Rhine Christmas Markets River Cruises

This week we have been inundated with requests for river cruises to visit the German Christmas markets along the Rhine river.

Christmas markets river cruises

Taking a Christmas markets river cruise is an amazing and easy way to immerse yourself in the ambiance of Germany’s traditional Christmas feativities with their host of unique gifts.  Together with the stunning Rhine scenery it really is a winter wonderland.

Strasbourg Christmas Market

What is a Christmas markets river cruise like?

Just by strolling off the ship, you will walk straight into the heart of the towns and cities along the Rhine and find yourself wandering around the gingerbread house-like stalls. Why not sample a warming glass or two of Gluhwein (Mulled Wine)?  Each market has its own special Glühwein mug. For a small fee, it is yours to keep and re-use. Not only are refills cheaper, you’ll have a great souvenir!

Don’t forget to check out the free concerts in churches and palaces surrounding the markets as the music is usually superb.

Ginger bread at Christmas markets

When is the best time to go on a Rhine Christmas markets cruise?

Most of the markets start towards the middle of November and run up to just before Christmas.  It is worth checking with us as which we know which ones to visit when. Some markets do stay on over the actual Christmas period and finish as late as New Year’s Eve.

Also the best time is in the evening when it is dark when you can immerse yourselves in the traditions and sounds as you wander around.  Taking in all the festive lights and ambiance. But it will be colder in the evening, so do wrap up warm.  If you are really lucky there may well be snow to really put you in the Christmas mood.  Even if you only have a few days, there are river cruises from 3 nights to up to 7 nights long.  And at this time of year flights tend to be inexpensive compared to the warmer months.

Kaysersberg at Christmas in Alsace

Cologne Christmas Markets

Take a stroll around one market or if you have time, take in all seven Christmas markets on offer around Cologne! Each has its own special atmosphere.  Angels and Saint Nicolases, Elves and Father Christmases as well as twinkling stars and the aroma of roasted almonds and Glühwein invite you to browse in the festively decorated centre of Cologne.

Frankfurt Christmas Markets

On the Roemerberg,  a beautifully decorated fir tree reaches toward the skies. Frankfurt’s historical old town is brightly illuminated by thousands of fairy lights reflecting off the windows of the square’s traditional half-timbered houses.

The scent of baked apples, chestnuts, gingerbread and mulled wine fills the air.  If you’ve ever wanted to experience the wonderful wintertime charm of the old world, then the Frankfurt Christmas Market is the place for you!

A special addition to the traditional Frankfurt Christmas Market is the ‘Pink Christmas Market’ at Friedrich Stoltze Square with the focus on the LGBT customer.

The little market’s stalls and Christmas trees glow in bright pink. The rustic wooden booths serve hot cocktails, homemade soup, gingerbread and much, much more.

Rudesheim Christmas Markets

Christmas traditions from all over the world merge at Rudesheim Christmas Market. Featuring over 120 stalls,  from twelve nations bringing their products to the market in Popular ‘Drosselgasse’ area in the historic city centre, on this famous street which is festively decorated with sparkling lights and decorations.

Our Opinion of Rhine Christmas Market Cruises

Christmas markets are only a part of your cruise, relax on board whilst a kaleidoscope of riverside views drift past in all their wintery glory.

Wrap up warm and take in the invigorating air on the top deck whilst taking in the stunning views of the world famous Rhine gorge.

Nutcracker Christmas market toy

CLICK TO VIEW OUR CHRISTMAS MARKETS RIVER CRUISES FOR 2017

 

Amadeus River Cruises – Amadeus Silver II Review

Amadeus Silver II Exterior

Amadeus River Cruises by Luftner , a family owned company, offer high quality river cruises on the major rivers in Europe. Unlike some of the better known and much, much larger American owned companies, Amadeus has stayed in the same family for the last 40 years and prides itself on a small fleet of custom designed river ships. I was lucky enough to cruise on the brand new Amadeus Silver II in March 2017 and here is my review of the ship.

We joined the ship in Amsterdam. The Amadeus Silver II is one of the new 135 square meter river cruise ships being launched by Luftner. The ship will cruise the river Rhine and The Danube throughout the season from early spring and including Christmas markets and Christmas and New Year cruises as well.

Stepping onboard, the modern interior with greys and pinks is bright and welcoming. The staff are also very friendly and I recognise them from a previous cruise I have taken with Amadeus. Due to the family nature of the cruise line, there is a very small staff turnover and our customers are often telling us that they look forward to meeting familiar staff again on their next cruise. Again, the larger American river cruise lines would not be able to offer this very welcome element of customer service. It takes a long time to train a member of staff.

What facilities are there on the Amadeus Silver II ship?

Well, there is a fitness room with equipment, hair salon, massage room, a gift shop, complimentary bicycles to use when in port to cycle into towns etc. Additionally there is a laundry service which is payable locally.

The Public Areas

Amadeus Silver II Cafe Vienna

Moving up a level from the lobby, there is a coffee and tea area, the Cafe Vienna, with Viennese coffee specialities which allows customers to sit and enjoy the view out of the large glass windows whilst enjoying the complementary hot drinks from the 24 hour coffee station.

Amadeus Silver II Panorama Bar
Moving into the main panorama lounge which is full of full length windows and light, the bar area again is modern and with plenty of seating throughout the area, you will also be able to find somewhere to sit and read a book or browse a newspaper or the internet. In the evening, the Panorama lounge and bar is where the entertainment of either the pianist or local performers who are brought onboard will be enjoyed from.

Amadeus Silver II River Terrace

Moving forward in the lounge you can access the outside seating area, known as the “River Terrace”, an absolute must for when the ship is scenic cruising. As it was early spring, we were able to take advantage of the blankets on offer whilst enjoying a hot drink and the view.

The sundeck is the best place to catch the 360 degrees river views from and it enjoys a Lido-bar, lounge chairs, shade awnings, giant chess board and shuffleboard.

Amadeus Silver II Club Lounge

Additionally at the rear of the ship, there is the Amadeus Club Lounge. With windows on three sides and again an outside area, this is a lovely quiet area with again a coffee station and computers to check emails.

Size of the Amadeus Silver II

Built in 2015, over 3 floors the ship offers 84 staterooms in total of which 12 are suites. The maximum number of passengers on board is 168 and the number of crew is 46. This ship is although the same size as the Amadeus Silver, has much bigger staterooms and suites and less passengers.

The Restaurant and dining onboard the Amadeus Silver II

You will find yourself enjoying up to 3 meals a day on your Amadeus Silver II cruise. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are offered in the dining room, a large, modern area with floor to ceiling windows. Open seating means that you will find yourself a table and sit down.

Amadeus Silver II Breakfast Menu

Breakfast is a buffet with many recognisable continental and American options. So, there is a egg station for omelettes and poached and fried eggs which can be ordered, cereals, fruit and yogurt, fried breakfast items and more Germanic breakfast items. There is free flowing coffee and tea as well as self service fruit juice. The waiters are there to assist you with special requirement, just ask.
Lunch is also a buffet with free seating with salad options, soup and meat dishes.

Dinner is a table d’hote menu with multiple courses and the standard here is very high.

Amadeus Silver II Fine Dining

The staterooms

I was lucky enough to be in one of the 284 sq ft suites. I can highly recommend them. As well as the largest walkin wardrobe I have ever seen on a river cruise ship – it is enormous – there is an additional corner seating area.

Amadeus Silver II Suite Seating Area

The floor to ceiling windows make the suite seem even bigger. there is a small sit out balcony for the warmer days, a large flat screen tv, mini bar. The ensuite bathroom is a great size, with complementary toiletries.

Amadeus Silver II French Balcony Cabin

The staterooms on the middle and upper decks are 188 sq ft – these are a really good size for french balcony cabins. An electronic window allows the french balcony to be opened horizontally.

On the lower deck, again the staterooms are a good size at 172 sq ft with a head height window. Lots of mirrors have been used to allow more light into the cabins and I have to say, that unlike some river cruise ship designs for lower deck cabins I would be very happy to be in one of these rooms. The space has been used well.

My Overall Opinion of the Amadeus Silver II

I really enjoyed my time on the Silver II. I have seen a lot of river cruise ships and I like the fact that the Amadeus ships are all different. There is no “one-size fits all” so there is never a time that the ships feel dated. Depending on which package is booked, you could have drinks with your meals and wi-fi included and selected excursions. As an Amadeus specialist, we are able to advise on the best package for you as well as whether you would like cruise only or flights and transfers. Do check before booking as Amadeus cruises do tend to be tailor made.

What’s the food like on a River Cruise?

“What is the food like on a River Cruise? is one of the frequent questions we get asked.

Most offer a menu that reflects the local area using fresh local produce and in our experience can be exceptional, Breakfast features a large selection of hot and cold choices with cooked to order eggs, omlettes and pancakes.  Lunch if on board, and not on a tour is usually a three course offering with a wide menu choice and your evening meal four courses again with a wide choice of dishes featuring some regional specialities of the local area.

If you don’t fancy trying the local delicacies, or just want a lightermeal then you will not go hungry as you can always get fresh Fish, Chicken, Steak or just a Salad.

Roast duck & sprouts on Loire Princesse

Lobster Dinner - Avalon Vista

Most ships only have one sitting for Dinner, as the large restaurants have enough seating for everyone to dine at the same time.   AMAWaterways and Scenic do have a specialty restaurant on board (free of charge unlike ocean going specialty restaurants which incur an extra charge, however you may need to book a table)

MS Emily Bronte lunch

MS Emily Bronte , Lunch

Special Diets

Any special dietary needs can be catered for, Vegetarians wont have any issues as veggie dishes are widely featured on the menus, and the menus usually show which dishes are Gluten free, Nut, Dairy etc.  We would suggest that you let then cruise company know in advance of any special needs so the kitchen knows in advance and the Maitre d’ will check with you on arrival to run through all requirements.

Dress Code

River ships have no strict dress code on board it is very relaxed, no formal nights so no need to pack evening wear like on an ocean going ship, just smart casual.

Wine Cruises

For food and wine lovers why not try one of the gourmet or wine cruise on offer which feature vineyard tours, wine tasting with a local sommelier and gourmet tasting menus, guest speaker on how to pair food and wine togetheris a river cruise holiday right for me?

 

 

Why do single travelers pay more for a river cruise?

“Why do I have to pay double for a single cabin?” We get asked this question all the time.  The worst thing for a single river cruise traveler is the single supplement.  But don’t just get angry.  It’s easy to avoid paying double by understanding the river cruise single market and how it works.

Most cruise lines do not have actual single cabins on board.  River cruise ships don’t have actual single cabins – ones that are smaller than double cabins. Yes, that’s right.  Single cabins are few and far between.  I can think of maybe 20 ships in the whole of Europe which have one small cabin onboard, always on the bottom deck with no french balcony.    A small cabin, on the lower deck and you can have it with no supplement.  I’m not sensing much excitement about that option.

So, as a single customer you are usually getting the same size cabin as two people. This is why it looks like the cruise company is charging more for you to be in a double cabin, but on your own.

Sometimes a cruise line can take the decision to not charge a single traveler double, and lower the supplement.  This usually happens when a cruise first goes on sale for a season, hence these discounted double cabins for sole use always sell out really quickly,

From then on, once these have sold out they will usually charge extra.  This can be anywhere from 10% to 100% extra,

My advise is to book early to get either the single cabins or take up their early booking offers of no supplement.

river cruise on the Douro as a single river cruise traveler

What sort of holiday do I want as a single river cruise traveler?

Are you a solo traveler off to explore with like minded people?  Then often you want to make sure you have a good social group on your trip and that you will have some other solo travelers to socialise and dine with.  You don’t want to feel you are going to stick out like a sore thumb, but want to use the trip to make new friends and talk to some interesting people.  You may also want the tour operator to have thought about you beyond the space in the cabin.  Some even offer to pick you up from home, and a really nice idea is a dedicated tour manager who can get the group to interact and make sure that seats are reserved at dinner?

Are you a single river cruise traveler who is travelling with friends?

This is probably the most frustrating issue as you have all found a cruise you like and a date that will suit you all.  And guess what?  You have to pay the same price as your friends do in total for two people.  Unfortunately on a river ship, there isn’t a way to give you half the space so that you pay half the cabin price.  River cruise operators should really just give a cabin price and be done with it, but there you are.

Emerald Star Ship Balcony Cabin

With this in mid here are a couple of recommendations for single passengers.

Uniworld – Itineraries ideally suited for single river cruise travelers.  An open seating plan at every meal, small group excursions, and kindred spirits who share your passion for fresh destinations.  No single supplement or reduced the single supplement on many of their most popular itineraries! Book early for 2018, while space and no supplements are available.

Riviera Travel – have a number of departures with low supplements for both 2017 and 2018 from the Rhine in Germany to the Portugal Douro River most are window cabins for a very reasonable price, but again try to book early as not many cabins available.

Saga River cruise – has very reasonable prices for a single river cruise traveler, limited availability for 2017, and a good selection left for 2018 dates with low or no single supplement.

You can book some amazing river cruises through Europe and beyond with Global River Cruising, offering a range of fantastic itineraries and budgets suitable to your needs and preferences.

 

 

 

 

Wine River Cruises in France on the Rhône

Wine for elevenses? It’s almost obligatory when sailing on a Rhône wine cruise in France.  How do you fancy a relaxing morning being taken to the local vineyards to see the vines tumbling over the hillsides, before sampling the various wines the local vineyards and wineries have to offer along the Northern and Southern Rhône?

As well as the stunning views of medieval towns and colourful landscapes, the Rhône River winds its way between the many vineyards that line its banks from Lyon to Avignon.

Rhone River Cruise, Beautiful Rhône Valley Vinyards

A Provence itinerary on a Rhône river cruise takes you through this prized wine-producing region in southeastern France, known throughout the world as the Rhône Valley. You’ll also get to savour some delightful wines from the Beaujolais region just to the north, where the Rhône meets the river Saône. The valley traces the path of the river for almost 150 miles, with views of grape-covered vines gripping its steep sides. Since it’s so large, the climate varies greatly from north to south as does the soil and wine quality.

The Northern Rhône

The Northern Rhône is a smaller wine growing area than the South, but still offers prestige wines.  Offering a continental climate with granite soils and grows Syrah grapes used in the famous Hermitage wines, so impressive that it’s the only red grape grown in this region to create the full bodied, rich and tannic wines, the white wines are made from Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne.

The Southern Rhône

A warmer climate is enjoyed in the Southern Rhône with hot summers and mild winters. This larger sub-region is responsible for nearly 95% of the entire region’s wine, including a wide range of everyday whites, rosés and Grenache-based red blends from the more commonly known Côtes du Rhône appellation. The south also creates a variety of powerful, high-quality reds and whites in areas like world renowned  Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Rhone River Cruise, Fine Wines from the Rhône Valley

What to expect on a Rhône wine cruise

Whilst on a Rhône river cruise  you can look forward to sampling some of the hand selected local wines recommended by the on board wine host with your evening meal.  Wine tasting of course goes hand in hand with talks on winemaking and other activities including an evening excursion in Vienne pairing red wine and delicious chocolate at Chateau De Tournan , A hike in the vineyard of Tain- L’Hermitage  followed by a visit to a local vineyard to sample the wine, whilst in Avignon you can either visit Pont Du Gard an impressive roman aqueduct or take a Provencal cookery lesson before wine tasting at Chateauneuf-Du-Pape, that give an insight into the local gastronomic traditions and history of the local area you are sailing through.

Rhone River Cruise, Avignon, France

Away from the vineyards, there’s nothing quite like a visit to the Carrières de Lumières—an impressive underground art show held at a limestone quarry near the town of Les Baux. You’ll be surrounded by colour and light from every angle at this stunning visual exhibit, which brings famous paintings to life as they are projected against the rock faces of the quarry.

A visit to Avignon, where truffles are a highly prized delicacy sometimes referred to as “the diamonds of the kitchen.” No man or machine can locate them, only specially trained dogs can detect their scent beneath the roots of certain types of trees such as oak, beech or hazel. You can take part in this authentic and  unique experience on a visit to a Truffle farm.

And finally no visit to this area would be complete without a wander around the streets of Arles, one of France’s most beautiful cities,  where  Vincent Van Gogh lived and painted such well known pictures including “Starry Night” and “The Irises”

Update – Rhone Wine Cruise Offer for Summer 2017

We have negotiated an exclusive price with our partners at Amawaterways.  Their 7 night Rhone wine cruise from Arles to Lyon onboard the AMACello luxury river ship on 3rd August 2017 features an exclusive wine tasting in the chateauneuf-du Pape region and tour of a local vineyard.  On day 4, you will enjoy an onboard wine lecture from your wine host.  In the evening you will enjoy a “red wine & chocolate pairing” at a Tournon Chateau.  Day 5 enjoys a scenice drive to Tain-I’Hermitage for a wine tasting.  Finish the day with a Chaine de Rotisseurs paired wines with dinner.  Day 6 features another wine lecture and tasting whilst cruising to Lyon.  Day 7 is either free time in Lyon, or a Beaujolais vineyard tour and wine tasting in the Oingt hilltop village in the home of a local vintner.  Prices start from £1699 for the cruise based on 2 sharing.  Flights and transfers are available.  Please ask  for a quote: enquiries@globalrivercruising.co.uk