It was the trip of a lifetime that seemed a lifetime to finally happen – Viking’s Christmas on the Rhine.   Being an oceanic-style cruise gal, I had never been on a riverboat cruise, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  But I have heard for years about the infamous “Christmas Markets” and with the Covid shutdown much longer in other countries, we were all very blessed to finally start our venture this past December.

 

The 8-day voyage was full of festive cheer – visiting the charming cities in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and France.  With all the crazy travel during the holidays, several of us made the decision to take a few extra “bookend” days landing first in Amsterdam then ending our stay a few days in Switzerland.  That decision proved to be perhaps one of the best, ultimately making the trip less chaotic and much more relaxing.  With the bookend travel on the front end, we were able to book a private tour of Amsterdam and the surrounding areas of Netherlands.  That, od course, included lots of delicious cheeses, hot cocoa, windmills at Noord-Holland and a quick dash to the delightful town of Edam. The calmness, culture and beauty of the Netherlands was a lovely experience and truly a site to see– even in the chill of the busy winter tour months.

 

Our crew was looking most forward to the Christmas markets and the “Hallmark experience”.  The festive cities certainly allowed you to immerse yourself in the spirit of Christmas as you journeyed through storybook villages of each city and the merry atmosphere of the Rhine Valley.  The largest and most famous market is in Cologne, Germany.   For our trip, Cologne was an evening excursion on a Friday night.  To say it was crowded with local town folk is an understatement, but if you can take your time, it’s by far the most entertaining with the lovely children choirs and authentic German food.  However, the most beautiful Christmas markets were in Strasbourg, France.  The Strasbourg markets were filled with true authentic handcrafted items.  But honestly, just the afternoon walk through the glorious and picturesque town and all its beautiful bakeries and chocolate shops was most certainly the highlight of the week.

 

As continued to make our way down the Rhine, the most beautiful part of the river voyage was the scenic “Castle on the Banks”.  As the route narrowed and the boat came to a soft glide on the cold waters, our travel party took our seats at the front of the enclosed viewing area of the boat to see the beautifully preserved and very picturesque castles – thirty-one to be exact.  Each castle featured on the leisurely ride certainly had a story to share. Passengers on this voyage were also able to marvel a bit at Lorelei Rock – the world’s most eponymous river maiden – strategically located in the dramatic curve in the river.

 

Finally, riverboat travel came to an end in Basel, but not for us.  We took the final bookend few days to Lucern, Switzerland.  The final chapter of our stay was simply breathtaking – and certainly memorable.  With fresh snow on the ground, this town was a scene right out of a Hallmark movie.  From the local shops to the majestic churches, scenery for days, and the Hotel Montana overlooking the town, Lucern is by far the most glorious town I have ever visited on my travels – and definitely on my short list for a return visit.

 

For those travelers thinking about a Christmas venture in the future, I strongly encourage you all to book all your travel through the Viking.  They make flights, transfers, and accommodations much easier to navigate.  Be sure you plan for an extension on each end – particularly to Lucern.  Do note, if you travel at the holidays, the weather is a bit unpredictable, but if you are lucky, a little snow does make this time of year a little special.  That, and with some fabulous travel friends along for the journey, it’s SO worth the memories you will make.

 

Miss you, girls!