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Get ready for the event of the summer in 2024, with VACAYA’s new 12-night Grand Northern Europe River Cruise on the stunning Advance by Transcend (formerly the Crystal Mahler) sailing August 3-15, 2024!

You read that correctly… this gorgeous 5-star luxury rivership used to be the crown jewel of Crystal Cruises’ river fleet before the company went bankrupt. Crystal sold off all their ships and now, this stunning vessel belongs to Transcend Cruises. It still has all the amazing Crystal features and luxury, but with beautiful new modern touches from Transcend.

It would almost be worth booking this trip for the ship alone, but this grand adventure from VACAYA will be anchored by not one, but TWO major European events: Amsterdam Pride at the start and Belgium’s famed biennial Flower Carpet Festival at the end!


Many consider Amsterdam Pride to be the very best Pride Fest in the world and we couldn’t agree more! The festival encompasses a wide range of activities, including parties, cultural events, film screenings, and thought-provoking discussions on LGBT+ rights and issues.

The highlight of the Pride festival, however, is the famous canal parade, which winds its way through the city’s picturesque waterways. Colorful and extravagant boats, adorned with rainbow flags and decorations, float by as participants proudly display their identities and messages of equality. The atmosphere is electric, filled with music, laughter, and a strong sense of solidarity.

Amsterdam’s commitment to LGBT+ rights is reflected in the city’s progressive policies and supportive environment. During Pride, the entire city becomes a safe space where people can be their authentic selves without fear of judgment or discrimination. It isn’t just a celebration, but a powerful reminder of the ongoing fight for equality and the importance of love and acceptance. It’s a joyous and empowering experience that leaves a lasting impression on all who participate.

Our ship will be docked in Amsterdam the nights of August 3 and 4, providing you with the perfect landing spot after a fun-filled day at the parade and festival.

Once we set sail on August 5, we head to some of the most picturesque villages and towns you’ve ever seen as we sail through Holland and Belgium, before finally arriving in Antwerp, Belgium on August 14. We’ll overnight in exciting Antwerp and then our journey together ends August 15 just in time for you to head to nearby Brussels for the kick-off to their amazing Flower Carpet Festival! Not familiar with that one? Read on…

The Brussels Flower Carpet Festival is a breathtaking display of floral artistry that takes place every two years in the heart of Belgium’s capital city. Covering La Grand Place, a UNESCO World Heritage site, with a stunning carpet of vibrant flowers, the festival is a feast for the eyes. Skilled gardeners meticulously arrange over 500,000 begonias, creating intricate patterns and designs that span nearly 20,000 square feet (1,800 square meters). This ephemeral masterpiece is a true celebration of nature’s beauty and a testament to the artistic prowess of its creators. NOT TO BE MISSED!


Once known as Crystal Mahler, Advance by Transcend is one of the most innovative and luxurious riverships ever built. Now, she belongs to Transcend Cruises and they’ve made her even better!

Advance by Transcend is a masterpiece of sophistication. From the moment you step onboard, you’re greeted by an atmosphere of elegance and refinement. Indulge in unrivaled opulence with spacious suites and staterooms adorned in exquisite décor and equipped with lavish amenities. Savor delectable culinary delights prepared by world-class chefs, accompanied by fine wines and impeccable service. Not only will you discover the rich cultural heritage of all the cities we’ll visit, but you’ll also enjoy the ship’s state-of-the-art facilities, including a spa, fitness center, indoor pool, and panoramic sun deck while taking in breathtaking views of the river. Prepare for an unforgettable journey of luxury and discovery with Advance by Transcend.

At 135 meters long and with 55 staterooms welcoming 110 guests, Advance by Transcend will change the way you look at river cruising.


River cruising has exploded in popularity over the past decade, with more and more options for adventurous travelers. The cities of Europe were built along the continent’s rivers, so traveling by rivership allows you to explore these towns up close and personally – with the ship oftentimes docking mere feet from the city center.

Riverships are known for their intimate ambiance, personalized service, and luxurious amenities, ensuring a comfortable and indulgent experience. Much like our Super Yacht cruises, these smaller riverships allow for access to less-frequented ports and scenic passages that larger vessels simply can’t navigate, offering a more authentic and intimate exploration of Europe’s waterways. With all these advantages combined, river cruising in Europe gives you a seamless blend of relaxation, discovery, and cultural immersion.


You may have read news over the past several years about the challenges happening on Europe’s southern rivers (like the Danube) due to the impacts of climate change. Some river cruise itineraries have been impacted by water levels that are too high (which prevent the ships from passing under the bridges) or too low (with ships bottoming out in the shallow waters). Thankfully, northern Europe hasn’t experienced these same challenges and that’s one of the main reasons we’re “staying north” for this first-of-its-kind summer river adventure.

There are currently no extensions for this cruise.


A river cruise is one of the most elegant and worry-free ways to travel. And with only 110 guests on the ship, not only is your VACAYA Luxe river cruise a great value, but it offers a truly intimate cruising experience, as well. Onboard, you’ll enjoy a continuous view of the incredible landscapes along the famous waterways, and you’ll also see a different side of Europe – one that can only be experienced on the rivers that have helped shape the history and cultures of the places they weave through.

With Crystal Cruises, a 12-night adventure like this on Crystal Mahler would have started at a price point exceeding $12,000 USD per person. So, getting this level of luxury with all the VACAYA benefits at a starting price point that’s nearly 40% off that price makes this a value in the truest sense.

Take a look at all that’s included:

  • 12 Nights of Luxury Accommodations
  • Full-Width French Balcony
  • All Meals, including Room Service
  • Unlimited Beverages
  • Welcome Bottle of Sparking Wine
  • Premium Bath Amenities
  • In-Room Espresso Coffee Machine
  • In-Room Minibar Setup Upon Embarkation
  • In-Room Portable Steamer
  • 40-Inch Interactive HD Flat-Screen Television
  • Walk-In Closet
  • Complimentary Unlimited WiFi

The following services are available for an additional charge:

  • Shore Excursions
  • Spa Treatments
  • Salon Services
  • Laundry
  • Satellite Telephone Services

Today is the big LGBT+ Pride Parade on Prinsengracht Canal! Start your day by dropping off your luggage at Advance and then hit the city for the celebrations. After the parade, head back to our ship to officially check in.

The Pride celebrations continue today. Join an afternoon party or hit the streets to see why these festivities are considered among the very best in the world. Tonight, perhaps try your luck in the city’s famed Red Light District? The bars and clubs will be hopping! Our favorite for the adventurous is Church.

Ok, now that the Pride Celebrations have concluded, it’s time to actually explore this “world’s best” city. Amsterdam is a city of charming canals, elegant gabled houses, splendid museums, and more bicycles than you’ve ever seen. Its patchwork of waterways forms about 90 islands connected by 1,500 bridges. The legacy of the Dutch Golden Age lives on in gilded mansions and in the lush paintings of Rembrandt and other Dutch masters that adorn the Rijksmuseum, The Netherlands’ grand repository of art and cultural history. We’ll set sail for Volendam early evening.

Volendam, a charming fishing village, entices visitors with its picturesque harbor, traditional wooden houses, and vibrant Dutch culture. Stroll along the waterfront, taste fresh herring, and admire the locals in traditional attire. Edam, renowned for its world-famous cheese, boasts delightful cobbled streets and historic buildings. Explore the iconic cheese market and witness the cheese-making process. Immerse yourself in the rich history and soak in the idyllic atmosphere. Both towns provide a glimpse into traditional Dutch life, leaving you enchanted by their beauty and cultural heritage.

Begin your journey by visiting the iconic Dom Tower, the tallest church tower in the country, and enjoy breathtaking views from the top. Stroll along the charming canals and admire the picturesque waterfront cafes and historic houses. The Rietveld Schröder House, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, showcases innovative architecture from the De Stijl movement. Immerse yourself in art at the Centraal Museum, housing an impressive collection of Dutch masterpieces. Lastly, wander through the vibrant Vredenburg and Lapjesmarkt street markets, where you can find local treasures and delicious treats.

Start in Mijmegen’s historic city center, home to charming cobblestone streets and medieval architecture. Visit the Valkhof Museum, showcasing a fascinating collection of art and artifacts. Take a leisurely stroll along the Waal River promenade and enjoy stunning views of the surroundings. Nature enthusiasts can explore the beautiful Ooijpolder nature reserve nearby. If you’re a history buff, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the National Liberation Museum 1944-1945, which provides insights into the city’s role during World War II.

Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is famous for its iconic windmills. Take a boat tour or cycle along the canals to witness the stunning 18th-century windmills, which have been meticulously preserved. Learn about the history of Dutch water management at the informative visitor center. Schoonhoven, known as the Silver City, is a haven for lovers of jewelry and craftsmanship. Explore the quaint streets lined with silver shops and visit the Silver Museum to delve into the city’s rich silversmithing tradition. Take a stroll along the Lek River and soak in the charming atmosphere of this picturesque town.

Start your day here by exploring the well-preserved fortified walls and take a leisurely walk around the historic city center. Admire the beautiful architecture, including the picturesque town hall and St. Catherine’s Church. Delve into the town’s history at the Vestingmuseum, which provides insights into its fortification and defense systems. Maybe enjoy a relaxing boat trip along the Meuse River, taking in the scenic views of the surrounding countryside. Be sure to indulge in local culinary delights at Heusden’s many cozy cafes and restaurants.

Rotterdam features modern architectural marvels, such as the iconic Erasmus Bridge and the stunning Markthal. Visit the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen to appreciate a diverse collection of art, spanning from the medieval period to contemporary works. Take a boat tour along the bustling Rotterdam Harbor, one of the largest ports in the world. Discover the innovative Witte de Withstraat, lined with art galleries, trendy shops, and lively bars. For nature lovers, the Rotterdam Zoo and the peaceful Kralingse Bos Park provide serene retreats.

Dordrecht’s picturesque city center is lined with well-preserved medieval architecture and charming canals. Visit the stunning Grote Kerk, a majestic Gothic church, and climb its tower for panoramic views of the city. Immerse yourself in art at the Dordrechts Museum, housing an impressive collection of Dutch paintings. Discover the city’s maritime heritage at the Huis Van Gijn museum, a beautifully preserved 19th-century house. Take a boat tour along the river or rent a bike to explore the scenic surroundings. Don’t miss the vibrant outdoor market, where you can sample local treats and find unique souvenirs.

Ghent is one of our favorite cities in the world and you’ll soon discover why for yourself. Start by exploring the stunning medieval architecture of the city center, including the iconic Saint Bavo’s Cathedral and the Gravensteen Castle. Take a leisurely boat tour along the canals to admire the picturesque views. Visit the famous Ghent Altarpiece at the Museum of Fine Arts, showcasing exceptional Flemish Renaissance art. Discover the vibrant street art scene in the Werregarenstraat, a colorful alley filled with graffiti. Indulge in the local cuisine by sampling traditional Belgian chocolates and enjoying a hearty plate of Flemish stew. Be sure to explore the lively Patershol neighborhood, known for its charming cobblestone streets and excellent dining options.

Any visit to Antwerp should start in its historic city center, admiring the impressive Gothic architecture that surrounds you. Visit the magnificent Cathedral of Our Lady, home to notable artworks including paintings by Rubens. Discover the vibrant fashion scene by exploring the boutiques in the renowned Fashion District. Immerse yourself in art at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, showcasing a vast collection of Flemish and Dutch masterpieces. This evening, maybe visit the renowned Antwerp Zoo, allowing you to observe nocturnal animals in their natural habitats. Experience the vibrant nightlife by visiting trendy bars and clubs in the historic Zuid neighborhood or the lively Grote Markt area. For a cultural evening, catch a performance at the stunning Antwerp Opera House.

Today, we say a soft goodbye because nearly everyone will be heading to Brussels and we’re sure to run into each other. After disembarking Advance, catch the train to Brussels and prepare to experience the renowned Flower Carpet Festival. You can purchase your train ticket HERE in early-to-mid-May once tickets become available.

Upon arrival in Brussels, make your way to the iconic Grand Place, where the Flower Carpet Festival takes place. Marvel at the breathtaking display of colorful flowers meticulously arranged into stunning patterns and designs. The vibrant carpet, covering the entire square, is a true feast for the eyes.

While in Brussels, take the opportunity to explore other attractions such as the Atomium, Manneken Pis, and the Royal Palace. Indulge in delectable Belgian chocolates and sample mouthwatering waffles before heading onward or home.

Bookings for the Europe River Cruise 2024 start at $6,997 per person in a two-guest stateroom. Please contact us directly at or +17132530041 for real-time availability of spaces and for reservations.

Enhance the Experience We have been booking with Concierge Travel for many years. They provide access to all of the Gay Travel products available and are able to provide advice on which type of travel or specific trips will meet our needs. Concierge team members often join us on the trip and provide a few little extras to enhance the experience. We would never consider using anyone else.

Joe and Keith Houston, TX

Joe and Keith