Holland and Belgium in Spring – Southbound (8 Days)

Cruise Line: Tauck River Cruising
Ship: Varies by Departure
Amsterdam, Netherlands to Brussels, Belgium
Amsterdam, Netherlands

This most memorable of Belgium and Holland river cruises begins at 4:00 PM in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Upon arrival, a transfer is included from Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport or Centraal Train Station to Tauck's ms Swiss Jewel, ms Esprit, or ms Treasures. After settling into your cabin, attend a discovery briefing, then enjoy a welcome reception followed by dinner this evening onboard the riverboat.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Keukenhof Gardens, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands

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 a gala dinner in the Compass Rose this evening as the ship sets out for Dordrecht and your cruise begins.

Dordrecht, Netherlands
Kinderdijk, Netherlands
Dordrecht, Netherlands

Today our Holland river cruises take you to the province of South Holland, where you'll dock in Dordrecht, a historic island city bordering no less than five rivers. Reflecting the definition of the Dutch word for harbor – "haven" – the city's charming harbor district preserves many historic warehouses, merchants' mansions and quays, and its role as a major port city from the 15th to 18th centuries. This morning, disembark for an excursion to the nearby village of Kinderdijk, where 19 original 18th-century windmills – preserved today as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – create an iconic polderscape that's better than any picture postcard. There's no other place in the world besides Kinderdijk where can you see so many historic windmills together in an authentic setting. During your visit, discover how a windmill works both inside and out, learn about the life of a typical miller centuries ago, and explore the quintessentially Dutch history of windmills. After returning to the riverboat for lunch, a walking tour of Dordrecht views notable architecture and monuments in its medieval inner city, as well as 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.

Ghent, Belgium
Brugge, Belgium
Ghent, Belgium

Tauck's Belgium and Holland river cruises 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, Netherlands
Château Neercanne, Netherlands
Netherlands American Cemetery, Netherlands
Maastricht, Netherlands

This morning, disembark for a visit to Maastricht. Among 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 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 all Holland cruises – 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. Afterwards, depart for Margraten to visit the Netherlands American Cemetery, the only World War II cemetery for fallen US troops in the Netherlands, before rejoining your ship in Maastricht to continue this most memorable of Holland river cruises.

Antwerp, Belgium

After a morning's cruise, your riverboat arrives this afternoon 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. Enjoy some free time before returning to the ship for dinner and an onboard classical music performance.

Brussels, Belgium

Begin your day in Brussels with morning sightseeing in Belgium's capital city, a key center of European trade and culture since the 13th century. Discoveries include the Atomium, a 338-foot-tall structure representing atoms in an iron crystal, built for the 1958 World's Fair; the residence of the royal family; the gigantic golden-domed Palace of Justice, on a hill standing watch over the city; and the headquarters of the European Union. Walk to Grand Place, one of Europe's loveliest city squares, where you'll find an eclectic mix of architecture, including a Gothic town hall surrounded by Renaissance-era guildhalls. A UNESCO World Heritage Site today, Grand Place began life as a market place for food – hence the streets with names like Poulet (chicken) and Fromage (cheese); stopping for coffee in the square is a must. Nearby, you'll see the 17th-century bronze fountain sculpture and well-known symbol of Brussels affectionately dubbed the Manneken Pis; his wardrobe, consisting of hundreds of costumes, is changed several times a week. Return to your riverboat for lunch or stay in town and have lunch wherever you please. But save some room for this afternoon's visit to a fine Belgian chocolate factory – as well as for your farewell reception and the dinner that follows it – aboard ship this evening, as Tauck's Belgium and Holland river cruises draw to a close.

Brussels, Belgium

Your most memorable of Belgium and Holland river cruises ends in Brussels. Fly home anytime. A transfer is included from the riverboat to Brussels Airport, Centraal Station, or Brussels Midi Station. Allow 3 hours for flight check-in.

Holland and Belgium in Spring – Southbound map

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The art of personalized river cruising meets the heart of history aboard Tauck's signature river cruises. Tauck's uncommon access and exclusive cultural experiences ashore along European waterways – the Rhine, Danube, Main, Rhône and Moselle rivers – connects you with each place you visit... and ancient civilizations take on new meaning on our Egypt and China trips along the River Nile and the Yangtze River. River cruises – and river cruising – at their best...

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