This season, Holland America has released 22 holiday cruises of seven to 17 days, including 50 percent savings and reduced rates for third and fourth guests sharing state rooms on select itineraries. On six dates, the third or fourth guest in a state room is free or $199. Double-occupancy fares start from $699 per person, plus tax, for a seven-day cruise in the Caribbean.
On-board, festivities will include holiday decorations, traditional meals, seasonal movies and culinary classes. Holiday demonstrations will feature holiday treats, a visit from Santa, activities and crafts, strolling carolers, a tree-lighting ceremony, eggnog in the Atrium, Christmas brunch, Santa's milk and cookie late-night snack and a holiday show by the crew on Christmas Eve.
Cruises over December 31 feature a New Year's Eve Gala Ball with live music, dancing, festive attire and a midnight toast. College bowl games will also be aired on board. All holiday voyages will have clergy to conduct Catholic, Protestant and Jewish services (during Hanukkah).
Caribbean Seven- to 14-Day Cruises
Thirteen cruises are available between December 17 and December 31 on board seven ships, including ms Westerdam, ms Maasdam, ms Eurodam, ms Nieuw Amsterdam, ms Ryndam, ms Prinsendam and ms Noordam. Departing Fort Lauderdale or Tampa, itiernaries include a seven-day cruise of the southern Caribbean, stopping in Aruba and Curaçao. Alternately, seven days explore the eastern Caribbean, touring Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. Western Caribbean stops include Belize, Georgetown, Grand Cayman, Mexico's Costa Maya and Florida's Key West.
Most itineraries in the Caribbean come with a visit to Half Moon Cay, Holland America's private island with white sand beaches, clear waters and shore activities, including horseback riding and a stingray adventure.
Mexican Riviera and the Panama Canal
Out of Fort Lauderdale, San Diego or Los Angeles, in mid- to late-December, five cruises offer different blends of warm-water ports along the Mexican Riviera, Central America, the Panama Canal and the Caribbean.
On December 23, the Sunfarer Caribbean Holiday cruise leaves on a 10-day trip from Fort Lauderdale. On ms Zuiderdam, the itinerary will tour the southern Caribbean, spend Christmas Eve at Half Moon Cay, briefly travel along the Panama Canal and then ring in the New Year at sea, before returning January 2.
Two more cruises feature the Panama Canal, starting with a 14-day cruise from Los Angeles December 22. On board ms Amsterdam, guests can to enjoy Christmas Day at sea, make a stop in Mexico, Guatemala and Costa Rica before traversing the Canal on the way to Fort Lauderdale.
Passengers can also head out on the 14-day Panama Canal Holiday Cruise on ms Statendam, out of San Diego on Christmas Eve. Explore Mexico, including Puerto Vallarta and Puerto Chiapas. Then, cross the canal for Fort Lauderdale.
A longer, 12-day cruise on ms Rotterdam December 22 will take you to Cabo San Lucas for Christmas Eve, spend Christmas Eve at sea and New Year's in Mazatlán.
Longer Voyages through the Pacific
Knowing December is a primetime to see the Pacific, consider the 14-day Circle Hawaii aboard ms Zaandam for the holidays. Departing San Diego December 19, spend Christmas Eve in Hilo, Christmas Day in Hawaii's Nawiliwili and New Year's Day in Ensenada, Mexico.
For a more intimate experience, the more exclusive, limited-space cruise December 17, on board ms Volendam, travels to the southern coast of Australia from Sydney then tours New Zealand's ports, including Milford Sound and Auckland and then Wellington for Christmas Eve.
In full White-Christmas glory, the 17-day South America and Antarctica Explorer journey is true to its word. Leave Santiago, Chile, December 20 on ms Veedam, heading south among the glaciers. Spend Christmas Eve sailing Darwin Channel and the Chilean Fjords, Christmas Day on Amalia Glacier Canal and New Year's Eve in the Antarctic Sound.
For families with younger children, Holland America ships include games, arts and crafts and other supervised activities in Club HAL. Kids eight to 12 can enjoy arcade games, air hockey, foosball and Sony PlayStations. Teenagers can enjoy the teen-only area, The Loft, for karaoke, video games, movies and teen disco, as well as the also teens-only sundeck, The Oasis.
Adults can relax the Greenhouse Spa & Salon, over afternoon tea and at the shipboard casino. More onboard activities include cooking and party-planning classes, an Internet café/library and complimentary interactive Digital Workshops using Windows to learn more about using digital media.