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.
For the 12th consecutive year, Global Traveler recognizes the best of the best in the industry, naming 2022’s Airline of the Year and Hotel of the Year.
From 24-Hour Butler Service to a Sky Pool: Boutique Luxury Awaits at Vista Encantada Spa Resort & Residences in Los Cabos
Set on a seaside bluff overlooking Land’s End in Cabo San Lucas, Vista Encantada Spa Resort & Residences is a Baja paradise specializing in serene vistas and impeccable hospitality, offering a Pacific coast lifestyle with authentic Mexican touches. Guests can now earn a fourth night free at the stunning resort, plus a $100 resort credit, when booking through March 20, for travel through June 15.
What a year 2022 has been for travel! It’s not an understatement to say travel rebounded and surged following the pandemic, and airlines, hotels, travel providers and more are ready and waiting to serve the masses returning to the beautiful art of traveling. As such, we celebrate and award those who do it best as we announce the 2022 winners of the GT Tested Reader Survey awards, our 19th year honoring the best of the best in the world of travel. Our countdown to year No. 20 begins now.
Grand Hyatt Vail offers travelers an exciting lineup of experiences for winter 2022/2023. The property celebrates its 40th anniversary in conjunction with Vail Mountain’s 60th anniversary this December.
Copa Airlines is celebrating its 75th anniversary by showcasing a Boeing 737-800 NG in an aircraft livery that harkened back to the airline’s look in the 1990s. During that time, Copa Airlines launched an expansion of their network to become the Hub of the Americas®, changing the way to travel to and connect in our Continent.
From Costa Mesa and Newport Beach to Corona Del Mar, Dana Point and Laguna Beach, there are no shortages of lavish hotels and full-service day spas spanning Orange County. Spa enthusiasts are spoiled for choice, with so many different flavors of high-end interiors, signature treatments, elaborate services, retail areas and, often, swanky snacks served in cafés and solariums.
Inn on Fifth, located in Naples, Florida, rolls out the red carpet with its new To the Nines offer. Starting at $7,250 for two guests, the offer includes a private helicopter tour; sunset cruise; dinner ($300 dining credit) at Ocean Prime Naples; and use of a luxury car (Bentley, Ferrari and other luxury brands) for a self-guided day tour of Naples, Florida. Guests enjoy a three-night stay in the property’s Club Level Suite (King Supreme suite or Presidential suite).
Whether you prefer a villa on the beach or an ultra-luxe suite downtown, you’ll find everything you’re looking for in Los Cabos.
Mauna Loa, the world’s most active volcano, erupted for the first time in nearly 40 years this past Sunday. The Hawai’ian volcano, located on Hawai’i Island, last erupted in 1984, when lava came within just 4.5 miles of Hilo. Scientists believe the lava flow of this most recent eruption could threaten Hilo and its populated areas.