Afraid that a cold snap might come your way? Or big plans just fell through or never materialized? Or maybe you're the one who always makes the holidays so nice for everyone else, and now it's about time that your ship comes in. The holidays can be the perfect time to cruise, but conventional wisdom is to book early, because holiday cruises sell out quickly and invariably increase in cost as departure dates near.
"In past years, Christmas sailings would be sold out. This year there is space on Caribbean cruises and some very exotic ones," said Heidi M. Allison, spokeswoman for CruiseCompete, a matchmaking service linking travelers with cruise deals.
1. Celebrations — Ships are decorated from stem to stern, making them more beautiful and festive than ever.
2. Stress-free relaxation — Being at sea enables you to quickly forget the holiday hassles at home and/or at the office.
3. Special menus — Without having to cook or wash dishes, you won't miss out on the traditional holiday spread.
4. Observances — Religious observances at sea may even include candle-lighting ceremonies for Hanukkah or an unexpected visit from Santa Claus.
5. Conviviality — Because school's out, cruise lines offer special activities for everyone. And if you don't have a tribe of your own, it's an opportunity to forge new friendships.
For all this at the last minute, you'll probably pay a premium. "Your best bet is to contact a travel agent familiar with holiday deals," said Janet DeVito, a CruiseOne agent in Freehold, N.J., who specializes in girlfriend getaways. "But the pricing isn't bad considering how expensive cruising is during season."
Another consumer-smart option: Cruisecompete.com has an online list of cabin openings for holiday cruises on MSC, Princess, Disney, Royal Caribbean and Cunard. After you select a particular cruise, individual agents bid for your business.