Stuffing yourself with food is a normal Thursday on a cruise ship. But cruising during Thanksgiving comes with fixings that go far beyond the usual gluttony. The festivities are what most of us have come to expect on land, yet in a tropical setting with better weather -- and no need to cook and clean!
While it may seem that spending such a family-oriented holiday in unfamiliar territory could be uncomfortable, the truth is that the holiday is enhanced by meeting new people, enjoying adventures onboard and ashore, and having someone else play host. You still get all of Thanksgiving's trimmings, which include a dash of Black Friday shopping, football and a plethora of decorations.
Plus you get the reassurance of knowing that most cruise ships require a COVID-19 vaccine to come onboard, as well as requiring other safety procedures that many restaurants on land do not.
If you are looking for a little variety beyond that traditional turkey meal, here are our top reasons to take a Thanksgiving cruise.
Even the non-Americans onboard will opt for the turkey meal on Thanksgiving, so brace for a little delay in the dining room. But whether it's in a traditional sit-down setting or the grab-it-yourself buffet, there will be turkey and all the trimmings throughout the day on the ship. We found it particularly fun to explain American food traditions to the international passengers we met onboard a Silversea cruise in South America one year – turns out pumpkin pie is not universal!
You'll find some non-edible extras as well. On one Princess cruise, a waiter from the specialty steakhouse onboard sang a wonderful rendition of Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up." Cruisers on Royal Caribbean delight in a Thanksgiving Day parade, a song-and-dance spectacle, as well.
You do not have an eight-person staff to put together a massive Thanksgiving spread, complete with dressed up turkeys in the atrium the night before. A cruise ship does. Expect plenty of festive fall colors and patterns of brown and orange in the decorations onboard. The main dining rooms, buffet, and bars and lounges will likely be plastered with Turkey Day signage.
More than likely, you won't miss the annual holiday Thursday NFL football games on Thanksgiving cruises. Before, during and after the stuffing, find the screen -- or screens -- where everyone is watching the big game. On a cruise ship, it's okay to be glued in front of the television while eating; you're on vacation after all. Now that's something to be thankful for!
You won't find a big box retailer on a cruise ship, or those long lines that come with the eager Black Friday consumers. But there are still deals to be had. On our Princess cruise, there was a 40 percent Thanksgiving discount on select wines.
However, the real deals are off the ship. 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 over Thanksgiving in South America, we saw Black Friday deals going on in Rio de Janeiro shops (and passengers taking advantage of them).
Turkey Day's strong culture of togetherness means you will get to know your shipmates, as you will be doing plenty of eating alongside them. And whether you are in foreign waters or are fortunate enough to have an actual port of call on Thanksgiving, embrace your surroundings. In Costa Rica, a local guided us to the non-tourist spot for gallo pinto, a delicious rice and beans dish. You might be "homesick" in one sense, but celebrating with others during this festive time will make the holiday as warm and cheerful as a gathering back home.
Read why you should take a Thanksgiving luxury cruise.