Although an unconventional way to celebrate the holidays, a Christmas cruise can be a great way to enjoy quality time with family. It's also a chance to bond while making memories on an adventure together.
The pace becomes frantic as you make your last-minute preparations on Christmas day. A slow but steady stream of family and friends begin to show up at your door, and, before you know it, your Christmas party is in full swing. Then comes dinner, and the hurried rush to clean up, because the children are restlessly waiting to exchange gifts. Before you know it, people you love are exchanging hugs as they head out the door. The evening is over, there's a house to straighten up, and you realize that during the mad dash of the day you were robbed of the quality bonding time with loved ones you were looking forward to.
Such is life. All too often the preparations and logistics of the occasion overtake the short event the preparations were made for. So many of us see this happen every holiday season. Celebrating Christmas with family in the traditional manner every year can be one of life's true joys. But if you're not careful, you'll miss the occasion while bogged down in the details.
If only there was a way we could get more family bonding, and less hassle, work, and haste at Christmas. Well, actually, there is a way. It's a little unconventional, but if unconventional is what it takes to actually have real quality time with the people you love for once, then a Christmas cruise may be the ultimate option.
While planning with family for next year's get-together, why not throw going on a Christmas cruise into the hat? True, there's nothing traditional about it, and it probably won't be an option you'll want to take every year. But it will offer your family a very special experience together for that year, and it could provide you with far more time to catch up with all of your loved ones for a change.
We all know how difficult it is to find a time during the year when all your family members can get free to spend time together. This is yet another reason why a Christmas cruise could be a great option, since it's one time of the year when so many people are able to cut loose from work for a few days. A Christmas cruise can also help to alleviate some of the traveling stress you'll endure over the holidays, since instead of hopping from home to home trying to please all of your family members, you'll have them all together in one place, with any of their rooms within walking distance at any time.
When you're worn down for the day, it's also nice to know that you have your very own stateroom that you can retreat to. No staying in a family member's spare bedroom, or having to share a bathroom with a couple other families staying there. No getting awakened too early by your insomniac family members clamoring spoons and coffee pots in the kitchen. On a cruise you've got your privacy when you need it, and your family members close by when you're ready for fellowship.
A cruise vacation also means that there won't be a need for anyone to organize family activities for the week; on any given cruise, there's more than you'll likely want to do each day. But do encourage family members to participate in onboard activities as a group. Doing this will help you to get more out of your cruise, while sharing some enjoyable bonding time with your extended family.
On Christmas day, you'll likely want to find an area where you can get your family into a private area or room to celebrate and exchange gifts. This area could be a few tables in the library, in one of the bars or dance areas that are closed during the day, a section of seats in the theater during the day when shows aren't being presented, or even an open interior sitting area on one of the decks. Like a family gathering at a public park, on a large cruise ship there's always somewhere for a group to gather in semi-privacy, or possibly even total privacy, to share a special event together.
And speaking of gift-giving, remember to keep gifts small... whatever you bring aboard, someone else will have to carry off. Consider jewelry, gift cards, iTunes cards, clothing, and other items which are easily carried. Bear in mind that the shops aboard are also at your disposal, if you need to pick up any last-minute gift items.
When planning your family Christmas cruise, remember that everyone's situation is different. Some members of your family may have money to burn, while others are having to keep a little closer watch on the over-and-above spending. To keep things doable financially for all of your family members, you may want to keep things short and sweet by considering a short and inexpensive 4 or 5-day cruise. This will still be far more time together than many of us get with our family (that's a good thing, right?), and it will help to keep the costs within reason for everyone involved.
You'll probably want to appoint a small 'committee' of family members, maybe 3 or 4 people, who will be responsible for actually getting the booking and other arrangements done. A group family meeting should be held, either in person or by telephone, to decide what type of cruise would be most preferred by the group. Then, based on that, the committee would begin shopping, either through a travel agent or the websites of the cruise lines, to narrow down the cruise choices that make sense based on the whole group's wishes.
This process could go on for a few days, or a few weeks, while the committee is holding out for the best deal for the entire group. But you'll also want to book fairly quickly, to take advantage of any early-bird discounts. It's also important to book early to help ensure that you can get a 'block' of rooms that are close to each other.
Remember, there is power in numbers. Make calls to a travel agent, or directly to the cruise lines, to see if there will be any group discounts offered. You may find that you can get various perks for such a large group. For example, sometimes cruise lines will offer a free ticket or two to a group who makes a large number of bookings. This would be a great gift for the grandparents of the family, or even for family members who are currently having a tough go of things financially.
Remember, when considering the cost of the entire trip, airfare will be a big part of the cost, if that's required. While it doesn't hurt to shop around by calling airlines and checking their websites for discounts, you'll also want to check with the cruise line for combined cruise ticket and airfare pricing. The cruise lines can often cut you a great deal on airfare, if you purchase that along with your cruise ticket at the time of booking. Plus, doing the airline booking through the cruise line helps to keep things simple, and when you're trying to arrange something as huge as a vacation for a couple dozen people, simplicity is a good thing. Again, take into account the financial means of each family member here... if a day's driving time to the cruise terminal would make the trip much more financially doable for all, you may want to skip the flight and drive to the terminal.
If a hotel is required, the committee will need to make a few calls to find the best deal at a safe place to stay. Bear in mind again that you have the power of numbers working on your side, so be sure to ask the hotels if they'll offer any type of group discount. And... in case you haven't noticed, while this 'committee' is working together towards planning a great time for the family, they're also getting the opportunity for extra talk and bonding time, even before the cruise vacation comes around.
Video: Christmas aboard the Carnival Freedom, followed by Christmas aboard the Coral Princess.
Once the committee has narrowed down the cruise vacation options best suited for their family to only a few choices, a group meeting representing the whole family should be planned. Again, this can be done either in person or by something such as a conference call. A vote or other method should be used at this time to make a final decision on the actual cruise they'll book. At this meeting, you'll probably want to go ahead and call the cruise line or your travel agent right then and there to complete the bookings for everyone. Doing things this way will help to eliminate confusion, and reduce the possibility that a family member accidentally books the wrong cruise. It will also help to ensure that everyone gets a room before the type of rooms you're wanting to book are all gone. Bear in mind that your family members will likely only need to make a deposit toward the cost of the cruise at this time, not a payment in full. Using this option will ensure that all the bookings get made, without cramping anyone's budget too much at one time.
Once on the call, the committee should remind the booking agent about any group discounts that they had been offered on a previous call to the company. Each family unit should make their own payment for the trip. If privacy is a concern, you may want to designate a 'booking room' where each family member can go while giving out their private information, such as credit card numbers, to the agent. It's also not a bad idea to ensure that the booking agent has something such as an e-mail address for each family, where some type of booking confirmation could be sent.
After that, it's just a matter of working out minor details, and waiting out the months! Instead of looking at the holidays as some type of 'hurdle' to jump over because of all the work involved, your family can look forward to quality time together without the cooking and hassle. And in the years to come, you'll likely look back to your Christmas cruise as one of the best memories you have of an adventure shared with those you love the most.