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The coronavirus pandemic is turning into something of a Grinch who stole Christmas for some of those who planned to be in Europe this month.
The pandemic is stubbornly strong in parts of that continent, prompting some alpine countries to this year nix some traditionally popular Christmas markets, and river cruise companies to suspend some December sailings.
Among travel firms which have had to make adjustments is the Globus Family of Brands.
“Due to conditions related to COVID-19, the Austrian and Bavarian governments have announced lock-downs and Christmas market closures that will have a direct impact on select Avalon Waterways cruises,” said Stephanie Bishop, Globus’ managing director for Canada. “As a result, Avalon Waterways will be cancelling all Danube and Main-Danube itineraries between now and the end of the year. We will be in direct contact with all affected guests and their travel advisors to offer a range of options to reschedule affected cruises, including providing incentives to move their vacation to a future date, as well as providing them the opportunity to request a letter of credit or refund.
“As for our response to advisors who are once again on the front lines of the ever-changing travel landscape, we certainly empathize with them,” Bishop continued. “Our phone lines are open, our hold times are short, and our advisor portal has lots of information to help make the best decision for clients currently booked or clients who are looking to plan their next great vacation. Our Sherpa tool on our websites can help navigate the ever-changing restrictions in regions around the world as well.”
However, Avalon is still able to offer river cruises to see Christmas markets in other European regions such as Switzerland and France, where the company’s Carla Brake is currently taking in the festivities.
The pandemic has also proved disruptive for Uniworld, which too had itineraries planned which showcased Christmas markets.
“Due to Covid-related lockdowns in Austria and the closing of various European Christmas markets, we will be suspending select Uniworld departures and are working on an alternative for guests still interested in experiencing the European holiday markets this year along the Rhine River,” said Ellen Bettridge, president & CEO of Uniworld. “Our ‘Danube Holiday Markets,’ ‘Classic Christmas Markets,’ and ‘European Holiday Markets’ itineraries scheduled to depart in the first two weeks of December have been suspended, and guests have been contacted to discuss replacement travel dates and sailing options.”
Anja Brokjans of the German National Tourist Office said German guidelines regarding coronavirus vary.
“In some states Christmas markets are closed whereas in other states Christmas markets are open,” she reported. “Currently we expect some markets to run without major restrictions, sometimes masks are mandatory. Elsewhere, the 3G rule applies (vaccinated, recovered or tested). Or the 2G rule, where only vaccinated and recovered persons are allowed to enter. In these places, distance rules, mandatory masks and other restrictions can be omitted. The situation can change from day to day.”
More information can be found at https://www.germany.travel/en/information-on-coronavirus.html.
Meanwhile, Switzerland Tourism notes that Basel’s Christmas Market — considered by many to be the prettiest in all Switzerland — opened last week. Visitors must show proof of vaccination to enter.
Geneva Christmas market Noel au Jardin opened in November and will run through Dec. 26 and is in a new location that offers “breathtaking” views of the city’s harbour and Lake Gevena. Again, those wanting to enter the market must be able to prove they’ve been vaccinated against coronavirus.
Switzerland Tourism also reports that Zurich and nearby towns are lit up at night by “amazing Christmas markets.” More information can be found at zuerich.com/en/visit/christmas-in-zurich/.
Rudolph Nareen of Toronto’s Astor Travels noted he’s recently gone on two European river cruises and their safety protocols made him feel confident he was okay on board and any itinerary changes were “well accepted by guests.”
Photos courtesy of Basel Tourism.
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