|‘Tulip Time’ river cruises by AMA Waterways take cruisers to Keukenhof Gardens near Lisse, Netherlands, the largest floral park in the world.|
If winter’s frosty temperatures have you wishing spring would return, it’s a good time to hum the strains of “Tulip Time in Holland.” Or, you could simply book a pampering river cruise.
New for 2013, Avalon Waterways offers a seven-night, “Tulips of Northern Holland” cruise roundtrip from Amsterdam on Affinity, Luminary, Vista and Visionary. You’ll view gorgeous tulips but also venture to such off-the-beaten-path destinations as agricultural Friesland, the Zuiderzeemuseum in Enkhuizen, the small Dutch town of Hoorn with 16th- and 17th-century house facades and a windmill near Volendam.
|Avalon Affinity onboard reception area. The ship will sail a seven-night, ‘Tulips of Northern Holland’ cruise roundtrip from Amsterdam this year.|
What’s special for history and maritime buffs? At the Batavia shipyard in Lelystad, tales of the Dutch East India Company “come alive” as visitors learn firsthand about 17th-century shipbuilding techniques and view reconstructed ships of the era. Back onboard, Avalon’s new “Culture & Cruise” program allows cruisers to sample local Dutch cheeses and traditional “Genever” (also called jenever or Dutch Gin), an alcoholic beverage flavored with juniper berry.
Navigating inland waterways of the Netherlands and Belgium is Tauck Tours with “Holland & Belgium in Spring” sailings on Swiss Sapphire, Swiss Jewel and Treasures. Book a luxurious suite on the Diamond Deck for the most spacious, upscale accommodations; suite perks rival those of ocean cruise lines with floor-to-ceiling windows, a marble bath, flat-screen TV and walk-in closet.
|Uniworld’s River Ambassador lounge. The ship’s interior décor reflects understated elegance and high-quality art.|
During a port call at Maastricht in the Netherlands, Tauck also offers a special culinary experience at Château Neercanne, famed for its terraced Baroque gardens. Don a chef’s hat and visit the kitchen before enjoying a progressive meal with wine and cheese pairings selected by Hans Snijders, the château restaurant’s Michelin-star chef. Snijders is renowned for his signature dish of braised veal cheek with truffle sauce. The gourmet lunch is served within the castle’s grottoes.
Sailing “Tulip Time” cruises in the Netherlands and Belgium are AmaWaterways’ AmaPrima, launching this spring, and AmaCerto, which debuted last year, as well as AmaDante, AmaLyra and AmaVerde. The line’s newest European ships have an aft-facing specialty restaurant as well as a heated top-deck pool. Particularly during unpredictable spring weather, it’s a great idea to choose a stateroom or suite with the line’s twin-balcony configuration; one balcony is inside with French doors, the other is a full outside balcony. Regardless of weather, you’ll enjoy the scenic views from the comfort of your stateroom.
|Uniworld‘s River Ambassador suite features hand-crafted Savoir of England beds draped in high-thread count 100 percent Egyptian cotton sheets.|
Tulip voyages take cruisers to Keukenhof Gardens, the world’s largest floral park with millions of colorful tulip, hyacinth, crocus and daffodil blooms; new this year is a themed “United Kingdom—Land of Great Gardens” area. Expect a large floral mosaic depicting Big Ben and Tower Bridge.
In Arnhem, the Netherlands, AmaWaterways guests might opt for a World War II history tour with a visit to the Airborne Museum, or alternatively, a bicycle city tour or cultural outing to Het Loo Palace, a Baroque building designed by Dutch masters Jacob Roman and Johan van Swieten.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection sails a nine-night “Tulips and Windmills” itinerary between Amsterdam and Antwerp on River Duchess, River Empress and River Queen, as well as a weeklong “Springtime Tulips and the Rhine” itinerary on River Ambassador between Amsterdam and Frankfurt, Germany.
River Ambassador’s interior décor reflects understated elegance and high-quality art. Suites are each uniquely decorated, a signature touch of Uniworld, a sister brand to Red Carnation Hotels. What should a pampered guest expect? Among the accommodations perks are hand-crafted Savoir of England beds draped in high-thread count 100 percent Egyptian cotton sheets with European duvets, and a menu of pillow options. Staterooms and suites on the Rhine Deck also have French balconies.
Uniworld’s cruisers visit such Dutch attractions as Keukenhof Gardens and Zaanse Schans, an outdoor museum. Simply put, it’s “Holland in a Nutshell.” The Dutch bring their children to Zaanse Schans to show them how their ancestors lived. It’s fun to chat with the locals, try on traditional wooden Dutch shoes, climb the windmill stairs to see the machinery, or watch cheese being pressed.
|Tauck‘s diamond-deck-suite comes with floor-to-ceiling windows, a marble bath, flat-screen TV and walk-in closet.|
When the River Ambassador arrives in Cologne, Germany, guests head out on an included shore trip to tour both the Cologne Cathedral and the Roman-Germanic Museum, which was built around a Roman villa discovered in 1941. Hint? Don’t miss the museum’s impressive mosaic of Dionysus and its fine collection of Roman jewelry.
Viking River Cruises sails nine-night “Tulips and Windmills” itineraries roundtrip from Amsterdam with six of its pampering Longships; Viking Bragi and Viking Skadi will launch this spring, while Viking Freya, Viking Idun, Viking Njord and Viking Odin debuted last year. The Viking Sky also sails this itinerary, which has port calls in both the Netherlands and Belgium.
Luxury cruisers will likely love the Viking Longships’ spacious Explorer Suites, each with a separate living room, bedroom and something not typical for a river line—a private wraparound veranda with panoramic views. Drop into a Longship’s lounge in the early morning for a frothy cappuccino and head to the outdoor Aquavit Terrace. Savor Dutch and Belgian landscapes in the spring mist as the ship cruises along. All Viking Longships have environmentally friendly hybrid engines that provide a quiet ride, as well as solar panels and an organic herb garden.
Guests learn about Holland’s age-old battle against the sea with tours of windmills and the Delta Works project. In Antwerp, Belgium, they might shop for designer fashions, hand-crafted chocolates and handmade linens and lace creations at the Grand Bazaar or sip a cup of coffee or glass of champagne at the renovated neo-classical dance hall, “Stadsfeestzaaal.” Scenic Cruises also offers an eight-day "Tulip Time" itinerary for Spring 2013.
Fortunately, for those weary of winter weather, the warmth of spring is just months away. Why not wake up and smell the tulips on a pampering European river cruise?