Holiday cruises appeal to many different types of travelers. There are those who want to get away with family for a calmer and fun celebration, rather than the sometimes chaotic goings-on at home. There are those who don’t want all the work making meals and hosting guests but would rather be served and pampered. There are those who want to explore holiday traditions in other parts of the world. Some are singles or empty-nesters who would rather celebrate with others than be home alone.So no matter if you celebrate Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or the Chinese New Year, we know there is a cruise for you. Of course, all of the major, mainstream lines will have onboard festivities, but here are some suggestions from AllThingsCruise that you might not have considered:
Spend Christmas with Mickey: You know that the Disney Cruise Line is going to know how to celebrate on its ships. Children will forever remember the Chanukah or Christmas that they shared with their Disney friends. From Thanksgiving through the new year, Disney Cruise Line adds sparkle to each ship, with traditional “turkey day” fanfare, Christmas feasts, “snow flurries” and New Year’s Eve galas.
Other holiday activities include “King Triton’s Tree Lighting” in the atrium lobby on the first night of the cruise, where a young guest helps Disney characters light the glittering, three-deck-tall tree; family holiday crafts such as decorating stockings, building gingerbread houses, making holiday cards and creating holiday animation cells; storytellers sharing tales of Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanzaa. Plus, a story just for Disney guests about the magical feeling of the holidays on a ship. And what a great touch: Mini decorated holiday trees will be available for purchase in advance for stateroom delivery.
River Cruises in Europe: In many of the charming towns and villages in Germany and Austria, Advent is usually ushered in with the opening of the Christmas markets. Medieval in appearance, they are held in the town square and sell food, drink, and lovely handmade gifts from open-air stalls. There is usually a generous amount of singing and dancing. Most river cruise offer special itineraries at this time of year.
For example, Uniworld Boutique Cruises offers 19 holiday itineraries on six ships for 2012. While most focus on the Danube River, the company’s new flagship, the S.S. Antoinette will be sailing week-long trips on the Rhine and the River Baroness will be sailing seven-day round-trips from Paris in France. For those wishing a longer stay, the River Empress will sail the “Grand Christmas and New Year’s Cruise” from Nuremberg to Budapest for 13 days beginning Dec. 22. This trip includes a private cocktail reception at Artstetten Castle with a descendent of the royal Hapsburgs. On Near Year’s eve there will be a gala dinner and dance at a Viennese palace, including private concert.
Likewise, in 2012 AMAWaterways offers 12 sailings on the Danube aboard AmaLyra and AmaCerto and five sailings on the Rhine on the AmaCello.
Sail the American Heartland: The American Queen Steamboat Company is offering a number of Old Fashioned Holiday voyages in December aboard its newly-relaunched river vessel. These trips promise to be magical. Passengers will enjoy Cajun and Creole traditions such as a Réveillon Christmas Dinner with all of its sinful culinary treats and a stunning array of delectable desserts. There will be brass bands, caroling and prizes for the best decorated stateroom door. There will also be special Christmas shows and even a visit from jolly Saint Nick and his elves.
The American Queen sails by Gramercy’s spectacular bonfires on the levy. Passengers may sip hot wassail on deck or don their pajamas and robes and join Boudreaux by the tree in the Grand Saloon for an enthralling reading of “The Cajun Night Before Christmas.” Other time-honored traditions include eggnog and festive tree-trimming parties. A world-famous wood carver will create amazing Papa Noel statues and you might just be the lucky winner of one. After a Thanksgiving cruise on Nov. 19, there will be six holiday departures of 5-7 days sailing the Mississippi River between Memphis and New Orleans.
We note that American Cruise Line’s much smaller Queen of the Mississippi will operate a Christmas cruise on Dec. 22 and a New Year’s cruise on Dec. 29.
Celebrate in Northern Europe: On Christmas Eve, all Hurtigruten ships in Norway moor in their respective ports for approximately 24 hours, allowing Christmas celebrations to be enjoyed without interruption. The celebrations are based on century-old traditions – and guests may choose to do it all or any part of them. Crew and guests decorate the vessels and the Christmas trees with decorations made on board, learn Norwegian holiday songs together, attend a Christmas mass at the local churches, have a visit from Julenissen (Norwegian Father Christmas) and enjoy an abundance of traditional holiday foods – including the sweet Christmas bread known as Julekake.
For New Year’s, Hurtigruten has arranged for two of its ships to meet in historic Tromso for a joint celebration that includes a special service in the Arctic Cathedral followed by dinner, dancing and fireworks.
For those who want the exotic: Voyages to Antiquity offers two holiday cruises on its Aegean Odyssey, each over 30 days, for those who want to immerse themselves in the Orient. The Christmas/New Year voyage departs Dec. 5 and sails from Singapore to Bangkok while the New Year Voyage begins with a stay in Angkor Wat, Cambodia, before sailing from Bangkok to Bali. Each of these cruises is a combination of two shorter cruises, but if you are flying this far why not stay longer and see all the major sights? This cruise line is committed to in-depth explorations of the cultures it visits and always offers an excellent line-up of onboard speakers. You can expect this to be an all-adult crowd.
Adventure in Antarctica: How about having a wonderful experience at the southern tip of the earth and still being home in time for Christmas? Abercrombie & Kent is a leader in expedition cruising and it is offering two 14-day “Classic Antarctica” trips departing Nov. 27 and Dec. 7 on its 199-passenger MS Boreal. Or, if you want to celebrate while onboard, you can take the 20-day “Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands” itinerary that departs Dec. 17 and Jan. 2. In any case, you will be astounded. If you have never been to Antarctica, this is the year to go.
And what are some of the large lines doing?
Carnival ships are decorated with Christmas trees, wreaths and mistletoe, as well as signage proclaiming traditional Christmas greetings. Children will be delighted by the occasional ‘snowfalls’ in the ships’ atriums. Music is also reflective of the season. Holiday selections are available on the in-room music system and are also incorporated into the live entertainment offerings. Classic Christmas-themed movies such as “Polar Express” are shown during holiday voyages, as well.
Children are invited to participate in an elaborate holiday-themed production show which features decorations crafted by them during activities in the complimentary Camp Carnival children’s program. Santa Claus always makes an appearance during the cruise toting a bag of gifts which are distributed to youngsters. On New Year’s Eve, guests are provided with party favors and noise makers. Also, complimentary champagne is served.