Christmastime on the Rhine
Sam’s festive journey
by Sam Cook
Our social media manager Sam headed out to our Star-Ship Emerald Sky for a festive cruise along the Rhine. Follow along as he takes us through his journey.
Embarking on my Star-Ship
My journey began in Breisach, a small town in the Rhine Valley. From the second I stepped foot on board, I could tell that this was going to be a great journey.
I took the shuttle to Riquewihr to explore their local Christmas markets, sampling plenty of the local delicacies such as wine (including the glorious glühwein) and cheese before heading to the Dopff winery to taste their beautiful, rich wines. I then returned to the Star-Ship for an evening of delicious food and entertainment courtesy of Nina, the cruise director.
View from Heidelberg Castle
Snowflakes in Strasbourg
By the time I awoke, we had already arrived in snowy Kehl—the Christmas spirit was alive and well.
Once in Strasbourg, we were shown the best spots for enjoying pastries or a piping hot cup of glühwein (again!) before heading to the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg. Widely considered to be among the finest examples of Rayonnant Gothic architecture, the basilica features stunning façades and an impressive astronomical clock.
Sunset view from balcony window
A festive train journey
We arrived in Mannheim early in the morning. Today’s included excursion: a tour of nearby Heidelberg. We took the Funicular Railway up to Heidelberg Castle where we were treated to a sampling of local wines. On our return, we spent some time exploring the town and its markets before heading back to our Star-Ship for the rest of our journey.
The afternoon was spent sailing. From the moment I sat down to enjoy my steak for lunch, I got to watch the Rhine as her quaint small towns passed me by before retiring to the Horizon Bar & Lounge to enjoy a coffee and some light entertainment once again courtesy of Nina and activity manager, Tine.
We arrived at our evening stop, Rüdesheim, and headed out to explore the local Christmas markets. You couldn’t ask for a more festive experience—breathing in the aromas of bratwurst and beer and taking in the small-town ambience, complete with a brass band playing Christmas songs.
The German Corner
Today, we arrived in Koblenz, an ancient German city with a long and storied history and an aesthetic akin to that of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. I started my day the right way, with a continental breakfast, before heading out on the day’s included tour of the town.
Our guide gave us a rundown of the history of the local area, including some real pieces of the Berlin Wall that sit along the waterside, before heading onto the German Corner, where the Moselle and Rhine rivers meet.
Here is one of the most well-known monuments in the area, a huge statue of William I, the first German emperor, high on his horse and keeping watch over both rivers. We then took the cable car up to Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, making our way to the top to enjoy the stellar views.
Later, I headed into Koblenz once more, making sure to wrap up warm as I headed to explore the markets. As you’d expect, there was food, drink, and trinkets aplenty, with some added entertainment in the form of carol singers.
I headed back to Emerald Sky for the evening and was treated to one of my favourite meals of the cruise, chicken in a chipotle jus with veg and crispy potato strings—absolutely phenomenal. I then retired to the Horizon Bar & Lounge for another night of entertainment, and tonight was disco night. We were introduced to Nina and Tine’s disco alter egos via a dance number that I think few could replicate.
Cologne’s impressive Gothic cathedral
We arrived in picturesque Cologne. From our Star-Ship, we could already see the impressive Cologne Cathedral. We headed straight to the city, learning about its rich history, from local folklore to the original shop selling ‘Eau du Cologne’. At the cathedral, we enjoyed a complimentary mug of glühwein before saying goodbye to our guide.
The cathedral—at one point the tallest building in Europe—is incredibly impressive; a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. Heading inside brings you face to face with more impressive features: stained-glass windows, paintings, statues, and more. Following this, I headed off to do a little last-minute shopping at the nearby Christmas markets.
Returning to the ship for lunch, we set off on the longest stretch of sailing yet: Cologne to Amsterdam, another afternoon on the Rhine. I enjoyed a lecture on the Netherlands and Dutch culture, then took the opportunity to have a dip in the pool. This evening, we were treated to the Captain’s Dinner, saying a fond farewell and thank you to the staff that had made our trip so memorable before making our way to the night’s entertainment, trivia—my favourite!
Strasbourg’s Christmas markets
Adieu to Amsterdam
I awoke in Amsterdam, and headed out for an included cruise through the iconic canal system of the ‘Venice of the North’, pointing out some of the city’s landmarks, such as the Anne Frank Huis and the National Ballet Theatre.
Later, I headed down to the Christmas markets in Museum Square. I was greeted by all the aromas of Europe at Christmastime. Sweet, savoury, and most importantly, mulled wine. One of the things that made this market stand out compared to others was the central ice rink, with people of all ages taking to it. I enjoyed watching for a while before heading back into the city.
Our last evening on board rolled around quickly, it being both lovely and bittersweet.
This was my first Emerald Cruises voyage and it was an unforgettable experience. The service provided by the stellar crew and local guides really made the trip with their smiles and overall informative and helpful attitudes; it’s something you must experience to understand.