Up-Close: Tulip Time Cruises

River cruising is the fastest-growing segment of the cruise industry. In the last three years alone, well over 60 brand-new vessels have begun plying the waters of Europe, transporting more eager passengers than ever before to some of the greatest sights and cities on the continent.

Which begs the question: are you river cruising in the near future?

Tulip Time cruises are some of the most popular river cruises out there - and they're only typically offered in March and April. Photo © Aaron Saunders

Tulip Time cruises are some of the most popular river cruises out there – and they’re only typically offered in March and April. Photo © Aaron Saunders

If you’re not – and heck, even if you are – AmaWaterways’ popular Tulip Time voyages are an excellent place to start. Featured on the run are some of the line’s newest and most popular ships. What’s more, as the name implies, Tulip Time is time-sensitive: these voyages are typically only featured during March and April.

AmaWaterways’ Tulip Time voyages begin and end in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

A staple of the river cruise industry, these Tulip Time voyages sell out every year – usually well in advance. For the first-time river cruiser, they present a wide array of Dutch and Belgian ports, each with their own unique defining characteristics.

In the embarkation port of Amsterdam, no visit is complete without a tour of this historic city. Amsterdam is known as much for its tolerant attitudes as it is for its history, museums, and vibrant Tulips.

No visit here is complete without a stroll through the Red Light District, which isn’t the seedy den of debauchery most North Americans would assume. Instead, it is arguably the epicentre of nightlife for people of all ages.

The Netherland’s vibrant Tulips are the main draw on these exciting springtime river cruises. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Likewise, you can’t visit Amsterdam without a stroll along its storied Canals. Lunch in a café here is a must, as are visits to the breathtaking Rijksmuseum and the sombre house that was the wartime home of Holocaust victim Anne Frank.

But experienced river cruisers will also find plenty to enjoy about the itineraries AmaWaterways has crafted, which include bicycling tours in Edam and Willemstad (Netherlands, not Curacao!). To truly set out afar, take one of the optional tours in Ghent to nearby Brugges, Belgium.

The Main Lounge aboard the AmaLyra offers numerous couches, chairs and tables – perfect for drinks or socializing. Photo © Aaron Saunders

AmaWaterway’s ships all offer French balconies, and some even offer full step-out verandas. Photo © Aaron Saunders

This is particularly important in the Netherlands, because the scenery on these Tulip Time voyages is truly remarkable. Windmills – both modern and old – pass lazily by, surrounded by vibrant green grass and trees and dotted with the most colourful flowers you’ve ever seen.

River cruises also represent a spectacular value-for-money. Aboard the ships of AmaWaterways, wine and beer are complimentary with both lunch and dinner, as are soda and bottled water. Wi-Fi internet access is free. Nearly all onshore excursions are free. Bicycle rentals are free.

AmaWaterways isn’t the only line to get in on the action: nearly every major river cruise line, including Avalon Waterways, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, and Viking River Cruises, offer a wide array of Tulip Time departures.

But it pays to get in early on these Tulip Time voyages. At one week in length, they’re the perfect duration for those looking to dip their toes in the waterways of Europe, and a great itinerary option for travellers who have already been and discovered for themselves the intoxicating magic of European river cruising!

Flowers in bloom at the famous Keukenhof Gardens, just outside Amsterdam. Photo © Aaron Saunders

Flowers in bloom at the famous Keukenhof Gardens, just outside Amsterdam. Photo © Aaron Saunders

More information on themed river cruises of all kinds can be found by visiting our dedicated river cruise site, River Cruise Experts. 

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Aaron

Aaron is Cruise Experts Travel’s Social Media Coordinator. A passionate world traveler and cruiser, he writes weekly for the Vancouver Province about cruises, maintains several websites, and has authored two books on ships and the sea.

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