Christmas River Cruises in Europe

Those heading to Europe for the holidays may want to consider spending Christmas and/or New Years on one of the continent’s rivers. Many river cruises pass through Germany, which hosts some of the world’s most iconic Christmas markets, and other Central and Eastern European nations have plenty of history and heritage to inspire an old-fashioned holiday vibe. Here are just a few worth noting. 

Crown Cruise Vacations shared a few recommendations for holiday cruises. The Viking River Cruises 8 Night Europe departing from Budapest, Hungary on December 21 visits Budapest, Hungary; Vienne, France; Melk, Austria; Passau, Germany; Regensburg, Germany and Nuremberg, Germany.  AmaWaterways AmaCerto 7-night Christmas Time Cruise, departing from Nuremberg, Germany, on December 16, visits Hilpoltstein, Germany; Nuremberg, Germany; Regensburg, Germany; Passau, Germany; Linz, Austria; Vienna, Austria; Melk, Austria; Vienna, Austria; Budapest, Hungary; and Budapest, Hungary. Uniworld Boutique River Cruises River Queen 8-night Classic Christmas Markets Cruise, departing from Frankfurt, Germany, on December 15 has German ports of call in Frankfurt, Wertheim, Wurzburg, Schweinfurt, and Bamberg. (Crown also has high praise for The River Queen’s riverview staterooms and suites.)

Uniworld also has several other holiday-themed cruises: The eight-day European Holiday Markets tour brings visitors from Nuremberg to Vienna, stopping at Christmas markets along the way. The eight-day Danube Holiday Markets goes from Budapest to Passau, touring the Market on Vorosmarty Square in Budapest, another in Bratislava (where stalls show off Slovakian Christmas items like medovniky--spiced ginger cookies--and supolie--figurines made from corn husks.) In Vienna, music fans can sing along with carolers, and the  Volksgarten in Linz has animated displays of scenes from fairy tales. The eight-day Rhine Holiday Markets tour, meanwhile, travels from Basel to Cologne, stopping in Strasbourg, Koblenz and other small towns.


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Hurtigruten is arranging seasonal activities for Christmas Eve and Day and New Year’s Eve this year. Guests embarking on any Classic Voyage that travels on December 24 and 25 can help the crew adorn their vessel and its Christmas tree with decorations made onboard; learn Norwegian Christmas carols; decorate Gingerbread Houses; and eat “Julegrøt,” a traditional Norwegian Christmas porridge. On December 24, all ships in the fleet will moor in their respective destination ports for 24 hours, giving guests the opportunity to attend Christmas services at local churches. Later that night, passengers and crew members can enjoy a Christmas Eve buffet. The celebration continues with the singing of Christmas carols and a visit from Santa Claus. On December 25, a Christmas Day brunch is held in the ship’s main restaurant, along with a coffee and cake buffet. On New Year’s Eve, guests can celebrate with dinner and dancing, in addition to fireworks and a midnight toast to ring in the New Year. Classic Voyage itineraries include Bergen - Kirkenes (13 days), Bergen - Kirkenes Trondheim (11 days), Bergen - Kirkenes (7 days) and Kirkenes - Bergen (6 days). 
Bonus: A special highlight during the winter season is the search for “The Northern Lights,” a natural phenomenon which occurs particularly in arctic regions at this time of year. 

France Cruises is offering trips aboard a luxury riverboat or barges through France’s rivers that include trips to Paris, Alsace, Bordeaux and Provence. For the holidays, be sure to add on the Exclusive Winter Holiday Paris Package that adds an additional  four days and three nights in Paris.