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Voyage from Germany to the Netherlands and Belgium, exploring the seaside village of Harlingen and the dune-capped West Frisian Islands, and take in a dazzling view of tulip fields of North Holland. In Amsterdam and Antwerp, experience the incredible artistic heritage of the Dutch Golden Age and the Flemish Primitives. Stroll the canal-carved medieval towns of Brugge and Gent, and revel in the rich culinary and musical traditions of the region.
Enjoy a warm welcome at Harlingen, where we will be the first passenger ship to dock. Venture down the town’s canals in Zodiacs by special permission, and learn about the local Friesland culture.
Immerse yourself in the artistic treasures of Amsterdam’s recently refurbished Rijksmuseum and examine the masterpieces of Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Dürer on a docent-led tour.
Revel in the rich culinary and musical traditions of the region—from Dutch cheeses to Belgian waffles and the famous Belgian beers brewed for centuries by Trappist monks.
Itinerary - 9 Days
Days 1 & 2 — U.S./Hamburg, Germany/ Bremerhaven
Depart on an overnight flight to Hamburg and transfer to the port city Bremerhaven on arrival. Embark the National Geographic Explorer and cast off into the North Sea.
National Geographic Explorer (B,L,D daily)
Day 3 — Harlingen, The Netherlands
This morning, we enter the scenic Waddenzee, a World Heritage site recognized for its wildlife-rich wetlands and tidal habitats. Dock in Harlingen, and by special permission, explore the canals in the heart of town in Zodiacs, and later stroll past the lively shops and restaurants that line the waterways—remaining on shore for dinner if you wish. (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Exploring the Frisian Islands
The West Frisian Islands stretch out along the edge of the Waddenzee off the Dutch coast, and our destination, Texel, is the largest of the islands. Lined with long, dune-capped beaches and marshes, Texel is a stopping point for thousands of migrating birds. Discover the island’s local culture or go birding. Then anchor at Den Helder for a visit to the vast tulip fields nearby.
Day 5 — Amsterdam
Cluttered with bicycles, bursting with flowers, and carved by canals, Amsterdam is a vibrant city with an arts scene that has flourished since the Middle Ages. Experience the spectacular Rijksmuseum, recently reopened to much acclaim after a mammoth, 9-year renovation. On a guided tour, examine the works of Vermeer, Rembrandt, and other Dutch masters. You may also trace the life and work of one of the most legendary painters of all time at the newly reopened Van Gogh Museum. (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Gent, Belgium
As the former seat of the counts of Flanders, Gent was a manufacturing center and one of Europe’s wealthiest cities during the medieval era. Today, the city remains a showcase of medieval Flemish architecture. Historic belfries pierce the sky, filling the air with their chimes, and ornate guild houses line the ancient harbor. Spend the day getting to know Gent, strolling through its squares, and exploring its historic sites with our guides.
Day 7 — Antwerp
A prosperous trading center for centuries and the hub of the global diamond trade, Antwerp brims with impressive architecture. A walking tour with our art historians brings us to some of the best of it. Stroll the 16th-century Grote Markt, the main square, lined with elegant guild houses and the Renaissance city hall. See the railway station and the Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady, and admire the works of Flemish masters Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony Van Dyck. (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Oostende/Brugge (Bruges)
Dock in Oostende and drive to the medieval town of Brugge, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its brick Gothic architecture and serene waterways. Brugge was also the birthplace of the school of Flemish Primitives, which include Jan van Eyck and Hieronymus Bosch. After a walking excursion, board small boats and glide down swan-dotted canals to experience the gem-like old town from another perspective. Late afternoon, cross the English Channel to London, navigating up the Thames until berthing near the iconic Tower Bridge. (B,L,D)
Day 9 — London, England/U.S.
Sail up the Thames River and into the brightly lit city of London overnight. After breakfast, disembark and transfer to Heathrow Airport for flights home. (B)