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This Is Why You’ll Actually Love Christmas On A Cruise Ship

I am a big fan of holiday cruises. Our family has sailed over the Christmas and/or New Year’s holidays for 11 of the last 12 years. We absolutely love it!  And, it is never too late or too early to make plans for Christmas on a cruise ship. Even if the holidays are right around the corner, you can probably find a good deal somewhere.  One of the many great things about cruises is that there are often last minute deals to be had.  

Maybe your holiday plans have not yet firmed up, or your original plans have fallen through. Or, perhaps you have plans, but realize what you really want to do is escape to something less stressful? A holiday cruise could be just right for you. Let’s review why.

1. Christmas On A Cruise Ship Provides Stress-free Ways To Spend Quality Time With Family.

The holidays bring opportunities to spend extra time with your family and close friends.  Most folks recognize that the extra opportunities can also bring extra stress. There can be lots of pressure to conjure up elaborate mouth-watering meals, go all out on home holiday decor, and produce Pinterest-worthy perfectly wrapped gifts.   

A holiday cruise can decrease those stress levels considerably. You can forget about any pressure to prepare photo-worthy meals. If you want, you can completely skip having to find a tree, or decorate your home. And, are you one who feels obligated to make sure everyone in your family is happy and having a memorable holiday experience?  On a cruise ship, dozens of folks are there to help you with that.

Are you ready to start planning a cruise vacation for your family? Download our free Quick Start Guide now!

2. You Can Avoid Hurt Feelings Among The Different Branches Of Your Family Tree.

Are you one of the many families who has an annual dispute or tension over where to spend the holidays? Whether it’s tension over married spouses choosing between different sets of in-laws, or adult children of divorced parents or blended families. Book a holiday cruise and skip the drama completely.

Or, make it an extended family affair and encourage other family members to join you. This could be a great time for a multigenerational cruise!

3. You Can Set Your Own Pace And Tone.

The holidays can bring much treasured opportunities for lots of family togetherness, but sometimes you need a little break. Taking time out to take care of yourself is one of the best ways to manage not only holiday stress, but also everyday life stress.

Celebrating Christmas on a cruise ship provides numerous opportunities to relax and have guilt-free “me time.” You can visit the spa. Check out some fitness classes. Take a walk on an open air track against the backdrop of an ocean view. Relax with a book by the pool (for quiet – try the adults only pool). Soak in a hot tub. Or, stretch your mind and spirit with a variety of enrichment classes and activities.

Remember:  “With such a huge focus during the holidays on giving, it can be easy to forget to give back to yourself. Taking care of yourself will improve your mood and make it easier for you to take care of others.”
6 Tips for Managing Holiday Stress 

4. You Can Chase Away The Winter Blues With Christmas On A Cruise Ship.Holiday Cruise | photo of family on beach in santa hats


Perhaps you live in a place that actually experiences a real winter with too much snow and not enough sunlight. You can escape the burdens of winter for at least a little while. Choose a warm weather sunny destination like the Caribbean. Spend time at the beach or by the pool.  Work on a holiday tan.  Toast those blues to brown.

5. On A Christmas Cruise, You Can Explore Holiday Traditions Around The World.

If you desire more of a cultural experience, you can venture beyond the Caribbean. For instance, you may have heard that exploring Christmas markets can be a great holiday experience in Europe.

A Christmas market is essentially a street market held over several weeks during the holiday season to celebrate Christmas. The markets originated in Germany hundreds of years ago and spread throughout Europe.  (For more about Christmas markets, check out this article on the best Christmas markets in Europe ).

Many cruise companies build river cruise itineraries around Christmas markets. And, while typically river cruises are not particularly child friendly, and often bar small kids completely, some attractive options appear during the holidays. For instance, for a Christmas Cruise 2019, Uniworld offers a Christmas markets cruise as part of its family-friendly Generations program. It’s the 8-day Classic Christmas Markets river cruise that sails from Nuremberg to Frankfurt. (Note that Uniworld discourages passengers under the age of 4 on its river cruises.) 

Adventures By Disney offers another viable river cruise option through its holiday sailings on the Danube River. (Note that the recommended age for this cruise is 8 and the minimum age is 4.)

6. You Can Still Load Up On As Much Holiday Spirit As You Desire On A Holiday Cruise.

Although celebrating Christmas on a holiday cruise will be quite different from what you may have planned at home, you will still have many opportunities to engage in some of your most favored activities.

We have sailed holiday cruises on Princess, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Disney. While each line has its own individual twists on holiday events and celebrations, some recurring themes emerge.

  • Santa sightings & photo op and special gifts for all children
  • The abundance of crafting – for adults, kids, and families
  • Holiday movie screenings
  • Extensive decorations throughout the ship.  (No obligation to bring your own.)
  • Some type of parade
  • Lots of desserts and goodies
  • Lots of music and carols throughout the common areas
  • Options for religious services
  • Usually a sea day on the actual holiday
  • Very large impressively decorated Christmas tree; often a tree lighting ceremony
  • A variety of activities revolving around gingerbread
  • Opportunities to participate in caroling
  • A well-attended and exuberant NYE celebration
Holiday Cruise | photo of cruise ship New Year's Eve party

Celebrating New Year’s Eve on a Celebrity Cruise Ship (E. Warren)


For a line by line breakdown of activities planned for different cruise ships, check out Cruise Critic’s Guide to Onboard Festivities  

7. Christmas On A Cruise Ship Can Provide Better Photo Ops.

A cruise has many professional photographers roaming throughout the ship and on-shore who will help document your holiday memories. Photos come complete with cool backdrops, the stunning displays found throughout the elaborate ship decorations, or the natural beauty of your ports of call. You can also opt to skip paying for photos and still get great pics with your smartphone using those same great settings.

If so inclined, you have a convenient option to arrange for a studio photography session in the ship’s professional studio. Book a formal photoshoot that can be used for future greeting cards or the family scrapbook.

8. No Bored Kids.  No Worries Of Keeping Kids Entertained.

The pressure to make sure everyone is entertained and having a good time can be one of the big stressors of the holiday season. This can be particularly challenging when your kids are out of school for an extended period, and you are disinclined to indulge loads amount of screen time.  

Typically, a large cruise ship will have an entire staff of Youth Program personnel charged with providing a roster of engaging age-appropriate activities. While there may certainly be some options for spending time with a gaming console or at an arcade, many other options will be readily available as well.  If you are traveling with a baby or toddler, some cruise ships provide programs for these youngest travelers too. Just be sure to look for one of those cruises that have childcare for babies

In addition to activities organized by the Youth Program, the ship’s programming staff will also have a roster of fun family activities that your whole group can enjoy – bingo, cooking classes, crafts, family-style game shows, water activities, and more.  

For ideas on portable kids’ gifts that you can easily pack for your cruise, check out our holiday gift guide. Kids Love These Awesome Travel Gifts On Family Holiday Cruises.

Christmas Cruise | Cruise Ship Main Dining Room Decorated For The Holidays.

9. Christmas On A Cruise Ship Provides Painless Access To Great Gourmet-Caliber Meals.

During a cruise, you never have to plan or cook a single meal. Not one. No shopping. No menu vetting. Worry not about food preparation or cooking.  No worrying over table settings or seating arrangements.

And the clearing and cleaning of dirty dishes?  Not your job.  The magic cruise fairies take care of all of that.  Your family just has to get dressed and show up.

10. Christmas On A Cruise Ship Provides A Social Calendar That’s Just Right For You.

Forget about stressing over whether you have been invited to enough holiday events or the stress of feeling pressured to attend too many. On a cruise ship, everyone pretty much has invites to as much or as little social activities as they want.  And, you can gleefully attend as many parties or social activities as you want without worrying about childcare or designated drivers (or worrying about those folks who forget to arrange their designated drivers).

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Closing Thoughts:

A cruise can be a great option to add to your family’s repertoire of things to do when celebrating the holidays.  It may not be right for everyone, but it is certainly worth a close look.


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