For Americans, the Caribbean is still the number one choice, and virtually all the big ships, as well as some smaller ones (Crystal, Regent, Ponant, etc.) offer holiday cruises (as brief as 3 or 4 days) that sail to the Caribbean and Mexico. Most depart from Florida. Norwegian, among others, sails the Mexican Riviera, from Los Angeles. Some cruises feature the Panama Canal. Seabourn, for example, offers an 18-day Panama Canal experience sailing from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles.
Florida and Bahamas itineraries also sail out of New York, Baltimore, Galveston and Houston, Charleston and New Orleans. Some ships, including those of Carnival, Celebrity Royal Caribbean, Costa and MSC, leave from ports in Puerto Rico, Barbados, the Dominican Republic and Guadeloupe. For example, SeaDream 1 sails a 10-Caribbean itinerary (roundtrip Bridgetown, Barbados).
As might be expected, Disney’s 3- 7-night Caribbean and Bahamian itineraries are packed with holiday magic that includes iconic characters, gingerbread houses, lots of Santa stuff and special celebrations on the line’s Castaway Cay.
Norwegian’s renovated Pride of America does 7-day Hawaii cruises (roundtrip Honolulu). Princess has 15-day Hawaii itineraries sailing roundtrip from either Los Angeles or San Francisco.
The sailing ships Star Clipper and Royal Clipper have 10-day Christmas itineraries, round trip from Barbados. Star Flyer sails 9-night cruises round trip from St. Maarten.
Clients interested in Europe are likelier to book river itineraries (see below); however, Cunard, Norwegian, MSC and Costa among others offer holiday cruises that sail from European ports (e.g., Southampton, Barcelona, Venice) to warm weather climes like the Canary Islands and Morocco.
Clients looking for exotic destinations have many choices. Oceania, for example, has a 15-day South Africa holiday, sailing round-trip from Cape Town. Crystal ships sail a 15-day Cape Town, South Africa itinerary to Australia and New Zealand and a Dubai round-trip, with visits to Abu Dhabi, Doha, Muscat and Sir Bani Yas Island. Seabourn also offers a number of exotic itineraries ranging from 16 to 44 days, in Asia, the Middle East, the South Pacific and Antarctica.
Norwegian sails a 14-day Southeast Asia cruise from Hong Kong to Singapore. Azamara’s 14-night Asia holiday sails round-trip from Singapore.
Regent’s holiday sails include 20-night itinerary from Dubai to Singapore, a 35-day itinerary from Cape Town to Miami and a 41-day trip from Dubai to Sydney.
Most major lines offer South America Christmas cruises with both one-way and round-trip itineraries leaving from Santos (port to Sao Paulo), Brazil and Rio. For a really white Christmas (and New Year’s Day), a number of small ships, including those of Ponant, Silversea, Hurtigruten, National Geographic, take passengers to Antarctica from ports in South America. There are also several Antarctica-themed cruises leaving from Argentina (the port of Buenos Aires) to Chile (Valparaiso port to Santiago), or the reverse route. Holland America has a 21-night itinerary that includes South America and Antarctica.
Traveling solo during the holidays can be daunting and expensive, but several lines have met the challenge with single cabins. The studio cabins on Norwegian ships--Escape, Breakaway, Getaway, Epic and Pride of America--have a dedicated lounge where passengers can congregate with other solo travelers. Holiday itineraries include the Caribbean, Hawaii and the Bahamas. Holland America’s Koningsdam and Prinsendam have solo cabins; so do Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas. Costa has single cabins on some of its ships, including the newer Costa Favolosa and Costa Fascinosa. Several P&O ships have single-friendly cabins, as does Cunard. All Olsen ships offer solo cabins.
For an instant infusion of holiday spirit, Christmas Market cruises are available as early as late November. Virtually all the river cruise lines offer some version of these holiday voyages. For example, AmaWaterways has 7-night cruises on both the Rhine (Amsterdam to Basel and reverse) and the Danube (Nuremberg to Budapest and reverse)
A highlight of these cruises is Vienna, where the City Hall is gloriously illuminated, providing a backdrop for concerts by international choirs and the 700-year old markets selling decadent pastries, holiday gifts and, of course, colorful decorations. But wait-there’s more: dazzling lights along the Kärntnerstrasse, lined with shops and home to the magnificent St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which is also beautifully illuminated. And yes, more markets: at the Naturhistoriches Museum and in front of the Victorian-era Freyung Passage. Even more festive markets live in Nuremberg and Vilshofen, so by the time the cruise is over, passengers will have had lots of holiday merrymaking-especially if there’s some snow to decorate all the storybook settings.
Avalon Waterways offers Christmas Markets river cruises ranging in length from five to 17 days.
The Crystal Mozart has three Christmas Markets sailings in November and December: 10-day tips round-trip from Vienna, calling at Melk, Linz, Passau, Vilshofen and Bratislava and ending with an overnight in Vienna.
Scenic Cruises does 8-day Christmas Markets voyages on both the Rhine and the Danube.
Uniworld offers several Christmas Markets itineraries, including: Classic Christmas Markets (Nuremberg to Frankfurt); Danube Holiday Markets (Budapest to Passau); European Holiday Markets (Nuremberg to Vienna) and Rhine Holiday Markets (Basel to Cologne).
With its massive fleet of Longships, Viking easily offers the most Christmas Markets dates and itineraries, traveling through Germany, Austria, Hungary, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Slovakia and other countries.
With an increasing number of Americans who prefer to stay close to home, American Queen Steamboat Company has seen a big increase in holiday bookings with their U.S. version of Christmas Markets. Onboard the luxurious paddle-wheeler, American Queen, holidays are celebrated throughout December in 9-day and one 10-day cruise from New Orleans to Memphis (and reverse). These voyages celebrate the antebellum South with parties, shopping, a traditional Sothern ball and a gala celebration plantation meal, as well as a holiday meal aboard the ship.