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Enjoy a post Thanksgiving tour you'll be very thankful for experiencing.

You'll cruise the Danube from Nuremberg to Budapest, with a pre-cruise option to visit Munich and Mad King Ludwig's Bavarian castles, and a post-cruise option to visit beautiful Prague.

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

 
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Danube River Christmas Markets Cruise

A magical European Christmas cruise experience
 


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

 

 

Maybe you've cruised on a gigantic cruise ship before.  Our Christmas Markets river cruise is very different.  The nearly new (launched in Feb 2006) river cruiser, Amadagio, has only 73 cabins, making for a much more personal and less institutional experience.

The river cruise itinerary is also very different to a traditional ocean cruise.  You never have rough seas, and you're always treated to beautiful views out your cabin window, never just empty ocean.

Click to skip down to the booking form

About the Cruise/Tour

You'll depart the US on or before Saturday 8 December, to join the vessel in Nuremberg on Sunday 9 December.  The cruise ends on Sunday 16 December in Budapest.  See below for the pre and post tour options.

Like a traditional cruise, this is a fully inclusive cruise, and - better than a traditional cruise - it includes a generous amount of shore touring as well, at no extra cost.  You won't have to pay extra for your shore touring as we visit the lovely towns and cities along the Danube.

The cruise of course includes three great meals a day, plus various other snacks, on-board entertainment, as well as generous opportunities to sightsee, both from the boat as it cruises the Danube, and while ashore during the many stops.  Each day you typically have time to participate in a provided tour and also to sightsee and shop on your own.

Indeed, the shopping is part of the experience on this tour, as you visit various local craft Christmas markets in the different towns and cities.  You'll be able to buy distinctive gifts for all your friends and family this year!  And while all meals are available on the vessel, you'll also be able to experience other dining opportunities ashore if you wish.  Similarly, the on-board entertainment can be supplemented with visits to clubs and bars and shows ashore when the vessel stays in port until late at night, allowing you a chance to experience towns by day and by night.

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

Pre and Post Cruise Optional Extensions

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

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

Pre-Cruise Option - Munich and Mad King Ludwig

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

We strongly recommend you should arrive in Europe at least one day before the cruise starts, for two reasons.  Firstly, this gives you an 'emergency day' in case you - or your bags - miss flights or have any other types of problems en route.

Secondly, it gives you a day to adjust to the new time zone and to relax after your flight(s).

We're offering an interesting extension of one or two nights in Bavaria, which would have you fly to Munich rather than Nuremberg.  This is actually a benefit - more airlines fly with better schedules and lower fares to the larger airport in Munich than fly to the smaller airport in Nuremberg.

You'd leave the US on Friday 7 December, so as to arrive into Munich on Saturday 8 December for the one night extension, or leave the US on Thursday 6 December (or earlier) to arrive on Friday 7 December for the two or more night extension.

If you take the two night extension, the Saturday is a day at leisure to sightsee around Munich.  And whenever you arrive - Saturday, Friday, or earlier, there will be an optional and memorable dinner on Saturday evening at a place that Bob describes as 'for my money the best beer, and the best room(s) to drink it in, in Munich' (dinner and drink costs not included).

On Sunday 9 December we've arranged an interesting all day tour and transfer on our own luxury coach and with an expert local guide.  We will be collected from our hotel in Munich and then will travel through Bavaria to visit Neuschwanstein (one of 'mad' King Ludwig II's amazing castles), a small Bavarian village and a baroque church that receives Michelin's highest rating (Wieskirche), before continuing on to Nuremberg and joining the ship in time for the welcome cocktail reception and dinner on board.

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

You can arrive into Munich on Saturday and take our tour/transfer on Sunday, or if you prefer, you can arrive into Munich on Friday or earlier, to give you more time to sightsee in the city and around the Munich area.

Post-Cruise Option - Prague

Prague is one of the most beautiful and best preserved historical cities in all of Europe.  It has a lovely Christmas market, and is alive with culture, music, and the arts.  Spending time in Prague makes for a lovely conclusion to our Christmas Markets experience, and so we strongly urge you to include Prague as a wonderful way to end your Christmas Markets experience.

At the conclusion of the cruise on 16 December we'll be taken by luxury coach and with expert local guide from Budapest to Prague, where we spend two nights at a lovely historic hotel right in the very center of the city and just around the corner from the Old Town Square.

We include a half day city tour the next day, giving you an afternoon at leisure to enjoy the markets and anything else in Prague.  If you chose the two night option, the next day sees you leaving Prague, but if you choose the three day option, then on Tuesday we will enjoy a day tour to the glorious medieval castle town of Cesky Krumlov, now protected and preserved as a World Heritage site.

You can of course extend your stay further in Prague if you wish; otherwise, on Wednesday 19 December your three night Prague visit would come to an end.

Why Cruise in Winter?

There are two good reasons to enjoy this cruise at this off-season time of year.

The first reason is simply because it is the off-season.  The crowds of people aren't as crushingly overpowering as they are in the busy season.  For example, at the glorious abbey in Melk, during the summer there are tours departing every two minutes!  When we visit, we'll probably be the only group visiting and so our guides can slow down and show us more things and not rush to squeeze us in between the group immediately before and after.

The second reason is to experience the Christmas markets.  Because of the strong Christian tradition in the towns we visit, Christmas is viewed more seriously to start with, and the Christmas markets are a delightful celebration of our shared Judeo-Christian and European heritage.

Yes, the weather is cold, but nothing which several layers of warm clothes can't combat, and both our two previous Christmas Market cruises have been blessed with good weather (ie no rain or snow and not uncomfortably cold).

I recommend this winter cruise.  I've loved it the two times I've done it, and the more than 50 Travel Insider readers who've accompanied me have been similarly charmed by it.

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

Information about Amadeus Waterways

Our 2004 cruise was with Viking River Cruises, and the experience was excellent in almost all respects.  In 2006, we used Amadeus Waterways, both for our Russian River Cruise in July and for our Christmas Markets cruise in December.  This was not because we dislike Viking at all, but simply because we believe Amadeus offers a better itinerary and better value cruise.

This perception isn't just a coincidence.  The founder and head of Amadeus, Rudi Schreiner, first worked for Uniworld (another fine cruise company) and then was President of Viking River Cruises from 2000 until the end of 2002, when he left to found Amadeus, with Amadeus first appearing on the market in 2003, and growing steadily every year since then.  Rudi was largely responsible for the excellent operations at both Uniworld and Viking, and now he is taking everything he has learned and applying it in his own company, with outstanding results.

His ships are as good or better than any others you'll find on the rivers and canals of Europe, and are (of course) also very new.  As the newest company in the market, he is having to work harder to win business, and is doing so by offering great itineraries, lots of inclusions, and great values.  I've spoken with Rudi and he impresses as a sensible and perceptive gentleman.

Our expectations have been borne out in reality.  Amadeus provided an excellent quality product, with wonderful ships and friendly helpful crew on both our 2006 featured cruises.  They are an excellent company and we're pleased to confidently continue our partnership with them again for this cruise, our Russian River cruise, and our Black Sea cruise in 2007.

In 2004, Amadeus was still new and largely unproven, so we chose the safer option of Viking.  Now, in 2007, Amadeus is a proven quality operator, both in the marketplace as a whole, and with us in particular.  We are confident you'll agree that Amadeus Waterways is an excellent operation.

Because Amadeus is still relatively new, there are few independent reviews of their cruises.  Here are three :

Waverly writes on this site (scroll down a bit to get to the review)

...the Amadagio exceeded our highest expectations. Amadeus Waterways claims that the Amadagio is the most luxurious ship on the European waterways today and this is true.

The hips don’t lie - one outstanding feature was the variety of meals served for lunch and dinners with outstanding desserts. The crew was very helpful, friendly and professional...

Tom Ogg writes about his experience with Amadeus on a different itinerary and says in his conclusion (I agree with everything but wonder how they managed to get 11 hours sleep a night!)

Joanie and I didn’t know if we were going to like our river cruise or not. Many of our friends told us that we wouldn’t for a variety of reasons. They were too structured for us (we are well known for our aversion to structured events), there is nothing but older folks on a river cruise, or we would be bored out of our minds. One friend that has taken several groups on river cruises warned us against taking off on our own.

Here is the bottom line. We liked it a lot….and here are the reasons. First, we went our own way on purpose and no one said anything to us whatsoever. We knew where the boat would be and when to be there and that is all that counted. In fact, the cruise manager would tell us special things we could do in some of the towns that turned out great. Don’t discount river cruises if you are the type that likes to go your own way. Second, we loved the intimacy of the ship. With only 120 passengers we got to know quite a few people very well. Joanie and I met a couple from Vail, Colorado that were wonderful people that I am sure we will evolve a friendship with. We were going to meet them for dinner in Paris, but Joanie became ill and couldn’t make it. Folks that like river cruising are well traveled, successful, bright and interesting people and Joanie and I enjoyed the people we met…all of them. I can’t say I have ever had the same experience on a larger ship. Third, we loved the uniqueness of the ports. About the only way to see the same ports would be via a motor coach tour. Which would you rather do? Sit in the sun on the river drinking a glass of wine while the scenery drifts by, or sit in a motor coach trying to catch a glimpse of that castle that is hiding behind the trees.

Finally, yes, it was boring. There were no discos, no casino, no theme parties, no production shows, no tender tickets, no lines, no bar hopping, none of that. It was so boring that Joanie and I got more rest than we have ever had. We averaged almost 11 hours of sleep a night. The entire cruise was so relaxing, that we are having a hard time reentering our normal lives. I will take boring any day! If you haven’t considered a river cruise, take another look, you might just find it as enjoyable as Joanie and I did.

Connie and Darwin write of their cruise on the same itinerary with Amadeus

If you have never been to Europe, or even if you have, a river cruise is the way to go.  Your hotel travels with you.  It is so relaxing and you really get caught up in the atmosphere and are intoxicated with the scenery, even without beer or wine.  We have been back a few weeks now, and I still have vacation head.  I would go back in a heartbeat.  During our cruise we celebrated our anniversary and I whispered to my husband during the fabulous sparkler-laden layer cake that paraded out, “How are we ever going to top this?”

About the Amadagio

Our cruise ship for this cruise, the Amadagio is nearly new, having been custom designed to meet the special needs of the Danube, enabling it to operate in less favorable conditions than many of the other boats (ie when the water levels are 'too high' or 'too low').

The boat is long but narrow.  It is 360' long and 37.4' wide, and cruises at 15.6 mph.  This might seem like a slow speed, but it is faster than most of the other cruise boats, enabling the boat to get between towns faster and giving you more time sightseeing.

Dining is single-seating and with no pre-assigned tables, so you can move about as you wish from meal to meal.  Amadeus even provides a generous amount of complimentary wine with your evening meal each night.

Smoking is restricted to the outside Sun Deck only.

Our cruise has been marketed primarily to English speaking people and the language on board is exclusively English.  This means you won't have the inconvenience of having to listen to every announcement being repeated in four or five different languages, and you can conveniently talk to your fellow guests (and likely soon to be new friends) on board.

Cabin Types

Cabins on the Amadagio are the largest of any cruise boat - a massive 170 sq ft each.  The 154 sq ft cabins on the earlier Viking cruise seemed spacious, but the 170 sq ft cabins on Amadagio are even more marvelously roomy and comfortable.

The cruise is offered in five cabin grades plus there are four suites as well.

There are 69 cabins and four suites on three decks, and all are well equipped with a/c, bathroom and shower, phone, flat screen television, internet access, hairdryer and safe.  The television has both local and satellite channels, a bridge-cam channel, and an evening movie channel.

All five grades of cabin are very similar in terms of size and amenities.  The main difference is the deck the cabins are situated on.

This picture clearly shows the three accommodation decks on Amadagio.  The top deck and the middle deck have floor to ceiling sliding doors and 'French balconies' (a very small space outside the sliding door), but the lower deck just has windows.

The most important difference though is not the style of window, but rather the height above the waterline.  There is a big difference in perspective and view between the top deck (suites and A category cabins) and the middle deck (B and C category cabins), while on the lowest deck (D and E category cabins) the floor is actually below the waterline and your windows and eye level is only a foot or so above the waterline.  On this deck, with even the slightest amount of bank on the sides of the river, you'll not see anything other than the water and bank from the bottom deck, and there may be a bit more water and machinery noise on that level too.

When moored, if your cabin is on the dockside rather than the outboard side, the lowest deck cabins will have a view blocked by the dock, the middle deck cabins may have a limited view, and the top deck cabins will usually have a view above the dock level.

These differences are much more profound than in a massive cruise ship where even the lowest deck is still a long way above the waterline.  Of course, if you do choose a D or E category cabin, you can spend the days in the public areas and enjoy the views from there, but if you can justify the extra cost to go up a deck or two, the chances are you'll be very pleased you did.

Suites are 255 sq ft, cabins are 170 sq ft.

Tip :  Choose the least expensive cabin type on the deck you'd rather be on.  There is no added value in choosing a D cabin in favor of an E cabin, or a B cabin in favor of a C cabin.

Cruise Dates

Start Date and Options

The cruise commences in Nuremberg on Sunday 9 December 2007.  If you're traveling from the US, you should leave on Saturday 8 December (or earlier) to arrive into Nuremberg on the 9th.

If you choose the Travel Insider pre-cruise Munich and Mad King Ludwig option, you'll want to leave the US on or before Friday 7th, so as to arrive in Munich on or before Saturday 8 December.

We do recommend arriving into Europe a day early, whether it be into Nuremberg, into Munich, or any other place.  This gives you an 'emergency' day in case of flight delays or luggage problems or anything else, and also gives you a day to 'de-jetlag' before the cruise gets underway.

End Date and Options

The cruise finishes in Budapest on Sunday 16 December.  You can then either return home that day, add on the optional extension to Prague, or extend your stay in Europe as you wish.

If you add the Prague extension, you can return back home on Tuesday 18th, Wednesday 19th, or any other day you wish.

Usually you arrive back into the US the same day you start your homeward journey from Europe.

 

Detailed Day by Day Itinerary

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

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

Cruise Cost

Per person pricing for the cruise is as follows :

Cabin Type

Cruise

Munich 1/2 nt option

Prague 2/3 nt option

E sold out

$1599

$175/265

$325/500

D sold out

$1698

$175/265

$325/500

C sold out

$1998

$175/265

$325/500

B

$2098

$175/265

$325/500

A

$2198

$175/265

$325/500

Jr Suite sold out

$2798

$175/265

$325/500


Extras and Inclusions

  • Port Taxes are $84 per person.

  • Single rate is 150% of the above per person share twin rates for cabins or 200% for a junior suite.  A guaranteed single share program is also available for category B cabins (see below).

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

  • Rates include a free excursion to Salzburg (an $85 value) as a special Travel Insider bonus.

  • Rates include two Travel Insider cocktail parties on board Amadagio

You can pay for your cruise using a credit card with no credit card surcharge.

A $200 per person non-refundable deposit is required to confirm your participation and to hold your preferred grade of cabin on this cruise, and the balance is due 90 days prior to departure.

Single Guaranteed Share Program

If you are planning to travel by yourself, but would prefer to avoid the single surcharge, Amadeus offer a guaranteed twin share program with another person of the same gender, in their category B cabins.

Alternatively we will make a best effort to connect you with another single Travel Insider group member, but can't guarantee to find someone compatible.

What about the Air Fare?

If you buy the Amadeus airfare, they include transfers from the airport to the cruise ship when you arrive into Nuremberg.  These transfers are convenient, but require you to arrive on the exact day the cruise starts, and/or can easily be arranged by yourself when you arrive at the airport as well, so should not unduly influence your airfare planning.

We suggest you check to see if you can use any frequent flier miles you might have for this travel, and/or check to see what the best fare you can get on your favorite airline is, then compare it to the Amadeus rate and make your decision then.

You are therefore free to make your own arrangements, any way you wish, to travel to Nuremberg or Munich and then home again from Budapest or Prague, and you can of course make extra stops and arrive earlier or stay longer.  You can choose whichever carrier has the best fare and the best schedules for you, and you can also choose a carrier that you wish to earn miles with.

We'll be pleased to answer any questions you might have about arranging your air transportation, of course.

Tip :  Ask for an air included quote when you know your itinerary.  Then with that space held, see if you can get a better deal or more convenient flights, or perhaps frequent flier tickets.

Which cities to fly in and out of

This might seem like an obvious issue, but remember that Europe is very small and so if you can't get convenient flights (or fares) on your preferred airlines to and from the obvious cities at the start and end of your tour, consider flying in or out of nearby airports and then using a train to get between that airport and the city you need to be in.

For example, consider flying in to Munich and taking a short 1 hour train ride from Munich to Nuremberg.  There is an easy rail connection from Munich Airport to the central city train station.

Similarly, for your return, it is only 2 hours by train between Budapest and Vienna - you might find it easier to fly home from Vienna (if you're continuing on to Prague).

Travel Insurance

We generally recommend you should protect against the various types of losses that may occur while traveling.

Amadeus Waterways offer a policy that covers you for trip cancellation and interruption costs, medical costs, trip delay, and baggage delay or loss.  This is $199 per person.  The premium is payable with your deposit.

To add an extra trip cancellation premium that will allow you to cancel for any reason at all, add another $30.  With this add-on premium, if you cancel for a reason not covered by the main policy, Amadeus will refund you as much of your payment as is covered by their usual policy, and give you a voucher to be redeemed against future travel any time in the next year for the balance.

Click here for a new page with more information on the Amadeus travel insurance.

How to Extend or Vary this Tour

There are many ways you can extend or vary this tour.

In addition to the pre-packaged extensions we are offering (see above), you're of course free to add anything you like, before or after the cruise.

We recommend you consider arriving into Europe at least a day before the cruise starts, so as to give yourself a day to resolve any problems that may occur such as missing/delayed flights or losing luggage.

If you are planning to arrive early, you might want to consider flying in to Munich and spending extra time in Munich, then taking our tour/transfer to Nuremberg to join the cruise on Sunday 9 December.

If you have more questions, please don't hesitate to ask.  We're here to help ensure your experience is as good as possible.

Tour Terms and Conditions

Our standard terms and conditions apply to this tour.

In addition, please note these extra terms :

1.   The 90 day payment due date is considered to be Friday 7 September.

2.   US citizens require a current passport that will not expire for at least six months after the date of their planned return back to the US in order to be admitted to Europe.  They do not require any European visas.  Citizens of other countries should check with the airline that will transport them to Europe to determine what passport and visa requirements may apply.

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

4.   Terms and conditions of the cruise line (Amadeus Waterways) also apply.

Request to Join the Tour

Your Name as on your passport, Age & Citizenship

Name            
Age                                                         
Citizenship                                               

Name of Companion as on their passport, Age, Citizenship

Name           
Age                                                        
Citizenship                        

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

  No share
  Tvl Insider Share (not g'teed)
  Amadeus guaranteed share in B cabin

(comments)

Your Address

City, State, Zip

Phone (Day)

Phone (Night)

Email

 

Cabin preference

 

Would you prefer twin beds or one king size bed

   One King Bed     Two Twin Beds

Would you like the pre-cruise extension to Munich

 

Would you like the post-cruise extension to Prague

 

Any special needs

Any other comments

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

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

Would you like to purchase the trip insurance?

Yes, the $199 per person policy including cancellation for medical reasons

Yes, the $229 policy that also offers cancellation for any reasons

No thank you

 

As soon as your application is accepted, you will be asked to send in your $200 per person confirming deposit (plus insurance premium if applicable).

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

Originally published 23 Jan 2007, last update 14 May 2014

 
 
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