AFAR and AmaWaterways took to the Dutch and Belgian waterways in celebration of a distinct form of cruising, with an award-winning ship, unique—and lively!—experiences, regionally sourced delicacies, and extra.
Imagine cruising via the Netherlands and Belgium with an intimate group on a regal ship, having fun with gorgeous views, signature delicacies, and enriching excursions curated only for you. These experiences and extra are what friends had been handled to aboard the seven-night river cruise, Best of Holland & Belgium With AFAR, which not too long ago set sail in October after a year-long delay as a result of Covid.
An experiential occasion collection, AFAR Sailings launched in 2018 with a cruise on the enchanting Mediterranean Sea. For this most up-to-date iteration, AFAR explored alongside the Rhine River within the Netherlands and Belgium with AmaWaterways, the extremely regarded, family-run river cruise firm—an AFAR Vacationers’ Selection winner for 2019 Best River Cruise Line. The cruise line’s cofounders had been additionally acknowledged as 2019 AFAR Vanguard honorees for protecting their cruises customized amid a fast-growing trade.
Aboard the award-winning AmaSerena, there was one thing for each kind of traveler, from those that wished to socialize to seekers of relaxation and leisure. Some, like AFAR’s West Coast Gross sales Director Onnalee MacDonald, loved just a little of each on the cruise together with the soothing lodging. Twin-balcony staterooms function each French and out of doors balconies with sweeping views, plus white marbled loos, for the final word in model and luxury. “We couldn’t wait to get again to our room,” MacDonald mentioned. “It was cozy, effectively appointed, and all the time clear, with a giant sliding door to observe the countryside. There was even turndown service with a pleasant darkish chocolate, both Belgian or Dutch.”
The principle lounge served cocktails and tapas in between meals, whereas the solar deck features a big chess set, a pool with a swim-up bar, and a monitor the place MacDonald would take walks and stargaze at night time. There was additionally an inviting library, a hair salon, a health room, and a fleet of complimentary bicycles for exploring on land. “The bikes on board had been excellent for our desired degree of exercise,” says MacDonald. “It was so good to trip in each port with nice native guides.”
Again on the ship, friends may e-book in-room massages, take part in wellness actions like yoga, or soak up a strong schedule of leisure, together with conventional Bavarian music, an area quartet, and trendy piano favorites. When starvation struck, they may dine on regionally sourced delicacies on the Important Restaurant or indulge with a multi-course dinner on the Chef’s Desk. Says MacDonald, “The meals was fairly good. Good salads, lovely fish, and each night a brothy soup, like the sunshine cream of cauliflower.” Of the Chef’s Desk, she mentioned, “It was wonderful. The spotlight was the lemongrass soup. Everybody liked it and the chef was type sufficient to share the recipe with us.”
Based mostly on the AFAR method of touring—that’s, having an immersive, richer expertise—the Better of Holland & Belgium cruise revolved round unique moments, like when everybody dined at Chez Léon, probably the most well-known eating places in Brussels for moules frites. Because the AmaSerena traveled via the Netherlands and Belgium, friends additionally loved cruising the Amsterdam canals, listening to the distinctive devices at Museum Speelklok in Utrecht, admiring the artistry of castles like Gassbeek in Flanders, and tasting Belgium’s well-known goodies and waffles.
They even toured charming, off-the-beaten-path locations just like the medieval harbor city of Veere within the Netherlands, the well-preserved metropolis of Bruges in Belgium, and Dordrecht, Holland’s oldest metropolis. At each cease, a educated native information confirmed friends round and shared every vacation spot’s fascinating historical past.
“The exhausting factor about cruising usually is that it’s not as immersive; you simply get again on board,” says MacDonald. “However we truly went into the little cities and neighborhoods, and [that way of traveling] was positively the excessive level.” Her favourite tour was the boat trip from Alblasserdam to the UNESCO World Heritage Web site of Kinderdijk, residence to Holland’s best focus of windmills. “We did a motorcycle tour that day and had been in a position to discuss to an area, who had raised his household in a windmill and nonetheless lived there after 43 years together with his spouse, who swims each day within the canal through the hotter months. I felt transported.”
Wherever friends went, they all the time had a selection of actions to really make the journey their very own. Says MacDonald, “Someday we wished to return to a cheese farm, so that they mentioned, ‘Go forward, and meet up with the group later.’ It made it really feel like our personal trip; it gave us flexibility and wiggle room.” There was even an possibility to begin the journey with a one-night, pre-cruise land program in Amsterdam, which included a keep on the five-star Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam, a personal welcome cocktail reception, and switch to the AmaSerena by canal boat.