By Suzanne A. Harbison

Some may not have considered cruising during the holidays, as they don’t want to miss the usual family traditions. Yet, everyone loves to celebrate the most wondrous time of the year—especially cruise lines! From decked-out ships with festive decorations to special seasonal menus meticulously thought out, cruising during the holidays can be especially magical.

And did we mention stress-free? By leaving the hassles to the ship professionals, there’s no cleanup to worry about, no planning meals, no guest lists to write and no fighting for that coveted parking space. So, what are you waiting for? Now’s the time to contact your travel professional, and make this the year to pack your bags, set out to sea and start new holiday traditions.

Here’s a sneak peek at what cruisers can experience while onboard for each holiday.


For Thanksgiving, ships will be adorned in a burst of autumn colors and décor, including leaves, pumpkins, squash and cornucopias. There will be the traditional meal with turkey and cranberry sauce, along with all the trimmings and a sumptuous display of dessert options.

Those who love a tasty beverage as their treat can toast the season by exploring the various bars and lounges to find the best-themed cocktail. Will it be the pumpkin pie martini or a spiked apple cider?

Celebrity Cruises features a turkey pardoning by the captain, while Princess Cruises often includes turkey-carving demonstrations onboard, along with a Tree of Thanks with passenger messages of gratitude. MSC Cruises holds a Thanksgiving Day parade for younger children and holiday-themed scavenger hunts and parties for the teenagers.


During Hanukkah, cruisers can expect potato pancakes (latkes), jelly donuts, matzo ball soup and even chocolate coins. The ship is sure to be adorned with festive blue, white and silver decorations and flowers, and themed activities for children include songs, holiday storytelling and dreidel games.

Each night during Hanukkah, menorah-lighting ceremonies are held to celebrate the Festival of Lights, and rabbis are onboard to lead religious services.


The elves come out in full force at the beginning of December to deck the ship halls with holiday cheer, including poinsettias, twinkling lights and beautifully decorated trees, garlands and wreaths. Many ships feature elaborate gingerbread houses and fun cookie-decorating activities, along with tree-lighting ceremonies, caroling at the piano bar and, of course, a visit from the jolly, bearded man in red.

Food and drink feature roasted turkey or ham, eggnog, mulled wine and hot chocolate, along with other traditional holiday fare. On Norwegian Cruise Line, past holiday cruisers have enjoyed butternut squash and pumpkin soup, fruit cake, pumpkin soufflé and milk chocolate yule log. Crystal Cruises travelers enjoy an elaborate assortment of holiday cookies from around the world each day.

Carnival Cruise Line plays seasonal music in passengers’ cabins, and for a special live entertainment treat, children showcase a holiday performance featuring the decorations they made in the kids’ club. A favorite on Royal Caribbean’s holiday itineraries is the onboard Ugly Christmas Sweater Party and holiday pajamas movie nights.

Princess Cruises gets in the spirit with card-making and mini wreath-making activities. Plus, on several cruise lines, children love playing in the snow in the middle of the Caribbean thanks to onboard snow machines.

Some cruise lines have both priests and ministers onboard to lead Christmas services, while other ships will hold an interdenominational service on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.


To finish out the year in style, passengers who ring in the New Year can enjoy elaborate midnight buffets and champagne toasts (with sparkling cider for the kids), along with hats, favors and noisemakers. You might find yourself amidst all the action as part of a midnight balloon drop or even get to witness hypnotic firework displays that some cruise lines feature at port destinations or their private island.

Parties include bands, DJs, poolside celebrations and pop-up performances. Many ships will have a different themed party in their various venues and lounges. Some cruise lines, such as Princess Cruises, even offer free group babysitting services.

A bonus for holiday cruises are the extra amenities that are often featured, such as free drink packages or an open bar, specialty dining or shore excursions. Be sure to ask your travel professional which cruises are offering your fav.

Make this a holiday to remember with a celebratory cruise from our agency.