I needed to go to Amsterdam with work, so rather than fly out on a Sunday evening, with all the delays, faff and general blergh that is travelling between Heathrow and Schipol, I decided to take the new direct Eurostar service to Amsterdam Centraal Station.
I booked the 17.19 service on the Sunday evening, which was due to arrive at 22.10 at Amsterdam Centraal station.
I got to St. Pancras at about 16.30 and was greeted by something approach chaos. Very similar to the last time I took the Eurostar.
Apparently the French customs officials in Paris were on a go slow / strike / work to rule, in order to show us Brits what it would be like when Brexit rolls around.
Due to the delay, all the trains originating in Paris, were running between one and three hours late. That meant that the secure departure area after security and immigration was full, and couldn’t cope with any more people – so we were all being held outside.
Definitely an unfortunate situation, but the communications from the Eurostar staff was woeful. There weren’t regular announcements and a lot of people in the queue were getting quite agitated.
Finally a few of us were let through the barriers and through security, only to be held again before the immigration check. Where we stood for the best part of another 30 minutes, again with zero communication.
Finally, an hour after I arrived I managed to make it into the departure area and wandered into the departure lounge. If you’re in Business Premier, or have an American Express Platinum Charge Card, you can get access to their lounge.
It’s set across two levels along the side of the station. As it was totally heaving on both levels I didn’t take any photos. I did manage to find a seat on the upper level of the lounge and waited it out.
In terms of food and drinks, there was red and white wine, a number of spirits available, and an assortment of snacks, but nothing more substantial than that.
At departure time, the screens finally updated to show an hour delay to the train leaving, meaning I’d arrive into Amsterdam gone 23.00. The Eurostar app however didn’t. In fact well after departure time, it showed the train as on-time and having left. When it hadn’t even arrived into St. Pancras. This is actually pretty poor and Eurostar should be able to do better than that.
At about 18.00 the staff in the lounge called boarding and we all decanted onto the platform. Business Premier was located in coach 16, right at the front of the train.
I had a reservation in the famous Seat 61 (it’s the best website for European rail travel) which was a single seat, facing forward. The carriage was totally full with every single seat occupied.
We departed at about 18.10 and set off, zooming through the Kent countryside. The staff were all friendly and chirpy and commenced with a bar round. I opted for a glass of champagne which was Piper Heidseick.
The rather lovely staff come through a second time offering further drink top-ups and handing out menus.
After the second bar round, the friendly staff came around with the food trays offering starters, and further drinks should you still be thirsty. I felt it would be rude to say no to a glass of red wine and this was readily offered.
Shortly afterwards, the main course was brought out. I opted for the duck confit, which was rather good.
The trays were cleared away, and it wasn’t long before we were approaching the outskirts of Brussels, and the train trundled into Midi.
Here, around three quarters of the carriage, and the train got off. There were perhaps ten or so people left in the carriage continuing on to the Netherlands. The crew also changed as well. About fifteen minutes later we were off again, northwards, towards the border with Holland.
There wasn’t a second meal service, however the crew did another bar round and gave out some snacks.
The train stopped again at Rotterdam, and then onwards to Amsterdam, where we arrived about 55 minutes late, just after 23.00. I was staying at the Kimpton De Witt about five minutes walk away so didn’t have too long an onwards journey.
St. Pancras was a complete shit-show. In fact every time I’ve travelled on the Eurostar in the past few years it has been.
However, once we left the station, it was bloody marvellous. End-to-end, it was a far more pleasant, relaxing and stress-free journey than flying. In fact, I was surprised at how much better it was.
Outbound from the UK to the Netherlands, the journey is great like this, however the snag is on the return. You can’t get the same train on the way back as Amsterdam has no immigration facilities for dealing with non-Schengen travellers that us awkward Brits are. You have to get off in Brussels and change there, going through security and immigration. Suffice to say, I flew home, albeit with a 90 minute delay due to high winds.
Going out though, I can’t recommend this enough.