As the head planner of our rambles, I have talked my husband into taking a number of trips over the years of our marriage though the United States and Canada and even to Europe. Although he hadn’t wanted to visit Europe, in the end it we both enjoyed it and planned to go back in the near future. However, the following years were filled with many events but not another European trip.
With retirement closing in last spring, I got the bug to go back to Europe. At first we though we might go on our own as we felt comfortable doing so, but in the end, we thought it might be too exhausting. On a road trip, the most tiring part is packing and unpacking when you move from hotel to hotel. In Europe we would be taking public transportation which would be harder. With his aching back and my replaced hip joints, we were not exactly candidates for climbing the Matterhorn, though healthy and active. A river cruise might be just the thing. We would have to get from the airport to the boat, but after that we would be home free, traveling in a luxurious floating hotel along one of Europe’s many rivers. I had already received numerous catalogs picturing smiling folks admiring scenery from the decks of a river boat, obviously marketing to our age group. After perusing the literature, I soon felt this would be a feasible solution.
In 1998 , two much younger Ramblers spent 5 weeks in France riding herd on students doing a study abroad. We were headquartered in Metz, a medium sized town in Alsace-Lorraine. and then for a week in Paris. We rented a car and traveled to many interesting places with and without students, even traveling overnight by train from Metz to Salzburg. We now needed a different kind of European trip. Why not, I argued go back to Europe now that I was retired, this time for a real vacation, with no student responsibilities. And, I continued, instead of moving from hotel to hotel by car or train, we could glide down one of Europe’s many rivers on a luxurious floating hotel on a river cruise. Although somewhat interested, my husband would not be excited about the theme of the river cruise I finally selected.
As much as my husband loves boats, he is not a fan of Christmas; I on the other hand love Christmas but am not fond of boating. The Christmas Markets Cruise, I thought would be a compromise, each of us getting half of what we enjoyed most. Never truly enthusiastic, he finally agreed to go along with my plan albeit reluctantly. That was all I needed. Surrounded by gorgeous color brochures, all I had to do now was complete my research, chose the absolute best cruise company and select the date.
The date was easy; the European Christmas Markets begin with the first Sunday of Advent, or the fourth Sunday before Christmas. We certainly didn’t want to miss Christmas with our family so my plan was to select a cruise that would leave at the end of November. Since most of the Christmas Market Cruises last for 8 days, we would be back in Georgia in plenty of time for our own holiday preparations. I also thought that the markets might not be so crowded with local people and tourists early on and the weather might be a little better. I also didn’t consider the fact that it would be dark by 3:30 in the afternoon.
I would be right about the crowds but very wrong about the weather. Of course even though the Christmas Market Cruises do visit a number of Christmas markets, each with their own style, we all got to tour a variety of historic and cultural sites.. Because of this my partner grudgingly agreed to go along with my plan.
Now all that remained was to pick the perfect cruise!