Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich
Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class
Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam
A Brief Tour of Amsterdam
Review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center
Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik
Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik
A Week in Iceland
Review: aloft Munich
A Brief Tour of Munich
Review: Hilton Munich Airport
The genesis of this trip was a friend telling me about a group tour of Iceland that several friends were going on and asking if I wanted to go or not. Of course the tour wanted to sell us airfare and options using points and miles aren’t all that plentiful, especially if fixed dates are involved.
The group tour was only a week and since October is when we we usually take a two-week vacation anyway, my travel companion and I decided to use our miles to get to Europe, enjoy a few days there, then buy tickets to Iceland, do the tour and then fly to another city in Europe where our miles could get us back to the US in business class.
We both had a number of American Airlines miles we wanted to use. Knowing that flying British Airways in a premium cabin meant nasty fuel surcharges, we opted to fly Iberia via Madrid. Our next step was finding cities where Iberia flew that also offered non-stop flights to Iceland on Icelandair. We ended up selecting Amsterdam and Munich.
While we’d been in Amsterdam briefly on the day we boarded our Rhine River cruise, all we’d done was to take a canal cruise and we’d nearly fallen asleep during that. So a proper tour of the city was needed.
For the return, the trick was to find cities with Iberia flights that left early enough to connect with the 11:50 AM flight out of Madrid to Chicago. Fortunately, Munich fit the bill.
I won’t review the domestic flights on AA between Memphis and Chicago or the intra-Europe segments on Iberia. I won’t do a deep review of the Icelandair flights but I will give a few thoughts here. The flight to Reykjavik (KEF) from Amsterdam (AMS) is blocked at about 3h 15m. The flight from KEF to Munich (MUC) is blocked at about 3h 45m. While that’s not terribly long, it’s still a long time to be in an economy seat when you’re used to bigger business class seats. We monitored the prices of these flights but premium economy was consistently nearly double the economy price and business class was consistently another $200 on top of that. So we bought economy tickets. About a week before our flight to KEF we got emails asking if we’d like to bid on upgrades to Saga Class, Icelandair’s name for their business class cabin. We weren’t sure if it was going to be a blocked middle seat like many European carriers do so we decided not to bid. As it turns out, Saga Class is more like US domestic first class so the seats were indeed larger – and the cabin was not full so we likely could have bid $50 and gotten the upgrade. But the economy seats were really not so bad. We had seat-back entertainment, a little elbow room and our knees weren’t pressed up against the seat in front of us. On the way back we did decide to pay for an upgrade to premium economy and ended up with the aisle seats of the row behind doors 2L and 2R so we had leg room for days. A word of caution: while the window seats on these rows also have leg room, the compartment where the slide is concealed on the door bulges out, so it impacts leg room on these seats.
While a hotel came with our tour package in Iceland, we got our own lodging for the other nights. In Amsterdam we chose the Kimpton DeWitt which is super-convenient to Centraal Station. We had one free night certificate from my IHG credit card, which renews each July. So we went ahead and made reservations for one night with points and one night with the certificate, intending to book the third night with the new certificate I’d receive in July. But by the time I got the certificate the hotel was sold out. So we decided to get a hotel near the airport and you really can’t beat the convenience of a hotel that’s actually inside the airport. Since we were spending SPG points on our Munich hotel, we decided to earn some of them back with a paid stay at the Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center.
We were arriving in Reykjavik a day before the group because the flights from Europe arrive much later than the flights from the US. We thought about just booking a room at the Center Hotel Plaza, where we’d spend the week, but decided to use some Radisson Rewards points for a night at the Radisson Blu 1919, which was about two blocks away.
In Munich we booked two nights on points at the aloft Munich which is very conveniently located across the street from the main train station. As we had a very early flight for our return to the US, we once again decided to book an airport hotel in advance of our flight. We didn’t have enough Hilton points so we decided to earn some with a paid stay for the hotel that is on the airport grounds.
We had an excellent trip and I hope you enjoy reading about it.