News - The Floriade 2012 River Cruise

Amsterdam, Floriade and Cruising proved a real winner for this U3A group. They had never tried this concept before, ' just for groups!' provided a varied tour programme to mirror their interests, everyone had a great time - read what they had to say......

At first light on April the 10th 2012, a mixture of U3A members from two local clubs set out on two coaches heading for Amsterdam.

It’s a long way to Amsterdam, and when we had emerged from the Channel Tunnel in France, we were less than half way there. The journey through France, Belgium and into Holland was uneventful thanks to the sterling work of our 'tea ladies' Elizabeth and Sheila, who served tea and coffee whilst we were on the move. Thanks ladies!  It rained all afternoon, but as we were on the coaches, it didn’t matter. As it happened, this proved to be the worst weather of the whole holiday.

Our boat, the 'MV Diana', which was to be our home for the next four nights, was rather small when compared with some of the giant cruisers which travelled the River Rhine as far as Switzerland, but the lounge and dining room were spacious and comfortable. The cabins, best described as “bijou”, were clean and homely.
The first morning was spent in Amsterdam. Most of us went on a cruise in a small boat round the canals and waterways, leaving about an hour to explore Amsterdam. We had to be back on board 'Diana' for an early lunch so that we could be on our way cruising to Arnhem which was about eight hours away.
Floriade Group PhotoThe following day our coaches departed at 8.30am for Venlo, where Floriade 2012 is being staged.  We had a full day there, and we needed every minute of it. The Park is enormous, and apart from the many outdoor displays, there are several large buildings, each with their own specialities. To go on the cable car from one side of the exhibition to the other takes about five minutes, and gives a wonderful bird’s eye view. As expected, there was too much to see in one day. On the way back to the boat, about three miles outside Arnhem, we called at the Oosterbeek War Cemetery, the last resting place of 1754 allied servicemen, most of whom lost their lives in 'Operation Market Garden'.


The next day, the boat turned round in its own length just below Arnhem Bridge, and we returned downstream to Utrecht. A few passengers braved the cold weather on deck to watch the scenery, the locks, and the enormous barges which use the river.  We left the boat after lunch to visit Keukenhof Gardens. By this time, the sun had come out, and the wind had dropped to give us a perfect afternoon. The gardens and the floral displays were absolutely wonderful. The displays of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and other flowers were breathtaking, and no photographs could ever do justice to them.

Whilst we were at the Keukenhof Gardens, our boat sailed back to Amsterdam, and it was waiting for us when we returned in the evening, for our final dinner on board.  After dinner we thanked the chef for the varied menus and well presented, superb meals - in fact I can say because of the consistent brilliant meals it was one of the best U3A holidays we have had.
Our final day, Saturday, meant another early start for the long drive to Calais to catch the 2.20pm train through the tunnel, arriving back home about 7.30pm. Once again, the 'tea ladies' rose to the occasion.  Everybody had a lovely, active holiday and our thanks are extended to the 'just for groups!' team and coach drivers, the crew of the MV Diana, and above all to our group leader, whose impeccable organisation and attention to detail made it all possible.



U3A Group Organiser