The general forecast for cruises is perhaps a bit surprising: clear sailing ahead. But buoyed by strict new health protocols and the pent-up demand for vacations at sea, most major cruise lines do indeed expect a full deployment for their fleets in the coming months. Bookings for 2021 are pushing record levels, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ 2023 World Cruise is already sold out.
One tempting way to celebrate the return of sea travel is to book a holiday cruise. These voyages-with-a-theme should be booked well ahead of departure, however, when itinerary and onboard options are many and discounts are still available. Christmas season, in particular, is an immensely popular time to sail, with heightened passenger fees to boot. This is when big cruise lines, like big-box stores, are primed to do their biggest business. Booking Christmas at sea as much as a year in advance is wise.
One luxury operator that knows how to celebrate the holidays is Celebrity Cruises. Its decks, theaters and dining halls quickly transform for Easter, Passover, Halloween, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving and, most spectacularly, Christmas and New Year’s sailings. Celebrity’s Christmas holiday cruises, departing mid- to late December, visit not only key Caribbean ports and Mexico but also Chile and Argentina in South America and Vietnam and Thailand in Asia. Santa appears on board for all these cruises, along with carolers, Tannenbaums and holiday-themed shows.
Seabourn also trims its decks in seasonal style for special holiday- themed voyages worldwide. In December 2021, Seabourn offers Christmas cruises from Bali to Auckland, Miami to Los Angeles (via the Panama Canal), Bridgetown to Barbados, Singapore to Hong Kong, Buenos Aires to Santiago, and Sydney to Auckland. Regent Seven Seas Cruises, elegantly decorated for the season (down to sprigs of mistletoe), marks Christmas with cruises in the South Pacific; the Panama Canal; the Western Caribbean; South America; and the Atlantic Ocean from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro, a 34-day crossing. And every December Cunard Line’s grand RMS Queen Mary II marks the festive season with voyages to Canada and to the Caribbean roundtrip from New York City. Carnival Cruise Line does much the same, offering mitten-free, round-trip sailings to the Caribbean from Charleston, South Carolina.
Family note: From a kid’s perspective, nobody out-Disneys Disney Cruise Line, of course. The gingerbread houses are gargantuan; the central Christmas tree rises three decks high; and on Disney’s private Caribbean island, Castaway Cay, passengers can hop on Santa’s wintry sleigh in the heart of the tropics.
Perhaps the most heralded Christmas voyages of all, however, are the Christmas Market river cruises in Europe. These voyages are best-sellers but, compared to other forms of European tours, not extravagantly priced. Viking River Cruises, Crystal River Cruises, AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways and Uniworld Boutique River Cruises are among the finest operators, giving holiday passengers a wide choice of historic Christmas markets, ports, rivers and inland waterways to explore on the shorelines of the Rhine, the Danube, the Seine, the Loire and more. Christmas Market cruises enable passengers to experience not only traditional open-air seasonal shopping but also castle tours, classical concerts and mulled wine tastings along the way. Crystal River Cruises, an ultra-luxury operator, provides no fewer than 26 Christmas Market cruises each year, with 2021 departures from Vienna, Amsterdam, Basel, Budapest and Vilshofen Nov. 25–Dec. 17.
If every cruise is a holiday, then a cruise during a major holiday can prove the most festive of all.
RISING TO THE OCCASION
A cruise is an excellent way to celebrate life’s momentous milestones, from graduations and birthdays to anniversaries, retirements and reunions. Pick a premium or luxury line and a beguiling destination for starters. Then check out cruise lines that provide perks and over- the-top options for passengers celebrating special occasions.
Princess Cruises, the line that hosted the original Love Boat TV series, casts a romantic glow on private celebrations, with packages that zero in on anniversaries, honeymoons, renewal of vows and engagements. Its “Everything but the Proposal” engagement offer ($695), for example, includes the services of a videographer, a specialty restaurant dinner, a side-by-side massage and an in-cabin breakfast. Princess notes anniversary celebrations are the single leading reason passengers cite for a cruise. More than 5 million passengers have celebrated a birthday and more than 10 million have celebrated an anniversary aboard a Princess vessel.
Couples sailing to celebrate special occasions on Azamara Club Cruises’ Azamara Journey or Azamara Quest are often directed to the “Nights in Private Places” offer ($395). Available each night to a single party only, the program unfolds on a private terrace containing a thalassotherapy pool and a daybed with overnight linens for sleeping under the stars. A personal butler pours the Champagne, delivers the canapés, sets the candlelit dinner and, the next day, serves breakfast for two.
Brewing long and deep at its center before radiating out to the rest of Europe, Vienna boasts an illustrious history and lasting intellectual impact. The Austrian capital dates back to Celtic and Romen rule, the latter inhabitants using the center city as a military hub among many other employments.
Step right up to the greatest show on Earth as FXExpress Publications, Global Traveler, trazeetravel.com and whereverfamily.com celebrate their 2020 award winners! Join the big top on Dec. 14 as we virtually award the winners of the 17th annual GT Tested Reader Survey awards, including the Airline and Hotel of the Year; the 17th annual Wines on the Wing Airline Wine Survey; the eighth annual Leisure Lifestyle Awards; the sixth annual The Trazees; and the third annual Wherever Awards.
Whether taking a COVID-19 test before boarding a flight or looking up different travel restrictions before planning your trip, travel has looked a little bit different this past year. With all the extra steps for traveling, American Airlines is committed to finding ways to provide ease and more flexibility and choices for passengers when traveling.
Even in “normal” times, folks gravitate to wellness resorts to jumpstart a healthier lifestyle, destress and be nurtured. In this COVID-19-era state of elevated anxiety, people seek even more natural beauty and caring hospitality, healthy food, fitness activities and beauty and body treatments. Canyon Ranch Lenox also provides an extensive staff of experts offering a multitude of health, wellness and spiritual well-being modalities that alleviate personal issues.
The lights of the aurora borealis appear frequently in the Fairbanks region of Alaska, with a growing number of Aurora Trackers in the area. A new video from Explore Fairbanks features five Fairbanks Aurora Trackers sharing their thoughts and photography on the northern lights.
Remote workers looking for an upgrade from their home offices might want to consider Karisma Hotels & Resorts’ Workcation offer. Those booking an extended stay of 10-plus nights are eligible for discounts of up to 15 percent off best available rates; those booking 20-plus nights enjoy up to 25 percent off. The offer is available at Karisma Hotels & Resorts’ diverse portfolio of properties.