How to Celebrate Christmas on a Cruise
If you’re hoping to do something different this holiday season, celebrate Christmas on a cruise! This is great way to escape the whirlwind of cookie baking, being stuck in traffic, and wrapping presents all night long. To make sure you and your family have the perfect celebration, book early with the cruise line that fits your family’s needs. You’ll also need to pack for some holiday fun, and then get ready to enjoy a festive and fantastic voyage across the sea!
Booking Your Cruise
Discuss your plans with family members to get their approval.Make sure everyone you plan to bring on the cruise is on board. Discuss how you’ll handle popular family traditions, and explain why you want to go on the cruise. You should also contact extended family to give them a heads-up about your plan.
- This conversation is especially important for smaller children. While some may be super excited about celebrating Christmas on a boat, others may need some convincing to abandon their holiday routine.
Choose large ships for small children and lots of activities.Large ships will hold between 2,000 and 3,000+ passengers. While these ships are crowded, they’re the best choice if you’ve got small children and want to take advantage of lots of family-oriented programs.
- Carnival, Princess Cruises, and Norwegian have several popular large ships.
- All of the Disney Cruise Line ships hold 2,000+ passengers.
- You can also enjoy a wide variety of other amenities on large ships, including several pools, lots of dining options, and luxury spas and gyms.
Pick mid-size ships for a mix of activities for adults and kids.Mid-size ships hold between about 950 and 2,000 passengers. These ships may have less family programming, but the atmosphere may be better for adults who want to meet and socialize with other people on board. The passengers will generally be older than on a large ship.
- Princess Cruises and Celebrity both have popular mid-size ships.
- These ships may be less expensive to book than either large ships or small ships.
- Mid-size ships may have less variety than larger ships, and they won’t offer the personal touch of smaller ships. However, they’ll be less crowded and will have much shorter lines to get on and off the boat.
Go for small ships for luxury and less children.Small ships hold less than 950 passengers. These ships usually provide high-quality dining, excellent entertainment, and luxurious surroundings. Families don’t often travel on small boats, so this may be a better option for those looking for a romantic Christmas cruise for two.
- SeaDream Yacht Club and Regent Seven Seas cruises both have popular small ships.
Find out about different cruise lines’ holiday plans.Before you decide on a cruise line and ship, go online and learn about the boat. You can browse through pictures, read reviews, and compare and contrast your options. Be sure to check out what each ship has planned for their Christmas cruises.
- Don’t forget to look up the itinerary. It’s important to pick a cruise that’s visiting ports of call that make you excited! Since some destinations may have limited activities during the holidays, do some online searching on potential ports before you make your choice as well.
Call the cruise line or go online to find deals.Christmas is often the most expensive time of year to go on a cruise, so expect prices to be high. However, you may be able to find deals if you contact the cruise line and ask about any specials. You can also sign up for cruise lines’ newsletters online to get notifications about specials.
- Don’t wait to buy your tickets because you’re hoping that a deal will come up. It’s best to book as early as possible, as Christmas cruises will quickly sell out. Prices will also usually go up the closer you book to the departure date.
Book about nine months to a year in advance.Going on a cruise requires lots of advance planning! Finalize your choice of ship and cruise line about a year ahead of time, as this will give you some wiggle room while you’re booking. Book no later than nine months before the scheduled departure date of the cruise.
- The earlier you book, the more likely it is you’ll get the cabin you want. If you can afford it, go for a cabin with a balcony. Families may also want to book family suites with adjoining rooms.
Buy plane tickets early to avoid travel problems.If you need to fly to your departure city, buy plane tickets when you book the cruise. This will keep your travel plans organized, and it’ll help you avoid higher costs or oversold flights.
- Consider flying into the city the day or night before the cruise leaves. You don’t want to miss the cruise because of a delayed flight!
- If you’re traveling to or from a city that may have problems with winter weather, you may even want to arrive a few days ahead of time.
Prepping for Departure
Have a small celebration at home before you leave.Invite your extended family for a meal and a gift exchange. Do as many of your typical Christmas activities as you can, as this will keep you (or your kids) from feeling like you’re missing out on the cruise. This will also let you avoid packing big gifts to give to your family while on the ship.
- Since this cruise is all about minimizing stress, try not to let things get out of control. Your mini-celebration doesn’t have to be exactly like Christmas if that’s going to be too much work! Just do whatever makes you and your family happy.
Bring special outfits for the holiday.As you’re throwing clothes into your suitcase, don’t forget to add some festive options. There will surely be holiday-themed dinners, dances, and entertainment on the cruise, and you’ll want to fit in!
- Green or red clothing is perfect for the Christmas season. You can also pack gold or silver items if you’re hoping for a fancier look.
- A Santa hat or some reindeer antlers can also be fun for children and adults.
Make a plan for gifts.It can be tough to make space in your suitcase for lots of bulky gifts, especially when they’re wrapped. Plan an exchange either before or after you leave home for bigger items. Bring just a few very tiny gifts to give each other on the cruise itself.
- Since the cruise may be your family’s big gift this year, you can also skip gift-giving entirely!
Leave room in your suitcases for souvenirs.Cruise ships have a wide variety of shops with fun souvenirs and luxury items. You may even want to delay your holiday shopping. Leave about half of your suitcase empty if you plan on indulging in a shopping spree.
Check your cruise line’s alcohol policy.You might want to bring your own bottle of champagne or wine to celebrate the holiday. Some cruise lines will allow you to bring your own alcohol aboard and others will not. Call the line directly to double check before you leave your house.
- Don’t try to sneak it on. It probably won’t work, and it may even prevent you from being allowed to board. At a minimum, your nice champagne is going to be confiscated and wasted.
Make sure you’ve packed your IDs before you leave.You’ll likely need passports for all the members of your family that are traveling. As soon as you book the cruise, renew any passports that are set to expire and get new ones if you need to. On your departure day, check to make sure you’ve got everyone’s passports before you leave your house and each time you stop.
Get some small decorations for your cabin.While the ship will be totally decked out in Christmas décor, your cabin may not have quite as many decorations. Bring a tiny tree, some twinkly Christmas lights, and a wreath to liven up your room.
- Having a few small decorations in your cabin could be especially comforting for small children who may miss home during the holiday.
- You can probably pick these things up in your departure city right before you get on board. This will make the packing process a little easier.
Enjoying Your Holiday
Bask in the holiday decorations.As soon as you get on board, you’ll be confronted with a wondrous spectacle of lights, ornaments, and fir. Take a minute to appreciate it! You didn’t even have to sort the lights this year.
- Be sure to snap lots of photos among the decorations with your family members.
Check your ship’s daily newsletter for scheduling details.Each day, an awesome member of your cruise line’s staff will leave a newsletter in your room. These leaflets provide tons of information about the upcoming day’s activities, including any last-minute scheduling changes. Ask everyone in your family to pick which activities they’d like to participate in.
- If there are disagreements over activities, resolve the conflict by suggesting taking turns picking each day.
Take advantage of holiday-themed meals.Cruise lines will provide a wide variety of food and drinks suited for the season. Expect to enjoy some spiced eggnog and gingerbread houses, along with turkey, ham, and all the trimmings. And, of course, lots of Christmas cookies!
- Adults can also enjoy holiday-themed drink specials and holiday parties.
Look for daily activities for children.Especially if you’re on a larger ship, Christmas cruises will have tons of activities planned for kids. Take a picture with Santa, build gingerbread houses, or do some holiday-themed arts and crafts. Some ships will even have Santa give out gifts to younger children on Christmas morning.
- On some ships, you may also be able to join in for some Christmas sing-alongs and storytimes.
Take part in onboard religious services if you choose.Depending on which ship you pick, you may have a wide variety of services to choose from or one non-denominational service. Attend the services and enjoy the time with your family. Reflect on the season and its messages.
Do some holiday shopping in the ship’s shops.Poke your head into the shops. Even if you aren’t doing your Christmas shopping for friends and family on board, you may be able to pick up a little something for yourself! If you like window shopping, you can also just walk around and browse.
Enjoy special performances and tree lightings.Your cruise line will offer holiday-themed entertainment several times during the journey. If you’re on a large ship, you can even attend Broadway-quality Christmas shows. Be sure to also go to any tree lighting ceremonies to get into the Christmas spirit.
- Mid-size ships will also offer plenty of entertainment, but the theater (and the performance) may not be as large-scale.
- Smaller ships pride themselves on their exclusive entertainment, which is usually aimed at adults.
Participate in local festivities when you’re docked.Depending on where your ship docks, you may be lucky enough to enjoy holiday carnivals and celebrations. Other spots may have limited openings during December, so be prepared for either situation. Regardless, get off the ship, stretch your legs, and enjoy your beautiful destination!
- Most islands in the Caribbean, for example, will have lots of festivals you can attend during this time of year.
- Even if restaurants and shops are closed, you can still walk around and get a feel for the city.
- Remember that most cruise prices include your food and non-alcoholic beverages. You will need to tip your servers and staff before you leave. Be kind and generous by tipping a little more than usual since the staff worked over the holiday.
- Consider celebrating other holidays on your cruise, too. Hanukkah often falls near Christmas, and cruises have celebrations and festivities that include Hanukkah traditions. You could also extend your cruise to the New Year's holiday.
- Christmas cruises are generally much pricier than others throughout the year. If you’re looking for the best deal, you may want to consider going on a cruise during a different season.
Video: Top 5 Reasons To Celebrate A Christmas Cruise
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