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Floriade expo begins six-month run in April

Photo courtesy Floriade

River cruisers in Europe will get a new splash of color in their trips this year, as the Floriade World Horticultural Expo opens in Venlo, the Netherlands.

The world’s largest horticultural exposition, Floriade takes place in the Netherlands every 10 years. The expo has become a major international event, attracting millions of visitors from all over the world to see gardens, indoor botanical exhibits and hundreds of displays, shows and other pageantry that goes along with the festivities.

This year, organizers expect some 2 million visitors during the event, which runs April 5 to Oct. 7. Many of those visitors will come as part of packaged tours that go to various sites throughout Europe. And with the burgeoning popularity of European river cruising in recent years, small-ship cruises are proving to be one of the most popular ways for travelers to get to the 2012 expo.

Mayflower Tours, a company that has done land-based tours around the world for decades, added Floriade to its series of chartered river cruises for this year.

“Ten years ago, Mayflower did Floriade because I had an interest in horticulture,” said Mary Stachnik, who owns the company with her husband, John. “We offered a land portion then. This year, the expo is in Venlo, not far from Amsterdam.

“It’s a great thing for us, because we had been doing springtime river cruises. So we were able to tie in our river cruises into the event.”

Mayflower has chartered three river cruise ships for its 10-day Romantic Rhine River Cruise, which includes Switzerland, Germany and France in addition to time in Amsterdam and Venlo for the exposition. The ships will spend a whole day in Venlo, allowing passengers to come and go to the exposition at will.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection has added Floriade to three of its itineraries for this year, visiting the exposition on a total of 26 departures. One of the company’s itineraries, Gems of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands With Floriade 2012, was designed specifically for the expo.

“We designed this itinerary to highlight Floriade,” said Wanda Kowalczyk, director of product for Uniworld. “We’re going to dock in Venlo, and it will take about 20 minutes by bus to get to Floriade.
“We’re going to offer shuttle service, so if someone is tired and would like to go take a rest for an hour and then go back, they can play by their rules and do whatever they want to.”

Itineraries from both Mayflower and Uniworld allow travelers to spend about seven hours at the exposition. During that time, groups can roam the 163-acre site’s thousands of plants and flowers and exhibit pavilions representing more than 100 organizations.

In addition to the horticultural and international area, the expo will feature five Theme Worlds: Relax and Heal, Green Engine, Education and Innovation, Environment and the World Show Stage.

Floriade will also have a series of music, dance, theater and other cultural presentations. The featured presentation, “The Floriade Harvest Show,” will highlight musicians, acrobats and dancers from developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, performing five times a day through the duration of the expo.

“Floriade plays with your senses, what you’re going to see and how you’re going to feel about it,” Kowalczyk said. “I really think that everyone will enjoy it, not just people who are interested in gardens or nature.”

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Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.