Last spring we treated ourselves to a Tulip-Time River Cruise with AMA Waterways in the Netherlands. While I had taken a Christmas Market river cruise a few years ago with a friend, this was my husband’s first river cruise. It won’t be his last; we both had a wonderful time.
We chose a late spring cruise so that we would be sure to see a good selection of blooms when we went to the Keukenhof Garden. But, Europe experienced a late, cold winter this year and although we traveled in late April there were not a lot of tulips in the garden. We enjoyed it none-the-less because of the many other blooming plants and the great displays of a wide variety of tulips in the well stocked indoor pavilions. The weather was in the 50s and 60s and we had only one rainy day on our 7-night cruise. You will notice that a late season cruise is a bit more expensive. So, you can cruise in March at a discount, but you may see fewer tulips and have to contend with some cold, rainy weather.
The Tulip-Time river-cruises begin and end in Amsterdam. The Amsterdam cruise ship docks are close to the Centraal Rail Station – in the city center – so they are easy to get to if you arrive in Amsterdam by rail. We stayed the night before in Amsterdam which afforded us the opportunity to visit the newly-reopened Rijksmuseum. On cruise day, we dropped our luggage off on the ship and took a canal cruise, since the day was showery and we could sit inside the boat and stay dry. And, with a ‘City Pass’, it was included.
That afternoon at 3:00pm, we we able to check into our room and relax. We had a room with a French balcony and loved the views it afforded as well as the opportunity to get some fresh air. Every room, except for suites on the AmaDante, are a comfortable 170 square feet. When booking your cruise, check out the size of your cabin; it varies by cruise line. Some have cabins as small as 130 square feet.
This night we were treated to our first meal on board, a Welcome Dinner. Meals are open seating and you can sit at a table for two, four or eight. It is always nice to meet some people right off, so I recommend sitting with others rather than by yourself. These ships are small, so by the time you leave, you will have met a lot of people from all over the United States, and a few from around the world. Everyone, it seems, speaks English. There were lots of menu choices, including many gluten-free options if desired. The wines served with every meal were very good and you never had to ask for more; the friendly waiters were always on their toes.
On the first full day on-board, after a hearty breakfast, many passengers took a canal cruise in Amsterdam. We had already done that, so we took a guided walking tour of Jordaan instead. Jordaan is a lovely Amsterdam neighborhood whose narrow streets and canals are lined with interesting shops and restaurants. We stopped for a coffee and piece of Amsterdam’s famous apple pie, a deep-dish delicacy.
After lunch, we went on to Volendam for a guided city tour while others chose to go to Edam for a cheese tasting excursion. Volendam is a picturesque harbor town with fishing boats and traditional values. It was a warm, sunny day so the dockside restaurants were filled to capacity.
We had an opportunity to choose our daily tours so we visited places such as Ghent and Willemstad and the Het Loo palace in Apledoorn. We could have chosen Brussels and Bruges, but since we had previously toured these towns, we chose places that were new to us. All the tours were led by local tour guides, who provided in-depth information and made each city come alive for us.
The last day of our tour, we visited the Keukenhof Gardens. And although it was not in full bloom, we loved it. There is a lot to see along with many places to eat and drink. The pavilions are all beautifully decorated with flowers following a theme.
Following breakfast on our last morning, we said good bye to our new-found friends and left for our next adventure. It was a memorable cruise and I am now looking ahead to our next river cruise … perhaps France or the Douro River in Portugal.
If you think you might be interested in a Tulip-Time Cruise or any River Cruise, now is the time to book. Most of the river cruise companies offer specials. For more information, contact your travel agent, or me at Euro Escapes, Inc . You can also call Euro Escapes, Inc. at 971-544-0381.
Written by Terri Fogarty and photos by Bill Fogarty for EuropeUpClose.com