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Cruise Guide: Holiday merriment . . . at sea

By Michael Coleman

Holiday cheer and merriment may best be enjoyed this season aboard a cruise ship of your choice. 

“Cruises provide travelers with a chance to thoroughly revel in the holidays, leaving the hassles of everyday life behind,” said Terry L. Dale, president and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the chief marketing organization for 20 leading cruise lines and nearly 17,000 North American travel agencies.

“Best of all, there’s a joyful energy on board that will captivate everyone – from grandparents to toddlers.” 

Whether it’s a luxury line (Crystal, Cunard, Regent, Seabourn or Silversea), premium brand (Celebrity, Holland America, Oceania or Windstar), mass-market (Carnival, Costa, Disney, MSC, Norwegian, Princess or Royal Caribbean) or smaller fleet (American, Norwegian Coastal Voyages), there’s a holiday voyage to fit any budget.

Look for ships of all sizes to be decked out in style, from twinkling lights, menorahs and mistletoe to wreaths, holly and other decorations.

Santa Claus himself often makes a guest appearance, and regardless of whether passengers celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanza, look for the major cruise lines to offer a wide range of holiday shows, films and gala dinners.

Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2, for instance, will offer two unique shows by London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art: A Christmas Carol and Happy Hanukkah, Mr. Scrooge, a piece specially commissioned for the line.

Disney Cruise Line’s 1,000-acre Bahamian island, Castaway Cay, will be transformed into a “snowy” holiday hideaway, with carolers, sleighs full of presents and visits from Mr. and Mrs. Claus. The atrium lobbies onboard Disney Magic and Disney Wonder will host tree-lighting ceremonies, complete with “snow” flurries and a three-deck-tall Christmas tree festooned with decorations as their centerpieces.

Holland America Line, meanwhile, invites travelers to celebrate the season on one of 19 holiday escapes, which include Christmas itineraries to popular Caribbean and Mexican ports, an expedition to Antarctica and Patagonia, and a New Year’s cruise in Australia.

Princess Cruises’ fleet offers a wide range of Christmas and New Year’s cruises that also span the globe, while Royal Caribbean’s fleet of 20 ships transforms into winter wonderlands, with caroling, eggnog parties, gingerbread displays and Christmas trees on holiday sailings to the Caribbean, Mexico and Panama Canal.

The CLIA-member lines feature innovative onboard facilities, amenities and services and an array of elegant public rooms, balcony cabins, gourmet and casual dining options, live nightly entertainment, state-of-the-art spas and fitness centers, casinos, video arcades and more.

In most cases, passengers this holiday season will also be afforded the opportunity to enjoy exercise classes, golf instruction, art auctions, cooking demonstrations, enrichment lectures and computer learning workshops.

Best of all, however, guests will be able to leave the time-intensive tasks of party planning, meal preparation and the dreaded holiday clean-up behind.

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