Festive holiday cruises are offered industry-wide, at all price points. And industry-wide, ships are transformed into holiday wonderlands, with visits from Santa, religious services, caroling, special guests and special performances - and elaborate holiday meals. I’ve included a sampling here that might appeal to families, to couples or to singles.
Offering big ship luxury along with a commitment to families, Crystal’s two ships will sail a variety of holiday itineraries, including several round-trip Miami cruises, a round-trip from New Orleans and cruises in the Med, South America, Australia and the South Seas. The line spends lavishly (more than $100,000) on decorations to celebrate Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year.
Though generally more appropriate for adults, the ships of Regent Seven Seas do add family-friendly activities during the holiday season. They offer long (14-44 days) cruises to the Middle East, South Africa, South America and Asia.
Luxury cruises for adults who want to enjoy the holidays without crowds of children are offered on the luxury SeaDream yachts, which cruise the Caribbean (6-7 days). Silversea cruises exotic destinations including the Galapagos and Antarctica, as well as Asia, Australia and some Caribbean ports for 7-15 days. Seabourn, too, offers exotic adult-appropriate holiday cruises -- to Arabia, India, Antarctica, Malaysia and Southwest Asia, with itineraries ranging from 14 to 60 days. The mid-size Oceania ships are also generally kid-free as they cruise 10- to 39-day voyages to ports in the Caribbean, South Africa, South America, Asia and the South Pacific. Azamara does an Asia cruise in December.
For families who want flat out seasonal fun, it’s hard to beat Disney, which goes all in during the holidays and has sailings to the Caribbean and Bahamas (3-7 nights) departing November through Christmas - all loaded with decorations and activities. There’s “snow” on Castaway Island, Mr. and Mrs. Santa, life-size gingerbread houses, Santa meet-and-greets, parties for kids of all ages and much more.
Families with several kids might well appreciate MSC’s “Kids Sail Free” policy, which has children 11 and under sailing free and those 12-17 sailing at a reduced rate. The line offers Caribbean cruises and one Med itinerary (Dec. 17-18) and plenty of activity for youngsters in different age groups.
Carnival’s “Fun Ships” have year-round family appeal, both for the lines’ kid-friendly attractions and some gently priced itineraries (from 3 nights up), mostly the Eastern and Western Caribbean and Bahamas, as well as Baha cruises from California. Carnival goes the extra distance for families with toddlers.
The big ships of Royal Caribbean - Oasis, Allure, Anthem -- can be especially enticing to older kids during the holidays. They sail the Eastern and Western Caribbean and the Bahamas and offer a world of entertainment, with such attractions as zip-lining, surf riding, bumper cars and sky diving. That’s in addition to all the
Traveling solo during the holidays can be daunting - and expensive, given the dreaded single supplement -- but with the solo studio cabins on Norwegian’s Epic and Breakaway, singles have a dedicated lounge where they can congregate with other solo travelers. The Breakaway sails the Caribbean during the Christmas season while the Epic offers a Canary Islands and Morocco itinerary, as well as a New Year cruise from Barcelona.
Older singles interested in cruising from the U.K. might favor the sociable atmosphere of the Fred Olsen ships, which not only have single cabins, but which also waive the single supplement on select cabin grades and itineraries. Holiday cruises of varying lengths visit Scandinavia, the Canary Islands (Spain and Morocco) and the Caribbean. A 43-day itinerary includes the Caribbean, Cuba and South America.
There’s plenty of activity on the world’s rivers during the holiday season. Clients who’d rather not leave the United States might prefer one of the 9-day itineraries aboard the American Queen. Beginning on Thanksgiving, the luxurious paddle-wheeler will travel the Mississippi to and from Memphis, Tennessee and New Orleans, Louisiana. Along the way, there will be Christmas markets, strolling carolers, departure serenades, a Christmas ball and more.
For clients who want a European vacation, CroisiEurope offers holiday cruises that make perfect add-ons. They range from 3 to 6 days: Christmas Markets in Alsace (which includes a visit to The Christmas market in Strasbourg); Andalusian Christmas - The Guadalquivir and the Bay of Cadiz (sailing roundtrip from Seville); and New Year on the Rhine (with free time in Strasbourg and Breisach).
Virtually all the major lines, including AmaWaterways, Uniworld and Viking offer the popular holiday cruises along Europe’s rivers, mainly starting around Thanksgiving and running through the end of the year. These can be quite magical, as they offer the opportunity to visit festive villages with quaint houses, Christmas markets where hand-made toys offer alternatives to electronic gifts - and to sample local wines and beers along the way.
The same lines also sail itineraries in Asia throughout the holiday season.