At the end of October, three of our team visited Amsterdam to get a flavour of our barge and bike programme to see for themselves what makes these tours so popular.
Having experienced a taste of life on board the premium barge Magnifique and a day’s cycling it is easy to see why so many of our customers head here. We experienced wonderful, leisurely cycling on clearly signed, car-free paths, combined with the novelty and sociability of on-board living. Cycling is a way of life in Holland and Belgium – in fact, Holland boasts more bicycles than residents!
Life on Board
The atmosphere was relaxed, informal and sociable. Everyone was encouraged – although certainly not forced! – to mingle. Meal times are often based on group tables, so you quickly get to know your fellow passengers and share your common interest of cycling. The tours attract guests from around the world, so you will often find an interesting mix of nationalities and cultures, which creates a unique atmosphere and great memories.
Even with the confines of a galley kitchen, meals on the Magnifique were varied, imaginative and extremely tasty. There was a good buffet selection for breakfast (even a hot item!) and plentiful three course evening meals. Chairs and sofas provide a comfortable place for a pre or post-dinner drink while the outdoor deck is a great spot for a sundowner while soaking up the views. On most tours, you make yourself a packed lunch for the day from the food provided at breakfast.
Guided or Self-Guided?
We offer a mix of guided and self-guided tours in Holland, so you can choose the tour that best suits you. Which you choose depends on whether you prefer to cycle as part of an organised group with your guide, or enjoy the freedom and independence of taking your own time and using the maps and route directions provided to find your way.
Even if self-guiding, you still have the services of an on-board tour leader who will hold daily briefings in preparation for your next ride. These briefings are invaluable; not only for advice on the route but also for the tips you can pick up from the guide, who will happily share their local knowledge, sights to look out for and recommended pit-stops.
Most guests set off after breakfast and, even if cycling independently, you will often find yourself meeting up with your fellow passengers along the way. Given the sociable nature of the holiday, guests may well form their own groups to cycle together.
If you prefer something more organised, opt for a guided tour and let your guide take responsibility for the schedule and directions, leaving you to pedal care-free alongside, soaking up the scenery and your guide’s expertise.
Junction Network (the cycle route)
The Junction Network is an easy to follow network of individually numbered signposts positioned at junctions, pointing towards the next numbered junction and showing the distances. This ingeniously simple system is designed for recreational cyclists and is in place across the country.
Discover Amsterdam / Bruges
If you can spare the time, we recommend an extra night or two in Amsterdam to discover the sights and buzz of Holland’s capital at your leisure. The hop-on hop-off sightseeing canal boat is a great way to get around the city. Visit world-famous museums and Anne Frank’s house, or take a guided tour to learn the history and tales of the old town.
If your tour takes you to Belgium, Bruges is a real gem. Many of our customers have returned from their holiday saying they were delighted that they had added an extra day here, or wished they had! Spend time exploring the medieval old town with its cobbled streets and enjoy delicious food and famous Belgian beer at one of the numerous pavement cafes.
Which boat and bike holiday is right for you?
For families, I would recommend taking a look at our Family Special - IJssel Lake and Family Special - Tales & Castles tours. They both offer family friendly bike rides on Holland’s flat terrain and are great value for money. Several basic class barges are used for this tour, including the Amsterdam which offers 16 cabins with two bunk beds and one cabin with four bunk beds.
Interested in seeing the Tulips? The best tours are Spring Flowers in Holland and the Tulip Tour. These short break tours offer gentle cycling along flower-lined lanes and perfumed tracks. You will be able to visit flower markets, tulip fields and Holland’s famous flower garden, Keukenhof. Spring Flowers in Holland offers the luxury boats Magnifique and Magnifique II and the Tulip Tour offers the comfort barge Jelmar and convenient barge Tijdgeest, so there is a wide choice to suit all budgets.
If you are looking for a luxury holiday then I would recommend our 4 night Spring Flowers in Holland or our 7 night Amsterdam to Bruges tour. These tours offer the opportunity to stay on board the premium class Magnifique and Magnifique II. The MS Magnifique is a 63 metre long barge and can accommodate 35 guests. She was last renovated in 2013 and has 17 spacious and tastefully furnished cabins: 11 twin cabins, four premium twins with a small sitting area and two single cabins.
The Magnifique II is newly constructed for 2016. She is a 63 metre long premium barge that can accommodate up to 35 guests. The lower deck has 14 spacious cabins: 13 twin cabins and one single. The upper deck has four beautiful suites with large panoramic windows.
If you are looking for a multi-country boat and bike holiday, I would recommend Amsterdam to Bruges, Amsterdam to Brussels or Holland Meets Belgium. These tours all start in Amsterdam but you will finish in Belgium, allowing you to explore the sights of Bruges or Brussels. All three tours offer easy cycling on canal-side paths and quiet lanes. The Amsterdam to Bruges tour has four different boats to choose from – Fluvius, Magnifique, Magnifique II and the Gandalf.
Our Holland Meets Belgium tour offers departures on the convenient class Tijdgeest barge. The Amsterdam to Brussels tour has two barges to choose from; the Tijdgeest and the Zebra, which is a standard class barge.
For a truly unforgettable experience, consider our Holland's Northern Coast tour. This is a 7 night self-guided sail and bike tour offering traffic-free cycle paths, well-marked tracks and easy terrain. You will stay on board either the Mare Fan Fryslan or the Wapen Fan Fryslan, both built between 1960-1965. They are either two or three-masted schooners with 12 twin, one premium twin and one cabin with bunk beds. All cabins are en suite and are equipped with air-conditioning. The upper deck also has an outdoor bar, Jacuzzi and seating area. This really is a great choice for anyone who wants to experience a different tour on board a characterful boat... you can even help the crew hoist the sails if you want to!