The way cruise lines celebrate holidays tends to vary from line to line and holiday to holiday, so it’s important to ask in advance what programs and activities will be offered if the celebration is important to you.
That said, most mark Thanksgiving with a proper turkey dinner with all the fixings from stuffing to cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie regardless of where the ship is sailing in the world on that day. In fact, if you don’t like to cook, a Thanksgiving cruise is a wonderful way to toast the holiday with your family over a proper and traditional meal without having to turn on the oven or wash a single dish.
New Year’s may actually be one of the best times of year to be on a ship, as the cruise lines tend to throw a great party. The tone from formal to mild or wild depends on the line, but you can expect plenty of music, noise makers and toasts regardless of the ships you choose.
Christmas, too, is festive on many cruise ships, with twinkling lights, trees, and both traditional Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals. A variety of lines celebrate the Jewish holidays as well, with Passover Seders and Hanukkah candles (usually of the electric variety for safety reasons). That said, if a certain type of religious service is important to you, you should always inquire about it in advance.
Of course, holiday cruising comes with a significant downside: Prices rise into the stratosphere and voyages sell out early. It’s not uncommon for Christmas and New Year’s voyages to double in cost, particularly for the top-of-the-line suites. Airlines and hotels know the score, too, and raise prices accordingly. Cruise ships always operate at full capacity during this time, with many lines filling nearly all third and fourth berths as well and that means more battles on the pool deck for your favorite lounge chair.
As an alternative, you might want to sail during the first week of January, when prices fall into the bargain-basement. Y ou won’t get the holiday festivities, but your savings account will be in better shape.
Travelers with disabilities should inquire when booking whether the ship docks at ports or uses tenders (small boats) to go ashore. Tenders cannot always accommodate passengers with wheelchairs; in most cases, wheelchair-bound passengers require crew assistance to board tenders though Holland America, for one, uses a special lift system to get passengers into the tenders without requiring them to leave their wheelchairs. Once aboard the ship, travelers with disabilities will want to seek the advice of tour staff before choosing shore excursions that are wheelchair-friendly.