Where the Rhine crosses the border into The Netherlands it breaks up into a number of wide branches such as the Lek and Waal. A network of channels and canals joins these rivers with the Maas (Meuse) that flows northward through Belgium and The Netherlands to the North Sea. These extensive waterways enable large areas of Belgium and Holland to be explored by boat. River cruises allow you to discover the flower filled fields and historical cities of the area.
The Netherlands has the densest network of inland waterways in Europe. About 6000km of rivers and canals form a complex system serving all parts of the country, around 2200km are used by river cruisers. There are canals of varying types winding from cosmopolitan Amsterdam to Volendam in the north to Arnhem in the west and to Dordrecht and medieval Maastricht in the south.
The two regions of Belgium, the flatland canals of Flanders along the English Channel and the hills & rivers of Wallonie in the south, are connected in a dense 1,600-km network of recently improved waterways. The rivers Leie, Schelde, Sambre & Meuse are part of the network and facilitate visits to Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges in the coastal west, Brussels in the centre, Tournai and Mons in the south and Dinant and Liege in the east. Between Belgium and the Netherlands there are four connecting canals.
The Amsterdam–Rhine Canal or Amsterdam-Rijnkanaal connects the port city of Amsterdam to the main shipping artery of the Rhine. This is the principal route taken for cruises on the Rhine. Its course follows a generally southeasterly direction as it goes through the city of Utrecht towards Wijk bij Duurstede where it intersects the Lek branch of the Rhine and then continues on to the Waal river near Tiel, with a branch, the Lek Canal, to the Lek near Nieuwegein.
WHEN TO CRUISE?
The main season for Dutch & Belgian Waterway cruises in from late March to May when the bulbfields are at their best.
However cruises of the region continue through the summer and into the autumn. The region has a moderate maritime climate, with cool summers and mild winters.
Spring and autumn temperatures can range from 10°C (50°F) to 17°C (62°F) during the day and as low as 2°C (36°F) at night. Summer is typically 20°C (68°F) to 23°C (74°F) down to 12°C (54°F) at night.