Christmas River Cruising
I recently had the opportunity to sail aboard the Emerald Dawn Star Ship through the Rhine and Main River with the itinerary being centered on Europe’s Christmas Markets. As a fellow Christmas fanatic, I was super excited to visit these European cities and get a front seat look into how each one prepares for and celebrates Christmas!
The cruise was scheduled to be 2 weeks long and while a good majority of the passengers were staying on for the full 2 weeks, my guest and I, along with a few others, were only on for the first week. Emerald of course had other passengers join for the last week as well. The first week consisted of sailing along the Rhine River and the Main River and the second week would be sailing the Danube River.
It’s a known fact the European Christmas Markets are at the next level. These Europeans really know how to do Christmas! Their Christmas Markets often consist of food stands (which always have local specialties for you to try), Christmas trinket shops, pastries, delicious goodies, and of course, my favorite, glühwein stands!
Our embarkation point was in Amsterdam, where we stayed docked through the first night and explored the beautiful city the following day. That first night, my guest and I took advantage of the 2022 Amsterdam Light Festival and did a walking tour of it, taking pictures of the amazing light demonstrations and displays along the way. The next day we were taken on a canal cruise through Amsterdam where we were able to see many different sights and attractions.
The second port on our journey was in Cologne, Germany. The travel between Amsterdam and Cologne took well near 24 hours, which for any new cruisers, can be a bit long when you’re not used to being on a ship for that long. I highly encourage anybody on a long journey like this to take advantage of the ship’s amenities.
Cologne had the most markets and each one was different and absolutely beautiful! The first one we visited was right in the center, in front of the Cathedral. We walked a bit further to find another one in the city plaza/square and this one had a gnome theme. There were collective stalls to house a few markets plus a mini ferris wheel that gave you the perfect view of the entire market from above. We then made our way down to the Chocolate Museum where they also had a giant ferris wheel right in front of the building. The Chocolate Museum had closed their admissions by the time we got there but we got some chocolate shopping done in their gift shop to make the walk there worth it!
The following day we sailed through the Rhine Gorge where we were able to see a good number of castles right from the sun deck of our ship. We docked in Rüdesheim and made our way to their famous Seigfried’s Mechanical Music Museum. In this museum, we were able to have live demonstrations of some antique mechanical musical instruments. We spent our free time exploring the markets and collecting another Christmas Market mug!
The next day consisted of two stops, Miltenberg and Wertheim! Unfortunately, because these towns were so small, their markets weren’t open every day and it so happened that the day we went, they weren’t. The good thing is that even though the markets weren’t open, some of the local shops were open and we found a few stands opened up when they saw a big group of us arrive.
Our fifth day took us to Würzburg, but we decided to go on a special excursion. We decided to take the tour of the Romantic Road into Rothenburg. In Rothenburg, we were able to do some sausage tastings, which was a very good choice considering that Germany is very well known for their sausages/bratwursts. We also had the chance to try a famous Christmas pastry that our tour guide called, snowballs. This is a round flaky pastry covered in white powdered sugar made to look like a snowball.
Bamberg was a town with one of the most impressive landscapes with its seven hills and historic buildings. Especially their town hall that was built right in the river that runs through the town. In Bamberg, they also have a special beer that they are known for. Schlenkerla, a dark smoky beer, is very popular in this town. Although we didn’t get the chance to try it, I was able to get a peek at it since it’s also very common for people to go into the brewery to purchase it and come back out into the streets to enjoy it in the open air.
Our final day was spent in Nuremberg. This was an early Christmas market day as we had our departure scheduled for noon, but we were still able to spend our morning exploring the market. Nuremberg had a beautiful Christmas cottage town set up at the entrance to the center of the town and I can only imagine how greater it would have been to see it full of people and with the lights lit up.
The Christmas Markets were more than I could have ever imagined, and I will always cherish the wonderful memories of this trip! From a fellow Christmas lover, if you’re thinking about doing a tour of the European Christmas Markets, this is me telling you to do it! It’s so worth it and you leave feeling like you just finished being in a Christmas fairytale Hallmark movie!
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