DECK the halls…DECK the halls…DECK the halls…
Escape into the Holiday Spirit
Cruising the Danube can reawaken your childlike joy of the season.
They say Christmas is a magical time filled with family, friends, warmth, and wonder. And it certainly is, if you’re about 7 years old.
Starting from the first time we snuck down the stairs a little later than we should have Christmas Eve night, most of us can count on a chaotic whirlwind month of gift-buying, card-writing, and menu planning that begins almost as soon as our Thanksgiving turkey is digested. When life gets that crazy, it’s time for a cruise — and at this time of year, nothing beats a Christmas Markets sailing down the Danube.
A Christmas Markets cruise isn’t an escape from the holiday — quite the opposite. It is instead a dive, headfirst, into that perfect celebration that we’ve all grown up trying, and failing, to achieve for our families. It is an enthusiastic nod to Old World traditions and a gentle reminder that the best Christmases have more to do with simple things than with a new PlayStation 4 and $200 sneakers.
On board, gay poinsettias, whimsical Santas, serene nativity scenes, elaborate gingerbread houses, lavishly decorated trees, and trays of decadent cookies fill the riverboat’s public rooms while glorious bells and Christmas music fill the air. (It’s the only cruise where you’ll likely disembark humming “Adeste Fidelis,” Instead of “Celebrate” or “Rock the Boat”… and you’ll still be humming it when the ball drops in Times Square after you get home.)
With all due respect to Ike and Tina Turner, nobody aboard a Danube Christmas Markets sailing is going to be rolling on a river. And they won’t be pitching or rocking either. Unlike the open ocean, river cruising is a calm and almost hypnotic journey past medieval castles and scenic vineyards to fairy-tale towns and villages and the festive Christmas Markets that are the humble and welcoming stars of this itinerary.
In each town, just steps from the riverboat (not a 20-minute taxi ride or long walk), the markets beckon, stalls overflowing with sparkling ornaments, lovingly hand-carved toys, candles, chocolates, and decorated sweets. Children scamper from stall to stall, feasting wide eyes on the toys and treats on display while musicians and folk dancers provide a melodic and colorful backdrop. In the chilly temperatures of the outdoor markets, pungent aromas lure locals and visitors alike to food vendors, where they can savor spicy sausage sandwiches and mugs of steaming glühwein, mulled wine, fragrant with cinnamon and cloves… and top it off with a spicy slice of lebkuchen, thick with nuts and honey.
Along the Danube, Christmas is what Christmas should be.
And that’s the kind of Christmas I wish all of us.
— Judi Cuervo