7 Things You Should Know About Holiday Cruises

Vienna's Christmas Market is a common stop on Danube River cruises in December. - Photo by eStockPhoto

The appeal is easy to understand: Book a cruise this holiday season and, instead of cleaning, cooking, and hostessing, you can leave all of the plans to the cruise line, pack your party attire, and be whisked away on a fun vacation that lets you avoid all the work associated with the holidays and just focus on celebrating. 

Tempted? Before you book, read on for our tips for toasting the holidays while aboard your home away from home.


Get an early start on your plans.

No matter where you’re traveling, the holiday season means one thing: higher prices. Book early because the sooner you do, the more you’ll save. (Hint: That means you should start thinking about next year now.)


Be flexible on which holiday you celebrate at sea.

Bummed that, say, the New Year’s Eve sailing of your choice is sold out? Cruise lines make other holidays feel like a party, too. You can hear a steel pan band on Thanksgiving on Holland America’s one- and two-week Thanksgiving Caribbean cruises; On Princess Cruises’ Thanksgiving sailings, guests can sign up for turkey calling contests.


Décor? Check. Holiday-related fun? Definitely. Church Service? Maybe. 

You can bet your ship will be decorated and festive. On Disney Cruise Line’s Christmas sailings, for example, Disney characters lead a conga line around the pool, and Princess Cruises’ early-December sailings include a tree-lighting ceremony. However, if a religious holiday is important to you, confirm in advance that there will be a clergy-led service while you’re onboard.


Factor in the expense of holiday season flights.

Before you lock into an itinerary that works for your calendar and budget, but might require expensive flights, see if there’s a cruise that leaves from a port within driving distance from your house. Or, if you live nowhere near a port, consider using frequent flyer miles or driving to an airport that might offer more discounted flights. 


Pick the right ship for everyone who is planning to join.

If you’re traveling with your extended family or a group of friends, consider the needs of all of the passengers. Be clear with the group about what’s not included and find out whether family-size suites are available — and what they look like. (Some come with pull-down beds, while others have pullout sofas.)


Book cabins in the same part of the ship.

It can be difficult on many lines to score adjoining cabins, especially on popular sailings that fill up early. If you can’t be in a cabin right next to someone in your group, request cabins that are at least near each other. 


Plan ahead for weather woes.

This time of year can bring with it all sorts of travel issues, including snowstorms that result in delayed flights. So you don’t run the risk of not arriving in time for your sailing: Fly or drive to your port town the day before the cruise. You don’t want to chance literally missing the boat on your holiday vacation. 

Insider Tip

The first two weeks of December are typically priced lower than the last two weeks of the month, so if you can escape town before the holiday rush, you’ll save money and be back in time to toast the New Year at home. 

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Have you ever sailed on a holiday cruise and, if so, how was it?

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