New to river cruising, mother of four Jennifer V. shares her unique perspective on why our Christmas Markets on the Rhine sailing was perfect for her brood.
We call ourselves the “Sanchez Six”: there’s me, Jennifer, and my husband Hector; Diego (18); Mateo (17); Joaquin (13); and my youngest, Sofia (12). We are relatively new to the cruising world. We went from our first-ever ocean cruise to a river cruise in December 2021 – with the best of the best! We feel very spoiled now. I mean, could we ever not sail with AmaWaterways? We want to go back on a river cruise immediately. In fact, we have already made a deposit!
Like Our Own Private Yacht
We didn’t know what to expect when we first arrived at the ship for embarkation in Basel, Switzerland, but it was perfect. Hector, the kids and I were absolutely blown away by the gorgeous AmaLucia. The ship was just beautiful and pristine. All the crew were waiting there smiling at us, making us feel so special, like AmaLucia was our own private yacht. When we opened the doors to our staterooms, our mouths fell to the floor. They were so spacious! All three of our staterooms lined up in a row and two of them were connecting. It was nice to have flexible sleeping arrangements. If you’re traveling with your family, I highly recommend connecting staterooms.
Celebrating Christmas On Board
We had planned our river cruise during Christmas, but we didn’t even miss celebrating at home because AmaLucia was completely decked out with wreaths, ornaments, and lights and there were at least four Christmas trees on board. We participated in the German tradition of looking for the Christmas pickle, which was a big highlight for my kids – and I ended up finding it! Our gift to the kids this year was the river cruise, but we did take advantage of the ship’s tradition of everyone putting their slippers out to sneak some trinkets into theirs. It was so fun; we may even start doing this at home!
Food Like Artwork and Personalized Service
Fortunately, our kids are very adventurous eaters and enjoyed the specials on board each night, but it was nice that there was always an alternative available, like burgers or pizza. Our youngest, Sofia, is gluten-free and the pastry chef always prepared an equivalent dessert to what was on the menu just for her. At every meal she had her own basket of gluten-free bread or toast, and she loved her gluten-free waffles at breakfast. We didn’t have to remind our waiter every day, and he knew what drinks we would order and brought us our favorite tabasco sauce before we had to ask. It all made our kids feel so taken care of. And every dish was like a piece of artwork. I took so many photographs!
Excursions For All Ages
During the river cruise, we took most of our excursions as a family, although Hector and my older boys did enjoy a biking excursion one day. Sofia and Joaquin loved listening to our guides through the microphone on their Quietvox headsets. They had never experienced anything like that before and felt very official wearing them! It was also really nice that the tours had built-in free time so that we could do some things just for our kids. Europe is so family-friendly; we always felt the kids were welcome – especially at the Christmas Markets, which are designed for families.
Our Favorite Markets and Memories
Just before Christmas, we happened to be in Strasbourg, the birthplace of the Christmas tree, home of the oldest Christmas Market in Europe and the incredible Strasbourg Cathedral. We also had free time to go have a meal at a restaurant there, so we enjoyed some escargot. All four of the kids remembered this city as their favorite but Sofia also really liked Riquewihr, France, because it looks so much like the town from Beauty and the Beast.
At the Christmas Markets, my older boys, Diego and Mateo, were obsessed with trying the sausages, “pasta in a cone” and all the desserts. We collected glühwein mugs from every city and bought some keepsakes for the kids, including a cherished amulet for Sofia.
On board the ship, our family played a lot of board games in the lounge and danced to the live music each evening. We also spent some quiet time together in the stateroom watching Christmas movies. The gift of traveling with your family is that you don’t have constant distractions or activities to run to – you can just spend more time being together.
Watching My Kids Mature Before My Eyes
One of the things I loved the most about this river cruise was that we could practice independence with our kids. My older boys managed their own key cards and were responsible for getting themselves to meals on their own. My younger kids were also able to maneuver the ship and could go back and forth to the room to grab things they left in the room as needed. They were really proud of themselves. And we felt so safe because the crew were looking out for them. AmaWaterways truly is one big family.
Learn more about our Christmas Markets on the Rhine river cruise or sail the Rhine River with your family in another season – and be sure to ask your preferred travel advisor about our latest offers!