Christmas in July – Think River Cruise

Who knew Christmas in July would become such a festive season, nudging everyone to think about the holidays while it’s still sweltering outside. I’d like to add to the holiday spirit and share the experience I had with AmaWaterways last November/December. AmaWaterways is part of our Virtuoso family and they have river cruises throughout Europe, along with southeast Asia, and parts of Africa. I had never been on a river cruise and was excited to experience the Rhine River during the height of the Christmas markets.


My cousin, Susy, joined me for this adventure and we had a fabulous time!  We sailed from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam in the Netherlands, with stops along the way in Strasbourg, France, and the German towns of Heidelberg, Rudesheim, and Cologne. With Ama, almost everything is included on their sailings — all meals, most drinks, all shore excursions, and WiFi. The accommodations on board are all outside cabins — some with no balconies, others with a French balcony and still others that have a combination of an outside balcony and a French balcony. Since it was winter time, we opted for the entry level cabin, which did not have a balcony, but if I were to sail in warmer weather, I’d definitely upgrade so I could enjoy the river with my own personal “outside space”. The food was great, with wine and beer included each day both at  lunch and at dinner. The atmosphere was relaxed. Ama offers a “chef’s table” each night, where you can watch the meal being prepared, and the menu has multiple courses, which is different than the main dining room. If you want to participate in the chef’s table, all you have to do is sign up once you board the vessel. Every passenger is afforded that option. 


Ama offers a variety of shore excursions and all are included in your fare.  Some are for folks who like to be very active and these tend to be fast-paced. Others are more leisurely, geared toward guests who like to sleep in. They are typically scheduled later in the morning. And then there are many other excursion options that fall in between those two extremes. During my time on board, I participated in a bike ride shore excursion, during which I rode through 3 countries in a two-hour time frame. We visited Christmas markets, indulged in wine tastings, and explored castles. If you’d like a longer vacation, there are also pre- and post-cruise options. I flew into Switzerland early and spent a couple of days in Lucerne to enjoy a cable car ride to Mt. Pilatus and some fondue — yum! Lucerne is a very charming town, situated right on a lake with mountains all around the horizon. It takes only a couple of hours to get there from Basel by train. I will say, there were a couple of weather-challenging days during my cruise, with wind and rain, but overall it was still a fabulous experience I will never forget!   


If you’d like to take a river cruise, we’d love to help find the right one for you! To be honest, a lot of sailings are already booked for this year, but it’s never too early to start planning for 2024!


Wendy Sifford

Travel Advisor

Wendy Sifford