When it’s time to deck the halls, riverboats and cruise ships have few rivals in terms of lavishness in the boughs of holly department, not to mention intricate gingerbread houses, bonfires lighting up the skyline and visits (with gifts!) from Old St. Nick.
Here are how several vessels plan to party this holiday season:
Celebrating classic Cajun and Creole traditions, the American Queen ties up near Nottoway Plantation in White Castle, La., just in time for the dramatic illumination of bonfires on the levee – the very thing that guides Papa Noel, the Cajun Santa Claus, on his journey. Welcome to Christmas in the antebellum South aboard the world’s largest steamboat.
Get into the spirit of the season with special Christmas shows in the Grand Saloon. Throw yourself into door-decorating contests. Listen in on a reading of the Cajun Night Before Christmas. And watch nationally renowned, award-winning Mississippi woodcarver Jim Moore fashion from a block of basswood a one-of-a-kind Victorian Santa with a pack of toys slung over his shoulder – and then cross your fingers that your name is drawn by the captain to take this treasure home.
“Most people have never seen a woodcarver turn a piece of wood into a piece of art – in this case, Santa Claus,” said Moore. “It is a joy for me to introduce them to woodcarving and let them check back every day to see how ‘Santa’ is coming along.”
Dished up in the elegant J.M White Dining Room will be a Creole Réveillon Christmas Dinner of tomato aspic with fried oysters, deviled eggs with lump crabmeat and caviar, pheasant gumbo, pork grillades over savory grits and more. Shoreside, a Cajun deep fried turkey cooking demonstration will take place.
Here is the ultimate white Christmas: sailing to the “White Continent” – Antarctica. Crystal Cruises has a new Antarctica Christmas/New Year’s cruise aboard the Crystal Symphony, departing Dec. 21 from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso and sailing through Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Falkland Islands, Drake Passage, Cape Horn, and the Chilean Fjords, with multiple excursions to the Antarctic continent. Also departing Dec. 21 will be the Crystal Serenity on a round-trip itinerary from Miami to the Caribbean and Central America.
On either voyage, enjoy a tree-lighting ceremony with the captain, carolers, hot chocolate, glogg (mulled wine), and an eye-popping assortment of traditional holiday cookies from cultures around the world – served daily. Expect to see trees lavishly bedecked with shimmering glass ornaments and jewels, lots of gingerbread houses and reindeer whimsically adorned. Clergy is onboard to lead Catholic and Protestant Christmas Eve services.
Christmas Eve is black tie optional and includes a dinner of roast goose with chestnut stuffing and gourmet trimmings. Have a holiday food tradition from home? Crystal’s Six-Star chefs can whip it up. In fact, they once re-created a traditional Swedish holiday dinner at a guest’s request and using her grandmother’s recipes – dishing up Swedish meatballs and rice pudding with lingonberries to everyone at the table.
On Christmas Day, sip eggnog in the morning, join fellow passengers for a gala luncheon and watch the kids react when Santa Claus, laden with gifts, pays a call in the afternoon. A traditional Christmas Day dinner is also served.
There’s a good chance of “snow flurries” at sea when Disney Cruise Line’s Very Merrytime Cruises begin – Nov. 9 on the Disney Fantasy and Disney Wonder and Nov. 10 on the Disney Dream and Disney Magic. But that’s not all; decorating stockings, making holiday cards, building gingerbread houses and meeting You-Know-Who are all part of the festivities aboard holiday sailings.
Little ones can help Disney characters light the three-deck-tall tree during “King Triton’s Tree Lighting Ceremony.” Families can limbo their way under oversized candy canes and dance the “Yuletide Slide” at the “Deck the Deck Holiday Party.” And everyone can listen in as storytellers spin yarns of Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
On Christmas morning, find gifts from Santa Claus at the atrium lobby tree. Enjoy caroling from the crew choir and a special musical performance from the kids onboard. Feast on a traditional Christmas Dinner that evening. Christmas services will be held on Christmas Day with a midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Hanukkah services will be held each day, Nov. 28 to Dec. 5.
You can kick-start your cruise fun even before you leave home: Buy a mini Christmas tree with all the trimmings, as well as holiday-themed gift packages and treat baskets, for stateroom delivery. Onboard, you can finish your Christmas shopping at the gift shops, stocked full of holiday items, including the line’s coveted Disney-themed ornaments.
Christmas cookies, Yule logs, pumpkin pie and more will be aboard Norwegian cruise ships. Holiday departures from Miami include a seven-day sailing to the Eastern Caribbean on Dec. 21 on the Norwegian Epic, a seven-day Western Caribbean cruise on Norwegian Pearl on Dec. 22 and a four-day Bahamas cruise on Norwegian Sky on Dec. 23.
A perennial passenger favorite aboard Norwegian ships are the elaborate Christmas “gingerbread villages” created by the culinary teams and displayed in each of the ship’s atriums. Additionally, the ships will be decked out with poinsettias, Christmas trees, twinkling lights and other holiday decorations.
On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, crewmembers perform in the theater and lead carols throughout the ship. Santa Claus visits on Christmas Day. Christmas Day dinner feast features holiday favorites and specialty ‘tis the season cocktails, including eggnog drinks, are offered.
More Christmas Cruises
Other cruise lines offering holiday voyages with themed entertainment, menus, music, merriment and more are American Cruise Lines, Hurtigruten, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Uniworld Boutique River Cruises.