This story has a long version and a short one. The long one deserves a whole separate post, and be sure, it’s coming! In the meantime, here’s the short one. Once upon a time, there was a river cruise company that offered boat and bike tours. And that’s what they are really called – Boat Bike Tours. Their customers love cruising the Dutch rivers from one port to another, cycling through the country’s scenic landmarks, and they keep coming back for more.
So when Boat Bike Tours realised that there was an entire group of culture-curious travelers that were drawn to the idea of a river cruise, and attracted by the luxury service that the smaller river cruise boats had to offer, they also discovered that this growing group was more interested in culture than cycling. And because they had all the expertise needed to satisfy this demand, they went on to set up Cultural Cruises Europe (CCE).
Five things that make our cultural tours stand out
While CCE draws on the decades of in-house expertise of Boat Bike Tours, it is also a completely new endeavour. Here we look at five things that make all the difference:
Expanding knowledge and gaining experience
CCE is a tour operator for the culturally curious traveler. It offers tours for people who travel the world in search of new experiences, who are interested in thematic cultural tours and who value learning new things rather than checking off landmark lists.
On the Wealth of Culture Tour we visit Amsterdam, Ghent, Bruges and Antwerp, where local guides and experts give guided tours and lectures for a more in-depth experience of the Rijksmuseum, the windmills at Kinderdijk, the Rubens House in Antwerp and the Church of Our Lady in Bruges.
The Holland Culture Tour traverses the “Green Heart” of Holland. Visiting Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague, along with the smaller towns of Haarlem, Leiden, Gouda and Delft, it focuses on museums, churches, markets and landmarks that make up the Lowlands.
On the Battlefields Cruise, guests follow the Allied Liberation Route between Amsterdam and Maastricht, and learn about this heartrending period from the experts on the history of the Second World War.
Luxury, intimacy and high-quality service
Our small-scale cruises are all about luxury and a high level of service. The ultimate goal is that every guest feels comfortable and happy on board one of our Magnifique luxury barges. The crew does everything within their power to make it happen. They take the utmost care of guests, considering their every wish, and aim for nothing less than to exceed your expectations.
On these cultural tours, the museum visits, lectures and other activities are centrally arranged. Another beautiful perk of the cruise is that the ship serves as your hotel and coach at the same time. Guests only need to check in once. This saves a whole lot of stress and leaves more time to relax and enjoy the surroundings, activities and delicious food.
Bountiful breakfast buffets and outstanding dinners
Speaking of food, we are not shy to brag: it is nothing but outstanding. The buffet is abundant, and dinners are made to impress. The chefs onboard will make sure your meals are representative of the area you are visiting on the tours. Fresh, local and seasonal produce is delivered to the kitchen wherever the ship docks. Whether you are a vegetarian or vegan, have gluten or lactose restrictions, just mention it when making the reservation and your dietary requirements will be catered to.
When we asked one of the chefs how he approaches the menu, he explained:
“When we sail through Holland, we make a refined version of Dutch ‘stampot’, in Belgium we make a ‘stoofpotje’ stew with Flemish meat and beer. Classic French cuisine is often our guests’ favorite, but we also like to spice it up with Asian dishes or a hearty barbecue on deck. And for those who love a good glass of wine or a nice beer, we always have advice on drinks to compliment the meal.”
Small groups, spacious cabins and a jacuzzi on the deck
The CCE fleet currently consists of three Magnifique ships. All three are customized river barges beautifully finished with copious attention to detail. Each floating boutique hotel accommodates no more than 40 guests, allowing everyone to enjoy spacious, luxurious cabins and uncompromised service. And of course, there’s the restaurant, bar and lounge for relaxing. A jacuzzi on the deck completes the holiday atmosphere.
New ship and other beautiful plans
Cultural Cruises Europe might still be a start-up, drawing on the experience and expertise of older sister Boat Bike Tours, but in a few years it will be taking off on its own.
A dozen tours are already scheduled for the inaugural year 2020. In 2022 the CCE fleet will be taking curious travelers to cultural destinations in the Netherlands and beyond, a full 40 weeks of the year.
Among numerous exciting plans is a collaboration with Dutch ship builder Walter van Berkum. Together we are developing a unique “culture ship” – a small luxurious cruise vessel, designed especially for cultural tours.
There are many other projects in the pipeline we can not wait to share with you soon.