If you're looking for a convenient holiday vacation that offers good value, consider a cruise. Cruises from close-to-home ports will take you to sunny tropical beaches, sometimes for less than the price of a round-trip air ticket alone. These November and December sailings feature special holiday activities and events, festive decorations, delectable meals and more. Start booking these early, however, as popular family cabins are often booked fast.
One of the most expensive parts of a holiday spent in the tropics is the airfare. Cruise lines, however, have positioned their ships in a variety of U.S. locations that are within driving distance of major cities, making holiday vacations easier and less expensive. During the Thanksgiving and December holiday seasons, cruises are available from a wide variety of U.S. ports including:
* New York, NY
* Bayonne, NJ
* Baltimore, MD
* Charleston, SC
* Jacksonville, FL
* Port Canaveral, FL
* Fort Lauderdale, FL
* Miami, FL
* Tampa, FL
* New Orleans, LA
* Houston, TX
* Galveston, TX
* San Diego, CA
* Los Angeles, CA
* Honolulu, HI
* San Juan, Puerto Rico
Holiday cruises come in a wide variety of lengths and itineraries. Shorter cruises of 3 to 6 nights are offered, while longer itineraries of 7-14 nights are also available. Parking can be found near all of the cruise terminals and there’s no limit to the amount of luggage and presents you can bring onboard, other than what can comfortably fit in your cabin. Since space is generally limited however, so you may want to leave the larger presents at home and bring along small gifts to exchange.
Thanksgiving is a popular time for families to cruise and many large family reunions at sea are planned for this holiday week. After all, why gather around in the kitchen when you can get together while visiting the Caribbean, Mexico, or the Bahamas instead? Cruisers can escape all of the cooking and cleaning and enjoy roast turkey with all the trimmings on Thanksgiving Day. Prices for Thanksgiving cruises are usually lower than those available for Christmas and New Years weeks, but make your reservations early for the best stateroom availability.
Cruises during Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s are a great way to celebrate the holiday season. Ships are decked out with evergreen wreaths, colorful poinsettias, elaborate gingerbread villages and oversized twinkling Christmas trees. Santa often makes an appearance during the cruise and a wide variety of holiday entertainment, parties and celebrations are offered. Holiday menus typically include such favorites as roast turkey with all the trimmings, venison, duck, goose, English plum pudding, pecan pie, eggnog and champagne for toasting.
Many ships set aside a special section for those who are taking part in Hanukkah services, too. Kosher meals are available when requested in advance, and ships often serve special favorites such as matzo ball soup and potato latkes during the Hanukkah holidays. Make sure to check with your travel agent and the cruise line about special dietary requests when booking.
For those wishing to celebrate their religious traditions, a Protestant minister, a Catholic priest, and a Jewish rabbi are usually onboard each ship to lead holiday services. Check with your travel agent or the cruise line for dates and details. In addition, cruisers can take part in festive holiday events and activities such as caroling and sing-alongs, High Teas, New Year’s Eve Holiday Balls, and other holiday celebrations.
If you’re cruising with children, look for ships that offer lots of kid-friendly activities on lines such as Carnival Cruise Lines, Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America Line, MSC Cruises and Princess Cruises. Today’s cruise ships cater to kids and teens with extensive age-specific programming, special club and lounge areas, kids menu items and more. Talk with your travel agent about which ships might be best suited for the age of the children in your party and ask about special "kids sail free" deals and specials for 3rd and 4th guests in the same cabin. If your family is nature oriented, check out sailings on smaller ships in the Galapagos, Central America, Mexico's Baja Peninsula and other locations.
While staterooms on holiday cruises might be available at the last minute, popular sailings sell out early. In addition, family-friendly staterooms and connecting cabins also tend to be booked far in advance. Book your holiday cruises early for the best itinerary and stateroom selection as well as preferred dining times.