Co-Owner Gary Murphy shares why our Holiday Cruises are perfect for families.

AmaWaterways’ Co-owner and Senior Vice President of Sales, Gary Murphy, shares his thoughts on family and why our Christmas Markets cruises in Europe are his top choice for families.

I love traveling with my family and some of my most cherished memories have been on our Christmas Markets cruises. Whether you travel on Europe’s Rhine River or the Danube, there’s something BEYOND special about being in Europe during this season. The settings are unbelievable, including some located in front of amazing palaces, such as Vienna’s Schönbrunn and Belvedere, and Salzburg’s Hellbrunn. You’ll always find unique handcrafted ornaments, but for me, I love tasting the local specialties the most. My personal favorites are the crispy German pork rinds, sausages with different kinds of mustard and the hot spiced wines. There could be 15 different places selling spiced wines with three or four different choices, all home recipes, and each vendor has its own unique mug that you can keep.

These cruises are great for families, especially if you have children in their early teens and up, because AmaWaterways often offers up to five different activities in each port. You can choose your own excursions and reunite at meals to share your experiences. The holiday spirit is brought to life on board and ashore, and the stress that sometimes comes with planning multigenerational gatherings melts away.

Experience the Markets as a Local

I have a vision etched in my mind of the Christmas Market in Linz, Austria. My wife and I were just enjoying the moment with a hot spiced wine. It was snowing, and as the snowflakes fell, we watched an Austrian family leaving the market. Two of their children were sitting on a toboggan, holding onto a Christmas tree and dragging it behind them. That’s what’s so great about these markets. They’re really set up for the locals, so when you go, you don’t feel like a tourist at all. You feel like just another local coming on your annual holiday adventure. And it’s incredibly humbling to experience the season the way it has been experienced in Europe for so long.

Create a New Collection of Treasures

All the markets AmaWaterways visits are memorable. Like many of our guests, I particularly love the many markets of Vienna. But this past year, the Budapest market held at Vörösmarty Square holds a special place in my heart.

My wife Daphne loves collecting Christmas ornaments and has been doing so over the course of our 27 years together. However, our entire collection of ornaments was destroyed in a fire in 2018. While I strolled through Budapest’s market stalls browsing the local handicrafts, I came across a young couple who had spent much of their year making porcelain ornaments. Each was a little bearded man with a red hat, no more than two inches tall. I bought as many as I could, walked back to an ATM, and bought even more. That Christmas, in 2018, Daphne and I didn’t buy a traditional Christmas tree. Instead, we got a simple illuminated one from Costco. We hung the red ornaments all over it and it was beautiful – the beginning of our new collection.

Sharing Quality Time Together

Our ships are always beautifully appointed, but during the Christmas season, they really sparkle with garlands, wreaths and a stunning Christmas tree, so you’re in the holiday spirit from the moment you step on board. You let bygones go and everyone just enjoys sharing time together.

There are holiday menus with regional European specialties and traditional favorites, tree trimmings and games, but the very best activity on board is conversation with your family – or with your newfound AmaWaterways family.

Gary’s Top 3 Christmas Markets Tips

  1. The glühwein (hot spiced wine) mugs have value! If you bring your mug to a stall for a refill, they’ll give you a discount. And if you turn in your mug, you can often get money back!
  2. Bring extra luggage for souvenirs. The glühwein mugs make fun souvenirs. And of course, handcrafted ornaments.
  3. Pack shoes with thick soles for walking around on the cobblestone, as well as a good scarf and gloves and dress comfortably – the markets themselves ARE the fashion statement!

Whether you’re traveling solo or with every generation of your family, we hope to welcome you aboard as part of our AmaFamily on one of our magical Christmas Markets river cruises through Europe in 2024 or 2025!

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