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Holiday Cruises – Heaven Or Humbug?

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The most expensive cruises of the year are during Christmas, New Years, and the occasional cruise that covers both holidays. Demand for these cruises is high because families often find that a convenient time to get away; some people’s workplaces are closed for some days surrounding the holiday, and kids are free to travel because their schools are closed.

As a result of cruisers paying a premium to cruise during these holidays, expectations are also very high. They are generally expecting to get more for their money than if they were cruising at another time.

The ships are decorated very nicely for the holidays, and they do feature a special “holiday menu” for Christmas. All the cruise lines offer some form of religious services as well. In some cases there are non-denominational service, and on some of cruise lines, they do have priests onboard specifically for Christmas cruises. There’s generally also Christmas activities, like caroling, as well as holiday related crafts classes, and the obligatory Santa onboard for the kids.

During the Jewish holiday of Chanukah they do have a nightly candle lighting ceremony, and the odd cruise line will offer some traditional Chanukah treats, like “latkes” (potato pancakes) and “soufghanyot” (jelly filled donuts)

However, if anyone is expecting a traditional Christmas experience, similar to what you might have at home, you are going to find it lacking.

In fact, during the course of the day during Christmas cruises, if you’re out on deck, or around the ship participating in activities, outside of some decorations you may find it difficult to remember it’s Christmas.

Christmas is also a time the crew members are often quite melancholy; missing spending a time traditionally meant to spend with family. And, try as they might to continue to do their job well, and please the passengers, it is a difficult time for them emotionally, and it often shows.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s been my experience, that passengers sailing at Christmas expect “more, because they paid more”. Combine that with those who are possibly disappointed with the lack of “traditional Christmas” onboard, and the staff who are over stressed because of their own melancholy, and it’s not difficult to understand how the experience can go “off the rails”.

On the other hand, passengers who make an attempt to take an extra step to warm to their service staff, and in some way put an effort into including them in their own Christmas spirit, will likely find their efforts rewarded ten fold in response from the crew members.

New Year’s Eve, on the other hand, may be one of the most fun and enjoyable nights ever to be on a ship. Most everyone, including the crew, are part of the festive spirit. Even all the crew working that night, are enjoying the ship wide party on New Year’s Eve, and they know they have the crew’s New Year’s party waiting for them when they get off shift.

Of all the holidays, the very best one to cruise during is U.S. Thanksgiving. But, if you’re considering booking a Thanksgiving cruise, I advise not doing so too early. Often, the pricing for cruises over Thanksgiving drops quite considerably as the date approaches, and it’s usually quite easy to get a great deal.

Take the family on a Thanksgiving cruise, and you’ll have plenty of time to spend with all your family members, and that is mostly what Thanksgiving is about. There’s no worries about gift giving; it’s not a holiday that is celebrated by most of the crew members in their native countries, but they enjoy the good feelings of seeing families together. Rather than a rushed day of preparations for Thanksgiving dinner, on a cruise your family has a full cruise to enjoy each other’s company, and reacquaint yourself with your loved ones… while someone else does all the preparations for dinner.

– A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising –

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Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time December 10, 2010 at 9:14 am

We sailed over the Thanksgiving period last year, 2009, aboard the Queen Mary 2, from New York to the Caribbean and returned to New York. We love a pre-Christmas cruise, preferably from NYC, and have taken many such cruises over the years, with Cunard and Home Lines, and from Norfolk when the Maasdam was briefly homeported there.

We booked the QM2 while aboard a Cunard cruise, and never gave thought to Thanksgiving holiday. Our son was livid, but, we took the cruise and we celebrated the holiday when we returned home, having our butcher procure a fresh turkey for me after the official holiday.

We enjoy taking such a cruise because we are St. Thomas shoppers, and what better place to shop than St. Thomas for Christmas gifts.

The QM2 glittered with added decorations that “magically” appeared over several nights. A snow machine was installed in the lobby, above the “arcade cabins”. What a site the snow must have made for those passengers staying on those staterooms. The snow was indeed “real”, made from real water, not Hollywood plastic.

What makes these NYC cruises so memorable is that we go in a few days prior to the cruise, using Cunards hotel package and transfers, and on our own, see a couple of Broadway Shows, take in our favorite restaurants, and do Radio City Music Hall.

As for the MEAL, Thanksgiving was indeed celebrated with all of the culinary goodies many of us know and love. We dined in the Queens Grill, and feasted on all of the goodies that all dining venues had to offer.

Would we take a holiday cruise again? YES!

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