Posted May 20th, 2013, 12:11 PM
I am considering a European river cruise this December. I don't care so much about the markets but this is the time frame I have. Am looking at Uniworld (but ? would apply to all, I suspect)
Will I experience all the stops in various places the same way as if it were in another time of year, and they just happen to have Christmas markets; or will I miss out on a lot of the history, culture, food+wine, etc, that would be highlighted at other times? (I'm NOT a Scrooge; I LOVE Christmas as much as Clark Griswold! Just don't want to miss the unique character of all the wonderful places)
I have taken several river cruises in Europe, including two Christmas cruises. And, I have hit some stops more than once in different seasons. For the most part, your will get some type of tour of the city that really doesn't vary all that much by season. Then you will be given free time. At Christmastime, there are obviously the markets and if you want to spend all your time there you can do so. However, you can also wander around and do other things, such as admire the architecture or go to a museum. There will always be plenty of alternatives to the Christmas markets. For example, once in Mainz, I visited the market for some food and mulled wine. Then I headed to the fascinating Gutenberg museum and later to an old church where the windows that had been blown out during World War II had been replaced by ones designed by Marc Chagall. It was a great day.
You will not miss the unique character of the places you visit. Many things make up the character, and the markets are part of that. They are also a place to try many of the foods that locals eat during that time of the year. The markets are also very festive and great places to people watch, particularly in the evenings and on weekends when the locals are likely to greatly outnumber the tourists.
No matter what the season, the time in the cities is limited. So, good preparation in advance will help you make the most advantageous use of your time.