Shoppers search for handmade decorations at a stall in the Nuremberg Christmas Market. // © 2011 Pride Travel / Nathan DePetris
Marc Kassouf is owner and CEO of Pride Travel, which specializes in catering to the needs of gay and lesbian clientele. Kassouf holds numerous industry certifications, most notably as Elite Cruise Counselor by Cruise Lines International Association, the Travel Institute and various destination visitors’ bureaus including Europe, Asia, and the Americas. He sits on two board committees of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association. Kassouf has traveled to nearly four dozen countries and has sailed on more than 60 cruises.
With the holiday and Christmas market river cruise bookings starting to heat up, TAW has taken a look at some of the major river cruise lines’ Christmas market offerings, paying attention to unique or exclusive offerings to help agents differentiate products so clients can enjoy a more festive holiday.
AmaWaterways sails into the holiday season with several itineraries by which to ply the rivers. Offering your clients many departure options to see the Christmas market stalls and take part in the season, Ama’s ships are some of the youngest on the waters, with a reserved boutique elegance. The Rhine Winter Voyage sails a seven-night cruise itinerary (with an additional four nights pre- or post-cruise in Zurich and Lucerne, Switzerland) from Nov. 22 through Dec. 20, with five sailings from which to choose. This is an excellent and unusual Christmas market cruise, suitable for first-timers and repeat passengers alike, with attractive prices that start at $1,999, per person, cruise only, or $2,919 per person with a land package. Ama also offers a more traditional Nuremberg, Germany, to Budapest, Hungary, itinerary, with 13 sailings across three vessels (prices start at $1,999 per person, and $2,459 per person with a Prague land component).
Avalon has introduced the concept of shorter cruises into its Christmas market season. Unique offerings for the year include four- and five-night Christmas Markets from Zurich, Switzerland, to Frankfurt, Germany, as well as from Frankfurt to Nuremberg or Nuremberg to Frankfurt. Short itineraries are great for clients who have limited time in Europe, want to combine the cruise with a broader holiday package or with a pre- or post-cruise option. On the other side of the spectrum, Avalon’s 12-night Frankfurt to Vienna Christmas Markets is a good value with prices starting at $3,099 per person. The Grand Christmas Time — which includes New Year’s — is a 15-night cruise from Zurich to Vienna, Austria, and is a bargain at $4,098 per person. Avalon has been adding new enhancements to its product and its fleet in recent years, and clients can sample the upgrades during the holidays.
For the die-hard Christmas or river cruise aficionado, consider Scenic Tours’ longer itineraries. A newcomer to the North American market, this Australian company has been in the tour business for more than two decades and only recently dipped its toes in river cruising in 2008. Scenic Tours’ ships are brand-new and feature unique innovations such as full step-out balconies, butler service for all cabins on the top deck and multiple dining options similar to those found on large, ocean-going ships. One of the differentiators between this line and others is that Scenic offers many longer, 14-night itineraries throughout its destinations, and Christmastime is no different. Two itineraries are offered, Nov. 28 to Dec. 12 from $4,460 per person, or Dec. 21 to Jan. 5 from $5,385 per person.
Offering a multitude of seven-night itineraries, Uniworld has many options for your clients’ Christmas market cruises in November and December. The most exotic of these is a Parisian Winter Holiday and the Grand Christmas and New Year’s cruises. The first offers a roundtrip Paris itinerary featuring not just a Christmas market but other holiday traditions (prices start at $1,999 per person). The Grand Christmas and New Year’s is focused more on the New Year’s celebration since it sails on Dec. 22, allowing for only two or three Christmas markets before the end of the season. It is priced from $3,699 per person.
For a less traditional Christmas, Uniworld’s River Tosca plies the Nile during the holidays. While there may not be Christmas market stalls, there are certainly many sights to see and experience. A seven-night cruise/tour starts at $2,949 per person in November and December.
A&K, Viking, Tauck and Gate1
Abercrombie & Kent (A&K) offers a variety of river and canal cruises in November and December, sailing the waters of the Thames, the Caledonian Canal and French waterways. Cruises boast A&K’s legendary service and quality. Gate1 operates several Christmas market cruises geared toward the value-minded consumer. With prices starting at just $1,199 per person, Gate1 offers some of the lowest prices. Note, however, that this product may not be for everyone, as many of the tour components included on other lines are optional, and the quality of accommodations and food is more mid-market and may be considered to be budget by some travelers. In contrast, Tauck operates more up-market Christmas market cruises along the Danube or Rhine rivers, with prices starting at $2,150 per person. Viking River Cruises also offers the traditional Danube and Rhine Christmas market cruises and includes a unique nine-night Seine Holiday cruise sailing Dec. 18 roundtrip from Paris with special two-for-one fares from $1,472.