Watch the tulips bloom from the deck of a barge


I would like to take a barge trip through the Netherlands in April or May, so that the trip would include the tulip gardens. Can you name any tour companies?

A number of companies can book a barging trip to the Netherlands at tulip time:

* The Barge Lady, 101 W. Grand Ave., Suite 200, Chicago, Ill. 60610; (800) 880-0071.

* Abercrombie & Kent, 1520 Kensington Road, Suite 212, Oak Brook, Ill. 60521; (800) 323-7308.

* Le Boat, 215 Union St., Hackensack, N.J. 07601; (800) 922-0291.

* European Waterways, 140 E. 56th St., Suite 4C, New York, N.Y. 10022; (800) 217-4447.

All drinks, meals and sightseeing are included on barges:

Rembrandt, an 18-passenger canal barge, leaves every Sunday from Amsterdam between March 24 and May 12. Six-night cruises are $990 a person from March 24 to April 7 and $1,820 a person from April 14 to May 12. Sightseeing includes the Keukenhof Gardens, Frans Roozens Bulb Garden, Gouda, Delft and Purmerend. Primary representative is Abercrombie & Kent; Barge Lady also makes bookings.

Stella, an eight-passenger canal barge, leaves every Sunday from Amsterdam between March 10 and May 19. The trip, which includes visits to the Rijksmuseum and Keukenhof Gardens, costs $2,590 a person. Represented by European Waterways, Barge Lady and Le Boat.

Meanderer, a six-passenger luxury barge, operates five-day tulip cruises from April 14 to May 25. This year's cruises are $1,995 a person. It is represented by Le Boat.

The following two river cruise ships, with bookings available through the Barge Lady, include visits to the tulip fields:

Prussian Princess, with 142 passengers, offers a seven-night Dutch and Belgian canal cruise starting April 20 and beginning and ending in Amsterdam. Prices range from $980 to $1,700 a person, with excursions and drinks extra.

Rhine Princess, a 120-passenger vessel, offers five-night Dutch waterway cruises leaving from Amsterdam between April 7 and May 2. Prices are from $775 to $1,500 a person, with excursions and drinks extra.

Another ship, the 146-passenger Queen of Holland, is chartered exclusively by Sea Air Holidays, 733 Summer St., Stamford, Conn. 06091; (800) 732-6247. The luxury ship will be making four seven-night "Dutch Waterways: Holland at Tulip Time" cruises April 13, April 20, April 27 and May 4. The all-inclusive prices are $2,097 to $2,497 a person in double occupancy.

A group of us will be taking a 17-day guided tour of Turkey. What should we tip the driver and the guide?

Certified guides take a two-year course, speak at least one foreign language and are highly trained professionals. They are paid between $50 and $100 a day. Their tip should run from $2 to $5 a person a day, according to an American tour operator. Drivers get from $1 to $1.50 a person a day.

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