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Christmas and New Year's River Cruises

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ABOVE: Uniworld's River Empress with holiday decorations. INSET BELOW: Christmas-market scenes in Regensburg, Germany.

photoRiver cruising is a pleasant way to see Europe at any time of year, but the experience becomes especially festive during the holiday season, when Christmas markets and New Year's celebrations put passengers and locals in a convivial mood.

photoThe best itineraries--at least in our opinion--are Christmas-market cruises, which give you the chance to snack and shop at the same time. Whether your tastes run to holiday crafts or grilled sausages and mulled wine, a cruise along the Rhine, Main, or Danube during the Advent season is a delightful experience. (If you're from North America, don't let fears of cold weather bother you: Winters along Western Europe's rivers tend to be mild by the standards of Chicago, Toronto, or Montreal.)

In 2006, several popular lines are offering cruises in December through the beginning of January:

Viking River Cruises has a "Danube Explorer" itinerary between Nuremberg and Vienna that lasts seven nights.

Uniworld is offering 8- to 13-day holiday cruises on the Rhine, Danube, and Main.

Amadeus Waterways has an 11-day trip from Prague to Passau to Budapest (or the reverse direction, depending on date) during the holiday season.

Similar cruises are likely to be available in 2007; check the cruise lines' Web sites for details.

Tips:

  • photoBefore booking a Christmas or New Year's cruise, examine both the itinerary and a map. Some advertised Christmas markets, such as Salzburg's, are a long way by bus from the nearest port, while others--such as Regensburg's--are no more than a few minutes' walk from the boat.

  • Some 2006 itineraries may already be fully booked. However, deals may be available for voyages that have empty cabins. Check with the cruise lines or a cruise travel agent to see what's available.

For more information on river cruising, see our River Cruise Reviews and the listings in our European Cruise Guide.

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