Markets Land Cruise - December 2018
The Reims Christmas Market at night,
with Reims Cathedral providing a stunning backdrop.
All the best features of a river cruise
- with none of the downsides.
Here's a great way to experience
the delight of Europe's Christmas markets, without being
limited to only those close to the Rhine and Danube rivers.
Just like on a river cruise, you
only need to unpack once, but into a first class hotel room
rather than a small cruise ship cabin.
Just like on a river cruise, your
time can be filled with included activities at no extra
cost, but you're also free to take it easy, and do things at
your own speed as you wish. You never have to be back
before the ship sails - the hotel isn't going anywhere!
We take advantage of the wonderful
concentration of beautiful villages, towns and cities in
Northern France and Belgium, so each day you can travel on
our luxury 'coach cruiser' to a different selection of
stops, before returning back to your hotel in centrally
located Lille for dinner each evening.
We arrange the tour to be as convenient as possible, and
if you could only do part of it, we can customize your
participation to allow you to join and leave at the times
that are best for you. You don't have to worry about
how to meet the boat or getting into a port late - our
hotel isn't going anywhere.
A generous amount of free time, an avoidance of such
awful things as mandatory group meals at set dining times,
plus a small size group of well traveled fellow Travel
Insiders means you don't feel like a prisoner in a
traditional coach tour, either. Instead, you're enjoying a
special experience with new friends.
The tour is personally escorted by me - David Rowell, the
Travel Insider. Consider me your cruise director -
I'm there to help you any way and any time I can. We
also have local guides to introduce us to the sights and
scenes we'll experience and enjoy on our daily regional
skip down to the booking form
Start Date and Options
If you choose to join us at
the formal start of our cruise tour, then you should arrive into
Lille on Sunday 9 December, 2018.
If you're traveling from
North America, you'll probably take an overnight flight which
means you arrive into France the day after your flight takes off
from your home airport. So you'd want to leave home at
least one day before the tour starts. We recommend arriving
a day or more early to give you some 'emergency time' and a day or so to relax
after the long international flight.
There are also optional touring
possibilities before the main 'cruise' - see the next section,
End Date and Options
Our one week cruise/tour ends on the morning
of Sunday 16 December. At this point you could return
home, or extend on with our post-tour option, also explained
You are of course welcome to
stay on in Europe in general as you wish.
Pre and Post Optional
You can fly into
Europe at any time, of course, and to return home at any
Similarly you don't need to limit yourself to
simply flying in and out of Lille. Due to Lille's central
nature and excellent mainline high speed rail connections, it is easy to
get there from most other places in western Europe.
We also offer a special
post-tour group extension to enhance your overall tour
Suggested Free-Form Pre-Cruise Options -
Either London or Paris
for one, two or more nights
If you'd like to spend a few
extra days before the start of our cruise tour, why not do so in
London or Paris. Lille is only 90 minutes from London by
Eurostar train, and 70 minutes by train from Paris.
This would give you a chance
to visit a major capital city as well as our time in smaller
towns around northern France and Belgium (and, if you wished, to
do some big city Christmas gift shopping, too).
about capital cities, you could also consider spending time in
Brussels (a mere 40 minutes away) or even Amsterdam (about 3
These various suggestions
are 'free form' meaning you can do whatever you wish on your own
itinerary. We are happy to help you with arrangements if
needed, of course.
Suggested Group Post-Cruise Extension -
Luxembourg, Germany and Switzerland Too (even Lichtenstein as a
bonus if you wish!)
We have arranged a post-tour
chance for you to add greatly to the totality of your experience
and the places you visit, adding three or four extra countries
to the total tour.
On Sunday after checking out
of our Lille hotel, we travel
first to Luxembourg and then on to Metz (back in France) where
we stay overnight.
On Monday 17th, we travel
into Germany for the day (visiting the lovely town of Freiburg
and its Christmas markets), and then end our day in Zurich,
On Tuesday 18th, we have a
full day in Zurich. If you wish to, you could do a one day
visit to Lichtenstein, adding a sixth (or possibly seventh)
country to your tour.
On Wednesday 19th, this
option ends and you can then either fly home from Zurich or
continue your travels any way you wish.
This is offered as a
coordinated tour extension by us. Full details are on our
Why not bring a friend or two with
you, for more shared fun and fellowship.
To encourage you to do this, and
your friends to travel with you, we'll offer a 1% discount for
each extra person you bring with you (other than anyone you are
sharing your room with to start with).
Bring another couple, and
they get a 2% discount - and you get the same 2% discount too!
couples and all of you get a 4% discount, and so on (up to a
maximum of ten people and 10%).
Singles Save Too!
Typically river cruises
either force singles into tiny rooms on the lowest deck or
charge up to twice the regular rate for singles in normal
Travel Insider tours always
have a large number of singles - our groups are friendly,
inclusive, and welcoming, making them ideal for singles as well
as couples and larger groups.
We do our best to make our
tours not only as friendly as possible, but also
affordable and fair for singles, too. We'll give you the same
good room couples get, and have managed to talk down the single
supplement to a mere 20% loading - $499.
About the Cruise/Tour
Like a traditional cruise on
a ship, you'll spend the full week at a single hotel, so you
unpack once and can get comfortable, with none of the hassle of
a regular coach tour and the need to regularly pack and unpack,
and checking in and out of hotels.
Like a traditional cruise,
we visit towns around our region, traveling each day to selected
destinations by luxury coach (of course with restroom on board).
Unlike a traditional cruise,
we don't include all meals. Yes, you get breakfasts every
morning, and we have a first night and last night group dining
experience in Lille.
The good news is the rest of the time
you are free to enjoy whatever types of varied dining
experiences you wish, rather than endure meal after meal after
meal on the same cruise ship. Lunchtimes will usually be
in the various towns we visit around northern France and
Belgium, giving you different choices and regional styles every
day. Instead of being limited to the one restaurant on the
ship, and the several menu choices offered each meal, you've an
entire large city full of choices.
Dinner times will see us in
the cosmopolitan city of Lille, with its wonderful variety of
restaurants of all styles and levels for you to choose from,
including three Michelin starred establishments.
We are limiting the size of
the group to no more than 19 participants.
This keeps the coach nice
and unfilled, it keeps a good ratio of guides to passengers (and
we use radios for commentary off the coach), and gives us a
great group size - big enough to be interesting, but not too
large as to be impersonal.
An earlier Travel
Insider group enjoying a whisky tasting in Scotland.
For this tour, there'll
be no whisky tasting, but we have arranged a Champagne
tasting, instead, in the heart of the Champagne region,
We've balanced the opposing
concepts of including lots of activities and also allowing you
free flexible time on this cruise/tour.
Perhaps the most
distinctive thing about this experience is that because
we always return back to Lille every evening, you can
vary your own activities any way you like because you'll
never get left behind, as happens on a cruise or regular
coach tour that travels between various different
reasonably flexible about adding to or varying the tour
'real time' as we are traveling. As long as the
group as a whole agrees and the schedule allows, we're
happy to make changes to enhance the experience for all
Accordingly, while including
accommodation every night, breakfasts and two dinners, touring
and sightseeing, we've left plenty of time open
for you to choose exactly the experiences, meals, and other
activities you personally wish.
is optional, so if you want to spend a lazy day strolling around
one of the lovely towns we stay in rather
than an active day out and about sightseeing, that is of course
totally possible. It is all up to you.
Some of what the
tour includes comprises
On the Coach
Large luxury coach so
there's always an average of at least 1.5 seats per
person, giving you best
views and comfort while touring
Bottled water available
for purchase at modest price
rest-room, reclinable seats, plenty of space for
carry-ons and purchases
David Rowell (the 'Travel Insider'
himself) as 'cruise director' (ie tour leader)
Local specialist guides
Where we visit
- Our central base for the tour, home to many excellent
restaurants and one of the most popular Christmas markets in
all of France. Festooned in Flemish-Renaissance
- Dating to the 7th century, starting point of the Aa
river's canal, has Vauban fortifications and a history
of many battles.
- One of the traditional ports for ferries to/from England,
now largely superseded by the Channel Tunnel. Home to
a famous Rodin statue and a World Heritage listed belfry.
- An unforgettable site, with its fame renewed by the
2017 movie of the same name, and with two entries on the
list of World Heritage sites.
- In the heart of the Champagne district of France.
Need we say more? For centuries the kings of
France were crowned in its glorious cathedral, now a
World Heritage site.
- Dating back to Roman times, and more recently famous for
its Art Deco buildings.
- Also known as Ieper, the site of some of WW1's most tragic
battles such as Passchendaele, and notable for being where
poison gas was first used. Has a World Heritage listed
- Perhaps the most beautiful town in all of Belgium, and
deservedly a World Heritage Site. Like several
other cities, is sometimes called the 'Venice of the
- Not as well known as Bruges, but still a jewel of a
city built along the banks of two rivers. Still
shows evidence of when it was one of the largest and
richest cities in all of northern Europe, with 50,000
people living in it in 1300. An inland port and,
like so many of our destinations, also a World Heritage
- First a market town, then a mining town, and now a
museum town, having the 'out of Paris' extension of the Louvre
Museum based in its town center.
- An amazing town square with a mixture of post WW1 Art
Deco and earlier Flemish architecture justify this
town's World Heritage designation.
- Set in the Somme region, this town claims to have the
largest Christmas market in the north of France.
Canals, a Gothic cathedral and medieval belfry complete
the beatiful scenes in this town, also a World Heritage
- Its "Grand Place" (town square) has been described as
being unrivaled in all of Europe for its Flemish Baroque
architecture, and its Vauban fortifications qualify it
for World Heritage listing and its belfry for a second
World Heritage listing.
Plus a free day
to go anywhere you wish - London, Paris, Brussels,
Food and Drink inclusions
morning are included
the first night
A group welcome dinner
on the second night to accelerate the getting to know each other process, with a
drink or two also included
A Champagne tasting
in Reims in the heart of the Champagne region
Group farewell dinner -
a sad experience for sure, but we try to make it as
convivial as possible, and, yes, of course there'll again be
a drink or two on offer
Of perhaps equal importance in
understanding the distinctive and special nature of this tour is
not just what the tour includes, but also what it omits.
What the tour proudly
does NOT include!
NO Early starts
NO Crowded coaches
(maximum group size 24 people)
NO Characterless hotels on the
outskirts of cities
NO Checking in and out
of multiple hotels
NO Series of long days of endless travel
on a bus
NO Huge groups being rushed
through tourist trap after tourist trap
NO 'Shopping opportunities' at
over-priced trashy souvenir shops
NO Group meals, at fixed times,
with limited fixed menus, in generic cafeterias
NO Regimented inflexible
schedules and mandatory events
NO Obnoxious inexperienced 'out
of their depth' first time travelers
NO Crowded schedules leaving
no flexible free time
The Hotel Couvent des Minimes in central Lille - our 'ship' for
our seven day 'cruise'.
like a regular river cruise on a smaller sized vessel with about
80 cabins, we've carefully chosen a smaller boutique hotel,
which offers a similar feeling of personalization and
friendliness, where we as guests are much more closely linked to
the hotel staff.
But unlike a river cruise ship, where newer is generally
synonymous with 'better', we have chosen a hotel that is steeped
in history and character, while still having a high quality
modern interior to ensure we enjoy all modern services, comforts
The Couvent des Minimes (Minim Convent - the earlier
monastery/convent of the Minim Order) is a listed historical
building in the heart of Lille, and regarded as an excellent
example of 17th century Belgian/Flemish architecture (Belgium is
less than 10 miles from Lille).
Minim Order was founded in the 15th century and placed great
value on humility and a simple lifestyle. At one point
they operated the brewery that these days, and now unrelated to
the order, is well known as the Paulaner Brewery in Germany and
takes its name from the order's founder, St Francis of Paola.
The hotel restored the building's cloisters
(pictured, above) and rear garden in
1990, adding greatly to its ambience, and also allowing for its
own freshly grown produce to be included in its restaurant.
The main reception and
public area is the building's former internal courtyard, and is now
protected under a huge Verriere - a
large open area with a glass roof, and very rarely found in
Adding to the distinctiveness of this
public area is a suspended bar/lounge platform that floats above
the open public area (pictured, left).
The hotel is less than 200 yds from the Bois de Boulogne, a 125
acre parkland that includes the Lille Zoo and the historic Lille
Citadel, built over 340 years ago, and one of the best examples
of the famous string of citadels designed by Louis Vauban, now
designated as World Heritage sites.
A branch of the Deule river and canal runs right to the front of
Ten minutes walk takes you to the heart of the city - Vieux
Lille and/or the Grand Place.
In summary, our hotel has a unique character and history, and
fronts to a quiet street and branch of the river/canal. It is
peaceful and relaxing, while being close to the center of the
A superior room at the
Couvent des Minimes Hotel in Lille
The regular category of 'cabin' (ie hotel room).
Part of one of the enormous suites.
like a regular cruise, we offer you a choice of three different
'cabin' types. We call them cabins, staterooms, and
The regular 'cabin' type room is still roomier than a
cruise ship cabin. It is 215 sq ft in size, and of course
has windows and private facilities, and a choice of two twin
beds or one double bed. See image on the left.
If you wish to upgrade to a more spacious 'stateroom' you get a
larger 269 sq ft stateroom (image above).
And if you wish to go to the 'suite' you get a huge 431 sq ft
suite. This is shown in the second image on the left.
Just like a cruise, we offer
this tour to you with a choice of three 'cabin types'.
Rates are per
A single supplement of $499
is available (add $74 for superior upgrades and a further $112
for deluxe upgrades).
We will also help to match together singles
if you'd like to share with a compatible fellow single traveler.
No Hidden Extras
no extra charges for 'port fees'.
While you are free to tip
our coach driver and occasional guides as you might wish, there
are no envelopes passed around at the
end of the tour and 'recommended' tips that you are
asked/expected to pay.
Other Price Comments
All these prices reflect a 3% discount
A $500 per person
non-refundable deposit is required to confirm your place on
Tour does not include the
costs of travel to and from the tour start and end
points, or anything not specified as included.
Why Tour 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 experience 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.
When we visit the famous sites in the region, we'll not be
squeezed and squashed in with the teeming groups of people who
visit in the summer.
It will be easier to get straight in
to attractions, to find tables in restaurants, and to relax and
enjoy the towns with fewer foreigners and more locals, making
for a much more pleasant ambience and realistic experience.
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
Yes, the weather is cold, but nothing
that several layers of warm
clothes can't combat, and our many previous Christmas Market
tours at this time of year 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!
For the time we visit, Lille reports an average high in
the mid/high 40s and an average nightly low a little below 40°.
Snow is exceedingly rare. So while the weather will be
cool, it certainly shouldn't be bitterly cold. Weather has
never interfered with our enjoyment of previous Christmas
What about the Air Fare?
You will save money and gain
flexible convenience if you arrange your own air travel.
These days airlines seldom give discounts to groups, and
sometimes even charge more, while also adding extra restrictions
to the tickets!
You can choose whichever
carrier has the best fare and the best schedules for you, and
you can also choose your preferred carrier that you wish to earn miles with.
You can even cash in miles and fly on frequent flier awards.
We'll be pleased to answer
any questions you might have about arranging your air
transportation, of course.
Where Should I Fly
To and From?
Lille is a wonderful
destination, giving you more options for how to get there than
most other places, and lots of choices for things to do and
places to visit before and after our land cruise.
It is a major rail hub, and
is the central point of the Eurostar services, and also on the
main route from Belgium and Holland to Paris.
You could fly into Lille
airport (city code LIL), or you could fly to perhaps London or
Paris or Brussels or Amsterdam and spend some time there before
then enjoying a lovely fast and comfortable train ride on to
Note that most
airlines allow you to fly into one city and out of another, so
for your flight back home, if you take the optional extension to
Zurich there is no need to return back to whichever city you
flew into before flying home. Simply book your return
flights from Zurich.
How to Extend or Vary this Tour
There are many ways you can
extend or vary this tour (the
main tour itinerary page
You can spend more time
in Europe before the start of this tour, and/or anywhere else (eg
in Britain) too. We recommend that you arrive a day or more before you
join the tour, so as to give yourself a chance to relax after the
flights and at least partially pre-adjust to the time zone
changes and jet lag.
During the tour, all of the
day touring is of course optional and you can substitute your
own activities if you prefer.
After the tour, you can
spend more time in Europe - either on our arranged optional
extension, or travel on anywhere else in
Europe and/or Britain on your own.
So, you have many choices
for adding extra time and sightseeing. We're here to help ensure your experience is as good as
possible, and will be pleased to help you with your pre or post
tour planning - please don't hesitate to ask.
We recommend you should
consider travel insurance as prudent protection. Rather
than attempt to sell you some policy ourselves that may or may
not suit your needs, we recommend you go to
this insurance shopping site, which offers comparisons
between something like 100 different policies offered by 18
different insurers, giving you all the options you need.
information about travel insurance than you probably ever
thought you'd want to know, please click the link to read our three part series
on the subject.
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.
As soon as your
application is accepted,
you will be asked to send in your $500 deposit within seven days.
Tour Terms and Conditions
standard terms and conditions
apply to this tour.
In addition, please note
these extra terms :
1. Deposit is
required within seven days of your participation being
confirmed. Full payment is due on or before Friday 7
2. US, Canadian, and
many other citizens require a
current passport that will not expire until
after the date of their planned return from the UK in order
to be admitted to the UK, but do not require a visa. Citizens of other countries should check with the
airline that will transport them to the UK to determine what
passport and visa requirements may apply.
3. Tour price is based
on a wholesale Euro/USD exchange rate in the range of 1.14 - 1.19
(as shown, eg, in Yahoo Finance/Money - on Thursday 6 September it is
showing a rate of 1.16. If the
exchange rate moves outside this range, and prior to full
payment having been received by you, we will adjust the price up
or down to reflect the change in underlying tour costs. We
will advise you if the exchange rate is materially changing and
you can always lock in the price by sending in early full payment.