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. (L, D)
DAY 3: Harlingen, The Netherlands
This morning we transit through the scenic and wildlife-rich Waddenzee, en route to Harlingen. We’ll be welcomed with open arms as the first ever cruise 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 we have been given special permission to use our 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 we stay berthed well into the evening. (B,L,D)
DAY 4: Exploring the Frisian Islands
Zodiacs take us 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. Our 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. We,™ll also call at nearby Den Helder to see the tulip fields. (B, L, D)
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, nine-year and $489 million renovation. Take a guided tour 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. (B, L, D)
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. We take a slow stroll with our 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. (B, L, D)
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. (B, L, D)
DAY 8: Oostende/Brugge, London, U.K.
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, we board small boats to view the architecture from canal level. Late afternoon, cross the English Channel to London, navigating up the Thames until midnight near the iconic LED-lit Tower Bridge. (B, L, D)
DAY 9: London/Disembark/U.S.
Disembark in London and transfer to Heathrow Airport for flights home. (B)
Please note: All day-by-day breakdowns are a sampling of the places we intend to visit, conditions permitting.