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Celebrate the most wonderful time of the year on a Christmas cruise.

Spend an unforgettable vacation on one of our Christmas cruises, where you’ll enjoy the spirit of the season while sailing to some of the most spectacular destinations around the world.

Feast on traditional meals designed by a Michelin-starred chef—without worrying about any of the prep or cleanup. Marvel at our festive decorations, like Christmas trees covered in trimmings and tinsel that will make you feel right at home. Sing along with carolers, watch holiday-themed shows at The Theatre, and welcome Santa on board as he pays a special visit to all of the lucky kids spending Christmas at sea.

Christmas Fun for Everyone

On one of our luxury Christmas cruises, you can rest easy knowing that every member of the family will enjoy the vacation of a lifetime. Adults can schedule an indulgent afternoon at The Spa, while the kids are entertained at Camp at Sea. Teens can mingle with other teens at the Teens Club, while grandparents will love the nightly family dinners that take place in the main dining room. On Christmas Eve, watch a festive holiday show together in the theater, enjoy live holiday music, or head up to the rooftop for a Christmas-themed family movie night under the stars.

Christmas Cruise Itineraries

Escape the winter chill and plan a holiday vacation to some of the sunniest destinations around the world. Build a sandman on the pristine beaches of the Caribbean. Get into the holiday spirit while sailing around Australia and New Zealand. Or spend Christmas Eve during a once-in-a-lifetime cruise around the Galapagos Islands.

Itineraries

Tips for planning the perfect christmas cruise.

Go the extra mile and book a stay at The Retreat ® , our luxury vacation experience, where you and your family will have access to a private restaurant and lounge, a team of dedicated butlers and concierges to assist you in whatever you may need, and an array of stunning suites to choose from. 

You can also purchase unlimited premium beverage and specialty dining packages, bon voyage gifts, perks packages, an unlimited class pass to the fitness center, and more special treats on our website.

View All Christmas Cruises

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The 10 most festive christmas cruises for 2023-2024.

Set sail for the holidays on your next cruise vacation.

The Most Festive Christmas Cruises

A decorated lobby and staircase of an American Queen Voyages ship.

(Courtesy of American Queen Voyages)

These festive cruises are full of activities, food and destinations to make your holiday special.

If you're ready for a break from holiday traditions and family gatherings at home, consider booking a Christmas cruise. What makes a better present than the chance to leave all the planning, cooking, cleaning and decorating behind – and celebrate the holidays in beautiful destinations in the U.S., the Caribbean or other countries around the globe?

If you're dreaming of a white Christmas, you can book a festivity-filled river cruise along Europe's iconic waterways and bundle up in your winter gear to explore the Christmas markets in the snow. If you prefer sunshine and warm temperatures, celebrate the holidays in an exotic locale, sailing crystal-clear turquoise waters and relaxing on white sand beaches surrounded by palm trees.

Whether you prefer to stay close to home or jet off for a bucket list adventure, one of these cruises may just be the perfect gift to celebrate your holidays in style.

Book a Christmas cruise on  GoToSea , a service of U.S. News.

Hallmark Channel Christmas Cruise

Put your name on the waiting list for November 2024 if you want to set sail on what Hallmark is touting as the "jolliest vacation ever." The Hallmark Channel – known for its year-round holiday-themed programming with Christmas in July, Countdown to Christmas and Christmas Fridays – will host the first-ever Hallmark Channel Christmas Cruise sailings in November 2024 from Miami to the Bahamas . Lucky fans of the television channel will travel with their favorite Hallmark stars on one of two four-night cruises on Norwegian Cruise Line 's Norwegian Gem during the 2024 holiday season.

Highlights of the Hallmark Channel Christmas Cruise include photo opportunities and panels to meet the stars. Attend Christmas craft workshops or tastings with Hallmark's winemaker – the wines have names like Jingle (cabernet sauvignon) and Joy (sauvignon blanc). Guests can also look forward to "carol-oke" singalongs, cookie decorating, an ugly sweater contest and a world premiere viewing of a new Hallmark Channel Christmas movie.

Read: The Top Party Cruises

AmaWaterways

A Christmas market stand at an AmaWaterways cruise destination.

(Courtesy of AmaWaterways)

AmaWaterways offers seven itineraries to visit the Christmas markets along the Rhine and Danube rivers – and to see the holiday splendor of Europe's grand cities, such as Vienna and Prague . Travelers can stroll through snow-dusted beautiful medieval squares and fairytale markets with chalet-inspired stalls, thousands of colorful lights, festive decorations, ice skating rinks, whimsical handmade gifts, Christmas carolers, carousels and more.

The eight-day Iconic Christmas Markets itinerary from Nuremberg, Germany, to Budapest, Hungary , features a visit to Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, one of the world's oldest and most famous Christmas markets. Sip glühwein (hot mulled wine) and sample savory specialties like currywurst (curried sausages) and kartoffelpuffer (fried potato pancakes). Be sure to save room for sweet delights like schaumkuss, a chocolate-covered marshmallow, or lebkuchen, a traditional spiced cookie.

While on board the ship, guests can participate in festivities like tree-trimming, caroling and "Shoes for St. Nick." This European tradition encourages passengers to leave their slippers outside their stateroom door before bed. In the morning, they wake up to slippers filled with tasty treats like the children find in Europe on Saint Nicholas Day.

Celebrity Cruises

The Celebrity Infinity ship on the Celebrity Cruises' Canaries, Morocco, Spain Holiday itinerary.

(Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises)

Celebrate Christmas Day in the Canary Islands and ring in the new year on the Mediterranean Sea during Celebrity Cruises ' Canaries, Morocco, Spain Holiday itinerary. The 13-day round-trip voyage from Barcelona embarks a few days before Christmas 2023 on Celebrity Infinity. It features eight ports of call, including the Moroccan cities of Casablanca and Tangier as well as Seville and Valencia in Spain.

On the ship, guests can revel in the joyous spirit of the season with festive Christmas trees, traditional holiday meals, themed shows and pop-ups, carolers, gingerbread winter villages, and even a visit from Santa. The onboard bars serve up holiday-inspired cocktails like candy cane and gingerbread martinis as well as other seasonal favorites, including spiked apple cider and classic mulled wine. On New Year's Eve, plan to join in the merriment with fellow cruisers during the big countdown bash.

If you want to cross South Africa off your list of must-visit destinations , consider spending Christmas and New Year's Eve sailing round-trip from Cape Town on Azamara 's 14-day South Africa Intensive Voyage. The 2023 voyage departs Dec. 21 on Azamara Pursuit and includes stops in Port Elizabeth, home to one of the densest elephant populations in the world, and Richards Bay, which is teeming with exotic wildlife and stunning landscapes.

Guests on board the holiday cruise will be treated to Christmas performances, including singalongs and carols performed by the crew. There will be special menus in the restaurants, holiday-themed buffets, religious services and a tree-trimming party. Festive treats like hot chocolate, cookies and snacks are provided throughout the cruise. The New Year's Eve White Night party, where all the guests don their best white attire, will take place throughout the ship and on the pool deck with entertainment, music and light bites.

luxury xmas cruises

Tips on Trips and Expert Picks

Travel tips, vacation ideas and more to make your next vacation stellar.

People stand on the front deck of a Viking Christmas cruise on the Rhine.

(Courtesy of Viking)

Viking's 12-day Christmas on the Main & Moselle cruise sails between Paris and Prague in 2023 and 2024. The adults-only sailing affords passengers 18 or older the opportunity to visit four European countries: France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Czech Republic. In addition to browsing the boutiques in Paris and a variety of Christmas markets in Germany, you'll want to explore iconic landmarks like Reims Cathedral in France and the Luxembourg American Cemetery. Don't miss the famed wines produced in the region, including Moselle, riesling, Müller-Thurgau and gewürztraminer.

The holiday spirit continues on board the ship with Christmas-themed cooking demonstrations in addition to festive decorations with garland, lights and gingerbread houses. Guests will also taste regional cuisine, enjoy cultural performances on board the ship and ashore, and learn about the history of the Christmas markets and local holiday traditions.

Read: Bucket List Cruises for Seniors and Retirees

Disney Cruise Line

Goofy, Mickey and Minny characters on a Disney Cruise Line Very Merrytime cruise.

Kent Phillips | Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line offers dozens of Christmas-themed cruises in November and December of 2023 and 2024. Cruisers looking to celebrate the holidays with Disney's cast of characters in 2023 can book a Very Merrytime cruise as short as a four-day sailing from Port Canaveral, Florida, to the Bahamas. For an extended getaway, consider Disney Cruise Line 's eastbound eastbound 15-day voyage that embarks in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico , and transits the Panama Canal, disembarking in Galveston, Texas .

On the first evening of every sailing, guests can gather around the three-deck-tall Christmas tree for the tree lighting ceremony, a holiday singalong and the introduction of Santa Claus. Other festivities include the fun-filled Mickey and Minnie's Holiday Party, themed Very Merrytime activities for children of all ages, carolers singing songs, and Christmas-inspired food and beverages. Disney characters like Mickey and Minnie Mouse will be sporting jolly new holiday attire during the special voyages.

Read: The Top Themed Cruises

Windstar Cruises

Exterior of Windstar Cruises ship on Overwater Bungalow & Tahitian Paradise Cruise Tour.

(Courtesy of Windstar Cruises)

Celebrate the holidays with a once-in-a-lifetime getaway to the sun-drenched islands of Tahiti . You'll set sail a few days before Christmas aboard the four-masted sailing yacht Wind Spirit. Windstar's 10-day Overwater Bungalow & Tahitian Paradise Cruise Tour also includes a three-night stay in overwater bungalows on the island of Moorea. Resort perks include a half-day private car tour and a romantic beach dinner where you can watch a spectacular French Polynesian sunset over the South Pacific Ocean.

Guests can join in on the holiday spirit around the ship with festive Christmas trees and decorations and holiday-inspired cocktails and treats. Special programming for the voyage includes a Christmas movie, a gala tea, an interdenominational Christmas service and a Christmas Eve dinner. Christmas morning brings more celebrations throughout the day, with holiday meals, a Yuletide afternoon tea and a Christmas dinner followed by a variety show in the evening.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Interior of Norwegian Cruise Line's The Haven Suite.

(Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

Grab the swimsuit, flip-flops and sunglasses for a tropical holiday on Norwegian Cruise Line 's newest ship, Norwegian Viva. The line's nine-day Caribbean voyage departs round-trip from San Juan, Puerto Rico , several days after Christmas. There are eight ports of call, including stops in the beautiful islands of Curaçao , Bonaire , St. Lucia and Aruba . For a special celebration, splurge on luxurious suite accommodations in The Haven. The ship-within-a-ship retreat features a private restaurant, a lounge, a sundeck, a concierge desk and 24-hour butler service.

Holiday-themed activities on Norwegian's ships vary by itinerary and ship. Still, guests will find plenty of festive fun on board, including traditional holiday fare and holiday-inspired musical sets, trivia, and family and youth programming. Guests are invited to offer interdenominational services for fellow passengers during the sailing. You'll also find Hanukkah services listed in the Freestyle Daily Program. Plan to sleep in on New Year's Day and spend a blissful day relaxing at sea after a late night celebrating New Year's Eve on board the ship.

American Queen Voyages

A holiday decorated building at an American Queen Voyages Christmas Markets Cruise destination.

The holiday-themed, eight-day Roundtrip New Orleans voyage on American Queen begins with an overnight in the city and disembarks just in time to spend Christmas Eve in the Big Easy . The ship – a 417-passenger paddlewheeler that is the largest steamboat ever built – will call on four ports during the sailing on the Lower Mississippi River. In Natchez, Mississippi, guests will find holiday markets exclusively created for the voyage, where you can shop for gifts and sweet treats. You'll also be greeted with bonfires along the riverbanks at the historic Nottoway Resort in White Parish, Louisiana. Join in the real spirit of Christmas with donations to Giving Trees in the port towns that help local charities.

There are plenty of cheery activities on board the ship with Christmas shows, singalongs, caroling and cooking demonstrations. Guests can also put their creative talents to work decorating gingerbread houses, ornaments and cards while sampling holiday-themed cocktails or sipping hot chocolate. Specially prepared dishes will celebrate the traditions of Hanukkah, including traditional foods like homemade latkes (fried potato pancakes).

Read: The Top Mississippi River Cruises

Aerial of the Silver Endeavour in Gibraltar.

(Courtesy of Silversea)

For a life-changing experience and the merriest Christmas of all, spend the holiday with several species of waddling penguins, giant seals and majestic whales while visiting the ice-covered shores of The White Continent. The 10-day Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams expedition on Silversea 's Silver Endeavour sets sail from Chile a week before Christmas in 2023 for the Antarctica Peninsula. Five days of excursions allow travelers to explore this surreal and magical part of the world. Weather permitting, guests will even take a Zodiac cruise with the expedition team in the South Shetland Islands on Christmas Day.

Festive touches on board the ship include Christmas trees and lights, gingerbread houses, holiday arts and crafts, caroling, religious services, and musical performances by the crew and professional entertainers. Guests will also enjoy a traditional holiday dinner on Christmas Day.

Why Trust U.S. News Travel

Gwen Pratesi has been an avid cruiser since her early 20s. She has sailed to destinations around the globe on nearly every type of cruise ship built, including the newest megaships, luxury yachts, expedition vessels, and river ships in Europe and on the Mekong River. She used her extensive knowledge and experience with the cruise industry to write this article. Pratesi covers the travel and culinary industries for major publications, including U.S. News & World Report.

You might also be interested in:

  • The Top River Cruise Lines
  • The Top Cruises on Small Ships
  • Cruise Packing List: Essentials for Your Cruise
  • The Top Christmas Lights Displays in the U.S.
  • The Best Christmas Vacations

Tags: Travel , Cruises , Winter Vacations , Christmas

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The 8 best Christmas market river cruises for 2024

Megan duBois

Imagine sailing down one of Europe's iconic rivers as picturesque villages, castles and landscapes pass you by, all while twinkling lights from nearby Christmas markets dance on the water. While this might sound like a fairytale, it can be a reality on a Christmas market river cruise.

From late November through December every year, most river cruise companies with Europe-based ships take excited passengers to idyllic towns to learn about Christmas traditions, shop at local Christmas markets and try tasty seasonal treats.

These river cruises only run seasonally while the markets are open, so they tend to book up quickly with passengers ranging from older adults to all types of families looking for a winter holiday filled with festive fun.

For cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG's cruise newsletter .

Here, we list the eight best Christmas markets river cruises to take in 2024, along with tips to get the most out of each sailing and highlights not to miss.

Best for short cruises: Riverside Luxury Cruises' Christmas on the Danube

luxury xmas cruises

If you're looking for a short sailing to tack onto the beginning or end of a trip, Riverside Luxury Cruises offers four-night Danube River sailings that start in Vienna, Austria, and end in Passau, Germany. The majority of the trip is spent in Austria, with port days in Vienna, Krems, Melk and Linz before a final day in Passau.

In Vienna, you can choose to visit one of the city's 100+ museums or visit the iconic Opera House before heading to the Christmas market for a glass of mulled wine and shopping. For those interested in wine, Krems is a must-see destination known for some of the best wines in the country. Before departing from Passau, be sure to explore the Christmas market as well as St. Stephen's Cathedral to see the impressive organ, which is the biggest cathedral organ in the world with almost 18,000 pipes.

Each ship in the Riverside Luxury Cruises fleet is all-suite and comes with butler service. Ships offer an indoor pool and a Jacuzzi to use before or after your trips ashore.

Related: Best river cruises in Europe

Riverside Luxury Cruises' Christmas Atmosphere Along the Danube cruises depart in early and mid-December 2024. Fares start at $1,161 per person, based on double occupancy.

All your meals, one excursion per destination, gratuities, Wi-Fi, butler service and transfers are also included in your cruise fare. Alcoholic drinks are only included with the Premium All-Inclusive Package, which can be selected at booking.

Best for Francophiles: CroisiEurope's Christmas in the Seine Valley

luxury xmas cruises

France is known for some of the most photogenic Christmas markets in Europe, and you have the chance to see some of them on a five-night Christmas in the Seine Valley river cruise with CroisiEurope Cruises. These shorter cruises are great if you'd like to spend a few days in Paris before stepping onto the cruise ship and sailing to three other beautiful towns.

The river cruise starts in Paris, where you can spend the day exploring the city, seeing the Christmas markets in Montmartre or Saint Germain or shopping for high-end gifts along the Champs-Élysées before the 5 p.m. all-aboard time.

Day two will bring you to Rouen, where you are invited to join Christmas Eve dinner and midnight mass. You'll also get to see more of Rouen on day four and take a guided tour. If you have free time, be sure to stop in at La Couronne, the oldest operating restaurant in France and the place that inspired Julia Child to start cooking.

Spend Christmas Day in Honfleur, one of the cutest cities on the voyage. Be sure to get the town's specialty, a steaming bowl of moules frites (mussels with fries), for Christmas lunch. After three days of touring smaller towns, you'll return to Paris, where the Eiffel Tower is visible from the banks of the Seine.

CroisiEurope's Christmas in the Seine Valley cruise departs Dec. 23, 2024. Fares start at $1,570 per person, based on double occupancy.

Included with the cost of the cruise are all of your meals and most drinks, free Wi-Fi, all onboard activities and port fees. Headsets are also included for excursions if you choose to go with the group for tours rather than venturing off on your own.

Related: Best river cruise lines around the world

Best for families: Adventures by Disney's Rhine River Christmas Markets Cruise

luxury xmas cruises

Families looking to explore Christmas markets through Switzerland, France, Germany and The Netherlands will enjoy Adventures by Disney's Rhine River Cruise: Christmas Markets sailing. The eight-day cruise allows kids as young as 5 to join, though Disney's suggested age is 8 or older.

What really makes Adventures by Disney stand out is the Adventure Guides, Disney-trained leaders who are experts in each destination. Each Adventure Guide travels with the group throughout the cruise so your family really gets to know them, and they get to know you. This allows them to make personalized recommendations about activities and meals. As you walk through each town they share the history, culture and legends of the destination.

The weeklong trip starts in Basel, Switzerland. The next two days make Strasbourg, France the home port from which you can choose to visit Europa Park in Rust, Germany, or head to Colmar, France, which is famous for its Christmas Markets and Cheese Museum. You'll have most of the second day to enjoy Strasbourg.

Day four brings the group to Mannheim, Germany, where you can enjoy a funicular ride to Heidelberg Castle or tour the town of Baden-Baden where the Christmas market is not to be missed.

In Rüdesheim, you can choose to take part in a coffee and hot chocolate tasting, marvel at one of the largest mechanical music box collections in the world, enjoy a wine tasting or explore the city on your own. The evening is spent sailing through the Rhine Gorge as you pass 30 castles along the shore.

The last day in Germany is spent in Cologne, where you can visit the beautiful Christmas markets that dot the city landscape, as well as lace up some skates to glide around an open-air ice rink. The cruise ends in Amsterdam, where you can choose to visit the Rijksmuseum, the Rembrandt House Museum or the Van Gogh Museum, along with taking a scenic canal cruise through the city.

Adventures by Disney's Rhine River Cruise: Christmas Markets cruise departs Dec. 19, 2024. Fares start at $6,599 per adult and $5,899 per child under 11, based on double occupancy.

Fares for the once-a-year cruise include most meals, drinks at lunch and dinner (plus a nightly cocktail hour where a range of mixed drinks are complimentary), excursions in each port of call, porter service, transportation in port, Wi-Fi, gratuities for onboard staff and Adventure Guides, and onboard entertainment.

Related: Are river cruises right for kids?

Best for couples: Viking's Danube Christmas Delights

luxury xmas cruises

Couples looking to get away for the holidays should consider Viking 's Danube Christmas Delights river cruise. The seven-night cruise takes passengers to four countries: Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Germany. The trip combines opportunities to explore the ports of call with lectures and cultural performances onboard the ship.

In Budapest, you'll spend two days exploring the city at places like Castle Hill and the Grand Market Hall before shopping and dining at the Christmas market in front of St. Stephen's Basilica. Then in Bratislava, Slovakia, the group will attend an organ concert and shopping at the Old Town Christmas market.

In Vienna, Austria, the whole city comes alive with lights and a festive spirit. One thing not to miss here is the extra-charge excursion to a local winery, where you will celebrate the year's harvest and vintage.

Another highlight of the cruise is Krems, where the group will visit Göttweig Abbey and get exclusive access to the chapel in the inner courtyard to see the nativity scene. (The chapel is usually closed to visitors.) Finally, in Passau, you can watch an Advent wreath demonstration or take a flight to see the landmark Neuschwanstein Castle, which inspired Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Park.

Viking offers Danube Christmas Delights river cruises from late November through mid-December in 2024 and 2025. Fares start at $2,799 per person, based on double occupancy.

Fares include shore excursions in every port; free Wi-Fi; all meals; beer, wine and soft drinks with lunch and dinner; port taxes and fees; and visits to UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In select ports, passengers can sign up for optional excursions that are an added cost. These could be worth the upcharge, depending on the type of experience you want to have.

Best for old-world charm: Uniworld's Belgian Holiday Markets

luxury xmas cruises

Travelers looking to explore all of the Old World historic charm of Belgium will want to book Uniworld's Belgian Holiday Markets cruise. The seven-night cruise visits Belgium and the Netherlands, with port days in iconic cities like Ghent, Bruges and Antwerp.

The cruise is a closed loop, starting and ending in Brussels. On day one, take time to explore the city on your own after dropping your luggage off at the ship. Then on day two in the city, enjoy all the chocolate you can with a tour and chocolate tasting, plus a visit to the Christmas market. On day three, you'll need to decide whether to visit Ghent or Bruges, both of which have beautiful architecture and a Christmas market and offer opportunities to try local food.

The cruise continues into the Netherlands at Maastricht, where you can explore the city and its Christmas market, or head to Aachen, Germany, for festive fun. Alternatively, you can visit Valkenburg's underground Christmas market, located inside a cave. The last stop of the cruise is Antwerp, Belgium, where you can enjoy a concert, a beer tasting and time to enjoy the city at your leisure.

Uniworld offers its Belgian Holiday Markets cruise on four departure dates from late November through mid-December 2024 (and three December dates in 2025). Fares start from $3,799 per person, based on double occupancy.

The cruise fare includes premium spirits and wine, access to bikes and walking sticks, fitness classes, Wi-Fi, enrichment lectures, and shore excursions in each port. Onboard gratuities and group transfers to and from the airport are also included.

Related: River cruise packing list: What to pack when traveling by riverboat

Best for solo travelers: Tauck's Yuletide Spirit

luxury xmas cruises

Solo travelers looking to enjoy a river cruise without the hassle of a single supplement should check out Tauck's Christmas market itineraries. On all European river cruises, including the seven-night Yuletide Spirit: Amsterdam to Brussels cruise, the line waives the single supplement on Category 1 riverview cabins.

If your cruise starts in Amsterdam, you don't have to be on the ship until 4 p.m. so use the morning to walk around town or get tickets to tour the Anne Frank House. On your second day in Amsterdam, visit the Rijksmuseum and take an evening canal cruise with the group. Foodies will love it when the cruise heads to Gouda to explore the history of the city plus get a tasting of stroopwafels, which are cookie sandwiches invented in the city.

The midpoint of the cruise will bring you to the decision to visit either Ghent, which is one of the oldest cities in Belgium, or Bruges, known for its medieval architecture and beautiful canals. The cruise also visits Antwerp, where you can explore the various Christmas markets that are spread throughout the city. Your trip ends in Brussels, with a whole day to explore the cute squares and charming markets and try local fare.

Tauck offers four December departures of its Yuletide Spirit: Amsterdam to Brussels cruise in 2024 and 2025, meaning the last cruise sets sail after Christmas. Fares start at $3,690 for solo travelers in a Category 1 room, but book soon as the single rooms are already selling out.

Solo travelers should know that these cabins don't have a balcony and are the smallest on the riverboat at 150 square feet, but you likely won't be spending much time in your room on this sailing. The cruise fare includes all gratuities, private shore excursions, meals, unlimited drinks including premium spirits, and basic Wi-Fi, plus airport and train transfers.

Best for an extended cruise: Avalon Waterways' Festive Time on the Romantic Rhine

luxury xmas cruises

Travelers looking for a longer cruise that sails deep into the southern part of Europe will want to consider the Avalon Waterways' Festive Time on the Romantic Rhine river cruise, which includes one night in Lucerne and three nights in Lake Como. There are also Festive Time on the Romantic Rhine itineraries that don't include the land-based post-cruise days if you want a shorter trip.

For the longer 12-night cruise and land-based trip, guests will embark the cruise ship in Amsterdam, where they can enjoy a day of free exploration before boarding the riverboat, followed by an Amsterdam canal cruise on day two. The cruise then departs for Germany, where you will be able to explore the Christmas markets in Cologne and Rüdensheim on days three and four. Day five is when travelers can enjoy Mainz and see the Gutenberg Museum or travel further on a bus to Heidelberg to explore Heidelberg Castle.

Day six brings the cruise to Strasbourg, France, where you can tour the La Petite France District and wander through the warm glow of the Christmas market. The cruise then heads back to Germany to visit the Black Forest, where you can learn about local traditions and German winemaking.

The final stop on the cruise is Basel, Switzerland, where you will disembark the ship to take a motor coach tour that starts in Mount Pilates, where you will ride 7,000 feet up the mountain in a gondola for incredible views. Your journey continues with a land-based post-cruise bus tour to Italy's Lake Como on days nine through 12. You can take a boat ride around the lake, explore the city on your own and marvel at the Duomo.

Avalon Waterways offer its Festive Time on the Romantic Rhine cruise on Dec. 8, 2024. Prices start at $4,822 per person, based on double occupancy.

Fares include meals, drinks during meals and happy hour, Wi-Fi, a library, excursions, bike rentals and a fitness center. Gratuity is not included for hotel stays and meals during the land portion of your trip.

Best for unique destinations: AmaWaterways' Gems of Southeast Europe

luxury xmas cruises

While many river cruises traverse the waters around France, Germany and Austria, AmaWaterways ' Gems of Southeast Europe itinerary takes guests to Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia and Romania. The seven-night cruise sails between Budapest and Giurgiu along the Danube River.

If your sailing starts in Budapest, you'll need to arrive a day early if you plan to explore the city; the cruise does not offer excursions here. Your first stop will be Mohacs, where you can enjoy the nearby Christmas Markets in Pecs or venture to Szekszárd for a wine tasting. Day three is split between Vukovar and Novi Sad, where you can explore the historic towns and enjoy the holiday cheer with live music, artisan crafts and delightful bites of food.

The cruise continues to Belgrade, where you can wander around the city on your own, take a hike to Belgrade Fortress or put on a helmet and take a bike ride around town. Day five is exciting for nature enthusiasts as you sail through The Iron Gates, which is a series of gorges that mark the border between Serbia and Romania.

The cruise ends in Rousse, where you can venture further into Romania to Bucharest, which is known as the "Little Paris of the East" for a city tour and Christmas Market.

AmaWaterways' Gems of Southeast Europe departs on multiple dates between late November and late December in 2024 (2025 dates run mid-November to mid-December). Fares start at $2,880 per person, based on double occupancy.

Fares include Wi-Fi, wellness activities, daily entertainment and cultural performances, all meals, drinks at lunch and dinner plus a daily cocktail hour, excursions in each destination and access to knowledgeable guides.

Bottom line

If you've ever considered a Christmas market river cruise, 2024 is the year to finally cross the experience off your bucket list. Many of the best river cruise brands and tour companies offer Christmas markets river cruises throughout Europe, whether you're looking for a family-friendly option, solo travel sans single supplement or a cruise with unique destinations.

It's most important to choose a cruise based on which destinations you wish to visit and which travel dates and itinerary lengths work with your schedule. But don't forget to consider the cruise line.

The inclusions on most of the river cruises are similar but can vary in scope, such as which drinks are included or cost extra, and how many complimentary shore excursions you can choose from. You'll also want to think about the overall vibe of your trip and what your expectations are, whether you're looking for a luxury trip with more upscale ships and higher service levels or a more affordable option that emphasizes exploring and finding your own adventures.

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Home Cruise Types Christmas Cruises

Christmas Cruises

Sprinkle a little extra magic on the festive season and experience the joy of our luxury Christmas cruises in 2024 or 2025.

If you’ve ever dreamed of spending Christmas on a cruise ship, you’ve come to the right place. From relaxing ocean and river cruises to off-the-beaten-track expeditions to Antarctica, our range of Xmas cruises caters to everyone. We offer hundreds of itineraries with over thirty of the world’s finest cruise lines to spectacular destinations worldwide, with unbeatable fares and special offers on many voyages.

What is Christmas like on a cruise ship?

Celebrating the Xmas period on a cruise ship can be a wonderful experience, with nearly every operator pulling out all the stops to ensure you have an experience brimming with Christmas cheer. From the moment you step onboard, you’ll be greeted by twinkling lights, decorations and the excited air of anticipation.

After setting sail, the rest of your time is enhanced by themed activities and entertainment, guaranteeing a holiday you’ll never forget. Of course, should you choose a cruise that coincides with Christmas Day, you’ll enjoy a meal with all the trimmings, with the benefit of not having to clear up afterwards!

Cruising during the festive season offers something enjoyable for everyone. For instance, couples seeking an alternative to traditional celebrations will discover that lines like Cunard , Regent Seven Seas , and Celebrity Cruises are ideal due to their elegant surroundings, diverse dining options, and range of itineraries.

On the other hand, families will appreciate the multi-generational appeal of P&O Cruises, MSC, and Royal Caribbean, which cater to adults and children. Meanwhile, solo travellers will find a welcoming atmosphere aboard Fred Olsen, Silversea , and Ponant, with special events dedicated to those exploring alone.

Where to cruise at Christmas?

Whether you dream of a sun-drenched winter escape or want a classically Christmassy setting for your holiday, you’ll find no shortage of options when deciding where to cruise at Christmas. The Caribbean stands out as a top choice—picture yourself on a pristine beach, savouring a cocktail on the big day. But if you prefer a closer-to-home celebration, P&O Cruises and Cunard offer festive journeys to the Canary Islands, departing stress-free from Southampton—no flights required.

Alternatively, to immerse yourself in the magic of Christmas, why not consider a river cruise ? AmaWaterways and Scenic River Cruises offer a range of itineraries to Europe’s best Christmas markets in cities like Vienna, Cologne, and Prague. Or, for an unforgettable winter wonderland adventure, set sail with Hurtigruten on a Northern Lights cruise departing from Dover . Spend six enchanting days above the Arctic Circle, seeking out the mesmerising Aurora Borealis while revelling in various festive activities.

Finally, for the ultimate White Christmas experience, we recommend looking into the Antarctica expedition cruises offered by lines like Silversea, Seabourn and Lindblad Expeditions. Not only are you guaranteed to see some snow – and lots of it – but you’ll also have the opportunity to explore The White Continent in-depth before on a series of shore excursions and Zodiac trips.

Christmas Cruises from Southampton and other UK ports

Opting for a cruise that departs from Southampton or another UK port presents many advantages, especially during Christmas. Firstly, it eliminates the hassle of international flights, which will eliminate stress, especially during one of the busiest times of year for airports. Travel by car, coach or train to your chosen port, enjoy a seamless embarkation process and get ready to immerse yourself in festivities during the most wonderful time of year.

If you’d prefer to avoid flying to an overseas embarkation port, we’d recommend choosing an itinerary that departs from one of the many UK ports. Cruising from the UK has never been so popular, so several fantastic cruises are available with the following operators:

  • Ambassador Cruise Lines (London Tilbury)
  • Cunard (Southampton)
  • Fred Olsen Cruise Lines (Liverpool, Portsmouth, Southampton)
  • Hurtigruten Expeditions (Dover)
  • MSC Cruises (Southampton)
  • P&O Cruises (Southampton

In 2024 and 2025, the lines above will offer itineraries to the Canary Islands, the Caribbean and Northern Europe. Highlights include a 10-night Baltic cruise with P&O Cruises that visits Amsterdam and Copenhagen and a 19-night Queen Mary 2 sailing from Southampton to New York in 2024, which includes calls to a collection of Caribbean islands, including St Maarten, Barbados, and St Lucia.

Christmas Cruise Deals

As one of the UK’s leading luxury cruise specialists, we offer some of the best Christmas cruise deals . Choose from a collection of voyages and take advantage of free cabin upgrades, complimentary onboard credit, and fares, including drinks and WiFi on selected sailings. Furthermore, thanks to our partnership with luxury operators like  Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea Cruises and Seabourn, we can offer discounted fares on various cruises departing through December 2024 and 2025.

In addition to our Christmas deals, we can specialise in tailoring every aspect of your winter holiday to suit your preferences. Using our international network of hotel suppliers, tour operators and airlines, we can add optional extras such as extended in-destination stays, bespoke tour experiences and even little luxuries like chauffeur transfers between your home and the airport. Just ask your Voyage Consultant for details when making your enquiry.

What makes us so special? Our prices are often better than what the operators advertise, and you won’t find this many deals anywhere else. However, due to demand, you’ll find some voyages can sell out up to 18 months in advance, so we’d recommend booking early to ensure you get your desired accommodation on your chosen voyage.

Book your Christmas cruise with us.

If you want to spend Christmas on a cruise, you’ll find our full range of festive itineraries for 2024, 2025 and 2026 below. To learn more or to receive an unbeatable quote for your cruise, call our team at 0800 008 6677 and let your dedicated Voyage Consultant do the rest. Alternatively, please submit an online enquiry for your preferred cruise.

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These Holiday Cruises Will Take You to Christmas Markets Around Europe

luxury xmas cruises

A Christmas market cruises can get you into the winter spirit, provide a relaxing getaway, and offer opportunities for getting one-of-a-kind gifts for friends and family.

These cruise itineraries give you the chance to explore holiday markets dating back to the Middle Ages, and to discover the villages with local treasures like traditional winemaking and artisan crafts.

From festive onboard activities — like tree trimmings and dessert making — to the mulled wine and fresh gingerbread that will welcome you at each stop, these Christmas market cruises give travelers plenty to be merry about.

Christmas Along the Danube (Abercrombie & Kent)

Spend your holidays traveling on this new cruise from Abercrombie & Kent. The nine-day cruise starts in Germany in Munich and travels down through Salzburg, Linz, and Vienna, in Austria, before heading to Slovakia.

With only 24 guests onboard, this cruise offers a more intimate experience. A resident tour director is on-hand to guide guests through a tour of Munich's old town and its Christmas market, the Christmas market in Austria's Domplatz, and a private linzer torte baking class in Linz.

On Christmas morning, guests will wake up in Vienna and have a chance to stroll through the city's sprawling Christmas market before attending a strudel-baking demonstration and an evening concert at the 19th-century Kursalon .

Dates: December 21 to 29, 2017

Rate: Starting at $4,495 per person

Magnificent Europe Christmas Cruise (AmaWaterways)

This 14-night cruise takes travelers through five different countries, through medieval towns and to Europe's countryside.

Starting in Budapest, the cruise heads to Vienna, where guests get a tour of the city and its Christmas markets. There are also Christmas market stops in Nuremberg and Regensburg, in Germany.

After sampling smoked beer in Bamberg, guests continue to the German town of Kitzingen for wine tastings, and to Cologne for walking tours. The cruise then makes its way to Amsterdam for a leisurely exploration of the canals.

Date: December 20, 2017

Rate: Starting at $4,099 per person

Parisian Royal Holiday (Uniworld)

This eight-day trip with Uniworld is on the cruise line's new S.S. Joie de Vivre, which launched earlier this year.

The trip begins and ends in Paris, traveling through Northern France with stops at Christmas markets in Rouen and at the Champs-Élysées. Each holiday season, the streets of Rouen come alive with holiday lights and street performers.

Guests will also be able to indulge in holiday treats at La Couronne, which is where Julia Child famously enjoyed her first lunch in France. There's also a chance to see the grand Christmas tree at Notre Dame.

Dates: Itineraries available December 6 to 27, 2017

Rate: Starting at $3,799 per person

Christmas Markets in Alsace (CroisiEurope Cruises)

The Christmas market in Strasbourg, France, is the oldest one in Europe , dating back to 1570, and this four-day cruise from CroisiEurope takes you into the heart of it. Stops along the way include tasting the bredeles — biscruits that are traditionally baked during the holidays — at the Maison du Pain d'Alsace.

In Strasbourg, guests will also be able to explore wine cellars that date back to 1472 and visit the Christmas market of Eguisheim.

Dates: December 3 to 17, 2017

Rate: Starting at $942 per person

Dashing Through the Danube (Contiki)

This eight-day river cruise through four different countries is geared towards travelers aged 18 to 35.

The cruise starts in Regensburg, Germany. After exploring Regensburg's Christmas markets, guests come back onboard for a mixology class and traditional Bavarian dinner. The cruise will continue to Christmas markets in Passau, Vienna, and Budapest.

Fun additions on the cruise include castle ice-skating lessons in Budapest and onboard lessons in making Viennese desserts.

Dates: December 9 to 27, 2017

Rate: Starting at $1,839

Christmastime on the Danube (Westbound)—Avalon Waterways

Though most of Avalon Waterways' Christmas-themed cruises for the year have sold out, travelers can still snag a room on this nine-day river cruise from Vienne to Prague on the Danube.

Guided sightseeing tours take guests to Christmas markets in Vienna, Regensburg, Nuremburg, and Prague. The tour through Vienna's Christmas markets will be a culinary one, offering a chance to sample some of the country's most beloved holiday goodies. The cruise also includes several wine tastings, and a tour of Nuremberg's Old Town, which becomes illuminated with festive lights and bustling stalls during the holidays.

Dates: December 3 to 11 and 15 to 23, 2017

Rate: Starting at $2,290 per person

Christmas Markets Along the Rhine (Tauck River Cruising)

Rooms are filling up fast on this eight-day cruise from Tauck , which takes guests along the Rhine River . Onboard, holiday touches include tree-trimming parties and seasonal décor. The itinerary has several market visits, including Aachen, Rudesheim, Heidelberg, Baden-Baden, Strasbourg, Colmar, and Riquewihr.

From exploring living nativity sets in Baden-Baden to sampling crepes, sausages, baguettes, and chocolates in Colmar, this cruise promises an itinerary filled with festive cheer.

Dates: Launching December 2 and December 10, 2017

Rate: Starting at $3,780 per person

Bruges Short Break (Cunard)

For a shorter option, consider exploring the quaint Christmas markets of Bruges on this three-night cruise from Cunard.

After a day at sea, guests will head to Bruges to explore the city's famous Christmas market. The market is filled with festive ice sculptures, horse-drawn carriage rides, and an array of wooden chalets offering dainty ornaments, toys, and more.

While you're there, be sure to sample the chocolate and waffles that the area is famous for.

Dates: December 8 to 11, 2017

Rate: Starting at $697 per person

Grand Europe Christmas Markets (Crystal Cruises)

Hit all the top spots on Crystal Cruises' Grand European Christmas Markets cruise , which takes travelers through Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands during a 16-day trip.

Christmas market stops include Nuremberg, where travelers can taste bratwurst and dark beers. The itinerary also offers time to explore medieval towns like Miltenberg, in Germany, and enjoy wines in Austria.

Dates: December 19, 2017 to January 4, 2018

Rate: Starting at $6,245 per person

Classic Christmas Markets (Uniworld)

This eight-day cruise takes travelers from Nuremberg to Frankfurt, starting with one of the biggest and oldest Christmas markets in Nuremberg, before heading to Bamberg, where the city's noted Nativity Walk includes some 40 churches, museums, and public installations of scenes of the nativity.

After sampling gingerbread beer in Wurzburg, guests will make their way to Wertheim to explore the glasswork and wines that line the stalls of its Market Square. There's also a stop at the Christmas market in Frankfurt.

Dates: December 1, 2017

Rate: Starting at $3,449 per person

Rhine River Cruise: Holiday (Adventures by Disney)

This cruise , onboard the AmaKristina , takes travelers through four countries. Holiday activities include the Amsterdam Light Festival, a macaron baking class, and the Christmas market in Strasbourg, France.

As the cruise sails along the Rhine Gorge, passengers will be able to see up to 30 castles.

Dates: December 23 to 30, 2017

Rate: Starting at $4,849

Bonus: Memphis to New Orleans Holiday Christmas Markets Cruise (American Queen Steamboat Company)

Want a taste of Christmas on this side of the Atlantic? The American Queen Steamboat Company offers a Christmas-market itinerary with a nine-day cruise from Memphis to New Orleans .

The American Queen has Victorian-era features, including antique furnishings and intricate woodwork. Starting in Memphis, the cruise takes guests through towns like Greenville, where the authors of the Muppets grew up, and cities like Vicksburg, with festive holiday shops and décor.

Guests will also find holiday shops set up in Natchez, Mississippi, where craftsmen will have holiday goodies as carolers set the mood. The cruise also runs through stops like St. Fracisville in Louisiana, where small-town holiday festivities can be seen throughout, and Nottoway, Louisiana, with vibrant gardens and Antebellum mansions.

Dates: December 17 to 26, 2017

Rate: Starting at $1,799 per person

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Best Christmas market cruises

luxury xmas cruises

Jeannine Williamson

Cruise expert

Monday October 16 2023, 17:04pm

With their roots based in history and regional traditions, Christmas markets are an annual highlight in Europe. While big cities such as Cologne and Vienna instantly spring to mind, there are charming markets in virtually every town and village. A river cruise is a wonderful way to discover the delights of both popular and lesser-known markets throughout Europe. If you don’t have much time to spare there are also short-break sailings, with a choice of travel options. To experience river cruise destinations in a twinkling new light, here are the best Chrsitmas market cruises.

Main photo: Run Beyond by Angelo Bonello at the Amsterdam Light Festival (Alamy)

This article contains affiliate links, which may earn us revenue

1. Cologne with Tui

A giant twinkling Christmas tree forms the centrepiece of Cologne’s most famous market, held in front of the city’s landmark cathedral. It’s one of the seven main markets in Cologne and a stop on several of the line’s wide choice of five and seven-night festive itineraries, which take place on three comfortable adult-only ships aimed at British travellers. As well as sailings in the run-up to the festivities, there are trips that span Christmas and New Year.

Best suited to 21+ Price £ Family-friendly N

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Cologne Christmas market is one of the best christmas market cruises

2. Germany and Austria with Uniworld

Nuremberg, known as the “gingerbread capital of the world”, has one of the largest Christmas markets in Europe. There are 200 stalls filled with hand-carved toys, crafts and gifts, and the irresistible scents of roasted chestnuts, spices and grilled sausages linger in the air. You can visit it on sailings with boutique line Uniworld, where every day brings a different Christmas market. You’ll also visit the fairytale market at the Volksgarten gardens in Linz, which is home to Austria’s largest wooden crib, with life-size, hand-painted figures; short nativity plays are performed throughout the day.

Best suited to 21+ Price £££ Family-friendly N

Uniworld's Maria Theresa

  • Best Christmas markets in Germany

3. The Danube and Rhine with Avalon Waterways

Keep the holiday spirit going on Avalon’s 15-night Danube and Rhine journey through four countries from Vienna to Basel. Unique attractions along the way include Austria’s oldest municipal theatre in the medieval town of Grein, which dates back to 1791 and is still in use. There’s also a trip to the Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas museum in Rothenberg, which has the world’s largest collection of traditional German Christmas decorations. When the ship is sailing, enjoy activities such as an Austrian cookie tasting and talks on European festive traditions.

Best suited to 21+ Price ££ Family-friendly N

See Vienna with Avalon Waterways on one of the best Christmas market cruises

4. Germany with Riviera Travel

Geared to UK travellers, Riviera offers flexible itineraries with the choice to fly or travel by Eurostar and high-speed rail to reach your ship, along with the option of four to seven-night sailings. A short break will still provide time to soak up the atmosphere in Rüdesheim and Koblenz before seeing big city festivities in Cologne. There’ll be even more Christmas cheer in 2024 as guests get a complimentary drinks package.

Best suited to  21+ Price  ££ Family-friendly  N

5. The Rhine and Amsterdam with A-Rosa

Have an electric Christmas with the family on a dedicated multigenerational vessel, the first-ever hybrid river ship that uses battery power. A-Rosa provides free sailings for youngsters and A-Rosa Sena takes family-friendly facilities to a new level with cabins for up to five, a kids’ club and children’s dining area. Festive sailings include a seven-night cruise along the Rhine river and Dutch waterways with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Amsterdam to coincide with the city’s dazzling Light Festival, when artists from around the world create elaborate illuminated displays. 

Best suited to 4+ Price £ Family-friendly Y

arosa-cruises.co.uk

See the annual Light Festival in Amsterdam on one of the best Christmas market cruises

  • Best river cruises in Europe

6. The Seine with Viking

Add a taste of joyeux Noël to the holiday season with Viking’s itinerary on the Seine. The ship docks overnight in Paris , providing plenty of time to see the sights and take in beautiful window displays at Galeries Lafayette and other big-name department stores. Atmospheric stops include Rouen, where half-timbered houses are adorned with ornate decorations and the town square by the cathedral hosts the Christmas market. Excursions include a foodie walking tour in medieval Vernon, stopping along the way for steaming mulled wine and festive treats.

vikingrivercruises.co.uk

luxury xmas cruises

7. Germany with CroisiEurope

For a Christmas cruise with a difference, CroisiEurope has a six-night itinerary on the lesser-known Elbe aboard its modern paddlewheel vessel, which is built to navigate the river’s low water levels. It starts in Berlin , so there’s plenty of time to explore the numerous markets in Germany’s first city and Unesco-listed Potsdam before sailing on to culture-rich cities including Magdeburg, Wittenberg and Meissen. The celebratory itinerary includes a Bach concert at Dresden’s symbolic cathedral and a midnight Mass. There’s a special Christmas Eve dinner, and on the big day all passengers get a present.

croisieurope.co.uk

Germany with CroisiEurope is one of the best Christmas market cruises

8. The Rhine and Danube with Amadeus River Cruises

With its Austrian roots, it’s no surprise that Amadeus embraces the yuletide tradition with Christmas-decorated ships sailing on a variety of cruises on the Rhine and Danube. On the Rhine you’ll visit Strasbourg’s market, founded in 1570 and the oldest in France , which is set against the backdrop of the city’s distinctive single-spired cathedral. Other excursions take in the village of Gertwiller, famous for its gingerbread, and Obernai, where a crib with life-size figures takes centre stage in the marketplace. On the Danube there are sailings between Vienna and Nuremberg, with the chance to visit the market in front of Schönbrunn Palace and enjoy a mulled wine party.

amadeus-rivercruises.com

  • Best cruise lines for solo travellers
  • Best Christmas markets in Europe for 2023

9. Germany to Hungary with AmaWaterways

Germany and Austria form the heartland of the Christmas market scene, but similar events can be found throughout Europe. In Budapest , the enchanting market in Vorosmarty Square is the longest running in the city, with handcrafted traditional gifts, children dressed as angels singing carols, choirs, free music recitals and the chance to warm up with a bowl of Hungarian goulash. It’s one of the stops on AmaWaterways’ seven-night cruise, which runs from Nuremberg — where the famous Christkindlesmarkt is one of the oldest Christmas markets in Germany — to Budapest. 

amawaterways.co.uk

Vorosmarty Square in Budapest, Hungary, one of the best Christmas market cruises

10. Lower Rhine with Viva Cruises

This cruise line is the only one based in Düsseldorf, so it makes the most of this often neglected but incredibly interesting city. Advent sailings along the Lower Rhine showcase the seven themed markets near the old town. Christmas cheer is guaranteed in the street that’s described as “the world’s longest bar”. Raise a toast with a glass of Düsseldorf’s copper-coloured “old beer”, brewed in traditional style, or the fiery local herb liqueur Killepitsch. Itineraries include four-night cruises on Viva’s all-new vessel Viva One, also visiting Koblenz, Bonn and Cologne.

viva-cruises.com

A sailing of the lower Rhine with Viva Cruises, on board Swiss Ruby, is one of the best Christmas market cruises

11. The Netherlands and Rhine with Nicko Cruises

If time is limited, a short pre-Christmas trip is just the tonic to get into the festive mood. There are Christmas markets in every port — Cologne, Amsterdam and Nijmegen — on Nicko’s three-night round-trip Cologne sailing. Enjoy a magical evening cruise through the network of canals in Amsterdam and soak up 2,000 years of history in Nijmegen, the oldest city in the Netherlands. The shore tour through the Hanseatic city will take you off the beaten track, through small winding streets dating back to the Middle Ages.

nicko-cruises.co.uk

Nijmegen in the Netherlands is on the itinerary of one of the best Christmas market cruises

12. The Danube with Tauck

Gingerbread is literally made to go with Christmas, and with this cruise line the young and young at heart can join a fun gingerbread and marzipan-making workshop at Café Simon in Passau, where four generations of the Simon family have perfected the sweet recipes. The seven-night sailing on the Danube also features a scavenger hunt in the tiny Slovakian capital Bratislava, and a visit to Oberndorf, the Austrian town where Silent Night was written on Christmas Eve in 1818. Note that Tauck is one of few lines that offer a Christmas market cruise to families.

Best suited to 4+ Price £££ Family-friendly Y

tauck.co.uk

  • Best family-friendly cruise lines

Make gingerbread in Passau, Germany on one of the best Christmas market cruises

13. The Danube and Prague with Emerald Cruises

Take in five countries on this extended Christmas market river cruise between Budapest and Prague with Emerald Cruises. You’ll be immersed in local and international festivities and traditions at each diverse port of call, and there’s also a presentation on the ship about European yuletide customs. In Regensburg, visit one of the region’s most atmospheric markets, set against the backdrop of Thurn and Taxis Palace. After the week-long cruise there’s a three-night hotel stay in Prague with a range of guided tours and festive-themed activities to choose from.

emeraldcruises.co.uk

The market at Regensburg is part of Emerald Cruises' Danube and Prague sailing, one of the best Christmas market cruises

14. Germany with Leger Holidays

Leger offers good-value breaks with coach travel from pick-up points throughout the UK. The four-night cruise, which starts and finishes in Cologne, begins with a stop in the pretty winemaking town of Rüdesheim which hosts the Christmas Market of Nations, where more than 100 stalls sell specialties from a dozen countries. Then it’s on to Koblenz, situated at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers, before an overnight in Cologne to see the famous marketplace in front of the cathedral and smaller markets dotted around the old town.

leger.co.uk

Koblenz christmas market, one of the best Christmas market cruises

15. Germany with Travelmarvel

Swap Christmas pudding for Black Forest gateau on sailings through Germany and beyond with Travelmarvel. This expanding line is the value-for-money alternative to all-inclusive sister brand APT; its three Contemporary ships sail on itineraries such as the week-long Christmas market river cruise on the Rhine and Moselle. Stops include the Black Forest Open Air Museum in Vogtsbauernhof for a cake-making demonstration followed by the all-important tasting.

aptouring.co.uk

A sailing to Rudesheim with Riviera Travel is one of the best Chirstmas market cruises

16. Switzerland and Germany with Scenic

Enjoy the best of both worlds on an 11-night itinerary that combines a land tour with a river cruise. Your journey begins in Zurich and from here you’ll travel to picture-postcard Lake Lucerne, the jet-set Alpine village of Gstaad and lakeside Montreux. Then board your ship, which will be adorned with Christmas decorations, to sail from Strasbourg — which has one of the largest festive markets in Europe — to Amsterdam. This sailing features a lesser-known Christmas market in the spa town of Baden-Baden as well as big hitters including Cologne.

Best suited to  21+ Price  £££ Family-friendly  N

scenic.co.uk

A tour of Switzerland and Germany with Scenic is one of the best Christmas market cruises

17. France with European Waterways

The luxury 12-passenger hotel barge Panache is a wonderful choice for anyone looking for the ultimate intimate cruise experience. It can also be chartered by families and groups of friends. Resembling a floating house party, with a personal chef providing gourmet meals, this leisurely sailing will take you along canals through Alsace and Lorraine. There’s a drive to Colmar to take a look at the town’s six Christmas markets and a visit to Strasbourg’s chocolate museum to see seasonal treats being made. Another highlight is Haguenau festive market with its extraordinary 16m-long nativity scene.

europeanwaterways.com

The hotel barge Panache offers one of the best Christmas market cruises

  • Best Christmas markets in the UK for 2023

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‘Tis the season to celebrate, and how better to do so than with a festive luxury cruise and a bounty of beautiful ports with Seabourn?

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Seabourn voyages abound in the things that make Holiday celebrations special — like a spectacular setting, luxurious all-suite accommodations, world-class dining and a warm, intuitive style of heartfelt hospitality that’s second to none. Our selection of Holiday voyages invites you to experience a hassle-free seasonal celebration in unparalleled elegance and ease, aboard the world’s finest ultra-luxury cruise line.

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Our mission is to serve the 50+ traveler who's ready to cross a few items off their bucket list.

6 Magical Christmas Market River Cruises You Can Still Book For This Year

luxury xmas cruises

  • Activities and Interests
  • Cruises and Sailing
  • Destinations
  • Holiday Travel
  • River Cruises
  • Seasonal Travel
  • Types of Travel

River cruises offer leisurely exploration and intimate adventures. Taking a river cruise around the holidays means you get to experience timeless traditions, like European Christmas markets. Our travel advisor, Carie Skerritt, says, “The best part about Christmas markets is immersing yourself in the culture of the community.”

Christmas tree at the famous Christmas Market in Strasbourg

European Christmas Market Magic

Warm up with a steamy mug of mulled wine as you wander the enchanting stalls of some of the largest and most famous Christmas markets in Europe. Shop handmade ornaments, toys, and gifts as you inhale the festive aroma of gingerbread and roasted chestnuts. Dazzling decorations and lights delight the eyes, while the sound of Christmas carolers and church bells fills the air.

Most European Christmas markets are open from the last week of November through December 22. Several of these Christmas market river cruises start in November, so you can still be home in plenty of time for the holidays.

What To Expect On An AmaWaterway Luxury Christmas Market River Cruise

A large variety of activities, including tours and a choice of excursions, lets cruisers choose their own adventure. AmaWaterways’ Christmas market cruises are decked out in holiday cheer. Onboard experiences include “Shoes for St. Nick” where passengers set slippers out to be filled with treats just like European children do on St. Nicholas Day . Guests are invited to deck the halls during the ship’s Tree-Trimming Party. If you cruise on Christmas Eve, you can expect to find Christmas cookies in your stateroom. A holiday feast, complete with all the trimmings, tops it all off.

Our travel advisors Carie Skerritt and Bill Sharo with Dream Vacations can help you book any of these Christmas market river cruises via our Book A Trip page . “ AmaWaterways is considered a luxury item,” remarks Skerritt, who recommends the cruise line for everyone from foodies to multi-gen travelers. “There is something for everyone, so you don’t have to have a group leader responsible for everyone’s needs and wants — it’s all included,” she adds. “The ships are decorated and festive, so just being on the ships puts you in the holiday spirit,” according to the travel advisor. Here are some Christmas market river cruises you can book today !

Christkindlmarkt Hellbrunn Palace

1. Christmas Markets On The Danube

Budapest to vilshofen.

  • Length: 7 Nights
  • Starting Price Per Person: $3,499
  • Dates: December 4, 11–23

This route cruises along the second-longest river in Europe through Austria, Germany, Hungary, and Slovakia, stopping in the capital cities of Budapest , Bratislava, and Vienna , as well as Salzburg. Both Magna on the Danube and Christmas Markets on the Danube tours cruise through The Wachau Valley, where you can take a walking tour of Dürnstein.

This river cruise also gives you the opportunity to visit Linz, where you can find one of the most beautiful Austrian Christmas markets at Hellbrunn Palace . It also stops in Passau, where a walking tour brings you to St. Stephen’s Square and its baroque cathedral in the heart of Old Town. At Passau Christkindlmarkt , you can find cute little Bavarian-style model houses , cookie cutters, and olive wood products from Assisi.

Christmas market in Heidelberg

2. Christmas Markets On The Rhine

Amsterdam to basel (or reverse).

  • Dates: November 28–December 21

Cruise through France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland as the Rhine takes you to several European towns with cherished Christmas markets. In Cologne , visit Christmas Market at the Cathedral , one of the best German Christmas markets . Located in the heart of the city, the market takes place at the foot of a UNESCO-designated Gothic cathedral.

What’s better than shopping? Shopping while tipsy! Go wine tasting in the winemaking town of Rüdesheim then enjoy holiday traditions from around the world at the Rüdesheim Christmas Market of Nations . Other options include a gondola ride christmas market combo as well as a guided bike tour of the Rheingau German wine region and Christmas markets.

Known as the Capital of Noël, Strasbourg boasts the oldest and largest Christmas Market in France , Christkindelsmärik . Check out the world’s largest Advent calendar at the Heidelberg Christmas Market , where the town hall windows count down the days to Christmas, revealing the portrait of a world-famous artist each night.

heart shaped gingerbread cookies with white icing hanging for sale at the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt

3. Iconic Christmas Markets

Nuremberg to budapest (or reverse).

  • Starting Price Per Person: $3,399
  • Dates: November 26–December 23

As the name suggests, this cruise takes you through Austria, Germany, and Hungary to some of the most iconic Christmas markets on the Danube. Nuremberg’s historic Christkindlesmarkt is perhaps the best-known Christmas market in Germany . According to our expert tips on European Christmas markets , you should try the mulled wine from Vollrath’s Heidelbeergluhwein and Nuernberger Rostbratwürste (famous grilled sausage in a bun), and pick up a Zwetschgenmännlein, a unique figurine carved out of dried plums.

Step back in time at a Bavarian castle at Regensburg’s Romantic Christmas Market . Some craftsmen sell toys, such as dolls and marionettes, while others peddle their pottery and paintings at the Lucreziamarkt. While in Vienna, you’ll find a Christmas market seemingly around every corner. Finish the trip by exploring the beautiful markets of Budapest.

Visitors drink gluwein on a winter afternoon at the Christmas market,Rudisheim, Germany

4. Rhine Castles & Swiss Alps Christmas

  • Starting Price Per Person: $2,499
  • Dates: November 28–December 25

Encompassing the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Switzerland, this fantastic Rhine River cruise offers fairytale castles and historic vineyards in addition to Christmas markets. Starting in canal-laden Amsterdam, this cruise winds its way through the German city of Cologne, where you can browse the city’s most impressive Christmas markets.

Then it’s on to the winemaking hamlet of Rüdesheim and the festive Christmas markets of Heidelberg. Forty hilltop castles and fortresses dot the banks of the historic Rhine Gorge, which is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site .

Cross the border into the majestic mountain landscapes of France’s Alsace region as sweeping Swiss Alps views await in Strasbourg.

Christmas market in front of the Cathedral of Cologne, Germany

5. Treasures Of The Main & Rhine

Nuremberg to amsterdam.

Length: 7 Nights Starting Price Per Person: $2,499 Dates: September 26–November 28

This 7-night cruise from Nuremberg to Amsterdam sets sail starting as early as September. Stop in Bamberg to taste the city’s famous smoked beer and visit its charming Christmas markets. A stop in Würzburg includes a walking tour of festive Christmas markets. In Wertheim, choose between taking a guided tour of the historic city center and local Christmas markets or learning the art of pretzel-making at a local bakery.

Then, meander from the Main River to the Rhine to get to the winemaking town of Rüdesheim. One of the excursions includes a wine tasting with a local vintner and a visit to the town’s fairytale Christmas markets. During your stop in Cologne, stroll through 160 wooden pavilions, watching artisans work as you sip mulled wine.

Christmas market at night

6. Magna On The Danube

Budapest to vilshofen (or reverse).

  • Starting Price Per Person: $3,040
  • Dates: November 26–December 17

Experience Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, and Germany (including the iconic capital cities of Budapest , Bratislava, and Vienna ). Peruse some of the best holiday markets in Europe, including Regensburg and Salzburg . Budapest Christmas Market is Hungary’s largest. Taking place on the cobblestone Vorosmarty Square, this handcrafts-only market is a great place to find one-of-a-kind gifts. With over 150 vendor stalls, Vienna’s Christkindlmarkt takes place in front of its 19th-century town hall.

Why You Should Book With Our Travel Advisors

Our travel advisors will ensure that you receive every AmaWaterways river cruise offer that you qualify for, including complimentary shore excursions and beverages. They offer up to $300 credit to spend onboard. Our travel advisors can also help you book hotel stays at ports on either side of your voyage.

Not only will you get exclusive bonus offers when you book through our travel advisors instead of directly with the cruise line, but you also rack up AmaWaterways Privilege Rewards benefits. Our travel advisors aren’t just concerned with offering the best deals — they’re also committed to offering the best experience.

Related Reading:

  • 6 Magical Christmas Market River Cruises You Can Still Book For This Year  
  • Our 18 Favorite Gifts From A Rhine River Christmas Markets Cruise  
  • 11 Amazing Foods To Try During A Rhine River Christmas Markets Cruise

Image of Laura Ray

Laura Ray has lived in Atlanta, the Bay Area, SoCal, and Austin. After moving from Texas, she and her husband rambled about the Midwest in a camper for a couple of years before finally settling on 35 acres in their home state of Kentucky. When she isn't clacking around on the keyboard (cat in lap), you can find her practicing yoga, gardening, or playing the ukulele. This travel-lover's favorite destinations include Italy, the Greek isles, and Kentucky Lake.

USA TODAY

Are luxury cruise ships worth the money? We did the math for Silversea's Silver Nova.

L uxury travel can mean a number of different things to every person you ask. To me, luxury travel is meant to be seamless. I just want to point to a destination and have someone else figure out every little detail for me. 

For many others, luxury travel requires luxe accommodations and high-quality food – which a luxury cruise line includes, but more on that later. 

"Cruising has changed. Today really represents an incredible value, independently from which segment you decide to join," Silversea Cruises President Barbara Muckermann told USA TODAY during a press preview of Silver Nova earlier this month. "The kind of luxury cruise service you get here – and you can decide to compare to whatever luxury establishment it is – but I assure you it can be 30 to 40% cheaper here. Still offering the same, if not better, service."

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A price tag can be intimidating. So I decided to do (rudimentary) math on services offered by an upcoming Silver Nova sailing.

What is included in Silver Nova’s door-to-door Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro sailing?

One of Silversea's two booking options is a door-to-door experience, which coordinates transportation from your home to the airport and overnight stay prior to your cruise.

  • Transfer to the airport from home (private executive)
  • International flights (economy)
  • Airport transfer 
  • Hotel night 
  • Food and beverages for nine days
  • Shore excursions
  • Airport transfer
  • Transfer home from the airport (private executive)

The line also offers a port-to-port experience where you are responsible for your transportation to and from the port of embarkation.

As mentioned, to me, luxury is seamlessness. Aside from logistics coordination, the crew on Silver Nova is equipped with Silversea proprietary technology, registering passenger preferences and ensuring there's rarely a need for you to "check in" to a class, dinner, or event reservation.

What else does the fare include on the ship?

Like other upscale, all-inclusive cruise lines, the fare includes gratuities, food and beverage (including select wines and spirits), Wi-Fi, and shore excursions. Unlike other cruises, all Silver Nova elevators are glass, reminding you at every turn where you are in the world.

Something that Andrea Tonet, Silversea’s VP of Product Strategy, pointed out that I hadn’t noticed on the ship was that, unlike most cruise ships that center the pool on the top deck, Silver Nova’s asymmetric design makes it so every pool lounger has a view of the destination rather than other passengers.

"Even if the ship is a little bigger, thanks to the asymmetric design, you have all these smaller spaces, so it never feels crowded," Muckermann added.

How much is the Silver Nova Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro sailing? 

For the Feb. 5-14 itinerary on a Classic Veranda Suite, the cheapest suite on the ship (all Silver Nova cabins come with a balcony and personal butler service), the door-to-door option leaving from Washington, D.C., and embarking from Buenos Aires, the total comes to $18,800 for two people – or $9,400 each . 

How much would a land-based luxury vacation in Buenos Aires cost? 

"When it came to designing (Silver) Nova, we knew we were going to take the traditional luxury cruise route," Muckermann said, explaining that Silversea custom designs their new ships according to their itineraries. "So, who are the main competitors? It's really, land-based resorts."

She explained that Silver Nova's purpose was to, indeed, compete with land resorts in classic itineraries for cruises, including the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, North Europe and Alaska.

"For us, it's easier, because we move and we're small," Muckermann said of concerns about overtourism in remote or popular destinations, adding that Silversea works with local ports to strive to be the only ones docking that day.

That being said, from Feb. 5-14, staying only at the Four Seasons Buenos Aires, and factoring the same items on the door-to-door Silver Nova sailing, the total comes to $19,258 for two people.

Caveats: 

  • My estimates only included roundtrip economy flights from Washington, D.C. to Buenos Aires, only settling in one destination rather than Silver Nova’s nine. Flights came to around $1,895.
  • Transportation to and from home airport on Uber Black was about $177, without tip (tip your drivers, please). 
  • Transportation between Buenos Aires airport and the hotel was about $50, without tip. 
  • I conservatively factored three meals a day for two people for nine days, giving them an average of $100 for meals, without tips or alcohol, which is included on the ship, for a total of $5,400.
  • Excursions can vary widely depending on destination and preferences, but I budgeted an average of Silver Nova’s excursion offerings in Cancún and Key West of $125 for eight, for a total of another $2,000. 
  • A stay at the Four Seasons Buenos Aires for the same dates, came to an estimated total of $9,736.

I tried to be conservative with my estimates on food and excursions and didn’t include alcohol since that varies from person to person. However, if you want to do a nightly order of caviar and champagne on Silversea, you can at no extra cost. Once I passed the threshold of Silver Nova's $18,800, I stopped adding, but there are many included benefits, like seeing more than one destination without having to do connecting flights and packing up every few days, that could be added to the total.

Things to note on Silver Nova:

  • Silver Nova is designed with accessibility in mind. So much so, that it sometimes forced design tweaks, like placing the heater in the ocean-view sauna in the middle of the room to allow space for mobility. There are also accessible cabins in different categories.
  • Your cabin butler pays attention to your preferences, from the side of the bed you sleep in, to whether you prefer a bath or a shower, in order to anticipate your needs. Needless to say, they are trained hospitality professionals.
  • There's a dress code, but it's not stringent. If you're not a dress-up person like myself, it can be daunting, but most people are on the more relaxed end of that dress code. "We were successful in using the dress code as a unifying versus a separating tool," Muckermann said, explaining that guests would sometimes feel excluded when they didn't know what was the vibe for different events. "It's one of those things that feels like a rule, but it actually helps with the atmosphere."

Not to be redundant, but luxury travel is a luxury and a privilege. For those who have the means for an international luxury vacation, Silversea’s Silver Nova offers a more complete experience for less than what it would cost to do the same itinerary on land. 

Sailing a luxury cruise line, might not be a yearly occurrence for many (certainly not me), but I see it as a great option to celebrate life milestones. Birthdays, anniversaries, promotions, whatever it may be, a luxury cruise line can have a butler bring you caviar and champagne at any moment at no extra cost.

Editor’s note: The reporter on this story received access to this expedition from Silversea Cruises, which is owned by Royal Caribbean Group. USA TODAY maintains editorial control of reviews.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Are luxury cruise ships worth the money? We did the math for Silversea's Silver Nova.

Silversea's Silver Nova ship.

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Valentine’s day gift guide 2024: the most exclusive cruises.

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View off the terrace of the Owner’s Residence Explora Journeys Explora I. The magnificent 7-night ... [+] sailing from Barbados to Miami departing February 9, A Journey to Butterfly Islands and Sea Stars.

Valentine’s Day comes every year, but a gift that lasts a lifetime does not. Make it last forever with the gift of a luxury cruise, pulling out all the stops to make this Valentine’s Day count. Here are some of the most exclusive cruises for 2024 that you can book right now.

Explora Journeys Owner’s Residence offers a stunning, spacious and contemporary living room aboard ... [+] the Explora I.

Explora Journeys

Panache Cruises’ offers Explora Journeys from MSC Group, a magnificent 7-night sailing expedition (“A Journey to Butterfly Islands and Sea Stars”) on the Explora I from Barbados to Miami departing Feb. 9. From Barbados, stop in Saint Lucia, Guadalupe, Antigua, and the British Virgin Isles before reaching your destination in Miami. Book the Owner’s Residence, from $26,050 per guest, and enjoy the separate living room and dining areas. The 3,000-plus square feet of space include an enormous terrace area, spanning the stern of the ship and a private whirlpool. The private butler will cater to your every need, including arranging your unique Valentine’s Day celebration.

Combining thrilling itineraries, luxurious accommodations, and top-notch service, Atlas Ocean ... [+] Voyages offers an elevated expedition cruise experience. With small-sized, environmentally friendly yachts, Atlas Ocean Voyages lets guests explore unique destinations while minimizing their ecological footprint.

Atlas Ocean Voyages

Atlas Ocean Voyages’ World Navigator offers an 11-night Polar Expedition from Reykjavik, Iceland to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland departing Aug. 21 aboard the World Navigator. The 11-night expedition is an immersive journey to explore the Patreksfjörður in the Westfjords, where tales of sea monsters blend with the golden-red sands of Rauðisandur, Grundarfjörður's Kirkjufell mountain and orca sculpture. Then sail on a guided Zodiac safari through Greenland's awe-inspiring Prince Christian Sound, marked by glaciers and abundant wildlife. The trip includes the return charter flight from Kangerlussuaq to New York’s JFK airport. The Navigator Suite starts from $11,999 per guest and includes the Atlas Ocean Voyages’ coveted butler service, an expanded room service menu, and a walk-in closet.

The Seven Seas Suite on the Regent Seven Seas Mariner is a beautiful home at sea, featuring separate ... [+] areas for living, sleeping and dining; a walk-in closet with ample room for your belongings and a marble-clad bathroom.

Regent Seven Seas

Sail from Tahiti to Sydney on the 19-night Regent Seven Seas Mariner. Starting in Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia, you’ll embark on Feb. 11 and spend 19 days experiencing the best of the South Pacific’s island paradises before heading to New Zealand and its glorious Bay of Islands, followed by Auckland and Wellington. You’ll disembark in Sydney having seen the world from a whole different angle. Refurbished as part of a $125 million fleet-wide update in 2018, the Mariner’s Seven Seas Suite Forward starts from $21,319 per guest.

The one bedroom owner’s suite on the Antarctic Explorer offers panoramic ocean views with a private ... [+] Nordic Balcony, garden lounge and separate dining area for up to six guests.

It’s not too late to book the Owner’s Suite on Viking Cruises for the Antarctic Explorer (now through February, including Valentine’s Day). This is the ultimate adventure to the Antarctic peninsula to view the towering icebergs and glaciers in the footsteps of famous explorers. This luxurious multi-room suite comes with panoramic views of the ocean, a private Nordic Balcony, garden lounge, dining/seating area for six, a private library and curated wine and music collections by Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen. Landings in Antarctica, special operation boats and kayaking are included for all guests. The Owner’s Suite with a Nordic Balcony starts at $11,995 per guest.

The Grand Suite is ultra-luxurious: a private butler, separate living and dining areas, double ... [+] vanities, a whirlpool bath, walk-in wardrobe, on-demand movies and an expansive private veranda.

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Silversea’s 15-night journey across the Indian Ocean, from Cape Town to Mahe , departs Feb. 11 and takes guests to paradise in Mauritius and the Maldives. Sink into glittering turquoise waters that lap powdery white sands, and sip coconut water beneath gently swaying palm trees. The Grand Suite is ultra-luxurious: a private butler, separate living and dining areas, double vanities, a whirlpool bath, walk-in wardrobe, on-demand movies and an expansive private veranda. The Grand Suite starts from $30,100 per guest.

Hollywood Conservatory, a unique spot on a Princess cruise

Princess Cruises

The 13-day Fiji and South Pacific cruise from Sydney on the Majestic Princess departs Feb. 10, with a premium suite available from $2,828 per guest. The 554-square foot accommodation includes expansive balcony views — one directly overlooks the ship’s bow — and features a large stateroom with seating area and sofa bed. Premium suite guests enjoy complimentary use of the Lotus Spa’s thermal suite, a complimentary mini-bar, and a luxury balcony including two loungers, four chairs, a table and ottoman behind floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors. Visit Vanuatu, Fiji and New Caledonia on your cruise, and take advantage of shore excursions in Sydney.

Paula Conway

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COMMENTS

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