The return trip was confirmed in Business Class on a Boeing 747 which had been refitted with KLM's new Business Class seat, so we already knew we were in for a treat. Nearly all the 747's have the new seats, and as of April 2014 they start refitting the Boeing 777 fleet. I have flown KLM Business Class before and was very pleased with the product, but the old seats are not lie-flat and do give you the feeling that you're slowly sliding down to the footrest when you are sleeping.
So needless to say, I was very excited to see what the new Business Class was like. Add to that that the 747 is my favourite aircraft and we would be sitting on the upper deck, and you can guess that I was in high spirits before I even entered the airport.
A glimpse of people lining up on the beach at
the end of the runway for a good blast of jet fuel.
The routing is Amsterdam-St Maarten-Curacao-Amsterdam, so the aircraft isn't on the ground at St Maarten for very long - the actual turn-around is at Curacao. The first flight is rather a short one, around 1hr 15 mins. Business Class passengers are treated to a drink and a small snack, but they don't give out blankets, for example. I chose sushi for my snack, but regretted it - the rice was dry, and the fish was still a bit frozen because it had been kept at low temperature all the way from Amsterdam I would guess. I'd say it's not the best choice - so I asked if they had more sausage rolls, which was another option - alas, they were all gone and the flight attendant told me they were very popular, probably for good reason.
The stopover at Curacao is somewhere between 1 and 1½ hours, and all passengers have to disembark so they can clean, cater, and re-fuel. Then we boarded again, and were greeted by new, friendly crew who had had a 48-hr stop at Curacao.
I totally fell in love with the captain, who didn't mind a couple of curious travel agents paying him a visit in the cockpit - oh I hope there is not some rule against this so he'll get in trouble for me telling this. He was just the friendliest guy, and during the flight he actually went around saying hello to all the passengers, not just the lucky few ones on the upper deck. The purser told me he even helped fix the inflight entertainment system in one of the Economy Class seats! Truly a good ambassador for KLM.
Now for the product itself. Really comfortable seat, just like on Air France. It is equipped with a privacy screen that you cannot move - handy if you don't know (or like) the person sitting next to you, or especially if you're working during the flight. Less handy if you would like to kiss your seat mate, but then you just have to lean over it :-)
As you can see, the overhead compartments
on the upper deck are comparatively small - you will not
be able to put your rollerbag there. Those go in a special
"wardrobe" near the galley. If you need easy access to
your rollerbag without having to walk back and forth,
you will probably want to sit on the main deck, where
I guess the overhead compartments are normal size.
Someone once told me that the upper deck felt
really "cramped" - with the exception of tall
passengers having to duck a bit getting into the
window seat, I did not find this to be the case at all.
It was airy and spacious.
The TV screen is huge - and if you need to, you can send e-mails or SMS from it (but that does involve swiping your credit card in the remote control, so I did not try out that particular bit).
There is also a language course on offer - strangely enough, only French. Why not Dutch, I wonder?
The movie selection was good; I didn't take any pictures of it and didn't watch anything, but I got the impression it was a notch better than Air France. But really, I am a poor judge of that.
Drinks were on offer - they had a really good champagne, and as I was in such a good mood that it became my beverage of choice all through dinner. I mean, after the first round, everyone moves on to wine for the dinner, and they had half a bottle of champagne left from the welcome drinks. It would have been a shame to let that go to waste - so I helped them...
Entrée: "Breast of duck with mango chutney, pistachios, and cranberries"
Totally delicious. The duck was just the right shade of pink, the salad almost as good as on Air France, and the Dutch have better bread than the French.
Choice between "spicy breast of chicken accompanied by roasted pepper sauce and Israeli couscous" - "grilled salmon complemented by herb-garlic butter, stewed fennel and fried rice" - and "braised beef with Dutch hutspot - a Dutch specialty featuring mashed potatoes, carrots and onions".
I chose the salmon and was delighted to find it wasn't dry at all (fish served at 10kms altitude does sometimes give the (correct but rather dry) impression of being as far from its natural environment as it can get). Delicious rice and fennel as well.
Having missed what was reported to have been a great chocolate cake on the Air France flight on the way out, I was determined to make the most of the dessert card. We were given a choice between: cheese cake, tiramisu, and a cheese plate with Gouda and brie plus fruit.
Fortunately the friendly flight attendants did not mind letting the greedy passenger in seat 78B have both the tiramisu and the cheese cake - both were good, with the cheese cake as a clear winner. For dessert I temporarily abandoned my champagne in favour of a port wine - a really good one; either Taylor's Late Bottled Vintage Port 2007, or Croft Pink Port (no idea which one, possibly Taylor's. I should have taken notes here)
Then it was time for a bit of shut-eye again. But only a bit - when we had finished dinner there was only around 6 hours of flying time left. But I slept really well on the flat seat, which was not roomy enough to sleep star fish in (I think you need First Class for that ...) but enough to sleep on my tummy with my leg at a slight angle :-)
And before I knew it, we were approaching Amsterdam and it was time for breakfast. At dinner time, we had filled in a card with our choices of breakfast (I chose omelette over "cinnamon swirl French toast Amandine", fruit yogurt over plain, corn flakes instead of bran flakes, and honey instead of jam), so everything was cooked and ready when we woke up. The funny-looking thing on top of the omelette is a sausage, in case you were wondering. It tasted better than it looked. Oh, and the croissant was perfect!
Quick note on the amenity kit - totally decent, and some of the lucky ones got a "girly version" with a pink bow on it (I was trying to chat up the captain when they were given out, so I got the standard version, which is also very nice, though not pink ...) There is no moisturiser; instead there is a full-size one, perfectly good, in the lavatories. But not a brand I know of, so Air France wins this one with their Clarins products.
Overall verdict: Brilliant seat. Good inflight entertainment. Delicious food, and especially delicious champagne. And then, my very favourite thing about KLM: their staff. I don't think I have ever been on a KLM flight where the flight attendants were less than super friendly, and this one was no exception. I disembarked with a crush on the captain and one of the flight attendants (a male flight attendant, I hasten to add. His female colleague, I just wanted to be best friends with).
And the bonus: I love how, at the end of an intercontinental flight in KLM Business Class, you get to be a little girl again and pick a new "doll's house". Yeah, yeah, I know there's Bols inside, but the Delft houses are just so cute. And I delight in watching the business travellers, grown men in suits and ties, whip out their smart phones which can use the KLM Delft House app in flight mode to see which one they need for their collection.
See - Denmark's got snow today :-)