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Paintings by old-world masters come alive in cruise of Europe's low countries

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History and art fans are invited to take a cruise back in time to medieval Europe, including stops at famous old-world cities such as Brugge, Gent, Antwerp and Amsterdam. Set to launch May 4, 2014, the nine-day voyage will be aboard the 148-passenger National Geographic Explorer on a tour operated by Lindblad Expeditions.

Besides destinations you've likely read about, the voyage also stops at a number of spots off the beaten track. For instance, you'll be on the first cruise ship to dock at the lovely little seaside town of Harlingen in the Netherlands. You'll go on to explore the also not-so-well-known West Frisian Islands off the Dutch coast in the North Sea.

Next up is a stop at Amsterdam, where you'll be able to wander around the town's picturesque canals, shops, cafes and gabled brick houses from the 17th and 18th centuries. Among other highlights of the excursion, you'll check out paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer and other masters at the Rijksmuseum (said to rival the Louvre in Paris).

From there you'll sail on to three stops in Belgium, the first at Antwerp where you'll dock at one of the largest ports in the world. Ashore, chances are you'll use a lot of your camera's memory snapping the city's picture-postcard 16th century guild houses, the famed Grand Palace, the Grote Markt and the eye-popping Statue of Brabo. You'll use up many more megs at Stop No. 2 capturing the medieval Flemish wealth of Gent, seen in its ornate guild houses, soaring belfry towers and on the banks of the old Graslei Harbor.

No. 3 is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Brugge, where you'll ooh and aah at the 900-year-old town's iconic brick Gothic architecture. Besides a walking tour of the city you'll meander around its canals in a small boat and probably land some good deals on the city's famous lace.

After that your ship crosses the English Channel, cruises up the Thames River and docks at London to end the trip.

More info: You'll find details of the trip – called “Exploring the Low Countries: Holland and Belgium” – on the Lindblad website.

Prices for the cruise start at $7,320 ppdo (per person, double occupancy). You're on your own to get to the voyage's port of embarkation at Bremerhaven, Germany, and getting home from London.

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