On the Boards: Holiday Exchange Forum
You may not be prepared for it, but the festive season is just around the corner. Yes, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve will soon be upon us, as will the rush of buying decorations and presents while working out how to make this year better than the last.
For some, the season of good will is a great time for a getaway. The stress of the year has taken its toll, so many will pack up the presents and head for sunnier climates or exotic locales.
One great way to escape the cleaning and cooking, yet still enjoy tinsel and turkey, is to take a cruise. The majority of cruise lines get into the festive spirit for December 25, December 31 and the days surrounding, so why not give it a go? Here's what you can expect.
U.K. lines generally offer decorated ships and Christmas-themed events, such as carol-singing and pantomimes. Plus, just think of the Christmas dinner you can tuck into -- all the trimmings and more -- without lifting a finger.
If you are onboard a ship for New Year's Eve, you'll find that festivities vary from a low-key dinner and countdown to glitzy and glamourous celebrations.
Every cruise line puts its own spin on holiday cheer. Keep reading for a roundup of onboard celebrations from U.K. lines, and enjoy! (And, if you're interested in American lines, check out our companion story: Onboard Holiday Festivities.)
Seasonal style: Traditional, classy and British -- with a nod to the Yanks.
Thanksgiving:A traditonal turkey dinner with all the stuffings will be served.
Hanukkah: Cunard will have a selection of Kosher meals for passengers on request including the traditional potato latkes dish. We will also have Rabbis on board each of our vessels and a Menorah will be lit in all of the traffic areas such as the Grand Lobby. The festival will be celebrated over the traditional eight day period from from 16th December at sundown to sunset on December 24 and a candle will be lit each day. Hanukkah services have been scheduled for 17th December and subsequent days organised by the entertainment director and the Rabbi on board and yarmulkes are also supplied on board.
Christmas: All three ships will be festooned with greenery, including trees, wreaths, poinsettias, ornaments, nutcrackers, gingerbread cottages and twinkling lights. Queen Mary 2 will be the first ship to be decorated, between November 26-30. There will be a Wind in the Willows display on QM2 in the Grand Lobby, and the chefs will produce their annual gingerbread village. Father Christmas will visit and lead a parade into the Queens Rooms where he will hand out gifts to the kids (adults will receive a commemorative Wedgewood mug). All passengers will find a Christmas gift and card in their cabin. There will be caroling and a pantomime, and a gala Christmas supper with roast turkey and Christmas pudding. QM2's Grand Lobby is also featuring periodic “snowing events” whereby special holiday activities are conducted under a light snow fall (simulated, of course). Since Christmas is at heart a religious holiday, the ships will offer Catholic and Protestant services.
New Year's Eve: Passengers will have a jolly old time at the black-tie gala with horns, hats, streamers and blowers.
Cruise & Maritime Voyages
Seasonal style: Traditional elegance
Christmas: Adults-only Marco Polo has two Christmas market sailings from Tilbury -- a three-night cruise to Amsterdam and Ghent on December 15 and a three-night Amsterdam and Antwerp cruise on December 19. The Christmas & New Year cruise leaves on December 22 for a 14-night cruise to the Canary Islands and Madeira. CMV' has two other ships -- Azores, which is off charter until 26 January then starts with a 30 night West Indies cruise from Bristol; and Astor which is sailing from Fremantle in the Australian market.
Christmas Eve: The main Christmas celebrations will take place on Christmas Eve with a traditional Christmas Dinner served with all the trimmings.
Christmas Day: The ship will also be decorated festively, passengers are invited to join staff and put together a choir and there will also be a Christmas pantomime and a variety show, as well as the traditional Christmas lunch.
Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
Seasonal style: Traditional festivities
Christmas: Fred. is so keen on Christmas it has released a dedicated mini-brochure for the festive season! Entitled ‘Fred.'s Festive Cruising', it features 13 cruises, including Winter sun escapes, Christmas market city breaks and four brand new festive sailings from Liverpool. There is also the chance to see the Northern Lights on a winter sailing to Norway aboard Black Watch, Fred. Olsen's smallest, most intimate ship. The newly-launched cruises, on board Boudicca, are two two-night Dublin mini-breaks, departing on either 10th December 2014 or 12th December 2014, a four-night Irish Christmas Markets cruise, departing on 14th December, and the chance to attend a Christmas party ‘with a difference' on 18th December 2014.
Christmas Eve: There is a chaplain onboard each ship conducting services, including Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
Christmas Day: Each of Fred. Olsen's ships -- Balmoral, Braemar, Boudicca and Black Watch -- will be decked out in Christmas decorations, including the festive tree, and the line will serve a traditional Christmas dinner during the cruise. There will also be Christmas-themed shows from the Entertainments team on board, a carol concert, Christmas arts and crafts classes and a seasonal quiz.
New Year's Eve: On New Years Eve there will be a formal dinner with a special menu across the fleet. There will also be fireworks (depending on where the ship is) and seeing the New Year in on Deck (weather permitting) Braemar will be in santa Cruz, Tenerife, which is said to have the best fireworks display in the Canary Islands.
Seasonal Style: Christmas Norwegian-style
Christmas Eve: All Hurtigruten ships will dock in their respective destination ports for 24 hours. Guests are invited to attend Christmas mass at the local churches before coming back onboard to celebrate with fellow guests and crew members, and tuck in to an elaborate Christmas Eve smorgasbord (buffet) and feast (sit-down supper). "Julenissen", the Norwegian Father Christmas, will also pay a visit.
Christmas: "God Jul," the traditional Christmas greeting in Norwegian, will be heard throughout the Hurtigruten fleet as its ships ply the waters along the Norwegian west coast from Bergen to Kirkenes. Guests will experience a traditional Norwegian yuletide including caroling. Guests and crew join together to decorate the ship and the Christmas tree with decorations made on board, learn and sing Norwegian carols and decorate gingerbread houses. Traditional Norwegian Christmas food is served, including ‘Julekake', a sweet Christmas bread with rasins, candied lemon peel, nuts and cardamom and ‘Julegrot', a Christmas porridge. A full Christmas buffet is served in the restaurant. Julenissen will make another appearance.
Those passengers wanting to experience a true Norwegian winter on shore should join The Wilderness Adventure camp excursion which includes reindeer driving plus dog sledding or a snowmobile safari.
New Year's Eve: "Godt nyttår", the Norwegian New Year greeting, is heard on New Year's Eve on board the Hurtigruten ships when the change of the year is heralded in. The New Year itself is spent in the harbour, lit up by fireworks, with dance and a champagne toast. Guests on the MS Midnatsol will be able to welcome the New Year in a very special place: after a festive New Year's Eve on board in the port of Tromsø, they can enjoy a New Year's Day excursion to the North Cape, mainland Europe's northernmost point.
Seasonal Style: Traditionally British with all the trimmings
Christmas: Local children's choirs lead the Christmas send-off from the quayside.
Onboard, public rooms are decorated with trees, garlands and wreaths, and there are festive events including carol concerts, Christmas music and a Christmas show. Nativity plays are a highlight for children onboard the family-friendly ships.
On Christmas Day Father Christmas arrives onboard. Christmas church services are held on board and passengers enjoy traditional Christmas dinners with all the trimmings, glasses of Champagne, Christmas crackers and party hats, all rounded off with traditional Christmas pudding with brandy butter, Christmas cake, mince pies or freshly made Yule log.
New Year's Eve: There will be a five course gala dinner in the dining rooms followed by live music, West End style shows or comedy acts, casino and then there is a countdown to midnight in all the bars and nightclubs.
Seasonal Style: Traditional celebrations for the 50+ crowd
Christmas: Saga Pearl II will be offering 'A Christmas in the Mediterranean' cruise departing from Dover on December 21st for 23 nights to Spain, Italy, France, Malta and Portugal. Christmas Eve will be spent at Sea. Christmas Day promises to be a magical occasion, spent at sea with a host of festivities and a traditional lunch; Boxing Day will be in Almeria, Spain.
New Year's Day: New Year's Eve will be spent in Malta, watching a spectacular fireworks over Valletta harbour, departing at 12:30 a.m. New Years Day.
Saga Sapphire will be offering a ‘Christmas in the Canaries' cruise departing from Dover on December 21st for 20 nights. Passengers will head for the warmth of the Canary Islands arriving in Lisbon on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day and Boxing Day will be spent at sea.
New Year's Eve: New Year's Eve will be spent at sea, arriving off Funchal, Madeira at 11:30 p.m. on the 31st for a spectacular fireworks display and departing at 5 p.m. on January 1st.
Seasonal Style: Social and fun with a traditional feel
Christmas: The ships are decorated with holiday wreaths, Christmas trees and lights, and signs proclaiming traditional holiday greetings. The cruise director and staff will offer several holiday-themed shows throughout each cruise, and at least one seasonal movie will be shown. Santa Claus makes an appearance with gifts for the kids, and a traditional Christmas dinner -- featuring turkey and Christmas Pudding -- is served. A special carol service will be celebrated on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
New Year's Eve: Passengers are provided with hats, party favours and noisemakers, as well as complimentary Champagne to see in the New Year.
Voyages of Discovery
Seasonal Style: Traditional festivities in exotic locales
Voyager will be spending Christmas in between east Africa and the Indian Ocean, departing from Port Louis (Mauritius) on 18 December and coming back to Port Louis on 3 January. Ports of call will include Reunion Island, Madagascar, Mozambique Island (24 Dec), at sea (25 Dec), Tanzania and Zanzibar.
The Entertainment Manager will be co-ordinating the Passenger Choir -- anyone interested can perform in a traditional Christmas Eve Carol Concert incorporating readings from passengers followed by mince pies and mulled wine on offer from the bar.
Christmas Day: Reverend Peter Glanville will offer a traditional Christmas day morning service including readings, Christmastide hymns and music. There will also be a Christmas lunch menu with a full traditional Christmas Dinner served in the evening of Christmas Day as a formal occasion. The ship's in-house Theatre Company will provide a Christmas variety show on the evening of Christmas Day and a traditional Pantomime will take place. There will also be festive games, events and quizzes; festive cookery demos and a formal ballroom dance evening.
Boxing Day: Big Boxing Day BBQ Brunch on the pool deck with more passenger activities.
New Year's Eve: Special themed New Years Eve dinner followed by a show and a deck party for the countdown into the New Year.
--Updated by Adam Coulter, UK Editor