Holiday cruises are memorable. Whether you travel with friends or family members—or go solo—a cruise over Christmas, Chanukah or New Year's Eve can be a special experience. And there are still some last-minute cruise offers to be had.
Be forewarned: Because holiday vacations coincide with time off from school, there are likely to be more children on board than usual, especially on larger ships. This is a peak season for families.
"Passengers should expect multi-generational families on board," says Chuck Flagg, who owns a Cruise Holidays franchise near Atlanta. "Many times the best way to enjoy time with large families is to let someone else do the decorating, cooking and cleaning."
Flagg cautions that fares are also going to be at a premium because the demand is higher. But if you do some research, you are likely to find last minute cruise offers that mesh with your interests, lifestyle and pocketbook. In fact, a cruise vacation can be a wonderful holiday present to give yourself or your loved ones. (If you are thinking of a solo cruise, be sure to check out the recent Life Goes Strong article on Cruising Childfree.)
What to expect
CruiseCritic.com surveyed several cruise lines to get a sense of what passengers might find onboard during holiday cruises. Needless to say, there's something for everyone. Ships are beautifully decorated from stem to stern; holiday meals are lovingly prepared, presented and served; and entertainment offerings ranged from themed shows, to seasonal movies and special performances.
New Year's Eve often includes black-tie countdown parties with dancing to live music, hats, favors, noisemakers and champagne toasts—followed by New Year's Day Brunches.
Many lines have Chanukah lighting ceremonies, visits from Santa, and multi-denominational religious services. On Princess Cruises, you may see man-made snow falling in the atrium. Those Norwegian Cruise Line ships with ice-rinks host skating parties. If you are sailing on Crystal Cruises, you can watch a tree-lighting ceremony presided over by the captain. On Cunard, Father Christmas hands out gifts to all the kids. On Seabourn, you'll find a gingerbread village.
How to find holiday cruises
Below are a sampling of last-minute cruise offers on Crystal, Cunard, and Norwegian Cruise Line that still have availability for holiday cruises:
- Caribbean Holiday round-trip from Miami sailing on Crystal Serenity, December 21 – January 4, 2013, Fares from $7,060/person
- Southern Summer Holiday sailing from Auckland to Melbourne on Crystal Symphony, December 20 – January 5, 2013 [This includes privileged views of Sydney's renowned New Year's Eve firework spectacle aboard a chartered complimentary, glass-bottom luxury catamaran. For Lord of the Rings fans, the sailing also includes an exclusive dinner in "Middle-Earth," where guests are invited to the Hobbiton Movie Set & Farm for an evening visit and authentic New Zealand dinner.] Fares from $8,505/person
- Atlantic Isles Discovery – round-trip from Southampton sailing on Queen Mary 2, December 4 - 15, 2012. Fares from $1399/per person
- Grand Caribbean Fiesta - round-trip from Southampton sailing on Queen Mary 2, December 15 – January 10, 2013. Fares from $5,090/person
- Caribbean Fiesta – round-trip from New York sailing on Queen Mary 2, December 22 – January 3, 2012. Fares from $2,295/person
- Northern Adventure – round-trip from Southampton sailing on Queen Victoria, December 13 – 20, 2012. Fares from $999/person
- Iberian Serenade – round-trip from Southampton on Queen Elizabeth, December 9 - 19, 2012. Fares from $1,099/person
- Mediterranean Celebration – round-trip from Southampton on Queen Elizabeth, December 19 – January 6, 2013. Fares from $2,699/person
NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE
- Round-trip from Miami on Norwegian Epic, December 22 and December 27, 2012 sailings, 7-night Eastern Caribbean. Fares from $1519/person for balcony stateroom
- Round-trip from Miami on Norwegian Pearl, December 23, 2012, 7-night Eastern Caribbean. Fares from $1079/person for oceanview stateroom
- Round-trip from New Orleans on Norwegian Star, December 23 and December 30, 2012 sailings, 7-night Western Caribbean. Fares from $1079/person for oceanview stateroom
- Round-trip from Barcelona on Norwegian Spirit, December 30, 2012, 9-night Canary Islands. Fares from $929/person for oceanview stateroom
- Round-trip on Norwegian Gem from New York, December 31, 2012, 9-day Eastern Caribbean. Fares from $999/person for oceanview stateroom
- Round-trip on Norwegian Sky from Miami, December 24 and December 31, 2012 sailings, 4-day Bahamas. Fares from $449/person for oceanview stateroom
- Round trip on Norwegian Dawn from Tampa, December 23 and December 30, 2012 sailings, 7-day Western Caribbean. Fares from $809/person for oceanview stateroom
- Pride of America, December 22, 2012. 7-day Hawaii. Fares from $1,729/person for oceanview stateroom
(All fares are per person, based on double occupancy, subject to availability.)
For additional holiday cruise options, check the Main Deals page at CruiseCritic.com, which is sortable by date, to find out about cruise availability during the monrth of December; you can also check out the Last Minute Cruises page on the same site.
If you can't find a cruise that suits you this year, it's not too early to plan for December 2013!
- Read Five Reasons to Book a Holiday Cruise on MoreTimeToTravel.com/
- Cruising Solo: Finding the Perfect Cruise for Singles over 40 on Life Goes Strong.