Sailing from Amsterdam to Brussels on the maiden voyage of Tauck’s ms Inspire

Tauck's new ms Inspire makes her way down the Rhine. Photo courtesy of Tauck

Tauck’s new ms Inspire makes her way down the Rhine. Photo courtesy of Tauck

This year marks the centenary of the start of World War I, and while the key purpose of this Live Voyage Report is to sail aboard Tauck’s beautiful new ms Inspire, one of the main draws of this itinerary is surely the company’s focus on the past.

Tauck has been in the touring business since 1925, when Arthur Tauck, Sr., guided a small party of likeminded people on a motorcoach tour of New England. Since then, the company has grown and expanded, offering both land tours and oceangoing cruises alongside their very own river cruise product along the waterways of Europe.

Christening the brand-new ms Inspire in the port of Basel, Switzerland. This voyage will be her inaugural cruise. Photo courtesy of Tauck.

Christening the brand-new ms Inspire in the port of Basel, Switzerland. This voyage will be her inaugural cruise. Photo courtesy of Tauck.

Now, they’re launching their first brand-new river cruise ships in three years: the 130-guest ms Inspire and her sister, ms Savor. Savor will hit the rivers of Europe in June, while Inspire was christened just three days ago, in the port of Basel, Switzerland.

Tauck’s new ships are exciting for a number of reasons. First, they’re the largest vessels Tauck has ever constructed at 443 feet in length. Yet they carry just 12 additional guests over the 361-foot Jewel Class riverboats that form the backbone of the Tauck fleet.

The other exciting feature: staterooms and suites. There are 22 300-square foot suites aboard each vessel, far more than your average river cruise ship. But people who can’t afford the suite life don’t need to feel left out with Tauck’s new Loft Staterooms. Measuring 225 square feet, these staterooms located on Emerald Deck feature a raised seating platform with windows that can electronically open to let fresh air in. Not to mention custom-designed bathrooms with Molton Brown toiletries and all the usual Tauck perks. They could very well end up being some of the most desirable rooms on these ships.

One of the innovative new loft staterooms aboard Tauck's ms Inspire. Photo courtesy of Tauck

One of the innovative new loft staterooms aboard Tauck’s ms Inspire. Photo courtesy of Tauck

I first sailed with Tauck two years ago, on an exciting journey from Budapest to Prague aboard the intimate Swiss Jewel. Tauck’s credo is ‘Never settle for ordinary’, and nothing about my 12 days along the Danube could be considered ‘ordinary.’ At every step of the way, guests were looked after superbly and treated to experiences that still amaze me to this day.

This time, I’ll be sailing aboard the line’s 10-night Belgium & Holland in Spring itinerary, travelling southbound from Amsterdam to Brussels.

Strolling through Amsterdam! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Our Tauck adventure begins in the beautiful city of Amsterdam. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

History is everything on this stunning voyage, from Amsterdam’s historic Canals to the modern city of Rotterdam to the moving battlegrounds of World War I in Flanders, where Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae penned the poem, In Flanders Fields, 99 years ago.

We’ll also have the opportunity to visit the legendary Keukenhof Gardens, Nijmegen and Arnhem, and the diamond capital that is Antwerp.

Tauck's Belgium and Holland itinerary will take us on a journey through history. Illustration courtesy of Tauck

Tauck’s Belgium and Holland itinerary will take us on a journey through history. Illustration courtesy of Tauck

As with all of Tauck’s itineraries, it is the exclusive events the company has put together that really help to push their product over the top. These include a special culinary experience at the gorgeous Chateau Neercanne and a private visit and dinner at the Flanders Fields Museum to observe the Centenary of World War I.

We’ll end our Live Voyage Report and journey with Tauck with an overnight stay in Brussels at the swanky Hotel Amigo.

The full itinerary, both here and onboard:

April 7, 2014 Amsterdam, Netherlands Arrive Amsterdam; Embark Tauck’s new ms Inspire
April 8 Amsterdam, Netherlands Private river cruise through Amsterdam’s Canals; visit the Rijksmuseum; tour Keukenhof Gardens
April 9 Hoorn, Netherlands / Enkhuizen, Netherlands Walking tour of Hoorn or visit to Alkmaar. Walking tour of Enkhuizen & open-air Zuiderzee Museum.
April 10 Arnhem, Netherlands Choice of tours – De Hoge Veluwe National Park exploration with Vincent Van Gogh at the Kroller-Muller Museum, or tour sites associated with the WWII airborne assault on Arnhem.
April 11 Rotterdam, Netherlands Tour of Rotterdam & its museums, or optional excursion to the historic city of Delft.
April 12 Veere, Netherlands / Middleburg, Netherlands. Exploration of Veere or excursion to Neeltje Jans Delta Works to learn about the country’s storm surge barriers. In Middleburg, enjoy time exploring on own.
April 13 Antwerp, Belgium / Ypres Orientation walking tour through Antwerp’s historic city center & visit the Red Star Line museum. After lunch, Tauck Exclusive tour to Flanders to observe the centennial of World War I with dinner and a private visit to the In Flanders Fields museum.
April 14 Antwerp, Belgium / Hasselt, Belgium / Maastricht, Netherlands Drive to Margraten to see the Netherlands American Cemetery. Tauck Exclusive Lunch at Chateau Neercanne, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Guided visit to Maastricht & free time in the Old Town.
April 15 Brussels, Belgium Disembark ms Inspire & travel to Brussels for a full day of sightseeing. Overnight at the Hotel Amigo.
April 16 Brussels, Belgium Onward journey home.

I’ve written in the past about how much I love good, thorough, detailed pre-cruise documentation, and once again Tauck did not disappoint. A coiled book with a bright-green cover and the words “How you see the world matters” printed on it arrived at my door a few weeks ago. Inside are all the pertinent details about my journey, including a full rundown of what to pack, typical weather for this time of year, and useful contact numbers for both the ship and the post-cruise hotel.

Tauck's pre-cruise documentation booklet, set against the backdrop of the company's 2014 River Cruise brochure. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Tauck’s pre-cruise documentation booklet, set against the backdrop of the company’s 2014 River Cruise brochure. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Running 80 pages in length, what I really love about Tauck’s documentation is that they’ve seen fit to include a “Reading Guide” for Belgium and the Netherlands that includes both fiction and non-fiction titles. I love reading destination-specific books before leaving home on an adventure, and there are some fantastic titles included in their list.

My favorite page, though, is Page 62: Expectations Versus Reality. I wish more cruise and tour lines would allude to this (though I have, in the past, seen both AmaWaterways and Silversea do so).

Summarized, it states that it is important to remember that words like “deluxe” and “luxury” may have different meanings in other parts of the world. As Walter Matthau’s character says in the 1997 movie Out to Sea, “In a diner, ‘deluxe’ means ‘comes with French fries.’”

The three people who have made the biggest difference on this Tauck Tour: Staci, Christine and Andy. Best jobs in the world? I think so. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Tauck Directors Staci, Christine and Andy in Prague on my last outing with the company in 2012. As beautiful as their ships are, it’s the Tauck Directors – both onboard and ashore – that make the product so special. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

While that isn’t likely to be an issue in Belgium or the Netherlands, I like that Tauck is essentially saying they’ve taken great care to ensure that whatever guests are receiving is among the best that a specific destination has to offer. They also state that when the unexpected happens, your best course of action is to roll with the punches. As the line states in their closing paragraph, ‘So much of the fun of travel is to experience the unexpected.’

So come along with us as we experience Tauck’s newest river cruise ship on an exciting journey through the Netherlands and Belgium. Our Live Voyage Report begins tomorrow from Amsterdam and the new ms Inspire!

Sailing the Danube aboard Tauck's Swiss Jewel. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Sailing the Danube aboard Tauck’s Swiss Jewel. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report from the maiden voyage of Tauck’s new ms Inspire continues tomorrow from Amsterdam! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

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