by Elizabeth Heath, The Telegraph, November 2, 2018
When the festive period starts to feel more like a marathon to endure rather than a season to savour, it might just be time to take to the high seas.
A Christmas cruise spent with family is a great remedy for holiday stress, where you can let someone else worry about the details – right down to trimming the tree and cooking the festive feast.
Most major cruise lines offer special Christmas-themed sailings during the month of December, with itineraries that fall before, during and after Christmas week. From the Old World enchantment of European Christmas markets to the allure of the Caribbean and even to the – quite literal – ends of the earth, there’s a cruise for every family and for every budget.
European Christmas markets
Families journeying from the UK will appreciate the ease of a slow-moving sojourn along the Main River, where centuries-old market towns and villages are all aglow with the festive warmth of traditional Christmas markets.
Kids can undergo a much-needed digital detox and play with wooden toys, run around car-free medieval centres and discover adventures on board, while adults enjoy worry-free days and precious family bonding – as well as warming spiced, mulled wine.
Uniworld’s Generations Program offers special family-themed sailings, often on itineraries – like European river cruises – not typically available to children. Child-friendly activities on their Classic Christmas Markets cruise include pretzel and gingerbread-making lessons, and a trip to a dinosaur museum.
A seven-night Classic Christmas Market cruise between Nuremberg and Frankfurt on the Uniworld River Queen departs December 8, 2018 – so you’ll still be home for Christmas. From £2,124pp, with a 25 per cent discount for children aged 4-17. (0808 168 9231; uniworld.com)
Christmas in the Canaries
Leave behind Britain’s overcast skies and single-digits temperatures for the balmy Canary Islands, where December weather is typically in the low 20s and sunny.
There’s no shortage of Christmas cheer on P&O Cruises ships, which are decked to the brim with boughs of Christmas holly, trees and lights. Ports of call include Madeira, Gran Canaria and Tenerife, with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day spent in either Lisbon or Lanzarote. Father Christmas pays a call on-board, and traditional holiday dinners and a festive atmosphere will make the ship feel like a home from home. There’s even a multi-faith midnight mass on Christmas Eve.
A 12 or 14-night Christmas and New Year’s round-trip voyage to the Canary Islands with P&O Cruises departs from Southampton. From £1,099pp (£999 per child aged 2-16 and £149 per infant) for 12 nights aboard the Oceana or £1,899pp (£1,199 per child 2-16, and £199 per infant) for 14 nights on the Ventura. (0843 374 0111; pocruises.com)
The Caribbean with Disney
You can count on Disney to do Christmas down to the fine details, and for a Disney cruise to be great fun for families travelling with little ones. The entertainment mega-giant’s holiday cruise offerings include five and seven day sailings to the Eastern and Western Caribbean, meaning Mum and Dad can enjoy sunshine — and sundowners — while kids revel on ships decked out like winter wonderlands.
On-board activities include a tree-lighting ceremony, holiday-themed crafts and character greetings. The only thing missing is the snow. Voyages include a stop at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, where Mr & Mrs Claus appear in tropical attire.
A five-night Very Merrytime Disney cruise departing from either Miami starts from £2,278 for a family of four. A seven night Very Merrytime Disney Cruise departing from Port Canaveral costs from £3,554 for a family of four. Theme park add-ons and airfare-inclusive prices are available. (0800 171 2317; disneycruise.disney.go.com)
Christmas in Antarctica
For an adventurous Christmas the family will never forget, head south – really, really south. A Christmas cruise to Antarctica is a great way for children and teens to disconnect from the commercialism of the holidays, and appreciate the ruggedness and fragility of Mother Nature at her purest and most remote.
One Ocean Expeditions offers Christmas in Antarctica cruises, when December – high summer in the South Pole –means more daylight hours and time for zodiac excursions, hiking, whale-and penguin-sighting and even camping on the ice. Father Christmas has even been known to make an appearance. A minimum age of seven is suggested for these sailings.
A 10 or 11-night Christmas in Antarctica cruise with One Ocean Expeditions departs from either Ushuaia, Port Stanley or King George Island. From £8,475pp, with a 25 per cent discount for under 17s and 25 per cent discount for ages 17 to 21, departures on December 17 and December 20. (00351 962 721836; oneoceanexpeditions.com).
An Indonesian holiday
Get your feet wet over the holidays with a cruise to the Raja Ampat archipelago, a sparsely inhabited group of Indonesian islands known as a diving and snorkelling paradise.
The islands also offer birdwatching, sea caves, small villages and pristine tropical delights – as well as a way for device-dependent kids, teens and adults to unplug and reconnect with one another.
SeaTrek Sailing Adventures offers Christmas and New Year’s cruises to Raja Ampat aboard one of two antique wooden sailboats. Festive dinners are served on board, and Santa stops by too – though the minimum age for passengers is eight years.
The nine-night Jewels of Raja Ampat, Indonesia voyage with Sea Trek sailing adventures includes round-trip flights from Heathrow to Sorong, when booked through Wix Squared. From £5,500pp, based on four travelers in two cabins, departures from November 2018 to January 2019. (0203 808 6383; wixsquared.com)