12 best Christmas cruises for 2024 and 2025 – The Points Guy

It’s the most wonderful time of the year … to go on a cruise.

Trade the glow of a Christmas tree in your living room with the warmth of the sand and the sun on a holiday cruise. Skip the mulled wine on your stovetop for some of the world’s best at a European Christmas market.

Christmas cruises can level up your holiday celebrations — and are an ideal opportunity to escape the conventional holiday celebrations in place of an adventure.

On a holiday cruise, you can leave the cooking, cleaning and decorating to the pros and simply enjoy time with your family. Christmas and New Year’s cruises can also be good options for people trying to avoid the crush of relatives or who don’t have family but still want to spend the holiday surrounded by other people and festive cheer.

Winter cruises feature holiday-themed activities for all ages, special feasts that capture the magic of the holiday season and port calls at destinations that let you enjoy the holiday spirit without shivering from frigid temperatures.

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It’s never too early to plan your holiday getaway, especially as these cruises are among the quickest to sell out. Here are the best Christmas and New Year’s cruises still available in 2024 and holiday sailings in 2025 to book now, as well as some useful tips about holiday cruise travel.

Holiday cruise tips

Holiday time on Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay. KENT PHILLIPS/DISNEY CRUISE LINE

Before you book, keep in mind a few key facts about Christmas cruises.

Rates will be high

Expect cruise fares to be among the highest of the year during the holiday weeks as demand increases.

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The best prices will be for early bookings; you likely won’t find any last-minute discounts. If you do, they might be on windowless inside cabins or guarantee cabins, where the cruise line picks your room location.

Sailings will sell out

Holiday sailings sell out earlier than other itineraries, as people plan their holiday vacations months in advance. Suites and special cabins (family, spa and solo rooms and so forth) book up the fastest.

Consider booking your holiday cruise as early as possible, as the December sailings often fill up a year in advance.

Consider your own decorations

The crew will decorate public areas on board, but passengers often go all-out decorating their doors and cabins for the holidays.

Magnetic doors on cabins are blank canvases for the imagination. You’ll find stateroom doors on Christmas cruises covered in wrapping paper, adorned with garlands or dotted with holiday-themed images.

It’s best to double-check with your cruise line before attaching anything to your door or in your cabin, as rules and regulations differ per line. If you’re not creative, check if your cruise line offers cabin decoration packages for preorder prior to your sailing.

Specialty dining is not advised on the actual holiday

Most of the specialty dining restaurants on major cruise lines have set menus that do not change for the holidays.

Your best bet for traditional holiday dinner options (think roast turkey, smoked ham, mashed potatoes and gravy) will come from the main, included dining options on board. It can’t hurt to ask if any extra-fee restaurants are doing a Christmas or New Year’s menu if you’re looking for a more intimate holiday meal.

Expect holiday hours in port

Most cruise ships will plan for Christmas to be a sea day, but if you’re in port on Dec. 25 (or on Boxing Day, as many islands celebrate the day after), expect shops, restaurants and attractions to have modified hours or be closed.

Onboard services won’t stop, so if all your top lunch spots in port are closed, you’re always guaranteed a hot meal on the ship.

Consider a holiday bonus for the crew

Cruise ship crew members go beyond the standard service on all lines for the holidays, whether it’s a kind note wishing you well, a Champagne toast for New Year’s or a fanciful towel creation.

They can’t be at home celebrating with their families because they’re working hard to make your holiday special. While gratuities are often included in your fare or added automatically to your final bill, consider tipping extra on a Christmas cruise. The hardworking staff will appreciate your extra generosity during the holiday season.

Best Christmas cruises for 2024

If you’re on the hunt for the ideal holiday getaway, consider these Christmas cruises for this year’s holiday vacation. (Note: These sailings had availability at the time of writing, but prices may change or ships sell out at any time.)

4-night Very Merrytime Bahamian cruise on Disney Cruise Line

Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay. KENT PHILLIPS/DISNEY CRUISE LINE

Sail dates: Dec. 22-26, 2024

Ship: Disney Fantasy

Access Disney Cruise Line’s newest private island when you sail Disney Fantasy this Christmas. This four-night Very Merrytime Bahamian cruise sails from Port Canaveral, Florida (near Orlando) to Disney’s Castaway Cay, followed by a day at the new Disney Lookout Cay at Lighthouse Point. The new island destination will highlight island culture with work by local artists and Bahamian music throughout the colorful beachside resort.

This sailing is one of Disney Cruise Line’s Very Merrytime Cruises, so expect plenty of holiday-themed surprises and special moments. Disney’s December sailings feature snow flurries in the ship’s atrium, pop-up meet-and-greets with Disney characters dressed in their holiday best and a Christmas wonderland on the beach at Castaway Cay and Lookout Cay.

Rates start at $4,862 for two adults sharing an inside cabin, including all taxes and fees.

16-night Circle Hawaii Holiday cruise on Holland America

Zaandam. HOLLAND AMERICA LINE

Sail dates: Dec. 18, 2024-Jan. 3, 2025

Ship: Zaandam

The 16-night Circle Hawaii Holiday on Holland America’s Zaandam is a great way to retreat from the cold this December. The extended itinerary will whisk you away for both Christmas and the New Year.

The ship sails round-trip from San Diego with stops in Honolulu; Kahului, Maui; and Hilo and Kona, Hawaii. You’ll spend five days traversing the Pacific Ocean on your way to Hawaii and five days at sea returning to the west coast for one more stop in Ensenada, Mexico, before returning to San Diego. You can also enjoy scenic cruising by the Kilauea Volcano.

Don’t forget your holiday best, as Zaandam will host a Christmas Eve formal ball with dinner and dancing, as well as a midnight Mass. Other seasonal events include a holiday-themed high tea service, holiday choir performances and Santa meet-and-greets.

Rates for inside cabins start from $1,739 per person, not including an estimated $282 per person in taxes, fees and port expenses.

13-night New Zealand holiday cruise on Celebrity Cruises

Okahu Bay in Auckland, New Zealand. DENIZUNLUSU/GETTY IMAGES

Sail dates: Dec. 20, 2024-Jan. 2, 2025

Ship: Celebrity Edge

The most appealing holiday itinerary on Celebrity Cruises takes you Down Under for a two-week celebration, sailing round-trip from Sydney.

You’ll cruise during the region’s summer season with an itinerary that traverses the picturesque Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound and Dusky Sound before making port stops in Dunedin, Napier, Auckland, Tauranga and Bay of Islands, New Zealand.

The cruise doesn’t call on Australian ports, but you can easily tack on a land-based pre- or post-cruise stay since the ship sails from Sydney.

If you’re feeling the holiday spirit, sign up to join a group of crew and passengers to go caroling around the ship. Cookie decorating, visits with Santa and Christmas games are part of the holiday fun. On New Year’s Eve, gather for a special party with a complimentary midnight Champagne toast, party favors and live music.

The lowest cabin fares start at $1,664 per person, plus $444.55 in taxes, fees and port expenses.

15-night South Africa Intensive Voyage on Azamara

Azamara Cruises pool deck. JENNA TAPLIN/AZAMARA CRUISES

Sail dates: Dec. 20, 2024-Jan. 4, 2025

Ship: Azamara Pursuit

Azamara is known for its travels to less-frequented ports, often with longer stays providing more time for immersion. Go somewhere new with Azamara’s 15-night Christmas and New Year’s cruise around South Africa. Azamara Quest sails round-trip from Cape Town with stops along the east coast of South Africa, including Port Elizabeth, Richards Bay, Durban and Mossel Bay.

Holiday events include caroling concerts, pop-ups with Christmas cookies and hot chocolate, and a special tree-trimming party on Dec. 24. Azamara Quest will time its popular White Night pool deck party to coincide with New Year’s Eve. The line has a tradition of seeking out the oldest person on board to ring the ship’s bell two minutes prior to midnight to literally “ring out the old.” Then the youngest passenger on board will “ring in the new” as the clock strikes 12 o’clock.

Rates start from $2,784 per person, not including $196 in taxes, fees and port expenses.

7-night Christmas Markets on the Danube cruise on AmaWaterways

AMAWATERWAYS

Sail dates: Dec. 9-15, 2024

Ship: AmaBella

A river cruise through Europe is the most convenient way to visit many of the continent’s famous Christmas markets.

Your ship will dock in the heart of each city, usually just a few steps from the markets. Sailing with AmaWaterways during the holiday season, guests return from a day exploring the markets to events on board that include tree-trimming, caroling and a fun European tradition called “Shoes for St. Nick,” where passengers who leave their slippers outside their stateroom awake to find them filled with sweets.

Unlike most Christmas-related retail stores in the U.S. that stay open through the holiday season, many of Europe’s Christmas markets close up shop by Dec. 22, so you’ll need to take your vacation before Christmas itself. AmaWaterways’ seven-night Christmas Markets on the Danube cruise takes place aboard AmaBella. You’ll be immersed in the holiday spirit with port stops in Passau, Germany; Linz, Vienna and Weissenkirchen, Austria; and Budapest.

Rates for the weeklong cruise start at $3,699 per person, not including $224 in port charges and taxes.

7-night Western Caribbean cruise on Princess Cruises

Sun Princess. PRINCESS CRUISES

Sail dates: Dec. 21-28, 2024

Ship: Sun Princess

Debuting in February 2024, Sun Princess is the first of Princess Cruises’ brand-new Sphere-class series of ships.

Take the line’s newest flagship for a Christmastime spin on a round-trip Fort Lauderdale itinerary that features port calls at Cozumel, Mexico; Belize City, Belize; and Roatan, Honduras. Three sea days give guests plenty of time to explore all the attractions on board, from a dome-covered pool area to a top-deck family activity zone.

The 4,300-passenger vessel will be about 21% bigger than the current biggest ships in the Princess fleet. It will be the line’s first ship that features suites with exclusive access to a private restaurant, lounge and sun deck. Sun Princess will also boast an innovative new “cabana cabin” along the ship’s extra-wide 10th deck with access to a private deck area.

It will be easy to get into the holiday spirit while on board Sun Princess, with festive decor throughout the ship and an occasional “snowfall” in the Atrium. If you’re traveling with kids, you can leave cookies for Santa and carrots for his reindeer. Christmas caroling, storytime and other holiday events will help you create special holiday memories.

Rates for the Western Caribbean cruise start at $957 per person for an inside cabin, not including $153 in taxes, fees and port expenses.

12-night Antarctic Explorer cruise on Viking

Viking guests watching gentoo penguins during onshore excursions in Antarctica. ALASTAIR MILLER/VIKING CRUISES

Sail dates: Dec. 22, 2024-Jan. 3, 2025

Ship: Viking Polaris

While instinct might say to stop by the North Pole to check in on Santa’s operations, it’s just too cold, dark and icy for cruising. Instead, head toward the South Pole and Antarctica for a Christmas expedition.

Spend close to two weeks exploring the farthest reaches of the earth on the Antarctic Explorer itinerary aboard Viking’s Polaris. The route sails round-trip from Ushuaia, Argentina, before traversing the Drake Passage and cruising Antarctica for seven days. You’ll have a cruise line-provided pre-cruise stay in Buenos Aires the night before you fly down to Ushuaia to meet your ship.

You’ll explore the icebergs and cliffs of Antarctica on Christmas, presumably followed by a hot cocoa or a warm cocktail on deck. Afterward, treat yourself to Nordic-inspired dishes like smoked salmon and caviar, along with holiday treats like krumkake (a Nordic take on the cannoli) and sandkaker (Norwegian sugar cookies).

As with all Antarctica itineraries, ports and destinations on the continent change by the day, depending on weather and climate conditions. Rates for available staterooms on the cruise start from $15,495, including airfare, port taxes and fees.

Best Christmas cruises for 2025

If you want to score the best prices on a holiday cruise, book far in advance. Here are a few cruises to consider for your 2025 Christmas vacation.

Royal Caribbean: 7-night Eastern Caribbean & Perfect Day cruise

Icon of the Seas. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Sail dates: Dec. 20-27, 2025

Ship: Icon of the Seas

Catch a ride on the world’s largest cruise ship during the 2025 holiday season. Highlights of Royal Caribbean’s new Icon of the Seas include a reconfigured Aqua Theater, now set at the bow of the ship inside a giant glass dome and featuring a dazzling 50-foot waterfall and dancing robotic arms, and Category 6, the largest waterpark at sea with six waterslides, including the tallest drop slide at sea.

This holiday-week sailing departs round-trip from Miami with stops in Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; and Perfect Day at CocoCay (Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas). Three days at sea might not be enough time to try everything on board!

Holiday highlights often include Christmas Eve caroling, an ugly Christmas sweater crafting competition, Christmas ornament and gingerbread cookie decorating classes, and holiday games and trivia.

The lowest available cabin category for this sailing is an ocean-view cabin, starting at $3,266 per person, not including $182.51 in taxes, fees and port expenses per person.

7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise on Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Celebration. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Sail dates: Dec. 21-Dec. 28, 2025

Ship: Carnival Celebration

Carnival’s seven-night Eastern Caribbean sailing is an excellent way to experience Carnival’s Celebration Key, the line’s new private destination on the south side of Grand Bahama Island. Carnival Celebration sails round-trip from Miami with stops in Celebration Key; Nassau, Bahamas; Amber Cove, Dominican Republic and Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos, so you can get some much-needed beach time and warm weather.

The line understands its family-forward “fun” ships are built for cheery escapes, and its Christmas celebrations fit perfectly into that world. Seasonal holiday events include Christmas caroling, an ugly sweater competition and a live holiday show with appearances by Santa and the Grinch.

Rates for inside cabins start at $1,049 per person, not including an estimated $215.65 per person in fees.

14-night Galapagos cruise on Silversea

Silver Origin in Punta Vicente Roca, Isabela Island, Western Galapagos Islands. LUCIA GRIGGI/SILVERSEA

Sail dates: Dec. 13-27, 2025

Ship: Silver Origin

Escape to the exotic Galapagos Islands for the holidays with a Silversea cruise. On the 14-night sailing round-trip from San Cristóbal, Silver Origin will alight at a remarkable 27 ports throughout the archipelago.

The Silver Origin’s Christmas sailing will include many festive enhancements, beginning with an extensive overlay of greenery and ornaments throughout the interiors of the ship. The ship’s culinary team will prepare a special Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinner menu, along with mulled wine, eggnog and hot chocolate.

Adding to the cheer, guests and the ship’s crew can participate in caroling, and despite no chimney in sight, a special visitor from the North Pole is scheduled to make an appearance.

The “door-to-door” rate for this sailing starts from $24,400 per person, including port fees and taxes. It includes a transfer service to the airport, airfare, shore excursions, premium alcoholic beverages, all gratuities, butler service and a return transfer back home at the end of your trip.

11-night Monteverde Cloud Forest & Arenal Volcano cruise tour on Windstar Cruises

TIM THOMPSON/WINDSTAR CRUISES

Sail dates: Dec. 16-27, 2025

Ship: Wind Spirit

Give yourself a bucket list gift for Christmas and book a Panama Canal cruise for your winter vacation.

Windstar Cruises’ Wind Spirit — a cruise ship that’s part yacht, part four-masted sailing ship — is sailing down Costa Rica’s Pacific coast and through the Panama Canal during the 2025 holiday season.

The journey begins with a five-day land tour of Costa Rica, taking guests to the Arenal volcano and Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. You’ll then head to Puerto Caldera to board Wind Spirit. The ship will sail south to Quepos and Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica. Then it’s on to ports in Isla Parida and Balboa (for Panama City) in Panama before sailing through the Panama Canal.

To sweeten the holiday, Windstar gifts each cabin with a basket of Christmas cookies, candy canes, mandarin oranges, roasted nuts and chocolate candies.

Rates for the 11-night Central American getaway start from $5,599 per person, not including $474 in port fees and taxes.

7-night Roundtrip New Orleans Christmas cruise on American Queen Voyages

American Countess on the Mississippi River. AMERICAN QUEEN VOYAGES

Sail dates: Dec. 22-29, 2025

Ship: American Countess

Glide up the Lower Mississippi River and soak in the charms of historic towns decked out in their holiday finest. This American Queen Voyages itinerary will also visit the special European-style Christmas market in Natchez, Mississippi, created especially for the line.

The itinerary begins with a pre-cruise hotel stay in New Orleans, where the bustling Bourbon Street awaits exploration. The Mississippi river sailing includes stops along the river at Nottoway, Louisiana; Natchez, Mississippi; St. Francisville, Louisiana and an overnight in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Guests can opt for a premium holiday shore excursion in Natchez. The Jeweled Christmas in Natchez tour features a visit to The Towers, one of the state’s most opulent privately owned antebellum homes. Guests will ooh and ahh over the festive decorations and displays that include over 100 Christmas trees.

While on board, passengers will enjoy festive holiday decorations, special holiday performances, seasonal cuisine and Christmas cocktails.

Rates for the seven-night Roundtrip New Orleans Christmas cruise start from $3,819 per person, including taxes, port fees and gratuities.

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