Holland & Belgium's Tulips

It’s not every day that you get asked to join an international tour just 2 weeks before its departure…so obviously I jumped at the opportunity! Being a part of the tour directing team for 141 travelers on Sunrise Tours’ 30th Anniversary Cruise was such an honor. Historic sites were seen, memories were made, and plenty of fun was had along our journey through Holland and Belgium.

Although I have visited parts of The Netherlands and Belgium before, this tour was completely different from anything I have previously done. From the moment we arrived in Amsterdam and journeyed to our pre-cruise location of 's-Hertogenbosch (also known as Den Bosch), we all knew we were in for a treat. Our beautiful hotel was centrally located in the Market Square, a perfect spot to kick off our tour.

The quaint town of Den Bosch invites visitors to stroll through its picturesque streets and discover hidden gems such as shops, cafes, and its many historic churches. Best of all, many of us had the opportunity to indulge in the famous Bossche Bol dessert—one might compare it to a chocolate-dipped cream puff—delicious and a must-try!

From Den Bosch, we visited the surrounding areas. First it was off to Demen, where our group explored the gorgeous De Tuinen Garden, a private garden owned by a husband-and-wife team filled with beautiful flowers, from tulips to roses to daffodils, all strategically planted.

To our surprise, a team from Dutch News was there to capture footage of our group for a national news segment to be aired that evening! It was an exciting story about Americans visiting this small, local garden ahead of a big tulip weekend at Keukenhof.

From Demen we headed to Heeswijk Castle, a majestic medieval fortress nestled in the Dutch countryside that boasts centuries of history, captivating architecture, and enchanting surroundings.

The next morning, we said goodbye to charming Den Bosch and made our way back towards Amsterdam, as it was time for the grand display of tulips at Keukenhof Gardens. We were awestruck by the volume and variety of tulips. It truly was unbelievable; photos just don’t do it justice!

Before we boarded our ship, we stopped by Zaanse Schans, which offered a picturesque glimpse into Dutch history with its well-preserved windmills, charming wooden houses, and traditional crafts. Many of us enjoyed lunch on our own at a small distillery that served delicious soup and sandwiches.

Then it was time to board our floating hotel for the next week, the stunning MS Amadeus Cara. This was my very first river cruise, and to say I was satisfied by the ship’s accommodations would be an understatement. Everything was clean, sleek, and modern from top to bottom. I was so excited for a whole week on board!

We delighted in “tea time” and listened to an introduction and safety briefing from our wonderful Cruise Director, Alina, before enjoying our first meal.

The next morning, we hopped on a motorcoach and explored enchanting Amsterdam by bus with a local guide. From the bus, we boarded a canal boat and enjoyed a relaxing canal tour where our guides shared information about all the sites around us—the best way to see Amsterdam, we were told!

After the canal tour, we headed to Museum Square for some free time. Lucky for us, there was a market in the square this day, so many of us explored the many market stands searching for souvenirs and snacks.

After lunch on our ship, I headed out on the optional excursion to Limmen where we explored one more garden: Hortus Bulborum. This garden is recognized as a unique living museum dedicated to preserving and showcasing centuries-old bulb varieties, providing a fascinating glimpse into the rich history and diversity of flowering bulbs. Another breathtaking stop!

Back on board for the evening, we had our official Welcome Cocktail Reception and Dinner hosted by the Amadeus staff. We were introduced to the heads of departments on board and raised a toast to a great journey ahead.

The following day was a favorite for our history buffs: a visit to the Airborne Museum and the Bridge at Arnhem. The Airborne Museum at Arnhem explores the events of Operation Market Garden, honoring the bravery and sacrifices of those who participated in one of World War II's most ambitious airborne assaults.

Back on the ship, we enjoyed lunch and then experienced a full afternoon of sailing. Many used this time to play cards, cozy up with a book, relax with a massage, or just enjoy the views of the waterways passing by.

Day seven of our journey included a visit to the storm surge barrier and the Watersnood Museum, a memorial and educational center commemorating the devastating floods of 1953 and highlighting the ongoing battle of the Dutch people against water.

We carried on to Veere, a picturesque town renowned for its medieval architecture, quaint harbor, and rich maritime history. We strolled along the streets with our local guide before getting a bit of time for perusing the shops and bakeries.

It was finally a beautiful day after clouds and rain the days prior, so many of us spent some time on the Sun Deck of our ship when we returned for another afternoon of sailing.

This evening, Alina, Sunrise Operations Manager Caleb, and I surprised Sunrise President Brent with a special toast to celebrate 30 years of Sunrise Tours. Caleb shared a few words before passing it off to Brent who thanked us all for the past 30 years and 30 more years and beyond to come.

When we woke the next day, we had made it to Belgium! Our first stop was Ghent, where we enjoyed a walking tour through the historic city with time to explore Gravensteen Castle.

The afternoon brought an optional excursion to Bruges, often dubbed the "Venice of the North." We were enchanted by the canals, well-preserved medieval architecture, and charming cobblestone streets. We had time to wander the city center and make some purchases (mostly for Belgian waffles and chocolates!).

Next stop in Belgium was the city of Antwerp, including visits to the Antwerpen-Centraal train station and the Cathedral of Our Lady, both considered majestic architectural masterpieces, and I would agree!

Back aboard the ship, I spent some time this afternoon working while others enjoyed our optional excursion to a Belgian beer and chocolate tasting experience.

This evening was our official Farewell Cocktail Reception and Dinner. We were introduced to the entire MS Amadeus Cara staff before being treated to a 5-course dinner and an exciting dessert of Baked Alaska! With everyone dressed so nicely, we took advantage of the opportunity and captured a group photo up on the Sun Deck!

Our official last day brought us back to The Netherlands for architectural tours of Rotterdam by land and water. Later in the day, we visited Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famed for its iconic, centuries-old windmills lining picturesque waterways. The site offers a glimpse into the country's rich history of water management and traditional windmill technology.

We returned to the ship for dinner and one last night on board, mostly spent packing, preparing for the next day’s travels, and saying our goodbyes to newfound friends.

Traveling with Sunrise Tours travelers is a wonderful experience in and of itself but doing so in a beautiful part of the world like Belgium and the Netherlands, one couldn’t ask for anything more!

We are so excited to offer this itinerary again in 2025! That's right, if you missed out on your chance to explore the enchanting waterways and beautiful tulips of Holland and Belgium, we invite you to join us next April! Click here to learn more!

I am sad that this adventure has come to a close, and I already miss so many of my new friends, but it’s safe to say that I’ll see them again soon on our next Sunrise Tours adventure. Thank you to all for making my first tour directing experience so enjoyable, I hope to see you on the road again soon!


Mary O'Leary is the Marketing Coordinator for Sunrise Tours. For more about Sunrise Tours, click here.

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