Day 1:Arrive in Amsterdam, Holland (Embarkation).
Welcome to Amsterdam! Holland’s sophisticated, modern capital has a rich and fascinating history. This delightful 700-year-old city with its elegant and classic architecture, cafés, and restaurants has a distinct ambiance. The streets, squares, and canals—not to mention the bike paths throughout the city—make for a vibrant atmosphere, and with over 60 museums, Amsterdam has the highest museum density in the world. This afternoon, board your river cruise vessel and meet your crew at an evening welcome reception. Before dinner, your ship glides out of Amsterdam harbor and heads for Rotterdam. (D)NOTE: Flights into Amsterdam must arrive by 3:30 pm. Guests must be on board ship by 5 pm.Day 2:Rotterdam. Excursion to Keukenhof Gardens or Gouda.
This morning, cruise through Rotterdam HARBOR and enjoy a leisurely morning on board before an early afternoon excursion takes you to the gardens of KEUKENHOF near Lisse—over 70 acres of parkland with lakes, sculpture gardens, greenhouses, and a windmill to explore. Every year, 7 million flower bulbs are planted, and you have the chance to see the spectacular display of colors from the tulips, daffodils, crocuses, and more. If you’re a garden enthusiast, you may opt for an extended stay in Keukenhof, going in the morning, and lunching in the gardens on your own before rejoining the ship with the rest of the guests in the later afternoon. Alternatively, you might opt for a guided excursion to GOUDA, famous for its gouda cheese, syrup waffles, clay pipes, and elaborate city hall. (B,L,D)Day 3:Antwerp, Belgium.
Antwerp is Belgium’s second-largest city and one of the world’s most important ancient seaports. It merges the new with the old and offers the attractions and atmosphere you’d expect from a European city—friendly people, fabulous architecture, chic shops, interesting museums, vibrant cafés, charming galleries, and historic monuments. INCLUDED SIGHTSEEING with a Local Guide shows you its superb architecture; the central GROTE MARKT, lined with 16th-century houses; the beautiful city hall, completed in 1566; and the Church of Our Lady, started in 1352 and featuring paintings by Rubens. An optional excursion is available to nearby Brussels, Belgium’s capital and home of the European Union. Otherwise, if gardens, flowers, and trees are your passion, do not miss the visit to a BOTANICAL GARDEN. (B,L,D)Day 4:Ghent.
In a unique way, Ghent, the “diamond” of Flanders, has managed to preserve its medieval charm and power while keeping up with the times. A LOCAL GUIDE will proudly point out that the city center alone is a showcase of medieval Flemish wealth and commercial success. Visit ST. BAAF’S CATHEDRAL, which houses remarkable art treasures, including the most important work in Flemish art, The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, created by the Van Eyck brothers around 1432. On your own, explore the traffic-free streets in the city center; see Gravensteen, the “Castle of the Counts,” an imposing castle in the city that was built in 1180; or join an optional excursion to fascinating Bruges with its criss-crossed canals and charming old patrician houses. (B,L,D)Day 5:Middelburg, Holland–Veere. Excursion to the Delta Works.
This morning, a WALKING TOUR of Middelburg will acquaint you with this Dutch East India Company trading city, which was originally built as a Zeeland stronghold against the water and from enemies. Later, it became a prosperous merchant city that spent great wealth on the construction of important buildings, such as the 15th-century gothic Town Hall. Rejoin your ship for lunch and the short cruise to Veere, where you will visit the nearby DELTA WORKS. After the flood of 1953, during which more than 1,800 people drowned in one night, the Delta Plan was born to prevent a disaster of this magnitude from ever happening again. Taking 30 years to complete, the storm flood barrier stands as the final defense in the battle against the water—almost six miles long and considered a technical miracle. (B,L,D)Day 6:Willemstad.
This morning, dock in Willemstad and explore this small historical town with well-preserved fortifications at your own pace. One of the oldest buildings in town is the old gatehouse at the entrance of Willemstad, and as you walk around you will notice a wide variety of building styles. The town even has its own windmill towering high above the marina and in the very center of the seven-pointed, star-shaped town, stands the Koepelkerk (Rounded Church). Depart Willemstad at lunchtime and enjoy a leisurely afternoon cruising. (B,L,D)Day 7:Amsterdam.
After breakfast, set out to discover the treasures of this city by CANAL BOAT, cruising through the elegant grachten lined with stately homes dating back to Amsterdam’s “Golden Age.” This afternoon is free for your personal exploration or you may choose from a number of optional excursions. As an alternative, you can also join your LOCAL GUIDE and discover the secret gardens in the heart of Amsterdam. Hidden behind the stately façades of the 17th Century houses along Amsterdam’s canals, lie some of the city's best-kept secrets: private gardens & courtyards. You can look behind some impressive canal-side homes and step into a completely different world, where a quiet green oasis welcomes you. (B,L,D)Day 8:Amsterdam (Disembarkation).
Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (B)
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