Best 7 Cruise Lines Offering Festive Holiday Cruises

Festive Holiday Cruises: Every winter, cruise lines go all out for holiday celebrations, adding to the allure of the endless shrimp and picturesque coastlines. The high seas are graced with seasonal activities, festive decor, and even more delectable treats than usual on these special sailings. Indeed, it is the season to splurge.

Whether you’re looking for an intimate European river cruise or a Disney Christmas cruise where you can race through the Caribbean with Mickey Mouse, there’s a wide range of options to suit any taste and budget.

Best 7 Cruise Lines Offering Festive Holiday Cruises

The Holland America Line
(Credit: Cruise Critic)

1. Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line’s Festive Holiday Cruises are when magic is elevated to a whole new level. The company’s Very Merrytime Cruises leave from ports in Florida, California, and Texas, travelling to western Mexico and the Bahamas, among other places, all while indulging in a flurry of holiday celebrations. Merrytime ships are decked out in holiday décor, complete with a 24-foot Christmas tree, and provide a variety of entertainment options and seasonal activities.

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At meet-and-greets, beloved Disney characters don holiday attire, and Santa Claus usually makes an appearance on sailings. Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, is decorated for the holidays with a Christmas tree and fake snow flurries, making cruises there even more enjoyable. The finest aspect? This is on top of the many year-round benefits offered by Disney Cruise Line.

2. Viking Cruises

Christmas Markets Cruise in Europe, Christmas Markets, Christmas Markets Cruise
(Credit: Travel Curator)

Luxury cruise line Viking Cruises, headquartered in Switzerland, is well-known for adding distinctly contemporary elements to its itineraries. The company is well-known for its river cruises, which provide careful attention to detail and attentive service on a fleet of small ships that can accommodate 200 guests or less. These small-ship excursions are especially delightful during the holidays.

Numerous European Christmas market cruises from Viking combine festive spirit with sightseeing focused on culture. Live performances, local delicacies, tree trimming, and freshly made cakes and cookies for the holidays are all available on board. After a two-day tour of Berlin, take a cruise along the Elbe to Prague, or see the City of Light illuminated for the holiday season as you cruise through Paris along the Seine. If you’re more of an American for the holidays, consider one of Viking’s Mississippi River cruises, which include highlights like New Orleans’s Creole cuisine and views of the surrounding historic estates lit up for the occasion from the water.

3. Princess Cruises

Hungary

Whether you’re sailing to the Mexican Riviera or sunny Sydney, Princess Cruises guarantees a daily snowfall in the forecast. These flurries aren’t real, don’t worry, but they’ve become a mainstay of the line’s holiday festivities.

Once your in-room virtual yule log has helped you get into the mood, meet Santa Claus and enjoy holiday favorites performed by the Yuletide Carolers. Younger passengers can attend their own holiday parties at the onboard youth centers, while older guests can create keepsake ornaments or compete in a gingerbread house-making contest.

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The line’s Hanukkah sailings include readings of “Sammy Spider’s First Hanukkah,” festive décor, themed crafts, and menorah lighting ceremonies, which add to the fun. If you prefer watching college football games on big screens on New Year’s Day, or if champagne-fueled New Year’s Eve parties are your idea of a winter holiday, Princess also offers cruises for that occasion.

4. Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line offers a wide range of options for guests seeking a stress-free vacation, regardless of their preferred destination, with sailings to six distinct continents. It offers Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and New Year’s cruises in addition to Christmas cruises. With the latter, guests can unwind while someone else makes a turkey dinner they won’t soon forget. That in itself is cause for gratitude.

Awe-inspiring décor, live acts, and a plethora of onboard events, such as an ugly sweater competition and holiday-themed trivia, are added to Christmas cruises. There are many reasons to cruise with Norwegian this holiday season, including the opportunity to enjoy eggnog by the pool or join in on an onboard carol singalong.

5. Disney River Cruises

Celebrities Cruises 
(Credit: Cruise Critic)

Although river cruises are often associated with senior citizens, people of all ages are finding them to be an excellent form of transportation. Thanks to a partnership with AmaWaterways, Adventures by Disney provides a variety of family-friendly river cruises; three of their winter itineraries highlight Europe’s historic Christmas markets. You’ll travel down the Danube or Rhine rivers on these trips, stopping in places like France, Germany, and Austria.

Select between a Danube cruise that includes a shore excursion to a festive outdoor ice-skating rink in the heart of Vienna or a Rhine cruise that allows you to see Amsterdam’s canals lit up for the holidays. All meals are included, regardless of the itinerary you choose, and you can participate in onboard activities like mulled wine tasting and gingerbread cookie decorating.

6. Cunard

Cunard is a chic British cruise line that celebrates the Festive Holiday Cruises in the best way possible. Elegant crystal is used to serve champagne here, and stollen and other classic European Christmas pastries are served with afternoon tea. Savor eggnog and take in the splendor of the onboard gingerbread village while taking part in deckside customs like Santa visits, mince pies, and Christmas carols.

You can visit the onboard luxury shops (such as Liberty of London, Garrard jewelers, and more) to get last-minute gifts for your loved ones after you’ve finished admiring the magnificent Christmas tree in the Grand Lobby. Itineraries include the line’s well-known transatlantic voyages on the Queen Mary 2, along with other local voyages around the world, from the Caribbean and the Canary Islands to Australia and New Zealand.

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7. Royal Caribbean

Pixar Day at Sea Onboard Programming

Royal Caribbean throws the holidays into high gear from the minute you board one of the line’s winter cruises. With Christmas and Hanukkah programming included on every December sailing, Royal Caribbean’s distinct holiday spirit can be experienced on over 650 itineraries worldwide. With activities like ugly sweater parties and gingerbread decorating classes, these trips engage the whole family. Along with holiday classics playing on the poolside movie screen, there are special Christmas menus and a cookies-and-milk section.

A popular feature of the festivities is the yearly holiday edition of their renowned Bottomless Galley Brunch, which is always centered around the lighting of the ship’s enormous tree. Take part in a special polar bear walk on the ship’s deck to support the World Wildlife Fund’s Arctic program, have fun, and know that you’re doing good.

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