How to: Canals of Amsterdam!

Virtually every incentive we’ve done in our city includes the world famous canals. In this blogpost we present you a variety of options on how to incorporate the canals into your programs with value tips and insights ot take on board. Ship ahoy!

First off, what makes them so special?

The world famous and since 2010 Unesco protected Amsterdam Canal Ring was constructed in the 17th century, when Amsterdam was the trading capital of the world. Initially the canals where reclaimed from the swampy lands outside the fortified citygates as a means of city growth. However, through the booming spice trade merchants started making fortunes and buying plots of land on the canals, building the most beautiful estates. These are now the characteristic gabled monuments that one passes on a cruise through the canals. The network comprised of 165 canals,stretching around 50 KM in lenght. 1281 bridges ensure that ‘Amsterdammers’ can easily connect with each other.

The ways of incorporating the canals into your incentive

There are many ways of adding the canals into your program. The most common way of seeing them is a cruise. But even in booking a cruise there are many different options. Is it solely for sightseeing, taking you from the hotel to your dinner venue with drinks on board or even a complete dinner on board? Or how about an action packed (CSR) activity on the canals?

First off the ships

We distinguish 3 types (tiers) of ships when offering ships to clients

The classical Amsterdam canal boat. Amsterdam has a variety of companies offering tours on these glass top canal boats. We use them primarily for sightseeing and transfers from A-B if no catering is required on board. The glass allows for great viewing possibilities. From about 25 persons it already starts making sense to book your own ship rather than joining a public cruise. Depending on the supplier, the ships have a fixed interior or this is ammendable to the wishes of the group. The size of the ships does vary, but with fixed seating can go as high as 80 pax.

Catering is naturally possible on these ships and varies from simple snacks and drinks to canapes to a 3 course dinner. Generally we can say that in recent years the quality has improved quite a bit. On site inspections we often get the question if the catering is up to par and are asked for our honest and non biast opinion. This is the honest answer, it’s no michelin star you can expect, but it’s very acceptable for the price you’re paying.

This type of ship is used often for drinks cruises. Many of the city centre hotels in Amsterdam either have their own jetty or have a jetty nearby. It’s a great way of starting a dinner or gala night with drinks on board of a ship whilst seeing the sights and transfering from the hotel to the location. Typically the time on board for this is about 1 hour. There are quite some suppliers in this type 2 segment as well.

Important detail to remember!

With Performance Travel, we’ve organized drinks cruises for groups upto 400 guests. When we do use them for drinks cruises we typically deduct 10/15 guests per ship from the listed max amounts of the supplier. Bear that in mind, the supplier publishes the max amount and that’s not necessarily the most comfortable for the guests. We love these types of ships as their wooden interior, story behind the vessel and fully equipped bar on board adds to the charm. In addition, these ships all have roofs, some can be retracted with good weather. Also canapes, lunches and dinners can be served on board of course. One can say that generally speaking the catering on this type of ship is slightly better than on type 1 ships.

Now, the very essence of incentives generally is that ‘money can’t buy’ experience everybody looks for. These classical saloonship can take care of that. Imagine your top performers on board of one of these fantastic vessels. Champagne, amazing culinary treats and perhaps some live music on the piano (not all ships of course. These classical saloonships come in all shapes and sizes, but typically vary from say 12 – 50 pax. They are typically more expensive than type 1 and 2 ships in rental, but you do get something in return of course. We’ve had anything from cocktailcruises with matched caterers from the gala event on board to michelin starred chefs prepping 8 course meals on board. This is the creme de la creme of the canals!

Other possibilities on the canals

Of course it doesn’t end there. The canals have way more to offer than sightseeing cruises, drinks and dinners on ships. Below are some great examples of what else can be done on the canals of Amsterdam.

  • CSR Activity

CSR is become a more important part of organizing incentives, meetings and events and there is a great activity that you can do with your groups. Plastic fishing! Plastic whale fishing takes guests on sloepen (open boats) built from recycled plastic for a tour through the canals. First there is a briefing for the guests in which the captain explains the importance of reducing the plastic bubble for the environment and how they can help. Then the group gets on board, equiped with fishing nets and wastebags and the goal is to compete with each other on who can collect the most plastic waste from the canals of Amsterdam. Really fun and guests get into it very much!

plastic fishing is a great CSR activity
  • Canalbikes

Canal bikes is a great activity in Amsterdam. Not an activity one would typically choose between say October – March, but in the spring and summer very fun to do. With Performance Travel we’ve done canal biking with groups quite often. They seat 4 persons, with the 2 front ones peddling and the two rear ones enjoying the sites. Incentive groups are often with partners, so you understand that couples join forces, the men paddle away whilst the ladies enjoy the sites. Great add on to canal biking can be answering questions on Amsterdam and company specific along the way. And why not incorporate a dose of energy along the way with the Poffertjesboat (Dutch pancakes) exclusively docked in the canals for your group?

  • IPAD Open Boat challenge

This IPAD challenge takes guests through the canals of Amsterdam on their own private sloep. On board a cooling box with snacks and drinks for the group to enjoy. Groupsizes per boat is 7 – 9 persons. Guests are seeing the sights and navigate through the canals, whilst answering a number of assignments, minigames, photo questions and riddles. Only after answering them correctly the next way point comes up. Fun guaranteed!

So there you have it, How to: Canals of Amsterdam. Brought to you by your friends at Performance Travel DMC from Amsterdam. Your one stop shop for incenetives, meetings and events in The Netherlands.

Obviously we’d love to find out if you found this content at all valuable. We therefore encourage you to let us know your thought on what we can improve for our next blogpost in the comments below.

About the author

My name is Daan Riemeijer and i'm the owner of Performance Travel DMC. Performance Travel specializes in running incentive programs in Amsterdam. Through our blog we try to showcase our knowledge on Amsterdam and what's possible in terms of incentives in our city.

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