It's the most wonderful time of the year - the Christmas markets are in full swing, the cold air is filled with the scent of gingerbread and mulled wine, and the city is aglow with twinkling lights.
What better way to get into the holiday spirit than a festive river cruise down the Rhine? I booked myself a ticket for the 2-hour Winter Afternoon Boat Cruise in Düsseldorf, Germany and it exceeded all my expectations.
Embarking on a Festively Decorated Ship
I arrived at the port about 45 minutes before departure to secure a good window seat with a view.
As soon as I stepped onto the boat, I was immersed in the cozy Christmas ambience.
Soft holiday tunes played over the speakers, the railings were wrapped in pine garlands and white lights, and miniature decorated trees covered the tables.
Families and couples were already seated, sipping on mugs of mulled wine and hot chocolate. I ordered myself a steaming cup of glühwein and found a seat right at the edge of the middle deck.
Taking in Düsseldorf's Old Town from the Water
At 3 PM sharp, the ship disembarked and we were off!
As we drifted down the Rhine, the captain gave informative commentary about the sights in German and English over the loudspeaker.
The streets of Old Town glowed with strings of lights draped across buildings and lining the riverwalk.
On shore, visitors browsed the bustling stalls of the Christmas market, but onboard we could enjoy the tranquil river views.
Gliding Under Bridge After Bridge
We passed under a series of bridges, each one illuminated and reflecting vibrantly on the dark water.
My favorite was the Oberkassel Bridge, neon blue lights radiating from its massive steel arches.
The captain pointed out architectural highlights along the way - the spiky spires of the MedienHafen, the stately dome of the City Hall, and the arched windows of the Church of St. Lambertus.
Drifting by the Rheinturm Telecom Tower
A true Düsseldorf landmark, the Rheinturm telecom tower rose 634 feet into the night sky, its antenna tips blinking red.
People back on land were tiny dots next to the soaring concrete pillar. I was glad I could take in the immense scale of the tower from the middle of the river.
Indulging in Seasonal Treats Onboard
About halfway through, I went to check out the snack bar at the back. The spread of Christmas cookies, stollen, hot drinks and candy made my mouth water.
I picked out some lebkuchen and a cup of kinderpunsch to get back into the holiday mood. With a cookie in one hand and my steaming mug in the other, I returned to my seat to watch the city lights drift by.
Getting into the Festive Spirit with Music and Surprises
Some cheerful accordion music started playing over the sound system. To my delight, St Nikolaus himself made an appearance, ringing his bell and waving to the kids onboard. 
They gathered around him eagerly, listening to songs and old German Christmas tales.
Even as an adult, seeing St Nikolaus brought out my childlike wonder. I snapped some photos of him dancing with the children to capture the precious moments.
Disembarking with Festive Cheer
Before I knew it, we were gliding back under the Oberkassel Bridge, a sure sign that the cruise had come to an end. I left the boat with my spirits lifted, a full camera roll, and appreciation for Düsseldorf in a whole new light.
The winter river cruise gave me a taste of the most magical parts of the holiday season without the crowds and bustle of the Christmas markets. I couldn't have asked for a better way to get into the Christmas mood.
Key Highlights of My Festive Cruise
Relaxing River Views
Cruising calmly down the Rhine offered unique panoramic perspectives of Old Town that I couldn't get wandering the busy streets on shore.
I loved watching the twinkling lights of the waterfront glide by from the cozy comfort of the heated ship interior.
Onboard Christmas Ambience
From the moment I stepped on board, I was surrounded by Yuletide trimmings that sparked nostalgia - flickering white lights, wreaths, Christmas tunes and decorations everywhere.
It was so easy to get into the holiday spirit.
Delicious Seasonal Treats
I satisfied my sweet tooth with the cookies, candy and hot drinks for sale onboard.
Sipping warm kinderpunsch as I watched the city lights go by took me right back to childhood.
Festive Music and Entertainment
The onboard accordion music and visit from St Nikolaus with gifts for the kids made the cruise even more special. The festive mood was contagious.
A Unique Perspective on Düsseldorf
Instead of jostling through crowded Christmas markets, I got to take in historic landmarks and architecture from a calm on-water vantage point. The views of the glittering bridges and Rheinturm tower were unforgettable.
Conclusion: Dusseldorf Boat Tour
The 2-hour afternoon Rhine river cruise was just what I needed to get away from the stress of the holiday season and soak up some festive cheer.
From the moment I stepped onboard the decor-adorned ship, with the scent of cookies and sound of jingling bells in the air, I felt the magic of Christmas wash over me.
Drifting by the storybook lights of Old Town from the middle of the river gave me a unique perspective on Düsseldorf's beauty.
With my stomach full of sweets and camera full of delightful snapshots, I disembarked filled with the spirit of the holidays.
I would highly recommend this festive winter cruise to anyone looking for a relaxing, indulgent and spellbindingly romantic way to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year in Düsseldorf.
1: From St. Nicholas to Santa Claus: the surprising origins of Kris Kringle, retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/131219-santa-claus-origin-history-christmas-facts-st-nicholas