Just imagine a Christmas holiday that comes with guaranteed sunshine. And not just tropical heat: your festive break will also be free of cooking and washing-up.
A cruise is a welcome break at any time of year, but getting away for a Christmas voyage has become a great escape for a growing number of UK travellers.
In the US, where family members are often spread over a large country, holiday ‘multi-generational’ get-togethers are common.
They make good sense at Christmas, when everybody can meet up in the more relaxed environment of a cruise ship where you are waited upon 24/7.
In the ‘neutral’ environment of a ship, relatives can relax – spared the burdens of hospitality or the obligations of being a guest.
Not surprisingly, the major cruise companies offer tempting Christmas packages – none more so than Royal Caribbean, which claims to be crackers about Christmas.
Guests can look forward to Santa’s Arrival Parade and there will be holiday games and parties.
In the evenings, guests can slip into their holiday pyjamas or ‘stylish onesies’ in the Main Theatre, poolside or at the AquaTheater for the showing of favourite Christmas movies. And there are traditional pleasures with Christmas music and carols.
A five-night Western Caribbean itinerary on Independence of the Seas sails from Fort Lauderdale with visits to Cozumel in Mexico and the private resort of Cococay in the Bahamas.
Excluding air fares from the UK, the cruise costs from £600pp, based on shared occupancy.
Penny Walters, her husband and children Connor and Vicky, aged 12 and ten, took a Royal Caribbean Christmas cruise, meeting up on board with her sister and her two children who live in Chicago.
‘We haven’t been able to enjoy a Christmas together for years,’ says Penny. ‘All of us needed a break so a cruise seemed a good way of spending time together.’
Penny had never taken a cruise before so needed persuading.
‘I was sceptical at first,’ she admits. ‘My husband and I thought we weren’t “cruise people”, though I’m not sure what a “cruise person” is. I think we thought it would be a lot of forced jollity and having to join in with games.’
There was a lot of fun and games, she says, because it was Christmas.
‘But you didn’t have to join in – although we did, especially the children, who couldn’t get enough of it.
‘Our Christmases at home are normally sedate; as it is for most people, I imagine. It’s an event marked by eating and drinking – and watching television.’
The cruise, however, was something different. ‘Every Christmas there’s usually a lot of rushing around at the last minute getting presents and buying food.
‘This time in the Caribbean it was calm and relaxing – can you imagine no cooking, no washing-up – with none of the endless tidying up before Christmas visits from relatives.
‘At various points I was almost having to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Sitting down to three meals a day, and I didn’t have to lift a finger.
‘I kept trying to imagine how things would have been at home. I slightly missed the TV carol service on Christmas Eve, but I didn’t miss the dash to the shops.’
Penny says many of her friends couldn’t believe that she returned home so enthusiastic about the cruise.
‘I tried to explain that it’s not me that’s changed, it’s cruising. The accent now seems to be on living well.
‘At meal times I often went meat-free and gluten-free.
‘Every day, I spent at least an hour in the gym: for the first time since I was at school, I was exercising regularly and I felt great.’…
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