Day 1 Arrive in Brussels, Belgium (Embarkation).
Welcome to Belgium, seat of the European Union. This afternoon, board your river cruise vessel and meet your crew at an evening welcome reception. (D) NOTE: Flights into Brussels must arrive by 3 pm. Guests must be on board ship by 5 pm.
Day 2 Antwerp
. 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. (B,L,D)
Day 3 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 4 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 5 Willemstad–Kinderdijk.
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). This afternoon, visit Kinderdijk, whose 19 windmills were built in 1740 as part of the water management system to help prevent floods. Visit a WINDMILL and learn how they played a vital role in the development of the country, becoming a symbol of Holland. (B,L,D)
Day 6 Excursion to Keukenhof Gardens or Delft.
Enjoy a leisurely morning on board before an included 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. After mid May when the Keukenhof Gardens are no longer open, a guided excursion takes you to the city of Delft. Most famous for its distinctive Delft Blue pottery, the city with its historic town center and canals was also home to the painter Johannes Vermeer. Join your local expert for a GUIDED WALK to see the City Hall, the Old Church, and hear the story of the “Delft Explosion.” (B,L,D)
Day 7 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. There is no better way to see Amsterdam than by CANAL BOAT, cruising through the elegant grachten lined with stately homes dating back to the city’s “Golden Age.” There’s free time this afternoon—your Cruise Director will have suggestions for things to do. (B,L,D
Day 8 Amsterdam (Disembarkation).
Your vacation ends after breakfast this morning. (B)