Christmas market river cruises to be popular

Ashok Kumar, Founder, Cruise Master

This festive season, Christmas market river cruises are set to be a popular choice, Cruise Master’s Founder and Managing Director Ashok Kumar (or Cruise Guru as he is fondly known as in the region), tells TTN.

A river cruise is a leisure voyage along inland waterways, often stopping at multiple ports along the way. Since cities and towns often grew up around rivers, river cruise ships frequently dock in the centre of cities and towns. Typical river cruises often last longer than a week and carry anywhere from 100 to 250 guests, depending on the ship size.

There are many popular river cruise destinations across Asia, Middle East and Africa and the USA but Europe remains an all-time favourite and specially when it’s the favourite time of the year for everyone, the winter holidays – when Christmas markets will flourish across traditional cities and medieval towns following the holiday traditions, he says.

According to Kumar, the top picks of Christmas Markets River Cruises in Europe are:

The Rhine, to visit some of Germany’s best holiday markets. Many of the season’s traditions started in Germany and some of the popular markets are Nuremberg’s Christmas Market, a renowned market in Germany along with Regensberg, medieval city and a UN heritage site and Bamberg.

The Danube, for river cruises that start or end in Budapest and Vienna. Several festive markets can be found in Vienna, Salzburg, Budapest along the Danube, Prague, Strasbourg, home to the oldest market in France, Winter wonderland markets are also beautiful in Tallinn (Estonia), Bruges and Brussels, Krakow (Poland), Zagreb (Croatia) and Bratislava (Slovakia).

“There’s a river cruise itinerary for every taste and interest and a Christmas river cruise for anyone who loves the holiday season, particularly the snowfall and the festive decorated ships with Christmas ornaments and tinsel and gingerbread houses, that add to the magical season.”

Many celebrate the Christmas season with market festivals featuring native crafts, local food, and activities ranging from live music performances to amusement rides.

River cruises docking in the heart of medieval towns and walking from the ship to the “old town’ and into the Christmas market squares is a highlight. You can wander by yourself or take the excursion with the group, which would generally be included in the cruise, he tells us.

River cruises generally offer more inclusions like onboard accommodation, meals, beverages that are usually served with lunch or dinner, port taxes and fees, enrichment lectures and destination performances, onboard entertainment, some ships offer one excursion per port whereas others offer a choice of excursions depending on the cruise, some also offer complimentary transfers to the ship and back.

Most Christmas Markets open by late November and last till almost after December 25, with a few staying open for New Year’s as well.

“It’s recommended to book your river cruise in advance so you can secure your choice of cabin, as river cruise ships are smaller in size and can fill in early,” Kumar warns.

Earlier this year, Cruise Guru Ashok talked about a marked uptick in small ship cruises and luxury cruises, saying “People want to escape and are willing to spend on bucket list destinations or cruise experiences, desiring niche journeys, destinations, and cultural immersion.

“River Cruises like AMA Waterways, Avalon and Uniworld offer all intimate experiences and luxury accommodations. The smaller size of a river ship enables them to dock right in the heart of cities and towns – and many of the world’s greatest cities are accessible by river – you can literally walk straight off the ship and into the town.”