AG Ems: “AG Ems wets the appetite of visitors to Borkum”

By Laelia Kaderas

The days of involuntarily feeding fish have long passed. It used to be quite a common sight, seeing cartons packed with pre-portioned stew fall between the boat's hull and quay, to land in the water with a splash. Nowadays, non-tidal access guarantees that vessels can be loaded securely.

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"Delivering products for the galleys remains a challenge nonetheless," says Oliver Klaassen, manager of the AG Ems restaurants and catering outlets. After all, there is only a narrow time window of about 20 minutes, maybe 30 with a bit of luck, for getting the goods on board, checking the order quantities, inspecting the temperature and storage time of the products, filling in the forms and stowing everything. 

The passengers are barely aware of this frenetic schedule. Families, health spa visitors and school classes all stream on board, full of excitement and anticipation. Borkum may be their destination, but their holiday begins in the ports of Emden and Eemshaven.

With the cries of seagulls and smell of the sea, a breakfast on heaving planks consists of Friesian tea from an Emden tea trading house, organic Fairtrade coffee, freshly baked bread rolls from the "um die Emder Ecke" bakery and authentic Borkum cured ham. Oliver Klaassen offers only the finest tasting products made from premium quality produce, making passengers hungry for more. He is also keen to support regional suppliers. The menus of each vessel in the fleet offer holidaymakers crab and fish from Greetsiel, young Emden herring, meat sourced from Pewsum and cheese from Pilsum. The eggs are also real eggs, in shells and ready to be cracked. While there is little to suggest system catering, the AG Ems catering operations, offering food and beverages on board and in the "Fährhaus" restaurants in Emden and Eemshaven, as well as the "Strandkorb" restaurant in Krummhörn, are designed with speed and efficiency in mind. Alongside bockwurst sausage, potato salad, and the recently added crab burger, is French fried potatoes (chips to you and me). "These are without a doubt the top selling product," explains Oliver Klaassen. They are made to be crispy and golden brown with a distinct potato taste, even without a deep fryer on board. This is precisely what they are, according to the guests. 

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Oliver is pleased with the advice he received from Aviko, which helped him to find the optimum type of potato for modern fan ovens. The ferry trip from Emden to Borkum takes 2 hours and 15 minutes. However, the catamaran is considerably faster: the vessel docks just one hour after leaving port. The ferry from Eemshaven to Borkum also takes barely an hour.

School classes and families make up a large part of the passengers on board. While the play areas, table games and children's films on board are extremely popular, it is hard to beat the excitement of standing on deck and gazing out over the water.

Having arrived on the island, guests travel seven kilometres to the town centre by steam locomotive, which runs over an historic narrow gauge railway. Borkum is the embarkation point for a number of boat trips to experience seal colonies, to fish for crab or sail to Helgoland. It would be difficult not to have your appetite whetted in some way by AG Ems.