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Holland and Belgium: Exploring the Low Countries

Western Europe Cruise

Summary : Holland and Belgium are famous for their contributions great and small to Western history. Discover it all for yourself in Amsterdam, the city of Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Van Gogh. Enjoy a guided visit to the newly reopened Rijksmusuem following its 10-year renovation, taste the region’s famed Belgian beers, Dutch chocolates, and more. Stroll the medieval streets of Brugge and Gent with a historian. And explore the pastoral Frisian Islands where the Frisian dialect is still spoken. Experience Holland and Belgium in expedition style as you venture into medieval towns to admire the legendary art and architecture, enjoy a warm welcome at the harbor city of Harlingen as the first ever passenger ship to dock and navigate it's network of canals by Zodiac, and explore the little traveled Frisian Islands—a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography


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Day 1 – 2
U.S. / Hamburg, Germany / Bremerhaven / Embark

Depart on an overnight flight to Hamburg. Transfer to Bremerhaven, where two centuries of impressive harbor city history can be seen all around the Old and New Harbor area. Embark National Geographic Explorer.

Day 3
Harlingen, The Netherlands

This morning, transit through the scenic and wildlife-rich Waddenzee, en route to Harlingen. You'll be welcomed with open arms as the first ever passenger ship to call at this lovely little seaside town. With beautiful buildings, restaurants and shops lining the scenic canals, Harlingen feels like Nyhavn, in Copenhagen. It’s a very festive setting. And you have been given special permission to use your Zodiacs through the canals, exploring at will throughout the heart of town. This ‘off-the-beaten-path’ gem will lure many to stay ashore for dinner as you stay berthed well into the evening.

Day 4
Exploring the Frisian Islands

Zodiacs take you to explore the West Frisian Islands, a chain of islands in the North Sea off the Dutch coast, along the edge of the Wadden Sea. The Frisian languages are still used by 500,000 speakers; dialects of Frisian are recognized as official languages in both the Netherlands and Germany. Your destination is Texel, the largest of the Frisian Islands, with plenty of options: explore the vast beach and dune environments, explore via bike or walk about town. You’ll also call at nearby Den Helder to see the tulip fields.

Day 5
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The best way to experience Amsterdam is to stroll along the network of picturesque canals. Cafes, shops, and narrow, gabled brick houses from the 17th and 18th centuries line the waterways. And now more than ever, Amsterdam stands out as a center of culture. The Rijksmuseum, of a standard equal to the Louvre in Paris and the Prado in Madrid, exhibits the works of such Dutch masters as Vermeer and Rembrandt. The beautiful building, opened in 1885, has reopened after a mammoth, ten-year and $489 million renovation. An expert museum guide takes you through the Rijksmuseum, most noted for housing Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. Van Gogh enthusiasts may wish to visit the recently reopened Van Gogh museum, highlighting his life’s work.

Day 6
Antwerp, Belgium

With one of the largest ports in the world, Antwerp has been a prosperous trading center for centuries and is the core of the global diamond trade. Its accrued wealth can be seen in the beautiful 16th century guild houses and impressive buildings. Take a slow stroll with your historians, appreciating the architecture of the Grand Palace and guild houses. Of course, no visit to Antwerp would be complete without admiring the works of Rubens and Van Dyck.

Day 7
Gent, Belgium

Don't forget your walking shoes! Gent is a showcase of medieval Flemish wealth, with wonderful architecture. Cathedral, church, and belfry towers pierce the sky and fill the air with the music of their bells. Beside an ancient harbor, ornate guild houses line the banks. Street markets flourish as in previous centuries.

Day 8
Oostende / Brugge

From Oostende, drive to the medieval town of Brugge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will immediately notice that this city has always carefully cherished its architectural and artistic treasures from the past. Brugge is known for its brick Gothic architecture, and as the birthplace of the school of the Flemish Primitives. After a walking excursion, board small boats to view the architecture from canal level.

Day 9
London / Disembark / U.S.

Disembark in London and transfer to Heathrow Airport for flights home.


This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips.com is not responsible for itinerary changes.

Photo Expeditions:
All departures
The photo team, a National Geographic Photographer and a Photo Specialist, will enhance your voyage by working with you on photo composition and exposure; helping you develop your own unique vision; showing you how professionals edit and store images while on the go; and sharing the stories behind some of their greatest images. Whether expert or interested beginner, you'll find added benefits such as walks ashore and Zodiac cruises dedicated to photography, presentations on the creative and technical aspects of photography, and one-on-one mentoring and coaching in the field.

All accommodations aboard ship; all meals and non-alcoholic beverages aboard ship; meals on land as indicated; shore excursions; sightseeing and entrance fees; special access permits; transfers to and from group flights; use of kayaks; gratuities, except to ship’s crew; taxes and service charges; services of a ship physician on most voyages; services of your expedition staff.

Not Included:
Airfare; extensions; security fees; immigration fees; meals not indicated; travel insurance; visa and passport expenses; gratuities to ship's crew; items of a personal nature such as alcoholic beverages, email, laundry; fuel surcharge may apply.

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