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Pictured left to right outside the new store are: Paul Hardwick, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents Director of Retail; Emma Bailey, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents; Tutti Taylor, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents; Councillor Candy Vaughan, Mayor of Eastbourne; Trevor Ridler, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents Business Development Manager; and Shirley Waters, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents..

Riverside delights onboard Emerald Dawn

Starting my trip from Norwich airport was a real bonus - from the car park you can simply walk to the terminal, and there is also a hotel if you wanted to stay pre or post travel. There is a £10 per person development fee to travel from Norwich, payable at the airport prior to travel, but personally I feel that’s a small price to pay for a stress-free start to the holiday! My flight was a short 50-minute hop from with KLM to Amsterdam.

Here we boarded Emerald Dawn - one of Emerald River Cruise’s extraordinary Star-Ships, combining the luxury of a boutique hotel with innovative design features, such as a swimming pool that can convert into a cinema and a three-tier atrium. The ship was very spacious and light with plenty of areas to relax in - with a maximum of 180 guests on board it feels both exclusive and personal, and the smaller size is ideal for navigating Europe’s scenic waterways.

My room was a beautiful balcony suite on the top floor, with floor to ceiling windows, a coffee machine, welcome fruit selection plate, bathrobes and slippers, canapes prior to our meal, an after dinner treat and a chocolate on our pillow every day. Menus are inspired by the regions journeyed through, with a few home favourites included.

Mooring overnight in Amsterdam, we were free to explore the city which was within walking distance from the ship. This vibrant city is a real mix of cultures with winding canals, trams and countless bicycles.

As part of an Emerald River Cruise, you will normally be offered one escorted tour with a guide each day, or an active e-bike excursion (you need to book these the night before to secure your place as bike numbers are limited.) We visited Zaanse Schans with its traditional windmills, historic Dutch houses and artisan workshops, taking you back in time to see how life would have been in the past. On a guided walk in Rotterdam we saw how the city was rebuilt with quirky architecture after the Second World War, and sampled some of the local food and cheeses in the market – I particularly enjoyed a Stroopwaffle which is a spiced thin waffle-style biscuits which you can warm gently over your hot drink….. if you can resist it for that long!

We were lucky enough to have a private tour of the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague, seeing the famous painting 'The Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer before the public were allowed in. Arriving in Antwerp, Belgium's largest port, it would have been rude not to try the local Belgium chocolate whilst we walked the cobbled streets and took in the picturesque river views.

I joined a 20km guided e-bike tour around Arnhem through the beautiful countryside to the German border and back, although it did rain all day this did mean we saw a lovely rainbow! On the final day we took a coach through the countryside to the glorious Kuekenhof Gardens to marvel at the sea of colour from the thousands of tulips, stretching as far as the eye could see. This and the e-bike ride the day before were the absolute highlights of my trip.

An Emerald River Cruise would suit both older singles and couples alike who would like to enjoy a leisurely and relaxing cruise with lots of city highlights. With selected excursions included these trips represent good value, packed full of culture, local experiences and stunning scenery to get to the heart of the destinations along your route. The ship was welcoming and comfortable with personal service. And don’t pass up the opportunity to try a Stroopwaffle!

You can find Suzanne at our Ipswich branch.