April is an odd time to start talking about Christmas. No doubt about it. But Christmas Markets River Cruises are an entirely different ballgame. For these unique voyages, spring is the best time to start seriously considering booking one of these warm, festive journeys through Europe.
Once offered by only a handful of lines, Christmas Markets river cruises now begin around November 25th and spill right over December 25th itself, long after the last market has shuttered but in full swing for the busy Holiday season.
While more ships than ever are plying the Danube, the Rhine and the like during the Holidays, capacity is nowhere near what the busy summer season is. Most river cruise lines offer up a handful of ships while the rest are laid up for the season – and that creates demand.
Even if you haven’t given December a second thought (we can’t blame you – we just started cutting our lawns, after all), there are some compelling reasons to start planning that winter getaway before the first snowflake ever falls.
Christmas Markets Cruises Book Up Fast
Perhaps the most compelling reason to at least put down a deposit on a Holiday sailing is that they tend to fill up fast – particularly if you’re in the market for one of the top-of-the-line suites or the more affordable river view accommodations. It’s not unheard of for these types of staterooms and suites to be completely booked up before the summer is out.
This also holds true if your favorite river cruise line only has one or two ships operating at this time of year. If a smaller cruise line only has two ships operating during the winter months, and those ships only carry 118 guests per sailing, that’s only 236 guests that can sail during a given week. And if all of those are couples, that means only 118 couples are needed to completely fill one week’s Christmas Market sailings on two ships. Added up over the course of four weeks (the average duration of the Christmas Markets season, not including Christmas and New Years’ voyages), that means less than 1,000 guests will actually sail aboard those two ships.
Unlike oceangoing ships that can carry thousands of guests apiece, river cursing’s sheer intimacy allows these vessels to book up much faster than your average cruise ship.
The Repeat Guest Rate Is High
We’ve sailed on a number of Christmas Markets voyages and on each of them, we’ve found that the vast majority of guests are not only repeat guests, but repeat Christmas Market guests.
On our first voyage, this was surprising. By the end of it, though, not so much: we were so entranced with the festive atmosphere and holiday cheer that prevails throughout these voyages that we immediately made plans to return the next year. And the year after that. And the year after that…
The Holiday season lends itself well to time spent with family and loved ones, and Christmas Market river cruising is an extension of that. In fact, it’s quickly becoming a popular time for multi-generational families to cruise together; a fact highlighted by the fact that lines like AmaWaterways, Tauck and Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection all include Christmas Markets voyages as part of their family-friendly river cruise programs.
If you’re thinking of taking the parents, grandparents and grown kids on a Christmas Markets river cruise, all of the above advice applies doubly to you – especially if you’re looking to get staterooms next to each other. Booking one stateroom at the last-minute might be possible; booking three or four might be a stretch.
They’re Fun – And A Good Value
Above all else, we recommend these voyages because they’re just plain fun. You’d have to be a real Grinch to not get completely suckered in by the holiday cheer and atmosphere that’s filled with plenty of German Gemütlichkeit, or coziness.
Most of all, however, these voyages are a great value. Airfare is typically cheaper than it is during the busy (and expensive) summer months, and that holds true for pre-and-post hotel stays, too. The crowds are gone, and Europe’s cobblestone streets take on an entirely different feel during the chill of December.
Speaking of which – we should probably start planning our very own journey.
Have you taken a Christmas Market river cruise? Would you do so again? Let us know using the comment form below.