Day 1: ARRIVE IN AMSTERDAM, HOLLAND (EMBARKATION).
Welcome to Amsterdam! Holland's sophisticated, modern capital has a rich and fascinating history. This delightful 700-year-old city with its elegant and classic architecture, cafes, 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. This afternoon, board your river cruise vessel and meet your crew at an evening welcome reception. Before dinner, your ship glides out of Amsterdam harbour and heads for Rotterdam. (NOTE: Flights into Amsterdam must arrive by 3:30 pm. Guests must be on board ship by 5 pm.) (D)
Day 2: ROTTERDAM. EXCURSION TO GOUDA OR KEUKENHOF GARDENS.
This morning, cruise through Rotterdam harbour and enjoy a leisurely morning on board before you have the choice this afternoon: take a guided excursion to GOUDA, famous for its gouda cheese, syrup waffles, clay pipes, and elaborate city hall. Alternatively, you may opt to visit the gardens of KEUKENHOF near Lisse, which encompass 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 colours not only from the tulips, but also from hyacinths, daffodils, and more. If you're a garden enthusiast, you may opt for an extended visit to Keukenhof, with lunch on your own in the gardens. (B,L,D)
Day 3: ANTWERP, BELGIUM.
Antwerp is Belgium's secondlargest 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 cafes, 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. An optional excursion is available to nearby Brussels, Belgium's capital and home of the European Union. (B,L,D)
Day 4: 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 centre 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 centre; 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 5: 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 15thcentury 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 9.6 kilometres (6 miles) long and considered a technical miracle. (B,L,D)
Day 6: WILLEMSTAD.
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 centre of the seven pointed, star-shaped town, stands the Kpelkerk (Rounded Church). Depart Willemstad at lunchtime and enjoy a leisurely afternoon cruising. (B,L,D)
Day 7: AMSTERDAM.
After breakfast, set out to discover the treasures of this city by CANAL BOAT, cruising through the elegant grachten lined with stately homes dating back to Amsterdam's "Golden Age." This afternoon is free for your personal exploration or you may choose from a number of optional excursions. (B,L,D)
Day 8: AMSTERDAM (DISEMBARKATION).
Your holiday ends with breakfast this morning. (B)