Getting on a Dutch river cruise is one of the most exhilarating ways to see and enjoy the Netherlands. River cruising is very popular in Holland and around Europe. It promises next level relaxation and immersion in nature. If you have not tried it before, here’s a beginner’s guide to river cruising in the Netherlands.  

River Cruising in the Netherlands: What You Should Know

What is river cruising?

The experience is similar to going on an ocean-liner but much smaller. Cruising the world on an ocean-going ship is the ultimate trip, so consider river cruising as its mini version. In Europe, the size of a river cruiser depends on the height of the bridges along the route and the width and length of the many locks. 

Around 80 to 170 people are allowed on a river cruiser, with a typical crew-to-passenger ratio of around 40 crew to 140 guests. 

Normally, the cabins are very cozy. Older cruisers with fold-down beds have cabins that are around 8-9 square meters wide, while the newer vessels have cabins up to 15 square meters. This is similar to the size of a small hotel room, with twin or king-sized beds. 

These days, all modern cabins have air-conditioning, TV and a private bathroom with a shower. It’s literally like staying in a floating hotel.

What do you do while on board a river cruiser?

Living on a cruiser offers all the comforts and conveniences you’d hope for. It is completely cash-free, meaning you can charge all expenses to your account and pay later after the trip. The currency on most river cruisers in the Netherlands and around Europe is the euro.

All modern river cruisers now offer Wi-Fi, sometimes free. Don’t expect to get good signal, though, when on water. You’d enjoy better connection once you dock in a port.

Other than free Wi-Fi, most vessels also offer free excursions and an open bar. Depending on the cruise package, passengers will enjoy some entertainment in the evening. Some ships provide lectures and language classes, while others offer cooking demonstrations and wine tasting. 

Other forms of entertainment include soft piano music, local bands or folklore shows in the evening. Don’t expect to have a hard-core party that may be offered in ocean-cruisers.

As the ship docks in a port, you are definitely not allowed to go fishing or swimming. Most rivers aren’t clean or safe.

What types of food are served on board?

Typically, breakfast and lunch are a buffet, while dinner is served a la carte. When cruising across Europe on the Rhine or Danube, most ships offer regional cuisine to let passengers experience the complete immersion of their destination. Generally, however, expect a very international menu.

There are no reserved seats. Dining is typically open-seating, allowing passengers to sit where they want and with whom they want. Most tables are for sharing with a group. Only luxury cruises occasionally offer tables for two. 

What should you wear on a river cruise?

Dress as you are. There are no formal dress codes. Bring and wear comfortable clothing for sightseeing during the day. You will moor on several stops to try a sip of local coffee or some bites, so wear what works for you best. Bring some holiday wardrobe and loose-fitting clothes for daytime wear.

In the evening, you might want to be a bit formal for dinner, but certainly no need for ties or jackets. 

How many stops and how long are they?

Sailing is best and most romantic during nighttime. The cruise covers several miles through the night so that passengers may enjoy the day at a given destination. In other words, you will be moored most of the day.

Passengers will be given as much time in a port or city as possible. You’re free to explore a local town, do a bit of shopping, take a stroll or ride a bike ride along the riverbanks. 

When cruising around Europe, ships stay overnight in the most exciting cities, such as Amsterdam, Paris, or Vienna. 

What about safety or seasickness?

River cruising is safe as land is never out of sight. Passengers will enjoy the beautiful scenery while passing along the countryside.

No one gets seasick on a river cruise. There aren’t any strong waves, and sailing is quite gentle.

Most modern river cruises have wheelchair-accessible cabins, but not all. People with disabilities will be assisted throughout by very friendly, patient, and helpful crew members. 

What should I bring?

Bring a camera. Expect to see amazing sites as you sail through the Netherlands and on to other parts of Europe. When on one of the spring Netherlands tour packages, the display of colorful tulips over the Dutch countryside will definitely wow you.

Expect some showers in April, as the Dutch waterways can have several rainy days to help transform the fields of flowers into a vibrant, colorful landscape. Bring a raincoat and walking shoes that you won’t mind getting wet.

In May, evenings in Amsterdam are much cooler. Make sure to bring layers, warm clothes, and a jacket or coat.

Other information on Netherlands tours

River cruising in the Netherlands begins in Rhine in Amsterdam. Getting onboard is easy by coach and ferry. Amsterdam is quite accessible by train coming from different Dutch cities and Belgium, Germany, and other nearby countries.

Some of the most popular river cruises here are: 

All offering the famous springtime Tulips and Windmills voyages. This itinerary is exceptionally popular, especially among first-time river cruisers.

Sailing throughout the Netherlands and Belgium, this well-loved Tulips and Windmills river cruise is available between late March and early May. Passengers are treated to a spectacular view of Holland’s beloved flower during its natural springtime beauty. You will also learn the rich history of the area and about the famous tulip.

About the Tulips and Windmills River Cruise

You will begin your journey in Amsterdam, cruising through the city’s lovely canals. Passengers are given a day to explore this beautiful Dutch city. When here, check out Amsterdam’s famous Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and the Anne Frank House; most probably the three most popular establishments in the city.

Passengers will be given enough time to take a stroll or cycle through the city’s elegant narrow merchants’ houses and artistic buildings near Amsterdam’s waterways. Two-wheeling is a way of life among the Dutch, and so a visit to the capital is not complete without a romantic bike ride.

The next morning, you will set sail to Ijsselmeer, bound for beautiful Volendam.

The next stops are the historic cities of Arnhem and Nijmegen, near the German border. The ship will dock to allow passengers to visit the site of the Battle of Arnhem, which was the site of the battle depicted in the movie, “A Bridge Too Far”. Arnhem has played an important role in liberating the country in World War II. Upon reaching Nijmegen, passengers will have free time to explore this picturesque city on their own.

From there, the river cruise will leave the Netherlands for Belgium, specifically to the diamond-centric city of Antwerp and to Ghent, the fourth largest city in Belgium.

The final leg is a return trip to Amsterdam, passing through Willemstad, Kinderdijk (to see the world-famous UNESCO-protected Windmills of Kinderdijk), Schoonhoven, Utrecht, Rotterdam, and Keukenhof, where you can see Keukenhof Gardens, the largest and most popular gardens in Europe.

Keukenhof is definitely one of the highlights. Here you will see seven million blooms, with 800 varieties of tulips sprawled over 32 hectares of land. The dazzling carpet of colors is like no other. Passengers will be treated to flower exhibitions, pavilions and water features, and unique art pieces.

The tulips in Keukenhof are in full bloom for only seven weeks each year, from March 21 to May 10.

Rotterdam is quite unique and unforgettable as well. Passengers will have enough time to see and enjoy the city’s old harbor, the stunning Erasmus Bridge, which is Western Europe’s largest swing bridge, and the majestic Witte Huis, an art nouveau skyscraper that is the tallest structure in the city.

Rotterdam’s architecture is world-famous. Spend some time checking out the unique and quirky Cube Houses and the eye-catching Market Hall, which is a modern building that looks like a giant horseshoe. You can do a bit of shopping while in Market Hall.

Passengers will disembark in Amsterdam. This river cruise takes typically five days to complete.

The Tulips and Windmills package are just one of the river cruises in the Netherlands. There are several other Netherlands guided tours, and every cruise package features slightly different itineraries, ports, or lengths. They are all perfect for beginners.

River cruising in the Netherlands allows tourists and passengers to experience this romantic country up-close and personal. Beginning river cruisers will be treated to Holland’s rich history and culture, as evidenced by old palaces, castles, cathedrals and city streets. This is one holiday that will definitely change the way you view the Netherlands, Europe, and traveling as a whole.


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