Winter Cruises Warming Up, Cruising Norway, Christmas Markets River Cruises & More

Arctic Sunset: Hurtigruten’s 11 ships ply coastal Norway year-round, but is is winter cruising that is seeing the greatest growth. Ships that once sailed at half capacity are now sailing full as travelers set sail in search of the Northern Lights and other spectacular winter phenomena. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Arctic Sunset: Hurtigruten’s 11 ships ply coastal Norway year-round, but is is winter cruising that is seeing the greatest growth. Ships that once sailed at half capacity are now sailing full as travelers set sail in search of the Northern Lights and other spectacular winter phenomena. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

For close to a decade cruise lines have been trying to market winter cruises in Europe, with varying degrees of success. After a few false starts, it’s now safe to say that the notion of cruising Europe during its chilliest months is finally gaining traction in the minds of the traveling public.

Hurtigruten executives say that its coastal Norway voyages are selling at near capacity for all 11 vessels during the winter months, when travelers come to see the spectacle of the Northern Lights and go snowmobiling in the Arctic after midnight, as I did on a Hurtigruten voyage this past February (see Winter Cruising In Norway: A Shore Excursion After Midnight, Chasing The Northern Lights).

“We had a hard time positioning the winter, because the misperception was that winter in Norway was boring and dreary and cold and dark, so we developed this program called ‘Hunting the Light,’ because there is something very exciting about the winter — the Northern Lights, wildlife, very festive — and now January, February and March are our fullest months,”  says Hans Rood, president of Hurtigruten.

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Christmas Markets winter cruises, as well as Thanksgiving cruises, are also selling out on vessels that are extending the season of river cruising in Europe. The trajectory of passenger growth during the winter is now on par with the rest of the year, says Torstein Hagen, chairman of Viking River Cruises. Other river cruise companies, such as Uniworld, AmaWaterways and Avalon Waterways also are reporting strong demand.

So don your winter gear and start planning your winter cruises in Europe. Winter may just be warmer than you think.

Also see:

Christmas Markets Winter Cruises In Europe

Winter Cruises In Norway