Float your client’s boat with a river cruise this Christmas, suggests Jane Archer

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It might feel like summer has only just ended, but with Christmas less than 80 days away, agents need to get customers booking their festive river cruises now.

All the major river cruise companies have festive itineraries that visit Europe’s famous Christmas markets in the run up to the big day, or sail over December 25 itself so they can escape the relatives and the washing up.

Whether your clients choose to cruise before or over the big day, they can be sure of a stress-free festive season on a floating hotel that takes them from one colourful market to another.

Europe’s Christmas markets are big, and packed with huts and stalls that are decorated with fairy lights and sell gifts to the sound of carols rather than Slade belting out Merry Christmas or Wizzard wishing it could be Christmas every day.

There are no Nintendos or Apple gadgets on sale it’s true, but instead festive arts and crafts, from wood-carved nativity scenes and hand-made Christmas decorations to scented candles, woollen clothing and home-made gingerbread. There are also plenty of stalls selling hot potatoes, chestnuts and glühwein (spiced mulled wine) to keep shoppers’ spirits up.

The biggest markets in Germany are in Cologne and Nuremberg, but there are plenty of others, in Heidelberg, Speyer, Koblenz and Mainz, among other cities. On the Danube, there are Christmas markets in Budapest, Regensburg, Vienna and Salzburg (offered as an excursion on most Danube cruises).

Try to guide clients to companies with itineraries that stay late or overnight in cities with the biggest markets as they look prettiest and are at their most Christmassy after dark. Customers will escape the crowds by going early in the season, but the markets are more atmospheric on December evenings when they are bustling with Christmas shoppers. Most close for the season on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

A sample of current availability is detailed here.

AmaWaterways: Seven-night Christmas on the Danube between November 27 and December 28 are available from £1,639 including flights. A 14-night Magnificent Christmas cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam, with a night in the Dutch city for new year, costs from £1,585 with flights.


Amadeus by Lüftner Cruises: Availability on three and four-night Christmas markets round-trip cruises from Frankfurt from November 28 to December 12 from €354 cruise-only. Six-night Christmas cruises on the Rhine and Danube depart December 22 from €672 cruise-only.


Avalon Waterways: Availability on two five-day Christmas markets cruises on the Rhine and Main departing December 14 and 18 from £1,249. A nine-day Christmas on the Danube itinerary, cruising from Vienna to Nuremberg followed by two nights in Prague departing December 3, costs from £2,285. Prices include flights and UK and overseas transfers.


CroisiEurope: Availability on six four-day Christmas markets round-trip cruises from Strasbourg in December, and two-four-day round-trip cruises from Brussels. Prices from €342 cruise-only. A five-day Christmas on the Romantic Rhine cruise sailing round-trip from Strasbourg on December 22 costs from €342 cruise-only.


eWaterways: Offers four or five-day Christmas markets cruises from Mainz to Düsseldorf and vice-versa between November 28 and December 15 from £315 cruise-only. A seven-night Christmas or new year cruise from Amsterdam to Basel and vice-versa, departing December 21 and 28 respectively costs from £735 cruise-only.


The River Cruise Line: Four and five-night Rhine Christmas markets cruises are available on December 2, 6 and 9 from £429. An eight-day Christmas Rhine cruise departing December 21 costs from £995, including coach and ferry travel.


Shearings: A new eight-day Christmas on the Rhine round-trip cruise from Cologne departs December 21 from £799, while a five-day New Year on the Rhine round-trip itinerary from Koblenz costs from £629. Prices include coach and ferry travel. Various one-week Christmas markets cruises in Holland and Belgium are available from £529.


Fred: Various Christmas markets cruises are available on the Danube in the lead-up to December 25 on AmaCerto. From £1,999 including flights and transfers.