Tweet (5 p.m. EDT) -- Whether it be Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas or New Year's, the weeks of planning and shopping and cooking and cleaning that lead up to a big family celebration can leave many feeling overwhelmed, frazzled and totally stressed. While trying to escape it all may not always be an option, holiday cruise bargains can help make it a possibility.
On a cruise, all the cooking and cleaning is done for you. If you need to entertain the kids, cousins or in-laws, the cruise line has already planned a wide range of activities onboard and onshore -- just take your pick. And if you choose to spend your days doing absolutely nothing, well, that's your prerogative.
Both mainstream and luxury lines offer cruises that sail over the major fall and winter holidays, and most lines offer religious services and other onboard festivities. In fact, lines like Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Princess and Crystal usually go all out, and feature celebrations complete with traditional feasts, decorations and themed entertainment.
While you won't find rock-bottom fares on most holiday sailings, it is possible to find decent rates. Many cruise sellers offer additional incentives, ranging from reduced third and fourth passenger rates to prepaid gratuities, onboard credit and free cabin upgrades.
Once you've decided to cruise this holiday season, be sure to book as soon as possible. Holiday sailings are typically quite popular, and discounted fares and bonuses are limited and likely to sell out quickly.
We've listed some of our favorite holiday cruise deals below. You can find the entire list on our Holiday Cruise Deals page. We'll be sure to add any additional bargains that we come across throughout the next several weeks.
7-Night Southern Caribbean Cruise from $423: If you book this seven-night cruise aboard Caribbean Princess, you'll spend Thanksgiving Day enjoying the island air in Bonaire. You may even be able to get up to $100 in onboard credit.
7-Night Western Caribbean Cruise from $559: For less than $100 per night, you can spend Thanksgiving in Belize, when you book this weeklong cruise aboard Norwegian Spirit. Plus, you may be eligible for free prepaid gratuities and/or onboard credit.
14-Night New Zealand & South Pacific Cruise from $5,495: Between visits to the South Pacific Islands and New Zealand, you can celebrate Thanksgiving aboard the luxurious Paul Gauguin. While pricey, Paul Gauguin offers true all-inclusive pricing, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit exotic ports like Bora Bora and the Cook Islands.
7-Night Western Caribbean Cruise from $399: From as little as $57 per night, you can kick off your Hanukkah by enjoying the Western Caribbean ports of Roatan, Belize City and Cozumel on this weeklong cruise aboard Carnival Valor.
7-Night Bahamas Cruise from $399: You can spend the last few days of Hanukkah aboard Norwegian Jewel as you make your way from New York to the Bahamas. When you book this sailing, you may even be eligible for free prepaid gratuities and/or onboard credit.
Editor's Note: Because Hanukkah starts on a Wednesday night, it's difficult to find sailings that encompass the entire holiday, but there are a number of cruises that will allow you to spend either the first or second half of the holiday away.
7-Night Western Caribbean Cruise from $737: For just over $100 per night, you can sail aboard Crown Princess this Christmas. Plus, you may be eligible to receive up to $100 in onboard credit -- great for purchasing gifts onboard.
10-Night South Pacific Cruise from $1,534: Christmas in Raiatea? Why not? For about $150 per night, this cruise aboard Royal Princess is a great opportunity to see the South Pacific. Plus, dependent on cabin category booked, you may receive onboard credit.
50% Off Connecting Balcony on MSC Caribbean Cruises: If you're traveling as a family of four, and want to book two connecting balcony cabins, you can save 50 percent on the second cabin when you book the Caribbean Christmas sailing aboard MSC Poesia.
Kids Sail Free on 14-Night Caribbean Cruise: Kids ages 17 and under sail free when sharing a cabin with two paying adults on Crystal Serenity's 14-Night Christmas and New Year's Cruise.
10-Night Southern Caribbean Cruise from $1,169: You may be eligible for reduced third and fourth passenger rates and free prepaid gratuities for the first and second passengers, making this cruise an affordable way to spend both Christmas Day and New Year's Day relaxing aboard Celebrity Millennium.
9-Night Southern Caribbean Cruise from $789: Ring in the new year aboard Norwegian Dawn. With the onboard credit you receive when you book this deal (up to $500), you can start the year off right with a relaxing spa treatment or a shore excursion splurge.
Two-for-One Fares, Onboard Credit, Free Air & More on Regent Seven Seas Cruises: When you book a New Year's cruise with Regent Seven Seas Cruises, you'll be eligible for lots of extras. You'll even get free unlimited shore excursions! You have the choice of either an 18-night Panama Canal cruise or a seven-night Caribbean cruise.
Two-for-One Fares on 7-Night Windstar Caribbean Cruise: From now through October 31, you can book a cabin on Wind Surf's New Year's sailing for half price.
--by Shayne Rodriguez Thompson, Web Content Producer
'Tis the Season to Book a Holiday Cruise Deal
September 24, 2010