There may be snow and mistletoe if you’re home for the winter holidays, but there are also hectic dinners, crowded shopping malls, and chaotic roads. That’s why some folks are planning on packing their bags and taking a holiday cruise this winter season, swapping stressful family gatherings and long lines for exotic destinations and decadent buffets.
Most major lines—including Caribbean, Disney, and Norwegian—offer special holiday cruises. These Christmas-, Hanukah-, and New Years-themed cruises feature spectacular multicourse meals with holiday favorites, dazzling entertainment, and all-out celebrations. Ships head to ports in far off destinations such Hawaii, Europe, and South America.
Typically, these trips are a bit more expensive than your average cruise, but luxurious holiday amenities can make them well-worth the extra cost. If you’re splurging on a cruise vacation this holiday season, you’ll want to compare ships to make sure you get the most bang for your buck. To help you plan the vacation best suited to you and your family, here are some aspects to consider when choosing your holiday cruise.
Destinations. Cruise ships typically embark from ports like New York, Miami, and Los Angeles to destinations across the globe. If you’re considering taking a cruise this holiday season, you may want to think about where you’d like to wake up on Christmas morning, spend New Year’s Eve, or celebrate Hanukah. An exotic Caribbean beach? A quaint, snow-capped European village? A lush Asian river?
If you’re hoping to escape the cold, cruises heading for the Bahamas, Mexico, and Puerto Rico might be your best bet. Many Caribbean islands play host to lively Christmas celebrations, complete with fireworks, parades, and music. But if it’s a more traditional white Christmas you’re after, European destinations—such as Prague, Vienna, or Nuremberg—might be the way to go. Many holiday cruises travel along European rivers like the Rhine or Danube, allowing travelers to stop off at the legendary Christmas markets of Europe. Other popular destinations include New Zealand, Australia, and Asia.
Whatever destination you decide on, make sure you find out whether you are scheduled to spend the actual holiday day at sea or at a certain port, and consider whether you’d prefer to celebrate the day onboard or in a destination city.
Holiday Meals. The best cruises go the extra mile when it comes to their holiday menus, bringing aboard celebrity chefs who tempt guests with traditional dishes such as roast goose and pecan pie on Christmas, matzo ball soup and latkes on Hanukah, and caviar and chocolate truffles on New Year’s.
But while some cruises embrace traditional holiday favorites, others focus on special cuisines such as Italian, Mexican, or European. When choosing a cruise, think about whether you’d prefer to eat familiar, time-honored holiday dishes, or try something new and exotic.
To wash back decadent dishes, many cruise lines offer complimentary holiday libations such as egg nog and cider. On New Year’s, expect a champagne toast after the countdown to midnight.
Entertainment and Activities. Cruise ships entertain guest with an array of holiday-themed activities, some traditional, others more modern and creative. Caroling, holiday cooking classes, and tree-lighting ceremonies are common offerings, as well as black-tie dinners and balls.
If you’re traveling with young children, make sure you check out the kids’ activities your cruise line has planned. Will there be a visit from Santa Claus and other holiday characters to your ship? Will there be family activities like ice skating, holiday movies, and gingerbread house decorating? Is there babysitting available for special events like New Year’s Eve parties? Will there be special kids’ menus offered with holiday dinners?
Religious Services. If religious services are important you, definitely look into what your cruise ship has available in advance. Many ships invite clergymen aboard to conduct holiday ceremonies, such as Catholic masses or protestant services on Christmas Eve or Christmas day. Some ships celebrate Hanukah with a simple menorah display, while others welcome rabbis aboard for nightly menorah-lighting ceremonies and feature Hanukah songs and storytelling.
Decorations. You might not have considered décor to be a determining factor when deciding on a cruise line, but the truly jaw-dropping decorations on some ships are not to be overlooked. For instance, some ships use snowmaking machines to simulate daily snowfall, while others outfit their decks with gingerbread cottages, chocolate statues, and towering three-deck-tall trees.
Staying safe on your holiday cruise. While holiday cruises make it easy to let go with sumptuous meals, late-night parties, and bottomless glasses of champagne and mulled cider, it’s important to remember that the risks associated with cruises still abound—even during the holidays. There’s a lot that goes into crafting the cruise holiday experience, and there are many things that can go wrong that might not typically happen on land. Avoid injury and accident by following safe cruise practices, such as drinking responsibly, keeping an eye on your belongings, and treading carefully in destination ports.
And if you or someone you care about is injured on a cruise ship this holiday season, contact an experienced cruise accident lawyer. You’ve paid top dollar and entrusted your cruise line with an important holiday celebration—if they’ve failed to ensure you or your family’s well-being, they need to be held legally and financially accountable.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of The Law Office of Andrew Winston. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, and was recently voted by his peers as a Florida “SuperLawyer”—an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state—and to Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite.”