the UK is an hour different from the EU. The Boeing 777-300ER provided a quick and powerful takeoff, not a surprise considering it has such huge engines.

Right after takeoff, lunch was served. There were no menus or choice of lunch, but I didn't care since it was a full service on such a short flight. Flight attendants arrived and asked to set up my table. It really wasn't a tray table, as it was almost the size of an actual two-person dining table, finished in dark wood grain. Another flight attendant brought lunch: cold salmon and salad, fresh fruit, and a warm roll, served together with a glass of water. Lunch was pretty good, and if you consider that a full lunch was just served on a 228 mile, 1h05 flight, well it was great. I never heard of a meal service on such a short flight. As I neared completion of my meal, a flight attendant asked if I wanted anything else to drink. I decided on one more glass of champagne. She brought a second flight attendant, who asked permission to serve the champagne. After he had left, she came back to tell me to enjoy. I appreciate that this is attentive, First Class service, but honestly it was a bit over the top for me. Asking permission to set something on my table before you set it, having two people to pour one glass of champagne, yeah it was over the top. I am not used to such treatment. I think I preferred KLM's business class service. KLM's flight attendants were polite, friendly and professional, but not over the top like on this flight. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I didn't like Garuda Indonesia's service. It was clear they put a lot of effort into making it a special and unique experience, and after all, it was First Class, not Economy or Business. For me personally, it was just a bit too much.


My view of England from 1K:

We were already starting our descent into the London area. We landed at 10:46, making this flight only about 45 minutes. On our way to our gate, I saw a British Airways B737-400, a classic aircraft soon to depart BA's fleet. And I saw several Virgin Atlantic B747-400s. These too will leave Virgin's fleet in the coming years. Upper Class on Virgin's 747 is one of the flights I most want to take right now, so I hope I have the chance before they're retired.

British Airways B737-400, sorry it's blurry:

Virgin Atlantic B747-400:

We arrived to the gate, and the jetway was moved to Door L2. Flight attendants held back all passengers to let First Class leave the plane first. As soon as the three of us left, we found a gentleman in the jetway with our names displayed on a tablet. He was our escort to immigration and baggage claim, and he was to see us to our onward transportation. First time I've ever been met at a gate like this! He walked us directly to immigration. Unfortunately this meant I would miss the opportunity to walk Gatwick's bridge over the airport, and I wouldn't get to do any cool planespotting from that unique vantage point. But this is part of the First Class treatment, so I couldn't turn it down. At immigration, we were escorted right up to an agent, bypassing the line. I filled out my entry card and we proceeded to baggage claim, where the bags hadn't even started arriving yet. After a short wait, bags started arriving. But mine wasn't one of them. We were waiting and waiting, and the other two First Class passengers already had their bags, and we were still waiting. The wait was already feeling excessive, and I felt bad making them wait for me, so I insisted the escort take them where they needed to go, and he said he'd come back for me. I continued to wait and wait. My bag was one of the very last to come onto the belt. I don't believe I have ever waited so long for a bag before. All the more surprising since I was one of the three people in First Class. Bag in hand, I waited a little while for the escort to come back, but gave up and left on my own. He had already explained to me where to find the train service to London Victoria, so I cleared customs and headed there on my own.

Gatwick, fighting to be the recipient of London's new runway:

Arriving into London Victoria Station:

Overall I was satisfied with this flight and I enjoyed it very much. Now that I've flown it, I will admit that First Class on a 228 mile flight is not necessary, but it was likely to be the only time I fly that product with Garuda Indonesia, so I don't regret it. The pre-departure service was by far the most delicious I've ever experienced. The whole experience overall, though, was a bit too much for me. While it was certainly a great flight, and I would certainly recommend it, it is not going to become my favorite flight ever. Garuda Indonesia is trying very hard to be a first rate airline, and they put a lot of effort into great service on this flight. Some people aren't sure how long this fifth freedom route will last, so if you want to try a new airline on a short route like this, do it while you can. Please go on to Post 2 of this thread for my return trip to Amsterdam onboard Stena Line's overnight ferry.
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RE: TR'14 2/6: Garuda Indonesia B77W AMS-LGW In F

Wed Dec 10, 2014 1:15 pm

Stena Line Rail & Sail Package
Including train fare from London to Harwich Ferry Terminal, Ferry from Harwich to Hoek van Holland, and Train fare from Hoek van Holland to anywhere in the Netherlands

To get back to Amsterdam, my first choice was to get on British Airways' 737-400 from Gatwick. I've only been on one other 737-400 (on US Airways before they were retired this summer - see my trip report here: US Airways' Forgotten Boeings: B734 & B762) and I know that BA are retiring theirs shortly as well. Unfortunately, no 737-400s were scheduled to operate to AMS, or even RTM, on any day that I could travel. BA had decided to send A319s to RTM, and A320s or a lone B767 to AMS. I wouldn't mind trying BA's Club Europe 767, but I had really wanted the 737-400, so I decided to look for other options. I found the Stena Line Rail & Sail.

Stena Line operate several ferry routes out of England, including the long route from Harwich to Hoek van Holland. They send a daytime ferry as well as an overnight ferry on this route each day. The rail & sail package bundles rail fare on either end of the ferry journey. For me it meant a rail trip on British National Rail, operated by Abellio Greater Anglia, from any station in the Abellio Greater Anglia network to Harwich International; then the overnight ferry trip from Harwich to Hoek van Holland; and another rail ticket on NS Netherlands Rail from Hoek van Holland to any station in the Netherlands. The overnight ferry requires passengers to book a sleeper cabin (something not required on the daytime ferry). I looked on the Stena Line website and saw that my train would be departing London Liverpool St Station at 19:32 and arriving Harwich International at 20:54. The ferry departs at 23:15 and arrives to Holland at 07:45. Finally, the Dutch train would depart at 08:26 and arrive Amsterdam (after changing trains in Rotterdam) at 10:01. American credit card holders cannot purchase tickets on Stena Line's website, and instead must call, so I called and talked to a girl with a very strong British accent to order my tickets. I was given a confirmation number, and my credit card was charged the correct amount, but no ticket confirmation ever arrived to my email, and I could not check my itinerary on the website, seeing only a message that the itinerary cannot be changed online. I decided I would just take care of it when I got to London.

Abellio Greater Anglia Train, London Liverpool St Station to Harwich International

Departure: 19:32

Arrival: 20:54

I arrived to London Liverpool St Station over a half hour early so that I had time to straighten out my missing tickets. The self service kiosk was unable to produce the tickets, so I had to go to a ticket window. I provided my Stena Line confirmation number to the agent, who took it and left the window for about 10 minutes, leaving me standing there wondering what was going on. He returned with a hand-written train ticket and sent me on my way. I went to the departure track and could not get in, because you need a magnetic ticket to open the fare gate. I found an employee who looked at my hand-written ticket, appeared confused, but said nothing and let me through.

Train at London Liverpool St Station:

The 2nd-class train cars of this train had seating in a 2-3 configuration, with some facing forwards and others backwards. I took a seat on the 2-seat side facing forward. The train remained pretty empty and then it left into the dark. I couldn't see much out the window because it was dark outside, and the lights of the train car reflected in the window. I listened to music on my iPod. People came and went from the train, and it never got all that crowded in my car. The ride was scheduled to be 1h22, and after an hour, I needed to go to the restroom. Fortunately a conductor was checking tickets, so I asked if there was a restroom on the train. He said no! The remaining 20 minutes were some of the slowest minutes of my life, as I really had to go to the restroom very badly! Finally we arrived to Harwich International, and I ran out of the train onto the platform. I found a restroom right on the platform, but it was dark inside! Well, I went in there anyway, not wanting to wait till I got into the station to look for another. After I left I saw that the restroom was indeed closed at that time of night. I entered the station and followed signs to the ferry terminal.

The first step of my ferry adventure was to obtain my ferry ticket. I showed my Stena Line confirmation number and passport to get my ticket to Holland. Next I had to go through security screening. After that I had to check in for the ferry and exchange my ticket for my cabin assignment and key. NS Netherlands Rail tickets were also given out at check-in. The last step was to complete exit immigration from the UK. The ferry, Stena Hollandica, was already waiting and boarding was underway, so I headed directly to the ship.

Stena Line Check-in:

My ship, the Stena Hollandica:

I was excited to board the ship. This was my first major ferry crossing. I have only been on ferry trips of no more than two hours, and I have never been on a cruise or overnight ferry. Onboard, staff directed me up one level to go to my cabin. For some reason, they were directing everyone onto the elevators, even though the stairs were directly across from the elevators. We had to wait for the elevator to go up only one level. I found my cabin a short walk away. I had opted for an "inside" cabin, one with no window. A window cabin can be had for a slightly higher fare. Inside the cabin were two bunks, a small sofa and table, a TV, and a bathroom with small shower.

My cabin:

Hallway of cabins:

It was only a little after 21:00, giving me about two hours before departure, so I decided to leave my cabin and explore the ship. I headed back down to the main deck level (using the stairs this time), and found restaurants, a casino, a movie theater, duty-free shopping, currency exchange, and a bar. Both British Pounds and Euros are accepted onboard (you can even use both currencies in the same purchase). I saw a cafeteria-style restaurant and a formal sit-down restaurant. The food in the cafeteria-style restuarant looked pretty good, but I had already eaten dinner, so I went to have a drink at the bar. I figured I'd order a Heineken "Extra Cold" since I was heading to the Netherlands. I had not previously heard of "Extra Cold" but I would see that on offer at most bars in the Netherlands (some bars would even offer both Heineken and Heineken "Extra Cold," with "Extra Cold" commanding a slightly higher price). The bartender proclaimed that was the best beer choice on offer, and poured me my first ever "Extra Cold".

Heineken "Extra Cold" aboard Stena Hollandica:

I sat in the bar area and enjoyed my beer for a while before taking some photos of the ship.

Restaurant on left, bar on right:

Duty-free shop on left, casino on right:

Stena Hollandica model & information on display:

I checked out the duty-free store but didn't buy anything. I also checked out the movie theater and the movie times, but I decided I'd prefer to sleep on my overnight ferry ride instead of staying up half the night watching a movie. I headed back to my room to shower and get ready for bed. Soon after I got in bed, I felt the ship start to depart. I slept very well, due to the soft rumbling of the ship's engines and soft motion of the large ship, as well as the fact that I had individually adjustable HVAC, so I turned it pretty cold in my cabin.

At 06:15, wake-up music was played on the PA system along with an announcement that breakfast was now being served in the restaurant. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a morning person, and I have little interest in getting up early for the sole purpose of being able to eat breakfast. I had no intention of getting up an hour and a half before we were due to arrive, so I went back to sleep. Breakfast announcements kept being broadcast every half hour or so, so I don't think I slept very well the last portion of the trip. I decided to get up a little bit before we were due to arrive, so I wouldn't be one of the last off the ship. I got ready and left the cabin, and headed downstairs to the main deck. We were almost there, but the crew had us sit in the restaurants and other seating until we docked. I tried to be among the first off the ship so that I wouldn't have to wait in line for elevators or anything else.

I was part of the first group off the ship, which was a smart decision because Dutch immigration did not have a long line. There were only two immigration officers, one for EU passports and one for all passports, so I imagine the line could become quite long. But for me, the line took less than five minutes, and I was already admitted to the EU. I headed outside to find the train platform to head to Amsterdam. There were two train platforms, and they were not well marked to tell you which track was for which train. I examined the trackside schedules and figured out that you need to scan your rail ticket to activate it for your trip (you scan again at your destination). A short wait, and the train arrived. Hoek van Holland is one of the first stops on this line, so the train was nearly empty upon arriving. Unfortunately my luggage did not fit on the overhead rack, so I put it in the seat beside me. Later, the entire train became full, so I felt bad about taking up an extra seat with my luggage. I should have sat in the collapsible seats within the door area.

Stena Hollandica after arrival in Hoek van Holland:

My train arrived in Rotterdam Centraal, and I needed to change trains to go to Amsterdam Centraal. I entered Rotterdam Centraal and tried to locate the track of my next train. All the Amsterdam trains were "Intercity Direct" trains, a premium express Dutch train for which you must pay a supplement. I was pretty sure, but not certain, that my ticket did not permit travel on "Intercity Direct" trains for no additional charge, and I decided to avoid paying the supplement. I waited for the next "Intercity" train.

All in all, I would very much recommend the Stena Line overnight ferry crossing with the rail & sail package. Even as an aviation enthusiast, the ferry was really the best way to complete the journey. Fun and civilized, with plenty to do onboard, and you arrive well rested. The rail portions weren't bad either; not too long, and an authentic way to experience local life as the locals do. It didn't hurt that the total fare was less than business class airfare. Although it cost more than economy class, you didn't need to pay for a hotel in addition to airfare, since it was an overnight crossing. I slept very well, and I felt very little sea motion due to the large stable ship. And if you prefer to sleep a little bit less, the casino, shopping, bar and movie theater are at your disposal. Whatever you choose to do, I expect you'd have a fun crossing.

Please check out Part 3 of this series of Trip Reports for my next flight, KLM's new World Business Class on the 747 from Amsterdam to Bangkok. The Trip Reports in this series are:
  • TR'14 1/6: KLM Last MD11 in J, US CRJ PHL-YUL-AMS

  • TR'14 2/6: Garuda Indonesia B77W AMS-LGW in F

  • TR'14 3/6: KLM 747s New J:AMS-BKK,HKG-AMS,AMS-ORD

  • TR'14 4/6: Thai AirAsia, Nok Air, 3rd-class train

  • TR'14 5/6: Emirates A380 BKK-HKG (F Suites)

  • TR'14 6/6: To Macau on TurboJET & Cotai Water Jet

Thanks for reading!
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RE: TR'14 2/6: Garuda Indonesia B77W AMS-LGW In F

Fri Dec 12, 2014 9:43 am

Hello, nice report! I just flew AMS-LGW on Garuda a few days back in Y, so interesting to read about their F service now. Looks very impressive indeed!

Quoting Tesla (Thread starter):
It was actually a pretty long wait until boarding actually started. The boarding time of 09:45 was very incorrect; that was simply the time that security opened.

Yes, that's right, the boarding time on the boarding pass is the the gate opens. I guess with security at the gates, if they put the actual boarding time on the pass, pax will arrive one boarding has started, still have to go to security, and thus delayed the flight. This will all be over next year, when a central security checkpoint will open.

Quoting Tesla (Thread starter):
In the Lounge I found a wide array of food and drinks, with everything complimentary. Also, the Lounge was huge! And there were people everywhere.

It's an okay lounge, but is always soooo busy, especially in the morning when all the KL and DL USA bound flights are departing.
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RE: TR'14 2/6: Garuda Indonesia B77W AMS-LGW In F

Sat Dec 13, 2014 10:47 pm

Hi Tesla,
I was interested to read this report both as I have the Garuda hope booked myself for January (in J though), and also as I recently posted my own account of the same ferry crossing: 2014-05 AMS Meet By Ferry And Easyjet (by signol Dec 5 2014 in Trip Reports)

Your F flight certainly looked good. Very attentive service, and a nice looking meal. It's always nice to get a widebody on a short route, and especially a fifth freedom.

Also, your rail and ferry experience looked very similar to my own  

Thanks for taking the time to report.

Flights booked: NWI-AMS-JNB-DUR, JNB-AMS-NWI
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Joined: Tue Jan 11, 2005 9:11 pm

RE: TR'14 2/6: Garuda Indonesia B77W AMS-LGW In F

Fri Dec 19, 2014 2:36 pm

Quoting Tesla (Thread starter):
immigration to exit the EU

As much as some of my fellow countrymen might wish we weren't, Great Britain is still a part of the EU but has never been a signatory to the Schengen Agreement - so you were leaving the Schengen area (hence the border controls) but not leaving the EU.

I enjoyed your report and it was great to see a second report on my favourite ferry route in short order after Signol's recent TR.

Quoting Tesla (Thread starter):
I had opted for an "inside" cabin, one with no window

The 'outside' cabins are usually only a few pounds more expensive than the 'inside' ones and from a personal standpoint, I like to be able to see out even if there isn't much to see on an overnight crossing.

The Stena Hollandica (and sister ship Stena Britannica) are currently the largest ROPAX ferries in the world - that title trades places every few years between Stena's Harwich-Hoek route and P&O's competing Hull-Europoort route depending on which company has the newer vessels. P&O's Pride of Rotterdam and Pride of Hull were the biggest in the world until Stena took delivery of these two a few years back!

Forget A vs B - Give me E or BAe any day of the week!
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RE: TR'14 2/6: Garuda Indonesia B77W AMS-LGW In F

Fri Dec 19, 2014 6:03 pm

Thanks for the replies. I enjoyed your ferry report, signol, looks like it wasn't quite dark at boarding during the time of year you took the ferry, and it was light out in the morning upon arrival. I would have probably explored the outside of the ship if it wasn't dark out for me. Nevertheless I really enjoyed the ferry trip.

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