Avalon Waterways River Cruises

Experience a world beyond your expectations. Choose from our award-winning vacations on virtually every continent with local favorites and off-the-beaten-path experiences only Globus can share.

We know why you travel. You’d rather have an extra day exploring than a fancy chocolate on your pillow at night. Enjoy hand-selected inclusions and world-class experiences for value-minded travel lovers like you.

Raise your sights and set your sails for the rivers of Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa on an Avalon Waterways cruise. Elevate your cruise experience with fewer passengers, more choices, and endless possibilities.

Christmas Cruises

Christmas Cruises

Sail into the season of European Christmas markets, aglow with the warmth of a simpler time. From wooden stalls with handmade ornaments and hot-mulled wine to grand Christmas cathedrals and glistening lights, a winter cruise on the Danube , Main , or Rhine Rivers  is a true gift of timeless tradition. See musical instruments come to life in Rüdesheim, Germany ; taste Austrian Christmas cookies while sailing to Vienna; visit Melk’s Benedictine Abbey to marvel at its frescoed ceilings; and see the magical Christmas markets of Budapest, Prague, or Strasbourg.

Holiday Season Cruises

Holiday Season Cruises ’Tis the season to celebrate in Europe.

Holiday Season Cruises

Immerse yourself in all the splendor of an old-world holiday, cruising majestic waterways aboard a festively decorated ship. Uniworld offers seven enchanting itineraries on the Rhine and Danube rivers, featuring centuries-old Christmas Markets, memorable excursions, decadent confections and numerous other once-a-year delights.

Uniworld's Holiday Season Itineraries

Classic Christmas Markets

Classic Christmas Markets

Nuremberg to Frankfurt | 8 days

Discover villages with fairytale houses and a friendly, festive atmosphere. Share traditional holiday goodies with the people who made them. Watch as modern children abandon their usual electronics...

Ships: River Duchess, River Princess, River Queen

Country: Germany

Rivers: Main, Rhine

4.2 /5 (130 reviews)

From $3,329 per person

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Danube Holiday Markets

Danube Holiday Markets

Budapest to Passau | 8 days

Budapest has celebrated Christmas for a thousand years, since the reign of St. Stephen, the king who founded Hungary and encouraged the spread of Christianity throughout his realm. As you ramble...

Ships: River Princess, S.S. Maria Theresa

Countries: Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia

River: Danube

4.6 /5 (140 reviews)

From $3,149 per person

Enchanting Christmas & New Year's Cruise

Enchanting Christmas & New Year's Cruise

Passau to Budapest | 11 days

Cruise the mighty Danube, visiting classic capitals like Budapest and Vienna. Spend Christmas Eve in Passau, then ring in the New Year in elegant style in Budapest. Festive celebrations are plentiful ...

Ship: S.S. Maria Theresa

4.6 /5 (25 reviews)

From $5,399 per person

European Holiday Markets

European Holiday Markets

Nuremberg to Vienna | 8 days

This cruise takes you to some of the most famous and delightful holiday markets in Central Europe. At each market, you’ll find wooden stalls displaying traditional crafts that range from quirky ...

Ships: River Princess, S.S. Beatrice

Countries: Austria, Germany

4.4 /5 (134 reviews)

From $3,419 per person

Grand Christmas & New Year's

Grand Christmas & New Year's

Nuremberg to Budapest | 13 days

You’ll sail through Germany, Austria, and Hungary along the shimmering Danube and past incredible sights on this unique itinerary. Explore charming old-world villages and Gothic cathedrals and...

Ship: S.S. Beatrice

Countries: Austria, Germany, Hungary

Rivers: Danube, Main

4.5 /5 (26 reviews)

From $6,659 per person

Rhine Holiday Markets

Rhine Holiday Markets

Basel to Cologne | 8 days

Discover the roots of our Christmas traditions as you explore some of Europe’s most charming towns. Browse for unique ornaments in Basel’s Christmas Market. Sip vin chaud as you stroll to ...

Ships: S.S. Antoinette, S.S. Elisabeth

Countries: France, Germany, Switzerland

River: Rhine

From $3,059 per person

Belgian Holiday Markets

Belgian Holiday Markets

Brussels to Brussels | 8 days

There’s no more magical way to enjoy the holiday season than with a visit to a Christmas market. And on an all-inclusive, luxury river cruise, you can wander the stalls of many such markets in...

Ship: S.S. Victoria

Countries: Belgium, Netherlands

3.8 /5 (50 reviews)

From $3,509 per person

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The 10 most festive christmas cruises for 2023-2024.

Set sail for the holidays on your next cruise vacation.

The Most Festive Christmas Cruises

A decorated lobby and staircase of an American Queen Voyages ship.

Courtesy of American Queen Voyages

These festive cruises are full of activities, food and destinations to make your holiday special.

If you're ready for a break from holiday traditions and family gatherings at home, consider booking a Christmas cruise. What makes a better present than the chance to leave all the planning, cooking, cleaning and decorating behind – and celebrate the holidays in beautiful destinations in the U.S., the Caribbean or other countries around the globe?

If you're dreaming of a white Christmas, you can book a festivity-filled river cruise along Europe's iconic waterways and bundle up in your winter gear to explore the Christmas markets in the snow. If you prefer sunshine and warm temperatures, celebrate the holidays in an exotic locale, sailing crystal-clear turquoise waters and relaxing on white sand beaches surrounded by palm trees.

Whether you prefer to stay close to home or jet off for a bucket list adventure, one of these cruises may just be the perfect gift to celebrate your holidays in style.

Book a Christmas cruise on  GoToSea , a service of U.S. News.

Hallmark Channel Christmas Cruise

Put your name on the waiting list for November 2024 if you want to set sail on what Hallmark is touting as the "jolliest vacation ever." The Hallmark Channel – known for its year-round holiday-themed programming with Christmas in July, Countdown to Christmas and Christmas Fridays – will host the first-ever Hallmark Channel Christmas Cruise sailings in November 2024 from Miami to the Bahamas . Lucky fans of the television channel will travel with their favorite Hallmark stars on one of two four-night cruises on Norwegian Cruise Line 's Norwegian Gem during the 2024 holiday season.

Highlights of the Hallmark Channel Christmas Cruise include photo opportunities and panels to meet the stars. Attend Christmas craft workshops or tastings with Hallmark's winemaker – the wines have names like Jingle (cabernet sauvignon) and Joy (sauvignon blanc). Guests can also look forward to "carol-oke" singalongs, cookie decorating, an ugly sweater contest and a world premiere viewing of a new Hallmark Channel Christmas movie.

Read: The Top Party Cruises

AmaWaterways

A Christmas market stand at an AmaWaterways cruise destination.

Courtesy of AmaWaterways

AmaWaterways offers seven itineraries to visit the Christmas markets along the Rhine and Danube rivers – and to see the holiday splendor of Europe's grand cities, such as Vienna and Prague . Travelers can stroll through snow-dusted beautiful medieval squares and fairytale markets with chalet-inspired stalls, thousands of colorful lights, festive decorations, ice skating rinks, whimsical handmade gifts, Christmas carolers, carousels and more.

The eight-day Iconic Christmas Markets itinerary from Nuremberg, Germany, to Budapest, Hungary , features a visit to Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, one of the world's oldest and most famous Christmas markets. Sip glühwein (hot mulled wine) and sample savory specialties like currywurst (curried sausages) and kartoffelpuffer (fried potato pancakes). Be sure to save room for sweet delights like schaumkuss, a chocolate-covered marshmallow, or lebkuchen, a traditional spiced cookie.

While on board the ship, guests can participate in festivities like tree-trimming, caroling and "Shoes for St. Nick." This European tradition encourages passengers to leave their slippers outside their stateroom door before bed. In the morning, they wake up to slippers filled with tasty treats like the children find in Europe on Saint Nicholas Day.

Celebrity Cruises

The Celebrity Infinity ship on the Celebrity Cruises' Canaries, Morocco, Spain Holiday itinerary.

Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

Celebrate Christmas Day in the Canary Islands and ring in the new year on the Mediterranean Sea during Celebrity Cruises ' Canaries, Morocco, Spain Holiday itinerary. The 13-day round-trip voyage from Barcelona embarks a few days before Christmas 2023 on Celebrity Infinity. It features eight ports of call, including the Moroccan cities of Casablanca and Tangier as well as Seville and Valencia in Spain.

On the ship, guests can revel in the joyous spirit of the season with festive Christmas trees, traditional holiday meals, themed shows and pop-ups, carolers, gingerbread winter villages, and even a visit from Santa. The onboard bars serve up holiday-inspired cocktails like candy cane and gingerbread martinis as well as other seasonal favorites, including spiked apple cider and classic mulled wine. On New Year's Eve, plan to join in the merriment with fellow cruisers during the big countdown bash.

If you want to cross South Africa off your list of must-visit destinations , consider spending Christmas and New Year's Eve sailing round-trip from Cape Town on Azamara 's 14-day South Africa Intensive Voyage. The 2023 voyage departs Dec. 21 on Azamara Pursuit and includes stops in Port Elizabeth, home to one of the densest elephant populations in the world, and Richards Bay, which is teeming with exotic wildlife and stunning landscapes.

Guests on board the holiday cruise will be treated to Christmas performances, including singalongs and carols performed by the crew. There will be special menus in the restaurants, holiday-themed buffets, religious services and a tree-trimming party. Festive treats like hot chocolate, cookies and snacks are provided throughout the cruise. The New Year's Eve White Night party, where all the guests don their best white attire, will take place throughout the ship and on the pool deck with entertainment, music and light bites.

xmas river cruises

Tips on Trips and Expert Picks

Travel tips, vacation ideas and more to make your next vacation stellar.

People stand on the front deck of a Viking Christmas cruise on the Rhine.

Courtesy of Viking

Viking's 12-day Christmas on the Main & Moselle cruise sails between Paris and Prague in 2023 and 2024. The adults-only sailing affords passengers 18 or older the opportunity to visit four European countries: France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Czech Republic. In addition to browsing the boutiques in Paris and a variety of Christmas markets in Germany, you'll want to explore iconic landmarks like Reims Cathedral in France and the Luxembourg American Cemetery. Don't miss the famed wines produced in the region, including Moselle, riesling, Müller-Thurgau and gewürztraminer.

The holiday spirit continues on board the ship with Christmas-themed cooking demonstrations in addition to festive decorations with garland, lights and gingerbread houses. Guests will also taste regional cuisine, enjoy cultural performances on board the ship and ashore, and learn about the history of the Christmas markets and local holiday traditions.

Read: Bucket List Cruises for Seniors and Retirees

Disney Cruise Line

Goofy, Mickey and Minny characters on a Disney Cruise Line Very Merrytime cruise.

Kent Phillips | Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line offers dozens of Christmas-themed cruises in November and December of 2023 and 2024. Cruisers looking to celebrate the holidays with Disney's cast of characters in 2023 can book a Very Merrytime cruise as short as a four-day sailing from Port Canaveral, Florida, to the Bahamas. For an extended getaway, consider Disney Cruise Line 's eastbound eastbound 15-day voyage that embarks in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico , and transits the Panama Canal, disembarking in Galveston, Texas .

On the first evening of every sailing, guests can gather around the three-deck-tall Christmas tree for the tree lighting ceremony, a holiday singalong and the introduction of Santa Claus. Other festivities include the fun-filled Mickey and Minnie's Holiday Party, themed Very Merrytime activities for children of all ages, carolers singing songs, and Christmas-inspired food and beverages. Disney characters like Mickey and Minnie Mouse will be sporting jolly new holiday attire during the special voyages.

Read: The Top Themed Cruises

Windstar Cruises

Exterior of Windstar Cruises ship on Overwater Bungalow & Tahitian Paradise Cruise Tour.

Courtesy of Windstar Cruises

Celebrate the holidays with a once-in-a-lifetime getaway to the sun-drenched islands of Tahiti . You'll set sail a few days before Christmas aboard the four-masted sailing yacht Wind Spirit. Windstar's 10-day Overwater Bungalow & Tahitian Paradise Cruise Tour also includes a three-night stay in overwater bungalows on the island of Moorea. Resort perks include a half-day private car tour and a romantic beach dinner where you can watch a spectacular French Polynesian sunset over the South Pacific Ocean.

Guests can join in on the holiday spirit around the ship with festive Christmas trees and decorations and holiday-inspired cocktails and treats. Special programming for the voyage includes a Christmas movie, a gala tea, an interdenominational Christmas service and a Christmas Eve dinner. Christmas morning brings more celebrations throughout the day, with holiday meals, a Yuletide afternoon tea and a Christmas dinner followed by a variety show in the evening.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Interior of Norwegian Cruise Line's The Haven Suite.

Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Grab the swimsuit, flip-flops and sunglasses for a tropical holiday on Norwegian Cruise Line 's newest ship, Norwegian Viva. The line's nine-day Caribbean voyage departs round-trip from San Juan, Puerto Rico , several days after Christmas. There are eight ports of call, including stops in the beautiful islands of Curaçao , Bonaire , St. Lucia and Aruba . For a special celebration, splurge on luxurious suite accommodations in The Haven. The ship-within-a-ship retreat features a private restaurant, a lounge, a sundeck, a concierge desk and 24-hour butler service.

Holiday-themed activities on Norwegian's ships vary by itinerary and ship. Still, guests will find plenty of festive fun on board, including traditional holiday fare and holiday-inspired musical sets, trivia, and family and youth programming. Guests are invited to offer interdenominational services for fellow passengers during the sailing. You'll also find Hanukkah services listed in the Freestyle Daily Program. Plan to sleep in on New Year's Day and spend a blissful day relaxing at sea after a late night celebrating New Year's Eve on board the ship.

American Queen Voyages

A holiday decorated building at an American Queen Voyages Christmas Markets Cruise destination.

The holiday-themed, eight-day Roundtrip New Orleans voyage on American Queen begins with an overnight in the city and disembarks just in time to spend Christmas Eve in the Big Easy . The ship – a 417-passenger paddlewheeler that is the largest steamboat ever built – will call on four ports during the sailing on the Lower Mississippi River. In Natchez, Mississippi, guests will find holiday markets exclusively created for the voyage, where you can shop for gifts and sweet treats. You'll also be greeted with bonfires along the riverbanks at the historic Nottoway Resort in White Parish, Louisiana. Join in the real spirit of Christmas with donations to Giving Trees in the port towns that help local charities.

There are plenty of cheery activities on board the ship with Christmas shows, singalongs, caroling and cooking demonstrations. Guests can also put their creative talents to work decorating gingerbread houses, ornaments and cards while sampling holiday-themed cocktails or sipping hot chocolate. Specially prepared dishes will celebrate the traditions of Hanukkah, including traditional foods like homemade latkes (fried potato pancakes).

Read: The Top Mississippi River Cruises

Aerial of the Silver Endeavour in Gibraltar.

Courtesy of Silversea

For a life-changing experience and the merriest Christmas of all, spend the holiday with several species of waddling penguins, giant seals and majestic whales while visiting the ice-covered shores of The White Continent. The 10-day Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams expedition on Silversea 's Silver Endeavour sets sail from Chile a week before Christmas in 2023 for the Antarctica Peninsula. Five days of excursions allow travelers to explore this surreal and magical part of the world. Weather permitting, guests will even take a Zodiac cruise with the expedition team in the South Shetland Islands on Christmas Day.

Festive touches on board the ship include Christmas trees and lights, gingerbread houses, holiday arts and crafts, caroling, religious services, and musical performances by the crew and professional entertainers. Guests will also enjoy a traditional holiday dinner on Christmas Day.

Why Trust U.S. News Travel

Gwen Pratesi has been an avid cruiser since her early 20s. She has sailed to destinations around the globe on nearly every type of cruise ship built, including the newest megaships, luxury yachts, expedition vessels, and river ships in Europe and on the Mekong River. She used her extensive knowledge and experience with the cruise industry to write this article. Pratesi covers the travel and culinary industries for major publications, including U.S. News & World Report.

You might also be interested in:

  • The Top River Cruise Lines
  • The Top Cruises on Small Ships
  • Cruise Packing List: Essentials for Your Cruise
  • The Top Christmas Lights Displays in the U.S.
  • The Best Christmas Vacations

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This 7-day All-inclusive River Cruise Stops at Iconic Christmas Markets in Germany — But You Have to Act Fast

Yes, we're already ready for the holidays, too.

xmas river cruises

Poike/Getty Images

Influencer content isn’t always the most relatable. Yeah, splashy images of massive breakfasts floating in a pool in some far-off beach destination sure do look nice on the ‘gram, but often, the reality just doesn’t line up, making it hard to envision yourself taking the same journey. But not with Helene In Between. She makes travel look as approachable as it gets — and is now inviting you all to travel alongside her too. 

In January, Helene Sula, the brains behind the wildly popular blog and Instagram account @HeleneInBetween, announced she’s hosting a river cruise later this year to show off all her favorite European Christmas markets. 

“I can barely contain my excitement,” Sula wrote on her cruise’s announcement page. “Come explore the magic of the Christmas Markets in Europe with the Christmas Market queen and king, Helene and Michael Sula.” 

According to Sula’s page, every destination was hand-selected, along with the excursions offered and the very ship the trip takes place on. "Specifically with our cruise, we wanted it all-inclusive: all food, drinks (even top-shelf alcohol), transportation, excursions, so that they can truly relax and enjoy," Sula told Travel + Leisure.

The seven-day journey begins in Cologne, Germany, which Sula noted is one of her “favorite” market destinations. She also chose it thanks to its proximity to Frankfurt Airport (FRA), allowing all her American followers the chance to hop on a direct flight.

From Cologne, the ship continues down the Rhine River to Koblenz, where guests will have the chance to disembark, explore the small village, and visit the famed Arenfels Castle. 

On day three, the ship will dock in Rüdesheim, where guests can head out on an optional excursion to a local coffee house to try Rudeseheimer coffee and then to a local winery. 

Day four is an exciting one, particularly for Sula, as the ship will dock in Heidelberg, where she and Michael lived during their time in Europe. (It's also where her blog began.) Here, guests can disembark to explore the town, the nearby castles, and, of course, the markets. 

"We picked it because it's so idyllic: a castle looking over a river, flanked by pristine 16th-century buildings," said Sula. "But the Christmas market is so easy. It takes place along the main street, nearly a one-mile-long pedestrian-only street, with hundreds of hand-carved stalls selling hot mulled wine, succulent sausages, handmade ornaments, and more. It's delightful."

Day five continues to Strasbourg and a visit to the Black Forest, followed by a day in Mainz, before the journey ends on day seven back in Cologne. 

As for the ship, Sula chose a ship by Nicko Cruises, which is large enough for just 170 guests, making for an ultra-intimate experience. Guests can choose between a State Room (starting at $3,399 per person) or a larger Panorama Room (starting at $3,899 per person). Guests can mix and mingle in the common spaces, including the upper deck’s lounge and bar, the informal or formal dining spaces, or the ship’s onboard spa. 

"Each market in Europe offers its own spin on the traditions whether in what they offer to eat, drink, music, decor, or what they sell," said Sula. "It's truly an incredible atmosphere and I just want to spread the love."

As mentioned above, space is limited, so if you want to sail with Sula, you better act fast. Learn more about the cruise at learn.heleneinbetween.com .

European Christmas markets river cruises 

Originating in Germany, dating back to the late Middle Ages, Christmas markets are popular in northern Europe.  

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Discover the Christmas markets of Europe on a luxury river cruise

Europe during winter is unlike anywhere else, with gingerbread stalls and twinkling fairy lights welcoming in the festive period. Discover the magic of a Christmas markets cruise, and celebrate Yuletide as the Germans, Austrians, and Hungarians do. 

Nuremberg Christmas markets

Christmas Market stall with hanging gingerbread

Cologne Christmas markets

 Famous Christmas markets in front of the Cathedral in Cologne, Germany

Budapest Christmas markets

Christmas market at Saint Stephen Basilica square in the centre of Budapest, Hungary

Breisach Christmas markets

Ornaments and decorations at a German Christmas market

Vienna Christmas markets 

Christmas markets located in front of the Vienna City Hall

Featured  Itineraries

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Christmas Markets of Europe

Discover Europe’s most popular river cruises

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Christmas Markets of Rhine-Main

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Christmas Markets of the Rhine

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Christmas Markets on the Danube

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Classic Prague & Christmas Markets on the Danube

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Christmas time on the Danube

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American Queen Voyages

Christmas River Cruises: A Magical Voyage with American Queen Voyages

a white christmas

Christmas is a time of enchantment and cherishing precious moments with loved ones. The festive cheer, glittering lights, and the serene snowfall create a magical ambiance that warms every heart. Amidst this beautiful setting, we invite you to celebrate the Yuletide spirit on a captivating journey along the iconic rivers of America. As the gentle ripples of water accompany the vessel, the magical essence of Christmas unfolds in every ripple and snowflake, offering a tranquil retreat from the hustle and bustle of the season.

Embarking on a Christmas river cruise is akin to stepping into a mesmerizing festive realm, where the traditional charm of the holiday season intertwines with the tranquil allure of river cruising. The blend of picturesque landscapes, the soothing serenade of the river, and the heartwarming Christmas decor create a setting that rekindles the joy and wonder of the season. As you cozy up with a warm beverage, the melodious tunes of classic Christmas carols resonate through the crisp winter air, echoing the joyous spirit of Christmas.

Experiencing Traditional American Christmas Celebrations:

A Christmas River Cruise with us is a delightful voyage into the heart of traditional American Christmas celebrations. The vessels are adorned with grace and elegance reflecting the festive season’s charm. Glistening lights, elegantly decorated Christmas trees, and the sweet aroma of fresh-baked holiday treats fill the ambiance. Every corner resonates with the joyous laughter and the merry spirit of fellow travelers, making the cruise a gathering of joy, love, and celebration.

The festive decor aboard the vessels transports you to a winter wonderland. The meticulous attention to detail, from garlands draping the railings to the cozy, warm interiors, creates a comforting and joyful setting. As you stroll along the deck, the gentle glow of twinkling lights against the night sky creates a serene and whimsical atmosphere. The decor not only enhances the visual appeal but also embodies the warm and loving spirit of the holiday season, making every moment aboard a cherished memory.

xmas river cruises

Festive Itineraries and Shore Excursions:

The journey along the river is a voyage through the heart of America’s Christmas celebrations. Our carefully curated itineraries provide an authentic experience of the local traditions and festivities. Each port of call is a gateway to a unique cultural experience, allowing you to explore quaint Christmas markets, vibrant holiday parades, and attend heartwarming carol services. The blend of local traditions, festive activities, and the charming settings provide an enriching and delightful holiday experience.

The shore excursions are crafted to offer a deep dive into the local Christmas traditions. As you step ashore, the welcoming embrace of the communities, coupled with the festive cheer, creates an endearing experience. Explore the local crafts at the Christmas markets, savor the regional holiday delicacies, and join in the community celebrations. Each excursion is a journey into the heart of the region’s cultural and festive tapestry, creating a rich and meaningful holiday experience.

Onboard Holiday Entertainment:

The festive cheer continues to resonate on board with a plethora of entertainment options tailored to celebrate the Christmas spirit. Enjoy special Christmas shows that bring the magic of the season alive. The talented entertainers aboard our vessels captivate the guests with performances that are both heartwarming and exhilarating. From lively renditions of classic Christmas carols to enchanting storytelling sessions, the onboard entertainment creates a festive and joyful ambiance.

The evenings on board are a celebration of music, laughter, and camaraderie. As the night descends, the vessels come alive with the melodious tunes of live music, the rhythm of dance, and the joyous laughter of guests celebrating the season. The cozy lounges and entertainment venues provide the perfect setting for socializing, making new friends, and cherishing the festive spirit. The captivating performances, coupled with the warm and friendly atmosphere, create cherished memories that last a lifetime.

christmas tree and train

Indulgent Holiday Dining:

Dining during the Christmas season is a gastronomic delight. The culinary team crafts a holiday menu that is a medley of traditional dishes with modern interpretations. Each dish is prepared with love and expertise, reflecting the comforting warmth of holiday feasts. The exquisite presentation, paired with the rich flavors, makes each meal a celebration of the festive season.

The dining venues are adorned with festive decor, creating a cozy and elegant setting. As you indulge in the delicious fare, the warm ambiance and the gentle murmur of convivial conversations enhance the dining experience. Each meal is an opportunity to explore the rich culinary traditions of the season, with a menu that caters to a diverse palate. The exceptional service, the delectable cuisine, and the festive ambiance make dining aboard a delightful and memorable experience.

Our Christmas River Cruises offer a unique blend of traditional holiday celebrations, enriching shore excursions, captivating onboard entertainment, and indulgent culinary experiences. As the vessels glide along the tranquil waters, the magic of Christmas envelops every soul on board, creating a serene and joyous retreat. The cherished memories created on this festive voyage resonate with the heartwarming spirit of Christmas, making it an unforgettable experience. This holiday season, consider embarking on a magical voyage that celebrates the essence of Christmas, creating cherished memories amidst the serene beauty of America’s iconic rivers.

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Best Christmas market cruises

xmas river cruises

Jeannine Williamson

Cruise expert

Monday October 16 2023, 17:04pm

With their roots based in history and regional traditions, Christmas markets are an annual highlight in Europe. While big cities such as Cologne and Vienna instantly spring to mind, there are charming markets in virtually every town and village. A river cruise is a wonderful way to discover the delights of both popular and lesser-known markets throughout Europe. If you don’t have much time to spare there are also short-break sailings, with a choice of travel options. To experience river cruise destinations in a twinkling new light, here are the best Chrsitmas market cruises.

Main photo: Run Beyond by Angelo Bonello at the Amsterdam Light Festival (Alamy)

This article contains affiliate links, which may earn us revenue

1. Cologne with Tui

A giant twinkling Christmas tree forms the centrepiece of Cologne’s most famous market, held in front of the city’s landmark cathedral. It’s one of the seven main markets in Cologne and a stop on several of the line’s wide choice of five and seven-night festive itineraries, which take place on three comfortable adult-only ships aimed at British travellers. As well as sailings in the run-up to the festivities, there are trips that span Christmas and New Year.

Best suited to 21+ Price £ Family-friendly N

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Cologne Christmas market is one of the best christmas market cruises

2. Germany and Austria with Uniworld

Nuremberg, known as the “gingerbread capital of the world”, has one of the largest Christmas markets in Europe. There are 200 stalls filled with hand-carved toys, crafts and gifts, and the irresistible scents of roasted chestnuts, spices and grilled sausages linger in the air. You can visit it on sailings with boutique line Uniworld, where every day brings a different Christmas market. You’ll also visit the fairytale market at the Volksgarten gardens in Linz, which is home to Austria’s largest wooden crib, with life-size, hand-painted figures; short nativity plays are performed throughout the day.

Best suited to 21+ Price £££ Family-friendly N

Uniworld's Maria Theresa

  • Best Christmas markets in Germany

3. The Danube and Rhine with Avalon Waterways

Keep the holiday spirit going on Avalon’s 15-night Danube and Rhine journey through four countries from Vienna to Basel. Unique attractions along the way include Austria’s oldest municipal theatre in the medieval town of Grein, which dates back to 1791 and is still in use. There’s also a trip to the Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas museum in Rothenberg, which has the world’s largest collection of traditional German Christmas decorations. When the ship is sailing, enjoy activities such as an Austrian cookie tasting and talks on European festive traditions.

Best suited to 21+ Price ££ Family-friendly N

See Vienna with Avalon Waterways on one of the best Christmas market cruises

4. Germany with Riviera Travel

Geared to UK travellers, Riviera offers flexible itineraries with the choice to fly or travel by Eurostar and high-speed rail to reach your ship, along with the option of four to seven-night sailings. A short break will still provide time to soak up the atmosphere in Rüdesheim and Koblenz before seeing big city festivities in Cologne. There’ll be even more Christmas cheer in 2024 as guests get a complimentary drinks package.

Best suited to  21+ Price  ££ Family-friendly  N

5. The Rhine and Amsterdam with A-Rosa

Have an electric Christmas with the family on a dedicated multigenerational vessel, the first-ever hybrid river ship that uses battery power. A-Rosa provides free sailings for youngsters and A-Rosa Sena takes family-friendly facilities to a new level with cabins for up to five, a kids’ club and children’s dining area. Festive sailings include a seven-night cruise along the Rhine river and Dutch waterways with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Amsterdam to coincide with the city’s dazzling Light Festival, when artists from around the world create elaborate illuminated displays. 

Best suited to 4+ Price £ Family-friendly Y

arosa-cruises.co.uk

See the annual Light Festival in Amsterdam on one of the best Christmas market cruises

  • Best river cruises in Europe

6. The Seine with Viking

Add a taste of joyeux Noël to the holiday season with Viking’s itinerary on the Seine. The ship docks overnight in Paris , providing plenty of time to see the sights and take in beautiful window displays at Galeries Lafayette and other big-name department stores. Atmospheric stops include Rouen, where half-timbered houses are adorned with ornate decorations and the town square by the cathedral hosts the Christmas market. Excursions include a foodie walking tour in medieval Vernon, stopping along the way for steaming mulled wine and festive treats.

vikingrivercruises.co.uk

xmas river cruises

7. Germany with CroisiEurope

For a Christmas cruise with a difference, CroisiEurope has a six-night itinerary on the lesser-known Elbe aboard its modern paddlewheel vessel, which is built to navigate the river’s low water levels. It starts in Berlin , so there’s plenty of time to explore the numerous markets in Germany’s first city and Unesco-listed Potsdam before sailing on to culture-rich cities including Magdeburg, Wittenberg and Meissen. The celebratory itinerary includes a Bach concert at Dresden’s symbolic cathedral and a midnight Mass. There’s a special Christmas Eve dinner, and on the big day all passengers get a present.

croisieurope.co.uk

Germany with CroisiEurope is one of the best Christmas market cruises

8. The Rhine and Danube with Amadeus River Cruises

With its Austrian roots, it’s no surprise that Amadeus embraces the yuletide tradition with Christmas-decorated ships sailing on a variety of cruises on the Rhine and Danube. On the Rhine you’ll visit Strasbourg’s market, founded in 1570 and the oldest in France , which is set against the backdrop of the city’s distinctive single-spired cathedral. Other excursions take in the village of Gertwiller, famous for its gingerbread, and Obernai, where a crib with life-size figures takes centre stage in the marketplace. On the Danube there are sailings between Vienna and Nuremberg, with the chance to visit the market in front of Schönbrunn Palace and enjoy a mulled wine party.

amadeus-rivercruises.com

  • Best cruise lines for solo travellers
  • Best Christmas markets in Europe for 2023

9. Germany to Hungary with AmaWaterways

Germany and Austria form the heartland of the Christmas market scene, but similar events can be found throughout Europe. In Budapest , the enchanting market in Vorosmarty Square is the longest running in the city, with handcrafted traditional gifts, children dressed as angels singing carols, choirs, free music recitals and the chance to warm up with a bowl of Hungarian goulash. It’s one of the stops on AmaWaterways’ seven-night cruise, which runs from Nuremberg — where the famous Christkindlesmarkt is one of the oldest Christmas markets in Germany — to Budapest. 

amawaterways.co.uk

Vorosmarty Square in Budapest, Hungary, one of the best Christmas market cruises

10. Lower Rhine with Viva Cruises

This cruise line is the only one based in Düsseldorf, so it makes the most of this often neglected but incredibly interesting city. Advent sailings along the Lower Rhine showcase the seven themed markets near the old town. Christmas cheer is guaranteed in the street that’s described as “the world’s longest bar”. Raise a toast with a glass of Düsseldorf’s copper-coloured “old beer”, brewed in traditional style, or the fiery local herb liqueur Killepitsch. Itineraries include four-night cruises on Viva’s all-new vessel Viva One, also visiting Koblenz, Bonn and Cologne.

viva-cruises.com

A sailing of the lower Rhine with Viva Cruises, on board Swiss Ruby, is one of the best Christmas market cruises

11. The Netherlands and Rhine with Nicko Cruises

If time is limited, a short pre-Christmas trip is just the tonic to get into the festive mood. There are Christmas markets in every port — Cologne, Amsterdam and Nijmegen — on Nicko’s three-night round-trip Cologne sailing. Enjoy a magical evening cruise through the network of canals in Amsterdam and soak up 2,000 years of history in Nijmegen, the oldest city in the Netherlands. The shore tour through the Hanseatic city will take you off the beaten track, through small winding streets dating back to the Middle Ages.

nicko-cruises.co.uk

Nijmegen in the Netherlands is on the itinerary of one of the best Christmas market cruises

12. The Danube with Tauck

Gingerbread is literally made to go with Christmas, and with this cruise line the young and young at heart can join a fun gingerbread and marzipan-making workshop at Café Simon in Passau, where four generations of the Simon family have perfected the sweet recipes. The seven-night sailing on the Danube also features a scavenger hunt in the tiny Slovakian capital Bratislava, and a visit to Oberndorf, the Austrian town where Silent Night was written on Christmas Eve in 1818. Note that Tauck is one of few lines that offer a Christmas market cruise to families.

Best suited to 4+ Price £££ Family-friendly Y

tauck.co.uk

  • Best family-friendly cruise lines

Make gingerbread in Passau, Germany on one of the best Christmas market cruises

13. The Danube and Prague with Emerald Cruises

Take in five countries on this extended Christmas market river cruise between Budapest and Prague with Emerald Cruises. You’ll be immersed in local and international festivities and traditions at each diverse port of call, and there’s also a presentation on the ship about European yuletide customs. In Regensburg, visit one of the region’s most atmospheric markets, set against the backdrop of Thurn and Taxis Palace. After the week-long cruise there’s a three-night hotel stay in Prague with a range of guided tours and festive-themed activities to choose from.

emeraldcruises.co.uk

The market at Regensburg is part of Emerald Cruises' Danube and Prague sailing, one of the best Christmas market cruises

14. Germany with Leger Holidays

Leger offers good-value breaks with coach travel from pick-up points throughout the UK. The four-night cruise, which starts and finishes in Cologne, begins with a stop in the pretty winemaking town of Rüdesheim which hosts the Christmas Market of Nations, where more than 100 stalls sell specialties from a dozen countries. Then it’s on to Koblenz, situated at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers, before an overnight in Cologne to see the famous marketplace in front of the cathedral and smaller markets dotted around the old town.

leger.co.uk

Koblenz christmas market, one of the best Christmas market cruises

15. Germany with Travelmarvel

Swap Christmas pudding for Black Forest gateau on sailings through Germany and beyond with Travelmarvel. This expanding line is the value-for-money alternative to all-inclusive sister brand APT; its three Contemporary ships sail on itineraries such as the week-long Christmas market river cruise on the Rhine and Moselle. Stops include the Black Forest Open Air Museum in Vogtsbauernhof for a cake-making demonstration followed by the all-important tasting.

aptouring.co.uk

A sailing to Rudesheim with Riviera Travel is one of the best Chirstmas market cruises

16. Switzerland and Germany with Scenic

Enjoy the best of both worlds on an 11-night itinerary that combines a land tour with a river cruise. Your journey begins in Zurich and from here you’ll travel to picture-postcard Lake Lucerne, the jet-set Alpine village of Gstaad and lakeside Montreux. Then board your ship, which will be adorned with Christmas decorations, to sail from Strasbourg — which has one of the largest festive markets in Europe — to Amsterdam. This sailing features a lesser-known Christmas market in the spa town of Baden-Baden as well as big hitters including Cologne.

Best suited to  21+ Price  £££ Family-friendly  N

scenic.co.uk

A tour of Switzerland and Germany with Scenic is one of the best Christmas market cruises

17. France with European Waterways

The luxury 12-passenger hotel barge Panache is a wonderful choice for anyone looking for the ultimate intimate cruise experience. It can also be chartered by families and groups of friends. Resembling a floating house party, with a personal chef providing gourmet meals, this leisurely sailing will take you along canals through Alsace and Lorraine. There’s a drive to Colmar to take a look at the town’s six Christmas markets and a visit to Strasbourg’s chocolate museum to see seasonal treats being made. Another highlight is Haguenau festive market with its extraordinary 16m-long nativity scene.

europeanwaterways.com

The hotel barge Panache offers one of the best Christmas market cruises

  • Best Christmas markets in the UK for 2023

Take me there

Inspired to take a river cruise but yet to book your trip? Here are the best deals from Avalon Waterways and Riviera Travel as well as the best tours from our trusted partners .

Holkham Hall Christmas market

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Our mission is to serve the 50+ traveler who's ready to cross a few items off their bucket list.

6 Magical Christmas Market River Cruises You Can Still Book For This Year

xmas river cruises

  • Activities and Interests
  • Cruises and Sailing
  • Destinations
  • Holiday Travel
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River cruises offer leisurely exploration and intimate adventures. Taking a river cruise around the holidays means you get to experience timeless traditions, like European Christmas markets. Our travel advisor, Carie Skerritt, says, “The best part about Christmas markets is immersing yourself in the culture of the community.”

Christmas tree at the famous Christmas Market in Strasbourg

European Christmas Market Magic

Warm up with a steamy mug of mulled wine as you wander the enchanting stalls of some of the largest and most famous Christmas markets in Europe. Shop handmade ornaments, toys, and gifts as you inhale the festive aroma of gingerbread and roasted chestnuts. Dazzling decorations and lights delight the eyes, while the sound of Christmas carolers and church bells fills the air.

Most European Christmas markets are open from the last week of November through December 22. Several of these Christmas market river cruises start in November, so you can still be home in plenty of time for the holidays.

What To Expect On An AmaWaterway Luxury Christmas Market River Cruise

A large variety of activities, including tours and a choice of excursions, lets cruisers choose their own adventure. AmaWaterways’ Christmas market cruises are decked out in holiday cheer. Onboard experiences include “Shoes for St. Nick” where passengers set slippers out to be filled with treats just like European children do on St. Nicholas Day . Guests are invited to deck the halls during the ship’s Tree-Trimming Party. If you cruise on Christmas Eve, you can expect to find Christmas cookies in your stateroom. A holiday feast, complete with all the trimmings, tops it all off.

Our travel advisors Carie Skerritt and Bill Sharo with Dream Vacations can help you book any of these Christmas market river cruises via our Book A Trip page . “ AmaWaterways is considered a luxury item,” remarks Skerritt, who recommends the cruise line for everyone from foodies to multi-gen travelers. “There is something for everyone, so you don’t have to have a group leader responsible for everyone’s needs and wants — it’s all included,” she adds. “The ships are decorated and festive, so just being on the ships puts you in the holiday spirit,” according to the travel advisor. Here are some Christmas market river cruises you can book today !

Christkindlmarkt Hellbrunn Palace

1. Christmas Markets On The Danube

Budapest to vilshofen.

  • Length: 7 Nights
  • Starting Price Per Person: $3,499
  • Dates: December 4, 11–23

This route cruises along the second-longest river in Europe through Austria, Germany, Hungary, and Slovakia, stopping in the capital cities of Budapest , Bratislava, and Vienna , as well as Salzburg. Both Magna on the Danube and Christmas Markets on the Danube tours cruise through The Wachau Valley, where you can take a walking tour of Dürnstein.

This river cruise also gives you the opportunity to visit Linz, where you can find one of the most beautiful Austrian Christmas markets at Hellbrunn Palace . It also stops in Passau, where a walking tour brings you to St. Stephen’s Square and its baroque cathedral in the heart of Old Town. At Passau Christkindlmarkt , you can find cute little Bavarian-style model houses , cookie cutters, and olive wood products from Assisi.

Christmas market in Heidelberg

2. Christmas Markets On The Rhine

Amsterdam to basel (or reverse).

  • Dates: November 28–December 21

Cruise through France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland as the Rhine takes you to several European towns with cherished Christmas markets. In Cologne , visit Christmas Market at the Cathedral , one of the best German Christmas markets . Located in the heart of the city, the market takes place at the foot of a UNESCO-designated Gothic cathedral.

What’s better than shopping? Shopping while tipsy! Go wine tasting in the winemaking town of Rüdesheim then enjoy holiday traditions from around the world at the Rüdesheim Christmas Market of Nations . Other options include a gondola ride christmas market combo as well as a guided bike tour of the Rheingau German wine region and Christmas markets.

Known as the Capital of Noël, Strasbourg boasts the oldest and largest Christmas Market in France , Christkindelsmärik . Check out the world’s largest Advent calendar at the Heidelberg Christmas Market , where the town hall windows count down the days to Christmas, revealing the portrait of a world-famous artist each night.

heart shaped gingerbread cookies with white icing hanging for sale at the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt

3. Iconic Christmas Markets

Nuremberg to budapest (or reverse).

  • Starting Price Per Person: $3,399
  • Dates: November 26–December 23

As the name suggests, this cruise takes you through Austria, Germany, and Hungary to some of the most iconic Christmas markets on the Danube. Nuremberg’s historic Christkindlesmarkt is perhaps the best-known Christmas market in Germany . According to our expert tips on European Christmas markets , you should try the mulled wine from Vollrath’s Heidelbeergluhwein and Nuernberger Rostbratwürste (famous grilled sausage in a bun), and pick up a Zwetschgenmännlein, a unique figurine carved out of dried plums.

Step back in time at a Bavarian castle at Regensburg’s Romantic Christmas Market . Some craftsmen sell toys, such as dolls and marionettes, while others peddle their pottery and paintings at the Lucreziamarkt. While in Vienna, you’ll find a Christmas market seemingly around every corner. Finish the trip by exploring the beautiful markets of Budapest.

Visitors drink gluwein on a winter afternoon at the Christmas market,Rudisheim, Germany

4. Rhine Castles & Swiss Alps Christmas

  • Starting Price Per Person: $2,499
  • Dates: November 28–December 25

Encompassing the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Switzerland, this fantastic Rhine River cruise offers fairytale castles and historic vineyards in addition to Christmas markets. Starting in canal-laden Amsterdam, this cruise winds its way through the German city of Cologne, where you can browse the city’s most impressive Christmas markets.

Then it’s on to the winemaking hamlet of Rüdesheim and the festive Christmas markets of Heidelberg. Forty hilltop castles and fortresses dot the banks of the historic Rhine Gorge, which is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site .

Cross the border into the majestic mountain landscapes of France’s Alsace region as sweeping Swiss Alps views await in Strasbourg.

Christmas market in front of the Cathedral of Cologne, Germany

5. Treasures Of The Main & Rhine

Nuremberg to amsterdam.

Length: 7 Nights Starting Price Per Person: $2,499 Dates: September 26–November 28

This 7-night cruise from Nuremberg to Amsterdam sets sail starting as early as September. Stop in Bamberg to taste the city’s famous smoked beer and visit its charming Christmas markets. A stop in Würzburg includes a walking tour of festive Christmas markets. In Wertheim, choose between taking a guided tour of the historic city center and local Christmas markets or learning the art of pretzel-making at a local bakery.

Then, meander from the Main River to the Rhine to get to the winemaking town of Rüdesheim. One of the excursions includes a wine tasting with a local vintner and a visit to the town’s fairytale Christmas markets. During your stop in Cologne, stroll through 160 wooden pavilions, watching artisans work as you sip mulled wine.

Christmas market at night

6. Magna On The Danube

Budapest to vilshofen (or reverse).

  • Starting Price Per Person: $3,040
  • Dates: November 26–December 17

Experience Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, and Germany (including the iconic capital cities of Budapest , Bratislava, and Vienna ). Peruse some of the best holiday markets in Europe, including Regensburg and Salzburg . Budapest Christmas Market is Hungary’s largest. Taking place on the cobblestone Vorosmarty Square, this handcrafts-only market is a great place to find one-of-a-kind gifts. With over 150 vendor stalls, Vienna’s Christkindlmarkt takes place in front of its 19th-century town hall.

Why You Should Book With Our Travel Advisors

Our travel advisors will ensure that you receive every AmaWaterways river cruise offer that you qualify for, including complimentary shore excursions and beverages. They offer up to $300 credit to spend onboard. Our travel advisors can also help you book hotel stays at ports on either side of your voyage.

Not only will you get exclusive bonus offers when you book through our travel advisors instead of directly with the cruise line, but you also rack up AmaWaterways Privilege Rewards benefits. Our travel advisors aren’t just concerned with offering the best deals — they’re also committed to offering the best experience.

Related Reading:

  • 6 Magical Christmas Market River Cruises You Can Still Book For This Year  
  • Our 18 Favorite Gifts From A Rhine River Christmas Markets Cruise  
  • 11 Amazing Foods To Try During A Rhine River Christmas Markets Cruise

Image of Laura Ray

Laura Ray has lived in Atlanta, the Bay Area, SoCal, and Austin. After moving from Texas, she and her husband rambled about the Midwest in a camper for a couple of years before finally settling on 35 acres in their home state of Kentucky. When she isn't clacking around on the keyboard (cat in lap), you can find her practicing yoga, gardening, or playing the ukulele. This travel-lover's favorite destinations include Italy, the Greek isles, and Kentucky Lake.

10 Things To Know Before Taking A Christmas Market River Cruise

Christmas market at night

Visiting Europe at Christmastime is one of the most magical trips you can take. The old city squares sparkle with holiday charm and traditions you won't find anywhere else. While it's possible to explore different cities in Europe by train, bus, or airplane, to really make the most of your festive experience, do yourself a favor and book a river cruise.

As the name suggests, a Christmas market river cruise focuses on visiting locations hosting Christmas markets and is one of the best ways to see as many holiday sites as you can. Many of the ports are located in Europe's biggest and most famous cities, places like Amsterdam, Vienna, Budapest, and Prague, but one particular advantage of taking a river cruise is getting to see smaller towns and villages you might not visit otherwise.

River cruises offer a lot in terms of comfort and convenience. You only need to unpack once, and your floating hotel room will take you to new places daily. The ships are smaller and can dock right in the heart of downtown areas, which means easy access to all the magical markets. Plus, you don't have to worry about hauling your purchases around, either. With the right river cruise, you'll experience the holiday spirit of Europe in a truly magical way. Just be sure to pack your curiosity, walking shoes, and plenty of Christmas spirit!

Prepare for your cruise with thorough planning

There are hundreds of river cruises to choose from, so you should have no problem finding one that's right for you. These expeditions can be as short as a few days or as long as a few weeks, so choose one based on how much time you have available. There are several companies to choose from and different ports to stop at, so it's helpful to chart your travel priorities and what you'd like to see and book based on that. And since Christmas market cruises can only take place from November to the end of December, they tend to sell out quickly. Many insiders suggest booking early to snag a good deal.

When considering a Christmas market river cruise, look at the itinerary closely, as not all cruises are created equal. Look for one that spends two nights in places like Vienna, Budapest, and Nuremberg so you can fully explore these larger cities at a leisurely pace. If you really want to kick-start the festive season, book a cruise where the ship will be in port on the day the Christmas market officially opens, as the excitement will be at its peak.

Don't worry about seasickness

River cruises are much calmer than ocean cruises, which is a big relief for those worried about getting seasick while onboard. Rivers like the Danube and the Rhine do not have strong currents compared to the high seas. Sailing is relatively smooth, and there aren't any waves to worry about either. The routes these vessels take are often shared with other boats, meaning boat captains must maintain a safe, reasonable distance and drive slowly to ensure no accidents occur.

Most times, you might not even realize the cruise has set sail — that's how smooth it can be. Still, it never hurts to be prepared, as the feeling of floating or gliding along a river can be disorienting at first. Feel free to pack some motion sickness remedies, but don't feel like you have to overdo it. If you start feeling queasy, go up to the top deck for some fresh air, keep your gaze on the horizon, and try to stay as still as possible. Keep hydrated as well. With some simple precautions, motion sickness should not prevent you from thoroughly enjoying everything a magical Christmas river cruise offers.

Pack for winter and walking

As these cruises operate during the late fall and early wintertime, packing the right clothes will ensure you're comfortable the entire trip. Weather in Europe can be unpredictable this time of year: Some days may be as warm as 60 degrees Fahrenheit, while others could reach almost freezing temperatures. Hopefully, most of your days will be clear and sunny, but rainy weather and even snow are common in this part of the world. Many of the optional tours provided by the cruise take place rain or shine, so prioritizing comfortable clothes will help maximize your time off the ship.

Sturdy, weatherproof walking shoes or boots will serve you well, but also pack a pair of sneakers for lighter days and a nice pair of shoes for any evening activities, such as going to the opera or a fancy event onboard. You'll definitely want to bring a warm, weatherproof coat with a hood, a warm hat, a scarf, and gloves or mittens. Packing clothing that can be layered — like thermal leggings or long-sleeved shirts and T-shirts — will help make your Christmas trip a pleasant one. Of course, if you forget something or feel your wardrobe isn't warm enough, you'll have plenty of options to purchase items at shops in each port or pick up some hand-knit goods at the markets themselves.

But don't bring too much luggage

Most river cruise cabins are spacious enough to relax and unwind, but they often leave very little room for bulky bags. Depending on the length of your cruise, you can get away with just a large piece of luggage, a carry-on bag, and a small personal item. You'll usually be able to slide one large suitcase under the bed or store it in the closet of your cabin so that it doesn't take up space in your room, but anything more than that could have you feeling cramped.

Don't overpack with unnecessary items. You can always contact your river cruise company to see if things like a hair dryer, shampoo, and bathroom items are included (they almost always are). If you think you might need more bags or cases to bring home holiday gifts, pack soft-sided or expandable bags that can be crunched up in smaller spaces. You can also plan to purchase a new bag at the end of your trip, but keep in mind the more luggage you have, the more you have to maneuver it through cobblestone streets and busy airports, a surefire way to dampen the Christmas cheer.

And save room for souvenirs

The Christmas markets are the main event for these cruises, and there is a good chance you'll be charmed by all the sweet holiday items on sale. It's a tremendous opportunity to explore handmade, artisanal items and find gifts for loved ones you won't see anywhere else. Ornaments, trinkets, decorations, and all the rest will boost your holiday spirit, helping you return from your trip with truly special festive memories.

Keep in mind that many Christmas markets, especially ones that stop along multiple markets in the same country, sell the same kinds of items or variations of them. If you miss out on a cuckoo clock ornament in one German town, you can likely find something similar in the next one. If you're on the hunt for items that can only be purchased in a particular place, ask your cruise staff if there is anything unique in the markets you're seeing to focus on those specific things. Save the more conventional souvenirs for later in your trip, especially if you've got a souvenir budget you don't want to overspend on.

Research the markets ahead of time

If you want a sneak peek at what awaits you at each port, you're in luck — a lot of the cities you'll visit have official websites that provide great info for visitors. These will be able to inform you about the city and the culture and highlight sites you might want to visit when you have free time to explore. Destination websites will also be able to answer practical questions like what currency is used. Of course, your cruise ship staff will be happy to answer these questions and help guide you, so don't hesitate to ask them if you can't find what you need online.

Some markets, like the Vienna Christmas Market, even have their own website, where you'll find more specific information related to the market in question. There is usually a calendar of daily activities, and you might even find lists of the vendors and what they sell, which can help you with your souvenir planning. Be on the lookout for local food and drink specialties to snack on as you browse the stalls.

You don't need to take a lot of cash

Even though you'll be stopping at markets that look old-fashioned, you might be surprised when vendors whip out credit card readers to take payment for items, as many cities around Europe have adopted cashless systems for hygienic reasons as well as practical ones. This is especially helpful for more expensive items as well as changes in currency from country to country. If you're looking to pay for most things by card, ask your bank about international transaction fees, as those quickly add up.

The Main Christmas Market in Bratislava, Slovakia, for example, is entirely cashless. Still, some smaller villages might have vendors who prefer cash, so it's worth carrying a small amount, just in case. Most countries along Christmas market river cruise routes use the Euro, but some, like Hungary and Czechia, use their own unique currencies. Your cruise staff can help you suss out what kind of cash you'll need in each place, and they may even have a currency exchange office on board. Keep some small coins handy for tipping where needed.

Save money by eating onboard

River cruises, like ocean cruises, are sometimes all-inclusive. As a result, your vacation package will likely include most of your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. If you're looking to save a bit of money, take advantage of mealtimes onboard. Breakfasts and lunches are plentiful and usually buffet-style, while dinners include a more formal sit-down service. River cruises have close access to the regions they sail to, so menus typically reflect foods and ingredients and often showcase local specialties. 

Of course, you'll want to save a little room for local delights on land as well. Food and drink are integral to the Christmas market experience , and the tastes on offer generally change from country to country. You'll find snacks like gingerbread, pretzels, unique sweets, and more, along with delicious drinks like mulled wine and hot chocolate. These will give you a taste of local traditions but will cost much less than a full meal. After all, what is a Christmas market without a piping hot cup of mulled wine?

Enjoy the onboard activities

Strolling through the quaint Christmas markets is truly spectacular, but the fun doesn't stop once you're back on the boat. River cruises provide fun activities like game nights, dance parties, and fascinating cultural lectures for guests to keep them entertained during their trip. Most of these will take place while the boat travels between ports, so you won't have to choose between sightseeing offshore and boat-bound activities. It's also a great way to meet and interact with other travelers.

There are likely to be holiday-themed activities that you won't get at other times of the year, another unique feature of Christmas market river cruises. Cruising over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day is no less magical than if you were to spend them back home. Sure, you're celebrating with a larger group of people, but who knows? Maybe you'll be inspired to start a new holiday tradition or two!

Tip your ship staff

Each river cruise company has its own policy when it comes to gratuities. Sometimes, these are included in your vacation package, but it's courteous to tip a little extra for exceptional service, especially around the holidays. Staff are working extra hard to keep up the festive cheer, and they may be away from their families during this special time of year. While cash is always appreciated, you can even consider bringing small gifts from home to share your own traditions with the wonderful cruise ship staff you'll interact with each day.

While exploring the towns and cities, be aware that tipping rules vary throughout Europe. You won't generally need to tip at the Christmas markets, but it's always good to research a country's tipping policy if you plan to dine off the ship, take taxis around the city or to the airport, or want to know more about tipping etiquette abroad.

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Home Luxury Cruises 2024 Christmas River Cruises 2024

Christmas River Cruises 2024

Make Christmas the most wonderful time of the year with a Christmas river cruise in 2024.

If you’re looking for an alternative way to spend Christmas in 2024, our collection of river cruises promises to capture the spirit of the festive season. Cruising at Christmas is an increasingly popular choice with many of our clients, who love the opportunity to discover incredible destinations while enjoying a celebratory onboard atmosphere complete with themed menus and activities. The itineraries below are brimming with yuletide highlights. For example, explore Northern Europe and discover the magical Christmas markets in historic cities like Cologne and Vienna, or head to North America and tour the iconic Mississippi River.

As a leading specialist for many river cruise operators, we can offer exclusive fares and special offers on many Christmas river cruises in 2024, so to receive a quote, please call our Voyage Consultants on 0800 008 6677 .

Best Christmas River Cruises in 2024

With so many options available, you may wonder what the best Christmas river cruise in 2024 is. Perhaps you’re a first-timer looking to experience your first Christmas on a river cruise ship. Or maybe you are a discerning traveller wanting to try something completely different and would like some inspiration. To assist you in planning your end-of-year holiday, our experts have chosen three Christmas river cruise options, each offering a unique way to spend the festive season.

Christmas in Europe with AmaWaterways

AmaWaterways is one of the world’s leading luxury river cruise operators. This award-winning cruise line provides ample opportunities to discover Europe in style with no less than twelve itineraries available during Christmas and New Year 2024. Choose a cruise ranging from five to 14 nights and enjoy the best of Holland and Belgium, or journey along the Danube or Rhine for a trip to the best Christmas markets in Austria, Germany, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Christmas on the Mississippi with American Queen

Explore North America’s most fascinating waterway next Christmas on a luxury Mississippi river cruise with The American Queen Steamboat Company . Travelling aboard American Queen – the largest steamboat ever built – you’ll begin your voyage in New Orleans, Memphis or St Louis.

Christmas in Southeast Asia with Scenic River Cruises

For something entirely different, spend Christmas 2024 in Southeast Asia with Scenic River Cruises . Sailing the Mekong River aboard the luxurious, all-suite Scenic Spirit, you can spend up to 15 nights exploring vibrant cities, charming riverside communities and bustling markets in Vietnam and Cambodia. Choose an extended journey, and you’ll benefit from pre-cruise or post-cruise stays in Ho Chi Minh City or Siem Reap, with tours available to Angkor Wat and Prasat Kravan.

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12 best Christmas cruises for 2023 and 2024

Kristy Tolley

It's the most wonderful time of the year ... to go on a cruise.

Trade the glow of a Christmas tree in your living room with the warmth of the sand and the sun on a holiday cruise. Skip the mulled wine on your stovetop for some of the world's best at a European Christmas market.

Christmas cruises can level up your holiday celebrations — and are an ideal opportunity to escape the conventional holiday celebrations in place of an adventure.

On a holiday cruise, you can leave the cooking, cleaning and decorating to the pros and simply enjoy time with your family. Christmas and New Year's cruises can also be good options for people trying to avoid the crush of relatives or who don't have family but still want to spend the holiday surrounded by other people and festive cheer.

Winter cruises feature holiday-themed activities for all ages, special feasts that capture the magic of the holiday season and port calls at destinations that let you enjoy the holiday spirit without shivering from frigid temperatures.

For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG's cruise newsletter .

It's never too early to plan your holiday getaway, especially as these cruises are among the quickest to sell out. Here are the best Christmas and New Year's cruises still available in 2023 and holiday sailings in 2024 to book now.

Holiday cruise tips

xmas river cruises

Before you book, keep in mind a few key facts about Christmas cruises.

Rates will be high

Expect cruise fares to be among the highest of the year during the holiday weeks as demand increases.

The best prices will be for early bookings; you likely won't find any last-minute discounts. If you do, they might be on windowless inside cabins or guarantee cabins , where the cruise line picks your room location.

Sailings will sell out

Holiday sailings sell out earlier than other itineraries, as people plan their holiday vacations months in advance. Suites and special cabins (family, spa and solo rooms and so forth) book up the fastest.

Consider booking your holiday cruise as early as possible, as the December sailings often fill up a year in advance .

Consider your own decorations

The crew will decorate public areas on board, but passengers often go all-out decorating their doors and cabins for the holidays.

Magnetic doors on cabins are blank canvases for the imagination. You'll find stateroom doors on Christmas cruises covered in wrapping paper, adorned with garlands or dotted with holiday-themed images.

It's best to double-check with your cruise line before attaching anything to your door or in your cabin, as rules and regulations differ per line. If you're not creative, check if your cruise line offers cabin decoration packages for preorder prior to your sailing.

Specialty dining is not advised on the actual holiday

Most of the specialty dining restaurants on major cruise lines have set menus that do not change for the holidays.

Your best bet for traditional holiday dinner options (think roast turkey, smoked ham, mashed potatoes and gravy) will come from the main, included dining options on board. It can't hurt to ask if any extra-fee restaurants are doing a Christmas or New Year's menu if you're looking for a more intimate holiday meal.

Expect holiday hours in port

Most cruise ships will plan for Christmas to be a sea day, but if you're in port on Dec. 25 (or on Boxing Day, as many islands celebrate the day after), expect shops, restaurants and attractions to have modified hours or be closed.

Onboard services won't stop, so if all your top lunch spots in port are closed, you're always guaranteed a hot meal on the ship.

Consider a holiday bonus for the crew

Cruise ship crew members go beyond the standard service on all lines for the holidays, whether it's a kind note wishing you well, a Champagne toast for New Year's or a fanciful towel creation.

They can't be at home celebrating with their families because they're working hard to make your holiday special. While gratuities are often included in your fare or added automatically to your final bill, consider tipping extra on a Christmas cruise. The hardworking staff will appreciate your extra generosity during the holiday season.

Best Christmas cruises for 2023

If you're on the hunt for the ideal holiday getaway, consider these Christmas cruises for your 2023 holiday vacation. (Note: These sailings had availability at the time of writing, but prices may change or ships sell out at any time.)

5-night Western Caribbean Holiday cruise on Royal Caribbean

xmas river cruises

Sail dates: Dec. 23-28

Ship: Independence of the Seas

This Royal Caribbean holiday-week sailing includes stops at Perfect Day at CocoCay, the line's private island in the Bahamas, and Falmouth, Jamaica (with two days at sea).

Holiday highlights on board may include Christmas Eve caroling, an ugly Christmas sweater crafting competition, Christmas ornament and gingerbread cookie decorating classes, and holiday games and trivia.

Rates for inside cabins start at $672 per person, not including $141.03 in taxes, fees and port expenses.

10-day Southern Caribbean Seafarer cruise on Holland America

xmas river cruises

Sail dates: Dec. 17-27

Ship: Nieuw Statendam

The 10-day Southern Caribbean Seafarer on Holland America's Nieuw Statendam is a great way to retreat from the cold this December. The extended itinerary leaves from Fort Lauderdale and sails to Turks and Caicos, the Dominican Republic, Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba, as well as Half Moon Cay, HAL's private island in the Bahamas.

Don't forget your holiday best, as each ship hosts a Christmas Eve formal ball with dinner and dancing, as well as a midnight Mass, holiday-themed high tea service, holiday choir performances and Santa meet-and-greets.

Rates for inside cabins start from $999 per person, not including an estimated $245 per person in taxes, fees and port expenses.

4-night Very Merrytime Bahamian cruise on Disney Cruise Line

xmas river cruises

Sail dates: Dec. 22-26

Ship: Disney Wish

Hop on the new Disney Wish this Christmas for a four-night sailing from Port Canaveral to Nassau, Bahamas, and Castaway Cay, Disney's private island. This sailing is one of Disney Cruise Line 's Very Merrytime Cruises, so expect plenty of holiday-themed surprises and special moments.

Disney's December sailings imbue the line's signature magic into the joy of the holidays with snow flurries in the ship's atrium, pop-up meet-and-greets with Disney characters dressed in special festive wear and a Christmas wonderland on the beach at Castaway Cay.

Rates start at $4,867 for two adults sharing an inside cabin, including all taxes and fees.

4-day Bahamas cruise on Carnival Cruise Line

xmas river cruises

Ship: Carnival Conquest

Carnival's four-day Bahamas sailing is the best way to experience all the joys of the holiday without breaking the bank or being gone for too long. Carnival Conquest sails round-trip from Miami with stops in Princess Cays and Nassau, Bahamas, for some much-needed beach time and warm weather.

The line understands its family-forward "fun" ships are built for cheery escapes, and its Christmas proceedings fit perfectly into that world. Seasonal holiday events include Christmas caroling, an ugly sweater competition and a live holiday show with appearances by Santa and the Grinch.

Rates for inside cabins start at $529 per person, not including an estimated $145.65 per person in fees.

13-night New Zealand holiday cruise on Celebrity Cruises

xmas river cruises

Sail dates: Dec. 21, 2023-Jan. 3, 2024

Ship: Celebrity Edge

The most appealing holiday itinerary on Celebrity Cruises takes you Down Under for a two-week celebration, sailing round-trip from Sydney.

You'll cruise during the region's summer season with an itinerary that traverses the picturesque Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound and Dusky Sound before making port stops in Dunedin, Napier, Auckland and Tauranga, plus a New Year's Eve visit at the Bay of Islands, New Zealand.

If you're feeling the holiday spirit, sign up to join a group of crew and passengers to go caroling around the ship. Cookie decorating, visits with Santa and Christmas games are part of the holiday fun. On New Year's Eve, gather for a special party with a complimentary midnight Champagne toast, party favors and live music.

The lowest cabin fares start at $1,650 per person, plus $319.04 in taxes, fees and port expenses.

14-night South Africa Intensive Holiday voyage on Azamara

xmas river cruises

Sail dates: Dec. 21, 2023-Jan. 5, 2024

Ship: Azamara Pursuit

Azamara is known for its travels to less-frequented ports, often with longer stays providing more time for immersion. Go somewhere new with Azamara's 14-night Christmas and New Year's cruise around South Africa. Azamara Pursuit sails round-trip from Cape Town with stops along the east coast of South Africa, including Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban and Richards Bay, before heading up to Maputo, Mozambique.

Holiday events include caroling concerts, pop-ups with Christmas cookies and hot chocolate, and a special tree-trimming party on Dec. 24. Azamara Pursuit will time its popular White Night pool deck party to coincide with New Year's Eve. The line has a cute tradition of seeking out the oldest person on board to ring the ship's bell two minutes prior to midnight to literally "ring out the old." Then the youngest passenger on board will "ring in the new" as the clock strikes 12 o'clock.

Rates start from $1,638 per person, not including $204 in taxes, fees and port expenses.

15-day Athens to Petra cruise on Silversea

xmas river cruises

Sail dates: Dec. 22, 2023-Jan. 6, 2024

Ship: Silver Moon

This winter's best Silversea itinerary spans the holidays with an escape to the most exotic locations. On the 15-day Athens-to-Petra sailing, Silver Moon will alight at unique ports such as Heraklion and Rhodes, Greece; Safaga (for Luxor), Alexandria and Sharm El Keik, Egypt; Jeddah and Yanbu, Ras Al Abyadh, Saudia Arabia, before finishing the journey in Aqaba (for Petra), Jordan. The ship will overnight in Safaga and Jeddah, and spend a day transiting the Suez Canal.

Dress to impress for the ship's New Year's Eve gala, celebrated on this itinerary while cruising the Red Sea. Other special holiday events include a holiday music show by the ship's performers, caroling around the ship and Christmas-themed movie screenings.

Rates for this sailing start from $8,450 per person, including port fees and taxes.

Best Christmas cruises for 2024

If you want to score the best prices on a holiday cruise, book far in advance. Here are a few cruises to consider for your 2024 Christmas vacation.

7-night Christmas Markets on the Danube cruise on AmaWaterways

xmas river cruises

Sail dates: Dec. 9-15, 2024

Ship: AmaBella

A river cruise through Europe is the most convenient way to visit many of the continent's famous Christmas markets.

Your ship will dock in the heart of each city, usually just a few steps from the markets. Sailing with AmaWaterways during the holiday season, guests return from a day exploring the markets to events on board that include tree-trimming, caroling and a fun European tradition called "Shoes for St. Nick," where passengers who leave their slippers outside their stateroom awake to find them filled with sweets.

Unlike most Christmas-related retail stores in the U.S. that stay open through the holiday season, many of Europe's Christmas markets close up shop by Dec. 22, so you'll need to take your vacation before Christmas itself. AmaWaterways' seven-night Christmas Markets on the Danube cruise takes place aboard AmaBella. You'll be immersed in the holiday spirit with port stops in Passau, Germany; Linz, Vienna and Weissenkirchen, Austria; and Budapest, Hungary.

Rates for the weeklong cruise start at $3,699 per person.

7-day Western Caribbean cruise on Princess Cruises

xmas river cruises

Sail date: Dec. 21-27, 2024

Ship: Sun Princess

Debuting in February 2024, Sun Princess is the first of Princess Cruises ' brand-new Sphere-class series of ships.

Take the line's newest flagship for a Christmastime spin on a round-trip Fort Lauderdale itinerary that features port calls at Cozumel, Mexico; Belize City, Belize; and Roatan, Honduras. Three sea days give guests plenty of time to explore all the attractions on board, from a dome-covered pool area to a top-deck family activity zone.

The 4,300-passenger vessel will be about 21% bigger than the current biggest ships in the Princess fleet. It will be the line's first ship that features suites with exclusive access to a private restaurant, lounge and sun deck. Sun Princess will also boast an innovative new "cabana cabin" along the ship's extra-wide 10th deck with access to a private deck area.

It will be easy to get into the holiday spirit while onboard Sun Princess, with festive decor throughout the ship and an occasional "snowfall" in the Atrium. If you're traveling with kids, you can leave cookies for Santa and carrots for his reindeer. Christmas caroling, storytime and other holiday events will help you create special holiday memories.

Rates for the Eastern Caribbean cruise start at $701 per person for an inside cabin.

11-day Costa Rica and Panama Canal cruise on Windstar Cruises

xmas river cruises

Sail date: Dec. 28, 2024-Jan. 4, 2025

Ship: Wind Star

Give yourself a bucket list gift for Christmas and book a Panama Canal cruise for your winter vacation.

Windstar Cruises ' Wind Star — a cruise ship that's part yacht, part four-masted sailing ship — is sailing this holiday season through the Panama Canal and then up Central America's Pacific coast to Costa Rica.

The ship sets sail from Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, and first stops in Quepos and Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica. Then it's on to ports in Isla Parida and Colon in Panama before sailing through the Panama Canal.

To sweeten the holiday, Windstar gifts each cabin with a basket of Christmas cookies, candy canes, mandarin oranges, roasted nuts and chocolate candies.

Rates for the 11-day Central American getaway start from $3,199 per person, not including port fees and taxes.

9-day Memphis to New Orleans Christmas cruise on American Queen Voyages

xmas river cruises

Sail date: Dec. 21-29, 2024

Ship: American Countess

Glide down the Lower Mississippi River and soak in the charms of historic towns decked out in their holiday finest. This American Queen Voyages itinerary includes special European-style Christmas markets in Natchez, Mississippi, created especially for the line.

The itinerary begins with a pre-cruise hotel stay in Memphis, where the National Civil Rights Museum and Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum await exploration. Other stops include Cleveland, Vicksburg and Natchez, Mississippi; and New Roads, Baton Rouge, Nottoway and New Orleans, Louisiana.

Guests can opt for a premium holiday shore excursion in Natchez. The Jeweled Christmas in Natchez tour features a visit to The Towers, one of the state's most opulent privately owned antebellum homes. Guests will ooh and ahh over the festive decorations and displays that include over 100 Christmas trees.

While on board, passengers will enjoy festive holiday decorations, special holiday performances and seasonal cuisine and Christmas cocktails.

Rates for the nine-day Memphis to New Orleans Christmas cruise start from $3,249 per person, including taxes, port fees and gratuities.

12-night Antarctic Explorer cruise on Viking

xmas river cruises

Sail dates: Dec. 22, 2024-Jan. 3, 2025

Ship: Viking Polaris

While instinct might say to stop by the North Pole to check in on Santa's operations, it's just too cold, dark and icy for cruising. Instead, head toward the South Pole and Antarctica for a Christmas expedition.

Spend 13 days exploring the farthest reaches of the earth on the Antarctic Explorer itinerary aboard Viking 's Polaris. The route sails round-trip from Buenos Aires, Argentina, with a stop in Ushuaia before traversing the Drake Passage and cruising Antarctica for seven days.

You'll explore the icebergs and cliffs of Antarctica on Christmas, presumably followed by a hot cocoa or a warm cocktail on deck. Afterward, treat yourself to Nordic-inspired dishes like smoked salmon and caviar, along with holiday treats like krumkake (a Nordic take on the cannoli) and sandkaker (Norwegian sugar cookies).

As with all Antarctica itineraries, ports and destinations on the continent change by the day, depending on weather and climate conditions. Rates for the cruise start from $12,995, including airfare, port taxes and fees.

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riverside mozart danube

These Are the Best Luxury River Cruises to Take in 2024

Get ready to add to your travel bucket list with these bespoke offerings.

Plus, people who travel often tend to be happier in general. Let that be your motivation to finally take (or gift) that dreamed-about journey down the Danube or the bucket list boat safari in Africa. Read on for the top luxury river cruises for 2024, in no particular order. These upscale offerings sure to brighten any holiday occasion, whether for Christmas, an anniversary, or a milestone birthday.

Riverside Luxury Cruises: Holland at the Heart of Tulip Blossom

Riverside stands out for boasting all suite categories of rooms and having the highest crew-to-guest ratio of any cruise line. Guests each get a personal butler, too. While all Riverside options are stunning, the launch of a new ship, the Riverside Debussy in Spring 2024, makes the tulip season cruise in Holland especially compelling. The 8-day, 7-night offering features port stops in Amsterdam, Arnhem, Nijmegen, Antwerp, Gent, Middelburg, Veere, Dordrecht and Rotterdam. Look forward to learning more about the 150 different species of tulips on this lovely Western European cruise. Beyond the blooms, this Netherlands and Belgium-focused itinerary includes multiple excursions, from cheese tastings to guided walks to an oyster tour. Fares include accommodation, all meals and drinks and one excursion per port.

Viking: America’s Great River, Mississippi River Cruise

viking cruise photography adam hillier photographer travel viking mississippi river ship mississippi, explorers lounge

America’s greatest waterway gets the luxe treatment with this new Viking offering, which debuted in 2022. Start in St. Paul, Minnesota and journey through 10 states until ending in New Orleans, Louisiana. Stops include Red Wing (MN), La Crosse (WI), Dubuque (IA), Quad Cities (IA), Hannibal (MO), St. Louis (MO), Memphis (TN), Greenville (MS), Vicksburg (MS), Natchez (MS) and Baton Rouge (LA). The trip lasts 15 days and includes 12 guided tour excursions, a lovely way to uniquely experience the central United States and the water that has shaped the region’s identity. Half journeys are available, too, for those only interested in the southern or northern legs. Viking offers one free excursion at each port, as well as all meals and beer, wine, and soft drinks.

Zambezi Queen, Chobe River, Botswana and Namibia

This luxury houseboat features 2-, 3- and 4-night itinerary options for this one-of-a-kind water safari. According to Monique Lange, African Safari expert for Go2Africa , “Guests can enjoy leisurely days spent cruising along the Chobe River, a region that’s home to Africa’s largest concentration of African elephant herds.” She adds, “This 42-meter-long vessel offers 14 luxury suites, each fitted with their own outer decks overlooking the river.”

Travelers can also check out other unique gathering spots like a spacious dining area, rear viewing deck, a lounge and front deck with loungers and plunge pool. “Activities on offer include water-based game-viewing, catch-and-release Tiger Fishing, cultural tours to the local village and even an indigenous Baobab Tree outing (these are mythical trees in Africa, and an important symbol in local African cultures) to see the ‘Tree of Life’ on Impalila Island,” Lange concludes.

Viking: Paris & D-Day 80th Anniversary

seine class viking longship on the seine river in paris, france

This new sailing, specifically to commemorate 80 years since D-Day, is set for 2024. This is perfect for history buffs! A 12-day cruise tour, start in Paris or London, then sail through Normandy visiting historic sites and museums to learn about the beginning of the end of WWII on the Western Front. This poignant journey includes 11 excursions in spots like Vernon, France, and Rouen, France. As with all Viking offerings, all meals are included in the price, plus one free excursion per port. Departures are available from March through November of 2024.

Abercrombie & Kent: ‘La Belle Epoque’, Burgundy Cruise

Oenophiles will especially love this intimate, 7-day offering from renowned luxury magnate Abercrombie & Kent . This European barge trip, limited to 12 guests, explores one of France’s most celebrated wine regions, Burgundy, in style. Start in Venarey-les-Laumes, with stops in Ancy-le-Franc, Lezinnes, Montbard, Chablis, Ravières, and Tanlay. This journey on the Burgundy canal includes highlights like a falconry display, gourmet shore lunches, complimentary bicycles for exploring, and tons of wine and food experiences. This route is accessible from the end of April through October, with departures each Sunday. Included in every fare is the accommodation, all charters and transfers, all meals and drinks on board, all sightseeing excursions during the cruise and a 24/7 on-call concierge (not on site). Cheers to a bespoke French adventure!

Riverside Luxury Cruises: Delightful Danube Christmas

riverside mozart danube

No list of yearly cruises is complete without a Christmas markets trip to the winter wonderland of central Europe. Riverside Luxury Cruises takes travelers on a 5-day, 4-night journey from Vienna, Austria to Passau, Germany. Stops in between include the Christmas markets in Salzburg, Linz and Krems. Get your fill of mulled wine and gingerbread, plus snag one-of-a-kind festive trinkets in some of Europe’s best Christmas markets. Fares are all-inclusive, meaning accommodation, all meals and drinks and one excursion per port is covered.

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The Best River Cruises In North America You Have To Try

Posted: December 11, 2023 | Last updated: December 11, 2023

Love the thought of a boat-based exploration of North America but don’t fancy heading out to sea? We recommend exploring its rivers and lakes instead, which is why we’ve taken a closer look at the best river and lake cruises for anyone keen to gain a fascinating new perspective on America’s inland waterways.

Rolling on the river

<p>It’s never too early to start planning a Christmas markets cruise, and as much as we love the ones in Germany and Austria, nothing beats a festive float down the Mississippi. Highlights on <a href="https://www.vikingrivercruises.co.uk/cruise-destinations/mississippi/mississippi-holiday-season/2022-memphis-new-orleans/index.html">this cruise</a>, which snakes from Memphis to New Orleans, include stop-offs at Natchez, whose many historic buildings are festooned with Christmas lights, and Vicksburg, whose independent boutiques are great places to pick up presents. This is also a great cruise for twitchers – a huge number of bird species flock to this stretch of the Mississippi for winter. </p>  <p><a href="https://www.facebook.com/loveexploringUK?utm_source=msn&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=front"><strong>Love this? Follow us on Facebook for more travel inspiration</strong></a></p>

Viking Mississippi Holiday Season cruise, USA

It’s never too early to start planning a Christmas markets cruise, and as much as we love the ones in Germany and Austria, nothing beats a festive float down the Mississippi. Highlights on  this cruise , which snakes from Memphis to New Orleans, include stop-offs at Natchez, whose many historic buildings are festooned with Christmas lights, and Vicksburg, whose independent boutiques are great places to pick up presents. This is also a great cruise for twitchers – a huge number of bird species flock to this stretch of the Mississippi for winter. 

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<p>Say hello to one of America’s most spectacular lake cruises. Your mode of transport for this sail across Lake Tahoe will be the <a href="https://tahoesouth.com/boats/m-s-dixie-ii-paddlewheeler/">M.S Dixie II</a> – the lake’s biggest boat. The sunset dinner cruises are popular with couples, although we recommend the scenic daytime tours, which are a great way to explore North America’s largest alpine lake. This high-altitude body of water spreads into two states (California and Nevada), contains enough water to cover California with 14 inches of water and is deeper than the Empire State Building is tall.  </p>

M.S. Dixie II Lake Tahoe cruise, California, USA

Say hello to one of America’s most spectacular lake cruises. Your mode of transport for this sail across Lake Tahoe will be the M.S Dixie II – the lake’s biggest boat. The sunset dinner cruises are popular with couples, although we recommend the scenic daytime tours, which are a great way to explore North America’s largest alpine lake. This high-altitude body of water spreads into two states (California and Nevada), contains enough water to cover California with 14 inches of water and is deeper than the Empire State Building is tall.  

<p>If crowded cruise liners and transatlantic crossings don’t appeal, consider <a href="https://lepetitnavire.ca/en/our-tours/canal-tour/">this leisurely sail</a> along Canada’s 14-kilometre (8.7-mile) Lachine Canal, which slices through the southern section of Montréal, a city famous for its historic architecture. Don’t know your dingle from your dewater? You’ll gain a wonderful insight into the construction of this historic waterway as you pass through its locks, and you’ll also enjoy fantastic views of Montréal’s skyline. Your mode of transport is rather special too – a carbon-neutral, zero-pollution electric propulsion boat. </p>

Le Petit Navire Lachine Canal tour, Québec, Canada

If crowded cruise liners and transatlantic crossings don’t appeal, consider this leisurely sail along Canada’s 14-kilometer Lachine Canal, which slices through the southern section of Montréal, a city famous for its historic architecture. Don’t know your dingle from your dewater? You’ll gain a wonderful insight into the construction of this historic waterway as you pass through its locks, and you’ll also enjoy fantastic views of Montréal’s skyline. Your mode of transport is rather special too – a carbon-neutral, zero-pollution electric propulsion boat. 

<p>Alaska’s Inside Passage is an inland route weaving between islands on the Pacific Northwest coast and along glacier-lined fjords. Inside Passage cruises offer a different perspective on Alaska to coastal cruises, relying on smaller ships to reach more remote ports of call. Highlights of this <a href="https://www.americancruiselines.com/cruises/alaska-cruises/alaska-inside-passage-cruise">cruise</a> include the Strait of Georgia, where you’ll sail between Vancouver Island and British Columbia, and the glacier-fed waters of Frederick Sound – a brilliant whale watching spot.</p>  <p><strong><a href="https://www.loveexploring.com/galleries/92727/amazing-facts-about-cruise-ships-you-might-not-know?page=1">Now check out the fabulous cruising facts you won't believe</a></strong></p>

American Cruise Lines Alaska Inside Passage cruise, Alaska, USA

Alaska’s Inside Passage is an inland route weaving between islands on the Pacific Northwest coast and along glacier-lined fjords. Inside Passage cruises offer a different perspective on Alaska to coastal cruises, relying on smaller ships to reach more remote ports of call. Highlights of this cruise include the Strait of Georgia, where you’ll sail between Vancouver Island and British Columbia, and the glacier-fed waters of Frederick Sound – a brilliant whale watching spot.

Now check out the fabulous cruising facts you won't believe

<p>As much as we love the mighty Mississippi, <a href="https://www.americancruiselines.com/cruises/columbia-and-snake-river-cruises/northwest-pioneers-cruise">this brilliant river cruise</a>, which wiggles through Oregon and Washington, is a fantastic reminder that there are plenty of other breathtakingly beautiful waterways to explore. On this adventure, you’ll sail along the Columbia River – the largest in America’s Pacific Northwest – and Snake River, which is the Columbia River’s biggest tributary. It’s a great way to see some of America’s most underrated destinations, including the town of Astoria, which is the oldest American settlement west of the Rockies.</p>

Northwest Pioneers Cruise, Oregon and Washington, USA

As much as we love the mighty Mississippi, this brilliant river cruise , which wiggles through Oregon and Washington, is a fantastic reminder that there are plenty of other breathtakingly beautiful waterways to explore. On this adventure, you’ll sail along the Columbia River – the largest in America’s Pacific Northwest – and Snake River, which is the Columbia River’s largest tributary. It’s a great way to see some of America’s most underrated destinations, including the town of Astoria, which is the oldest American settlement west of the Rockies.

<p><a href="https://www.americancruiselines.com/cruises/puget-sound-cruises/puget-sound-and-san-juan-islands-cruise">This seven-day cruise</a> provides a brilliant insight into one of America’s most wildlife-rich regions: Washington state’s Puget Sound, America’s second largest estuary; and the San Juan Islands, a cluster of 172 islands and reefs where you’re likely to spot wildlife including whales and eagles. Don’t miss the chance to explore Port Townsend, sandwiched between Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and famous for its Victorian-era architecture. </p>

American Cruise Lines Puget Sound and San Juan Islands Cruise, Washington, USA

This seven-day cruise provides a brilliant insight into one of America’s most wildlife-rich regions: Washington state’s Puget Sound, America’s second largest estuary; and the San Juan Islands, a cluster of 172 islands and reefs where you’re likely to spot wildlife including whales and eagles. Don’t miss the chance to explore Port Townsend, sandwiched between Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and famous for its Victorian-era architecture. 

<p><a href="https://www.vikingrivercruises.co.uk/cruise-destinations/mississippi/americas-heartland/2022-st-louis-to-st-paul/index.html">This</a> is one of the best Mississippi cruises for anyone keen to learn about the people who shaped this part of the US, whether it’s the Norwegians who migrated here during the 1800s or the farmers who made this region one of America’s top culinary destinations. Stops include the Missouri city of St Louis, once known as the Gateway to the West; Hannibal, which was the setting for Mark Twain’s <em>Adventures of Huckleberry Finn;</em> and the Iowan city of Dubuque, home to the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium.</p>

Viking America’s Heartland cruise, Upper Mississippi, USA

This is one of the best Mississippi cruises for anyone keen to learn about the people who shaped this part of the US, whether it’s the Norwegians who migrated here during the 1800s or the farmers who made this region one of America’s top culinary destinations. Stops include the Missouri city of St Louis, once known as the Gateway to the West; Hannibal, which was the setting for Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn;  and the Iowan city of Dubuque, home to the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium.

<p><a href="https://www.vikingrivercruises.co.uk/cruise-destinations/mississippi/heart-of-the-delta/2022-new-orleans-memphis/index.html">An eight-day cruise</a> between Memphis and New Orleans, Viking’s Heart of the Delta cruise takes in the Mississippi’s best bits, including many listed monuments and buildings. For history buffs, highlights will include St Francisville, where there’s a whopping 140 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and Natchez, which has more listed buildings than any other American city. If you’re short on time, put Stanton Hall, which was built in the 1850s, at the top of your list – this Greek revival-style property is famous for its ornate mirrored parlors.  </p>

Viking Heart of the Delta cruise, USA

An eight-day cruise between Memphis and New Orleans, Viking’s Heart of the Delta cruise takes in the Mississippi’s best bits, including many listed monuments and buildings. For history buffs, highlights will include St Francisville, where there’s a whopping 140 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and Natchez, which has more listed buildings than any other American city. If you’re short on time, put Stanton Hall, which was built in the 1850s, at the top of your list – this Greek revival-style property is famous for its ornate mirrored parlors.  

<p>Short on time? Opt for <a href="https://www.jamesrivertour.com/batteau-river-tour-1">this scenic river tour</a>. Your mode of transport for this float along Virginia’s James River will be one of the beautiful wooden boats which have sailed this waterway for years. The two-hour tour along the river, which is Virginia’s longest, is a great way to see its wildlife – bald eagles, river otters and ospreys are regularly spotted. It’s a rather relaxed affair, and passengers are encouraged to cool off with a swim in the river. </p>  <p><a href="https://www.loveexploring.com/galleries/110902/beloved-cruise-ships-that-will-never-sail-again?page=1"><strong>Discover the beloved cruise ships that will never sail again</strong></a></p>

James River Batteau Company Batteau River tour, Virginia, USA

Short on time? Opt for this scenic river tour . Your mode of transport for this float along Virginia’s James River will be one of the beautiful wooden boats which have sailed this waterway for years. The two-hour tour along the river, which is Virginia’s longest, is a great way to see its wildlife – bald eagles, river otters and ospreys are regularly spotted. It’s a rather relaxed affair, and passengers are encouraged to cool off with a swim in the river. 

Discover the beloved cruise ships that will never sail again

<p>A brilliant cruise for history fans, this 10-day river <a href="https://americansteamboatcruises.co.uk/project/clarkston-to-portland-10-days">Snake River and Columbia River cruise</a> starts in Clarkston and finishes in Vancouver, Washington – the route undertaken by explorers Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark in the early 1800s. It’s also a route lined with natural wonders, including Columbia Gorge, which slices through the Cascade Mountains, and Idaho’s Hell’s Canyon, which is deeper than the Grand Canyon and can be explored on a high-speed boat ride. The Columbia River stretch is where you’re most likely to see bison, elk and deer too. </p>

American Queen Voyages Clarkston to Portland cruise, USA

A brilliant cruise for history fans, this 10-day Snake River and Columbia River cruise starts in Clarkston and finishes in Vancouver, Washington – the route undertaken by explorers Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark in the early 1800s. It’s also a route lined with natural wonders, including Columbia Gorge, which slices through the Cascade Mountains, and Idaho’s Hell’s Canyon, which is deeper than the Grand Canyon and can be explored on a high-speed boat ride. The Columbia River stretch is where you’re most likely to see bison, elk and deer too. 

<p><span>This nine-day Memphis to <a href="https://www.loveexploring.com/guides/90064/explore-nashville-the-top-things-to-do-where-to-stay-what-to-eat">Nashville</a> <a href="https://americansteamboatcruises.co.uk/project/memphis-to-nashville-9-day-journey/">cruise</a> is a fantastic way to check out some of the southern state’s prettiest towns, whether it’s Paducah in Kentucky, famed for its arts and craft museum or Clarksville, Tennessee. The latter is famous for its breweries, distilleries and wineries, while historic sites include the Customs House Museum & Cultural Center, where you can learn about the town’s famous former residents, including Wilma Rudolph – the first American woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympic Games. </span></p>

American Queen Voyages Memphis to Nashville cruise, USA

This nine-day Memphis to Nashville   cruise is a fantastic way to check out some of the southern state’s prettiest towns, whether it’s Paducah in Kentucky, famed for its arts and craft museum or Clarksville, Tennessee. The latter is famous for its breweries, distilleries and wineries, while historic sites include the Customs House Museum & Cultural Center, where you can learn about the town’s famous former residents, including Wilma Rudolph – the first American woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympic Games. 

<p>Can’t get enough of the Mighty Mississippi? Take a deep dive on <a href="https://americansteamboatcruises.co.uk/project/mighty-mississippi-cruise-2021-2022/">this 16-day cruise</a> between Red Wing and New Orleans. It’s a fantastic way to discover the landscapes which surround America’s second longest river. The Minnesotan city of Winona, for example, is built on a sandbar and dates back to 9,500BC. The excursions on this cruise are fantastic too. Our favorite? In the town of Hannibal, Missouri, you’ll get the chance to make your very own clay pot out of Mississippi mud. </p>

American Queen Voyages Mighty Mississippi Red Wing to New Orleans, USA

Can’t get enough of the Mighty Mississippi? Take a deep dive on  this 16-day cruise between Red Wing and New Orleans. It’s a fantastic way to discover the landscapes which surround America’s second longest river. The Minnesotan city of Winona, for example, is built on a sandbar and dates back to 9,500BC. The excursions on this cruise are fantastic too. Our favorite? In the town of Hannibal, Missouri, you’ll get the chance to make your very own clay pot out of Mississippi mud. 

<p>Your transport for this food and wine-themed <a href="https://www.adventure-life.com/united-states/columbia-river/cruises/15394/rivers-of-adventure-and-wine">cruise</a> along the Columbia River is the Wilderness Legacy, a beautiful vessel designed to resemble a Victorian steamer. During the cruise, which starts and finishes in Portland, you’ll visit some of Oregon’s most important historical sites, but it’s the food and wine-themed stops that really set it apart. In the Hood River Valley, you can sign up for cycle rides between local vineyards, and in the Washington city of Walla Walla, you’ll visit a local chocolatier, olive oil producer and brewery.  </p>

Adventure Life Rivers of Adventure and Wine cruise, Oregon, USA

Your transport for this food and wine-themed cruise along the Columbia River is the Wilderness Legacy, a beautiful vessel designed to resemble a Victorian steamer. During the cruise, which starts and finishes in Portland, you’ll visit some of Oregon’s most important historical sites, but it’s the food and wine-themed stops that really set it apart. In the Hood River Valley, you can sign up for cycle rides between local vineyards, and in the Washington city of Walla Walla, you’ll visit a local chocolatier, olive oil producer, and brewery.  

<p>Get more bang for your buck from your river cruise by signing up for <a href="https://www.americanqueensteamboatcompany.com/river-cruises/ohio-tennessee-rivers/the-masterful-midwest/">American Queen Voyages’</a> exploration of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Stop-offs on this spectacular paddle steamer cruise include the Illinois city of Alton, which has a rich history and became a base for abolitionists in the 1800s, and Henderson in Kentucky. It’s another cruise with fantastic excursions, our favorite of which is a jet boat ride along a stunning section of the Ohio River near Carrollton, Kentucky. </p>

American Queen Voyages St Louis to Cincinnati cruise, USA

Get more bang for your buck from your river cruise by signing up for American Queen Voyages’ exploration of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Stop-offs on this spectacular paddle steamer cruise include the Illinois city of Alton, which has a rich history and became a base for abolitionists in the 1800s, and Henderson in Kentucky. It’s another cruise with fantastic excursions, our favorite of which is a jet boat ride along a stunning section of the Ohio River near Carrollton, Kentucky. 

<p><a href="https://www.victorycruiselines.com/cruises/montreal-to-detroit-or-reverse/">An 11-day cruise</a> between two very different cities, this Montréal to Detroit sailing provides plenty of opportunities for urban explorations – you’ll visit Montréal, <a href="https://www.loveexploring.com/news/136221/things-to-do-in-quebec-city-canada-montmorency-falls-jacques-cartier-national-park">Québec City</a>, Toronto and Cleveland, as well as quaint riverside towns such as Gananoque, in the heart of the Thousand Islands archipelago in Eastern Ontario. This particular cruise offers fantastic value for money – the cost of your sailing covers a wide range of excursions, including visits to Toronto’s CN Tower and catamaran tours of Niagara Falls.</p>

American Queen Voyages Montréal to Detroit cruise, Canada and US

An 11-day cruise between two very different cities, this Montréal to Detroit sailing provides plenty of opportunities for urban explorations – you’ll visit Montréal, Québec City , Toronto and Cleveland, as well as quaint riverside towns such as Gananoque, in the heart of the Thousand Islands archipelago in Eastern Ontario. This particular cruise offers fantastic value for money – the cost of your sailing covers a wide range of excursions, including visits to Toronto’s CN Tower and catamaran tours of Niagara Falls.

<p><a href="https://www.stlawrencecruiselines.com/cruises/canadas-capital-north/">This Ottawa River cruise</a> is a great way to explore two very different regions of Canada – more specifically Ontario and Québec. The six-day sailing is packed with fascinating stop-offs, included the wildlife-filled Thousand Islands, which straddle the border between America and Canada, and Fort Wellington, built in 1812. Love a lock? For many passengers, the highlight of this river cruise is the famous Carillion Lock, an enormous 182-tonne structure which has a flow rate of 2,000 cubic meters of water per second. </p>

St Lawrence Cruise Lines, Canada’s Capital North cruise, Canada

This Ottawa River cruise is a great way to explore two very different regions of Canada – more specifically Ontario and Québec. The six-day sailing is packed with fascinating stop-offs, including the wildlife-filled Thousand Islands, which straddle the border between America and Canada, and Fort Wellington, built in 1812. Love a lock? For many passengers, the highlight of this river cruise is the famous Carillion Lock, an enormous 182-tonne structure which has a flow rate of 2,000 cubic meters of water per second. 

<p>Sign up for <a href="https://www.pearlseascruises.com/cruises/great-lakes-cruises/11-night-great-lakes-and-georgian-bay">this 11-night cruise</a> from Toronto to Milwaukee and you’ll get the chance to see four of the most beautiful Great Lakes, with time to visit attractions lining the route. For many, the highlight is Georgian Bay, where 30,000 islands form the world’s largest freshwater archipelago, and where you’ll be able to check out destinations such as traffic-free Mackinac Island by horse-drawn buggy. There are plenty of big hitters too – you’ll take a guided tour of Niagara Falls and visit the legendary Henry Ford Museum in Windsor, Ontario. </p>

Pearl Seas Cruises Great Lakes and Georgian Bay cruise, US and Canada

Sign up for this 11-night cruise from Toronto to Milwaukee and you’ll get the chance to see four of the most beautiful Great Lakes, with time to visit attractions lining the route. For many, the highlight is Georgian Bay, where 30,000 islands form the world’s largest freshwater archipelago, and where you’ll be able to check out destinations such as traffic-free Mackinac Island by horse-drawn buggy. There are plenty of big hitters too – you’ll take a guided tour of Niagara Falls and visit the legendary Henry Ford Museum in Windsor, Ontario. 

<p>For something completely different, consider hiring your own river boat for a bespoke exploration of Canada’s Rideau Canal. The waterway, which is the oldest continuously-operated canal system in North America, is regarded as one of the world’s greatest engineering feats, and the UNESCO-listed canal is lined with historic sites. Your mode of transport? <a href="https://www.leboat.com/boating-vacations/canada/rideau-canal">A luxury river boat</a> kitted out with a kitchen, spacious bathrooms and sun deck. They’re surprisingly easy to drive too, thanks to powerful thrusters which make navigating locks a breeze. </p>

Le Boat Rideau Canal Cruise, Ontario, Canada

For something completely different, consider hiring your own river boat for a bespoke exploration of Canada’s Rideau Canal. The waterway, which is the oldest continuously-operated canal system in North America, is regarded as one of the world’s greatest engineering feats, and the UNESCO-listed canal is lined with historic sites. Your mode of transport? A luxury river boat kitted out with a kitchen, spacious bathrooms and sun deck. They’re surprisingly easy to drive too, thanks to powerful thrusters which make navigating locks a breeze. 

<p><a href="https://www.americancruiselines.com/cruises/new-england-cruises/hudson-river-cruises">This New York round trip</a> takes in the Hudson River’s best bits, busting the myth that its most spectacular section weaves through the Big Apple. You’ll explore it on the American Star, which has room for just 100 passengers and offers several stop-offs in the beautiful Catskill Mountains area. The cruise is especially popular with fans of architecture, who come to admire historic buildings such as the Vanderbilt Mansion (the former home of Franklin D. Roosevelt). </p>

American Cruise Lines Hudson River cruise, New York, USA

This New York round trip  takes in the Hudson River’s best bits, busting the myth that its most spectacular section weaves through the Big Apple. You’ll explore it on the American Star, which has room for just 100 passengers and offers several stop-offs in the beautiful Catskill Mountains area. The cruise is especially popular with fans of architecture, who come to admire historic buildings such as the Vanderbilt Mansion (the former home of Franklin D. Roosevelt). 

<p>This is another fantastic option for history buffs – <a href="https://www.vikingrivercruises.co.uk/cruise-destinations/mississippi/americas-great-river/2022-st-paul-new-orleans/index.html">a Mississippi River cruise</a> filled with visits to some of America’s most important historic sites. In Red Wing, Minnesota, you’ll learn how New Englanders joined forces with German and Irish migrants to farm the fertile landscape, and in Burlington, Iowa, you’ll discover how the arrival of both steamboats and the railroad transformed this once sleepy town, filled with listed buildings. Don’t miss the chance to stand under the famous Gateway Arch in St Louis, Missouri – a crossroads for nineteenth-century explorers. </p>

Viking Great River cruise, Mississippi, USA

This is another fantastic option for history buffs – a Mississippi River cruise filled with visits to some of America’s most important historic sites. In Red Wing, Minnesota, you’ll learn how New Englanders joined forces with German and Irish migrants to farm the fertile landscape, and in Burlington, Iowa, you’ll discover how the arrival of both steamboats and the railroad transformed this once sleepy town, filled with listed buildings. Don’t miss the chance to stand under the famous Gateway Arch in St Louis, Missouri – a crossroads for nineteenth-century explorers. 

<p>Another fantastic option for anyone short on time, <a href="https://cruisenh.com/products/u-s-mailboat-cruise">this cruise</a> takes place on America’s oldest floating post office – a beautiful vessel which launched on Lake Winnipesaukee in 1945. During the two-hour cruise, you’ll visit several of Lake Winnipesaukee’s 253 islands, many of which were once home to indigenous people such as the Pennacooks. Don’t forget to send a postcard home – you’ll be able to post it on the boat, complete with an M/V Sophie C stamp.  </p>  <p><a href="https://www.loveexploring.com/galleries/129810/the-worlds-most-beautiful-cruise-ships?page=1"><strong>Craving a cruise? Check out our guide to the world’s most beautiful cruise ships</strong></a></p>

US Mailboat Cruises of Lake Winnipesaukee on the M/V Sophie C, New Hampshire, USA

Another fantastic option for anyone short on time, this cruise takes place on America’s oldest floating post office – a beautiful vessel which launched on Lake Winnipesaukee in 1945. During the two-hour cruise, you’ll visit several of Lake Winnipesaukee’s 253 islands, many of which were once home to indigenous people such as the Pennacooks. Don’t forget to send a postcard home – you’ll be able to post it on the boat, complete with an M/V Sophie C stamp.  

Craving a cruise? Check out our guide to the world’s most beautiful cruise ships

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Choosing The Best Christmas River Cruise For You

If you spend the year anticipating the heartwarming celebrations that November and December bring, then here's an idea that should make the top of your gift list: a river cruise in Europe, to visit its famous Christmas markets!

Best Christmas Market River Cruises

Of course, Europe always enthralls, but a Tauck river cruise brings you straight to enchanting villages, along shimmering waterscapes, during the most magical season of all. On the Danube River, the Rhine River or storybook canals, or on land with exclusive experiences, you'll make merry with the best Christmas river cruise for you – whether holiday reveler, family vacation planner or expert traveler. Best Danube River Cruise

There's no place like Europe for the holidays. And with Tauck's eight-day, Christmas Markets Along the Danube river cruise, you'll unwrap all of the charms and treats of this 700-year-old tradition. Start getting in the holiday spirit when you join the crew and your fellow travelers in trimming the riverboat's Christmas tree.  Enjoy guided visits of Christmas markets in Vienna, Salzburg, Passau, Regensburg and Nürnberg. Whether called Christkindlmarkt or Weihnachtsmarkt , each one sparkles with unique character. Savor a true feast for the senses. Nibble gingerbread and bratwurst, listen to impressive pipe organs and heavenly choirs, sip warming mugs of glühwein and gaze at stands loaded with local crafts.  Save room for wonderful outings, including a tour of the Baroque Melk Abbey, a chance to explore Thurn und Taxis Palace and its private Christmas market in Regensburg and a holiday lunch and children's choir performance at Vienna's Palais Pallavicini. View the full itinerary for Christmas Markets Along the Danube here. Best Rhine River Cruise

Tree-trimming aboard Tauck's riverboat

Cruised Europe before, but want to enjoy it in a new and dreamy way? Select Tauck's best Christmas market river cruise for you – Yuletide Spirit: Amsterdam to Brussels .  Aboard the ms Grace, outfitted in her gorgeous holiday finery, embrace eight glorious days tracing a route through the Netherlands and Belgium. These countries positively glow with holiday spirit and welcome you with their yummiest delicacies, like glühwein , waffles, Belgian beers, stroopwafels , chocolate lace and cheese. In Amsterdam, music fills the air during a guided tour and mini concert at the Royal Concert Hall. Enjoy a private visit to a beautiful canal home and stories about life along these historic waterways. Indulge in delicious treats as you take a private, evening canal cruise to see the Amsterdam Light Festival. South Holland promises Gouda and a demonstration and tasting of stroopwafels , an iconic waffle sandwich with syrup in the center, which the town is credited with inventing. Head to Den Haag for a tour and an exhibition of works by Dutch graphic artist MC Escher, inside an 18th-century royal palace. Also included on this cruise: unforgettable visits to holiday markets and Winterfest in Ghent, Bruges, Antwerp and Brussels.  Review the full itinerary for the Yuletide Spirit: Amsterdam to Brussels cruise here.   Best For Families

Salzburg, Austria

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Christmas Market River Cruises

A Viking Christmas market river cruise is pure magic. From Nuremburg to Vienna, Germany and Austria light up with Christmas markets offering hand-carved toys and ornaments, spicy glühwein and aromatic gingerbread. Celebrate an Old World Christmas on the Danube or Rhine.

xmas river cruises

Christmas on the Rhine & Moselle

Paris to zürich, $25 deposit & additional savings of up to $800.

xmas river cruises

Christmas on the Main & Moselle

Paris to prague.

xmas river cruises

Christmas on the Seine

Paris to paris.

xmas river cruises

Christmas on the Rhine

Amsterdam to basel.

xmas river cruises

Christmas on the Danube

Budapest to regensburg.

xmas river cruises

Danube Christmas Delights

Budapest to passau.

xmas river cruises

Christmas Along the Elbe

Berlin to prague, highlights of christmas market cruises.

Viking holiday departures complement your itinerary’s regular highlights with visits to Europe’s delightful Christmas markets, onboard festivities and more. Join us in exploring the lands where our most cherished Christmas traditions began and treat yourself to a true European Christmas. Here is a preview of all you will enjoy during a Christmas Market cruise with Viking®:

  • Exuberantly decorated Christmas markets nestled in charming cities
  • Yuletide cookies, cakes and other freshly baked treats
  • Cobblestone streets illuminated by holiday lights
  • The angelic songs of strolling carolers
  • Storybook villages and snow-capped castles on the riverside
  • Hand-carved toys and ornaments from Christmases past
  • Onboard music performances, tree trimming and cooking demonstrations
  • Good tidings and cheer shared with rosy-cheeked market vendors

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  3. Christmas market river cruises for a memorable 2020

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  4. Riviera River Cruises Launches New Christmas, New Year’s Cruises

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  5. Our best Christmas river cruises

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  6. Rhine Getaway with Viking River Cruises

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COMMENTS

  1. The 8 best Christmas market river cruises for 2024

    A guide to the best Christmas market river cruises in Europe, with tips on when and where to go, how to get the most out of each sailing and what to expect from each destination. Find out the dates, fares, ships and highlights of these festive voyages that sail from late November to December.

  2. Christmas Cruise

    Experience the holiday season the European way with a Christmas market river cruise from Avalon Waterways. Choose from a variety of destinations, departure dates, cruise types, and inclusions to suit your preferences and budget. Enjoy the festive atmosphere of the Danube, Main, or Rhine rivers with local favorites and off-the-beaten-path experiences.

  3. Holiday Collection

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  4. All Inclusive Christmas Market River Cruises 2024/2025

    Embrace the magic of the holiday season aboard a Christmas market river cruise as you discover the Christmas markets in Germany and Austria and participate in age-old holiday traditions aboard your cruise along the Rhine and Danube rivers. Vienna, Austria HIGHLIGHTS ITINERARIES Welcome to Europe's Christmas Markets

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    Why Arlene B. wanted her grandchildren all to herself on the Captivating Rhine - and why she'll do it again. Read more. Sail an AmaWaterways™ River Cruise - voted Best River Cruise Line in 2018. Explore itineraries that cruise the rivers of Europe, Asia and Africa. Find the best river cruise for you today.

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    Experience the wonderful Christmas markets of Europe in Vienna, Nuremberg, Cologne, Budapest, Rudesheim, Avignon on our Christmas cruises. View itineraries. 1-855-222-3214 Call Emerald Cruises 1-855-222-3214. ... Christmas Market River Cruises Yacht Cruises Yacht Cruises. Caribbean & Central America Mediterranean & Adriatic Sea Red Sea ...

  11. Christmas Markets

    Cruise to Europe's delightful Christmas markets on one of Viking's great rivers and enjoy hand-carved toys, hot chocolate, gingerbread and more. Departure date, duration and highlights of Christmas Markets are customizable and include visits to charming cities, snow-capped castles and storybook villages.

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    Budapest To Vilshofen. Length: 7 Nights. Starting Price Per Person: $3,499. Dates: December 4, 11-23. This route cruises along the second-longest river in Europe through Austria, Germany, Hungary, and Slovakia, stopping in the capital cities of Budapest, Bratislava, and Vienna, as well as Salzburg.

  15. 10 Things To Know Before Taking A Christmas Market River Cruise

    As the name suggests, a Christmas market river cruise focuses on visiting locations hosting Christmas markets and is one of the best ways to see as many holiday sites as you can. Many of the ports are located in Europe's biggest and most famous cities, places like Amsterdam, Vienna, Budapest, and Prague, but one particular advantage of taking a river cruise is getting to see smaller towns and ...

  16. 2025 Iconic Christmas Markets

    A family-owned company since 2002, award-winning AmaWaterways offers unforgettable river cruises with 28 ships sailing through Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. 'Ama' means love - and we put love in everything we do, from our exquisite locally-sourced cuisine to our variety of included shore excursions in every port to our warm, personalized service. We are also proud of our innovations ...

  17. Our best Christmas river cruises

    Our best Christmas river cruises Fancy celebrating the most wonderful time of year with a river cruise? Europe's famous for its Christmas markets, and on our TUI River Cruises itineraries you can sample some of the continent's oldest holiday traditions in just a few days. Plus, travel further afield on our , on sale from next winter.

  18. 2024 Iconic Christmas Markets

    Iconic Christmas Markets At A Glance. On our river cruises, you will enjoy an extensive lineup of included tours. In many cases, you will have a choice of excursions, such as standard tours, bike tours, hikes and Special Interest Tours. We always include a large variety of activities so that you can choose how you want to explore.

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    Christmas River Cruises 2024 Make Christmas the most wonderful time of the year with a Christmas river cruise in 2024. If you're looking for an alternative way to spend Christmas in 2024, our collection of river cruises promises to capture the spirit of the festive season.

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    13-night New Zealand holiday cruise on Celebrity Cruises. Okahu Bay in Auckland, New Zealand. DENIZUNLUSU/GETTY IMAGES. Sail dates: Dec. 21, 2023-Jan. 3, 2024. Ship: Celebrity Edge. The most appealing holiday itinerary on Celebrity Cruises takes you Down Under for a two-week celebration, sailing round-trip from Sydney.

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    River Cruise Package Includes. Flights New York-Munich, Vienna-New York or vice-versa. Other departure cities available. Click on date of departure for selection and prices. Airline taxes & fuel surcharges. 5 nights outside cabin aboard Superior First Class Monarch Baroness. River port charges of $190 per person.

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    AmaWaterways™ 2023 Iconic Christmas Markets River Cruise - Embark from Nuremberg for a 7-night cruise on Europe's storied Danube. Visit Christmas Markets in Regensburg, Passau, Vienna, and more. Optional pre/post extensions available. See itinerary or contact us for more information.

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  28. Christmas Market Cruises in Europe

    A Viking Christmas market river cruise is pure magic. From Nuremburg to Vienna, Germany and Austria light up with Christmas markets offering hand-carved toys and ornaments, spicy glühwein and aromatic gingerbread. Celebrate an Old World Christmas on the Danube or Rhine. Departure Date Duration Clear All Filters