River Cruise Itinerary Spotlight: Uniworld Heads to Floriade 2012


River Ambassador at Cologne // Photo courtesy of Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

Editor’s Note: Each month in this river itinerary spotlight we profile one river itinerary operated by one specific river line. Different operators as well as diverse itinerary regions will be featured from month to month. The goal is to give agents a “taste” of the unique offerings on the world’s rivers and a flavor of what individual operators offer guests.

Once every 10 years, Floriade (www.floriade.com), a world horticultural expo, is staged in the Netherlands. Running from April through mid-October, this year’s sixth edition of Floriade is in Venlo, a southeastern Dutch city.

Participating countries, businesses, floral companies and public and semi-public organizations give visitors the chance to view, smell and enjoy the world’s most exquisite flowers, plants, trees and fruits and vegetables.

In addition, each day features a cultural program of music, dance, literature, theater, and visual art from all over the world, as well as educational attractions and activities for children. New this year, sustainable architecture will be displayed. 

Floriade is presented to visitors through five unique themed worlds separated by wooded areas. Each world has its own decor and programming so guests see, feel and experience nature in different ways.

One of the easiest ways to visit Floriade is on a European river cruise. In this month’s itinerary spotlight we look at one specific itinerary that encompasses this major event.

Three Countries and Floriade

“Gems of Germany, Belgium & the Netherlands with Floriade" is an eight-day river voyage between Brussels, Belgium and Cologne, Germany itinerary. It's operated by Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection (www.uniworld.com).

Uniworld’s 120-passenger River Ambassador operates 13 of these Floriade departures throughout the spring and summer, starting April 8; the final sailing of the season departs Sept. 9.

Renovated in 2011, the vessel has four suites and 56 staterooms. Suites are 256 square feet, other accommodations are 128 square feet.

Day 1 and Day 2 – Brussels, Belgium: On the first day, guests board the River Ambassador and settle in. On the second day, the line offers a Brussels city tour. One highlight is the Grand Place, the city’s magnificent center.

Here Gothic spires rise from City Hall, an architectural masterpiece built in 1449 by Jan van Ruysbroeck. Guests also are treated to an exclusive chocolate demonstration and tasting at the Planet Chocolate factory.

Day 3 – Antwerp, Belgium: Today, clients enjoy the line's featured excursion, a walking tour of Antwerp's city center. Guests visit the City Hall area and view impressive guild houses that surround Grote Market.

The Brabo fountain in the middle of the main square is one of the city's most notable landmarks.The tour also takes cruisers into Our Lady’s Cathedral, which is famed for its 1600s-era paintings by Rubens.

Then it's on to a family-owned brewery for a beer tasting. Clients might head off on their own at leisure in the afternoon exploring Antwerp’s shopping and museums.

Day 4 – Maastricht, The Netherlands:  Maastrict is a Dutch provincial capital that straddles the river Meuse (Maas). It's the southernmost city in the Netherlands.

Boasting a reputation as the country's gastronomic center, it’s also the city that hosted the treaty signing to create the euro as the European Union's official currency.

Guests on River Ambassador enjoy a line-provided walking tour into the historic center city, which has two major town squares. The Vrijthof features the massive St. Servaas Church and St. Jan's Cathedral, and The Markt is home to the Town Hall (Stadhuis).

Day 5 – Venlo, The Netherlands and Floriade: For Floriade fans, this is the big day. Uniworld will transport guests to the Floriade site for a full day of music, art and cultural events that celebrate the botanic world.

More than 160 acres of exhibits explore green energy, healing, botanical innovations, architecture, and of course, oodles and oodles of flowers and plants. Floriade has cafes on site, as well as fascinating educational and cultural programs to keep cruisers engaged throughout the day.

What if your clients aren't flower lovers? As an alternative to attending Floriade, Uniworld also offers a guiding walking tour of Venlo, a destination dating from Roman times.


A map of the itinerary

Day 6 – Cruising the Romantic Rhine and Cologne: After a morning cruise along the Rhine, River Ambassador arrives at Cologne. Guests have a choice of a Cologne walking tour with a visit to the Cologne Cathedral, or a tour inside the Romano-Germanic Museum and Kolsch beer tasting.

Cologne is one of Germany’s oldest cities, founded in 38 B.C. by the Romans. The guided city tour will give clients views of Romanesque churches, the Renaissance City Hall, Medieval homes, and the city's towering cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the tallest Gothic buildings in the world.

Alternatively, those who have “been there, done that” with a traditional Cologne city tour and cathedral visit, may take the guided tour of the Romano-Germanic Museum, which is just around the corner from the main cathedral entrance.

The museum is a multi-floor extravaganza of Roman mosaics, artifacts, architecture as well as early Medieval Cologne. One museum "must see" is the Dionysus mosaic.

In addition, the museum has the world's largest collection of Roman glass; one tri-colored cage cup dates from 330-340 AD and a miniature portrait of Emperor Augustus is displayed in turquoise glass.

Day 7 – Konigswinter, cruising the Rhine and Cologne: Konigswinter lies at the foot of the Siebengebirge or seven mountains. It's known for its picturesque setting, vineyards and storybook legend.

Purportedly, here Siegfried slew the dragon and the evil Hagen sank the treasure in the Rhine; the legend was told in Wagner’s "Der Ring der Nibelungen".

River Ambassador guests will ride on the cogwheel rail to the dragon’s former lair, Drachenfels or Dragon Rock. They’ll also visit Castle Drachenfels and enjoy stunning views over the Rhine Valley.

The ship then sails back to Cologne.

Day 8 – Depart Cologne: Guests disembark the ship and transfer to Dusseldorf Airport for their flights home.

This itinerary is also operated by Uniworld in reverse, from Cologne to Brussels. Starting prices, based on Uniworld’s Web site listings at press time, range from $2,449 to $2,999 per person double occupancy.

The cruise fare includes the cruise, all meals onboard, captain’s welcome and farewell dinner, complimentary wines, beer and soft drinks during lunch and dinner onboard; replenished bottled water daily in staterooms; and 24 hour specialty coffee and tea bar onboard.
Also included are shore excursions including “Choice is Yours” options; shore trips are hosted by English speaking local guides, and clients receive Quietvox portable audio headsets so guests can easily hear the commentary.

In addition, Uniworld guests receive use of bicyles and Nordic walking sticks for use throughout the cruise, as well as an onboard cultural enrichment program that includes Signature Lectures and local entertainers.

Also included in the cruise fare are transfers on arrival and departure days. The cruise fare does not include airfare.

Best Clients?

Given the Floriade angle, certainly gardening enthusiasts and flower/garden club members are excellent prospects. So are clients interested in the natural world, "green" projects and sustainability issues.

History and archaeology buffs may also be a good fit for this itinerary, particularly given the Roman heritage along the river route and the excellent Romano-Germanic Museum in Cologne.

And clients who just want to explore the culture of the Rhine, sample local wines and brews, or see the heart of Europe also may be interested in this type of sailing.

Many other river operators, including A&K, AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Scenic Cruises, Tauck and Viking River Cruises, to name a few, also operate river cruises this year that include Floriade.

For more information on this specific Uniworld sailing to Floriade, visit www.uniworld.com.

Next month's river spotlight? Stay tuned for a look at a specific barge cruise itinerary through the heart of France.

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