Spend the holidays on a cruise

You can still have a white Christmas in the Caribbean, Mexico or any other warm climate if you take a cruise. Cruise lines go overboard when it comes creating a festive atmosphere. They’ll make fake snow, deck the decks with luxurious decorating, perform opulent pageants and serve sumptuous holiday meals to honour the season. And if your kids are worried that Santa won’t find them at sea, no need – he’s been know to parasail right onto the deck, making kids believe he just hopped out of his sleigh.

Atriums, lobbies and lounges are filled with gigantic Christmas trees – some soaring three decks high. Staircase banisters are draped with garlands dripping with holly. Lavish wreaths hang on doors. Faux fireplaces with stockings grace the libraries.

Family-oriented cruise lines such as Carnival, Holland America and Royal Caribbean are extra sweet at keeping holiday spirits high.
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“We traditionally see very strong demand for Christmas cruises,” says Terry Thornton, senior vice president of marketing for Carnival. “The pricing is affordable and we have ships departing from about a dozen U.S. ports to make it even easier and less expensive to fly or drive.”

The growing trend for holiday cruises is to make it a family reunion. To accommodate the large groups, cruise lines have created more inter-connecting cabins, as well as condo-sized staterooms that can sleep more than 10 people.

“In recent years, we’ve hosted many more multi-generational families, from kids and grandparents to their extended family members,” says Thornton. “A cruise allows guests of all ages and interests to spend the holidays together. We have something for everyone.”

Carnival features special holiday-themed entertainment, children’s programs and traditional meals – turkey, mincemeat pies, eggnog and more.

On Royal Caribbean, young passengers participate in gingerbread house contests, decorate Christmas cookies, make ornaments to decorate the trees and prepare for a holiday pageant to show parents.

Santa Claus, with his sack full of toys, visits with the children, and a holiday fair in the atrium offers youngsters games, contests, balloon animals and face painting.

The sophisticated stage shows in the main theatres focus their musicals on the holiday season. Or for those passengers who like entertainment that’s more subdued, there are readings of `Twas the Night Before Christmas or holiday movies such as Polar Express and Miracle on 34th Street playing on cabin televisions.

Holland America passengers enjoy gala feasts, holiday shows, tree lighting in the lobby, milk and cookie snacks with Santa and bed turndown gifts. Bring a stocking and it will be stuffed.

Erik Elvejord, director of public relations says, “We also have the crew do a show that features their own special traditions. It’s a themed show that has a really nice feel to it,” he says. “The crew also goes around the ship singing Christmas carols.”

Religious services are held and passengers enjoy attending midnight mass or an inter-denominational church service performed by onboard clergy. Passengers celebrating Hanukkah can participate in services conducted by a rabbi. Ships also display menorahs and menus feature specialty items such as potato latkes, matzo ball soup and gefilte fish.

Spending the holidays on a ship will bring all the wonders of the season without all the work. Alleviate the stresses and messes that are associated with the holiday and spend the time celebrating with loved ones.
December 13, 2013

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