Michelle Baran
Michelle Baran

*logoThe weather outside is frightful, but Christmas cruising in Europe is still delightful, according to river cruise operators.

Thanks to Europe’s scenic and festive Christmas markets in the towns along the Continent’s inland waterways, river cruise companies have been able to extend their profit-making seasons into the holidays and new year with Christmas market cruises.

“Europe comes alive this time of year with its famous Christmas markets in towns and villages large and small,” Ana Figueroa, director of communications for Ama Waterways, wrote in an email.

According to Figueroa, the markets are brimming with stands that sell everything from freshly baked gingerbread to wooden toys to Christmas tree ornaments.

To add to the festive nature of the Christmastime cruises, Ama Waterways also decorates its ships and has onboard tree-trimming events, and the crew sings Christmas carols.

Despite the snow and chill in Europe, the Christmas cruises are gaining in popularity as river cruise operators continue to add winter departures. Earlier this year, Tauck World Discovery expanded its 2010 European river cruise offerings with the company’s first-ever itineraries to highlight the annual Christmas markets in Germany and France: two new cruises on the Rhine and Danube rivers, with two departures each.

The Tauck Christmas cruises visit Christmas markets in towns along the Rhine and Danube, but also include overland excursions to markets in Aachen, Germany; Colmar, France; and Salzburg and the Christmas village of Christkindl in Austria.

Additional special features of the Tauck Christmas cruises are onboard cultural performances, local crafts demonstrations, lectures and walking tours, and cooking demonstrations highlighting traditional gingerbread and cookies. Tauck also provides guests with a shipping service to send their market purchases home.

Other river cruise operators are amping up their holiday time offerings, as well. Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection has five holiday itineraries for 2010 and is adding a sixth itinerary, an eight-day Parisian Winter Holiday river cruise, for 2011.

Avalon Waterways is adding three Christmas itineraries for 2011: Christmas in Alsace & Germany, Christmastime Prague to Basel and a Grand Christmastime Cruise.

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