A midwinter nights dream

By | Category: Travel destinations
Christmas decorations on the Aurora

Christmas decorations on the Aurora

Last November, sitting indoors after yet another wet, dank day, our thoughts turned to booking a cruise – long, hot days of unbroken sunshine…. An hour later, we’d booked. NOT my Caribbean dream, but a 10 day Christmas Markets cruise on P&O’s Aurora. The price was comparable with a weekend away at just one Christmas Market, and we’d be visiting five!

I never travel light when cruising – I take what I think I’ll need, and then double it, usually, to cope with all weather eventualities, but this time it was easy – just pack for cold, wet and maybe snow. We boarded Aurora on Monday, 9th December, and sailed out of Southampton to a glorious sunset. The atmosphere on board was quite different to Summer cruises, with lots of family groups travelling together, or mums and daughters, as well as couples. It was a very friendly cruise, possibly because people tended to socialise more, rather than sit up on the decks and sunbathe or read, as they do in warmer climes.

Aurora had been beautifully and tastefully decorated for Christmas, but there was little time to explore the ship, with the first port visit of Zeebrugge being the next day, Tuesday 10th, followed by Amsterdam on Wednesday, Copenhagen on Friday and Saturday, Gothenburg on Sunday and Oslo on Monday. We caught a local train into Bruges, and spent a lovely day browsing round two Christmas markets as well as looking round the other sights in the city (which included several chocolate shops!). We even had time to look round Blankenberge afterwards, and I’d really like to go back there in the Summer, miles of beautiful sandy beaches.

The next day, we decided to do a canal trip in Amsterdam, before walking round some of the places we’d seen from the canal boat. I bought some of the biggest – and cheapest- Amaryllis bulbs I have ever seen in the Christmas Market, and they are all coming up well. The wind was howling as we got back on board, and the Captain announced that we would be staying in port overnight rather than sailing through a gale. The passengers who were poor sailors were very grateful for that!

Tivoli Gardens at night

Tivoli Gardens at night

Thursday, and Friday morning, was spent at sea, which gave us all a chance to build up our stamina for another round of city exploring. Copenhagen was a bit murky and misty, but the weather soon cleared up, and we took a tram to Tivoli Gardens. As it got dark, the whole place blazed with Christmas trees and lights, with a fantastic atmosphere. A choir of girls from local schools paraded through the Gardens, all dressed in white, carrying lit candles, and singing Santa Lucia and other seasonal hymns and carols, which brought lumps to the throat of many of us watching. Then we rushed off to the lake, where there was a Son et Lumiere type performance, with the fountains playing in time to the music, and laser projected images of ballet dancers dancing to the Sugar Plum Fairy over the lakes surface! All the boats on the various lakes were lit up, all the trees had fairy lights, and all the buildings were covered in coloured lights – it brought the Christmas spirit to everyone there.

We spent the next day exploring Copenhagen by boat and by tram, it really is a lovely city, but so expensive!

Two days on a flat calm North Sea later, we docked at Southampton.

XmastreeOsloWould I do this trip again – emphatically YES! It meant a lot of preparation before we went, sending Christmas cards, buying and wrapping presents, shopping etc, but when we got home on the 19th December, I was relaxed, chilled and full of Christmas spirit. I had been cooked for and waited on for 10 days, seen Christmas markets and shops in 5 countries, and met a lot of lovely people. Totally different from our usual cruise expectations of sun, sun and more sun – but very, very enjoyable, with so many new experiences.

Did I miss 10 days of traipsing round overcrowded shops full of tinny carols and tacky decorations? What do you think!

 

 

 

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