On my first Christmas Markets Along the Rhine River Cruise, I met so many people who had turned this one holiday trip into a yearly tradition. The idea of taking the same trip twice surprised me, but I found myself reserving another Christmas Markets Along the Rhine trip in 2017. It was the best decision I ever made.
Already charmed by the beauty of Amsterdam, I boarded the M/S River Rhapsody. This gleaming vessel glowed with tiny bright lights twisting in the red and green garlands that draped the ceilings of the lovely ship. Candles, crystal compotes with fruits and nuts, gold and silver sparkles, jolly Santas—all the accouterments of the season—welcomed me with their loveliness. It was Christmas.
But, there was more to come. The cruise began as we left Amsterdam and started to follow the trails of Christmas markets. Beginning in Nijmegen and winding down to Cologne, we discovered the most magnificent cathedral ever seen, surrounded by the blazing tents. The famous Koblenz market was next with its wonderful bronzes, then we visited the multiple Speyer and Mainz markets as we circled up through the Black Forest toward the luxurious Baden-Baden market. Finally, we arrived at the magnificent Strasbourg markets in France and the Alsace.
All the natural beauty of the river was illuminated with reflections of bright white lights, red hearts, and gleaming stars. Smells of the season flooded the senses with scents of woodsy pine, fragrant vanilla, gingerbread, rich sausages, and that glorious gluhwein. Christmas surprises graced the markets, while the majestic cathedrals told the sacred story that lay beneath the traditions. All these brightly-lit treasures lined the banks of the vigorous Rhine River.
That would have been enough all by itself. But the great surprise really emerged as I met my fellow travelers. Talk about a mecca for solo travelers—this was it. I did not know what to expect on this last cruise of the season, but I never dreamed that there would also be so many grandmothers and aunts and papas who brought their growing and grown grandchildren all the way to Europe for a ten-day vacation of learning, loving, laughing, and celebrating the Christmas season. What an incredible gift and memory.
The first evening, I met Geraldine, the silver-haired widow of a Lutheran minister with her daughter and granddaughters, Hannah and Petra, both girls in college and soaking up everything they saw. Another grandmother brought her collegiate granddaughter whose major was in German history—could you be in a more perfect place? And there was the family of twelve with children and grandchildren from all over to join one another for this season of miracles. Speaking of miracles, the young couple Rick and Jen from California made the trip all the way to Cologne to reunite with a foreign exchange student who, ten years ago, had lived with their family for an entire year.
All these individuals were making memories to last a lifetime—all on this Christmas cruise along the River Rhine on a ship named the River Rhapsody. This beautifully decorated ship with its friendly Captain Martin and the elegant and welcoming Hotel Manager Dragan with his hospitable crew simply added a spark of luxury to the experience. Opulent dinners sat on white linen tablecloths while after-dinner drinks took the chill away. Champagne magically appeared to celebrate every small moment, and even a beautiful Swarovski pen was Grand Circle’s gift to write notes of thanks to all these people who provided service from the heart.
And there was music; I must not leave out the music. In remembering that, I cannot keep from rephrasing that familiar song.
"There are those, I bet,
who travel once and yet,
I’m oh so glad I went the second time around.”
With all my heart, I thank you, Grand Circle and the River Rhapsody.
Discover the magic of the season when you join Grand Circle Cruise Line’s Christmas Markets Along the Rhine River Cruise.