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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 Nuremberg to Budapest, with a pre-cruise option to visit Zurich, Munich and Mad King Ludwig's Bavarian castles, and a post-cruise option to visit beautiful Prague and Bratislava.

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 River Christmas Markets Cruise

A magical European Christmas cruise experience
 


 
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 nearly brand new (launched in 2014) river super-cruiser, Amasonata, has only 82 cabins, making for a much more personal and less institutional experience.

The river cruise experience 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 Tuesday 9 December 2013, so as to arrive into Nuremberg on or before Wednesday 10 December.  You board the ship that 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 Munich, and a pre-pre-cruise option in Zurich then Munich - leave the US on or before Saturday 6 December to arrive into Munich on or before Sunday 7 December and enjoy three nights in Munich; or leave the US on/before Thursday 4 December to add a couple more nights in Zurich, too.  More details in the next section.

End Date and Options

The cruise ends in Budapest on the morning of Wednesday, 17 December.

At this point you're free to either fly home or to extend your vacation as you wish, and we're offering a wonderful extension on to Prague (see below).

In most cases, if you fly home that day, you will arrive back in the US the same day.  You've still a week to finish any Christmas shopping!

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, and similarly you don't need to limit yourself to simply flying in to Nuremberg and out of Budapest.

We offer two Travel Insider exclusive extensions to enhance your overall tour experience.

Pre-Cruise Option 1 - Munich and Mad King Ludwig

Thanks to Bob Bestor, publisher of the excellent Gemtlichkeit travel newsletter, for his helpful advice in selecting a hotel and putting together this pre-cruise itinerary.

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).

Turning this (ie arriving early) into a positive feature, we're offering an interesting extension of three nights in Bavaria, which would have you fly to Munich rather than Nuremberg.  This is actually a benefit - more airlines fly with better schedules and lower fares to the larger airport in Munich than fly to the smaller airport in Nuremberg.

You'd leave the US on (or before) Saturday 6 December, so as to arrive into Munich on (or before) Sunday 7 December.

In addition to the day you arrive into Munich, this gives you two full days to enjoy the city and surrounding areas.

We'll arrange a half day city sights tour on the first day, and you're free to add whatever additional activities you wish on the second day.

We also include a memorable dinner on the last evening at a place that Bob describes as 'for my money the best beer, and the best room(s) to drink it in, in Munich' (yes, dinner and drinks included).

On Wednesday 10 December we've arranged an interesting all day tour and transfer on our own luxury coach and with an expert local guide.  We will be collected from our hotel in Munich and then will travel through Bavaria to visit Neuschwanstein (one of 'mad' King Ludwig II's amazing castles), a small Bavarian village and a baroque church that receives Michelin's highest rating (Wieskirche), before continuing on to Nuremberg and joining the ship in time for the welcome cocktail reception and dinner on board.

This will be a fascinating opportunity to see an incredible castle and a gorgeous church, and to learn about the fascinating history and life of this eccentric king before conveniently being taken to Amasonata, adding a extra dimension to our total touring experience.

Pre-Cruise Option 2 - Add Zurich Too

If you've some more spare time to enjoy Europe, why not visit Switzerland too.  Our pre-pre-cruise option would have you arriving into Zurich on/before Friday 5 December (ie leave the US on/before Thursday 4 Dec) and spending two nights in Switzerland's largest city.

We include a half day city sights tour, and then we have a transfer by train to Munich to arrive at the start of the Munich option.

Post-Cruise Option - Prague via Bratislava

Prague is one of the most beautiful and best preserved historical cities in all of Europe, and our Prague options are our most popular.

Prague has a lovely Christmas market, and is alive with culture, music, and the arts.  Spending time in Prague makes for a lovely conclusion to our Christmas Markets experience, and so we strongly urge you to include Prague as a wonderful way to end your Christmas Markets experience.

At the conclusion of the cruise on 17 December we'll be taken by luxury coach and with an expert local guide from Budapest to Bratislava, capital of Slovakia, where we enjoy a city tour and time for lunch, then we travel the rest of the way to Prague by comfortable convenient train.  We spend two or three nights (your choice) at a lovely historic hotel right in the very center of the city and just around the corner from the Old Town Square.

We include a half day city tour the next day, giving you an afternoon at leisure to enjoy the markets and anything else in Prague, and add a group dinner that evening in one of Prague's wonderful historic restaurants.  If you chose the two night option, the next day sees you leaving Prague, but if you choose the three day option, then on Tuesday we offer an optional day tour to the glorious medieval castle town of Cesky Krumlov, now protected and preserved as a World Heritage site.

You can of course extend your stay further in Prague if you wish; otherwise, on Saturday 20 December your three night Prague visit would come to an end.

Special Savings

If you choose to join the cruise prior to the end of January 2014, you'll get a wonderful 30% discount off the cruise (suites excluded), making an already good value experience become extraordinarily high value.

You may qualify for an extra $100 saving if you've traveled on a previous Amawaterways cruise.

Note - we also have a limited supply of a very special value deal for previous cruisers - ask for details if you've ever been on any previous Amawaterways cruise.

Plus, there's still more.  You'll get extra values from The Travel Insider - a free tour to Salzburg ($100 value), a tour to and admission into our favorite Christmas Market in all of Europe, and a free cocktail reception party on board, as well as The Travel Insider himself (David Rowell) traveling with you all the way as your personal escort.

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

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 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.

I have done the exact same cruise, as well as similar Christmas cruises eight 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 2014.

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.

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 a layer or two 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).  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 eight times I've done it, and the 250+ 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 Amasonata

Our cruise ship for this cruise, the Amasonata is almost brand new (it is being launched earlier in 2014), 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 lunch and 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.

Cabin Types

BA category cabin on AmacertoCabins on the Amasonata 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.

Detailed Day by Day Itinerary

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

Click here 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 pricing for the cruise is shown in the table below.  The crossed out prices are the regular prices you'd pay directly to Amawaterways, the prices below show the special 30% savings you get by joining our Travel Insider group.

NOTE :  If you have sailed with Amawaterways any time in the past, ask us for an extraordinarily special past passenger special deal.

 

Cabin Type

Cruise List
Cruise Discount

Prague 2/3 nt option

Munich 3 nt option

Zurich 2 nt option

E
160 sq ft
lower deck

$2799

$1959

$430/$495

$595

$525

D
160 sq ft
lower deck

$3048

$2134

$430/$495

$595

$525

C
170 sq ft
mid & upper decks

$3448

$2414

$430/$495

$595

$525

BB
210 sq ft
mid deck

$3948

$2764

$430/$495

$595

$525

BA
210 sq ft
upper deck

$4048

$2834

$430/$495

$595

$525

AB
235 sq ft
mid deck

$4248

$2974

$430/$495

$595

$525

AA
235 sq ft
upper deck

$4448

$3114

$430/$495

$595

$525

AA+
320 sq ft
upper deck

$4798

$430/$495

$595

$525

Suite
350 sq ft
upper deck

$5448

$430/$495

$595

$525


Extras and Inclusions

  • Port Taxes are $161 per person.

  • Single rate is 150% of the above per person share twin rates for cabins or 200% for a suite.

  • 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 free excursion to Salzburg (a $100 value) as a special Travel Insider bonus.

  • Rates include a Travel Insider cocktail party on board Amasonata

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.

Deposit is required within a week of your booking being confirmed; the balance of your payment is due on or before 6 September, 2013.

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 Nuremberg.  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.

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 Amawaterways rate and make your decision then.

You are therefore free to make your own arrangements, any way you wish, to travel to Nuremberg, Munich or Zurich, and then home again from Budapest or Prague, 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, consider flying in to Munich and taking a short 1 hour train ride from Munich to Nuremberg (or, better still, enjoy our Munich pre-cruise add-on).  There is an easy rail connection between Munich Airport and the central city train station.

Similarly, for your departure, it is only 2 hours by train between Budapest and Vienna - you might find it easier to fly out of 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, with two options, either a 'cancel for medical reasons only' type policy or a 'cancel/defer for any reason' type policy.  These cost $335 or $395 per person respectively, and if you wish this insurance cover, you 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             
Age                
Citizenship      

Name of Companion as on their passport, Age, Citizenship

Name             
Age                
Citizenship      

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

  No share
  Tvl Insider Share (not g'teed)

(comments)

Your Address

City, State, Zip

Phone (Day)

Phone (Night)

Email

 

Cabin preference

 

Would you prefer twin beds or one king size bed

   One King Bed     Two Twin Beds

Would you like the pre-cruise extensions to Munich and Zurich

 

Would you like the post-cruise extension to Prague

 

Any special needs

Any other comments

Do you want Amawaterways to arrange the air travel for you?

  Yes, please contact me to arrange my air travel for me

Would you like to purchase the trip insurance?

Yes, the $335 per person policy including cancellation for medical reasons

Yes, the $395 policy that also offers cancellation for any reasons

No thank you (I'll make my own arrangements directly)

 

As soon as your application is accepted, you will be asked to send in your payment 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.  Ground prices are based on a Euro cost of approx 1.30 - 1.35; if this changes significantly, the price may change.   Rates are locked in place when full payment is received.

3.   The 90 day payment due date is considered to be Friday 12 September.

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.

 

The Travel Insider is licensed by the State of Washington as a seller of travel - registration number 602 036 247.

Originally published 20 Dec 2013, last update 21 Dec 2013

 
 
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