Dateline: 2014-12-15 (Monday) to 2014-12-21 (Sunday)
Location: all along the Rhine River
Full Flickr Albums and YouTube Playlists
There are accompanying Flickr albums and YouTube playlists for each day (some days don’t have videos). The pictures included here in these Blogs are a tiny portion of those that were taken.
Christmas on the Rhine overview
The Christmas on the Rhine river cruise with AmaWaterways is a special version of their normal itinerary along this route. Being the Christmas season, all of the German and French towns along the river have daily Christmas markets. We didn’t know exactly what this would entail prior to the cruise, but it was fun discovering as we went along.
The Christmas Markets might best be compared to a large craft and food street fair that most people would have experienced. Vendors all have very uniform large wooden “cabins” that are lined into rows. Some smaller cities may just have a single area where all of the Christmas Market vendors/stalls are arranged, while larger cities will have multiple distinct areas. Cologne had the most, with seven markets scattered around different areas of the city.
Most of the crafts and hand-made goods on display are related to Christmas themes, but not all. Some may be jewelry, leatherwork, clothing (scarves, hats, gloves, and the like are popular), toys, candles, kitchen items, and nearly anything else one can think of. Food is plentiful, with things like deep-fried potato pancakes (with applesauce for dipping! it’s good), sausages (lots of varieties), stewed or barbequed meats, tarte flambé (just in France), and spätzle (with bacon and mushrooms, yum!) being well represented. There’s plenty to drink, as well. Beer is available from most food stands, but the most often ordered drink is mulled wine (Glühwein). Some Christmas Markets have very elaborate drinking areas built up — the most interesting was a multi-level castle-looking construction, completely filled with revelers.
The Christmas Markets in each town were very well-attended events by the locals. There were certainly some other tourists there like ourselves, but the vast majority of the people in attendance were definitely locals. It’s a huge draw for nightly entertainment for everyone. (I’m not sure exactly how much legitimate Christmas present shopping there was being done; it seemed much more like a diversion for everyone.) As the days got closer to Christmas, markets were becoming more and more crowded. We ended in Strasbourg and Riquewihr on a Saturday and Sunday; being the weekend, both of these markets were absolutely swamped.
Each day along the cruise consisted of a tour provided by a local expert guide. Sometimes there were choices of what you could do, but no matter what you selected all options were included (i.e., there were no extra charges) with your cruise. After the guided tour, you typically had between 2 to 4 hours to explore the towns and markets on your own, before making your way back to the ship on foot (or to the designated bus pick-up point). At some destinations the ship didn’t leave until the AM hours of the next morning, so you could stay in the cities for dinner and very late night exploration if you really wanted to.
We sailed the upstream route, which meant starting in Amsterdam and going southeast (mainly) into Germany, France, and then ending in Basel, Switzerland. Subsequent Blog entries describe what happened on each day of the cruise…
AmaWaterways Full Review
Want to jump ahead of the daily run-downs of sights and activities, and get right to the punchline? You can read my detailed review of all aspects of the AmaWaterways experience here: