Besides interacting with travelers and learning more about the world, one of the best parts about working at a travel company is, well, travel! Vantage recently gave some valued associates the opportunity to discover Europe on a training trip, meeting with travelers and experiencing the best of the Netherlands on Essential Holland: Tulips in Spring. Here are their favorite memories from their river cruise:
One of the best moments of the trip for me was getting to visit the Liberation Museum in Arnhem. Even better than seeing all of the wonderful artifacts and displays was getting to hear the childhood memories from all the volunteer tour guides who lived through the German occupation and celebrated when the Allies liberated the Dutch. After the tour, we attended a wreath-laying ceremony, including four veterans aboard our ship. We honored the brave Allied soldiers who perished during Operation Market Garden, the operation that pushed German forces from the Netherlands and gave the Dutch their freedom. The ceremony took place at the museum’s outdoor memorial, which is covered to emulate a parachute (Operation Market Garden was predominantly fought by Allied airborne paratroopers). It’s awe-inspiring knowing that the Dutch still remember and honor our veterans who gave their lives for them to this day.
**Photo Note: From left, Veterans Bill Walter, David Wilhelm, Leonard Williams, and Wayne Boling**
Being a graphic designer, I’ve seen my fair share of images. But I will say, Keukenhof Gardens is one of those rare places where photos genuinely don’t do it justice. You have to visit the Keukenhof to truly appreciate the vibrant colors and variety of flora. After seeing it for myself, pictures of this unique and unforgettable destination (and I’ve seen a lot of them) pale in comparison.
Senior Interactive Designer
The most anticipated day of the trip for me was heading to Bruges, Belgium. We lucked out and had a gorgeous sunny day to discover the town with George, our local guide. We passed by the Lake of Love, where the famous swans of Bruges swim, and headed into the city center. After ducking under the bridges on our scenic canal cruise, I spent the day wandering the cobblestone streets, shopping for souvenirs, and sampling everything under the sun: waffles, fancy chocolate, Belgian-style fries, and delicious beer. Bruges was simply beautiful – I look forward to returning someday!
While we were visiting the National Holocaust Memorial in Amsterdam, we were fortunate to meet a Holocaust survivor. He was visiting the monument with his wife, and told us a bit of his story. He survived two different concentration camps during the course of two and a half years, but only three of his relatives survived the Holocaust. He is the sole remaining family member alive today. Visiting the site was both sobering and eye-opening, and it’s an experience I will never forget.
Brand Manager, Vantage Adventures
I had the pleasure of getting to travel on the River Voyager for my first-ever cruise experience. I met so many wonderful people and am so grateful for the opportunity. One highlight for me, being an avid gardener, was to see how much the Dutch love and care for their gardens and the architecture of each city. There is so much charm in each town and cobblestone road. I also could have spent a month exploring the Rijksmuseum; seeing the works of Rembrandt and Van Gogh up close took my breath away.
However, the most touching moment for me was when we traveled to the National Liberation Museum. Our tour guide was just a child when the American forces parachuted in by the thousands to liberate the Netherlands, and hearing him describe that morning brought tears to my eyes. The respect and appreciation that is still felt for our World War II veterans truly humbled this kid who grew up around combat vets my entire life and watched my youngest brother go off to war in Iraq.
Both of my grandfathers served in World War II, and this experience gave me an even deeper connection with what they went through. When we attended the memorial service honoring our World War II veterans, my heart sang with joy and mourned deeply all at the same time. It’s one thing to hear stories from your loved ones, but it’s very different meeting people who went through the same experiences; it really touched me greatly. Although they have both passed and I miss them every day of my life, in that moment I felt that I truly understood what they had fought for. I am grateful and humbled that I was able to be a part of this. No words can express the feelings from that day, and it will always be one of the best highlights of my life.
Stopping to enjoy the beautiful tulips at Keukenhof Gardens was one of the highlights of this Vantage trip. Open for more than 60 years, the gardens have grown into a world-famous attraction, and it’s easy to see why. Even as we pulled up in the coach, rows of colorful tulips greeted us outside the park. In addition to the many outside displays, there were several pavilions, each featuring a different kind of bloom. It was also worthwhile to hear what the tulips meant to the people of the Netherlands; as World War II was coming to a close and it became clear the Nazis would lose, they began stealing food and supplies from locals, leaving only flower bulbs to sustain them. To them, tulips are a symbol of not only national pride, but of national survival.
Contact Center Administrator