12 Spring Cruises for Garden Loversby Donna Heiderstadt | March 23, 2018
As you count the days until Spring has sprung—officially, March 20—why not opt to celebrate on a river or ocean cruise, timed to the season’s most beautiful blooms? The tulip-filled gardens of Belgium and Holland, the storied landscapes of France, and the ethereal cherry blossoms of Japan all appeal to garden lovers. Feeling spontaneous? Some cruise lines still have last-minute availability for sailings from March through May. If you’re planning for 2019, there’s lots of botanical bliss afloat. Here are 12 springtime cruises to consider.
Cherry Blossoms in Japan
If you’d like to experience hanami (cherry blossom viewing), available at more than 1,000 sites in Japan, several cruises can still get you there in time for the expected 2018 sakura bloom during the last week of March and first two weeks of April (blossoms in the northern Hokkaido prefecture will peak in late April and early May).
Norwegian Jewel is sailing an 11-night cruise departing March 21 from Hong Kong and arriving in Tokyo on April 1, with calls on Hakata, Kobe, Shimizu, and Tokyo (from $499 per person). Or book the 15-night sailing departing Tokyo on April 1 and visiting Shimizu, Kobe, Kagoshima, Naha, and Ishigaki as well as Tapei, Hong Kong, and Xiamen before arriving in Shanghai on April 16 (from $649 per person).
Holland America’s Volendam sails an 11-night cruise departing Shanghai on March 28 and arriving in Yokohama (for Tokyo) on April 11, with calls on Kagoshima, Miyazaki, Beppu, and Osaka (from $799 per person).
In 2019, Azamara Quest will sail a 16-night Springtime in Asia itinerary that departs Singapore on March 29 and calls on Japan at Kagoshima, Osaka, and Tokyo (from $5,559 per person). The ship’s next voyage, a 13-night Circle Japan Intensive Voyage, departs Tokyo on April 14 and visits nine Japanese ports before returning to Tokyo on April 27 (from $4,749 per person).
Tulips in Belgium & Holland
There’s a reason most river cruise lines in Europe begin their season up north: the millions of vibrant tulips (as well as daffodils and hyacinths) that blossom in Holland and Belgium from late March until early May—especially at the splendid Keukenhof Gardens near Amsterdam. Peak viewing is mid- to late-April, so those sailings tend to sell out first and should be booked at least six months in advance.
Viking River Cruises still has some availability on nine-night Tulips & Windmills cruises sailing roundtrip from Amsterdam on March 25 (on Viking Longship Skirnir) and March 26 (on Viking Longship Gefjon), with fares from $2,999 per person. In 2019, there are 10 sailings available (from $2,799 per person).
Avalon Waterways has three ships (Impression, Illumination, and Vista) with some cabins left on seven-night Tulip Time Cruises (roundtrip from Amsterdam) throughout April, with fares from $2,498 per person. In 2019, 12 Tulip Time Cruise sailings are scheduled (from $1,749 per person).
Tauck’s seven-night Holland and Belgium in Spring sailings are are sold out for 2018, but the line is offering four sailings in April 2019 from Amsterdam or Brussels (from $3,990 per person).
AmaWaterways’ 2018 Tulip Time sailings are also sold out, but in 2019 three ships (AmaLea, AmaKristina, and AmaPrima) will cruise seven-night itineraries roundtrip from Amsterdam in March and April (from $2,499 per person).
April in Paris, the Loire Valley, and Provence
From Monet’s Gardens at Giverny to Van Gogh’s blossoming fruit trees in Arles, the French countryside always impresses in springtime—and a trio of river routes offer easy viewing.
Uniworld offers a floral fantasy for all ages on two Seine River itineraries: its traditional seven-night “Paris & Normandy” cruises onboard S.S. Joie de Vivre and its new U by Uniworld “The Seine Experience” on The B (launching April 21); both call on Vernon, where passengers can visit Monet’s Gardens at Giverny. While there’s limited availability onboard S.S. Joie de Vivre for April and May sailings (from $5,199 per person), The B has cabins on April 21 and April 28 (from $1,759 per person). In 2019, April and May sailings on S.S. Joie de Vivre start at $3,299 per person.
Tauck’s nine-night Savoring France: Paris, Lyon, and Provence spends two days in the City of Lights (where guests can stroll the Tuilleries or Jardin du Luxembourg) before boarding MS Emerald in Lyon and cruising the Rhone to the vineyards and vistas of Arles, Avignon, and the Camargue. There’s very limited availability in April and May (from $5,240 per person) and spring 2019 sailings are priced from $5,590 per person.
CroisiEurope’s six-night Chateaux of the Loire Valley onboard MS Loire Princesse is ideal for anyone who adores formal gardens—and this cruise visits two of the most stunning ones at two legendary Loire Valley chateaux, Chambord and Chenonceau, as well as others. There’s availability on the April 2 and April 19 sailings (from $2,417 per person).
Donna Heiderstadt is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Coastal Living and Islands.