If you are looking for a holiday vacation alternative to skiing or snowboarding, why not set sail?
Cruise lines are offering a range of celebrations and specialty voyages for travelers who want to book a last-minute getaway, whether you want to soak up some sun during the cold winter months or do some shopping at Christmas markets. From two-week sailings in the Caribbean to European river voyages and journeys through the American South, there is probably a cruise for you.
We round up this year’s holiday offerings from five cruise lines that still have availability.
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► American Queen Voyages: On American Queen Voyages’ Holidays on the River cruises, guests can spend the holidays cruising along the Mississippi River, sipping hot chocolate and warming up at bonfires on the levee.
The line will sail from New Orleans to Memphis on Dec. 11 with stops in St. Francisville, Louisiana, and Natchez, Mississippi, among others, and make a similar reverse journey on Dec. 18, according to its website. Guests can also spend Christmas with the cruise line on a round-trip sailing from New Orleans on Dec. 25. The cruise includes stops in Natchez and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Each voyage will be nine days long and sail on the American Queen steamboat decked out in its holiday finest. The sailings also will feature a holiday gala, treats like gingerbread, and a traditional Réveillon dinner from culinary ambassador Regina Charboneau.
Available staterooms start at $3,898 for the Dec. 18 cruise and $4,098 for the Dec. 11 and 25 cruises, per person based on double occupancy. The fares include one night in a hotel before the cruise, all food and drinks, Wi-Fi and more.
► Royal Caribbean International: Royal Caribbean hosts a variety of activities at Christmastime, including a tree-lighting ceremony, an ugly-sweater party and holiday scavenger hunts starting as early as Dec. 1, a spokesperson for the line told USA TODAY in an email. Exact offerings may vary by the itinerary.
There will be a priest on board for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services, as well as a rabbi during Hanukkah. The line will celebrate Hanukkah with a daily candle lighting and holiday-inspired food as well, according to the spokesperson.
On New Year’s Eve, Royal Caribbean holds parties throughout its fleet with countdowns to midnight.
This year, the line is offering a range of holiday cruises, including a five-night sailing to the Caribbean and the Bahamas from Florida’s Port Canaveral on Dec. 5 on the line’s Mariner of the Seas ship, and a three-night cruise from Los Angeles on Dec. 16 that will visit Ensenada, Mexico, on Navigator of the Seas, according to its website.
Available rooms on the Dec. 5 sailing start at $219 and at $242 for the Dec. 16 cruise, per person based on double occupancy. The fares include most meals, some drinks, and the majority of onboard entertainment.
► Azamara: Azamara will decorate its ships for the holidays beginning in December, readying them for all manner of festivities. Crew members will perform carols, and the line will serve snacks like Christmas cookies, as well as special holiday menus in the main dining room and specialty restaurants on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, according to press materials provided by the line. There will also be a priest on board for religious services.
The line is sailing two holiday voyages. The Azamara Journey will take travelers through South Africa on a 14-night trip leaving from Cape Town on Dec. 20 with stops in Richards Bay and Durban, among others, according to the line’s website.
Azamara Onward will also sail a 14-night Caribbean cruise from Miami on Dec. 22 that will visit destinations including George Town in Grand Cayman, Cartagena, Colombia and Samaná in the Dominican Republic.
On New Year’s Eve, the line also hosts its White Night party on the pool deck – where guests are asked to wear all white – featuring food, music and dancing.
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Available rooms start at $1,999 for the Dec. 20 cruise and $3,599 for the Dec. 22 sailing, per person, based on double occupancy. The fares include most food, drinks such as sodas and select alcoholic beverages, plus gratuities, among other amenities.
► Disney Cruise Line: Disney Cruise Line is sailing Very Merrytime cruises on all five of its ships, allowing guests to spend the holidays at sea with their favorite characters.
Decor includes poinsettias, garlands and a 24-foot-tall Christmas tree, according to the line’s website. Characters dress in holiday attire, too, and guests can meet Santa Claus, among other activities, though exact offerings vary by ship and itinerary.
A five-night Western Caribbean cruise from Galveston, Texas, on Dec. 13 for two adults and two 5-year-old children starts at $2,889, according to the line’s website, though cruise prices vary depending on the children’s ages, dates of sailing and other factors. The fares include breakfast, lunch and dinner, soft drinks, character meet-and-greets and more.
► Viking: Viking’s Christmas Market River Cruises take travelers to quaint towns and bustling cities throughout Europe. Among the line’s holiday offerings are the Christmas on the Rhine sailing from Amsterdam in the Netherlands to Basel, Switzerland – or the reverse – with stops in Cologne, Germany, Strasbourg, France, and more, according to its website.
Christmas on the Danube sails from Budapest, Hungary, to Regensburg, Germany – and makes the journey in reverse – visiting Vienna, the Wachau Valley and more. Both sailings are eight days long with departure dates from late November to late December. The cruises offer plenty of chances for seasonal shopping, with celebrations on board as well, including tree-trimming and live music, according to press materials provided by the line.
Available rooms on the Christmas on the Rhine cruise start at $2,299 and at $2,499 for Christmas on the Danube, per person based on double occupancy, though prices may vary depending on the dates. The fares include port taxes and fees, all meals, plus beer, wine and soft drinks with lunch and dinner.