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.
Hanukkah: Menorahs will be displayed, and rabbis will conduct daily services
during Hanukkah (yarmulkes available) A selection of kosher meals will be
available, including traditional potato latkes.
Christmas: All three ships -- Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth -- will be festooned with greenery, including trees and wreaths,
poinsettias, ornaments, nutcrackers, gingerbread cottages and twinkling lights. Father Christmas will visit, of course, and hand out gifts to the kids. All passengers will find a Christmas gift and card in their cabin. There will be special shows in the theater, caroling and pantomime, and a gala Christmas supper with roast turkey and Christmas pudding. Queen Mary 2'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 ostensibly 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 sets sail on December 20 from Tilbury on a 14-night cruise to the Canary Islands and Madeira. Onboard, there will be a festive gala dinner, carol singers, mulled wine and a special Christmas themed programme of ‘Supercrafts' that includes fascinator making, cake decoration and sugarcraft, plus festive card making. Also onboard is a guest speaker on antiques and guests are invited to bring along small items for valuation. (The ship also sets sail on a pre-Christmas three-night Christmas markets cruises on December 16 to Antwerp and Amsterdam, which is equally festive and includes a special dinner plus a Christmas Craft Shop onboard.)
New Year's Eve: Ring in the New Year with a gala celebration at sea. Enjoy dancing, a countdown and the sounding of the ship's horns at midnight.
Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
Seasonal style: Traditional festivities
Christmas: Santa Claus gives presents to all children onboard, and the crew performs a show in its native language. Passengers can test their holiday knowledge during a Christmas quiz show and take part in themed craft events. There are Christmas carols, and on Christmas Day -- always spent at sea on Fred. Olsen ships -- there is a traditional Christmas dinner. On Boxing Day, passengers can enjoy a seasonal show.
For the first time this year, Fred. Olsen is offering a Christmas cruise to the Cape Verde Islands, aboard the 929-passenger Braemar, which departs Southampton on December 19, for 18 nights, with visits to the Cape Verde Islands of Mindelo, Praia and Porto Novo; then on to Tenerife for New Year's Eve and Gran Canaria on New Year's Day (see below), before heading home, via Lisbon.
Christmas Day is spent at sea, with the ship bedecked with decorations and a visit from Father Christmas.
New Year's Eve: Most of Fred. Olsen's ships spend New Year's Eve in ports renowned for great New Year festivities, such as fireworks at midnight. Braemar stays late in Tenerife, which has the most spectacular 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 and readings from the Christmas gospel. 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 a special excursion to Camp Tamok. Equipped with warm winter clothes, participants can then take off for a winter safari through the Arctic from Finnsnes to Tromsø on dog sledges, snowmobiles and reindeer sledges.
New Year's Eve: If you're lucky, the Northern Lights will put on an elaborate show for you during your voyage “on top of the world” -- but the onboard festivities will include music, dancing, canapes and Champagne, enjoyed against a background of an Arctic-inspired fireworks display.
Seasonal Style: Traditionally British with all the trimmings
Christmas: Passengers sailing from Southampton (Arcadia, Adonia, Aurora, Oceana and Oriana all depart from the U.K. port) are encouraged to get into the Christmas spirit with mince pies and sherry onboard, plus an appearance from Father Christmas.
Passengers cruising on ships in the Caribbean (Azura and Ventura) won't miss out -- decorations are sent to the ships and professional decorators are flown out to get passengers in the festive spirit.
These festive cruises offer caroling at sailaway, a pantomime performance, parties for all ages and gifts. Santa's Grotto provides festivities for children onboard P&O Cruises' family-friendly ships, including Azura, Ventura, Aurora and Oceana. On Christmas Day, Santa Claus arrives at the ship's funnel, and the event is a highlight for young and old. Christmas church services are held onboard, and traditional menus in the dining rooms feature turkey with cranberry sauce and traditional Christmas pudding with brandy butter.
New Year's Eve: A gala evening meal and countdown for all guests takes place on December 31.
Seasonal Style: Traditional celebrations for the 50+ crowd
Christmas:Saga Ruby will be offering 'A Mediterranean Christmas' departing on December 14 for 24 nights. The cruise is structured around watching the spectacular New Year's Eve fireworks over Valletta (Malta) harbour and also spending Christmas day at sea for a traditional Christmas. Christmas Eve is spent in Piraeus (for Athens), and Boxing Day is spent in Istanbul.
Saga Ruby also has an Advent Cruise that departs on the December 6 for eight nights, with visits to some of Scandinavia's most elegant cities.
Saga Sapphire will be spending 'Christmas in the Canary Islands', and be at sea in between Agadir and Arrecife on Christmas Day, with lots of festive activities.
Quest for Adventure will be in the Caribbean but spending again Christmas Day at sea in between Guadeloupe and St Maarten.
New Year's Eve: Enjoy a festive celebration at sea. Revellers aboard Saga Sapphire can view a spectacular fireworks display off the coast of Madeira while welcoming 2013. Quest for Adventure will be in St.Lucia. Again there will be a selection of festive activies.
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.
Seasonal Style: Traditional festivities in exotic locales
Christmas Eve: It will be formal night onboard Minerva and passengers will have the opportunity to join in with singing carols around the piano in the Shackleton Bar, followed by dancing in the Orpheus Lounge.
Christmas: Canon Ralph Godsall will be giving his ‘Service of Nine Lessons and Carols' and passengers will later sit down to a formal Christmas Dinner. Father Christmas will also make an appearance at some point!
New Year's Eve: For New Year, a party will be held on New Year's Eve before ringing in the New Year on the ship's bell.
Voyages of Discovery
Seasonal Style: Traditional festivities in exotic locales
Christmas Eve: Themed dinner, followed by carol singing and a mass onboard the line's new ship Voyager.
Christmas: Formal Christmas Dinner, with all the trimmings, plus a possible 'Christmas Show'.
New Year's Eve: Celebrations include a formal dinner (depending on itinerary) with a party to bring in the New Year with a champagne toast at midnight.