Jennifer Baron was the lucky winner of our Shearings Christmas Markets competition, and last November she and her sister Marilyn set off on their river cruise on MS Rotterdam

Our journey to Germany began with a ferry crossing from Dover to France and an overnight stay near Lille. We continued through Belgium the next day and on into Germany to the old city of Koblenz, where we boarded the Rotterdam, which was delightfully decorated for Christmas with garlands of golden stars and baubles. After lunch we visited the small markets of Koblenz and, armed with our Christmas purchases, we prepared to spend our first night on board.

The early morning sailing the following day took us to the picturesque town of Cochem, known as the ‘Pearl of the Moselle’. The Christmas markets there are as beautiful as the town itself, with decorated wooden stalls along the cobbled streets, the aroma of roasting food and chestnuts everywhere. In every other stall, we felt obliged to sample the local mulled wine, Glüwein, which was very warming on a cold day.

We sailed on to the town of Zell, Germany’s biggest single wine growing community, and took an excursion to Bernkastel, a lovely town with an imposing castle high above the town. With its fairytale houses, quaint cobbled streets, and stalls and surprises around every corner, it was magical.

That night, dinner was a speciality meal cooked entirely by the Indonesian staff. The dining room was specially decorated and the Indonesian crew served the delicious meal wearing national costume.

A very early start the next day enabled us to negotiate the many locks on our way to Alken, where, after lunch, the coach took us on another trip to the wonderful markets of Rüdesheim (which is famous for its speciality coffee containing brandy). We returned to the ship for our last night on board and the Captain’s Farewell Gala dinner.

We enjoyed the coach trip to Cologne – a lovely city with its towering cathedral and many big shops as well as wonderful Christmas markets. There was also an ice rink for anyone with any energy left after all the last-minute shopping.

After a few happy hours we made our way to our final overnight stay in a lovely hotel in Belgium, before setting off for home the following morning through Flanders Fields and northern France back to the port of Dover. We said a sad farewell to our new-found friends, vowing to meet again soon.

Thank you so much Shearings and Cruise International for a wonderful holiday.

*Jennifer and Marilyn travelled with Shearings Holidays, who offer 7 days aboard MPS Da Vinci throughout 2013, calling at Vienna, Budapest, Esztergom, Bratislava, Durnstein and Melk.

Whether you’re looking for a cultural holiday or relaxing break, find your perfect cruise with our Cruise Finder.