Bruges, Medieval Flanders, Amsterdam & the Dutch Bulbfields River Cruise - MS Oscar Wilde
First we explore the tiny villages of ‘old’ Holland from where ships of the 16th century Dutch East India Company set sail in search of silks and spices. Then it’s off to Arnhem scene of the famous battle in 1944 before visiting Antwerp, the city of Diamonds and Rubens with its main square lined by the tall step-gabled, merchant’s houses so typical of the ‘low’ countries. Then we explore the very best of Flanders in delightfully medieval Ghent. From here we see Ypres and one of Europe’s finest ‘old world’ cities, delightful Bruges. Listen to the sound of the carillion emanating wonderfully from the instantly recognisable Bell Tower, sip a coffee in the old market square and reflect on how wonderful life can be. Finally we discover one of nature’s most spectacular of floral displays, the kaleidoscope of colour that is the Dutch Bulbfields.
- Tour of Amsterdam, one of the world's most unique cities
- Walking tour of Bruges, one of Europe's most perfectly preserved medieval towns
- Visit to Arnhem, famous for the 1944 battle vividly depicted in the film 'A Bridge Too Far'
- Tour of Antwerp, the city of Rubens and the 'Flemish Masters'
- Walking tour of Ghent, the 14th century’s largest city in Western Europe
- Visit to Ypres and the First World War Battlefields
- Visit to the stunning Keukenhof Gardens - the heart of the Dutch Bulbfields
- Cruise along the Zuiderzee
- Price includes full-board from dinner on your arrival day until breakfast on your final day
- Services of a cruise director and tour manager
- Return flights
- Prices are per person, based on two people sharing a twin cabin with a limited number of single cabins available on all decks, at the relevant supplement. The price includes full board from dinner on your day of arrival until breakfast on your final day; if you choose to travel with us on any of the full day excursions by coach, a packed lunch will be provided. Anyone choosing to stay on the ship may of course have lunch in the restaurant; morning/afternoon tea and coffee; all visits and excursions as mentioned in the brochure, airport transfers, coach travel as mentioned, travel to and from port of embarkation and the services of a Riviera Travel Tour Manager.
- Please note that Wi-Fi speeds on board may vary.
You can fly to Amsterdam from a variety of airports. Here you will be taken to the ship in Amsterdam where the dedicated crew welcome you on board, ensuring you settle into your comfortable and extremely well-equipped cabin and familiarise yourself with the ship, your first-class floating hotel.
Breakfast is an institution on our river cruisers and you are always assured of a magnificent selection, the perfect start to the day. We are moored in the heart of fascinating Amsterdam, so we take a delightful sightseeing cruise around its picturesque canals – in classic glass-topped boats. The tour brings a real insight into Amsterdam’s history, art and people, throughout history at the heart of European culture and commerce and often a fierce rival to British ambitions! You’ll see a fascinating variety of gabled buildings along the charming waterfronts, slide beneath bridges immortalised by the great artists and hear about Old Masters like Rembrandt and heroes such as Anne Frank, whose diaries tell an extraordinarily moving story. A splendid buffet lunch awaits your return as we slip away from the quayside towards the Ijsselmeer the lake created when the Zuiderzee was dammed, then on to Volendam, a delightful fishing village preserved almost as it was centuries ago! Retaining much of its charm, it is not difficult to imagine hard-working fishermen returning with their catch with their womenfolk repairing nets in front of the quaint wooden cottages lining the waterfront. Many villagers still wear traditional dress, including white pinafores and curved bonnets as they wander through the maze of alleys behind Volendam’s protective dyke. Next we cruise to historic Hoorn, once a prosperous port of the Dutch East India Company. Reminiscent of another age, it is a delightful mix of imposing 15tho t 19th century, brick-built mercantile warehouses, cobbled squares and twisting alleys. Hoorn’s ships traded the world over, with one intrepid sailor even naming the southernmost tip of South America after his home town – Cape Horn! There’s time to explore this intriguing spot before another splendid dinner.
One of the delights of river cruising is the enchanting experience of awaking in a new world, the water gently lapping as the ship glides almost imperceptibly along. We are now deep in the heart of Holland passing flower bedecked houseboats, flocks wildfowl and of course windmills! We soon arrive in Arnhem, once a member of the Hanseatic League, but since 1944 synonymous with the ill-fated battle so vividly depicted in the film ‘A Bridge Too Far’. We visit the former British HQ at Oosterbeek, now an excellent museum and the poignant Commonwealth War Cemetery, the final resting place of so many. Back on board, we cruise along the mighty River Rhine, one of Europe’s foremost waterways before enjoying another sumptuous dinner on board, as the riverside lights twinkle on.
This morning there’s a chance to marvel at the Captain’s skill as he calmly navigates the busy River Scheldt and moors in Antwerp, birthplace of the Baroque master Peter Paul Rubens. This morning we enjoy a tour led by a local guide taking in its numerous highlights and lesser-known features. Once part of the Spanish Empire, Antwerp grew wealthy during its 16th-century Golden Age, when it was Europe’s largest port north of the Alps, with profits invested in the city’s Flemish art and architectural heritage, and later it became the world’s diamond trading centre. At its heart is the captivating main square – the Grote Markt – dominated by ornately gabled guildhouses, the Renaissance town hall and opulent Brabo Fountain. This afternoon is free to explore as you wish, perhaps visiting Rubens’ extravagant former home and studio, the magnificent Gothic cathedral or even the painstakingly restored train station, of such architectural splendour it is often called the ‘Railway Cathedral’.
Today we awake in medieval Ghent, once Western Europe’s largest city and our picturesque base for the next two days. Ghent is a perfectly preserved medieval gem boasting: a gorgeously unspoilt waterfront; the imposing Gravenstein fortress towering above the river; a 13th century skyline punctured by the soaring belfry and Van Eyck’s masterpiece ‘Adoration of the Mystic Lamb’ which decorates the cathedral. This morning we have a sightseeing tour and after lunch we visit Ypres, a name synonymous with the horrors of the Great War and the centre of British activity in Belgium. Almost totally destroyed Ypres is now a place of pilgrimage, peace and reflection. We learn about some of the places made famous during the fighting. You may wish to visit the excellent, ‘In Flanders Fields’ Museum’ in the heart of the beautifully restored town centre and a must for those interested in the decisions of the Generals and the extraordinary lives of the ordinary soldiers and civilians. We also visit Tyne Cot Cemetery and the infamous battlefield of Passchendaele. Ypres is the home of the Menin Gate, the incredibly moving memorial to the missing where the last post is played every evening. However, this excursion is not compulsory so should you choose to have free time in Ghent, perhaps ride in a horse drawn carriage, or visit one of the many other attractions, this afternoon is the ideal opportunity to do so.
After breakfast we take the short drive to Bruges, one of Europe’s most perfectly preserved medieval cities and have a guided walk of this beautiful town which really does carry its remarkable medieval legacy with charm and to perfection. The whole atmosphere of Bruges is pure romance with its streets crammed with fascination. It is so exquisitely compact, centred on the main square, dominated by the soaring Belfry and when the unique old Flemish chimes are heard, the atmosphere is idyllic. You can climb this tower and if you can face the 366 steps, the view is breathtaking. You will also see the City Hall, the old Law Courts and the Basilaic of the Holy Blood in which is housed some of Jesus’ blood. Another must is the Notre Dame Church which houses Michelangelo’s beautiful Madonna and Child, carved in white carrara marble, plus of course the legendary chocolate shops! You will be reluctant to leave this utterly enchanting place although the promise of more first-class dining in the ship’s superb restaurant will not disappoint. This evening we leave Ghent returning to Holland
Early risers discover the ship making effortless progress along the delightful waterways and you experience the somewhat surreal effect of cruising above the height of the surrounding reclaimed ‘polder’- it’s almost like flying! Today we take you to the stunning Keukenhof Gardens, the heart of the glorious bulbfields. On arrival, nothing quite prepares you for the dazzling spectrum of colours stretched out before you, the countryside ablaze in a riot of colour unsurpassed anywhere else in the world. The art of the flower garden reaches breathtaking heights here, as you marvel at the tens of thousands of blooms set amongst a delightful landscape of shimmering lakes, ancient trees, flowering shrubs and beautiful water gardens. We rejoin our ship in Amsterdam and after lunch you are free to explore as you wish. Perhaps you may wish to admire the fine art of the Rijksmuseum, with its many works by the Great Masters, or the Van Gogh Museum housing the world’s greatest collection by this genius of a man. Alternatively perhaps, relax in a pavement café absorbing Amsterdam’s special atmosphere over a rich Dutch coffee, go shopping or just stay on board catching up on some reading; the choice is yours. This evening is the Captain’s Dinner, where the chef prepares his superb ‘signature’ dishes served in delightful surroundings, with chance to reflect on the fascinating places you have discovered, poignant stories you have heard and interesting, like-minded people you have met.
After breakfast this morning your friendly crew bid you farewell before you return home.
Life on board
After years of painstaking research to create the most perfect vessels afloat, a new era in river cruising dawns as we introduce our brand new, state of the art, ‘all suite’ ships. Swiss operated and truly world-class, we are absolutely delighted to present the five-star MS Oscar Wilde. It is extremely difficult to convey just how extraordinary this outstanding ship really is and exactly what distinguishes it from similar vessels. It would be very easy to just say ‘luxurious’ but it’s much more than that; we have deliberately avoided the current trend for a minimalist style where you could be anywhere in the world, creating instead a unique yet exquisite blend of understated taste, style and elegance at the highest level. Immediately striking is just how exceptionally spacious this new vessel is as you enter a gleaming, richly coloured marble-floored lobby flooded with natural light from a stunning atrium above. Moving inside, exceptional creativity from Europe’s finest design studio has produced a superbly balanced masterpiece of onboard style, utilising sustainable rich hardwoods, gleaming brass and polished copper, sparkling glass and intricate wrought iron. The ship is beautifully illuminated throughout – including the exterior and imaginatively furnished with harmonious colour schemes, all designed to create the serene atmosphere reflective of the golden age of cruising which time after time you tell us you adore. The restaurant rivals the finest on shore establishments taking fine dining to another level complemented by delicate European porcelain, gleaming glassware and the intuitive service in which the Swiss excel. This superb vessel carries 44 in-house trained crew members serving just 169 guests (similar size vessels may carry well over 190 passengers) giving the ratio which our experience proves is concurrent with our first class service levels. Furthermore your suite will easily exceed your expectations for not only will you enjoy the most discerning décor, so too the ship’s dimensions afford the ultimate in space and comfort - a minimum 17 square metres (183 square feet), with upgrades available to ‘Superior’ and ‘Deluxe’ accommodation.