Cruise from Amsterdam

It's the Venice of the North. The same storybook qualities that characterize the real Venice — twisty, narrow streets lined with elegant architecture and interlaced with a dizzying web of canals and bridges — give Amsterdam an air of quaintness and serenity. The 165-canal network around the Amstel River harks back to the heady days of the 17th century, when Amsterdam was the center of a trading empire.

Things are quieter now, with bicycles being Amsterdammers' preferred form of transportation, but that's what makes this urban oasis such a delight. If you don't find an experience to your liking the instant you dock in Amsterdam, give it another minute. You can't help but run across something that strikes your fancy in one of Europe's most engaging cultural and commercial cities.