River cruising is a great way to enjoy Christmas Markets in Europe.
Irresistible sweet treats line every bakery window.
Enjoying Kartoffelpuffer - German potato pancake.
Amazing handmade ornaments that dazzle all ages.
Cologne's Christmas Market under the shadow of the Gothic Cathedral.
Christmastime in Europe is nothing like the North
American traditions. Instead of overwhelming messages of retail spending (just
look at the mountain of sales flyers that have already started to arrive at
your door), the focus is on the celebration of life, family & friends,
timeless traditions as well as great food & drink. One of the ways this is
beautifully achieved is through magical Christmas Markets, a holiday mainstay
dating back to the middle ages.
Taking place from the last week of November to Christmas
Eve, Christmas markets get everyone into the holiday mood. The magic of
children's laughter, serenading carollers, twinkling lights and sweet scents of
pine boughs is enough to melt the heart of any scrooge. Add in some snow flakes
and the stage is set.
One of the best ways to experience Christmas Markets is
on a river cruise, which I have been most fortunate to be a part of. The
greatest advantage is it allows guests to sample Christmas markets along the
entire itinerary. Our cruise sailed through the Rhine and we were treated to
Christmas markets in Germany and France every day. A longer cruise through a
wider region allows even more opportunities to visit the different
The quality of merchandise sold at Christmas markets is
topnotch. Handmade crafts, toys, clothing, works of art and the quintessential
wooden ornaments that have been a European tradition for centuries. They all
make terrific mementos of one's special time there. Everything is made locally
or within the country, nothing kitschy or mass produced with made-in-China
Christmas markets cruises in my opinion are perfect for
everyone. Children are dazzled by the handmade toys and ornaments so different
from the ones at home. History buffs explore castles and Gothic cathedrals made
even more enchanting by the seasonal decor. Foodies relish the flavours of
sweet and savoury meats, treats and heart warming gluhwein. Women can shop for
unique gifts - in fact Christmas markets cruises attract womens' groups who
happily leave their husbands at home to go shopping in Europe. Families reunite
to celebrate the holidays and the end of another year. These are all terrific
and lucrative opportunities for agents to tap into.
The most effective way to appeal to clients is to play up
the authenticity of old Christmas in Europe - cobblestoned streets, historical
squares, medieval cathedrals... all festooned with holiday finery and lively
ambiance. To be in foreign locales, surrounded by different languages, people
and cultures, yet having the common thread of celebrating Christmas, life and
love, is truly special. The river will take them through this magical journey,
with the ship as their pampering sanctuary. What a chance to experience
something completely different from the madness, stress, traffic and chaotic
shopping malls, all of which we call Christmas at home.
My favourite moment? It was in Cologne hands down. As I
ate my bratwurst while savouring the sweet scent of gluhwein, I surveyed the
colourful lights and timbered market stalls before me. It was busy yet still
calming in its special way. The air is slightly crisp, but I feel cozy under my
new wool hat (handmade in Cologne of course!). Just as I thought it couldn't be
more perfect, the magnificent cathedral bells behind me began to toll. Talk
about goose bump moments! All at once, all 5 senses completely came alive. I
can't remember the last time this happened, and I can't wait to experience it
again... hopefully soon.
Ming Tappin is a cruise veteran with over 20 years’
experience in the industry and has sailed on 36 cruises and counting. Based in
Vancouver, Ming is Owner of