The Best Christmas Cruises
Whether you need a break from holiday overkill or are contemplating a new family travel tradition, cruising for Christmas may be exactly what you need. You can utilize the kids’ long winter break to explore new cultures or escape on your own while letting the cruise line handle the party planning. The best way to ho-ho-ho might be to go-go-go. Here are five options to consider as you make your holiday cruising plans.
Bonus: Memphis To New Orleans Holiday Christmas Markets Cruise
Want a taste of Christmas on this side of the Atlantic? The American Queen Steamboat Company offers a Christmas-market itinerary with a nine-day cruise from Memphis to New Orleans.
The American Queen has Victorian-era features, including antique furnishings and intricate woodwork. Starting in Memphis, the cruise takes guests through towns like Greenville, where the authors of the Muppets grew up, and cities like Vicksburg, with festive holiday shops and décor.
Guests will also find holiday shops set up in Natchez, Mississippi, where craftsmen will have holiday goodies as carolers set the mood. The cruise also runs through stops like St. Fracisville in Louisiana, where small-town holiday festivities can be seen throughout, and Nottoway, Louisiana, with vibrant gardens and Antebellum mansions.
Dates: December 17 to 26, 2017
Rate: Starting at $1,799 per person
Christmas Market River Cruises
River cruises are the perfect way to visit a handful of European cities in one amazing voyage. At Christmas time, the picturesque cities along Europes rivers light up with festive cheer as they set up their classic European Christmas markets!
Sail from port to port and breathe in the Christmas spirit at every stop. World-famous Christmas markets pop up every year in the gorgeous European cities of Budapest, Cologne, Vienna and Strasbourg .
If you love the festive period youll fall head over heels for Europes extravagant and delightfully Christmassy market towns. Youll find residents and visitors alike buzzing with excitement at the most wonderful time of the year.
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Exchange Money At A Bank
You will get a better exchange rate and fewer fees exchanging your money at a bank than at the airport. We ended up exchanging $100 US to euros in the airport before leaving and then exchanging a larger amount later in the trip. Youll be expected to tip your tour guides two euros and bus/van drivers one euro during your cruise. Unlike most cruises which keep your credit card on fileyou will settle your account with cash or credit on the last night of the cruise.
The Best Christmas Market Cruises On The Rhine
Christmas market cruises on the Rhine are probably the most popular way to hop from one German Christmas market to another. Often Rhine Christmas market cruises even start in Switzerland and make their way to Alsace, France, Germany and finally, Amsterdam. However, youll also find some that depart in Amsterdam.
That means that you get to enjoy the best Christmas markets in Europe in the most comfortable way. Its thus a great option for those who cant decide which Christmas market to visit.
You can opt for a short Rhine cruise lasting only 5 days through the romantic Rhine valley. Or, why not, if time and budget allow it, 15 days departing in Basel, Switzerland.
Insider tip: As a recommendation, Id like to highlight that a Christmas market Rhine cruise MUST include the Christmas markets of Strasbourg and/or the romantic Rhine valley. Strasbourg is known as the capital of Christmas and the quaint Rhine villages look like straight from a Brother Grimm tale.
Short Christmas market Rhine cruises:
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What To Expect On A Christmas River Cruise
Whether you want to immerse yourself in the festive culture of Europe with visits to Christmas markets and traditional Christmas fayre, or escape Christmas altogether with a faraway winter escape, youll find just the Christmas river cruise for you with River Voyages.
Choose from seven-night river cruises, to voyages lasting two weeks or more. If youd like to get away for both Christmas and New Year, thats possible too. And what better way to bring in the New Year than by viewing a midnight firework display from the top deck of your river boat.
Which Rivers Have Christmas Markets On Them
With the listing above, the popular rivers to experience the Christmas markets along include the Rhine, Danube, Moselle and Elbe rivers – each of which offers fantastic markets teeming with wooden chalets and Christmas decorations. These visit the regions of France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Hungary – each of which offers their own slice of Christmas heaven!
Enjoy mulled wine and gingerbread as you browse handicrafts made by locals, each hut adorned with beautiful Christmas decorations making them the ideal festive destination for friends and family.
Suggested read: River cruising during the winter months
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Christmas Along The Elbe 10
Countries visited: Germany and Czech Republic
Stops in: Berlin, Potsdam, Wittenberg, Dresden, Saxon Switzerland, Prague
Overnights in: Berlin, Wittenberg, Prague
Breaking away from my family traditions and going on a Christmas Markets cruise was an extremely rewarding experience. So rewarding, in fact, that I hope my Christmas cruise this year starts a tradition of its own. I encourage everyone who is thinking about taking a Christmas cruise to do so. Trust me, the magic of Christmas is felt just as easily across the Atlantic as it is back home.
What To Consider Before Choosing Your European Christmas Market Cruise
Even though a Christmas market cruise is a very laid-back way to enjoy the festive season, you should ask yourself a few questions before booking. Indeed, there are plenty of Christmas cruises to choose from and it might be hard to decide for one.
Choosing the best one will assure you that your family is happy and that you can enjoy a worry-free Christmas in Europe, on the water!
- How many days for a European Christmas cruise?
European Christmas market cruises can last everything between 4-15 days. Its all a question of your budget and available time. I recommend at least 7 days in order to absorb the enchanting Christmas vibes of that time in Europe.
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Loire Christmas River Cruises
Home to around 1,000 châteaux and some of the loveliest countryside in France, the Loire makes a great place to take a river cruise. This is especially true at Christmas when the area comes alive with light and festive cheer. Many châteaux bedeck themselves for the season and the main ports of call along the Christmas river cruises celebrate the festive in traditional style. And of course, you can raise a glass or two of sparkling Saumur while you get into the festive spirit.
Day Five: Strasbourg France
Finally, the day many of us were most excited to see Strasbourg, France. River ships dock in Kehl, Germany, just across the river from Strasbourg. The two countries are connected by the Bridge of Europe or Pont de lEurope. Its only a 15 minute bus ride depending upon traffic crossing the bridge and into Strasbourg.
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Where To Go On A European Christmas Market Cruise
There are several major rivers in Europe that are particularly suited for Christmas market cruises. The most famous one is probably the romantic Rhine as it takes you to fairy-tale villages and towns that are world-famous for their Christmas markets: Strasbourg, Mainz, Koblenz, Cologne, romantic Rhine valley, These cruises take you to the biggest Christmas Markets in Europe in a very comfortable way.
I particularly like the castles and small villages of the Rhine valley with their cobblestone streets, half-timbered houses and their location next to the Rhine river.
However, also the Danube will take you to, particularly quaint Christmas markets of important German, Austrian, and Hungarian towns such as Nürnberg Christmas market, Regensburg, Vienna or Budapest.
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Tick Off The Rhines Best Markets
Another of our other Christmas market river cruise itineraries, Mistletoe and Rhine, is also packed with German ports. The first stop isCologne, where several markets set up across the city, including outside the famous cathedral. Spend an afternoon picking up handmade gifts to the sound of holiday music from the fairy light-strung performance stage. And, when youve finished shopping, the market is just a few minutes walk from the citys brewing houses, plus the Cologne Philharmonic Concert Hall. InDussledorf, the next stop on your itinerary, there are seven markets to visit. Youll then cruise to Koblenz, located in the Rhineland-Palatinate wine-growing region. Along with a tasty tipple or two, you can watch the rooftop advent calendar open at the town hall and sample some traditional German stollen from the market stalls.Find out more about our Mistletoe and Rhine itinerary
Sail Into The New Year
Grab your party hats and welcome in the new year on one of our New Years Eve cruises with the obligatory countdown to midnight. Our New Years Rhine Celebration itinerary calls at seven ports and starts in Frankfurt. Things in this port are pretty modern, but dont worry youll get to see Germanys traditional side on this itinerary, too. Rastatt is home to two time-stamped chateaus, while Mainz delivers on timber-clad houses straight out of a fairy tale. Or, celebrate on our A Rhineland New Year sailing. Youll call at seven different ports including Cologne and Dussledorf, plus spend New Years Eve in Bonn and New Year’s Day in Koblenz.Find out more about our New Years Rhine Celebration itinerary and our A Rhineland New Year itinerary
Ready to cruise along Europe’s famous rivers this Christmas?See all these sights and more sailing withTUI River Cruises. If you’re tempted to cruise at a different time of year, have a read of our article on the best river cruises we offer. Or, plan your festive cruise for next winter with our winter 2022 sailings. Pssst. Head to the Discover homepage for our latest articles.Author: Lizzie Butler
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When Should I Book
With the Christmas markets running on selected dates, and festive sailings even more so, it’s best to book as soon as possible to ensure you secure your place on-board. Christmas markets river cruises always sell out fast so ensure you have booked your sailings as soon as you know where you would want to visit.
Take a look at our latest sailings below and find your perfect Christmas markets river cruise for you. If you cant find exactly what you are looking for, dont hesitate to give our Cruise Concierge team a call and they will help you handpick your perfect Christmas Markets voyage.
Adventures By Disney Danube River
For families traveling to Europe, Adventures by Disney offers a holiday version of its Danube River cruise. Spend Christmas day at Viennas Hofburg Palace for a performance by the Vienna Boys Choir, followed by a holiday lunch at Griechenbeisl, the oldest restaurant in the city. This weeklong cruise travels from Germany to Hungary, with Christmas markets at nearly every port for last-minute gifts and special souvenirs. Onboard activities include a mulled wine tasting, and Disneys Adventure Guides lead younger travelers in decorating gingerbread houses and a gift exchange.
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A Christmas Markets River Cruise With Your Riverboat Done Up For The Holidays
So many of our river cruise guests tell us that its often the little extras they enjoy aboard their Tauck riverboat that make every day of their cruise that much more memorable… and thats before they even step ashore for their first excursion! Your Christmas Markets cruise will be no exception. Along with unlimited complimentary beverages aboard ship, and snack baskets available from 10:00 AM to midnight… you’ll enjoy special onboard holiday touches like a tree-trimming party, caroling and other festive gatherings… a traditional European Christmas dinner with all the fixings… special evenings of holiday-themed entertainment, and much more!
Best For Exploring Historic Traditions
Avalon Waterways Germany-focused Main River Christmastime itinerary from Nuremberg to Mainz visits Bavarian towns and villages decked out for the holidays. A shipboard lecturer discusses German holiday traditions along the way. Stops include historic Bamberg, where throughout town locals build nativity scenes. An optional excursion visits the town of Rothenburg and the Käthe Wohlfahrt German Christmas shop there, home to a massive collection of traditional German Christmas decorations. Onboard, the ship is embellished with holiday-themed decor, and you can learn how to bake traditional cookies from the region.
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The Best Way To Visit Europe’s Christmas Markets
Christmas market in Vienna
Some of the most popular river cruise itineraries are those that make port stops at Europe’s Christmas markets. Even though the magical season for visiting these markets is quite limitedgenerally extending from the last week in November through Christmasthe markets draw millions of people from around the globe each year.
Visitors get to see all the Instagram-worthy churches, buildings and shops adorned in their holiday finest. With the sounds of festive brass bands and choirs as a musical backdrop, they can purchase unique decorations and one-of-a-kind gifts from open-air stalls taste and smell the aromas of local foods and drinks and mingle with local craftsmen and fellow shoppers.
In many cities and towns across Europe, this colorful holiday tradition dates back to the Middle Ages. And while there are many commonalities across these historical markets, each seems to have a unique personality, reflecting local culture and its sense of place, which compels visitors to seek out more than one.
The river ship advantage
Christmas in Nuremberg, Germany
The joyful holiday ambiance outside is also evident on board the ships with tasteful themed decorations, seasonal foods and spirits, holiday musical performances, cooking demonstrations and more.
Where and when
Christmas market in Strasbourg
Memories of a Christmas Market cruise
Rhine River Cruise Christmas Highlights
Basel the Rhine river cruise departure city celebrates Christmas in style. Home to Switzerlands largest Christmas market, Basel comes bedecked with lights, centred around the giant tree on Münsterplatz. Dont miss the Christmas Pyramid, packed with food and Glühwein, or the advent window opened every day at the Basel Theatre at 5pm.
Strasbourg the capital of Alsace also does Christmas markets like no other. The oldest in France and largest in Europe runs to over 300 stalls, set up around the cathedral. The citys medieval buildings and narrow streets create the perfect festive atmosphere in the run-up to Christmas.
Speyer one of Germanys oldest cities hosts a Christmas market in the area around its spectacular Romanesque Cathedral. As well as traditional German produce, youll also find arts and crafts from Speyers eight twin towns around the world, including one in Rwanda. Dont miss the curtain of Bengal Fire projected on the Old Gate and accompanied by Christmas trumpets on 7th and 15th December.
Cologne something of a foodie hotspot, Cologne makes a good place for stocking up on German wine and Christmas treats. The city also does Christmas markets very well and they include the Harbour Christmas Market on the banks of the Rhine. Dont miss the giant tree in the cathedral square.
Check out our selection of Rhine Christmas river cruises available this year and then choose yours!
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European Christmas Market Magic
Warm up with a steamy mug of mulled wine as you wander the enchanting stalls of some of the largest and most famous Christmas markets in Europe. Shop handmade ornaments, toys, and gifts as you inhale the festive aroma of gingerbread and roasted chestnuts. Dazzling decorations and lights delight the eyes, while the sound of Christmas carolers and church bells fill the air.
Most European Christmas markets are open from the last week of November through December 22. Several of these Christmas market river cruises start in November, so you can still be home in plenty of time for the holidays.
Christmas Market Cruising Down The Danube River
Christmas markets in Europe on your bucket list? Want to see the best of the best, and as many as you can in a one-week vacation? Well, youre not alone! That was exactly what we wanted, and we were able to check European Christmas markets off our bucket list this year by taking a Christmas Market cruise with Viking River Cruises down the Danube River!
If youre coming from the United States, where the standard vacation is 7 days it is tough to visit more than 2 cities in such a short period of time. Plus who likes to pack and unpack several times? Not us, even after 2.5 years of travel, we are still relatively horrible at packing . Thats why a Viking River cruise was the perfect way to visit 5 amazing Christmas markets. We unpacked once and cruised down the Danube River visiting all the Christmas markets along the way.
Which ones you ask, well heres a recap of where our Viking River Cruise went!
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