Five Christmas Cruises You Should Consider This Year
We’ve made the case for why you should consider a cruise for the holidays. It’s a chance to get the whole family together, no matter the size, and zip from festivity to festivity (or burrow in a lounge chair with a book and candy canes), feast daily, and never wash a dish, make a bed, or clean up. Add in ports aglow with lights and great shopping! If you’re wondering which ones to try, consider these Christmas cruises, where the glitter of the season shines brightest.
Haute Caribbean Holiday, Crystal Cruises
Festivities flourish on this 16-day sailing out of Miami (it could be partly because of the holiday-specific specialty cocktails—all alcohol is complimentary). Carolers sing and Champagne flows even as you embark. People toast the tree lighting ceremony with eggnog and glühwein, and Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant clergy lead services. Hungry? There’s a chocolate-driven tea party, Christmas buffet, and posh New Year’s Eve dinner. The live music, anticipatory countdown, and massive balloon drop are one of the greatest New Year’s Eve parties at-sea. Thoughtfully, Bloody Marys are on offer the morning after.) Onshore, you can volunteer at an Antiguan donkey sanctuary, try deep-sea fishing in Grand Turk, or take a submarine cruise along coral reefs of Barbados.
Christmas Markets on the Rhine, AmaWaterways
With several eight-day river sails offered on five of its ships between Amsterdam and Basel from late November through December, river cruise line AmaWaterways captures the exquisite Old World holiday traditions of Europe on its Christmas cruises. Visit centuries-old Christmas Markets in ports like Cologne, where the Cathedral Market has more than 150 pavilions selling everything from sizzling bratwurst and pretzels to hand-carved wooden toys and handmade books. Onboard, riverboats go tastefully all in on decor, with a giant tree, a huge wreath, big bows, and garlands over stateroom doors. You’ll have the option to join carolers, decorate trees and gingerbread cookies, and sip Rüdesheimer coffee, a regional java splashed with German brandy, whipped cream, and sprinkled with chocolate. Leave a slipper outside your cabin door on the night of Shoes for St. Nick, a European tradition; crew fill it with goodies by the next morning, no matter your age.
Holiday Thailand & Vietnam, Seabourn
On a 14-Day Holiday Thailand & Vietnam sailing between Singapore and Hong Kong, holiday activities dominate the programming. Guests often decorate their own suite doors, while holiday accents are draped on railings and lush Christmas trees. A rabbi leads a menorah-lighting, and a priest conducts midnight mass and Christmas Day services. The elaborate Christmas Eve dinner stars mains like roasted duckling before releasing you to your suite and to discover a plate of freshly baked cookies. The multi-course Hanukah menu features chopped liver, potato latkes, and matzoh ball soup. Everyone flocks to the signature Christmas Day beach barbecue on Thailand’s unspoiled Koh Kood island and its miles of white sand beaches. There’s also a high tea that day, promising stollen and Yule logs. Work off the decadence in cities like Saigon, and where you can tour Buddhist temples.
Australia and New Zealand cruise, Silversea
The weather is not frightful on this 11-day sailing from Auckland to Melbourne, where it’s summer at this time of year. Decorative trees and gingerbread houses are present in nearly all public venues on board, while talent goes on overdrive, starring in a Christmas show while Santa entertains kids. Enjoy menorah lighting and make-grandma-kvell Hanukah menus. On a ship where cuisine regularly excels, expect over-the-top menus with things like roast whole goose with truffled duck jus. New Year’s Eve features Ossetra caviar, Maine lobster, risotto with truffles, pink Champagne sorbet, and Dover sole. Anchoring off the Melbourne pier, Silver Muse provides prime views of midnight fireworks. Tear yourself away to see New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty, explore the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve and its soaring Pohutu geyser, or tour the set of Hobbiton from Peter Jackson's imagining of Middle Earth.
Parisian Royal Holiday, Uniworld
The City of Light, luminous year-round, dramatically ups its brilliance at this time of year. On this eight-day French riverboat cruise, which sails roundtrip from Paris, see lavish store window displays on the Boulevard Haussmann and the lit trees lining the Champs-Élysées; take a Taste of Christmas walking tour along the Left Bank. In Rouen, catch a Christmas market, and see a private liturgical choir recital in a 13th century stained glass-windowed cathedral, where Richard the Lionheart’s heart lies entombed. Onboard, the SS Joie de Vivre goes for the glee with beautiful Christmas trees, sparkly ornaments, and every other traditional holiday trimming.