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So I am planning a christmas river market cruise for the week of Christmas (leaving around Dec 21) for this year. It will be me (25), my parents, and my brother (16). We have done around 10 "normal" cruises mostly with Holland America (our favorite line) but have NO experience with river cruises. I have read a bunch about them but wanted to know what you all thought about which itinerary to do ( The Rhine v The Danube) and which line you think is the best. Also any tips about anything with river cruising, excursions, anything would be supper helpful!
Christmas markets are set up for Advent--the four weeks before Christmas. Most close on th 23rd. If you go for the Christmas-New Year, you wont find them open. If you really just want to cruise between the holidays, people that have reported on them seemed to have enjoyed them. River cruising is very different--no shows, no casino and no real night life. Internet reception can be spotty. Usually breakfast and lunch are buffet and dinner is plated. All meals are open seating--breakfast and lunch are for a certain time period and dinner is a set time. At dinner all pax are expected at the time announced. Breakfast usually served between 7-9, lunch 12-2 and dinner at 7--these are just examples. Times will depend on the days activities. From reports on the board, the age range seems to be getting lower. but at Christmas, the are families on board. Good luck finding that cruise that fits your needs. Pat
We did the Danube from Passau to Budapest with Viking December 1-10 last year. As mentioned, most markets will be closed when you are planning. We completely enjoyed our trip, though others have said the Rhine is better. You will find that there is good and bad with all lines in Europe, and folks on the same cruise will have differing opinion.
We personally like Viking and their new longboats and have sailed with them several times. We also are HAL cruisers, and find river cruising much more relaxing. The rooms on the Viking longboats are comparable to HAL's oceanviews in size (around 170 sq. ft.). Very well appointed and quite comfortable.
There is a wealth of information here so read through and see what you think. Keep asking questions and you will get a lot of thoughts from the people here.
Bill and Sharon
STSC(SS) USN Retired
SS410 Threadfin: 1960; SS350 Dogfish: 1961-62 (Diesel Boats Forever!)
George Bancroft, SSBN 643 Commissioning Crew: 1963-67
Andrew Jackson, SSBN 619: 1968-71, Simon Bolivar, SSBN 641: 1974-78
James K Polk, SSBN 645: 81-83
Mississippi Queen Memphis - New Orleans: 2004
Volendam Alaska: 2005, Maasdam Southern Caribbean: 2006, Viking Spirit Netherlands, April 2007
Volendam Caribbean/Panama, 2007, Maasdam Voyage of the Vikings, July 2008,
Prinsendam Grand Med and Black Sea Voyage, March 2009, Amsterdam Grand Australia and South Pacific Voyage, September 2009, GCT Rhine and Mosel, March 2010, Viking Spirit Paris and Heart of Normandy, Nov 2011, Viking Europe Portraits of Southern France, March 2012, Viking Njord Danube Waltz, December 2012, IOS, Feb 2013.
We took a river cruise the week between Christmas and New Years in 2011. Some markets remain open but the majority - especially in smaller towns - close on Christmas Eve.
We generally begin and end with time on our own and there are cities where you can plan to spend a few days where some of the markets will be open. This includes Berlin (fabulous at any time of year), Salzburg and Munich, where the Tollwood festival is open.
Our personal favorite is AmaWaterways as we are younger river cruisers and enjoy their active tour options, bike trips, and lively evening entertainment. For us, that makes a world of difference.
The cruise we did over the holidays in 2011 was on Avalon and it was really dull in the evenings. On NYE the entertainment was an interminably long and silly skit, which was a huge disappointment.
Our two cruises with AMA have been our favorites and we have another booked for next year.
138 cruises since 1964, 9 on the river.
Our river cruising history:
Avalon Luminary - Christmas Markets on the Main
Avalon Affinity B2B - Christmas Markets Main and Danube
Avalon Panorama - New Years Cruise on the Danube
AmaDante -Vineyards of the Rhine and Moselle
AmaCerto - Budapest to Nuremburg
AmaBella - Tulip Time
AmaDagio - Provence
AmaReina - Holiday on the Rhine
Looking forward to:
SS Catherine Provence July 5, 2015
AmaSerena Christmas on the Rhine November 25, 2015
We sailed with Viking from Budapest to Passau on the Danube this past Christmas. We arrived early in Budapest (Dec 20) and sailed on the 23rd. There were several nice Christmas markets in Budapest and it was a wonderful city to explore with light snow one day. We went to Bratislava on Christmas eve and it was pretty quiet, but there were a few shops open. Christmas day was spent in Vienna and coffe shops and some smaller shops were open. The major retail outlets were closed. Many people were going to mass and we visited the church. Many people from our ship went to operas or concerts and we went to the Palace where the Christmas market was still open and busy. We were in Durnstein and Melk on Dec. 26 and it was very quiet because it was St. Stephen's Day and only a very few shops were open in each place. We visited the Abbey in Melk, and Durnstein is very medival looking and it was fun to wander around there. No more Christmas markets from here on out. Went to Salzburg and then on to Passau.
The ship was decorated for the holidays. We had carols sung to us by the crew. Santa came on board and gave out gifts. There were holiday goodies in the cabins, and we got a card signed by the entire crew. One night was a Christmas trivia game and local entertainers came on board sometimes. There were some families on board and a wide variety of ages represented. Viking made it a fun holiday cruise.
NCL Jade 5/14 Italy, Croatia, Greece, Turkey
NCL Spirit 3/14 Canary Islands and Morocco
NCL Pride of America 12/13 Hawaii
Viking River Cruise 12/12 Budapest to Passau
Island Princess 11/12 Panama Canal
Caribbean Princess 6/12 Norway and Fjords
Grand Princess 12/11 Caribbean
Carnival Destiny 10/11 Caribbean
Viking River Cruise 6/11 China
Carnival Liberty 12/10 Caribbean
NCL Sun 12/08 Around the Horn, South America
NCL Pearl 12/07 Caribbean
NCL Jewel 5/07 Greece, Turkey, Egypt
Costa Mediteranea 12/06 Caribbean
Star Princess 5/05 Caribbean
Coral Princess 12/04 Panama Canal
RC Adventure of the Seas 7/04 Caribbean
Grand Princess 7/03 Caribbean
RC 8/02 Spain, Italy, France
HAL Maasdam 8/00 Russia, Sweden, Estonia, Finland
HAL Veendam 6/99 Alaska
Looking forward to: Disney Wonder 12/14 Western Caribbean