Spring in Holland is greeted by rows of tulips, bursting with color as they cover the grounds of the Keukenhof Gardens. Nearly seven million tulips complement the blossoming fruit trees, canals and the stone-crafted windmill that has been turning for centuries. It is a tempting vacation thought.
Then again, there is luxury barge cruising. The appeal here is a pampered vacation to exotic locales, cities and attractions with the added pleasure of only unpacking once. Truly that is another vacation idea that triggers that temptation button. But what if you could combine a luxury barge cruise with a visit to Holland’s most treasured destinations?
That is where spring barge cruising comes in. Beginning at the end of March and running through May, four deluxe barges ply the waterways in Holland. Named the Savoir Faire, the Elisabeth, Marjorie II and La Nouvelle Etoile, these barges offer an all-inclusive six night vacation experience that includes all meals, beverages and excursions. The cruise fare even offers use of bicycles to do a bit of exploring on your own. The only thing you need to worry about is your flight to Holland and tips for the crew, which typically averages five percent of your total cruise cost. It is best to book these spring cruises far in advance, as they book up quickly and they are only available in spring.
These fully crewed hotel barges have between three and six cabins, making this a more intimate experience than the larger cruise ships and riverboats. After wining and dining with your cruise-mates there is every good chance that you will make long and dear friendships. Meals are gourmet quality, prepared by your onboard gourmet chef, and as for the wining, well it is an open bar. While aboard you have use of a salon area, stocked with books and games for your entertainment. Both the salon and the adjacent dining area have an abundance of windows so you don’t miss any of the ever-changing countryside as you cruise by. When the sun is shining lunch is served on deck for the perfect al fresco dining.
One of the fun things to do is to take one of the deck’s bicycles and disembark the barge when it is going through one of Holland’s lock systems. Pedal the bike along the shore as the barge makes its way to another lock farther down the canal. The barge moves so slowly that you can easily keep up and re-board. Consider it a fun-loving way to get a bit of exercise and see a bit of Holland from a different perspective.
Your typical six-night spring barge cruise starts with transportation from Amsterdam to your embarkation point in Haarlem and a welcoming glass of champagne once aboard. Get to know your fellow passengers at the reception as your cruise towards Zaandam and later sit down to your first gourmet meal.
Over the next few days you will visit some of Holland’s historic cities, such as Zaanse Schans, famed for its windmills and old-fashioned charm. Other cities include Gouda, the place where that rich, creamy cheese was born and Rotterdam, the largest seaport in the world and in many ways the virtual heart of Holland. The more modest town of Delft, known for its signature blue and white pottery, and the Keukenhof Gardens in all its spring glory, are also included in most itineraries.
You’ve sipped fine wine and nibbled premium cheeses with your cruise-mates and explored a country that may be small in size but has a warm, nostalgic, oversized heart. By the time you get to the farewell gourmet dinner, you may find it bittersweet to say goodbye.
This fabulous barging information is brought to you by Barge Connection, experts in luxury barge travel since 1998.