AmaWaterways, Christmas Markets along the Rhine
I sailed aboard AmaWaterways AMAStella December 15 – 22, 2019. It was the final “Christmas Markets” sailing for the 2019 season. Our cruise began in Amsterdam and ended in Basel, Switzerland.
The AMAStella was a beautiful ship and seemed to be the only vessel we passed that was fully decorated for the holidays. We had an AA stateroom that had two twin beds, a French Balcony and a Walk out Balcony. There was plenty of space for two. The bathroom was much larger than the one I had with Tauck. While on board I was able to see a triple (same category with a pullout chair) and a Category E (window). The Category E was quite a bit small and the bathroom was tiny.
Food aboard the AMAStella was fantastic. Breakfast and Lunch in the dining room were buffet and a la carte. A light breakfast and lunch option were served in the lounge every day as well. Dinner was a la carte with several options. We did have dinner in the Chef’s Table which was quite good. Beer and wine were included at both lunch and dinner. AMA also includes a “Sip and Sail” for an hour prior to dinner where cocktails are complimentary.
Ports of call and excursions:
1.) We walked to the Anne Frank House and toured. I pre booked the tickets online and included an introduction. It was well worth the additional 5.00€.
2.) AMA included a Canal Cruise. It was an excellent was to see the city on Day 2.
We chose the Cologne City Tour and Cathedral Tour. Due to mobility issues, we joined the “Gentle Walkers” groups when offered. While we may have missed a few sites, the guides were excellent and very accommodating to slower walkers. Cologne is a beautiful city and is easy to navigate. There are at least seven Christmas Markets throughout the city. We explored two. The largest one is near the Cathedral and is a maze once inside. There are many artists, food vendors and Gluhwein standards. Gluhwein is a traditional mulled wine and is a must to try. We felt very safe walking back to the boat in the evening after we were finished in the markets.
Rudesheim is much smaller than Cologne. We chose the wine tasting tour in the afternoon and the coffee experience in the evening. Both were delicious. The Christmas Market was spread throughout the small town and quite easy to navigate. There is a trolley that will transport passengers up the hill to the town. It is also quite walkable.
Both Heidelberg and Speyer were offered for excursions. We chose Heidelberg and went to Heidelberg Castle and the Christmas Markets. The castle was very interesting and included the tram ride down. I loved the University vibe of the town. There were several markets and once again, we visited two.
Unfortunately, our day in Strasbourg was quite rainy. The Cathedral was gorgeous and I loved the town. We had a great time walking around the city and decided to stay in town for lunch in a local bistro. It was fantastic.
Geganbach was the same day as Strasbourg. In hindsight, we should have skipped it. It was raining quite hard and there was no “gentle walkers” group. The main reason to visit is to see the World’s Largest Advent Calendar. It’s beautiful, but not worth the rain!
Riquewihr was my favorite town. It is a picturesque 17th century town and one of the few that remains. The town inspired the village in the animated Beauty and the Beast. The market was small but the town had wonderful authentic shops.
Notes on Christmas Markets:
The main market in Cologne was the most crowded and overwhelming. Lots of locals along with tourists.
Cash is widely accepted. Some vendors will take mastercard/visa but not all.
Watch what you are purchasing, most items from local area, but some were not.
The security in the French markets was high. There are check points for bags and French Military/Police were patrolling. I did not see any in German markets.
As with any European city, pick pockets are common in the markets.