Veere, Middelburg and the Delta Works
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports Tauck’s beautiful new ms Inspire was bathed in the amber glow of sunlight filtered through a thin layer of wispy fog as dawn broke on the day that was to be Saturday, April 12, 2014. It was one of those bizarrely perfect sunrises; the ones where everything seems to have mysteriously aligned to produce a dazzling, postcard-perfect sight. That I should begin my morning by viewing this amazing landscape from a ship called the Inspire is decidedly appropriate.
The official program for today:
- 6:00am – 10:00am Light breakfast in Arthur’s, Deck 3 aft.
- 7:00am – 8:00am Full breakfast in the Compass Rose Dining Room.
- 8:30am – depart the ship for a tour to Neeltje Jans where we will learn about the massive Delta Works project. Bring your “Voxes.”
- 12:30pm – Lunch in Arthur’s, Deck 3, aft. Today’s feature: nasi goreng
- 12:30pm – Buffet lunch in the Compass Rose Dining Room
- 12:45pm – All aboard! Inspire departs for Middelburg
- 2:00pm – Inspire arrives in Middelburg
- 2:45pm – We invite you to the Main Lounge to meet some traditionally-dressed locals and sample a “bolus”, a local treat.
- 3:00pm – Depart the ship for a guided walking tour of the beautiful town of Middelburg. As always, you may skip the tour and visit Middelburg at your leisure.
- 5:30pm – 6:30pm Cocktail Hour in the Panorama Lounge
- 5:45pm – Discovery Briefing in the Panorama Lounge
- 6:00pm – 8:00pm Enjoy dinner in the Compass Rose Dining Room. Open seating.
- 6:30pm – Steakhouse Dinner in Arthur’s. See Reception for the menu and reservations. Please make your booking before 2:00pm.
- After Dinner: join us in the Panorama Lounge for dessert, drinks and dancing.
- 7:45pm – All aboard! M.S. Inspire departs Middelburg.
- 05:00am – M.S. Inspire arrives in Antwerp, Belgium
Initially, I wasn’t going to tour the Neeltje Jans – or Delta Works – project. But our Dutch Tauck Director Joeri convinced me to take part in it. I had planned on going for a stroll through the small town of Veere in which the Inspire was docked, but as we each helped ourselves to the ship’s stunning breakfast buffet, he said it would be well worth my time. To put this in perspective: it’s five after eight in the morning. The coaches for the tour leave at eight thirty, giving me twenty-five minutes to tap down breakfast. But Joeri is from the Netherlands and he, like the other Tauck Directors, really knows how to connect with the guests. And I appreciated his advice: “Veere is pretty,” he said. “But the Netherlands is full of pretty towns.” In other words: there’s only one Delta Works Project. And it is quite the sight to behold.
In 1953, the Netherlands experienced flooding on a scale never before seen. The Hurricane Katrina of the Zeeland province, damage to property and livelihoods was severe. Existing defences broke down, allowing the water unprecedented access to the countryside. The devastating effect of the floodwater was particularly personal for the Dutch, who immediately began preparations to ensure that a flood of that magnitude could never happened again. The result was a series of massive floodgates that can be lowered into the Atlantic Ocean to completely block the water off. Since they were completed in 1986, they have proven themselves dozens of times. The last time they were lowered was in October of 2002.
Not only can you tour the complex, you can walk right out onto the structure, which features a motorway on an upper deck and a small museum situated in the inner column running under the highway between the car deck and the floodgate system. It’s a marvelous piece of engineering that is absolutely baffling in terms of its complex design and elegant execution; I just couldn’t understand how anyone could ever envision such a system, let alone build it.
The only part of the tour that I honestly didn’t enjoy was the part that the Delta Works itself puts on: a PowerPoint presentation coupled with a grade-school quality video that collectively sucks up an hour of your time. I would have personally much rather gone to see the actual gates and locks and then returned to the ship to spend that extra hour wandering around Veere. But, despite that, the Delta Works is a brand-new addition to this Tauck itinerary, and one that’s well worth your time if you’ve never seen it before.
As it was, I did have time to take a quick walk around the pretty town of Veere, which reminded me a lot of Visby, Sweden in terms of style and local charm. It’s the kind of place you could settle down with a glass of wine on a nice sunny, spring day like today and be quite content in doing very little aside from soaking up the local culture.
As lunch commence onboard, the ms Inspire undocked and set sail for Middelburg – just seven kilometres up the road. Four enterprising guests did something I wished I would have done: they borrowed the ship’s bicycles and cycled along the dedicated bike path between Veere and Middeleburg. I hear it was an amazing trip, and it points to the flexibility Tauck has in ensuring you get to enjoy your river cruise vacation exactly as you’d like to. Middelburg has to be one of my favorite cities on this trip. It’s small and highly walkable, with a large pedestrian shopping area that wraps attractively around the city’s cathedral and several market areas.
To get acquainted with the town, Tauck offered a walking tour of Middelburg this afternoon, with the option to stay and linger in the town’s main square and shopping district. I really enjoy these types of walking tours – they give you the overview of the city and a degree of confidence to explore a place you’ve never been, without the confusion that can come with trying to find your way around a new place. It’s a nice blend of playing tourist and local at the same time.
Three discoveries about Middelburg: they like their beer, books and licorice here. The perfect end to a Saturday afternoon for many included a pint of beer in the central square, where a flea market was ongoing. I also stopped into no less than four bookstores, including one that was the size of a small warehouse. Most of the titles were in Dutch, but there was a fantastic section with local authors whose works had been translated into English. Tonight ended with a sunset that was on-par with the sunrise I’d seen from the ship in Veere. As the ms Inspire made her way out of Middelburg, the setting sun burned through the trees along the river. It was the postcard-perfect reason to take a river cruise.
The ship seems to be a huge hit with guests, which is always fantastic any time a new ship comes online. The issues with the Public Address system have been resolved, and in addition to a working P.A. in my loft suite, I now have a modern hits radio station in Germany and a classical station that I can switch my in-room sound system to using a black dial mounted to a brass place on the wall.
But more important than the ship – beautiful as it is – is that the Tauck product is exactly as I remember it from my journey with them in late September of 2012. In fact, it’s even better now that all beverages onboard are included all day long, in any venue. The Tauck Guides are still as knowledgeable and personable as on my trip down the Danube, and the list of special exclusive events and diverse experiences ashore continues to impress me. With two new vessels and new itineraries along the Rhone, Saone, Seine, Danube and Rhine rivers that range from eight to 14 days in length, it’s nice to see Tauck continue to expand. But it’s even better that they’ve done so without losing that uniqueness that makes them so special.
Tauck's MS Inspire - Belgium & Holland
|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.|