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Maybe you've cruised on a gigantic cruise ship before. Our Christmas Markets river cruise is very different. The nearly new deluxe river cruiser, Amacerto, has only 82 cabins, making for a much more personal and less institutional experience.
The river cruise itinerary is
also very different to a traditional ocean cruise. You
never have rough seas, and you're always treated to beautiful
views out your cabin window, never just empty ocean.
Start Date and Options
You should leave the US on or before Sunday 13 December 2015, so as to arrive into Basel on or before Monday 14 December. You board the ship on the Monday afternoon.
Many people choose to arrive a day before the start of the cruise. This means if you - or your luggage - should miss a connecting flight, or if anything else goes wrong, you still have a day up your sleeve before the start of the cruise.
It also gives you a day to 'de-jetlag' before the cruise gets underway.
Amawaterways are offering a pre-cruise extension in Switzerland for four nights, giving you time in Zurich and Lucerne. You can of course fly from the US on any day and add more time in Europe as you wish prior to the cruise any way you want. One thought is to fly to Paris, spend time in Paris, then take a easy fast comfortable train to either Zurich to join the Amawaterways pre-tour option or direct to the ship in Basel. More details immediately below.
End Date and Options
The cruise ends in Amsterdam on the morning of Monday, 21 December.
The ship arrived into Amsterdam the previous afternoon, so you can leave as early as you like to make a flight home on Monday. In most cases, if you fly home that day, you will arrive back in the US the same day.
And that leaves you with three shopping days until Christmas! Although the chances are you'll have bought plenty of unique gifts during your Christmas market visits the week prior.
Of course nothing says you have to return home on 21st. Feel free to stay on and do whatever you wish.
You are welcome to fly into Europe any time you wish, of course, and to return home at any time, too, and similarly you don't need to limit yourself to simply flying in to Basel and out of Amsterdam.
Amawaterways offer a pre-cruise extension to enhance your overall tour experience.
The indoor Christmas markets in Zurich (on the optional pre-tour)
Pre-Cruise Options - Zurich, Geneva, and more
We strongly recommend you should arrive in Europe at least one day before the cruise starts, for two reasons. Firstly, this gives you an 'emergency day' in case you - or your bags - miss flights or have any other types of problems en route.
Secondly, it gives you a day to adjust to the new time zone and to relax after your flight(s).
You could certainly enjoy a day in Basel, but if you wished so see and do a bit more of Switzerland, Amawaterways have a pre-tour package that offers two nights in Zurich, two nights in Lucerne, touring in both places and of course the travel between the cities and to the ship in Basel.
Day by day details of this pre-cruise option can be seen here.
If you were looking for ideas about what to do after the cruise, you might want to consider traveling south, through Rotterdam and Antwerp and on to Brussels and possible Bruges in Belgium.
Or of course, you could go anywhere else you wished. Let us know if you'd like any assistance or itinerary advice.
This cruise is offered to you with savings of $1000 - $1500 per person, making the price very much less than the regular rate published on the official Amawaterways site.
In addition, you may quality for an extra $100 if you've traveled on a previous Amawaterways/Amadeus Waterways cruise.
Plus, there's still more. As an exclusive additional saving as a Travel Insider, you'll get a $100 per person shipboard credit. We also have a private cocktail reception for only Travel Insiders one evening before dinner on the ship.
You also have extra service, attention and assistance by having The Travel Insider himself (David Rowell) traveling with you all the way as your personal escort.
About the Cruise/Tour
Like a traditional cruise, this is a fully meal inclusive cruise, and - better than a traditional cruise - it includes a generous amount of shore touring as well. You won't have to pay extra for your shore touring when visiting the lovely towns and cities as you cruise through Switzerland, France, Germany and the Netherlands.
The cruise of course includes three great meals a day, plus various other snacks, on-board entertainment, as well as generous opportunities to sightsee, both from the boat as it cruises the river, and while ashore during the many stops. You typically have time to both participate in a provided tour and also to sightsee and shop on your own.
Indeed, the shopping is part of the experience on this tour, as you visit various local craft Christmas markets in the different towns and cities. You'll be able to buy distinctive gifts for all your friends and family this year!
A nice extra feature is free wine, beer or soda with every dinner. And if you wish to drink more wine, you'll be delighted at the bargain prices that wine sells for ashore.
While all meals are available on the vessel, you'll also be able to experience other dining opportunities ashore if you wish. Similarly, the on-board entertainment can be supplemented with visits to clubs and bars and shows ashore - the vessel will sometimes stay in port until late at night, allowing you a chance to experience each town by day and by night.
Because the ship carries a maximum of 164 passengers, everything is more personal. The crew will remember you by name, and you have a chance to meet other people on board and to create new friendships. Most people on these cruises seem to be variously middle aged and older.
A day by day, town by town photo journal of a Danube river Christmas Cruise can be found here. We're of course going to different places on this Rhine river cruise, but the overall experience and markets will be similar.
Christmas decorations on board your ship
Why River Cruising
River cruising is simply and absolutely the most comfortable and convenient way to travel around Europe. You can unpack your bags and get comfortable in your lovely cabin and not need to repack or transfer until the end of the cruise - this in itself is probably all the convincing you'll need!
In addition, European towns have historically tended to be centered around the major rivers, and so river cruising is a great way to get to the lovely historic parts of Europe, at a sedate speed, and in luxurious comfort.
How else could you travel around Europe? On a bus tour? Yuck! By train or car - yes, but then you have an abundance of travel hassles every day.
I've experienced every possible type of travel, and I'm a 100% convert. River cruising is the best way to see Europe. Try it, and you'll be sure to agree.
We provide a free pair of hand warmers, just in case it does get seriously cold.
Why Cruise in Winter?
Ha - tricked you. It is not yet winter - it is still late fall. But, in any event, there are two good reasons to enjoy this cruise at this off-season time of year.
The first reason is simply because it is the off-season. The crowds of people aren't as crushingly overpowering as they are in the busy season. Instead of sometimes as many as 20 cruise ships mooring in (and overwhelming) the small towns we visit, we may be the only one, or perhaps there might be one other too.
The second reason is to experience the Christmas markets. Because of the strong Christian tradition in the towns we visit, Christmas is viewed more seriously to start with, and the Christmas markets are a delightful celebration of our shared Judeo-Christian and European heritage.
Yes, the weather is cold, but nothing which several layers of warm clothes can't combat, and our eight previous Christmas Market cruises have generally been blessed with good weather (ie usually no rain, very little snow and not uncomfortably cold).
I heartily recommend this cruise, and at this time of year. I've loved earlier Christmas Market cruises the eight previous times I've done it, and the almost 260 Travel Insider readers who've accompanied me have been similarly charmed by it.
Try it for yourself - you'll be delighted you did.
Which is Best - the Rhine or Danube?
If you've not done any cruising in Europe before, you might be wondering whether you should choose a Christmas cruise along the Danube or along the Rhine. Which is best?
I've done both, plenty of times before. While they are of course different, if you are going for the first time, the similarities outweigh the differences and either/both are excellent. There is nothing 'bad' about either.
A typical Danube cruise travels from Budapest, then through some of Austria and Germany, to Nuremberg (or vice versa). This Rhine cruise travels from Basel in Switzerland, then through France and Germany and arrives into Amsterdam. Maybe some of these countries are more your favorites than others?
We've found the key factors on any cruise tend to be the ship and cruise line, the crew, cruise director, and food, and our fellow passengers, much more than the particular towns we stop in. We have a few favorite towns on the Danube cruise (such as Regensburg) and a few favorites on this itinerary too (Strasbourg and Rudesheim in particular).
So come with us on this cruise this year, then on a Danube cruise in 2016! Many Travel Insiders have been with us for two or three or even four Christmas cruises (so far).
The lovely Amacerto, gliding smoothly through Bratislava.
About the Amacerto
Our cruise ship for this cruise, the Amacerto, is relatively new (it was built earlier in 2012), and has been been custom designed to meet the special needs of the European rivers, enabling it to operate in less favorable conditions than many of the other boats (ie when the water levels are 'too high' or 'too low').
The boat is what we call a 'super cruiser'. For a long time, construction techniques and limitations restricted river cruisers to a maximum of about 350' in length, but now, new state of the art design has enabled longer ships, and this ship is 443' long. This extra space has been used not just to add more cabins, but also to increase the size and spaciousness of the cabins, and to add extra public areas too (like a second dining room, for example).
The boat is definitely long, and also relatively narrow (to fit in the locks). It is 38' wide, and cruises at 15.6 mph. This might seem like a slow speed, but it is faster than most of the other cruise boats, enabling the boat to get between towns faster and giving you more time sightseeing.
Dining is single-seating and with no pre-assigned tables, so you can move about as you wish from meal to meal. Amawaterways even provides a generous amount of complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks with your evening meal each night.
Smoking is restricted to the outside Sun Deck only.
Our cruise has been marketed primarily to English speaking people and the language on board is exclusively English. This means you won't have the inconvenience of having to listen to every announcement being repeated in four or five different languages, and you can conveniently talk to your fellow guests (and likely soon to be new friends) on board.
Cabins on the Amacerto are some of the largest of any Danube river cruise boat.
Cabins are typically either 235 sq ft or 210 sq ft, with some 170 sq ft cabins and a few 160 sq ft cabins. Suites are a huge 350 sq ft in size.
This cabin picture is of a BA category 210 sq ft cabin with both internal and external sun deck/balconies.
There are a great variety of different cabin types to choose from. We've written a special article to help you decide which is best for you, which you can see here.
And here is a deck plan of the Amasonata so you understand exactly where the cabins are located. Click the link then choose the Deck Plan tab.
Needless to say, feel free to ask if you'd like further help choosing the best cabin option to suit your needs and budget/value point.
Per person pricing for the cruise and the pre cruise option is shown in the table below.
Note - save another $100 more :
And don't forget you're also being given a $100 per person shipboard credit, too!
Extras and Inclusions
You can pay for your cruise using a credit card with no credit card surcharge.
Due to the proximity to departure, full payment is required within a week of your booking being confirmed.
Single Share Program
If you are planning to travel by yourself, but would prefer to avoid the slightly greater cost, we can make a best effort to connect you with another single Travel Insider group member, but can't guarantee to find someone compatible.
What about the Air Fare?
We suggest you check to see if you can use any frequent flier miles you might have for this travel, and/or check to see what the best fare you can get on your favorite airline is, and possibly use the www.kayak.com comparison service to see what the best airfares may be. That's what we do, ourselves.
You are therefore free to make your own arrangements, any way you wish, to travel to Basel (or Zurich, Geneva, Paris, or anywhere else) and then home again from Amsterdam (or Brussels, Paris, or anywhere else), and you can of course make extra stops and arrive earlier or stay longer. You can choose whichever carrier has the best fare and the best schedules for you, and you can also choose a carrier that you wish to earn miles with.
We'll be pleased to answer any questions you might have about arranging your air transportation, of course.
Which cities to fly in and out of
This might seem like an obvious issue, but remember that Europe is very small and so if you can't get convenient flights (or fares) on your preferred airlines to and from the obvious cities at the start and end of your tour, consider flying in or out of nearby airports and then using a train to get between that airport and the city you need to be in.
Amsterdam has a major airport with good service for most airlines to most places, but Basel is a secondary city, potentially costing more to fly into and with fewer flight options.
A suggestion to consider might be flying to a major airport and then taking a train to Basel, or, if you are doing the pre-touring, to Zurich.
In particular, you might want to think about a simple roundtrip to/from Paris, and then take fast comfortable convenient trains from Paris to Zurich or Basel for the start of the optional pre-cruise touring, and back to Paris from Amsterdam at the end of the cruise.
We generally recommend you should protect against the various types of losses that may occur while traveling.
Amawaterways offer a policy that covers you for trip cancellation and interruption costs, medical costs, trip delay, and baggage delay or loss. The cost of this varies depending on the total cost of your cruise. The premium is payable with the rest of your payment.
To add an extra trip cancellation premium that will allow you to cancel for any reason at all, add another $60. With this add-on premium, if you cancel for a reason not covered by the main policy, Amawaterways will refund you as much of your payment as is covered by their usual policy, and give you a voucher to be redeemed against future travel any time in the next year for the balance.
We show the premium rates in the cruise pricing table, above.
Click here for a new page with more information on the Amawaterways travel insurance.
How to Extend or Vary this Tour
There are many ways you can extend or vary this tour.
In addition to the pre-packaged extensions Amawaterways is offering (see above), you're of course free to add anything you like, before or after the cruise.
We recommend you consider arriving into Europe at least a day before the cruise starts, so as to give yourself a day to resolve any problems that may occur such as missing/delayed flights or losing luggage.
If you have more questions, please don't hesitate to ask. We're here to help ensure your experience is as good as possible.
Need More Information?
If you've a question or need more clarification, go ahead and ask. You're welcome to send us an email, or feel free to call us at (206)337-2317.
Cruise Terms and Conditions
Our standard terms and conditions apply to this tour.
In addition, please note these extra terms :
1. Due to the short time prior to departure, full payment is due upon confirmation.
2. US citizens require a current passport that will not expire for at least six months after the date of their planned return back to the US in order to be admitted to Europe. They do not require any European visas. Citizens of other countries should check with the airline that will transport them to Europe to determine what passport and visa requirements may apply.
3. Tour price is subject to change prior to full payment being received.
4. Terms and conditions of the cruise line (AmaWaterways) also apply. In particular, please note that the itinerary can occasionally (rarely) change if water levels are too high or too low to allow the boat to travel.