Merry sailing aboard A-Rosa's Silva

By Karen Loftus
A-Rosa SilvaGerman river cruise line A-Rosa has experienced nothing but smooth sailing since it launched in 2000, becoming Germany's most popular river cruise company.

Now, the company is marketing its contemporary river cruise experience to the burgeoning U.S. market.

Since its inception, A-Rosa set out to bring river cruising into the 21st century with a sleek and modern aesthetic while providing a more contemporary experience for customers on and off the boat, according to CEO Lars Clasen.

Aiming to expand its predominantly German audience, A-Rosa recently brought on David Morris International (DMI), a niche U.S. luxury sales service and marketing company, in order to Americanize its luxe product to specifically cater to the U.S. and Canadian markets.

DMI created an all-inclusive offering, exclusively designated for the American market, which includes roundtrip air from North America, gratuities, taxes and transfers, an open bar, open dining, use of available bicycles onboard and an impressive selection of complimentary excursions.

A-Rosa Silva BarMarilyn Conroy, DMI's executive vice president, said that today's luxury travelers want value for their money, which A-Rosa delivers in seamless spades.

Three of A-Rosa's current fleet of 10 vessels are earmarked specifically for the American market: the A-Rosa Aqua, A-Rosa Stella and the most recent addition to their fleet, the A-Rosa Silva, which hit the river in 2012. Thirteen itineraries have been carefully curated to suit the discerning North American traveler, with cruises on the Rhine, Danube and France's Rhone set to begin sailing in June.

The itineraries ran through December, closing out the year with two Christmas-driven offerings: an eight-day Rhine Christmas Market Cruise and a 14-day Christmas & New Year Holiday Cruise, which includes Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary.

I was privy to a spirited three-day taste of A-Rosa's new niche offering on a Christmas Market Cruise in Germany aboard the Silva. The itinerary included an overnight in Frankfurt and a three-day river cruise from Nuremberg to Regensburg and back.

Immediately upon arrival, A-Rosa set the tone of pampering. Fruit, flowers, a chilled bottle of champagne, bottled water and a thick terry robe were placed in my room. I was ready to kick back under the plush duvet and watch the winter wonderland go by, but a bustling itinerary beckoned.

A-Rosa Silva CabinThe 89 cabins in the sleek Silva varied in size ranging from 156 to 312 square feet. They consisted of the two-bed cabins with a porthole, a window or a well-appointed French balcony, which 70% of cabins have.

The design was sleek, reminiscent of a chic boutique hotel, with floor-to-ceiling French balcony doors that made for easy river viewing 24/7.

For a more opulent offering, the two-bed junior suite or the two-bed balcony suite, also equipped with French balconies, are just the ticket.

Our departure included a chilled champagne toast on the top deck where we embraced the winter weather. If that isn't your thing, this might not be the cruise for you. We found it to be fresh and festive as it upped the holiday ante onboard and on the city streets.

We passed through 11 locks on our short tour, which had us running up to the deck to observe that bit of travel magic. It was a fascinating process that never got old. I was only sorry to leave the last lock behind.

Excursions offered on Christmas cruises are city tours and the Christmas markets, which go hand in hand. Take in the tour, hit the spirited stalls, then let the urban, often medieval ambience roll over you.

Stumbling across a city's oldest brewery or a 12th century building with original architecture or simply getting lost in a swirl of cobblestone makes for a bit of mischief and magic whatever the weather.

If your clients are looking to rekindle their holiday spirit, then this is the trip for them as Germany, quite simply, is Christmas. This modern phenomenon has strong Germanic roots, and each city along the river puts on an urban party and market like nowhere else.

Both Christmas itineraries kick off in Frankfurt. The Christmas markets in that city date to the 14th century and serve up some of the best Germanic treats for holidays and every day.

Endless offerings of wursts will have any foodie swooning, along with a parade of pretzels; apple and potato fritters; roasted nuts; candies; and cookies. Set alongside handcrafted trinkets, it makes for a festive event.

You can toast your good winter fortune at one of the many pop-up bars that are abuzz with locals drinking gluhwein, a hot and spicy wine punched up with rum or brandy.

Back onboard you can expect a warm welcome with a mulled wine often poured at cocktail hour. Expect chocolate tastings during the Christmas cruises and rest assured that the food and beverage onboard will easily rival any cruise cuisine.

Beautifully paired multicourse wine dinners are exceptional and a window into the world of German wines that go beyond well-known rieslings.

For more details on the cruises or to book, visit www.arosacruises.com.
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