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There's no finer way to spend 7-10 days in December than on a pre-Christmas cruise along the Danube.

You'll cruise the Danube from Budapest to Vilshofen, with a pre-cruise option to visit Prague and a post cruise option on to Regensburg and Munich.

Plenty of included shore excursions and exclusive Travel Insider benefits (at no extra charge) make this a varied kaleidoscope of European life, enhanced by the seasonal Christmas markets where a delightful variety of local craft items are offered for sale.

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Danube Christmas Markets Cruise 2016

A magical European Christmas cruise experience with a special difference this year

Special Discounts to Travel Insiders :

Save 40% per person off published rate!
Save extra for past Amawaterways passengers
Plus Travel Insider exclusives - $25 gift certificate, cocktail reception, free gift
and tour/transfer Vilshofen-Regensburg-Munich

Join a small group of 'Travel Insiders' and share the enjoyment of a very different style of vacation on a custom built river boat.
Glide by picture postcard scenes during the magic of the pre-Christmas season in Germany, Austria, Hungary, and optionally Slovakia and the Czech Republic too.


Maybe you've cruised on a gigantic cruise ship before.  Our Christmas Markets river cruise is very different.  The brand new river super-cruiser, Amaviola, (launched earlier this year) has only 79 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.

Click to skip down to the booking form

Cruise Dates

Start Date and Options

You should leave the US on or before Wednesday 7 December 2015, so as to arrive into Budapest on or before Thursday 8 December.  You board the ship on Thursday 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.

We are offering a pre-cruise option in Prague - leave the US on or before Monday 5 December to arrive into Prague on or before Tuesday 6  December and enjoy two or more nights in glorious Prague.  More details in the next section.

End Date and Options

The cruise ends in Vilshofen in Germany on the morning of Thursday, 15 December.

Vilshofen is not far from Munich or Nuremberg.  At this point you're free to either fly home or to extend your vacation as you wish.  In most cases, if you fly home that day, you will arrive back in the US the same day.  You've still ten days to finish any Christmas shopping!

Free Tour and Transfer to Munich!

We are offering a free day of touring on the Thursday (15th), going first to the glorious World Heritage site of Regensburg for a walking tour and free time for lunch and their Christmas Markets - including David's absolutely most favorite market in Europe, then continuing on to Munich, where you could spend one or more nights and fly home on/after Friday 16 December.

Changed Danube Cruise Itinerary

Until now, our Danube river Christmas cruises have always been between Budapest and Nuremberg.

This cruise also starts in Budapest, but has slightly different port stops and schedule, allowing you to see a slightly different mix of towns and cities along the Danube.

This is lovely for everyone, and would be especially appealing if you have already done the 'regular' itinerary and would like to come back, and now experience a mix of familiar favorites and some new things too.

Pre and Post Cruise Optional Extensions

You are welcome to fly into Europe any time you wish, of course, and to return home at any time, too.  Similarly you don't need to limit yourself to simply flying in to Budapest and out of Munich, Nuremberg, or any of various other airport choices.

We also offer a Travel Insider exclusive extension to enhance your overall tour experience.  Most people choose to take advantage of this too, and everyone who does agrees it adds greatly to their overall European Christmas experience.

Pre-Cruise Option - Prague

We are offering you the chance to spend two nights or longer in Prague, with a rail transfer via Bratislava to meet the ship in Budapest on Thursday 8 December.

This is a very popular option, with probably 90% of all Travel Insiders choosing it.  We agree and highly recommend you add it to your Christmas experience.

We include two (or more nights) at our official Travel Insider hotel in the absolute heart of historic Prague, literally just around the corner from the main Christmas Markets and Clock Tower Square, in a quiet little courtyard reeking of hundreds of years of history.

We include a feature dinner in one of our favorite traditional Czech cellar restaurants, serving great traditional Czech food, also right in the heart of Prague (5 minutes walk from the hotel) and a half day city tour of this beautiful city, plus breakfasts each morning.

Most people will choose to stay three nights (ie leave the US on Sunday 4 Dec and arrive on Monday 5 Dec), although you can of course stay any length of time you wish, and there's plenty to do, both in Prague and via day tours from Prague, to fill in plenty of additional days.  A three night stay gives you the day you arrive, a full day for touring around the city, and an extra day for touring out of the city, for example, to lovely Cesky Krumlov, another Travel Insider favorite destination.

Our transfer to meet the ship in Budapest on Monday is also a big plus.  We take a comfortable fast train for the longer and somewhat boring travel portion between Prague and Bratislava, where we are then met by a coach and guide.  We have a walking tour of the heart of Bratislava, time for lunch, and then an interesting coach transfer on the short remaining distance to Budapest.

Prague is one of the most beautiful and best preserved historical cities in all of Europe (it avoided destruction in WW2).  It has a lovely Christmas market, and is alive with culture, music, and the arts.  Spending time in Prague makes for a great start to our Christmas Markets experience, and we strongly urge you to include Prague as a wonderful way to begin your Christmas Markets experience.

Post-Cruise Options

We are offering a free day of touring and transfer to Munich on Thursday 15 December (see above).

You might wish to stay on for the weekend in Munich, or sightsee elsewhere in Germany after this.

Special Savings

You may qualify for an extra saving if you've traveled on a previous Amawaterways cruise ($100 past passenger discount, although reduced by the across the board 40% discount).

Plus, there's still more.  You'll get a free Travel Insider cocktail reception party on board, a special gift, as well as The Travel Insider himself (David Rowell) traveling with you all the way as your personal escort.

We also include a $25 gift voucher for everyone, which you can use on the ship - use it for drinks, gift shop purchases, spa treatments, or anything else that you would otherwise pay money for on board.  In case it gets cold, we even give you some handwarmers.

And we provide the (optional) free transfer/tour from Vilshofen via Regensburg to Munich on the day you leave the ship.

Add this all up and you get an amazing value, and yours if you take advantage of it quickly!

David in front of a Christmas market gluhwein stall in Munich

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 Germany, Austria and Hungary.

The cruise of course includes three great meals a day, plus various other snacks, on-board entertainment most evenings, 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!  And while all meals are available on the vessel, you'll also be able to experience other dining opportunities ashore if you wish.

A nice extra feature is free wine, beer or soda with every lunch and dinner (and sparkling wine to have with the smoked salmon and other breakfast dishes each morning too!).  If you wish to drink more wine, you'll be delighted at the bargain prices that wine sells for ashore.

Unlimited 24/7 free gourmet espresso is also offered.

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 158 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.

I have done the exact same cruise, as well as similar Christmas cruises ten times before and almost always with Amawaterways.  I have been consistently impressed with Amawaterways in general, their ships and their crews; and feel this to be undoubtedly the best value, best itinerary, and overall best experience for Christmas cruises in 2016.

It isn't only me who feels this way.  Amawaterways recently had their ships take all top ten places in the 2016 Berlitz 310 European river ship evaluation/ranking.

More general information about river cruising in Europe can be found here.

A day by day, town by town photo journal of a similar Christmas Cruise we took in a previous year can be found here.

Almost identical (but two years older) sister ship, the Amacerto, sailing through Bratislava.

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.

Why Cruise in Winter?

Ha - tricked you.  Early December 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.  For example, at the glorious abbey in Melk, during the summer there are tours departing every two minutes!  When we visit, we'll probably be the only group visiting and so our guides can slow down and show us more things and not rush to squeeze us in between the group immediately before and after.  And instead of 20 cruise ships mooring in (and overwhelming) the small town, we may be the only one, or perhaps there might be one other.

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 that 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).

  Just in case it does get cold, and as yet another Travel Insider bonus, we provide some free handwarmers for you, too!

I heartily recommend this cruise, and at this time of year.  I've loved it the ten times I've done it, and the 275 Travel Insider readers who've accompanied me have been similarly charmed by it.

Try it for yourself - you'll be delighted you did.

About the Amaviola

Our cruise ship for this cruise, the Amaviola, is brand new (it was built earlier in 2016), and has been been custom designed to meet the special needs of the Danube, 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 both your lunches and dinners every day.

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.

Note - here is an interesting pictorial presentation with lots of pictures of the ship, published by USA Today.  During the summer this year, the ship was chartered by Disney, but it is not associated with Disney for the Christmas cruise.

Cabin Types

BA category cabin on AmacertoCabins on the Amaviola 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 smaller cabins.  Suites are a huge 350 sq ft in size.

This cabin picture is of a midgrade 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 Amaviola 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.

Detailed Day by Day Itinerary

Click this image to have a larger map open in a new window

Click for a detailed day by day itinerary of this lovely cruise vacation.

And click for a photo journal showing you the sights and experiences you'll enjoy on your Christmas Markets cruise.


Cruise Cost

Per person net pricing - after your special 40% discount - for the cruise is shown in the table below.

Note - save another $100 :

  • If you have sailed with Amawaterways (formerly Amadeus Waterways) before, you can take another $100 per person off the gross prices (ie $60 off the discounted prices).

Cabin Type

Net Cruise Price per person

Amawaterways optional insurance (add extra $60 for 'cancel for any reason' option)

Prague to Budapest Transfer & Bratislava tour

Prague per person
for two nights, city tour and breakfasts

Prague per person for Friday 6th and earlier nights

160 sq ft
lower deck

sold out


($2899 before discount)





160 sq ft
lower deck


($3198 before discount)





155 sq ft
top deck


($3498 before discount)





170 sq ft
mid & top decks


($3798 before discount)





210 sq ft
mid deck


($2579 before discount)





210 sq ft
top deck


($4498 before discount)






235 sq ft
mid deck


($4698 before discount)





235 sq ft
top deck


($4898 before discount)





350 sq ft
top deck


($6098 before discount)






Extras and Inclusions

  • Port Taxes are $168 per person.

  • Single is extra 50% for cruise or 100% for suite; extra $100 for Prague.

  • Air can be arranged for you by us through Amawaterways or you can make your own arrangements as you wish.  Air fares can be quoted from most cities in the US.

  • Rates include a selection of special Travel Insider bonuses.

  • Rates include an exclusive Travel Insider cocktail party on board Amaviola

  • Rates can be discounted by an extra $100 gross ($60 after 40% discount) if you are a past Amawaterways customer

  • Prague two night rates include two hot breakfasts, a feature dinner and a half day city tour

You can pay for your cruise using a credit card with no credit card surcharge.  Prague payment is requested by cash/check or with a 3% addition on credit card.

A $400 per person deposit is due when booking confirmed, the balance 90 days prior to cruise departure.

Single Share Program

If you are planning to travel by yourself, but would prefer to avoid the single surcharge, 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?

If you buy the Amawaterways airfare, they include transfers from the airport to the cruise ship when you arrive into Budapest.  These transfers are convenient, but require you to arrive on the exact day the cruise starts, and/or can easily be arranged by yourself when you arrive at the airport as well, so should not unduly influence your airfare planning (taxis in Budapest are brilliantly simple with a flat fare pricing system so there's no danger of being cheated).

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, then compare it to the Amadeus rate and make your decision then.

You are therefore free to make your own arrangements, any way you wish, to travel to Prague or Budapest and then home again from wherever, 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.

Most people end up arranging their own air rather than booking through Amawaterways.

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.

For example, for your arrival, it is only 2 hours by train between Budapest and Vienna - you might find it easier to fly into Vienna (if you're not choosing the Prague extension).

Travel Insurance

We generally recommend you should protect against the various types of losses that may occur while traveling, and also to provide medical coverage in the event of illness, by purchasing some form of travel insurance.  We've seen enough times in the past either where people have not had travel insurance and desperately wished they had, or where people have had travel insurance and needed to claim on it, to appreciate the value of this protection.

Please see our three part series on travel insurance for more information, and in particular, please see 2/3 of the way down the second page which lists automated travel insurance shopping/comparison/quoting services to help you get the most appropriate travel insurance at the best rate.

Alternatively, Amawaterways offer travel insurance themselves for the cruise, with two options, either a 'cancel for medical reasons only' type policy or a 'cancel/defer for any reason' type policy.  Rates are shown in the table, above.  There is an extra $60 payable in premium if you wish the 'cancel for any reason' extended coverage.  Simply choose it when signing up for the cruise, below.  We suspect you can get less expensive coverages through the shopping service we link to above, but at least with Amawaterways, it is all being handled through the one company.

Here's a link to a PDF with the details of the Amawaterways coverages.

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 we are 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.  Feel free to send us an email, or call us at (206)337-2317.

Request to Join the Tour

Your Name as on your passport, Age & Citizenship


Name of Companion as on their passport, Age, Citizenship


If traveling as a single, would you like to share with a fellow tour member?

  No share
  Share requested (not g'teed)


Your Street Address

City, State, Zip

Phone (Day)

Phone (Night)



Stateroom Preference


Would you prefer twin beds or one queen size bed

   One Queen Bed     Two Twin Beds

Would you like the pre cruise option to Prague


Have you been on a previous Amawaterways cruise?  If so, please advise what year.

Any other special needs

Would you like Amawaterways to arrange the air for you?

  Yes, Please

Would you like to purchase the trip insurance

Yes please, cancel for any reason

 Yes please, standard cover

 No thanks

Any other comments


As soon as your application is accepted, you will be asked to send in your deposit within seven days.

Tour Terms and Conditions

Our standard terms and conditions apply to this tour.

In addition, please note these extra terms :

1.   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.

2.   Tour price is subject to change prior to full payment being received.

3.   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.


Originally published 11 Aug 2016, last update 12 Aug 2016


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