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

You'll cruise the Danube from Budapest to Nuremberg, with a pre-cruise option to visit Prague and a visit to Bratislava when transferring from Prague to Budapest.

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

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Danube River Christmas Markets Cruise

A magical European Christmas cruise experience


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



Maybe you've cruised on a gigantic cruise ship before.  Our Christmas Markets river cruise is very different.  The almost brand new (launched earlier this year) river cruiser, Amalyra, 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.

Note :  We can offer you an across the board 5% discount on all cruises operated by Amawaterways.  So if this special escorted tour doesn't suit, have us arrange whichever other cruise you'd prefer.

Click to skip down to the booking form

Cruise Dates

Start Date and Options

You should leave the US on or before Sunday 13 December 2009, so as to arrive into Budapest on or before Monday 14 December.  You board the ship on Monday afternoon, 14 December, 2009.

Many people choose to arrive a day before the start of the cruise.  This means if you - or your luggage - should miss a connecting flight, or if anything else goes wrong, you still have a day up your sleeve before the start of the cruise.

It also gives you a day to 'de-jetlag' before the cruise gets underway.

We are offering a mini pre-cruise package in Prague - leave the US on or before Friday 11 December to arrive into Prague on or before Saturday 12 December.  More details in the next section.

End Date and Options

The cruise ends in Nuremberg on the morning of Monday, 21 December.

At this point you're free to either fly home or to extend your vacation as you wish.  In most cases, if you fly home that day, you will arrive back in the US the same day.

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 Budapest and out of Nuremberg.

We offer a Travel Insider exclusive extension to enhance your overall tour experience.

Pre-Cruise Options - Prague and Bratislava

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 are offering you the chance to spend a preliminary night or longer in Prague, with a coach transfer via Bratislava to meet the ship in Budapest on Monday 14 December.

You can choose from making your own accommodation arrangements and simply meeting us on Monday morning for the transfer and included Bratislava tour, or you can stay one or more nights at our official Travel Insider hotel in the heart of historic Prague.

If you stay one night, we include a feature dinner in one of our favorite traditional Czech cellar restaurants, also right in the heart of Prague.  If you stay two or more nights, we also include a half day city tour of this beautiful city.  Most people will choose to stay two or three nights, although you can of course stay any length of time you wish.

Prague is one of the most beautiful and best preserved historical cities in all of Europe (it avoided destruction in WW2).  It has a lovely Christmas market, and is alive with culture, music, and the arts.  Spending time in Prague makes for a lovely start to our Christmas Markets experience, and we strongly urge you to include Prague as a wonderful way to begin your Christmas Markets experience.

Special Savings

This cruise is offered to you for $500 less than the regular rate published on the official Amawaterways site.  And that is $500 per person - two of you traveling together will save $1000!

In addition, you may quality for an extra $50 saving if you are an AARP member, and another $100 if you've traveled on a previous Amawaterways/Amadeus Waterways cruise.  You could end up saving $650 per person - $1300 for the two of you!  The cruise savings will go a long way to paying your airfare.

Plus, there's still more.  You'll get extra values from The Travel Insider - a free tour to Salzburg ($110 value) and two free cocktail reception parties on board, as well as The Travel Insider himself (David Rowell) traveling with you all the way as your personal escort.

About the Cruise/Tour

Like a traditional cruise, this is a fully meal inclusive cruise, and - better than a traditional cruise - it includes a generous amount of shore touring as well.  You won't have to pay extra for your shore touring when visiting the lovely towns and cities as you cruise through Germany, Austria and Hungary.

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

Indeed, the shopping is part of the experience on this tour, as you visit various local craft Christmas markets in the different towns and cities.  You'll be able to buy distinctive gifts for all your friends and family this year!  And while all meals are available on the vessel, you'll also be able to experience other dining opportunities ashore if you wish.

A nice extra feature is free wine, beer or soda with every dinner.  And if you wish to drink more wine, you'll be delighted at the bargain prices that wine sells for ashore.

While all meals are available on the vessel, you'll also be able to experience other dining opportunities ashore if you wish.  Similarly, the on-board entertainment can be supplemented with visits to clubs and bars and shows ashore - the vessel will sometimes stay in port until late at night, allowing you a chance to experience each town by day and by night.

Because the ship carries a maximum of 148 passengers, everything is more personal.  The crew will remember you by name, and you have a chance to meet other people on board and to create new friendships.  Most people on these cruises seem to be variously middle aged and older.

I was on this ship in June/July, and the same crew will be with us again in December.  I was very impressed with the ship and its crew, and felt the chef to be the best I've yet encountered in my many river cruises to date, and it was in large part because of the outstandingly positive cruise in June/July that I'm now offering this December cruise on the same ship.

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

A day by day, town by town photo journal of a Christmas Cruise can be found here.

Why River Cruising

River cruising is simply and absolutely the most comfortable and convenient way to travel around Europe.  You can unpack your bags and get comfortable in your lovely cabin and not need to repack or transfer until the end of the cruise - this in itself is probably all the convincing you'll need!

In addition, European towns have historically tended to be centered around the major rivers, and so river cruising is a great way to get to the lovely historic parts of Europe, at a sedate speed, and in luxurious comfort.

How else could you travel around Europe?  On a bus tour?  Yuck!  By train or car - yes, but then you have an abundance of travel hassles every day.

I've experienced every possible type of travel, and I'm a 100% convert.  River cruising is the best way to see Europe.  Try it, and you'll be sure to agree.

Why Cruise in Winter?

Ha - tricked you.  Early December is not yet winter - it is still late fall.  But, in any event, there are two good reasons to enjoy this cruise at this off-season time of year.

The first reason is simply because it is the off-season.  The crowds of people aren't as crushingly overpowering as they are in the busy season.  For example, at the glorious abbey in Melk, during the summer there are tours departing every two minutes!  When we visit, we'll probably be the only group visiting and so our guides can slow down and show us more things and not rush to squeeze us in between the group immediately before and after.  And instead of 20 cruise ships mooring in (and overwhelming) the small town, we may be the only one, or perhaps there might be one other too.

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 our four previous Christmas Market cruises have been blessed with good weather (ie usually no rain, very little snow and not uncomfortably cold).

I heartily recommend this cruise, and at this time of year.  I've loved it the four times I've done it, and the more than 150 Travel Insider readers who've accompanied me have been similarly charmed by it.

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

About the Amalyra

Our cruise ship for this cruise, the Amalyra is brand new (it was launched in March 2009), 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.  Amawaterways even provides a generous amount of complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks 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 Amalyra are some of the largest of any Danube river 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 Amalyra are even more marvelously roomy and comfortable.

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

There are 70 cabins and three 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 Amalyra.  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.

Special Exception - Rear cabins on top deck

Some passengers have found the rear-most cabins on the top deck to be noisier than cabins further forward on that deck (extra engine noise).  I've stayed in those cabins myself and haven't been troubled by the engine noise, although it is appreciably louder than further forward.

As a result, Amawaterways have downgraded the category of eight of the cabins, making four of them B and four of them C category cabins.

If you don't think you'd be troubled by the engine noise while the vessel is cruising at night, these would be tremendously good value cabins to choose - giving you the upper most deck and all its advantages, but at a lower cost than the otherwise identical A cabins a bit further forward.

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.

Detailed Day by Day Itinerary

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

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

And click for a photo journal showing you the sights and experiences you'll enjoy on your Christmas Markets cruise.


Cruise Cost

Per person pricing for the cruise is shown in the table below and includes a $500 per person discount off the regular Amawaterways fares.

Note - save up to $150 more :

  • If you are an AARP member, you can take an extra $50 off these prices.

  • If you have sailed with Amawaterways (formerly Amadeus Waterways) before, you can take another $100 off these prices.

Cabin Type

(All rates are $500 lower than Amawaterways' regular published rates)

Prague to Budapest Transfer & Bratislava tour

Prague per person per night for one or two nights

Prague per person per night for extra nights











C - now sold out















Jr Suite





Extras and Inclusions

  • Port Taxes are $98 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 (a $110 value) as a special Travel Insider bonus.

  • Rates include two Travel Insider cocktail parties on board Amalyra

  • Rates can be discounted by an extra $50 if you are an AARP member, and/or $100 if you are a past Amawaterways customer (ie you can get as much as $150 extra discount if both apply)

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

A $400 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, Amawaterways 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 Budapest.  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 (taxis in Budapest are brilliantly simple with a flat fare pricing system so there's no danger of being cheated).

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 Prague or Budapest and then home again from Nuremberg, 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 out to Munich and taking a short 1 hour train ride from Nuremberg to Munich.  There is an easy rail connection between Munich Airport and the central city train station.

Similarly, for your arrival, it is only 2 hours by train between Budapest and Vienna - you might find it easier to fly into Vienna (if you're not choosing the Prague extension).

Travel Insurance

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

Amawaterways offer a policy that covers you for trip cancellation and interruption costs, medical costs, trip delay, and baggage delay or loss.  This is $229 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 $40.  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 have more questions, please don't hesitate to ask.  We're here to help ensure your experience is as good as possible.

Need More Information?

If you've a question or need more clarification, go ahead and ask.  Click for Live Chat Help (if we're online) or send us an email, or feel free to call us at (206)337-2317.

Request to Join the Tour

Your Name as on your passport, Age & Citizenship


Name of Companion as on their passport, 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


Save More!

$50 pp extra discount for AARP members

If you are an AARP member, enter your membership number and expiry date please

Your Address

City, State, Zip

Phone (Day)

Phone (Night)



Cabin preference


Would you prefer twin beds or one king size bed

   One King Bed     Two Twin Beds

Would you like the pre-cruise transfer from Prague to Budapest


How many nights accommodation in Prague would you like


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 $229 per person policy including cancellation for medical reasons

Yes, the $269 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 $400 per person confirming deposit (plus insurance premium if applicable).

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 4 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 (AmaWaterways) also apply.  In particular, please note that the itinerary can occasionally (rarely) change if water levels are too high or too low to allow the boat to travel.


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

Originally published 10 July 2009, last update 14 May 2014

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