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Holidays on the High Seas

Celebrate the Season at Sea on a Holiday-Themed Cruise

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanzaa, on a holiday cruise in December, cruise ship guests of all faiths feel like they're at home — but with the added bonus of warm weather, blue skies and a host of exciting ports of calls.

According to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the 150+ ships in its member-line fleets will be decorated in festive style, with twinkling Christmas trees, garland, wreaths and mistletoe. Many vessels have nightly lightings of menorahs on display as well. Best of all, CLIA cruise lines offer a mix of ships and destinations to choose from, including the Caribbean, French Polynesia, Mexican Riviera, South America and even Antarctica.

Aboard ship, entertainers may lead guests in caroling and favorite holiday movies like "It's A Wonderful Life " and " Miracle on 34th Street" — as well as college bowl games — might be aired in theaters or cabin televisions. And on December 25, most will offer an ecumenical Christmas worship service, with a Roman Catholic Mass also celebrated on some lines. Culinary highlights typically include gala holiday meals on Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year's Eve. Plus, guests can expect eggnog Christmas morning and champagne and noisemakers on New Year's Eve.

And there's plenty of holiday cheer for younger cruise guests as well. In many cases, Santa makes an appearance and hands out gifts to kids and ships' staff read favorite holiday stories like "Twas the Night Before Christmas" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

"There is literally something for everyone on a holiday cruise," said Terry L. Dale, president and CEO of CLIA, the primary marketing organization for the cruise industry. "Guests reap all the benefits of holiday cheer — yet the more cumbersome tasks of preparing meals and entertaining are relegated to the ship's staff. These cruises enable guests to spend quality time with loved ones, which is, after all, what the holidays are all about."

Here we've listed some of the best ships to celebrate with:

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES
Aboard Carnival Cruise Lines, the holidays are celebrated "Fun Ship" style with elaborate decorations, food, music and entertainment reflective of the season. These special voyages are highlighted by a spectacular "Holiday Extravaganza" production show featuring elaborate sets and costumes, as well as a special performance by kids participating in the line's "Camp Carnival" children's program.

For more information, visit Carnival Cruise Lines

DISNEY CRUISE LINE
Disney ships are decked with boughs of holly and sparkling Christmas trees. A tree-lighting ceremony in the atrium lobby comes with magically falling snow. Christmas Day brings a visit from Santa Goofy, with surprises for all the kids. Castaway Cay, Disney's private island, is transformed into magical wonderland, complete with snow and tropical Christmas tree.

For more information, visit Disney Cruise Line

HOLLAND AMERICA LINE
From the exotic — celebrating Christmas with penguins in Antarctica or toasting Hanukkah beneath Hawaii's Kilauea volcano — to a popular Caribbean or Mexico cruise, Holland America Line guests can celebrate the holidays on one of 20 voyages. Santa pays a visit to ships — sometimes arriving by parasail. Sports fans will enjoy college bowl games broadcast onboard.

For more information, visit Holland America Line

PRINCESS CRUISES
Princess ships celebrate the holidays around the globe with Christmas and New Year's cruises in the Caribbean, Mexico, the Panama Canal, Australia, Asia, South America, Hawaii and the South Pacific. Ships are trimmed from stem to stern in festive holiday décor, complete with wreaths, holly, mistletoe and, of course, Christmas trees, which often even decorate the ship's mast. Santa always makes a visit for junior cruisers, and passengers enjoy a Christmas dinner of traditional favorites.

For more information, visit Princess Cruises

ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL
On Royal Caribbean International ships, guests will be treated to festive holiday menus, Christmas caroling and a special television interview with the Captain on how Santa will find the ship to deliver presents — followed by a visit from Santa himself bearing presents. The line's Adventure Ocean children's program includes Christmas story readings, crafts and caroling.

For more information, visit Royal Caribbean International

SILVERSEA CRUISES
Silversea Cruises' ships are outfitted with imaginative decorations that echo the spirit of the holiday season. Whimsical gingerbread cottages and festive cookies often adorn lounges and add a touch of old-fashioned holiday charm throughout the vessels. Activities can range from special workshops that offer instruction in creating origami Christmas boxes to a holiday-themed variety show.

For more information, visit Silver Seas Cruises

The Official trade organization of the cruise industry, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) also works in partnership with nearly 17,000 affiliated travel agencies throughout North America to ensure the highest caliber of cruise sales expertise and service for cruise vacationers.

(Source: www.cruising.org)

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