A lot of people wouldn’t think of traveling to northern Europe – let alone taking a river cruise! – in December. Ship2ShoreTV’s Lynn Elmhirst gives you 5 reasons you should consider it a perfect start to the holiday!
We recently took an Arosa river cruise to Germany’s famous traditional Christmas markets in Nuremburg and Regensburg.
Arosa is a German river cruise line; well-known in Germany, but beginning in 2013, Arosa cruise itineraries, tweaked to accommodate North American travel tastes, will be available to Canadian and American cruise travelers. One of the itineraries for North Americans will be a Christmas market cruise.
We were charmed! Here are our top reasons to take a Christmas market cruise on the Danube:
1. It gets you in the Christmas spirit. Unlike shopping in a North American mall anytime after November, a river cruise is relaxed and as peaceful as you want it to be.
With Christmas decorations complimenting the vivid lime/orchid colour scheme of the Arosa Silva’s décor, cuddled in a sweater with your fingers wrapped around a mug of hot cider, sailing through beautiful, snow-kissed countryside with forests and villages and churches that remind you of those old fairytales… There’s no better way to welcome the winter season and experience a traditional flavour of Christmas!
Germany is really where most of our Christmas traditions were born, from decorated Christmas trees, to nutcrackers. One German Christmas tradition that we don’t often get here is Gluhwein – hot, spiced, mulled wine.
It is a MUST when visiting a German Christmas market, and on our cruise, it was the featured beverage of our sail away party.
There we were, on the top deck in a light snow, cozily dressed and gathered around the Arosa Silva’s splendid bar with its back-lit architectural details (one of the finest top deck bars I’ve seen on a river cruise ship – it is in a place of prominence at the top of the stairs onto the deck, and is a full-service, round bar that begs guests to mingle) sipping gluhwein, meeting our fellow passengers, and celebrating our sail away. Fantastic!
Traveling on your own, you might make the expedition to one town and its Christmas market. Nuremburg is the most famous, and rightfully so. It fills the town square in front of the cathedral, and it’s filled to the rafters with charming booths selling hand made toys, gifts, Christmas decorations, marzipan treats and stollen cakes, gluhwein (first stop!) wurst and pastries and every possible German winter/ Christmas item.
But on the cruise, you stroll off the ship one day into one town and its Christmas market… and the next day, another! We also had a chance to visit the market in Regensburg, a completely different experience. This one is held in the castle grounds, and since we went late in the day, the paths through the grounds were lit with torches, fire pits were glowing, so romantic!
4. There are fewer tourists this time of year.
I’m not going to say the markets aren’t busy, because they are, especially the flagship market, Nuremburg. But the rest of the towns, and the port areas, are less busy than during summer high season on the popular Danube river, and that means less jostling and a more relaxed cruise experience.
5. You get to shop in Germany in the winter!
You know all those images you see of fabulously stylish Europeans with their great jackets, smart hats, uniquely European styled scarves and looks? If you travel to Germany in the summer, it’s not the right time of year to find all those boiled wool hats, scarves, jackets, leather goods, sweaters that make northern Europeans so enviably stylish in the colder months. A December Christmas market cruise puts you there at a perfect time to stock up and put you on the best-dressed list – and everyone on your Christmas list, too!
So, what did I actually buy?
A fabulous teal boiled wool hat in Regensburg, plus hot apple pastries smothered in warm cream.
Hand-made, wooden Christmas tree decorations in Nuremburg, and a cute little pink piggie made of marzipan – the symbol in Bavaria of good luck in the New Year! Plus a half-metre long bratwurst, and of course, gluhwein!
This was my first German Christmas market cruise, and maybe because Arosa is a German cruise line, I have to say, they got it exactly right. The perfect combination of local food and beverages, cheery, warm, Christmas décor on board, the gluhwein sailaway party, and the markets on the itinerary… even filming every day, it got us into the Christmas spirit!