Christmas Market River Cruising

The Christmas markets of Europe have been around long before international tourism turned them into a “thing.” The long dark days of winter in Northern climates bring out the need for socializing, conviviality, celebration, and (let’s face it) alcohol. Think about this: back when people worked during every daylight hour to keep themselves sheltered, fed, and warm, winter provided a welcome respite from the constant toil. Thus were Christmas markets born. Thus were September babies born the following year.

Now the Christmas markets of Europe are bigger than ever and filled with every kind of handicraft you can imagine, including many beautiful things you’ll likely find nowhere else.

Join us in November of 2018 for an AMA Waterways Christmas market tour on the Danube and Main rivers. Why a river cruise? Well, I’ll tell you. You will be sleeping in the same place every night, instead of packing up and schlepping your suitcases and purchases on and off a bus or a train. You have flexibility, too. Each day there are activity options, so if you overdo one day you can take it easier the next. And you can always grab a cab instead of walking!

Your room is comfortable, your bed is cozy, and the cabin steward attends to your every need. The food is delicious and already paid for, leaving you more money for that all important activity of SHOPPING!

Now you might think you’re one of those people who will take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints…yeah. No. You will leave some of your money and take home fabulous treasures. So pay down your credit cards before you leave home. Buy too much? Uh oh. It happens! (It happens to me all the time. You can’t believe how many suitcases I own.) So yes, we  know the ins and outs of shipping, or you can just pack very lightly, bring along a gigantic extra suitcase, and not worry about changing your clothes three times a day.

River cruising is casual, but you will need a warm coat in November/December–if you live in the Pacific Northwest, you’re dialed in. If you live in Phoenix, go shopping. Warm comfortable boots with room for thick socks and air circulation.  No heels–these are ancient cities with cobblestones and no ADA-required accommodations. You’ll  need a warm hat, gloves, and a big scarf to keep you feeling festive– and your covered hair and body will look good in photos. (Don’t buy a white coat if you want to look thin.)

Yes, you will be walking, but how much is up to you. If you aren’t in semi-decent shape this probably isn’t a good idea. That being said, I managed just fine.

The people who take these cruises are like you–fun people who love the excess of the holidays and like to have a good time but not necessarily a wild, raucous time every night. My daughter asked me what people do at night on a river cruise–you know, karaoke, disco, production shows…I told her, mostly we sit and talk to each other. We meet new people, we share stories, we connect. She looked at me, somewhat horrified. “Oh God! How boring!” So you won’t be cruising with that demographic. If that’s a relief, you’ll like river cruising.

However, they do keep the bar open until the last dog’s hung, so to speak, so if your feet are tired and you feel chilled, a restorative toddy will fix you right up.

One of my favorite markets was the Thurn and Taxis market in Regensburg. Beautiful handcrafts and a gorgeous setting. The family made their fortune in taxicabs.

One way to extend the vacation and feel that you’ve seen a bit more of the counties we visit is to go early for a few days on the front end and then stay on for a few days at the end. For our upcoming cruise we embark in Nuremberg, so we’ll fly into Prague (One of my favorite cities so far) and then take the bus to Nuremberg when it’s time to board. Prague has some wonderful restaurants and its own big market (pace yourself!) and you don’t want to miss the Astronomical Clock–the fun part is to  grab a seat at the cafe and watch everybody else waiting for it…wait for it…wait..

After the cruise, we’ll be in the gorgeous and historic city of Budapest. (Buda and Pesht, two ancient cities on either side of the river now combined.) You can plan to stay as long as you want–there’s a great market there as well. Also spas, restaurants, beautiful hotels and all the rest. You’ll recognize Budapest as a deja vu thing–it’s from all the river cruise commercials you see on TV. Hard to find a more photogenic city.

Hope I’ve convinced you that this is a great vacation. Not warm and sunny, no umbrella drinks poolside, not even a little bit beachy…but on the bright side, nobody cares how you look in  bathing suit and the fact that your skin is the color of a snowball is not a source of shame.

And the history and the culture and the architecture…priceless. Honestly, I’m writing this and I wish we were leaving next week. And it’s February and the Christmas decorations have barely settled back into their boxes!


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