Day 1 - Amsterdam, The Netherlands
After your included transfer from the airport or your Prelude hotel in Amsterdam, embark this afternoon, settle in and enjoy a welcome reception followed by dinner on-board. We’ll remain docked in Amsterdam overnight, so if you feel like going ashore and getting to know one of Europe’s friendliest capitals, this is your chance.
If you want to experience what the natives call “gezellig,” a Dutch quality that translates as convivial or cozy, the best place to go is one of the traditional “brown cafes,” named for their wood paneling and walls that have been stained brown by smoke over the centuries. Order one of the outstanding beers on tap and you’ll understand what gezellig is all about. If you’re interested in something more cultural, Amsterdam is home to many of the world’s most famous museums, including the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and Anne Frank House.
Day 2 - Amsterdam & Volendam, The Netherlands
Drink in the beauty of the “Venice of the North” on a city tour this morning that includes a boat cruise through Amsterdam’s canals, a World Heritage Site. Lined with charming gabled row houses and bobbing houseboats, the four main city canals are Prinsengracht, Herengracht, Keizersgracht, and Singel, with numerous smaller canals — 165 in all — intersecting the various neighborhoods.
After lunch we’ll cruise north across the Ijsselmeer, a shallow, artificial lake created in 1932 with the damming of the Zuiderzee. Our destination is the picturesque fishing village of Volendam, where you can sample a traditional slice of Dutch life along the village’s primary thoroughfare, lined with colorful cafés and purveyors of fresh fish, handmade cheeses, and colourful, traditional crafts. On a guided excursion we’ll visit a cheese-making facility in Edam, with a guided tour of Volendam before returning to the ship.
Day 3 - Arnhem
Known today as the site of one of the most infamous battles of World War II, Arnhem has been a center of conflict since its earliest days, thanks to its strategic position on the Rhine River. The valiant but doomed Battle of Arnhem comes to vivid life today in either of two fascinating excursions offered this afternoon. Choose a guided tour visiting sites associated with General Montgomery’s infamous Operation Market Garden before visiting the nearby Kroller-Muller museum of art and sculpture; or you might join our other guided excursion featuring a tour of Arnhem and a visit to the Hartenstein Airborne Museum, dedicated to the battle fought here in September of 1944.
Day 4 - Middleburg & Veere
After a morning of sailing we arrive at noon in Middelburg, capital of the Dutch province of Zeeland and a treasure trove of lovingly restored medieval masterpieces, including the town hall and the 12th-century abbey. Set off on your independent or guided walking tour of the town or join another excursion to the Deltaworks Project at Neeltje Jans, an incredible collection of dams, sluices, locks, dikes, and storm surge barriers that has been declared one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Following the Deltaworks, the tour will also stop in charming medieval town of Veere before rejoining the ship.
Day 5 - Ghent & Bruges, Belgium
We’ll arrive in Ghent early this morning. Another important center of trade in the Middle Ages, Ghent is a hidden gem of canal-side cathedrals and museums filled with works by Dutch and Flemish masters. Our guided city tour takes in just a few of the highlights, including Saint Bavo’s Cathedral, a medieval masterpiece that is home to van Eyck’s peerless Adoration of the Mystic Lamb altarpiece. For lunch, we stay in Bruges, and enjoy a meal together in town at a local Belgian restaurant.
In the afternoon, more unforgettable art, architecture, and romance beckons, on our excursion to Bruges. Built around a double ring of picturesque canals and connected by charming arched footbridges, Bruges’ artfully crafted stone guildhalls and opulent churches stand elegant witness to the city’s former wealth and importance as a major lace-making center. We’ll explore this lovely city on a guided tour that includes the best possible way to see it all, on a canal boat tour.
Day 6 - Antwerp & Brussels
Since the height of the Renaissance, Antwerp has been a city defined by beauty. Rubens lived and worked here (some of his masterpieces can be seen in the massive Gothic cathedral), the city’s main square, the Grote Markt, is surely one of the most picturesque public spaces in the world, and the diamond trade is still at the heart of Antwerp’s ongoing prosperity. We’ll set off on a guided tour to learn more about Antwerp’s treasures — in the afternoon, enjoy a city tour of Brussels.
Tonight, back on board ship, enjoy a special Captain’s Gala Dinner followed by dancing. But don’t stay up too late, because tomorrow holds a busy day, full of windmills and a visit to the world’s largest flower show at Keukenhof.
Day 7 - Kinderdijk, Utrecht, Keukenhof & Amsterdam, the Netherlands
This morning, set off on a walking tour of the world’s largest collection of working windmills, in Kinderdijk. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 19 working windmills — of several different varieties — date from the 18th century, when they were built as part of a larger water management system to prevent floods.
From Kinderdijk we cruise to Utrecht, where we’ll disembark for our excursion to yet another Dutch icon: Keukenhof, the most famous flower show on Earth, where literally millions of blooms are on display amongst walkways, parks, and gardens filled with sculptures. Although of humble origins — the “keukenhof,” or “kitchen garden,” was created in the early 15th century by Countess Jacoba of Bavaria as her herb garden — today more than 7 million flower bulbs, such as tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths, are planted each year, drawing nearly a million visitors in the 8 weeks it is open each spring.
Following our visit to Keukenhof, we’ll rejoin the ship in Amsterdam for a final night on board.
Day 8 - Disembark in Amsterdam
After breakfast this morning, transfer to the airport for your return flight home.