A first-time river cruiser shares her Christmas Markets on the Rhine experience.

Longtime ocean cruiser and self-described introvert Stephany H. did not know what to expect when she ventured on a Christmas Markets on the Rhine sailing with her sister Nakita – but she knew one thing: it would be far more intimate than her previous cruise ship experiences. Below she shares her thoughts on her first AmaWaterways river cruise experience.

What was the atmosphere like on board AmaSerena?

All the crew members were super friendly. And they didn’t just have the typical surface-level conversations you get from some hospitality staff while traveling. AmaWaterways’ crew was really engaging and so genuine. What really surprised me about the experience was the other guests on board. There were a lot of returning guests who embraced us and welcomed us and wanted to get to know our story. I was not at all intimidated talking to new people on board.

Tell us about your stateroom.

I am extremely picky about my accommodations and so is my sister. When we opened up the door to our stateroom, it exceeded our expectations. We appreciated that we could open the doors to our French balcony, turn up the heat a bit and see all the scenery as we sailed through the countryside. Cleanliness is really important to Nakita and she actually traveled with an ultraviolet flashlight. AmaWaterways passed her ‘inspection’!

What was the best part of your onboard experience?

The onboard experience was festive and brought so much joy. The ship was decorated beautifully throughout. We were given the treat of experiencing the German tradition of leaving our shoes outside the door and receiving a gift. We also celebrated with St. Nick giving us a visit, decorating the Christmas tree with our shipboard family, and singing Christmas carols. Each night was made memorable for everyone on board. I also enjoyed cruising through the Rhine Gorge to see the castles. I loved the way the Cruise Manager provided narration as we were sailing so we would know the history of all the beautiful castles we were looking at.

How did the Christmas Markets on the Rhine sailing compare to other holiday vacations you have taken?

The Christmas spirit was so alive – Europe takes the holidays to a whole new level. Each market we visited was unique and I enjoyed the culture brought to each city along the Rhine River as well as the support that was provided for small businesses. The items in the markets were one-of-a-kind. All of the Christmas Markets were amazing in their own right, but the Riquewihr Market in the Alsace region of France was magical. It felt cozy and the vendors had some amazing items to offer. My sister and I both smiled as we heard one of the songs being played was by Boyz II Men.

What was your favorite excursion and why?

On ocean cruises, you’re required to return to the ship much earlier because the ports are farther apart. So, when we could get off the ship in the evening for an included Special Interest Tour in Rüdesheim, Germany to taste the town’s famous Rüdesheimer coffee, we jumped at the chance to experience a port at night. I liked the atmosphere of the coffee shop, being able to taste the coffee in the place it originated and seeing how they prepared it. In all my travels, that was definitely not something I had seen before.

Speaking of tasting…how was the food on board AmaSerena?

With AmaWaterways, the quality of our included meals exceeded those that you have to pay for on ocean cruises. Every dish was delicious and I liked how they used local farms to source fresh, seasonal ingredients.

What did you think about the AmaSerena crew?

They all went above and beyond. They worked so hard to make sure we were happy that we wondered if they ever slept. On top of it all, they were always there to make sure we were sanitizing our hands too. They were incredible.

How did your river cruise differ from your previous cruises on the ocean?

As an introvert, I didn’t know how it would feel being in such an intimate setting. But I loved it! It was so easy to get to the ship from the airport where we met our AmaWaterways representative. There were a lot of included excursion choices, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed, and I enjoyed the chance to participate in a complimentary dance class on board. We just had a great time. There are many different cruise lines to choose from, but I loved the genuine feeling that AmaWaterways provided.

Will you return to the river with AmaWaterways?

I’m hooked. I’ve done many ocean cruises, but I don’t know if I love the huge ships as much anymore. After AmaWaterways, I think it will be hard for me to go back!

Experience your own Christmas Markets on the Rhine cruise!

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