Belgium and the Netherlands are particularly beautiful in the Spring when daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, muscari, and primroses are in bloom. I went on this cruise primarily to visit public parks, private gardens, commercial bulb fields, and specialty gardens. All of these, particularly the Keukenhof Gardens, were wonderful but there was so much more! Everyday in the ports, I felt as if I were walking through a fairy tale. The medieval architecture was spectacular and the cobblestone streets and little nooks & crannies in the ancient towns were charming. There were fabulous musea & art galleries, and every cathedral & town square featured sculpture, paintings, and stained glass windows. There was great sadness when I visited battlefields and cemeteries in Flanders and saw memorials commemorating the terrible loss of life and property. The brutality of war is a never-ending tragedy.
In the Netherlands, I was amazed by the feats of engineering the Dutch have used to reclaim and protect land far below sea level. In Kinderdijk, a miller's granddaughter demonstrated operating a windmill and showed the small interior space, so like a ship at sea. Yet millers often had large families! In Rotterdam, there was a spectacular tour of the huge harbour and then a trip to the enormous public market with "anything and everything" for sale within its sleek, ultra-modern design. In Amsterdam, the canal trip was a special pleasure as we glided beneath medieval bridges and saw more fabulous art and architecture.
After every tour, we returned to our beautiful ship and enjoyed all the luxury and elegance one can possibly imagine. Another highlight of this Visionary cruise was the exquisite cuisine! Thanks to world-travelling parents and my own interest in food & wine, I've dined in Michelin-starred restaurants and many first class establishments yet the meals on this trip went far beyond my expectations. Breakfasts were delightful buffets with high quality ingredients, the best croissants I've ever eaten, rich coffees, flavourful teas, fresh juices, smoothies, and sparkling wine. Lunches and dinners were creative and delicious with clever, artistic presentations of fine food. The open-air barbecues on the Sky Deck were "down-home," easy-going events with plenty of good, plain fare served with flair! Added to all these meals, there were high teas, snacks, and the Club Room with tasty treats and beverages available 24 hours a day. The food was so good on this trip that I had to get up before 6am every day to attend the Adventure Host's excellent fitness classes and I also worked out in the small but well-equipped gym. In addition to these fitness opportunities, the Adventure Host provided Nordic Walking Poles, bicycles, and kayaks. Ansar, our terrific host on this cruise, also led passengers on walks and cycling trips.
I highly recommend booking a Panorama Suite. During the day, it was a pleasure to have the large expanse of windows and I enjoyed the well-designed furniture. At night, I particularly appreciated the large, bright washroom with the superb shower compartment and the big, comfy bed with luxurious linens. Cristina, my stateroom attendant, kept everything tidy and spotless, and she made the most amusing towel sculptures I have ever seen.
The suite's main room was elegant and airy with huge floor-to-ceiling windows that opened more than eight feet. There were mirrors on two walls, a wall-mounted television, couch, table, chair, desk with another chair, a gorgeous spray of white orchids on the desk, two telephones, four USB outlets, and a king-sized bed flanked by reading lamps above small cabinets. The closet was large and contained plenty of real wooden hangers, plus a safe, shelves, and extra bedding. There was a full-length mirror inside one of the closet doors.
The washroom was equally elegant with marble vanity, large mirrors on two walls, a magnifying make-up mirror, a big rectangular sink, a large shower compartment with glass door and a big telephone shower head, and a toilet. Lots of white and brown towels. The overall colour scheme was cream, gold, brown, and orange.
Canal cruise was delightful. Walking anywhere in Amsterdam was also a pleasure but...watch out for the Killer Bikes!
Wonderful combination of old town and modern city. Easy cycling everywhere but beware of the aggressive local cyclists.
So much medieval architecture, fine art, sculpture, religious art, and flowers...and CHOCOLATE! Could have stayed here for a month and still not seen/experienced everything.
The windmills of Kinderdijk were fascinating. The tour of this World Heritage UNESCO site was one of my favourites on a trip full of wonders.
Interesting, medieval architecture and historical sites plus a modern, bustling, town centre with great shopping for flowers, fine clothes, fancy cheeses, and more chocolates.