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6 Reasons Why Holiday Cruises Are Great Vacations

Alison Fox
Marissa Wright

Last updated
24 Oct 2023

Read time
5 min read

Holiday cruises for festivities like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s are fantastic ways to celebrate the holidays away from home without compromising on the food, decorations, or parties.

With the lure of having onboard chefs and not having to wash the dishes after every meal, cruising during the holidays is an ideal way for couples and families to travel while enjoying the fun and relaxing side of vacation together. Holiday cruises provide a wide range of entertainment, special events and the best holiday dishes as well.

A holiday cruise offers everything people know and love about cruising in general but with just a little something extra added in while being highly inclusive. These are six reasons why travelers will love spending the holidays on board a cruise.

1. Holiday Cruises Take Holiday Decorations to the Next Level

Nothing says the holiday season like festive decorations, and cruise lines like Royal Caribbean go all out on that front.

During our holiday cruise onboard Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas, there was the giant gingerbread town -- complete with gum drop roofs and a train set -- the large Christmas tree and tinsel adorning the ship’s atrium. There was even an adorable trio of birds dressed in their holiday best welcoming people to guest services.

The ship put up a giant menorah to celebrate Hanukkah as well, ensuring all guests felt welcome. Major cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Disney and Crystal Cruises are known for taking their decorations on holiday cruises seriously.

Individual guests are also encouraged to decorate the doors of their rooms on a Christmas cruise, which many did with holiday-themed stickers, lending a festive atmosphere to the halls themselves.

2. Experience All the Delicious and Festive Flavors on a Holiday Cruise

Food is always one of the best parts of both cruising and the holidays, and when you put those together, you get something magical. On Christmas Day, most cruise lines offer specialty menus in the main dining room that complement each holiday. They offer up traditional foods and trimmings that rival your at-home feasts.

Festive goodies can also be found at the buffet, including holiday desserts like pie, cookies and more. The best part, of course, is that you don’t need to cook or clean up after yourself.

A word of advice: If you know you want to dine in a particular specialty restaurant for dinner on Christmas or New Year’s, reserve it well in advance. Reservations are a hot commodity during the holidays.

3. Watch All the Holiday-Themed Shows on Holiday Cruises

A holiday cruise means a holiday makeover for onboard entertainment, from sing-alongs to one-on-one time with Santa and beyond. On Christmas Eve, we listened to a Frankie Valli musical tribute that incorporated mash-ups of popular music and holiday favorites like Rag Doll and the Little Drummer Boy. On Christmas Day, our ship hosted a Christmas-themed musical show where the Grinch made a comeback to steal some toys (much to my nephew’s chagrin).

The holiday-themed entertainment also extended beyond the theater with Christmas music playing throughout the ship, a Christmas dinner serenade by the main dining room staff, and special beach-themed gifts from Santa for the children on board (or a non-denominational gift giveaway for families who preferred).

Each cruise line will have its own unique brand of holiday magic. Cruises for Christmas are highly lauded as a fun-filled time for the whole family, with themed events and activities that make the festivities even more magical.

4. Holiday Cruises Make Family Time a Breeze

Take it from someone with a big family: holiday get-togethers are always more fun when paired with a vacation. And a cruise at Christmas makes it so much easier to travel with a big, multi-generational family. Our large group had a lot of luggage and a lot of individual needs.

Thankfully, the ship catered to everyone’s likes and dislikes and allowed us to enjoy different ports, all while unpacking just once.

For the kids, the Adventure Ocean kids’ club offered activities like pirate night and chef-themed fun, while the Royal Babies and Tots program allowed parents to have a night off with babysitting. For adults, the ship offered several bars and places to relax, including my favorite spot the Schooner Bar, which tended to be the quietest and best spot to look out over the ocean with an espresso martini (or two).

5. A Holiday Cruise Takes Sea Days to the Next Level

While sea days don't exactly divert from the norm on other ocean sailings, they sure do on holiday cruises. There's something extra jovial about the atmosphere on the ship, especially on the specific celebratory day like Christmas Day, with nearly everyone offering a kind word or well wishes.

Many people spend the whole day in matching pajamas, making the ship feel like one big festive pajama party. The day is typically capped off with a special dinner in which the crew sings Christmas jingles and everyone else gathers around to watch and even join in.

When a holiday coincides with a sea day, it’s a great way to reconnect with your loved ones and strangers alike while enjoying the fun and festivities.

6. Experience Elevated Parties While Sailing on Holiday Cruises

Disney Cruise Line's Very Merrytime holiday cruises (Photo: Disney Cruise Line)
Disney Cruise Line's Very Merrytime holiday cruises (Photo: Disney Cruise Line)

Picture this: it’s Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve, you’re surrounded by cheerful cruisers and those you love, and you can eat, drink and be merry as long as you’d like before sleeping soundly in your cabin. There's not much to dislike in that image, is there?

Major cruise lines host lavish soirees for guests, especially those sailing during New Year’s. Christmas cruises also often have a themed party or two, so check the itinerary before booking. The best Christmas cruises will have parties for both young and old so everyone can enjoy the magic of the season.

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