Most vacationers merely want to escape the cold in the winter months, but taking a European Christmas market river cruise with Viking River Cruises should be on your short list of vacations. Not only is it a great way to spark the Christmas spirit, it’s also a unique way to explore Europe’s rich traditions in adventurous fashion.
We are writing this post LIVE from our Viking Longship as we sail through Slovakia down the Danube River toward Budapest, Hungary. Having the time of our lives, it’s already been an amazing journey as we have experienced exciting sites, foods, and experiences uniquely European. Starting in Nuremberg, we have stopped at ports in Regensburg, Passau, Melk, and Vienna. I still can’t decide which port was my favorite.
Perhaps I’m a little bit biased as I’m writing this post while sailing on a wonderful cruise ship, but I have to say… these are pretty amazing working conditions. Here are a few things you will love about a Christmas market cruise to Europe with Viking:
European Christmas Traditions without the Hype
At each stop we have been immersed in Christmas traditions that date back hundreds of years. From flickering lights that line the cobblestone alleyways to flavorful sausages and gingerbread it’s hard to not feel invigorated and delighted by such festive surroundings. It’s such a nice break to get away from the hustle and bustle of the overly commercialized holiday season and get back to the season’s roots. At each city’s Christmas market you will find local treasures from ornaments and figurines to colorful lights and local arts and crafts. There is something for everyone, and even if you don’t like to shop you can’t resist the food.
The largest Christmas market we went to was in Nuremberg, but every market, although with similar products, has a different vibe and personality. It’s almost impossible not to get caught up in the Christmas spirit without even trying.
You will not find a better sausage in the world than the ones you will find at Christmas markets in Europe. The smell of bratwurst is in the air, along with the scents of wonderful pastries, pretzels, and yes, lots of strudel. These foods are holiday traditions for the Christmas markets and we had a hard time resisting their allure.
Stress-Free Luxuries on Viking Longships
We have only experienced 5-star quality treatment here on the Viking Delling. And it’s the little details that have made us feel like royalty on board this Longship. Things like a fresh bottle of mineral water every morning, fresh fruit, and all kinds of little cookies and treats have made walking into the room an always delightful experience.
Heated floors in the stateroom bathrooms, warm towels handed to us after arriving back to the ship, waiters who go WAY out of their way to make sure you have what we need, and free WiFi are just a few things that have made this river cruise feel luxurious and “stressless”.
A staff that is personal and will bend over backwards
Once on board a Viking Longship you immediately feel like part of the family. The staff goes the extra mile to not just know your name but also to cater to your every need. Because of the smaller size of a river cruise ship versus an ocean cruise ship the more cozy atmosphere makes it easier to feel like home. Consider this your own personal houseboat while sailing the rivers of Europe. The front desk doesn’t feel like the DMV like on some cruise ships. There’s always a familiar and friendly face that is there to greet you, and besides knowing who you are already they are willing to solve any issue you have. Since these are smaller ships it also allowed us to interact with the Captain of the vessel a lot more. He often talked and joked with us and could be seen mingling with passengers throughout the cruise.
Customized tours and experiences
The cruise experience with Viking has been such an adventure and it’s all our own. Every day there is an included excursion that will take you through the city and Christmas markets. Then in the afternoon you have the option of choosing an additional excursion or just hanging out on the ship or even just exploring the city on your own. The concierge is always helpful in arranging any specific tours or excursions not listed on the schedule as well. This customized river cruising experience has made it fun to share stories with other passengers who have experienced different perspectives of the same ports. So whether you’re full of energy and ready to explore every square inch of a port or you just want to relax and rest on your vacation you have options available to you.
Tours that are enlightening and fun
Every morning you have the option to hop on a bus and get a guided tour of the city. There are listening devices you will use that will allow you to hear everything your tour guide says. You will usually be taken to several locations where you will do some walking around the city and into significant buildings. Our tour guides were not only informative but fun. And who doesn’t like to learn and see a bunch of cool stuff while being able to laugh as well. During Christmas time all of these ports along the way are lit up with festive lights and decorations.
Dazzling light displays
Pictures can’t really convey the feeling you get when walking down a cobblestone street in Europe at night and being bathed in flickering Christmas lights in alleyways and courtyards. It’s a time of year like no other and the ports you will stop at know how to celebrate the holiday season in true form.
The best way to travel Europe
I am convinced that there is no better way to explore Europe than on a river cruise, and the Christmas season is a perfect time to do so. Not only are you able to see historic and awe-inspiring sights, but you also get to immerse yourself in rich Christmas traditions that are older than the United States itself. Maybe you’re on the fence about a Christmas market cruise or maybe you never even considered it. Either way, I hope I expressed just how much fun I’m having and made you at least a little jealous.