Bing Crosby knew what he was singing about when he dreamed of being ‘home for Christmas.’ I got that same sense of being right at home for the holidays, sailing on board the Viking Sigyn just before Christmas on the cruise line’s new ‘Christmas on the Rhine’ itinerary.
As I wrote previously in Open Jaw, the ‘Christmas on the Rhine’ itinerary is an all-new one for Viking. Christmas sailings are not new, but the new itinerary has added ports and excursions to focus on Christmas markets in the month leading up to the holiday.
Guests are completely immersed in the spirit of the season visiting Christmas markets at ports of call along our cruise from Basel, Switzerland, France, Germany to Amsterdam. But the festive season doesn’t stop at the gangway.
The Viking Sigyn’s halls were decked out for Christmas, which I expected. But other moments and experiences onboard, orchestrated by the warmly enthusiastic Viking crew, brought the real spirit and flavours of Christmas alive for all the guests.
I’m a real Christmas lover, and these moments on board really warmed my heart:
· A hands-on baking demo of central European Christmas cookies and gingerbread house decorating, which I, wearing my hat as host of World’s Greatest Cruises TV series on PBS, also got to don a chef’s hat for a private baking session with the chef.
In the regular season, I was told that the onboard cooking demo would be something like regional Flammkuchen (the local version of flatbread,) and the Christmas recipes are exclusive to the four weeks of Christmas on the Rhine cruises.
· A charming glass blower from Germany’s most famous glass production centre came on board one evening. In honour of the season, his demonstration was blowing glass Christmas tree ornaments – and he let me try one of my own!
· Rudesheim Coffee is the the seasonal tipple of one of our ports along our Rhine river route. It’s a can’t-miss alternative to ubiquitous mulled ‘gluhwein’ found in every Christmas market, and the Vikign Sigyn’s barman, Joe, pulled out the blowtorch and the whipped cream to show us how it’s made. They even had a full set of the special, distinctive Rudesheim Coffee cups for everyone on board to enjoy an authentic German cuppa joe!
· A touching and enthusiastic Christmas carol singalong with the ship’s crew, that brought kitchen and housekeeping staff together in Santa hats and good cheer and resounding voices, ending on maybe the best-ever rendition of Feliz Navidad I’ve ever heard!
· Guests were invited to help decorate one of the Christmas trees in the main, Viking Lounge, where we were provided with silver Christmas tree balls and indelible markers to write our own personal Christmas messages before hanging our balls on the tree. Guests were welcome to take their balls home or leave them on the tree to communicate their wishes to their fellow, and future, guests.
Between the revamped, and ultra-seasonal focus of the new itinerary, as well as the festive and truly touching onboard programming, it’s no surprise that Viking reps revealed that many guests who have sailed on the Rhine during the main season made a point of returning to the same river just for the new Christmas itinerary.
The cruise line shared that already, almost 40 per cent of its bookings overall come from repeat guests. The new Christmas on the Rhine itinerary – along with similar new, Christmas-focused itineraries including the Main, Moselle, Elbe, Danube and Seine – will give past Viking guests even more reasons to rebook, even on rivers they may have sailed in the past.
For more information about Viking's Christmas Market Cruises, please visit its web site.