Top Holiday Travel Tips and New Year's Eve Celebrations for 2015

Berlin Christmas Maket
Christmas Market on Gendarmenmarkt © visitBerlin, Picture: Wolfgang Scholvien

There are a number of holiday events, attractions and “must-see” festivities travelers should keep on their radar this upcoming holiday season. Here are some notable happenings from around the world. 

Berlin’s Holiday Happenings

Berlin is offering a host of holiday attractions this winter, including 80 Christmas markets, boutique shopping, concerts and culinary events. 

Traditional Christmas Markets

The Christmas Market at Gendarmenmarkt Square is one of the most authentic and popular markets taking place in Germany during the holidays, offering high-end handcrafts, traditional wooden ornaments and a range of local and regional arts and crafts for sale.

Also notable is Lucia Christmas Market, held at the historic Kulturbrauerei, a former brewery complex in Prenzlauer Berg. Named after Lucia, the “bringer of light”, who is especially revered in Sweden, the market offers entertainment, crafts and treats, spreading the cheer from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.

At the Market of the Continents at the Dahlem museum complex, more than fifty vendors offer handicrafts from around the world. Choices include hand-woven African fabrics, jewelry from India, and felt goods from Kazakhstan. Most goods are produced in the respective countries and purchases support local projects. 

Also, Berlin's first vegan/vegetarian Holiday market, the Green Christmas Market, will take place on Sundays during the Advent season. Vegan/vegetarian products from Germany will be available, as well as live music and organic clothing.

KaDeWe Offers Up Special Holiday Shopping

KaDeWe, Continental Europe's largest department store, will be turning all of its floors into a whimsical fair this season, including a hall of mirrors.

At Shopping at Kraftwerk Berlin, young local designers present their latest fashion, jewelry and art. Also worth checking out are the small shops, boutiques and galleries in the trendy Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg districts. 

Good to know: On December 6 and December 20, stores will only be open between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Upcoming Holiday Productions

The Staatsoper at Schillertheater will be presenting its production of Puss in Boots by David Robert Coleman, opening December 6. 

Starting November 26, Staatsballett Berlin will take the stage at the Deutsche Oper with Grieg's Haensel & Gretel and Tschaikovsky’s legendary Nutcracker, choreographed by Vasily Medvedev and Yuri Burlaka. 

The circus Roncalli sets a festive mood with its twelfth season at the Tempodrom, featuring  acrobatics, dressage and clown skits. The show takes place December 18, 2015 to January 3, 2016.

Top Exhibitions in Berlin

From November 20, 2015, through February 15, 2016, the Berlinische will host a major exhibition on Max Beckmann and Berlin, with works that the artist completed in Berlin or that have a direct connection to the German capital.

Beckmann is known as one of the groundbreaking forces of the “New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit)”, during the 1920’s. 

Also, The Botticelli Renaissance, another major exhibition, opened September 25, 2015, and runs through January 24, 2016, at Berlin’s Picture Gallery (Gemäldegalerie). Over 100 masterpieces of European art, on loan from the world's great collections are on display.

Gastronomic Delights

Sweets are in high demand in Berlin during the cold season. Chocolates, gingerbread or candied almonds are Christmas market staples, with over 200 types of chocolates and small delicacies offered at Fassbender & Rausch chocolatiers. 

Additionally, The 120 year old Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg hosts Street Food Thursday, featuring food from around the world. The Arminiusmarkthalle in up-and-coming Moabit offers a wide range of foods, from regional dishes to Italian specialties. With numerous cultural events, the hall is becoming a meeting place for local residents and guests. 

Germany’s capital is also home to 14 Michelin-starred restaurants, all serving a wide range of cuisine. 

New Year's Eve in Germany’s Capital

Berlin will also ring in the New Year with one of the world's largest New Year's Eve parties. Shows, music, dance, and culinary offerings will preceed a massive fireworks display at midnight at Brandenburg Gate and along Straße des 17 Juni.

Crystal Symphony
Photo courtesy of Crystal Cruises

Crystal Cruises Launches Thanksgiving Itineraries

This November, Crystal Cruises is hosting two special trips to celebrate Thanksgiving, with sailings throughout the Caribbean and the Mediterranean over the holiday.

Guests will enjoy traditional Turkey Day meals and menus inspired by the local cuisine.

On November 14, 2015, the 14-day roundtrip Miami cruise on Crystal Symphony will travel across the Caribbean to warm weather destinations including Cozumel, Mexico; Montego Bay, Jamaica; Santo Domingo, Dominican Repuiblic; Grand Cayman; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; St. Barts; St. Kitts and Turks & Caicos. Guests will explore Mayan Ruins, swim with dolphins, ride speed boats, rent catamarans and snorkel. Onboard, travelers can enjoy all-inclusive dining, a fitness center, entertainment rooms and more. Rates begin at $3,970 per person for the two-week voyage. 

Also, on November 22, 2015, Crystal Serenity will sail its Monte Carlo to Marseille cruise with stops in Genoa, Florence, Rome, Naples, Italy and Corsica, France. The seven-day tour features trips to Mediterranean villages and Uffizi Gallery, as well as wine and cheese tastings in Nice. Rates begin at $1,895 per person.

New Christmas Market Cruises From Avalon Waterways for 2016

Avalon Waterways has announced seven new itineraries for travelers looking to enjoy 2016 Christmas Markets during its special holiday river cruises. 

The line is offering a 17-day Christmastime Zurich to Budapest sailing that allows travelers to enjoy all three rivers -- the Rhine, Main and Danube -- in one trip. 

The 2016 itineraries are: 

1.  Christmastime in Alsace & Germany (5 days), priced from $1,215 on the Avalon Tranquility II

2. Christmas in the Heart of Germany (8 days), priced from $1,773 on the Avalon Tranquility II

3. Christmastime on the Danube-Westbound (9 days), priced from $2,133 on the Avalon Impression

4. Christmastime on the Danube-Eastbound (9 days), priced from $2,133 on the Avalon Impression

5. Christmastime Zurich to Prague (12 days), priced from $2,898 on the Avalon Tranquility II

6. Christmastime Frankfurt to Budapest (13 days), priced from $3,375 on the Avalon Tranquility II

7. Christmastime Zurich to Budapest (17 days), priced from $4,589 on the Avalon Tranquility II

Star Clippers Offers New Holiday Cruise Deals

Tall ship sailing specialist Star Clippers is offering three special holiday gifts -- a $200 onboard credit per cabin, champagne and treats, and a one-hour massage -- on sailings from December 19, 2015, to January 2, 2016, onboard the Royal Clipper and Star Clipper in the Caribbean. 

Guests must book by October 31, 2015, to receive this special on six different itineraries, which include:

- December 19-26, 2015 and January 2-9, 2016: Leeward Islands (7 nights) St. Maarten to St. Maarten with stops in Nevis, Dominica, Iles des Saintes, Guadeloupe, Antigua, and St. Barts.
- December 26-January 2, 2016: Treasure Islands (7 nights) St. Maarten to St. Maarten with stops in Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, Norman Island, Tortola, St. Kitts, and St. Barts.

These itineraries are available aboard Star Clipper, with rates from $1,285 per person.

Additionally, on Royal Clipper, sailings include:

- December 19-26, 2015 and January 2-9, 2016: Windward Islands (7 nights) Barbados to Barbados with stops in St. Lucia, Dominica, Antigua, St Kitts, Iles des Saintes, and Martinique.
- December 26-January 2, 2016: Grenadine Islands (7 nights) Barbados to Barbados with stops in Grenadines, Grenada, Tobago Cays, St. Vincent, Bequia, Martinique, and St. Lucia.

Rates start at $1,350 per person.

A Christmas Full Moon Celebration at Four Seasons Bali

Four Seasons Bali has announced that it will celebrate the rare full moon on Christmas Day with special Full Moon Christmas Yoga on the property's dramatic new river-edge yoga deck. This is the first Christmas Day full moon in 38 years.

Located on the banks of the Ayung River, the resort’s new Dharma Shanti River Terrace provides an open-air space for a different kind of Christmas celebration, with yoga salutations and meditation under the glow of the full moon.

Other highlights of the festive program include Santa’s arrival by river raft, New Year’s Eve meditation, "flying" AntiGravity Yoga, riverstone bathing rituals and sumptuous dining. Meanwhile Four Seasons Jimbaran’s festive program includes Surfing with Santa as part of the resort’s new TropicSurf program. 

After hearing Christmas wish lists, Santa will put on his boardshorts and join the TropicSurf coach to accompany young guests surfing at the gentle beach break of Jimbaran Bay. Children will also be invited to join a "dokar" horse-and-cart ride with Santa around the resort gardens.

Additionally, there will also be a Festive Amazing Race challenge, while The Healing Village Spa will offer Family Yoga. Guests looking for unique gift ideas can join a Chakra Blending Class to make their own ila Himalayan salt scrub and massage oil.

A New Year’s Eve beach-front dinner at Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay’s beach club and restaurant, Sundara, will include new Customized Cocktails by DRY Martini, while Sundara’s Recovery Brunch on New Year’s Day will offer a chance to refresh and restart for the new year.

Chi-town Rising

Chi-Town Rising Offers Up New Year’s Eve Delights 

The city of Chicago will be debuting a New Year's Eve celebration, Chi-Town Rising, in an effort to put the city on the map of worldwide New Year's Eve celebrations. 

Chicago will ring in 2016 with a televised festival, featuring headliner musical acts on multiple stages, a countdown to 2016 at Hyatt Regency Chicago and a fireworks show. The heart of the celebration will take place between Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive, anchored by multiple stages of musical entertainment on the north and south sides of the river.

At midnight, a special countdown featuring a giant Chicago star will ascend 36 stories up the West Tower of Hyatt Regency Chicago, alongside a huge fireworks show 

The event will be free to the public, with Information regarding the full talent line-up, activities, private event access, and more to be shared in the coming weeks.

Chi-Town Rising, which is privately funded and is being produced by Arena Partners, has the support of Choose Chicago and the Illinois Office of Tourism.

Special Holiday Package From Palazzo Margherita

This holiday season, Palazzo Margherita invites travelers from all over the world to enjoy their special Christmas itinerary. 

A five-day itinerary begins on December 23, 2015, where guests will enjoy a private cooking lesson featuring some of Italy’s traditional Christmas recipes, and later watch a classic Italian movie in the villa’s film screening salon. 

A special breakfast and a tour of the Crypt of the Original Sin will take place on Christmas Eve morning, and continue with a visit to Matera’s cave dwellings, the Musma contemporary art museum, the Palazzo Lanfranchi, Casa Cava and Casa Ortega. In the evening, guests will be treated to a traditional Christmas Eve dinner, complete with local wines, and a special midnight mass in a historic Bernalda church.

Christmas morning will begin with a walking tour of Bernalda, and later guests will indulge in a Christmas aperitivo and lunch in the villa’s family bar along with card and board games. That night, guests will dine in the villa’s family kitchen and experience “giropizza,” where they will eat a variety of pizzas prepared by the onsite chefs.  

A December 26 tourwill take guests through the ancient town of Lecce where they will see traditional Baroque architecture, the Piazza del Duomo, a Roman Amphitheatre and more. Check out will be the morning of December 27. 

Itinerary rates begin at 1,790 EUR per person. 

The Knickerbocker Presents First New Year's Celebration In 95 Years

The red carpet will be rolled out for guests of The Knickerbocker Hotel during a special New Year’s celebration, the property’s first in 95 years.

Located at the edge of Times Square, guests will usher in 2016 with unrivaled views of the most-watched New Year's Eve celebration in the world. Along with three-night luxury accommodations, the New Year's packages provide access to The Knickerbocker's New Year's Eve Private Gala and New Year's Day Brunch.

The black-tie gala commences on December 31 at the hotel's signature restaurant, Charlie Palmer at The Knick. Chef Charlie Palmer and Executive Chef Cliff Denny will create a special menu featuring classic dishes such as Lobster Thermidor and Beef Wellington, while Champagne and vintage wines will be flowing throughout the evening. Big Band music will entertain, as a nod to the classic 1920’s era.

Following a tribute to the original, the 200 VIPs and their guests will move to modern day with a big reveal on St. Cloud, the hotel's spectacular rooftop bar. Fire dancers and a special guest DJ will entertain 17 stories above Times Squares, along with views of Waterford Crystal Ball Drop.

Guests looking for the ultimate VIP experience may reserve the Waterford Crystal Lounge at St. Cloud, a private event space boasting floor-to-ceiling glass walls that open onto the rooftop and seating for up to 22.

New Year's Day will include an indulgent brunch with a bespoke menu by Charlie Palmer, complete with all the proper recuperating tonics including the hotel's signature martinis. A special New Year's Day group cardio, boot camp and yoga class will also be offered at The Knickerbocker's state-of the art fitness center.

This will be The Knickerbocker's first New Year's celebration in 95 years after Prohibition caused the close of the hotel in 1921. The property reopened in February 2015 after completing a spectacular $250 million redevelopment to transform the Beaux Arts building into a modern and luxurious five-star hotel. 

New Year's packages start at $6,890 per room based on a three-night stay, double occupancy, breakfast daily, inclusive of all celebrations. St. Cloud Skypod packages range from $70,000 to $110,000 and are inclusive of accommodations and all celebrations. The Waterford Crystal Lounge is available at $100,000 and is inclusive of accommodations and all celebrations.

For more information, reservations and package details call 212-204-4980. For Skypod and Waterford Crystal Lounge inquiries please email [email protected].

Photo via Fenning

Sparkling Wine and Holiday Lights to Kick Off Sandestin Wine Festival

Tickets are now on sale for the third annual Sparkling Wine and Holiday Lights event scheduled for Saturday, November 14 from 5 pm to 7 pm inside The Village of Baytowne Wharf at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. 

The event is the official prelude to the Sandestin Wine Festival, which will celebrate its 30th edition next April. Event officials also announced special discounted pricing for the longest-running wine event in Northwest Florida with savings of more than 30 percent.

Sparkling Wine and Holiday Lights highlights 30 different champagnes and sparkling wines, and pairs them with delicious appetizers at featured Village restaurants. Tickets are currently discounted for pre-sale purchases for $40 per person, and include a commemorative glass.

Additionally, event organizers announced early bird ticket pricing for the 30th Annual Sandestin Wine Festival, set for April 14-17, 2016. For the first 150 ticket purchasers, the special price for the Grand Wine Tasting on Saturday, April 17 is only $65, reflecting a savings of more than 30 percent. The Friday evening tasting on April 16 is being offered for only $50 for the first 150 ticket purchasers, and guests can also purchase two day passes for $110. 

For more details and information about the Sandestin Wine Festival, visit