The first Christmas Markets were about survival and the chance to celebrate the coming holiday with family and friends. People gathered in the village square and around open fires. They offered light, warmth and merry-making. It also provided an opportunity to get vital supplies and a break from the long cold nights of Winter.
The first recorded Christmas Market was in Bautzen, Germany back in 1384. Earlier “December Markets” in Vienna date back to 1294. These early markets lasted only a few days and now they last for weeks.
As the popularity of visiting the Christmas Markets has grown, so has the demand for cruising to visit them. It offers a peaceful and relaxing way to watch the passing scenery and explore picturesque towns, castles and cathedrals. Remember, cruises during Christmas Markets are only available from November through late December.
Just remember to consider the following tips to help you have a great trip:
1. Dress in layers – Traveling from Florida to Amsterdam during winter meant we had to buy new clothes.
You will need the following, as the weather can be cold and sometimes be accompanied by wind, rain and snow. Dress in layers to be comfortable.
- Jacket of medium weight
- Hat that can cover your head and ears
- Lightweight gloves
- Lightweight boots
- Sweaters and pullovers
- Thermal underwear
2. Short/direct flights – Flying time from the US to Amsterdam is at least eight hours. Many fellow cruisers will spend longer flying from the west coast of the US. Add in connecting flights and it can become a long day. We recommend trying to book the shortest and most direct flight possible. A pre-cruise hotel stay before your cruise is well worth the investment. Viking River Cruises offers both pre and post-cruise packages.
3. Exchange money at a bank – You will get a better exchange rate and fewer fees exchanging your money at a bank than at the airport. We ended up exchanging $100 US to euros in the airport before leaving and then exchanging a larger amount later in the trip. You’ll be expected to tip your tour guides two euros and bus/van drivers one euro during your cruise. Unlike most cruises– which keep your credit card on file–you will settle your account with cash or credit on the last night of the cruise.
4. Relax – Cruising is very relaxing by nature. Viking River Cruises take this to the next level. They pamper you at every turn, making a trip to Europe relaxing. Optional tours will be available when starting your cruise. These can enhance your cruise experience. Just be forewarned to not overdo a good thing; a full day of the included and optional tour starts at 7 am and sometimes doesn’t end until 12 hours later.
5. Take it in – River cruising is very enriching and will keep you active. Stop and enjoy the simple things. You are not far from shore and can see people walking their dogs, passing trains, small villages and more. You’ll go under countless bridges and through river locks. Tours on a river cruise differ from a traditional ocean cruise. Often a bus drives you from the ship to where you will begin a walking tour in the heart of the city or village. Your tour guide lives in the region, and you can listen to them via your own Quitevox device that goes around your neck via lanyard and has a single earpiece. You can adjust the volume as needed and learn to enjoy this device. Use the free time at the end of your tours to shop, eat, and enjoy the many Christmas markets. Learning new cultures in a faraway place heightens one senses.