As part of a series, Jane Archer looks at cruising ideas for groups with horticultural interests. In this first article, she looks at cruise companies offering garden excursions and reveals some of the best locations for tulip spotting.

Who’d have thought you could sail through garden history on a river cruise, visiting formal geometric landscapes and English-style parks that used follies and nature to create picturesque scenes at every turn.

There are tulip fields, botanical gardens and baroque parterres to discover on cruises along the Rhine, Seine, Danube and Elbe Rivers. Cruise the waterways between Moscow and St Petersburg, meanwhile, and you can marvel at the stunning golden fountains and formal gardens at Peterhof, Peter the Great’s summer palace on the Gulf of Finland.

Titan Travel’s Imperial Treasures of Russia cruise spends three days in St Petersburg so there is time to visits Peterhof and organise a tour to Pavlovsk Palace, to see the classic English landscape garden planted by Tsar Paul. It’s in Tsarkoe Selo, on the outskirts of the city, and easily paired with a tour of the neighbouring Catherine Palace and gardens.

Jane Archer

Pictured: Jane Archer.

Botanica World Discoveries, which specialises in garden-themed holidays, has cruises from Bordeaux in South-west France and between Montreal and New York by way of the Great Lakes and Hudson River next year that visit notable parks and gardens.

If it’s Holland it must be tulips. And if it’s tulips, it has to be Keukenhof Gardens, where each year growers and exporters plant more than seven million flower bulbs, creating amazing themed displays (it’s Romance in Flowers in 2018) that attract millions of visitors.

Several cruise lines visit Keukenhof Gardens on springtime cruises (the park is only open from March to May), but The River Cruise Line’s seven-night Spring Gardens in Holland and Belgium itinerary next year is a better bet for a group of garden enthusiasts.

As well as Keukenhof, it includes tours to Appeltern Gardens, which houses more than 200 demonstration gardens, and Belgium’s National Botanic Garden in Meise, which an optional excursions visits Royal FloraHolland in Aalsmeer. This is the largest flower auction house in the world, where millions of plants are traded each day. You can watch the auction from a gallery; information panels on the walls explain what is happening.

Alternatively, consider Noble Caledonia’s nine-night Spring Flowers cruise departing April 19 next year has a morning at Keukenhof Gardens and included visits to Utrecht’s Botanical Gardens and DeWiersse castle, which sits in a 110-acre landscaped garden and park with avenues, pergolas, fountains and statues. The cruise in on the Royal Crown, a classic vessel with extensive polished rosewood, brass fittings and steamer loungers.

Choose one of AmaWaterways’ 2019 Tulip Time cruises and your guests will visit a family-run tulip farm to learn how the flowers are grown and spend a morning in Keukenhof Gardens.

Stay tuned for the next feature which will look at Danube Classics and gardens linked to Claude Monet.