On location: PAX unboxes the best of Holland and Belgium with agents and AmaWaterways

The city of Brugge to the northwest Belgium is known for its dreamy canals, chocolate factories and stepped gable brick buildings that could pass for colorful gingerbread houses.

But beneath the cobbled streets of this storybook city, also known as Bruges, lies a secret weapon for achieving sustainability and good humor: the world’s first beer pipeline.

From Halve Maan (Half Moon Brewery), a 500-year-old brewery in the heart of Bruges, launched its three-kilometer creation in 2016 to solve a logistical problem transporting beer from their brewery to the UNESCO-protected city center in their bottling plant to the suburbs.

Previously, giant beer tankers had to thunder through the narrow lanes of Bruges to make deliveries, causing pollution and traffic jams.

The construction of a beer pipeline, which runs 34 meters below street level, freed up the streets, creating a sustainable solution that ultimately allowed Halve Maan to remain in the city centre.

To the delight of beer lovers, the pipeline is said to pump almost 4,000 liters of alcohol per hour under the medieval buildings and winding canals of Bruges.

Travel advisors explore Bruges.  (Pax Global Media)

Interesting places with interesting stories.

Expect no less than AmaWaterways – a river cruise line that offers travelers not only the high-end experience of a luxury boutique hotel (which floats, of course), but also access to some of the most fascinating destinations in the world.

The company’s enriching shore excursions – visits to towns and villages for all abilities that can be enjoyed on foot or by bike – are included in the price of the cruise, a comprehensive approach which, according to Sandra
Gardner, Director of National Accounts in Canada at AmaWaterways, is what sets the brand apart from the rest.

All aboard the AmaStella.  (Pax Global Media)

From bike rides around medieval castles to chocolate-making workshops: “We try to find unique and exclusive experiences,” Gardiner said. pax, which reports on “The best of Holland and Belgium” this week with a group of Canadian and American travel advisors aboard the AmaStellaone of 26 vessels operated by AmaWaterways.

From left to right (from AmaWaterways): Rachel Couto-Gomes, cruise manager;  Sandra Gardiner, National Accounts Manager, Canada.  (Pax Global Media)

The best of Holland and Belgium

The luxurious river cruise, which pax covers exclusively, started on Saturday (August 27) in the canal and loaded with bikes amsterdamwhich set the bar high for local activities.

Officers had the opportunity to visit Floriadea horticultural exhibition which takes place once every ten years, and Haar Castle, the largest castle in the Netherlands.

Harer Castle.  (Sandra Gardiner)

Belgian chocolates on display.  (Pax Global Media)

The spacious, upscale AmaStella, which debuted in 2016, has since sailed through an extensive network of river and canal systems, stopping at charming port towns in the Netherlands, such as Veereand Belgian local authorities, such as Ghentwhich led to a day filled with beer and chocolate in nearby Bruges.

Best of Holland (the two provinces of North and South Holland) and Belgium is a new itinerary that has recently been introduced to extend Ama’s journey “Tulip Time” cruising beyond spring and into summer and fall because guests loved the program so much.

Canal tours in Bruges.  (Pax Global Media)

From left to right: Marilyn Long, Teri Recunyk, Yvonne Lepair, Sandra Gardiner in Bruges.  (Pax Global Media)

Navigation also stops at Brussels, Antwerp and Dordrecht/Kinderdijkwhich opens the doors to Dutch nuggets like rotterdam and Delfrase.

It’s a route that particularly appeals to Canadians, Gardiner said.

“A lot of Canadians have roots in the Netherlands, so coming back and discovering those roots and reliving them is quite special,” she said.

Canadian travel advisors visit the Atomium building in Brussels.  (Pax Global Media)

Details, details, details

For travel advisors sailing this week, the cruise was an opportunity to experience the “Ama difference”, such as the impeccable onboard service (the friendly crew and staff remember names and always have three steps ahead), the upscale restaurant (every day, the menu features fresh produce reflecting the region the ship passes through) and Chef’s table live.

Ama’s compelling wine list, which also reflects destinations, is hand-picked by the company’s co-founders Rudi Schreiner and Kristin Karst.

Canadian travel advisors gather aboard the AmaStella.  (Pax Global Media)

Enjoy the lounge on the AmaStella.  (Pax Global Media)

The AmaStella, with vibrant apple green and fuchsia interiors, has 78 staterooms ranging in size from 155-235 square feet to luxurious suites that measure 350 square feet.

Some rooms offer triple occupancy to accommodate families, and most have twin, French, and outdoor balconies, so guests can watch the world go by. There is even a heated swimming pool on the upper terrace.

AmaStella's upscale lobby.  (Pax Global Media)

Heated solarium swimming pool on the AmaStella.  (Pax Global Media)

The atmosphere on board is upscale, but not tense – Gardiner hosted a Fat– a theme party one night earlier this week and many Pink Ladies were spotted rocking the dance floor.

There is also a notable commitment to transparency on board.

When things don’t go as planned, like when there’s a traffic jam of ships trying to get through a lock, and a sailing time is delayed (as we experienced earlier this week), the Ama team – cruise and hotel manager, crew, captain and all – go to great lengths to keep passengers up to date with updates.

From left to right: guest, Debbie Ford, Sandra Gardiner, Jan Poon.  (Pax Global Media)

It’s details like this that travel advisors – many of whom this week are taking a river cruise for the very first time – have noted.

“We have the top echelon of travel advisors on board,” Gardiner said. pax. “They’re booking guests now and they’re committed to educating themselves so they can better sell AmaWaterways to their customers.”

From left to right: Caroline Hay, Marilyn Long, Patricia Miner, Kim Paquette.  (Pax Global Media)

feel the love

There was plenty of room to engage. The 156-passenger AmaStella this week caters almost exclusively to trade professionals – just 71 passengers in total, including 50 Canadians, representing companies such as Trevello (formerly TPI), CEO of Cruises, Nexion, AAC and Expedia.

It’s also a timely cruise, as AmaWaterways is seeing a post-pandemic wave of new customers who previously cruised the oceans and are now asking for rivers.

“More people want smaller boats, they want to see the shore, and they want to know they’re coming down — maybe multiple times a day,” Gardiner said.

From left to right (from AmaWaterways): Rachel Couto-Gomes, cruise manager;  Attila Bokros, hotel manager;  Sandra Gardiner, National Accounts Manager, Canada.  (Pax Global Media)

Some of the Canadian and American travel professionals on board this week may have started their cruise as foreigners, but many will be disembarking with family.

Ama, in Latin, means “love”, which sums up the bond that was felt between the crew, staff and passengers throughout the week.

“There’s so much love and warmth when you step on board,” as Gardiner said. “You automatically become part of the family.”

Stay tuned as PAX brings you more exclusive coverage of the best of Holland and Belgium with AmaWaterways! For more on location photos, visit the PAXnews.com Facebook page here!

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