From Australia and New Zealand to the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, cruise ships large and small are hosting big-time holiday celebrations.
We're talking traditional meals, elaborate decorations, and extravagant Christmas trees. And, depending on the cruise line, there may be visits from Santa, carolers strolling, religious services, giant gingerbread houses, and hands-on crafts activities. For Hanukah, you may find a menorah lighting and latkes (traditional potato pancakes).
While a holiday premium is often charged, not all the sailings cost an arm and a leg. You can celebrate Christmas in the sunny Bahamas, for example, from $274 per person on a three-day cruise from Miami on the Carnival Victory. Or cruise from Fort Lauderdale on Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas, from $399, and spend Christmas Eve in Cozumel.
Each cruise line puts its own spin on the experience. For instance, Disney Cruise Line ships host "Very Merrytime" deck parties with character appearances, while Princess Cruises ships are outfitted for the holidays with "snowfalls" in their atriums. Passengers on Mississippi River cruises enjoy a traditional Cajun celebration complete with bonfires, while those on Caribbean and Mexico sailings can combine holiday celebrations with time at the beach.
River cruises on the Danube and the Rhine have the added bonus of stopping at Europe's famed Christmas markets, like those in Nuremberg and Vienna, where you can snap up some mulled wine and gingerbread before you get back on board.