by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
Here’s a little appreciated secret: holiday festivities start well before Christmas Day – there are holiday markets, lighting, special events all begin as early as Thanksgiving and go through December.
Here are some of the myriad places where you will be immersed in the holiday spirit:
Sail into Europe’s Holiday Markets, Festivities Aboard CroisiEurope Cruises
CroisiEurope Cruises, one of Europe’s largest cruise lines and a leader in affordable cruising, is offering a selection of holiday itineraries. Whether it’s a traditional European Christmas market or a Christmas or New Year’s Eve experience, CroisiEurope has plenty of options to choose from. Prices for these holiday cruises start at just $512 per person and vary depending on cruise length, destination, and cabin booked.
Highlights of CroisiEurope Cruises’ 2019 holiday season programs include:
Christmas Markets Cruises:
• Christmas In Alsace and show at the Royal Palace: Explore Strasbourg, follow the Potters Trail, and enjoy all the Christmas markets the city has to offer. Prices for this 4-day trip begin at $644 per person.
• Taking in 3 countries: The Danube and its Traditions: Stroll through Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest while sipping on mulled wine and eating local cuisine. Prices for this 5-day trip begin at $1,170 per person.
• Christmas on the Elbe: Spend the holiday cruising along the Elbe while exploring beautiful cities like Berlin, Magdeburg, and Dresden. Prices for this 7-day trip begin at $2,360 per person.
• Rhineland Christmas: Discover new traditions through Strasbourg and Colmar, and attend a Christmas Eve mass in Breisach. Prices for this 3-day trip begin at $696 per person.
New Year’s Cruises:
• New Year’s in Venice: Ring in the New Year by exploring all that Venice has to offer. Travel by boat to surrounding islands like Burano and Murano for a deeper dive in Venetian history. Prices for this 5-day trip begin at $1,963 per person.
• New Year’s on the Wild Rhine: Cruise the Rhine and make unforgettable memories exploring the Romanesque and Gothic styles of Breisach and Strasbourg. Prices for this 3-day trip begin at $736 per person.
CroisiEurope’s 2020 catalog of European and global cruises are now available to book.
Among the highlights:
• *New* Canals of Venice to Renaissance infused Mantua
• The Glacier Express through France, Germany, and Switzerland
• River Sava and Tisza Cruise: Hungary, Serbia, and Croatia
• Paris and Normandy on the Seine
Visit https://www.croisieuroperivercruises.com to browse all cruise itineraries, departure dates, and prices.
USTOA Tour Operators Offer Potpourri of Last-Minute Trips for the 2019 Holiday Season
Whether travelers are looking to visit Christmas markets in Europe to celebrate the season or take a beach vacation to Costa Rica to escape the holidays, the tour operators of the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) offer a wide variety of itineraries for end-of-the-year getaways, no matter the reason.
Trips for the 2019 holiday season still have availability, including a romantic New Year’s Eve spent under the Eiffel Tower, a cycling escape through Southeast Asia, and a Rhine River cruise through snow-capped mountains and castles.
Here are examples of just some of the holiday trips offered, more can be found at https://ustoa.tripwing.com
• Christmas Markets of Germany, Switzerland & Austria – EF Go Ahead Tours celebrates the holiday season in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria by visiting the swiss mountains and Bavarian forest, drinking German beer and Austrian wine, and visiting the Christmas markets of Munich over 12 days. Departures are available on select dates in November and December 2020 and 2021. (www.goaheadtours.com)
• Holiday Markets Cruise: The Festive Rhine River – AHI International’s seven-day Rhine River cruise takes place on a first-class river ship surrounded by snow-dusted hills and clifftop castles, stopping at the Old World holiday markets in France, Germany, and Switzerland. Departures are available November 27 – December 5, 2019 starting at $2,295. (ahi.aniinternational.com)
• New Year’s in Paris – Go-Today takes travelers to Paris to celebrate New Year’s Eve with the Eiffel Tower as the backdrop. The six-day trip is filled with the city’s famed jazz clubs, champagne, and walks along the Seine. Departure is available December 25, 2019 starting at $949 per person. (www.go-today.com)
• Christmas Markets of Austria & Bavaria – Insight Vacations offers an eight-day journey through the Bavarian Alps to listen to music in Salzburg, take a horse-drawn carriage ride through Innsbruck, and view local handicrafts and festive treats in the Christmas Markets. Departures are available November 24 – December 10, 2019 starting at $1,850 per person. (www.insightvacations.com)
To escape, here are a couple of outgoing adventures for families, friends, and solo travelers looking for a great getaway from the festivities:
• Borneo: Hike, Bike, & Kayak – Intrepid Travel showcases rainforests, mountains, and beaches on a nine-day adventure through Borneo Island in Southeast Asia. Built for active travelers, the itinerary is filled with hiking, biking, and kayaking. Departures are available November 18 and December 30 starting at $1,798 per person. (www.intrepidtravel.com)
• Highlights of Botswana – Goway Travel offers an eight-day safari through Botswana for travelers looking to escape in the new year, with accommodations in Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, Chobe National Park The trip includes Daily departures are available beginning January 5, 2020 starting at $4,385 per person. (www.goway.com)
• Costa Rica: Jungles & Rainforests – Tauck presents an eight-day journey for families looking to adventure together during the holidays, with zip lining, jungle river-rafting, wildlife walks, a pineapple farm tour, and a chocolate-making demonstration. Departures are available December 18 and 24, 2019 starting at $3,868 per person. (www.tauck.com)
• Dreams Playa Mujeres Golf & Spa Resort – GoGo Vacations offers a golf adventure package at the Dreams Playa Mujeres Golf & Spa Resort, located just north of Cancun and surrounded by sandy beaches, with 65,000 square feet of swimming pools for families and a world-famous golf course and spa. Departures available through December 31, 2019 starting at $849 per person. (www.gogowwv.com)
For more information on USTOA, visit www.ustoa.com, call 212-599-6599, or email email@example.com.
Representing nearly $19 billion in revenue, the member companies of U.S. Tour Operators Association provide tours, packages and custom arrangements that allow 9.8 million travelers annually unparalleled access, insider knowledge, peace-of-mind, value and freedom to enjoy destinations and experiences across the entire globe. Each member company has met the travel industry’s highest standards, including participation in the USTOA’s Travelers Assistance Program, which protects consumer payments up to $1 million if the company goes out of business. As a voice for the tour operator industry for more than 40 years, USTOA also provides education and assistance for consumers and travel agents.
Immersed in Festivities Around the Globe
Spend the last vacation days of the year hearing Christmas carols in England’s first cathedral, wandering through Nantucket’s famous holiday display, or overlooking a volcano in Costa Rica,. Here are some top picks for where to spend cheerful December days.
Canterbury, United Kingdom
After strolling through London’s street markets and racing around the ice skating rinks, revelers can board the Belmond British Pullman for a festive daytrip filled with Christmas carols at England’s first cathedral in the city of Canterbury. The roundtrip journey departs from London Victoria Station on December 17 and includes a Bellini brunch on the way out of London, a performance by the Canterbury Carolers in the famous crypt and an indulgent four-course dinner on the return. For those who can’t make a December 17th journey, Belmond British Pullman offers 16 holiday-themed trips through the festive season to spread holiday cheer.
Sicily has always been a favorite destination for travelers looking for an endless summer. Though the weather will be more temperate, Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo, the first luxury hotel in Taormina, will extend summer’s carefree vibe by remaining open through January 5, 2020. The thinner crowds of winter offer an opportunity to explore Sicily’s museums and landmarks, including the Casa Cuseni Museum and the 4th century Amphitheater. For a festive excursion, embark to the inland city of Caltagirone, home to the largest nativity scene in Italy with over 300 figures spread across a 3,000 square foot site.
Said to be the birthplace of ski tourism, Switzerland is home to Europe’s largest glaciers and has the greatest concentration of peaks at 13,000 feet or higher. Within a two-hour drive of world-class ski destinations including Andermatt and Klosters, the iconic Eden au Lac hotel in Zurich will open this December under the La Réserve brand following a top-to-bottom, two-year renovation by Philippe Starck. The 100-plus year-old landmark building is being carefully restored with many of the historic design elements remaining intact. Three-quarters of the property’s 40 rooms and suites will boast a lake view. Just a five-minute walk from the city center, the four-story building will be the only luxury property on Lake Zurich.
Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica
When it opens on December 20, 2019, Nayara Tented Camp in Costa Rica will be one of the first luxury camps in Central America. Located in the Arenal Volcano National Park, the year-round camp will immerse guests within the surrounding rainforest, as the 29 accommodations have been built at a higher altitude on the hillside to provide unobstructed views of the volcano. Each of the 29 air-conditioned tents generously span 1,496 square feet. For multigenerational families traveling this holiday season, groups can opt for a set of two identical tents that connect with a covered passageway.
From December 6-9, the 47th annual Christmas Stroll transforms downtown Nantucket into a winter wonderland with hundreds of seven-foot Christmas trees lining the streets and three full days of holiday merriment. Highlights from the weekend include costumed carolers performing throughout the island, live performances in the middle of Main Street and festive treats for sale at local shops and boutiques. As no Christmas celebration would be complete without a visit from Santa, kids will line up outside the White Elephant for an opportunity to chat with Kris Kringle himself. The weekend-long event was created to lure shoppers from the mainland to the island before the boutiques shuttered for the season. Today, Stroll remains the quintessential New England experience. Festive attire is highly encouraged.
New York, New York
This holiday season, The Chatwal, New York will fulfill travelers’ Home Alone 2 or Big childhood dreams through a new partnership with iconic toy store brand FAO Schwarz. Families will enjoy exclusive before-hours access to the famed toy shop when booking a minimum two-night stay in a Grand Deluxe King Room category or higher. Guaranteed to bring out the inner child in every guest, the new experience will begin with a one-hour, behind-the-scenes VIP Tour hosted by an FAO Schwarz Toy Soldier. Children and adults alike will raid the FAO Schwarz Candy Bar, craft a new tune on the famous Grand Piano and learn about the store’s 150-year-plus history in New York.
Celebrate the Holiday Season at Red Carnation’s London Hotels
During the holidays at Red Carnation Hotels’ London properties are offering themed packages.
The Egerton House Hotel:
Egerton Wonderland Package: Valid Nov. 29 to Jan. 5
London wrapped in the warm embrace of the festive season is truly a treat for all the senses. What better way to experience all that it has to offer then with a stay only a short stroll away from Harrods – a shopper’s haven that happens to be the world’s most famous department store. This includes Two Victoria & Albert Museum tickets.
Musical Christmas Celebration Package: Valid Dec. 11: Take a magical city break over the festive season with a musical stay at The Egerton. After being welcomed with a glass of Champagne, enjoy a Festive Afternoon Tea before marveling at John Rutter’s Christmas Celebration at Royal Albert Hall, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
The Rubens at the Palace Hotel
Christmas with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Package: Valid Dec. 5 and Dec. 14: Take a magical city break over the festive season with a musical stay at The Rubens. Enjoy breakfast in the English Grill and a Festive Afternoon Tea or a three-course pre-theatre meal before marveling at a Christmas concert by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Choose from The Magic of Christmas at Cadogan Hall on Thursday Dec. 5 or Christmas Cracker at Cadogan Hall on Saturday, Dec. 14.
Festive Wonderland Package: Valid Dec. 25: Join us in the heart of London this Christmas with a festive stay at The Rubens. We are on the doorstep of the excitement of Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, London’s biggest Christmas market with over 100 rides and attractions. You will also be just a short tube ride away from Oxford Circus, a shopper’s paradise with a spectacular Christmas lights display. Choose from a Christmas Afternoon Tea or Christmas Day Lunch, the perfect treat to re-wind after celebrating the festivities. You’ll also experience a Christmas themed Turndown in the evening and Full English breakfast each morning. Not to mention, a cocktail in the luxurious New York Bar.
Christmas with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra package: Valid Dec. 5 and Dec. 14: Enjoy English breakfast in The Executive Lounge and a Festive Afternoon Tea before marveling at a Christmas concert by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Choose from The Magic of Christmas at Cadogan Hall on Thursday 5th December, or Christmas Cracker at Cadogan Hall on Saturday Dec. 14.
Festive Wonderland package: Valid Dec. 25: This stay will include a luxurious room, welcomed with a glass of Champagne. Full English breakfast will be served daily in the Executive Lounge and a Christmas themed turndown. Also, either a Festive Afternoon Tea or Christmas Day Lunch, at the five-star Rubens at The Palace, next door.
The Milestone Hotel & Residences:
The Nutcracker package: Valid from Dec. 28 to 31: This overnight stay includes two tickets to enjoy the magical Tchaikovsky ballet The Nutcracker at The Royal Albert Hall, by the Birmingham Royal Ballet. It also includes a welcome glass of Champagne on arrival and a performance themed Turndown.
The Montague on the Gardens Hotel:
Christmas Cracker Package: Valid Dec. 21-26
Christmas is a magical time of the year and London is the perfect place to celebrate with friends and family. From the spectacular Christmas lights on Regent Street, to the exclusive shops in Bond Street; there is a powerful sense of festive wonder about the capital at Christmas. Stay at The Montague this Christmas and enjoy all the festivities and trimmings. Located in literary Bloomsbury, just steps from the British Museum, the Montague hotel is also famous for al-fresco dining and wonderfully fun pop-ups, including an alpine themed Ski Lodge in winter.
Free Broadway Musical Performances at The Shops at Columbus Circle Begin Nov. 11
On Monday, November 11, The Shops at Columbus Circle kicks off its fourth year of Broadway Under the Stars, a five-week series of free public performances taking place this holiday season. Select cast from today’s hottest Broadway musicals will perform against the backdrop of the destination’s famous 12 massive stars. These stars, one of the largest specialty crafted exhibits of illuminated color displays in the world, are suspended from the 100-foot-high ceilings. Performances begin at 5 pm and are free to attend and open to the public, no reservations or tickets are required.
The November 11 performances, hosted by Actor George Psomas (Fiddler on the Roof, South Pacific), feature Broadway performances from the casts of Waitress, Chicago, Oklahoma! and The Lightening Thief. Each performance takes about 20 minutes.
Future performances at “Broadway Under the Stars” include:
Nov. 18: Come From Away, Rock of Ages
Nov. 25: Dear Evan Hansen, The Illusionists, Frozen
Dec. 2: Beetlejuice, Tootsie, Mean Girls
Dec. 9 : Phantom of the Opera, WICKED
Additional Broadway Under the Stars offerings include specialty cocktails from the Shops at Columbus Circle’s Restaurant and Bar Collection which includes Monday night drink specials like Center Bar’s Pomegranate Smash cocktail ($16).
Visit www.theshopsatcolumbuscircle.com for more information and ever-changing list of events and happenings.
© 2019 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures