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Christmas turkey surrounded by decorations and wine (Photo: Alexander Raths/Cruise Critic)

Top 5 Reasons to Love Thanksgiving Cruises

Christmas turkey surrounded by decorations and wine (Photo: Alexander Raths/Cruise Critic)
Anthony Cave
Lori A. May

Last updated
Nov 14, 2023

Read time
5 min read

If you’ve ever imagined a stress-free festive family gathering, a Thanksgiving cruise may be your ticket to holiday bliss. Thanksgiving cruises can transform an otherwise hectic to-do list into a carefree getaway where quality time with family and friends becomes a priority.

Shred the grocery list and put away the decorations, as your celebratory voyage includes dining, entertainment, activities, and accommodations for all. Aboard your Thanksgiving cruise, you’ll find all the festivities of home without the hassle of hosting. Plus, you still get all of Thanksgiving’s trimmings, including a dash of Black Friday shopping and football fandom.

Many travelers find holiday cruises, like Thanksgiving cruises, enhance the celebration by convening in a relaxed environment. With every festive detail provided for you, a cruise for Thanksgiving affords everyone the same quality time while at sea.

If you are looking for a little variety beyond sharing that traditional turkey meal, here are our top six reasons to take a Thanksgiving cruise.

1. A Cruise for Thanksgiving Caters to All Dietary Needs

Holiday Cocktails (Photo: Malyugin/Shutterstock)

While a traditional festive spread can be found in the buffet and main dining room, cruise guests aren’t bound by a set menu. Those that crave turkey with all the trimmings will find such classics throughout the day, while guests who prefer variety will find alternatives ship-wide.

Celebrating at home can sometimes mean cooking for multiple dietary needs, yet Thanksgiving week cruises are an easy way to ensure allergies and dietary restrictions are met with exciting menu options.

The best vegetarian and vegan cruise menus include curried cauliflower steak on Holland America, zucchini and eggplant parmigiana on Carnival and sun-dried tomato ricotta pasta on Celebrity Cruises.

Or for those who have grown tired of the annual turkey tradition, sampling the best cruise ship specialty restaurants is another way to shake up the holiday dining experience. For your Thanksgiving cruise, try Coq au Vin at Norwegian Cruise Line's Le Bistro or settle in for a classic steak dinner at Royal Caribbean‘s Chops Grille.

2. A Thanksgiving Cruise Provides All the Decor and Atmosphere

Christmas turkey surrounded by decorations and wine (Photo: Alexander Raths/Cruise Critic)

You likely do not have an eight-person staff to put together a massive Thanksgiving spread, complete with decorating the atrium the night before. However, a cruise ship certainly does. Expect plenty of festive fall colors and seasonal photo opportunities onboard.

During your festive family cruise, holiday signage and decor will take over dining rooms and bars, lounges and most common areas, so the festive vibe is provided for you.

Even so, among the holiday cruise tips you need to know, many guests will bring their own wreaths or seasonal decor to spruce up their cabin door, so go ahead and bring your own style to the sailing.

3. Cruise for Thanksgiving to Watch Football on the Big Screen

Best spots to catch the big game on your cruise. (Photo: Marquisphoto/Shuterstock)

More than likely, you won’t miss the annual holiday Thursday NFL football games on Thanksgiving cruises. Forget about tiny TV screens, though, since some of the best cruise lines for NFL football offer big screen excitement.

Cruising on Princess during Thanksgiving includes watching the big game on their 300-square-foot, 69,000-watt LED screen, with plenty of beer buckets within reach. Disney also broadcasts the game on their outdoor movie screen, though cozier game quarters may also be found in their sports bars. It’s also common to see big games on Carnival’s seaside theater screen.

On some sailings, guests will also catch NFL broadcasts throughout the cruise ship casino.

In addition to game play, cruisers are also likely to see themed trivia games, drink specials and other football fanfare during the broadcast.

4. A Thanksgiving Cruise Can Bring People Together -- and Allow for Rest and Relaxation

Friends Socializing in the Christmas Market (Photo: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)

Turkey Day’s strong culture of togetherness means you will get to know your travel companion(s) and shipmates, as you will be doing plenty of eating alongside them. Whether you are in foreign waters or are fortunate enough to have an actual port of call on Thanksgiving, embrace your surroundings by making memories with new traditions.

In Costa Rica, a local guided us to the non-tourist spot for gallo pinto, a delicious rice and beans dish. You could take a culinary tour to discover regional flavors or savor wines during a Danube River cruise. You might be "homesick" in one sense, but celebrating this festive time in a new way will make the holiday as warm and cheerful as a gathering back home.

Plus, with no one responsible for hosting duties, your schedule is wide open for rest and relaxation, something often not experienced during the holiday season.

Book a relaxing massage or sauna visit at one of the best cruise ship spas. Whether you opt for a luxury cruise for Thanksgiving or find yourself on a family-friendly sailing, be sure to book yourself some rest and relaxation during the holiday. Even spending quality time alongside the pool with family members is one of the best ways to relax during your Thanksgiving cruise.

5. Holiday Discounts Are Still Viable on Thanksgiving Week Cruises

One of the best bargains for cruisers is taking advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday cruise deals online, but be sure to pop by the future cruise desk if you’re sailing during the holidays. In-person deals are just as tempting, and onboard cruise planners may have unique cruise sales to save you money during your present voyage.

When it comes to other savvy shopping while on Thanksgiving cruises, don’t overlook what the cruise ship shops and restaurants have on offer. On our Princess cruise, there was a 40 percent Thanksgiving discount on select wines. The retail shops onboard are also likely to have a sidewalk sale with destination and branded souvenirs.

However, the real deals are often found shopping in port. We stopped in Limon, Costa Rica, on Thanksgiving Day and were surprised to see Black Friday (they call it "Viernes Negro") sales on everything from shoes to cell phones, despite no sign of Thanksgiving and plenty of Christmas decorations on the city streets. On a cruise in South America over Thanksgiving, we saw Black Friday deals going on in Rio de Janeiro shops (and passengers taking advantage of them).

Publish date September 23, 2022
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