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 Spirit is sailing a 15-night cruise departing April 15, 2020 from Singapore and calls on Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Hong Kong, China; Shanghai, China; Hiroshima, Japan; Kochi, Japan; Kobe, Japan; and Shimizu, Japan; before disembarking in Tokyo (from $2,149 per person).
Holland America’s Westerdam sails a 14-night transpacific cruise departing Tokyo on April 28, 2019 and makes stops in Muroran, Japan; Kushiro, Japan; Kodiak Alaska; Icy Strait Point, Alaska; Ketchikan, Alaska; and Vancouver, British Columbia (from $799 per person).
In 2021, Azamara Pursuit will sail a 15-night springtime cruise roundtrip from Tokyo on April 7 and calls on Japan at Hakodate, Aomori, Akita, Kitakyushu, Hiroshima, Takamatsu, Kobe, and Shimizu. The ship also stops in Busan, South Korea (from $6,299 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 is offering a nine-night Tulips & Windmills cruise, which will sail roundtrip from Amsterdam on March 28, 2020, with fares from $3,399 per person. If that date doesn't work for you, the cruise line is also offering additional sailings throughout the springtime season for around the same price.
In 2020, Avalon Waterways has 12 seven-night Tulip Time Cruise sailings scheduled (from $2,399 per person). Alternatively, consider booking one of Tauk's seven-night Holland and Belgium in Spring sailings for next year (from $3,890 per person). AmaWaterways is also offering several Tulip Time sailings in 2020 (from $1,949 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 its traditional seven-night Paris & Normandy cruises onboard S.S. Joie de Vivre, which sails roundtrip from Paris. The itinerary includes stops in Giverny, Normandy, Caudebec-en-Caux (Honfleur or Étretat), Rouen, and Versailles (from $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. Spring 2020 sailings are priced from $4,990 per person.