Christmas markets are back for 2021 and river cruises are on the rise: Travel Weekly


Brittany Chrusciel

Last year wasn’t quite a year without Santa Claus, but with Europe’s Christmas markets closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it seemed close enough. I grew up going to the markets with my German grandmother, and even though it had been years since I had done so, just knowing that the stalls would not sparkle and the market place would not be full. from the smell of mulled wine Spice made a depressing year a little darker for this die-hard Deutsch.

But they are back. Despite a turbulent year of changing travel restrictions and a guessing game on vaccine requirements and testing mandates, it seems many of Europe’s most popular Christkindlmarkts will be open to visitors – and that means river cruise lines are also officially back to sailing these magical routes.

Historically known in the industry to sell out faster than fresh gingerbread, Christmas market cruises are not only offered, but many are still available to book for the 2021 season. I’ve spoken to operators new river cruises and capacities available for customers looking for an extra dose of joie de vivre.

Which crossings are still available this year?

While these time-sensitive crossings can sometimes sell out for up to a year in advance, an uncertain travel window means that customers who wish to go abroad for the holidays still have the option of booking a river cruise. in the popular European Christmas markets. (But don’t be surprised if many departures for next year are already taken. AmaWaterways, for example, cited “unusually high demand” for the 2022 season and urged advisors to tell customers to “book now” .)

Viking River Cruises offers six European routes that celebrate with Christmas markets, from late November to December on classic routes along the Rhine and Danube as well as crossings that cross the Moselle and Elbe. A Paris-Swiss Alps itinerary visits the region in November as the Christmas markets are brewing. There is still limited availability on most of these 2021 offers, ranging from eight to 15 days, but Viking is selling these popular trips until 2023, so there is a good chance that customers can find availability on their itinerary. preferred – if not this year than the next.

Uniworld has announced capacity on all options this season, with six different 2021 vacation itineraries available, ranging from eight to 13 days, including Christmas and New Years cruise vacations. Customers booking some sailings that depart before December 31 are eligible for a two-category upgrade when booking a non-suite room, including five of the 2021 Christmas Market itineraries.

Avalon has one of the largest collections of Christmas market cruises in the industry, with nine itineraries offered for 2021, ranging from four to 16 days and sailing the Rhine, Main and Danube. “In a typical year, these cruises can sell out as early as six months before departure,” Pam Hoffee, general manager of Avalon Waterways told me. “This year, places are still limited on some Christmas cruises. And 2022 is selling fast, with over 60% of our capacity already booked. Consultants should encourage their clients to book early for their choice of dates and staterooms on these specials. , festive cruises for 2022. “

In 2021, AmaWaterways is offering seven routes where customers can enjoy what it calls “the sparkle of the Christmas markets”, including new navigation on the AmaKristina which operates between Lyon and Avignon, France.

“Developments in travel regulations to visit Europe have put new bookings on hold in recent weeks; however, AmaWaterways is now seeing a return to a much more positive consumer sentiment, and new booking requests. have resumed again, “he said. .

Scenic and Emerald Cruises have also reported the availability of their cruises at Christmas markets; Scenic has two, one on the Danube and one on the Rhine; and Emerald has three, a Rhine and two Danube.

Family vacation options

Adventures By Disney is accepting the waitlist only for its Danube departures, but there is still availability for next year’s seven-night Disney Christmas Markets Rhine Cruise, which will sail from Basel to Amsterdam December 22, 2022. This unique cruise experience, chartered on AmaWaterways ships, includes holiday markets in Strasbourg, Cologne and more, as well as personalized family experiences like sledding through the Black Forest.

If your customers are looking for a family-friendly experience of Christmas markets on the Danube, Tauck offers Holiday Magic departures through its family-centric Tauck Bridges program. These seven-night itineraries, from Regensburg to Budapest, include private excursions to a Viennese palace and the birthplace of the Christmas carol “Silent Night”. There is still room for departures on December 20 and 27. The capacity is also available at the 2021 Christmas markets of Tauck along the Danube and Yuletide Spirit: routes from Brussels to Amsterdam.

Shorter cruises at the Christmas market

River cruise enthusiasts looking for a short holiday break can book CroisiEurope’s Generous Christmas 2021 in the Black Forest, a three-night jump through the Alsace region of France, or the delicious Christmas Markets. in the Neckar Valley, a four-night sailing from Strasbourg which also includes Heidelburg. “These programs are particularly special, as they highlight the Christmas markets in Strasbourg, our hometown, and our own mini Christmas market directly on the cruise dock,” said Michael Da Costa, CEO of CroisiEurope for North America.

“While Christmas cruises represent a small part of CroisiEurope’s annual bookings, they are a significant part of an otherwise slow winter season,” according to Da Costa. “They are also very popular and eagerly awaited by guests. In normal years we tend to see them start to book in the middle of summer.”

In 2022, Emerald Cruises is planning a five-day Christmas in the south of France, round trip from Marseille.

What’s new in the Christmas Markets Cruise?

On Crystal River Cruises, in addition to the basic trips to the seven-night Christmas Markets of the Rhine Line (sailing between Basel and Amsterdam) and the Danube (sailing between Vilshofen and Budapest, with a pre-cruise Prague package) , new itineraries for 2022 include one-week round-trip Danube crossings from Vienna aboard the Crystal Mozart and 10-night crossings between Amsterdam and Basel on the Rhine. By 2023, Crystal is presenting three new itineraries: the 10-night Christmas Splendours of the Rhine and Moselle; Dutch and Belgian seven-night Christmas markets, including the Royal Market in The Hague; and the 10-night Rhine Christmas markets. The new Christmas Splendors combines the best markets of the Rhine and Moselle, according to Walter Littlejohn, senior vice president and general manager of Crystal Cruises, “and has the most charming and authentic markets which are the most popular with Germans themselves. same “.

There are eight Christmas market crossings in 2021 aboard Crystal Debussy or Crystal Ravel, and available capacity is still limited. In a traditional year, the line operates its entire fleet during the Christmas market season, so in 2022 there will be 16 departures on all five ships. “Customers typically start booking more than a year before departure, and we’re usually full about five to six months in advance,” Littlejohn said.

Riviera River Cruises offers 19 Christmas market departures in December, with good availability on the Enchanting Rhine & Yuletide Markets route, which covers four German ports in five days. Of the line’s six market routes, four are new for 2021 and include Christmas and New Years crossings.

Another novelty for 2022 is the itinerary of the Christmas markets on the Rhine in Tauck, from Basel to Düsseldorf. Unlike the line’s market availability for 2021, four of these five new Rhine departures are currently full for next year, with the only availability listed for December 20, which intersects at Christmas.

Also: Not your typical Christmas Market cruise, but Viking has announced that it will be offering Christmas crossings on its new Mississippi River routes in 2022, from Memphis to New Orleans.

Are there any Covid-19 restrictions in the markets?

Most cruise lines require a full vaccination against Covid-19 in order to be able to sail, and for good reason – many countries, including Austria since September 15, now require visitors to be fully vaccinated, or else they are subject to an obligation, 10-day quarantine.

While the markets are all open-air, the best practices for visiting any Christmas market echo much of what we’ve all learned over the past year: wear a mask when you can’t distance yourself. socially (markets must be crowded, so remember to keep your EU-required Medical Grade Mask on at all times except when eating and drinking), and keep your hands clean while shopping, sipping, and snacking.

Unexpected bonus? The mask will keep your nose warm as you browse the stalls and admire the unmistakable wonder of Europe’s historic Christmas markets.

Correction: Riviera River Cruises offers six market routes, four of which are new for the 2021 season. An incorrect number of routes was included in a previous version of this article.

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