It’s been an exciting week for us. After months of waiting and careful preparation, our ships are sailing again. Under a bright sunny sky the 2020 season finally launched!
Of course, we’re all curious to hear what it’s like on the first tours after the ‘corona break’. So we got in touch with Ilse and Francien, tour leaders on the Best of Holland Tour aboard the Magnifique, to find out. Here’s what they told us about their experiences so far:
Hello you two, how are you?
Ilse: Good! We’re so happy to be on the road again! We’re sitting here on the deck enjoying the evening sun. We just did a city walk through Gouda, which worked great.
Francien: Yes, it was really nice. I notice that the streets are slowly becoming more alive again. Having the café terraces open again makes a big difference. The atmosphere’s much more friendly.
What’s the mood like on board?
Francien: People are getting along very well and I really get the feeling that they’re enjoying their vacation to the fullest. Most guests in this group have never holidayed in the Netherlands before and are totally enthusiastic. I’m sure they’ll only have good things to say back home.
Ilse: We all have to follow a few rules, but it’s not affecting the good mood. And even if everyone has to keep a 1.5-meter distance from each other, it’s still sociable. We’ve been on the road for a few days now and guests are slowly getting to know each other better. In the evenings they sit together on the sun deck to talk – just a little further apart than usual.
How are guests reacting to the new rules
Ilse: That was a bit of an unknown before departure. Will people stick to the rules? Maybe they’ll think it’s not strict enough? But we didn’t need to worry. Everyone accepts the rules as a matter of course, is fine with following them and shows consideration for each other. It sounds a bit cheesy, but it’s going really smoothly.
How do the rules influence the travel experience?
Ilse: Surprisingly little, actually. Everything on board is marked clearly, like the walking route signs. Besides remembering a few small things, guests can just relax and enjoy their vacation like always. There’s plenty of space on the ship, so keeping your distance isn’t a problem at all. I think it’s just a bit of a pity that we have fixed seating at dinner. Otherwise I always prefer to sit with different people every evening. It’s more sociable and you get to know everyone better.
Francien: Many areas on board have one-way traffic due to the designated walking routes, so sometimes you have to walk a bit longer than usual. There’s no more breakfast buffet, it’s now served at the table. And lunch packs are already prepacked to take away. But that could also be considered an advantage!
You’ve had amazing weather this week. Perfect for cycling. What are your experiences on the bike tours?
Francien: Cycling is actually an ideal activity right now, even in a group. You don’t have to think about keeping a distance of 1.5 meters because you do that by yourself anyway.
Ilse: I can’t imagine any other type of holiday where you’re out in the fresh air so much. During the day we’re out on the bikes all the time. In the evenings we’ve been outside most of the time too. It’s just wonderful on the sun deck in this gorgeous summer weather! I notice that after so long at home, people are really ready for a break. Many have been sitting still for months. So a sporty holiday with lots of exercise is just the thing.
You’ve both been tour leaders for years. What’s it like to travel through the Netherlands now? What differences do you notice the most?
Francien: It’s definitely much quieter than usual. At Kinderdijk you have free reign with your bike. And at the Zaanse Schans the usual clusters of international tourists are missing. When we were there, we spotted two other groups from Boat Bike Tours thanks to the red bike bags. We had the whole place to ourselves! A lady in our group even said that right now is the perfect moment to travel, because there’s less hustle and bustle so you can experience everything in peace.
Ilse: Another difference is that many sights now require you to book an appointment. This makes the schedule tighter and a bit less spontaneous. But it did mean that we were the only visitors at a historic church. So that was a special experience.
Thank you both so much. Enjoy the rest of your tour!