Christmas Market Cruise along the Danube
Going to the Christmas Markets throughout Germany and Austria I must admit was never on my bucket list. However, Now that I’ve done it, I realize it should have been.
I recently was able to experience this with my husband and 4 clients of mine. We sailed with AMAWaterways on their brand new ship AMACerto.
We started out in Prague with a 2 night hotel stay at the Intercontinental Hotel. Prague was just beautiful.
The tiny little curved streets were confusing at first, but as long as you knew which direction the Vltava River was, you really couldn’t get too lost.
The people of Prague were very friendly. The Christmas Market wasn’t open yet, but they were setting up the booths in the Old Town Square. The Square was surrounded by cute, little café’s with outdoor seating area with propane heaters. Great to just sit, have a glass of wine and watch the world go by.
My husband and I strolled through the streets down to Charles Bridge. Found our way to the Lennon Wall and Love Lock Bridge. We secured our lock to the bridge.
We took a 4 hour bus ride to Nuremberg, Germany to board the ship. It was a beautiful ride. It started snowing which just set the mood for the beginning of our cruise. Once onboard we were shown to our cabin. The brand new ship was elegant. The next morning we had a choice of 3 different tours that were included with the cruise. We choose the World War II tour. They took us on a fully guided tour. We stopped at the Zeppelin fields where Hitler held the Nazi Rallies. All of the buildings and stands which were massive, were only built to be utilized one day a year. It was surreal just standing in the center of it. We then headed off to the courthouse. We actually got to go into Courtroom 600 where they held the Nuremberg Trials. Very interesting to be in the same room where history was made. After the tour, we had free time to spend in the Nuremberg Christmas Market. It wasn’t officially opened yet, but they did open the stalls early for us. There were NO crowds. The Gluwine was flowing. Gluwine is a hot, mulled wine which is available in every Christmas Market.
We then set sail for Regensburg, Germany. We went along the Main-Danube Canal. The canal has many locks. It was a tight squeeze for the boat to maneuver in the locks. There was maybe less than a foot on each side of the boat between the walls. We crossed the continental divide. Most locks you don’t even realize you’re going through. Many were at night while you were sleeping.
Regensburg, Germany is a charming little town. We took a Culinary Tour in Regensburg. We started at what was called the oldest sausage kitchen. We had the best sausage and sauerkraut sandwich ever. We then walked across the bridge to a brewery. We were able to sample 4 kinds of beer. What makes this brewery different is that they don’t brew the beer for profit. It is attached to a hospital. Where back in the day, the patients of the hospital were prescribed beer as medicine. I wonder if my insurance company will cover me for this hospital next time I have to be admitted?? We ended our tour at the Christmas Market. This was my favorite market out of all of them. Small, quaint, rustic… Beautiful. The stalls were well spaced out and topped with beautiful Christmas greens.
Next up was Passau and Linz, both adorable, little towns. Some people took an optional excursion to Salzburg from Passau. They met up with the ship later that evening in Linz. Everyone that went said they loved it.
Melk was the next stop. The abbey here was astonishing. Once we set sail, we came into the Wachau Valley Gorge. This was the most beautiful part of Cruising. Seeing the vineyards, Castles, Farms and homes along this stunning valley was breathtaking.
Vienna was our next stop. We took another culinary tour here. The palace here is never ending. Each reigning monarch of the Hapsburg empire built it’s own wing onto the existing palace. This is also where the Lippizaner Stallions are kept. We were able to see into their stalls. They definitely live a plush life. Our first stop on the culinary tour was to taste the famous Sacher Torte. This is a very dense chocolate cake. Delicious. We then made our way to a winery. The Schlumberger winery which is right in town. They make sparkling wine in the champagne tradition. Seeing the process of making the bubbly well… Bubbly was interesting. We then were able to sample the Sparking wine. Vienna has a huge pedestrian street with very high end shopping. It is lit beautifully at night with all the Christmas decorations.
On to our last stop. Budapest, Hungary. This city is beautiful from the river. We did the city tour here. The city was large and like a normal big city. After seeing the quaint little towns along the Danube, my impression of Budapest was not the best. However, our last evening the captain took us on an illuminations cruise. This city was picture perfect from the river. All of the beautiful bridges and buildings were lit up. What a great way to end our wonderful trip.
The staff and crew on board were wonderful. I must say, after spending the week onboard a small river boat, it is much higher up on my list than a large cruise ship. The food onboard the ship was great. They served complimentary wine and beer with dinner each evening. Almost every night after dinner the 6 of us would head to the lounge for after dinner drinks and dancing. We knew the cruise was going to be an experience after the first night in the lounge. A group of Canadian square dancers were guests onboard. Our daily dose of “Cotton-Eye Joe” turned into the joke of the week. And the joke didn’t end with the cruise. One of my clients’ flights were rerouted through Ottawa, Canada… And you guessed it…. They were on the same plane as our Cotton Eye Joe square dancing friends. The cruise itself was wonderful.. however making new friends with the Zito’s and the Chambers’ was the highlight of the entire vacation. Thanks for making it special !!