6 Best Christmas family cruises

If you’re looking for a holiday break getaway which provides quality family time as well as value, consider picking a Christmas cruise for your family vacation. Baby, it’s not cold outside, as these warm-weather vacations are especially nice because sailing over Christmas break means December calendars match and your children and grandchildren won’t miss school.

Cruising is truly perfect for a family vacation: there is onsite childcare for young children, adults can carve out time together and off-ship excursions create wonderful family-bonding experiences. We’ve selected 6 of the best and most festive holiday week cruises to celebrate the holidays and bring in the New Year together.

1. Disney Fantasy

A Christmas cruise at Disney Fantasy

Source: Disney Cruise Line

  • What adults will love:

If you wish to spend the holidays at sea this year, it may become your favorite new tradition, especially if you choose Disney Fantasy. There’s no shortage of Christmas fun aboard the ship including decorations, a gorgeous 3-deck tree and holiday-themed events daily. This is a great time to watch your children and grandchildren marvel at the seasonal festivities. There is ample time to spend with your spouse too. This gorgeous ship boasts two adult-only restaurants, an adult-only pool and couple massages at the lavish spa.

  • What kids will love:

Disney is a trailblazer for family cruising, and the holidays are a time when this amazing cruise line really shines. Special events include Mickey’s Tree-Lighting Magic, where Mickey and his famous friends lead carols and turn on the lights of the gorgeous Christmas tree in the atrium. Your kids will also love Santa’s Winter Wonderland Ball, a welcome party honoring Santa and Mrs. Claus, with cheery music and of course snow! Another young cruiser favorite is the trademark Deck the Deck Holiday Party, a celebration where Disney friends limbo under huge candy canes and dance to the “Yuletide Slide”.

2. Disney Dream

Kids singing along with carolers at Disney Dream

Source: Disney Cruise Line

  • What adults will love:

At Disney Dream adults can relax at the Quiet Cove Pool, an adult-only place where you can swim, soak in the whirlpool spas and bask in the glorious sun. Another place where kids aren’t allowed is Remy, an elegant French dining experience often chosen to mark a special anniversary. Adults can also opt for Palo, a northern Italian-themed restaurant. After dinner, dance the night away in the 18+ nightclub where your older grandchildren can tell you about the latest music trends. Disney Cruise Line also offers itineraries that feature adults-only excursions.

  • What kids will love:

There are holiday activities for the entire family like building gingerbread houses, meeting Santa Claus and singing along with carolers. Plus, special activities just for kids include making holiday cards and decorating stockings and cookies. Make sure your kids don’t miss “Story Time with Mrs. Claus”, an enchanting experience as she reads Christmas stories from a rocking chair near the decorated tree.

Sometimes travel days can be tough, but make sure your children stay up the first night as Mickey, Minnie and all the characters strut out in their festive attire and light up the tree. The entire ship is decorated with wreaths and garland so young cruisers will know Christmas is here! Get to the atrium early as it gets very crowded and very snowy.

If your cruise includes Disney’s private island Castaway Cay, the celebration continues with “snow flurries,” a Christmas tree, Disney characters meet-and-greets and festive music.

3. Harmony of the Seas

Christmas at Harmony of the Seas

Source: Royal Caribbean International

  • What adults will love:

Dashing through the seas traveling on this amazing ship will be a gift for everyone in your family.  There are fantastic kid’s clubs that entertain and supervise children all day and night so adults can enjoy well-earned vacation time. One idea for adults is the Vitality Spa, which has dedicated couples suites. Another place which is child-free is the Solarium, where there is an adults-only swimming pool and whirlpools. For a special dinner, consider a late reservation at Chops Grille, Royal Caribbean’s signature steakhouse, located in Central Park.

  • What kids will love:

This ship is known for the thrilling Ultimate Abyss, a slide that takes thrill-seekers 150 feet above sea level. Other brave cruisers can surf on two FlowRider simulators or slide down multi-story water slides. During the holiday sailings, young cruisers can see special appearances by Santa’s elves, and partake in gingerbread-cookie decorating, family story time and much more. The ship will also host tree and menorah-lighting ceremonies, and the entire ship is transformed into a winter wonderland. While on board, look for the Holly Jolly Holiday Parade, festive photo opportunities, caroling, holiday movie screenings, and holiday craft-making for all ages.

4. Norwegian Encore

Amazing aqua park at Norwegian Encore

Source: Norwegian Cruise Line

  • What adults will love:

Newest to Norwegian Cruise Line’s fleet, pick Norwegian Encore and start a new holiday tradition for your family. Enjoy the tons of holiday activities like a Broadway show, an elegant dinner in the classic main dining room, or try one of the ship’s signature dining experiences. While the children are enjoying their own activities, carve out your own special time for an indulging day at Mandara Spa.

Norwegian Encore will debut Onda by Scarpetta, which marks the Italian restaurant’s first venture at sea. Onda, which is Italian for “wave,” boasts house-made pasta and seafood dishes. The highlight is Scarpetta’s famous Spaghetti Tomato and Basil, their goal is to provide guests with an authentic dolce vita experience.

  • What kids will love:

When the kids aren’t marveling at the decorated tree, enjoying special meals and attending holiday happenings, they can enjoy all the fun this cruise line is known to highlight. Norwegian is adding more thrills with Encore, which has the largest race track at sea. It’s now over 1,100 feet of pedal-to-the-metal action. There’s also laser tag which guests can play day or night under the open sky. Your family will also love the aqua park where brave cruisers can ascend slides that reach 11 feet off the side of the ship and a breathtaking double loop. Plus, the multi-story Aqua Racer is made for dare-devil fun.

5. Pride of America

Great cruise activities in Hawaii cruise

Source: Norwegian Cruise Line

  • What adults will love:

Norwegian Cruise Line offers the only cruise ship sailing to four Hawaiian Islands during its seven-day, year-round itinerary, where you experience Oahu, Maui, Hawaii, and Kauai — with two overnight stays designed to maximize your time in paradise. This is an ideal time to extend your cruise vacation in Hawaii by adding on a pre- or post-cruise stay. During Christmas, the magic of the holiday will fill the air on the ship with joyful décor including poinsettias, Christmas trees, twinkling lights and beautiful seasonal decorations. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, crew members treat guests to carols and children will be greeted by Santa. Guests will also enjoy a specialty dinner menu and delicious goodies including specialty holiday cookies, yule logs, pumpkin pie and much more. Don’t forget to bring your camera to take snapshots of a Gingerbread House and Holiday Village that will be displayed in the ship’s atrium.

  • What kids will love:

I sailed this itinerary with my family and it is one of my all-time favorite ships. Pride of America cruises sail year-round from Honolulu, Oahu on a seven-day inter-island cruise with nearly 100 hours in port giving your children ample time to experience Hawaii. A special treat is the Kilohana Manor House & Kalamaku Show excursion, where guests will see torches blaze, hulas and energetic fire dances. December sailings are great picks for those who would enjoy a longer vacation during the holidays. Lastly, consider planning pre-cruise tours in Honolulu, Oahu to experience the Polynesian Culture Center & Kualoa Ranch, meander through the surfing town of Haleiwa and learn about history and honor lives lost at Pearl Harbor’s USS Arizona Memorial.

6. Carnival Panorama

Stunning Christmas decoration at Carnival Panorama

Source: Carnival Cruises

  • What adults will love:

What’s especially nice about Carnival Panorama is that the ship is “decked out” in holiday splendor. The ship’s grand atrium is decorated like a Christmas Wonderland, and there are many opportunities for professional photographers to capture photos of the entire family in their holiday outfits.  While your children are having a blast in their supervised children’s clubs, parents can take in amazing Playlist Productions shows, check out the cool Alchemy Bar or make plans to enjoy great dining spots like Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse, Cucina del Capitano and Ji Ji Asian Kitchen. For daytime relaxation, head to Serenity, an adult-only retreat.

  • What kids will love:

If there are adventure-seekers in your family, the first-ever Sky Zone® at sea makes Carnival Panorama a winner with this indoor trampoline park and challenge zone. Here the kids play gravity-defying dodgeball or slam-dunk basketball.

The holidays are what really sparkle aboard Carnival Panorama as there’s a massive Christmas tree equipped with customized lighting and synchronized music. There are also strolling carolers, holiday music incorporated into the live entertainment plus “snowfalls” in the atrium. There’s even a special holiday show with performances by children from Camp Ocean, and appearances by Santa Claus and The Grinch, as part of the line’s fleet-wide Seuss at Sea program.


Taking a cruise with your family over the winter holidays is really something special. I am lucky that I have done this with my family the last few years.  A warm cruise escape from school and work is something my family continues to look forward to every December.


Book your Christmas family cruise!

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