It’s pretty inevitable that no matter how carefully you plan, once in a while things won’t go as you expect. Throw in a few planes and some bad weather and the chances of chaos increase exponentially. It’s not so unusual for me to miss connecting flights and end up hanging around airports for hours but it’s a very long time since I had to spend the night in the wrong place as a result of a missed flight. Last month I missed a connection in Amsterdam and it was the last flight of the day so KLM had to offer me overnight accommodation and other compensation. The hotel to which they allocated me was the Courtyard Marriott Amsterdam Airport – also known by various other permutations of those four words but it’s always the same place. I was given a voucher for my hotel to include dinner and breakfast, a phone voucher to call whoever I wanted to for up to 5 minutes (most of it probably swearing about KLM) and a voucher for food at the airport which would have been useless that evening as all the restaurants close at 8 o’clock, but could be used for my breakfast the next morning. I was given my paperwork and was sent out to wait in the rain for the shuttle bus.
The minibus arrived after about 10 minutes. I climbed into the back along with a chap I’d run into at the service desk who’d just missed a flight to Norway, and a chap from Glasgow who had actually booked the hotel and not been sent there as the result of a missed connection. No sooner did we settle down than the driver told us he wouldn’t be leaving for another 15 minutes. By this time I was just glad to be out of the rain and with somewhere to go to. We asked how far the hotel was and were told (rather precisely) “11.5 km – or about 7 miles” and that it would take about 15 minutes.
What’s an Airport Hotel?
Definitions of what constitutes an ‘airport’ hotel differ greatly. In my years listing hotels on the website trivago.co.uk, I was forbidden to call a hotel an ‘airport’ hotel if it was more than 1 km from the airport. With the exception of two or three that are right on the doorstep, the vast majority of Amsterdam’s airport hotels are a long way from the airport and need a bus journey to get there. In Amsterdam, ‘airport hotel’ means a hotel with a shuttle bus to the airport. What I didn’t realise until the following day when I made the journey in the opposite direction and in daylight, was that after about half a mile in the bus, we were in sight of the airport – just completely at the wrong side with all the runways between us and the terminals. The journey was easy both ways and only the couple of miles close to the airport had any traffic at all, the rest being quiet country roads.The hotel is in the Hoofddorp area, to the west of the airport. It’s an area you’ll almost certainly have flown over when going between Amsterdam and any of the UK airports. The hotel is next to one of the major highways but set back from it and I heard no road noise at all. It’s quite a distance from the city but you can buy tickets for the bus to the airport and then connect cheaply and quickly by train.
Thank you to the man with the red glasses
Check in was a delight thanks to one of the best front desk people I’ve come across in many years. Hopefully if this ever gets read by the hotel management (and I know sometimes they do read as I got asked to change a recent review because I’d really pissed off a hotel with one comment) they will be able to identify who I’m referring to – he’s the man with the red glasses. He knew my name, knew why I was there, expressed sympathy for my predicament and made me feel very welcome. I asked when the restaurant would close and he suggested to go straight there as it would stop taking orders 15 minutes later. In the meantime he’d get my room key ready and bring it over to me. Not only did he do this, he also ‘took the liberty’ (his words, not mine) of booking my airport shuttle for the morning and when I asked if he could get the number of the hotel I was supposed to be in so that I could inform them of my non-arrival, he offered to call them and explain. This was good luck because I was supposed to be in the same chain, just a different city. As a result of him calling, he managed to get the hotel in Bremen to accept such a last minute cancellation without charging me for it (which they’d have been entirely entitled to do).
The guy who was supposed to be in Norway joined me for dinner in the restaurant and we were both impressed by both the waiting staff – who atypically for Holland were charming, chatty and attentive – and by the food. Our waitress, Theodora, was outstanding. Our compensation meant we had a voucher for a drink and also a voucher for dinner which included another drink. Clearly getting your stranded passengers a bit tipsy is a good strategy. For the meal we could in theory have the 3 course set meal or choose up to 25 euros worth of food from the menu. In reality, the kitchen was due to close shortly and asked if we’d mind just going with the set meal. This comprised a bowl of soup – on this day it was tomato – and a choice of steak, salmon or vegetarian dish. The veggie dish was lasagne so I chose that whilst my dining companion went with the steak. I ordered a glass of white wine and settled to wait for my food. The soup arrived quickly along with some bread rolls and butter. It was a small bowl but with a full main course to follow it was plenty. The lasagne came to the table so hot that it was still bubbling several minutes later. It was unquestionably one of the best lasagnes I’ve tasted in a long time, though possibly the relief of the weary traveller makes everything taste good. The steak across the table from me was a big one and came with a mountain of fries. I skipped pudding but it was of the ‘fruit and ice-cream’ variety. My second glass of wine also slipped down nicely.
So here we are hundreds of words into the review and we’ve not made it to the room yet. I wouldn’t normally eat before going to my room but I headed up with a fully tummy and a slightly light head. I wasn’t concerned about what I might find as I’ve never stayed in a bad Courtyard hotel although with other chains it’s not unusual to find me hesitating in the corridor, key card in hand, wondering what I’m about to find on the other side of the door.
The room was large and had two double beds. This is worth keeping in mind if you’re just needing a place to sleep before or after a flight as the room can comfortably accommodate a family. The two beds were against a wall with a dark wood headboard running for most of the length of the room. Two pleasant paintings were placed above the bed and there was a ledge between the two beds with a telephone, an alarm clock and with all the lighting controls on the wall above. The bedding was soft white self-striped cotton and was smooth and comfortable. The aircon was blasting when I arrived so the first thing I did was turn it off. I don’t like to sleep with air conditioning as I tend to wake up with a stiff neck. A good sized desk was placed against the opposite wall with a mirror over and a reading lamp. There was also an armchair and coffee table and a long chest of drawers was next to it with a flat screen television on top and another lamp. There were lamps all over the place in this room and I was glad they all turned on or off together or I’d have been running around for ages finding all the switches.The bathroom was a delight with both a full sized bath and a separate shower cubicle. I always ask for a bath if they are available because I know some days I’ll really want to just soak. However, most over-bath showers are not terribly good so having an additional shower cubicle is a great idea. The black and white tiled floor, white walls and black basalt vanity unit combined to a fresh, clean but smart effect.
Wi-Fi is available but you have to pay for it and I was a bit annoyed to find that I couldn’t get access unless I was willing to get out of my PJs, dress properly, go down to reception and register my credit card. If you’ve actually booked (rather than been sent to) the hotel, then they would have your details and this would be more straightforward. I just decided it was too much trouble.
I skipped breakfast the next morning as my shuttle bus was at 7 am and I planned to eat at the airport. The bus we took ran a video showing many of the hotel’s facilities which I had of course missed due to my late arrival and very short stay. Most impressive was the presence of an on-site beach bar. I subsequently checked the hotel’s website and learned that it stands on a large plot with lawns and woods behind the main building which lead down to a large lake. There are also a collection of restaurants and a bowling alley right beside the hotel. There’s a jogging trail that runs through the grounds as well as a fitness room and a sauna. Another nice feature of Courtyard hotels is their ‘market’ – an area near to reception where you can buy food and drink to take back to your room. Although it might seem strange to be recommending an airport hotel for a longer stay, I do think that this place could be a really good choice for people who want to go to Amsterdam but don’t want to pay Amsterdam city prices and who want to explore a bit further afield. If you shop around there are good prices to be had at the Courtyard and there are enough facilities onsite or in the direct vicinity to keep you amused. The hotel sell day passes to use their shuttle buses and if you can get to the airport it’s only a few minutes on the train to get into the city. It’s not a place I would have considered ‘on paper’ but having been there, I was very impressed not only by the room and the restaurant but also by the outstanding staff who were better even than the ones at the Novotel where I usually stay. I didn’t want to be at the Courtyard in Amsterdam – I wanted to be at the Courtyard in Bremen – but considering how negatively I could have viewed the situation, the hotel still left me feeling really positive about the place, if not the circumstances that led me to be there.
Courtyard Amsterdam Airport
2131 LX Netherlands