It’s Tulip Time with The Sisterhood!
Our springtime river cruise gets underway in Holland’s colorful capital of Amsterdam. This 700-year-old city offers an abundance of classic architecture, cafés, and restaurants to explore before The Sisterhood embarks on our river cruise through Holland and Belgium.
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. We see Ypres and delightful Bruges, one of Europe’s finest ‘old world’ cities. Listen to the sound of the carillion emanating wonderfully from the instantly recognizable 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 floral displays, the kaleidoscope of color that is the Dutch Bulbfields.
Don’t let this chance at an incredible, women-only adventure pass you by! Join Sisterhood Travels for a journey that will take your breath away – with spectacular sightseeing, endless laughter, and the unforgettable experience of sisterly bonds. Join us as we create timeless memories while enjoying the magic of sisterhood!
Today, you’ll arrive in beautiful Amsterdam. You can arrive at any time today as your time is your own. Hotel: Hilton Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
After breakfast, the day is yours for independent exploration with your Sisters. You’ll easily be able to take the train into City Center. This evening, we’ll join together for a Welcome Dinner as we toast the beginning of a grand adventure. (B, D) Hotel: Hilton Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
Enjoy your breakfast at our hotel today and prepare for our group transfer this afternoon to our beautiful ship, the MS Oscar Wilde, which will be our home for the next 8 days. The dedicated crew will welcome you aboard, ensuring you settle into your extremely comfortable and well-appointed cabin. There will be time to familiarize yourself with your first-class floating hotel before experiencing the chef’s specially chosen menu for our first dinner on board. (B, D)
Breakfast is an on-board institution and you’re always assured of an enticing range of choices. We’re moored in the heart of delightful Amsterdam, and there’s no better way to explore than to take a classic glass-topped boat tour through the network of canals that infuse every aspect of life here. The tour brings a real insight into the history and everyday life of Amsterdam, a maritime, financial, and cultural powerhouse uniquely located facing both the sea and the heartlands of Europe. As we glide over the calm canal waters, you’ll see a fascinating variety of typically Dutch narrow gabled buildings, bustling streets, and historic bridges immortalized by great artists, and learn about its famous canalside residents, from the tragic Anne Frank, who wrote her diaries hidden in a merchant’s house, to Rembrandt, the Dutch Old Master.
A splendid buffet lunch awaits our return as we slip away from the quayside towards the IJsselmeer, the enormous inland lake created when the Zuiderzee was cut off from the North Sea by a series of dykes and dams. Our port of call is Hoorn, once a prosperous Dutch East India Company port. Reminiscent of another age. It’s a charming mix of imposing buildings dating from the 15th century onwards, brick-built warehouses, cobbled squares, and twisting alleys. Hoorn’s ships traded the world over, with one sailor even naming the southern tip of South America after his hometown – Cape Horn. There’s time to explore this intriguing spot and its boat-filled harbor, dominated by the distinctive 16th-century Head Tower, before returning to our cruise ship to enjoy dinner and maybe a nightcap in the lounge. (B, L, D)
One delight of river cruising is the enchanting experience of waking somewhere new, the water gently lapping as the ship glides almost imperceptibly. We’re now deep in the heart of Holland, passing flower-bedecked houseboats, flocks of wildfowl, and, of course, windmills! We soon arrive in Arnhem, synonymous with the ill-fated 1944 aerial assault depicted in A Bridge Too Far. We visit the battle HQ of the British 1st Airborne Division at Oosterbeek, now an excellent museum, and the Commonwealth War Cemetery, the final resting place of so many. Back on board, we continue our passage along the mighty River Rhine, one of Europe’s most important arterial waterways, before enjoying another sumptuous dinner on board as distant lights glint on the waterfront as we silently slip by. (B, L, D)
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, the 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. 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 center. At its heart is the captivating main square – the Grote Markt – dominated by ornately gabled guild houses, the Renaissance town hall, and the 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 splendor it is often called the ‘Railway Cathedral’. (B, L, D)
Today we awake in picturesque Ghent, once Western Europe’s second-largest city after Paris. Fortunate to escape the ravages of the 20th century and often overlooked by tourists, Ghent is a medieval gem we explore in the company of an experienced guide. Highlights include a gorgeously unspoiled waterfront, the 13th-century skyline punctured by soaring belfries, the 12th-century Gravenstein fortress towering above the river, and one of the world’s greatest art treasures – the van Eyck brothers’ Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, the altarpiece adorning Saint Bavo’s Cathedral.
After lunch on board, there’s the option to spend the afternoon in Ghent, maybe taking a horse-drawn carriage ride or finding a cozy spot in a quintessential Flemish café.
Alternatively, you can join our tour to Ypres, a name synonymous with the horrors of the Great War. Almost destroyed during a series of battles, Ypres is now a place of peace, reverence, and reflection. You may wish to visit the award-winning In Flanders Fields Museum, which tells the haunting story of the conflict, providing a thought-provoking insight into the extraordinary lives of the soldiers and civilians; it’s located in the Cloth Hall in the heart of Ypres’ beautifully restored town center. Nearby are many battlefields synonymous with the horrors of trench warfare, including Passchendaele, where around 600,000 perished. In addition, we visit Tyne Cot, the largest Commonwealth war cemetery in the world. Ypres is also the home of the Menin Gate, the deeply moving memorial to the missing, where the ‘Last Post’ is played every evening. (B, L, D)
th a local expert before a backcountry chuckwagon cookout with Western entertainment. (B, D) Hotel: State Game Lodge, Custer State Park
After breakfast, we take the short drive to Bruges and have a guided walk of this beautiful town, which does carry its remarkable medieval legacy with charm and perfection. The atmosphere here is pure romance, and its streets are crammed with fascination. Exquisitely compact, its entire historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site made up of serene canals, narrow cobbled streets, romantic gabled houses, exquisite churches and myriad shops selling artisan goods – including its legendary chocolate! Its main square is dominated by the soaring Belfry, whose 47 bells chime to create an idyllic atmosphere. It’s a 366-step climb to the top, but the breathtaking views are well worth it. You’ll also see the City Hall and the Basilica of the Holy Blood, home to a venerated relic – a phial of Jesus’s blood reputedly brought back from the Crusades. Another must is the Church of Our Lady, where you can see Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child, a work of incomparable beauty carved in white Carrara marble. You’ll be reluctant to leave this enchanting place, although the promise of more first-class dining in the ship’s restaurant will lure you back.
The ship will provide a packed lunch for today’s full day trip to Bruges. (B, L, D)
arly risers discover the ship making effortless progress along the delightful waterways and you experience the somewhat surreal effect of cruising above the surrounding reclaimed polders – it’s almost like flying! Today we visit Keukenhof, the heart of the glorious Dutch bulbfields. On arrival, nothing prepares you for the dazzling spectrum of colors stretched out before you in the world’s largest flower garden, covering nearly 80 acres. The art of flower planting reaches breathtaking heights at Keukenhof, a gardener’s heaven created by more than seven million tulips, daffodils and other blooms set among a beautiful landscape of shimmering lakes, ancient trees, flowering shrubs, and water gardens.
We re-join our ship in Amsterdam and after lunch you’re free to explore as you wish. Amsterdam is an art-lover’s dream. The Rijksmuseum is an architectural marvel itself, but it holds a magnificent collection of works by Dutch masters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer, while admirers of Post-Impressionism might prefer the Van Gogh Museum, housing the world’s greatest collection of works by this genius of a man. Or relax in a pavement café, absorbing Amsterdam’s special atmosphere over a rich Dutch coffee, browse the many shops or perhaps just stay on board to catch up on some reading. Tonight there’s another culinary highlight – the Captain’s Dinner, when the chef prepares his superb ‘signature’ dishes for you to enjoy in the splendid surroundings of the ship’s restaurant, with a chance to reflect on the fascinating places you have discovered, poignant stories you have heard and the new Sisters and friends you have made. (B, L, D)
After breakfast this morning your friendly crew bid you farewell before you disembark. We have arranged group transfers back to the airport.
It is extremely difficult to convey just how extraordinary this outstanding 5-star ship is and precisely what distinguishes it from similar vessels. It would be easy to say ‘luxurious,’ but it’s much more than that.
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.
The ship’s restaurant is located on the Ruby Deck (middle deck). Here you will experience exceptional first class cuisine and the most attentive yet discreet service from the ship’s highly professional crew. The Diamond Deck (upper deck) is where you will find the very heart of the ship – the superb panoramic observation lounge and bar;
The gleaming marble bathroom features a powerful, fully glazed shower with a large ‘rain shower’ head. Clever design allows for ample space, and contemporary lighting, complimentary cosmetics by ‘Crabtree and Evelyn’ and fluffy towels makes preparing for the day ahead an absolute pleasure.
You will enjoy a seating area with two chairs and a table, enabling you to unwind comfortably in the privacy of your own suite, while a bow camera conveys live images of the ship’s progress to your flat screen TV, ensuring you won’t miss a thing.
Careful consideration has been given to the tiniest details with individually controlled air-conditioning. Hence, you set the temperature, a hairdryer, safe, minibar, telephone and the convenience of your desired tea and coffee, making facilities ensure a familiar home from home experience. Suites on the Diamond (upper) and Ruby (middle) Decks have ‘French Balconies’ – panoramic floor to ceiling sliding glass doors bringing riverside life just that little closer!
This is a leisurely paced itinerary and is full of cultural and interesting sightseeing and some free time to relax. Some excursion days may include reasonably early starts, some longer coach travel and possibly walking over uneven terrain. Guests should have reasonable health and mobility.