by Aaron Saunders

Last April, Tauck’s new ms Inspire sailed on her maiden voyage from Amsterdam to Maastricht through the spectacular tulips and rolling fields of Belgium and the Netherlands. On the eve of the centenary of the Great War, it was a memorable voyage through history.

ms InspireCourtesy of Tauck

The new ms Inspire and ms Savor ships offer something entirely different in river cruise ship accommodations. I stayed in one of Tauck’s new Loft Staterooms - a really comfortable, well-designed room that made me feel instantly at home. There are just eight of these Loft Staterooms onboard, all located on Deck 1 – the lowest deck of the ship, and traditionally the least desirable. At 225 square feet, there’s nothing else like these innovative staterooms on the rivers of Europe today. Photographs don’t do this room - which is notoriously difficult to get into a single shot - justice.

The loft seating area makes a huge difference; in fact, it was so inviting that I began to watch our arrival and departures from the comfort of my stateroom. The 1.5-story tall wall of glass provided a unique perspective as we transited the many locks on our way to Maastricht, and the electronically-opened glass panes let in the sounds of Europe. The curtains were also electronic, and there are nearly a dozen different lighting options..

The bathrooms of these Loft Staterooms are noteworthy for their dual showerheads, marble finishing, and almost absurd level of space. I’m used to river cruise ship bathrooms which are usually quite small.

ms Inspire_LoftCourtesy of Tauck

What Tauck is doing is giving people more choice. Those who would normally choose the least-expensive category of stateroom might be encouraged to spend more money, while others who would normally take a French Balcony stateroom but can’t quite afford it now have an option that allows them to save some money and still enjoy fresh air.

Inclusive, both Inside and Out

Externally, the Inspire looks like a longer version of Tauck’s other vessels. Even when boarding the ship for the first time, past guests are unlikely to notice any major changes to the overall ebb and flow of the public spaces. Tauck’s onboard philosophy is firmly in place. In 2013, they became all-inclusive with their onboard beverages, meaning you never have to pay to enjoy a fine wine or a local beer. On the culinary front, alternative dining is offered on all their ships, with ms Inspire and ms Savor introducing an intimate dining venue called Arthur’s. Named after Tauck’s own Arthur Tauck, Jr., this steakhouse is available to guests on a complimentary but reservations-required basis. Situated all the way aft and bordered by a bank of windows that can fully open to let the fresh air in, this is the place to be for a romantic dinner.

ms Inspire_Arthur'sCourtesy of Tauck

What keeps Tauck’s guests coming back is the personalized service. Three Tauck Directors accompany each and every river cruise tour, with a fourth Tauck Director who is dedicated to each of the line’s ships. Together, they accompany you both onboard and off the ship, ensuring that your every question (and every need) is met.

I loved the abundance of choice offered aboard the ms Inspire. In Rotterdam, I took one of the ship’s complimentary bicycles for a spin through town, cycling all the way over to the city’s iconic ambassador, the 1958-built Rotterdam; a former Holland America Line ship that is now permanently moored in the city. The bikes are amazingly convenient for independent touring, and Tauck will even let you cycle between towns and re-join the ship in another port, if you ask.

Plenty of thought has been put into the shore excursions on this picturesque itinerary, from free time at the fabulous Keukenhof Gardens just outside Amsterdam to a moving tour of the Oosterbeek War Cemetery outside Arnhem. There we saw the graves of nearly two thousand people from Commonwealth nations like the United Kingdom and Canada who perished in World War II. We were also treated to a look at Dutch ingenuity near Middleburg at the famous Delta Works project; a series of massive storm surge barriers that protect large areas of the Netherlands from flooding.

ms Inspire_loungeCourtesy of Tauck

As beautiful as the entire itinerary was, it was our evening in Ieper, Belgium that made the greatest impression on me. Tauck had arranged for every guest onboard the ms Inspire to travel by coach to enjoy an after-hours tour of the In Flanders Field Museum, followed by dinner. The meal was beautiful, but to be in such a moving place on the eve of the centenary of the First World War was an event I’ll cherish forever. In true Tauck fashion, it was just one of many.

If You Go: Tauck offers river cruises throughout Europe between March and December each year. Because there are only eight Loft Staterooms on the ms Inspire and ms Savor, they tend to sell out quickly. Air Canada, Air France, KLM and Lufthansa provide non-stop departures from numerous Canadian cities to major ports of departure in Europe.

For more information, contact your local travel professional or visit www.tauck.ca

Originally published in Cruise & Travel Lifestyles Spring 2015 issue.

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