A Christmas markets cruise with my friend of 50 years


As 11-12 months-previous schoolgirls, Jacquie Elliott and I went on our 1st Xmas purchasing journey to the community Woolworth&#x2019s to acquire Lily of the Valley tub cubes and cleaning soap for our favorite aunts. When we experienced Saturday careers our funds enhanced so we progressed to deciding on vinyl data and Brut aftershave for our boyfriends.

We pounded together Oxford Road just after beginning complete-time do the job and more than the yrs of hatches, matches and dispatches we have tried using to acquire our Xmas items someplace diverse each individual 12 months &#x2013 from Oxford to Edinburgh, Paris and New York, we&#x2019ve strike the stores.

To rejoice our 50 yrs of friendship, the European Xmas marketplaces have been at the prime of our purchasing checklist and we opted for a Uniworld river cruise on the Rhine.

Following the flight from London Gatwick to Basel, in Switzerland, a chauffeur was ready at the airport and in just 15 minutes we have been at the quayside seeing the crew carrying our circumstances on to SS Antoinette.&#xA0

With the captain and cruise director amongst the welcoming get together, we stepped straight into Xmas &#x2013 a lobby dressed in festive decorations comprehensive with a gingerbread property and vases of large white amaryllis lilies, established off by a twinkling 10-foot Strauss Baccarat&#xA0chandelier dripping with sapphire blue crystals.

Our stateroom was similarly inviting, decked out in typical blue and white Lazy Sunday Toile de Jouy material on the partitions with matching curtains, twin handcrafted Savoir beds with white embroidered linen including additional convenience and a first rate-sized white marble shower space with Asprey features.

Lights on the river bank at Basel

Lesley’s festive cruise commenced in Basel

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We opened the welcoming bottle of Bouchard Finlayson Hannibal pink wine and sat by the French balcony to toast our arrival in type.&#xA0

At supper we have been joined by Paula and Mary, properly-travelled pros from Louisiana, United states. They experienced also often promised them selves a journey to the Xmas marketplaces and flew in early for an more self-push tour of Switzerland.

&#x201CWe selected this ship since we enjoy the butler company &#x2013 getting breakfast in our suite is so enjoyable,&#x201D stated Paula. &#x201CSS Antoinette offers us versatility to go on excursions or pay a visit to cities independently and we locate it&#x2019s a risk-free way to journey.&#x201D

Judy, from Texas, a single of quite a few solo-travelling ladies on the ship, joined us indicating she was combining the marketplaces with conference her loved ones in Heidelberg and Frankfurt.

Festive lobby of SS Antoinette

The foyer of SS Antoinette decked out for Xmas

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Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Assortment

Elaine and Keith Rogers, from Loughton in Essex, experienced been ready two yrs to get on SS Antoinette.&#x201CWe noticed the Tv set programme Cruising with Jane McDonald in 2017 and preferred to do specifically the exact Rhine marketplaces cruise,&#x201D stated Elaine. &#x201CThe 2018 sailings have been booked so this was our 1st option to get on board. We enjoy it!&#x201D

In Basel, Jacquie and I walked together the riverside into the pedestrianised metropolis. It&#x2019s clear, somewhat silent, but pricey so our 1st outing noticed us searching, additional than getting, in the Xmas sector and the Johann Wanner Xmas decorations store, a grotto of each individual hand-blown glass bauble possible, even the faces of Donald Trump and Dracula.&#xA0

The Swiss have been out in figures getting bread and cakes for the night&#x2019s St Nicholas Working day celebrations and queues from Gilgen, a bakery exactly where bread is designed to the exact recipe as when the store opened in 1937, stretched together Spalenberg six. We just experienced to be a part of the queue.

Back again on board SS Antoinette we put in the night at the cinema scoffing popcorn, indeed, just after a 4-training course food and wine. The energy have been mounting.

Swimming pool on SS Antoinette

Choose a crack from the marketplaces with a dip in SS Antoinette’s pool

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Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Assortment

Next end, Strasbourg, exactly where our information discovered everybody in the French metropolis crosses to Germany to acquire their purchasing. We overlooked his tips and walked into the previous city of timbered homes, stopped for tea and dealt with ourselves to hand-designed picket decorations in the market up coming to the imposing pink sandstone Notre Dame Cathedral.

When some company selected to pay a visit to Lucerne in the afternoon, Jacquie and I opted to swim in the ship&#x2019s lovely pool, a beautiful glass-panelled place with cushioned loungers. In our fluffy robes we comfortable and viewed passing ships on the Rhine but located ourselves in the dim when we awoke.

A brief improve for supper, chats with new shipmates and a general performance by a community accordionist and singer topped a different working day but we even now hadn&#x2019t purchased a great deal &#x2013 whilst offers arrived on our beds every single working day sweets and sweets to biscuit cutters and a recipe reserve, courtesy of Uniworld.

In truth, all over the cruise all company have been absolutely spoilt, very little was also a great deal hassle for the crew and everybody could appreciate 24-hour space company and all-inclusive beverages.

We have been so at ease that we reluctantly bought off the ship to pay a visit to&#xA0Heidelberg&#xA0for a complete working day&#x2019s tour but the intimate Rhine tour to Heidelberg Castle, exactly where Elizabeth Stuart &#x2018The Wintertime Queen&#x2019 delighted in a joyful relationship to Frederick V, was the ideal choice. We acquired how the 17-12 months-olds satisfied only 24 hrs ahead of their engagement, about their enjoy at 1st sight and bringing up 13 youngsters.

Festive square in Heidelberg

Festive sq. in Heidelberg, a single of the cruise stops

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Our hearts have been warmed and additional so just after a journey down the funicular railway into the marketplaces exactly where the knockout aroma of gluhwein, star anise and cinnamon set us in the temper for shelling out.

Twinkling lights, vibrant stars, merry-go-rounds together with stalls with irresistible hand-designed ornaments and angel decorations introduced our photograph of the German marketplaces alive. We staggered back again to the ship laden with gingerbread, glass and sweet-smelling decorations to be greeted at the doorway with heat towels and incredibly hot spicy tea.

Following these kinds of a chaotic working day we opted for a 90-moment spa session, such as a therapeutic massage and aromatherapy (&#xA3135), ahead of supper and glided together to be a part of the ship&#x2019s Xmas carols live performance.&#xA0Life on board SS Antoinette, we declared, was similarly pleasing as the marketplaces and we arrived to realise this journey wasn&#x2019t actually about the purchasing but shelling out top quality time jointly.

Wlisted here up coming in 2020?&#xA0


Lesley Bellew travelled with Uniworld on SS Antoinette&#x2019s 8-working day Rhine Xmas marketplaces cruise. A very similar sailing starts off from &#xA33,099 pp departing on December five, 2020 (uniworld.com 0808 301 2561).

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