I’ll be the first to admit it, I love warm weather cruises but I jumped at the chance to take a seven night Christmas Markets cruise with Viking River Cruises. The cruise was far different than any other cruise I had taken but quickly became one of my favorite cruises I have ever been on. Why? Here are reasons why you should take a Christmas Markets cruise with Viking Cruises.
Visit Multiple Markets in 5 Different Cities, Only Unpack Once – Our cruise took place on Viking Atla on the Romantic Danube Itinerary. Our trip started in Budapest, Hungary and stopped in the ports of Melk, Vienna, Regensburg, Passau, and finished our cruise in Nuremburg, Germany. How else could you explore Europe, visiting three different countries with only unpacking once?
Christmas Markets are Magical – It’s impossible to visit the Christmas markets on our cruise and not be filled with Christmas spirit. The market at Thurn and Taxis Castle in Regensburg (Germany’s best preserved medieval city) is like stepping back in time hundreds of years. The market not only surrounds the 500 room palace, but also fills up the picturesque courtyard. In Vienna, the Christmas market at Rathausplatz becomes a failytale land at night with the gorgeous Town Hall serving as a backdrop.
In Budapest, we ran into “Szent Mikulás” (Good ole Saint Nick) and “Krampus” (The Christmas Devil) while visiting the market that was a short four block walk from the ship. Thankfully, our friends told us about the local Hurka sausage before we ordered some. We visited the market outside of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Passau and it offered us a chance to shop without the crowds. The cathedral, built in 1688, has the largest pipe organ in the world.
The Nuremburg Christmas Market was the largest market we visited and is also Germany’s most famous Christmas Market. This market had it all from live carolers, fresh baked pastries, local meat and sausages, a double decker carousel, and hand made gifts. This market is also home to the World of Prune Men, figures made from prunes that go back to the 18th century.
Local Musical Groups – Throughout our cruise, Viking brought on local musical groups onboard to sing to the passengers. In Budapest, an acapella group wowed passengers with Christmas songs in the Lounge. While in Germany, we were treated to a duo who played the guitar and played the accordion while we enjoyed a traditional Bavarian meal.
Opposite Itineraries – The Romantic Danube Christmas markets cruise offers cruises going both from Nuremburg to Budapest and from Bupadest to Nuremburg. This gives you the flexibility to start in your choice of two different cities, while enjoying the same markets and ports, just in reverse.
Tips for Christmas Markets cruises with Viking Cruises – After sailing a week on Viking Atla, here are a few tips I would like to offer.
- Book transfers with Viking. They were waiting for us as soon as we emerged from customs and on the way home, made sure that everyone found the proper check-in counter at the airport. Viking really makes travel easy when you are in a foreign airport.
- Bring warm clothes, 32 Degrees Heat by Weathproof provided the warmth needed without adding the feeling of being bulky. I picked some up at Macy’s that were on sale $10 each, best thing I bought for the trip.
- Come hungry, the food both on the ship and in the markets is delicious.
- Bring a camera with extra memory card. You will take more photos than you think you will.
- Glühwein, Kinderpunsch, and hot chocolate come in mugs that are unique to that market. You can keep the mugs or return them to get your deposit back, they range from €2.5 to €5 (Euro) each.
- Google Translate is the best app you can have on your phone. The photo feature will immediately translate any language right on the item that you are holding your phone up to. With this app, you can shop in any store (and know what you are buying) and eat in any local restaurant. Note, you may need data to access some features. Thankfully, I had TMobile which gives unlimited data and texting in over 110 countries.
- Many places do not accept credit cards, so be sure to bring some local currency (Euros in Germany/Austria, Forints in Hungary). ATM machines normally give the best exchange rates, far better than those ripoff kiosks at the airport.