The Real Deal: Round-trip airfare, seven nights' accommodations aboard a cruise ship, meals, and sightseeing tours, from $1,699 per person-plus taxes of about $290.
When: Depart on Apr. 11, 2008.
Gateways: New York City.
The fine print: Seven buffet breakfasts, six lunches, seven dinners, airline fuel surcharges, shore excursions, sightseeing tours, and the services of English-speaking tour guides are included. Airport taxes and port charges are an additional $290. Based on double occupancy in an outside-facing rear cabin on the main deck; single supplement is $899. Cabin upgrades start from $199 per person. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: Nov. 29, 2007.
Contact: SmarTours, 800/337-7773, smartours.com.
Why it's a deal: This cruise package is regularly priced at $2,299. Booking by the early-bird deadline will save you $600 per person. If you were to book the package elements independently, you should expect to pay $742 for round-trip airfare between New York City and Amsterdam in mid-April, according to a recent SideStep search (multiple carriers). For an additional $957, or about $137 a night, SmarTours covers the seven-night cruise, most meals, and guided tours.
Trip details: The Holland & Belgium Tulip Blossom Cruise includes round-trip airfare to Amsterdam on a Delta airlines carrier and seven nights' accommodations aboard theSwitzerland river cruiser, which is outfitted with a restaurant, a lounge, a bar, a sauna, a solarium, and a sundeck. As all 60 cabins face outside, you'll be treated to panoramic river views throughout your journey.
Upon your arrival in Amsterdam, you'll set out on a guided tour of the 800-year-old capital of the Netherlands before boarding the river cruiser. The first stop after a night's journey is the Keukenhof Gardens, home to tulips, greenhouses, sculpture gardens and a windmill that is open to the public. Then you'll sail to Dordrecht, one of the oldest cities in Netherlands, for a guided tour.
Other stops in the Netherlands include Rotterdam on the Maas River, the village of Veere, and an excursion to Delta Works, a complex engineering project designed to control flood damage caused by rising seas.
In Belgium, the first stop is Ghent, located in east Flanders province, renowned for its varied architectural styles, including Romanesque and rococo. The Castle of the Counts and the Cathedral of St. Bavon — home to Van Eyck brothers' 12-paneled Adoration of the Lamb — are among Ghent's highlights.
An optional trip to Bruges takes participants to the Lake of Love (Minnewater), the Beguinage convent, the Market Square, the Town Hall Square, and on a tour of the Church of Our Lady to see Michelangelo's famous statue of the Madonna and child ($60 per person).
Finally, you'll travel to Antwerp for a guided tour of the home of the famous Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens. You'll also see many of his paintings on display at the Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady. Other Antwerp attractions include the Grote Market and the Town Hall.
You'll spend the last day of your trip exploring Antwerp on your own before heading back to Amsterdam to catch your flight home.
Your arrival will coincide with the beginning of the high season when the famed tulips are in full bloom and the weather is starting to warm up; average temperature highs in April are 57 degrees Fahrenheit. Before you go, check the weather forecast.
Getting there: Those who live outside the New York City area may still want to take advantage of this package deal. The lowest available round-trip fares to New York City in mid-April we were able to find on a recent SideStep search were $192 from Chicago (United), $221 from Miami (American), and $334 from L.A. (Frontier).