Why are so many people taking river cruises? Did you know that taking a river cruise is one of the top vacations that people are taking this year and next? You ask why?

So many people have taken ocean cruises and now want to still cruise but cruise a bit differently! A river cruise has anywhere from 16 to 200 passengers where the big cruise ships may have up to 4500 passengers. With taking a river cruise, up to five different activities at each port are included. You can have complimentary beer, wine, or sodas at lunch and dinner and free Wi-Fi on most of the vessels.

Some of the vessels have onboard bicycles for use at various ports, and all have fitness centers to help you maintain your wellness program. This is just for starters!. So, who enjoys these types of cruises?

Lovers of art and architecture; food, wine and beer connoisseurs; those who cherish timeless fairytales, those that are interested in nature and love going off the beaten path to connect with a destination by biking or hiking; those that are advocates to living a healthy lifestyle, just to name a few.

A European river cruise is one of the best ways we know to explore inland Europe, visiting cities, towns and villages that traditional big ships usually can’t access. Beyond the hardware, what makes a river cruise so different from an ocean cruise is the intense emphasis on the places visited.

Europe in the winter can be as exhilarating, as it is cold. Markets are lit up with decorations, a light dusting of snow may cover the ground and the Christmas markets are in full swing. As luck might have it, river cruise lines have been operating voyages through Europe in the winter months, dubbed Christmas markets voyages for many years.

While the popular Tulips and Windmills voyages herald in the start of the spring river cruise season, these Christmas markets river cruises are a spectacular way to celebrate the holidays.

The holiday river cruises are offered until Jan.1. Europe’s Christmas markets typically open around Nov. 25 and stay operational until Dec. 23 or 24.

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Christmas Market 

It’s the sailings that fall within these dates that can offer a truly one-of-a-kind experience along the waterways of Europe. The transformation between the summer months to winter is remarkable, as cities like Vienna, Strasbourg and Cologne take on an entirely different look and feel during the run-up to the Christmas holiday season, each offering its own distinct personality.

Of course, the opportunity to experience some of Europe’s grandest cities in their snow-covered glory is another reason to take a Christmas markets river cruise, although, of course, there is no guarantee that you’ll experience snow but there’s always a 50/50 chance of seeing snow on any given cruise.

So, what exactly is Christmas market?

They are essentially street markets. Usually set up outdoors, Europe’s Christmas markets can offer an incredible variety of local crafts and wares and – perhaps best of all – delicious local Christmas delicacies. Mulled wine and cider are popular wintertime beverages, and are typically sold in these markets as well. For culture mavens, there’s no better time to truly embrace local customs than at Christmas.

Unlike the North American fullbody contact sport that is Christmas shopping, Europeans have the option of shopping in the Christmas markets, as opposed to shopping malls. But Christmas markets are also social experiences: People will gather at them after work to enjoy a nice meal and some delicious mulled wine or hot chocolate. It’s fun to enjoy the pleasant, convivial atmosphere. There’s no fighting for parking. No battling checkout lines. Just people enjoying the company of others.

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Strasbourg Palace Kleber Christmas Tree

Europe’s Christmas markets area stunning tradition and vacation opportunity rolled into one.

Is river cruising the best way to explore Europe? We think so. Nothing quite compares to the convenience of unpacking once for a trip through multiple countries. Here are the top 10 reasons why you should consider taking a river cruise on your next vacation.

Destinations – visit some of the world’s grandest cities. Many cities and towns in Europe were built alongside rivers...Paris, Vienna, and Budapest just to name a few.

Convenient & Comfortable – after boarding, unpack only once and enjoy the magnificent views from your stateroom or suite. Staterooms on many river ships include all the comforts of home as well as plush down comforters, mini-bars, and high end bath amenities.

Something New Every Single Day – similar to ocean cruising, you wake up in a magnificent new destination each day. Even a day of sailing aboard a river ship affords outstanding scenery – towns, castles and vineyards are never far away... get your camera ready!

Culture and History – river ships dock right in the heart of town... just step off and enjoy, returning at your leisure. Additionally, many of these towns have or are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Intimate Experience – river ships accommodate fewer guests allowing for a more intimate experience and a chance to get to know your fellow travelers.

Inclusive Amenities –shore excursions or walking tours with local English-speaking guides are included in most ports. Many river cruise lines also include wine with lunch and dinner and other special amenities.

Gastronomy – many people may not realize how far dining on river cruise vessels has come. Most river cruise lines feature fresh local ingredients and foods from the regions you are visiting.

Entertainment – Whether it is traditional music, a local troupe or contemporary piano favorites, you will enjoy an eclectic schedule of onboard entertainment every night. Guests will appreciate experiencing the region’s culture in the comfort of their ship.

New Ships – Many of the river cruise lines are coming out with unique new ships.

The newest addition to the AmaWaterways fleet, the AmaMagna, set sail in May 2019. They operate more than a dozen vessels in Europe, Russia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Africa. The goal was to redefine river cruising, with the new ship’s width spanning twice that of average-sized European river cruise ships. The result is a well-planned design which provides more personal space due to the increase in the passengers-to-space ratio. With a 196-passenger capacity, the ship proves to be an expansive personal palace.

It’s at Your Pace – no matter which river cruise you choose, it’s at your pace. Whether you choose to go with the group on a guided walking tour of town or rent a bike and do it on your own, it’s all at the pace of your liking. No rush, no crowds.

We also want to mention that there are exclusive special interest tours, which range from culinary tours to art and history tours to off-the-beaten-path programs. Your cruise will be anything but ordinary with its comprehensive cruise experience.

Barbara May is the owner of Travel Leaders. For help planning your River Cruise trip, contact Travel Leaders travel advisers at 901-377-6600 or 901-853-6200. Travel Leaders main location is at 2765 Wolf Creek Parkway, Ste. 104 (next door to David’s Bridal), Memphis, TN, 38133 and in Collierville by appointment only.

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