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Sail Through History: embark upon a World War I History river cruise

It may seem hard to believe, but 2018 will mark the 100-year anniversary of the end of World War I—the Great War. The years from 1914-1918 saw the worst fighting and political strife the modern world had ever seen, and a century later, we look back to honor those who lost their lives and remember the lessons learned.

And while no commemorative visit to Europe can ever fully tell the story of all those impactful years, a meaningful journey to some of the important battlefields and monuments of the war can be both worthwhile and rewarding—reminding us of the sacrifices that were made—so the lessons, and the people, are not forgotten.

Holland, Belgium, and France—in particular, an area known as the Flanders—hosted some of the most destructive battles during the war. Both local and national governments have dedicated numerous monuments and memorials among these battlefields to honor the countless soldiers from 50 different countries who fought or were wounded, missing, or killed.

One of the best ways to visit many of these sites is by river cruise through Holland and Belgium. An excursion to Ghent, Belgium, can include the site of the Battle of the Somme, which dragged on for almost five months and was one of the bloodiest of the war. Another stop at the nearby battlefields of Ypres and Eastern Flanders presents a permanently scarred landscape, with memorials and battlefield graves all along the road. It's also home to the remarkably moving Last Post ceremony each night at sunset—honoring those who lost their lives.

A visit to Maastricht, Netherlands, can include the Fort de Loncin, one of 12 built as part of the Fortifications of Liege, which were later bombed by German forces in 1914. Another extremely impressive tour is to the areas of Belgium that were part of the Battle of the Bulge. There, one can view the Mardasson Memorial—an extraordinary monument built to honor the more than 76,000 Americans who were killed, wounded or missing during the battle. The nearby Bois de la Paix (Wood of Peace) is a 50-year old monument of more than 4,000 trees dedicated to the American veterans who fought in the Ardennes, and to the civilians and military who died in the winter of 1944-45.

Visiting this area of Western Europe to learn about the Great War should be done as part of a larger program that also highlights the beauty of this area—its history, culture, and modern day accomplishments. The charming cities with medieval squares, pedestrian streets and delightful shops welcome visitors and offer the best in architecture, art and music. Visitors can stroll the local streets, explore the cathedrals and museums, and enjoy delightful cafés serving a number of local delicacies. Holland and Belgium are part of World War I history, but today the countries welcome visitors from around the world who come to enjoy all that it has to offer.

In 2017, Orbridge features a special commemorative program to explore World War I history aboard the Avalon Artistry II, complete with lectures from several historians and excursions to important sites. Click here for full details on this provoking and gripping program.