Days 1 & 2 Amsterdam, Netherlands (Overnight)
Everyone has an image of Amsterdam. For some, it’s small boats gliding on the canals and locals two-wheeling on bikes to and from work and, as frequently, to meet friends for drinks. For others, it’s gabled buildings leaning, seemingly precariously, over cobbled streets and cozy taverns illuminated by candles. Still others imagine tulips in bloom and the colors, both muted and vibrant, of the paintings Vermeer, Van Gogh and Rembrandt. All images are true and even more beguiling when experienced in person. Sit a spell in a convivial cafe, explore world-class museums and feel the significance of a unique history—one of a city reclaimed from the sea, rising in prestige and influence as merchants built trade and wealth, and forever known for its attics and attitudes that offered refuge from war. Narrow streets and great manses tell the story not only in images but with the aroma of appeltaart, a taste of the avant garde in newly constructed buildings and a feeling of warmth from the amiable locals.
Day 3 Amsterdam, Netherlands - Hoorn, Netherlands
The harbor-side town of Hoorn encompasses what makes the Netherlands so special: water, trade and architecture. Located near the open sea on the largest lake in Western Europe, the Ijsselmeer, this Golden Age city shines, still glinting with the prosperity brought by the great sailing ships of the Dutch East India Company, which delivered exotic spices and sprinkled the town with more than a dash of elegance. Hoorn’s power and influence reached as far as the shores of South America where, on reaching the continent’s most southerly waters in 1616, native son and explorer Willem Schouten dubbed the windswept outpost Cape Horn after his hometown. On your own expedition here in hospitable Hoorn, you will want to explore the cobbled streets to discover interesting museums, fine monuments, the graceful town square and the timeless harbor.
Venture to the quaint village of Edam (pronounced Ay-dam), known for its eponymous cheese and picture-postcard scenery. Gabled buildings, canals spanned by drawbridges and yes, storefronts displaying racks of Edam cheese are a feast for the eye. Your Crystal experience also takes you to the town of Alkmaar to see row upon row of cheese laid out in the cobbled center of Waagplein square for a weigh-and-trade spectacle that is the largest of its kind in the world.
Days 4 & 5 Rotterdam, Netherlands
If other cities in the Netherlands can be characterized as quaint and charming, Rotterdam is best described as trendy and sophisticated. Much of its edgy personality is a result of a wiping out of its history, at least the tangible history as represented by its old buildings. The Rotterdam Blitz of World War II destroyed central Rotterdam, leaving it to be rebuilt with an innovative and contemporary approach to design. Modern buildings feature eye-catching curves, cubist references and materials of concrete, glass and steel. Old slices of the city still remain in Delfshaven, or Delft Harbor, and Oude Haven, or Old Harbor. Rotterdam’s energetic mix of old and new, along with a collection of outstanding museums, hotels and restaurants, helped make Rotterdam the Academy of Urbanism’s 2015 European City of the Year and consistently earn it top rankings for best places to visit.
We’re dishing up a very special visit to the Royal Delft Experience, located in the town of Delft, known for its iconic blue-and-white Delft ceramics. Entering the only remaining factory of the 32 that were established in Delft in the 17thcentury, you will witness the production of the beloved earthenware, fashioned after Chinese porcelain and still crafted and hand painted according to centuries-old tradition. See a master painter at work, view presentations about Delftware’s history, and admire a complete collection of Royal Delft in the showroom.
Day 6 Ghent, Belgium
Buildings with stair-stepped gables, the meeting of the rivers Scheldt and Leie, intact and well-preserved medieval architecture, a brooding castle, the famed Ghent Altarpiece. Ghent has much to admire, including a grounded personality that doesn’t prove too protective of its treasures. Rather, the place is welcoming and hard working—and hard playing—a center of industry that trades goods and a lively cultural scene that exchanges ideas. Walk along Ghent’s pretty canals, wander into its stunning churches, stop to appreciate the flowers that adorn its squares and alleyways and become enchanted by a city that was once one of Europe’s richest north of the Alps and continues to enrich the experience of travelers.
See the world-renowned Ghent Altarpiece, the 12-panel painting by Jan van Eyck, at St. Baaf’s Cathedral, a work of art in its own right. Also discover Gravensteen Castle, an imposing bastion dating from the Middle Ages with a moat, turrets and a museum with suits of armor and implements of torture. It’s hardly torture but indeed an absolute pleasure to explore Bruges, a charming medieval town with cobbled lanes, photogenic canals graced by swans and a moated center so precious and lovely that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Day 7 Ghent, Belgium - Disembark
Your vacation ends today.
The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines. Sorry, we are unable to offer air from countries other than the U.S. However, for those international customers who are able to arrange their own transportation to the trip origination city, we are able to offer the land/cruise portion of the package at the price quoted.