Tour begins: 4:00 PM, Amsterdam. Upon arrival, a transfer is included from Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport or Centraal Train Station to Tauck's ms Esprit or ms Grace. After settling into your cabin, attend a discovery briefing, then enjoy a welcome reception followed by dinner this evening aboard the riverboat.
Amsterdam's canals, the Rijksmuseum & Keukenhof's blooms
Awaken on your riverboat today in Amsterdam - a vibrant blend of the historic and the contemporary, from its medieval core and 17th-century canals to the bustling shops, cafés and rich cosmopolitan life of a 21st-century European metropolis. After breakfast aboard ship, go ashore for an excursion to Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, the home of famous show gardens and millions of tulips, daffodils and hyacinths, in various stages of bloom and particularly beautiful at this time of the year. A rolling carpet of color, Keukenhof is one of Europe's most iconic - and fragrant - places to witness springtime in all its glory. Return to the riverboat in Amsterdam for lunch, then set off on some guided exploration of this nearly car-free city of flower-rimmed canals, gracious gabled mansions, and people on bikes - first, on a boat cruise through the network of centuries-old canals at the core of the old city, that offers a refreshing perspective of the Netherlands' capital city. As you'll discover, Amsterdam boasts more canals than Venice... and, as it happens, more museums per kilometer than any other European capital. One of the most famous is the matchless Rijksmuseum - filled with myriad works by the Dutch Masters, including Rembrandt's The Night Watch and Vermeer's The Milkmaid - which you'll visit this afternoon with a local guide. Return to the riverboat for cocktail hour followed by dinner in the Compass Rose this evening as the ship sets out for Dordrecht and your cruise begins.
Dutch Harbors & Windmills
Dock today in Dordrecht, an island city bordering five rivers in the province of South Holland. The Dutch word for harbor is haven - and in Dordrecht the harbor quarter by happy coincidence lives up to the English definition of haven. Filled with charm, many of the quarter's historic warehouses, merchants' mansions, and quays are nicely intact. Start the day with an excursion to the nearby village of Kinderdijk, where 19 original windmills create an iconic polderscape that's better than any picture postcard - nowhere else in the world can you see so many windmills together in an authentic setting like this. Discover how a windmill works both inside and out, and learn about the life of a miller and the quintessentially Dutch history of windmills. After lunch on the riverboat, a walking tour of Dordrecht reveals the city's notable architecture and monuments in its medieval inner city and the surrounding ring of 19th-century buildings. Then it's back aboard ship tonight for cocktail hour and dinner as the riverboat continues on to Ghent, Belgium.
Flemish treasures in Ghent or Bruges
Call early this morning on the historic port city of Ghent, arguably Belgium's most beautiful city, where you'll have a choice of sightseeing. Upon arrival, you can choose to take an excursion to Bruges, known to many as "the Venice of the North," for its canals and tiny medieval streets. On your walking tour in cobblestoned, fairy tale-like Bruges, you'll feel like you've walked into a painting by Jan Van Eyck, who captured life in the city during its heyday in the 15th century. The hike up the stairs of the medieval belltower is well worth the effort; you'll be rewarded with wonderful panoramic views. Alternatively, you can choose to stay in Ghent to explore a bit on your own, then take an old town walking tour; the pedestrian-friendly cobblestoned town center feels like an outdoor museum of early Flemish architecture. Think about climbing to the top of the 14th-century belfry, crowned with a dragon, for the view - Ghent laid out before you is a visual feast of castles, churches, and historic merchants' houses. Be sure to try the local speciality, Ghent noses, a traditional raspberry candy sold at stands on the street - or a warm waffle with sugar or honey. Return to the riverboat for dinner tonight.
Maastricht & Château Neercanne
One of the Netherlands' oldest cities, Maastricht is said to contain more than 1,400 historic buildings and monuments dating back to the 13th century. An Old Town walking tour with your local guide this morning includes the remains of the city's medieval fortifications and Helpoort, a steep-roofed gateway built in 1229. On beautiful cobblestoned Vrijthof Square, visit the Museum aan het Vrijthof, set within the 16th-century Spanish Government House; focusing on the arts and crafts that have flourished in this city of artisans for 500 years, the museum's collection includes paintings, silver, pistols, and timepieces. Then get ready for what is sure to be a highlight of your river cruise, a Tauck Exclusive lunch in the Roman grottoes of the 17th-century Château Neercanne, a terraced castle with scenic views and Baroque gardens. Topped by a chef's hat, you are included in a lively and ultimately delectable culinary presentation and an extraordinary meal. After lunch depart for Margraten to visit the Netherlands American Cemetery - the only World War II cemetery for fallen US troops in Holland - before reboarding the riverboat in Maastricht and continuing your cruise.
Antwerp & the Age of Exploration
Your riverboat arrives this morning in the major port city of Antwerp for a day in the capital of the Belgian province of Flanders. Take an orientation tour of the city and a guided walk through the city's historic center. As you stroll and hear stories and insights from your local guide, take in Grote Markt, the old market square; City Hall; the Cathedral of Our Lady; and numerous restored merchants' houses, harkening back to the days of the 16th-century Age of Exploration when Antwerp - at the time a powerful center of international commerce - was the richest city in Europe. You'll also visit the Red Star Line Museum, where interactive exhibits in the former warehouses of the Red Star Line shipping company tell the story of the more than two million immigrants from all over Europe whose long journey to a new life in North America began right here. After lunch on board, you can visit a local brewery for a tour and a tasting of authentic Belgian "bier."
Morning guided sightseeing today in Brussels, Belgium's capital and a key center of European trade and culture since the 13th century, begins with a city tour that takes in the Atomium, a 338-foot-tall structure resembling atoms, built for the 1958 World's Fair and winds up at Grand-Place, one of Europe's loveliest city squares, boasting a Gothic town hall surrounded by Renaissance-era guildhalls. Return to the riverboat for lunch; this afternoon, you might choose to participate in a demonstration by a local chocolatier. Then join us this evening for a farewell reception and dinner marking the end of this fabulous spring river cruise!
Disembark & Journey Home
Your river cruise ends in Brussels. Fly home anytime. A transfer is included from the riverboat to Brussels Airport; allow 3 hours for flight check-in.