Take A Drive-In Holiday Cruise Vacation
One of the most expensive parts of a December holiday vacation in the tropics is the plane tickets. Cruise lines have positioned their ships in a variety of U.S. locations that are within driving distance of major cities, making warm weather holiday vacations easier and less expensive by eliminating airfares. During the December holiday season, cruises are available from a wide variety of convenient 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; Mobile, AL; New Orleans, LA; Galveston, TX; San Diego, CA; Long Beach/Los Angeles, CA; San Pedro/Los Angeles, CA; Honolulu, HI and 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. Space is generally limited however, so you may want to leave large presents at home and bring along smaller gifts to exchange.
Cruises during Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s are a great way to celebrate the holiday season. “The holidays are one of the most popular seasons of the year to cruise, providing families an opportunity to reconnect and make a lifetime of wonderful memories, all while enjoying the beautifully decorated ships and delicious holiday meals,” says Vance Gulliksen of Carnival Cruise Line. The Grinch makes an appearance on all Carnival Cruise Line ships during the month of December as part of Carnival's exclusive Seuss at Sea program. Sailings include Grinch-themed holiday arts and craft activities, a variety of special events and screenings of "Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas" on Christmas Day. “We can’t wait to welcome The Grinch aboard our ships again this year," says Carnival's Gulliksen. "The cantankerous curmudgeon will be up to his usual antics and creating a fun and memorable environment on board during the holidays and is a huge part of our holiday celebration.”
Ships are decked out with evergreen wreaths, colorful poinsettias, elaborate gingerbread villages and oversized twinkling Christmas trees. Santa generally makes an appearance during holiday cruises, often bringing along a bag of gifts for the kids. There are a wide variety of holiday entertainment, parties and celebrations offered around the ships, sometimes including Christmas-themed cooking classes and special holiday shows put on by younger guests.
Disney Cruise Line celebrates the festive holiday season with Disney's signature mix of family-friendly holiday-themed entertainment and programs for all ages. A wide array of Very Merrytime Cruise events are featured on all Disney Cruise Line ships from mid-November through Christmas. Ships are elaborately decorated for the holidays with massive Christmas trees, poinsettias, garlands and sparkling lights. Disney Cruise Line's Very Merrytime Cruises include holiday activities such as tree-lighting by Mickey Mouse and friends, opportunities to meet Santa Claus and many Disney characters, holiday storytelling and “Santa’s Winter Wonderland Ball” with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Dining is an important part of any cruise experience and ships go all out for the holidays. Christmas Day and New Year’s dinner 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. On the MSC Divina’s New Year’s Cruise, festivities include a special New Year’s Eve Gala Dinner with signature dishes created by two Michelin-starred chef Carlo Cracco. Many cruise ships offer special meals and services for guests celebrating Hanukkah as well. Traditional Hanukkah foods are served in the main dining rooms and buffet restaurants and kosher meals are available when ordered in advance. Make sure to notify your travel agent and the cruise line about special dietary requests when booking your cruise.
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 cruise line for dates and details. In addition, guests can take part in festive holiday events and activities such as caroling and sing-alongs, Christmas parades, High Teas, New Year’s Eve Holiday Balls and dance parties, and other holiday celebrations.
While tropical ports of call are incredibly appealing, today’s cruise ships are floating vacation destinations filled with attractions such as massive water parks with thrilling water slides, movie theaters, Broadway-style shows, rock climbing walls, ice skating rinks, arcades and much more. In addition, newer ships often have over a dozen specialty dining options as well as numerous bars and lounges. A wide variety of accommodations choices are available as well. Work with a travel agent or do a little research to find the ships that are best for you.
If you’re cruising with children, look for ships that offer lots of kid-friendly activities on lines such as Carnival Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America Line and Princess Cruises. Today’s cruise ships cater to kids and teens with extensive age-specific programming, special kids’ and teens’ clubs 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 deals and special offers.
While airfares are rising as the holidays get closer, there’s good news for last minute holiday cruise shoppers. There are still some good deals available on holiday cruises this year, so start planning now. Your idyllic holiday tropical vacation may just be a short drive away.
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