This was my second trip with Tauck and my wife's third. Choosing an extra day in Brussels pre-trip and one in Amsterdam at the end gave us just the right amount of time to get ready for the trip and ready to renter the real world. Dealing with the airlines misdirection of her suitcase, the Tauck people managed to get it to the boat on sailing day. Many thanks to them for the assistance.
We thought the boat was excellent - service, food, accommodations were all just what was expected. The tour organized excursions were well done with the exception of getting lost on the way to the Kinderdijk. There also was some confusion on the location of drop off and time of pick up in Haalem. There was a good balance in time on tour and free time.
I chose the Ghent option to view the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. My wife went to Brugges. She was a bit disconcerted in the slow pace of the tour and that not enough time was spent along the canals and old town.
Maastricht was a highlight in that we visited the American War Cemetery on July 4th. Lunch at Chateau Neercanne was delightful. We found the framed memorial of he signers of the EU treaty which took place there.
We actually sailed past Venlo to dock in Cuijk - a delightful little town with an interesting art exhibition mixed in and around the cemetery behind the church. The Floriade was exceptional to see. We had the whole day there and then took a back road through rose fields on the way back to the ship. The Easter Island statue along the way had everyone stumped, but later research showed it to be in memory of Jacob Roggeveen, a Dutch explorer who discovered and named it. The asparagus statue was interesting.
In Arnhem we docked directly in front of the bridge discussed in the Cornelius Ryan book. We chose the visit to De Hoge Velue National Park and the excellent Kroller-Muller museum and its collection of Van Gogh paintings.
The cheese farm and Kinderdijk were excellent visits, with the exception of getting lost. The sand dunes of the North Seas were totally unexpected and the visit to the Delft factory very interesting.
We then sailed into Amsterdam overnight and arrived in port under a rainbow. Great view approaching the city. We chose Haarlem and the Franz Hall Museum which we enjoyed, but the confusion on bus locations cut time off our visit. The afternoon was spend wondering Amsterdam and the Anne Frank with presale tickets.
If you plan to visit the Anne Frank house, make reservations over the Internet way before you go. Tickets are hard to come by an the line never shrinks.
The early morning trip to Aalsmeer flower market was amazing. It is worth the effort to get up early. The Rijksmuseum and canal cruise are great. We chose to stay in that area to visit the Van Gogh museum which is just down the street and that area is a far from the ship as you need to go in Amsterdam. The walk back to the ship would be about 20 minutes without stopping.
The extra day at the Sofitel went well for us, but some of our companions had issues getting there from the ship - the coordination of the shuttles left something to be desired. Airport transfers to the hotel the next day went perfectly.
Overall the scope, pace and excursions of the trip was excellent and we realize this was a special itinerary for the Floriade this year. However, the normally excellent coordination between guests and staff was a bit lacking. Some guides had never been to some of the stops, times and places were not precise between the three coaches, and getting lost, while an adventure, should have not taken place.
Highlights: Finding the Willow Man inside he Floriade was a real treat. Maastricht is a hidden gem which we absolutely fell in love with. The American war cemetary on July 4th was very moving.