If you have a green thumb or are simply a garden lover, tulip time in the Netherlands is likely to be atop your travel bucket list. There’s no better way to experience this colorful, glorious time of year than aboard a river cruise.
What’s the Deal with Tulip Time?
Everyone loves a jewel-toned tulip, it seems. The fascination dates back to the 1600s when Carolus Clusius, a Flemish botanist, introduced the tulip to the Dutch. The flower is indigenous to the countries of the former Ottoman Empire and until Clusius’ time, had not been seen in Western Europe. Upon its - ahem - blooming, the bulb was quickly considered en vogue, selling for an extravagant sum of money.
This so-called Tulip Mania took place during the Golden Age of the Dutch, around 1637. Recognizing that citizens were craving a symbol of brightness and good cheer as the Thirty Years War raged on, Amsterdam merchants were able to charge enough to make profits of up to 400 percent. The status symbol flower showed off one’s good fortune through grand garden displays. Some of the names that remain today for different varieties - General such and such, or Admiral so and so - date back to these exalted individuals who gave their fancy prefixes over to the tulip.
All Good Things …
You know the rest. The bubble burst on Tulip Mania as bankruptcy and misfortune swept through the county. The bulbs became nearly worthless, after experiencing their heyday. In fact, the term “Tulip Mania” is bandied about today as describing an economic bubble that may not last.
And Yet …
We still love a tulip. The Netherlands have long continued to celebrate the flower as part of its culture and they still lead the worldwide tulip industry. More than 4 billion bulbs are produced there each year - some of which you’ll see blooming at Amsterdam’s Tulip Museum, Keukenhof Gardens or even private homes and gardens on exclusive river-cruise shore excursions.
Should I Visit Keukenhof?
Yes. If you love tulips, that’s a definite yes. For a few short weeks from mid-March to mid-May, you can see more than 7 million planted bulbs on 80 acres of land. You won’t be alone - more than a million visitors descend on Keukenhof during this time. You can walk and bike myriad pathways, or take a boat ride through the winding waterways. There is artwork and sculpture on display, and typically mosaics crafted from flowers, representing a certain theme, such as Van Gogh and the Golden Age.
How Do I Go?
My favorite way to experience tulip time in the Netherlands is with AmaWaterways River Cruise Line. Their springtime voyages sail roundtrip from Amsterdam, taking in Keukenhof Gardens (“The Garden of Europe”) and Floralia, an annual spring flower show. Thoughtful shore events include a tour of a family-run tulip farm, a bike ride by the Kinderdijk windmills and a trip back in time to the harbor town of Hoorn, with its 16th-century Hoofdtoren tower. Your cruise showcases, too, the area’s colorful canals and the medieval architectural treasures of Bruges, Middelburg and Ghent. You’ll tiptoe through the tulips and indulge in Belgian chocolate, warm waffles and creamy cheeses - a delightful Dutch vacation, indeed.
Ready to go? Let’s chat.
Imagine for a moment what it might be like to wander through an artistic muse - that space in the world that so inspired someone’s creativity. When you visit Monet’s Gardens in Giverny, your eyes will open to the vibrant world he witnessed, internalized and then shared with the world through his revolutionary and visionary masterpieces.
The Father of Impressionism first came upon pastoral Giverny in 1883 when the population was a scant 301 people. Having been born and raised in bustling Paris, Giverny offered Monet the quiet interlude he sought. He moved his family there and set about painting, meticulously designing his home and gardens and, likely without realizing it, securing his place among the world’s master Impressionists, joining such greats as Edouard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Edgar Degas.
Giverny is on most river cruise itineraries on the Seine in France, offering art lovers the opportunity to wander amidst the iconic water lilies, weeping willows, purple wisteria and green bamboo captured by Monet. You’ll have the opportunity to tour Monet’s pink stucco house, where he lived with his family, including eight children. Wander through the drawing room, pantry, bedroom, study, dining room, kitchen and the artist’s studio. Notice how each room of the home has a distinct color scheme, thoughtfully chosen by Monet.
Outside, stroll around Clos Normand and its extensive floral displays, flower-bedecked metal arches, Japanese cherry trees and beds of tulips, roses and nasturtiums. See Monet’s Water Lilies series come to life in front of you when you visit the water garden and the Japanese bridge.
No visit is complete without a stop at the Giverny Museum of Impressionism to learn more about Monet and the Impressionism movement. A permanent exhibition, “Monet Around,” unveils the influence of Monet’s art, as well as that of his contemporaries and the ensuing generations. Believe it or not, “impressionism” was originally considered an insult by art critics, belittled for its short, quick brushstrokes that were intended to illustrate movement and light. Monet did much of his painting outdoors as opposed to indoors, as was preferred by other artists of the time. Painting, in general, was more traditional, with seamless colors and shadows. And yet, this avant-garde form of expression took root, thanks to Monet and others, and has left the art world with an incredible treasure.
Monet’s signature pieces are the ones that will be top of mind as you visit Giverny and his gardens. Forever memorialized, these iconic garden masterpieces include Monet’s famous water lilies, a painting that could sell for as much as 80 million dollars today. Thankfully, you can enjoy the ambience of the priceless art by strolling through Monet’s muse, soaking up the vibrant flowers and unique plants he chose and tended to himself. Consider stopping by L’église Ste-Radegonde, the 11th- to 12th-century church that is the final resting place of Claude Monet, to pay your respects.
Ready to be immersed in the gardens of Monet? Let’s chat!
Where Can I River Cruise?
You’ve settled on a river cruise - you’re drawn to the small ships, the off-the-beaten-path destinations, the service and the cuisine, all of which are wonderful reasons to cruise our world’s most beautiful rivers. But now comes the biggest decision of all - where to cruise? From the romantic Rhine to the mighty Mississippi to the western US waterways such as the Columbia and Snake Rivers, your cruise showcases the lifeblood of these regions and brings you right into the heart of your destination.
Take a look at the world’s major river-cruising destinations, then be in touch so we can find the right one for you.
The Danube River offers river cruisers access to ten countries, centuries of old-world history, art and architecture and strikingly green countryside. For history buffs who want to see where it all went down over the decades in Europe, this is where to cruise.
Another legendary European waterway, the scenic Rhine passes fairytale landscapes and storybook castles as it winds its way through six countries. Relive medieval history as you disembark in charming villages and vibrant cities.
For a more niche European river-cruise experience, choose the historic Elbe, which passes through Saxony, German cultural centers and Prague.
Another quieter river-cruise option, the Main is a Rhine tributary that offers ornate palace, historic towns and expansive vineyards. From Miltenberg’s half-timbered houses to Nuremberg’s Market Square, feel the rich culture of the region.
For romantics and wine lovers, there’s no better choice than the Douro River, which passes ancient wine estates between Porto and Lisbon. Don’t worry - there will be plenty of chances to disembark for wine tastings at delightful quintas in the Douro Valley.
Art aficionados adore the Seine for its pastoral landscapes and bucolic villages that served as the muse for so many renowned Impressionists. World War II buffs will enjoy the chance to explore Normandy - and, of course, there’s perennially popular Paris on the itinerary.
Experience France, Luxembourg and Germany in one cruise, focusing on pretty wine-growing regions (including those that deliver the world’s best Rieslings), medieval Trier, millennium-old Reichsburg Castle and quaint Koblenz’s Old Town at the juncture of the Moselle and the Rhine.
Tell your own tales on the fabled Rhone River, as you sail through Provence, past Roman-era historic sites and into vineyard and farm land. Food and wine enthusiasts particularly relish the opportunity to visit Lyon for its fabulous culinary scene.
Stretching from Minnesota’s Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi’s 2,350 miles reveal American history in a way no textbook ever could. Transform your appreciation for the various landscapes and cultures woven into the tapestry of our country. The Lower Mississippi is deeply rooted in southern US history and is where you’ll find Civil War history, antebellum mansions, Cajun and Creole cuisine and plenty of jazz and blues music. For mainstream Americana, lots of wildlife (from egrets and bald eagles to turtles and otters) and to pass through a series of more than 20 locks, choose the Upper Mississippi between St. Louis and St. Paul.
Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland
Cruise through America’s heartland on the Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland rivers, the same waterways that opened the west to early pioneers. Pass rolling farmland, towering bluffs, historic railroad bridges and more. Experience the cultural centers of Nashville, Cincinnati, Memphis and more as you learn about life along the river.
Columbia and Snake
Follow in the footsteps of early pioneers and explorers such as Lewis and Clark as you cruise along the Columbia and Snake rivers in the Pacific Northwest. Spend peaceful moments gazing at the quiet land, rocky cliffs and wine country that line these mighty waterways. Cruise past historic sites, locks and dams, gaze upon wondrous waterfalls and glimpse sea lions sunbathing on the rocks. Wine lovers, rejoice - there are cruises dedicated to the vintages of the PNW, where boutique wineries show off the fruits of their varied microclimates.
Craving a destination even farther afield? Consider cruising the Nile, birthplace of one of history’s greatest civilizations. Depending on the line you choose to travel with, you may be accompanied by an expert Egyptologist who can help unveil the region’s secrets, from the pyramids of Cairo to the temples of Luxor.
Your choices are as numerous as the river is wide. Together, we can narrow the options to find the perfect river cruise for your travel style and interests. Let’s chat.