Imagine ringing in the new year from a bustling city in Europe, a warm beach in the tropics or aboard an elegant cruise ship with your loved ones by your side — sounds pretty memorable, right? Christmas and New Year cruises are the ideal holiday vacation because they offer plenty of festive activities, without any of the responsibility involved in hosting a celebration. They’re also a great way to travel and create new traditions.
Table of Contents
- Why Take a Cruise During Christmas to New Year’s
- What to Consider Before Booking a New Year’s Cruise
- Best Places to Cruise During New Year’s
- Tips for Finding an End-of-the-Year Cruise
- What to Bring on a New Year’s Cruise
- Enjoy a Holiday Cruise With Windstar
Read on to learn more about the benefits of taking a holiday cruise, including some of the best places to visit along the way.
Why Take a Cruise During Christmas to New Year’s
Whether you’re spending the holidays on a solo adventure or with your significant other, a holiday cruise is a perfect way to celebrate. Here are a few reasons to plan yours.
- You choose where to go: If you live in Northern climates where winters are cold and snowy, a cruise somewhere warm and tropical might sound like the perfect getaway. Some cruises during Christmas and New Year’s travel to colder places if you still want to spend the holidays sipping hot cocoa.
- You get to travel: Celebrate the holidays and a brand new year while seeing the world and crossing a few destinations off your travel bucket list. Whether you’re aboard or exploring the shore, there are new people to meet and places to experience. Depending on the cruise you book, you can even visit multiple destinations on a single trip.
- There’s always something to do: Whether aboard or on land, there’s always something to do when you take a cruise. These include regular cruise activities, like swimming and seeing shows, plus festive things like holiday events and New Year’s Eve celebrations.
- You’ll make new traditions: While there’s nothing wrong with tried-and-true at-home holiday traditions, you might be yearning to try something new. Whether it’s a transitional year for you and your family, or you want to celebrate the season in new ways, a cruise is an ideal way to do it. Each cruise ship has unique onboard traditions to experience. For example, Windstar Cruises celebrates with a New Year’s Eve gala, a countdown and a champagne toast at midnight.
- It’s less responsibility: Between planning and preparing the menu, assembling decorations and inviting all the guests, holiday parties are a lot of work. Take a break from party hosting and let the cruise ship take care of it for you! Cruises offer delicious dinners, craft cocktails and live music — and all you have to do is sit back and enjoy it all.
- It’s a unique way to celebrate: Winter cruises are a memorable way to celebrate a life milestone, like a wedding, anniversary or birthday.
What to Consider Before Booking a New Year’s Cruise
Ready to start planning your New Year’s cruise? Here are a few things you need to know before you make your reservation.
Who Is Going
Your travel partners will help you choose the type of cruise to book, where to go, what activities to participate in and which rooms to reserve onboard the ship. Before booking your vacation, consider the following:
- How many people are going?
- What are the guests’ ages and interests?
- Are you bringing any young children?
- Does anyone in your party have unique accessibility requirements?
- Do you need a family-friendly cruise, or something designed more for adults?
When You’re Going
When it comes to holiday cruises, you have a few options. You can plan your cruise to include Christmas, New Year’s or both. Many travelers choose week-long cruises between Christmas and New Year’s. Decide whether you want your cruise to be brief, or an extended adventure. Cruises range anywhere from a week to a month or more, depending on where you want to go, how long you want to be gone and your travel budget.
Where You Want to Travel
Some cruise destinations embrace traditional holiday weather, while others are a tropical paradise. Keep these factors in mind while browsing your cruise options:
- What winter weather looks like at each destination.
- Whether a destination is better for families with children or adult travelers.
- What kind of Christmas and NYE celebrations to expect at each location.
- Your onshore budget for food, special events and transportation.
What Activities You Want to Participate In
What amenities and activities do you seek in a cruise ship? What about onshore entertainment? Make a list of events you would like to participate in on your cruise and use it to choose the best travel package for you.
Popular onboard amenities include:
- Spa treatments.
- Movie nights.
- Comedy shows and live music.
- Fitness centers.
- Watersport access.
- Hot tubs and swimming pools.
- Cocktails in the lounge.
- Fitness and cooking classes.
- Game nights.
- Special dining events.
Onshore activities vary between destinations, but most offer delicious restaurants, shopping opportunities, outdoor activities, museums and tours. During the holidays, many places also feature parades, festivals and NYE celebrations.
How You’ll Celebrate the Holidays
Consider what your holiday celebrations will look like on a cruise or docked at shore. Do you have any must-have traditions such as religious ceremonies or specific food and drink? Check with the cruise line for more information about their holiday offerings and make plans to include your typical customs where possible.
Going on a cruise is also a great reason to start creating traditions like watching the sunset together or sampling various cuisines. Every destination has a unique way of ringing in the new year. Try to immerse yourself in local celebrations as much as possible — you might find a new favorite holiday activity.
Best Places to Cruise During New Year’s
Now that you have a better idea of the type of cruise you’re looking for, you need to choose your destination. Some trips will focus on one or two places, while longer journeys may include several different stops. These are some of the best hotspots to cruise during the holiday season.
If you don’t mind colder temperatures, a European vacation is a fun, festive way to bring in the New Year. Popular European cruise destinations are as follows.
- Northern Europe: Head to Northern Europe and celebrate the new year in places like Denmark and Norway. Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital city, includes a world-famous fireworks show at the Tivoli, while many Norwegians spend New Year’s Day listening to the annual Vienna Philharmonic orchestra performance.
- Southern Europe: Southern Europe includes trendy travel destinations like Greece, Italy, Spain and some parts of France. Each city boasts impressive Christmas and NYE celebrations. Some of the most buzzed-about activities are waiting for Father Christmas to bring gifts on New Year’s Eve in Greece, participating in the traditional Spanish tradition of eating grapes before midnight for good fortune and attending a weeklong NYE celebration at the Piazzale Fellini in Rimini, Italy.
- Western Europe: If your cruise takes you through Western Europe, you won’t want to miss the Hogmanay celebration in Scotland. Hogmanay is the Scottish take on New Year’s Eve, and it features street parties, fire festivals and performances, torch parades and traditional Scottish music. Other fun Western European events are watching Amsterdam’s fireworks and indulging in delicious holiday fare in Belgium.
Spend winter in paradise with a warm Caribbean escape. The Caribbean islands are a delightful place for New Year’s cruises because they are sunny, sandy and full of holiday traditions that vary, depending on which island you’re celebrating from. For example, St. Barth’s holds an annual New Year’s Eve — or “Old Year’s Night,” as some call it — regatta race around the island that attracts locals and travelers alike. After the race, you’ll enjoy other celebratory traditions, like festive balls and plenty of champagne by the waterside.
One of the most meaningful parts of the Costa Rican holiday season is the Zapote festival, Las Fiestas de Zapote, which takes place during the week between Christmas and New Year. It includes plenty of music, dancing, games and traditional cuisine. You can also head to Playa Tamarindo, a picturesque beach that holds annual parties and a fireworks show, to mingle with locals and other fun-seeking travelers.
The U.S. Coasts
Coastal cities all across the United States hold extravagant New Year’s Eve celebrations that offer plenty of entertainment, such as:
- Watching beachside fireworks and the “The Big Orange” drop in Miami, Fla.
- Partying the night away at a traditional New Orleans parade at Jackson’s Square in the Quarter.
- Attending a chocolate buffet, champagne ball or powwow in Portland, Ore.
- Counting down to midnight at the world-famous New York City celebration in Times Square.
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro attracts millions of partygoers every New Year’s Eve, thanks to the famous Reveillon and fireworks display. The NYE Reveillon at Copacabana hosts a massive celebration, with all guests in white attire as a symbol of a peaceful, prosperous new year. The Copacabana Revillon has also earned a reputation for its popular samba dancing, music, bar events and plenty of street activities all night long.
French Polynesian Islands
Spending your holidays on a cruise ship near the French Polynesian islands promises a luxurious, indulgent escape with unbeatable views. If you’re traveling with a significant other or marking a milestone anniversary, there are few places as romantic to celebrate a new year together.
Both Tahiti and Bora Bora have New Year’s Eve events, including celebratory chef-prepared meals and craft beverages near the sparkling turquoise waters.
As one of the first countries in the world to see the new year, Australia is the perfect place to spend New Year’s Eve — especially if you want all the fun and celebration without any of the wintertime weather. New Year’s Eve in Australia coincides with summer in the Southern Hemisphere, so you can watch the fireworks and dine on authentic Australian barbecue in comfort. Sydney is among the most beloved Australian cities on New Year’s because of its famous fireworks display over the Sydney Harbour.
Though many Asian countries traditionally observe the lunar new year in January or February, they still hold festivities for the Western New Year’s Eve on Dec. 31. Here are some of the best Asian destinations to spend NYE on your cruise.
- Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s Jan. 1 celebration is separate from the Chinese New Year, but it’s still a memorable occasion. Count down to midnight at Hong Kong’s Times Square, watch fireworks over the harbor or attend any of the city’s numerous parties and dance events.
- Thailand: Thailand has their New Year’s celebration in April, but Jan. 1 is still a reason to celebrate. Thailand marks the new calendar year by dining on seafood, exchanging gifts with loved ones and visiting temples to start the year with a peaceful mind.
- Tokyo: The new year is a significant milestone in Tokyo, where events often last until Jan. 3. Japanese people ring in the new year by eating Toshikoshi soba, a symbolic noodle dish known as the “year-crossing soba” that celebrates another year’s passing. While you dine, listen for the sounds of Joya no Kane, a traditional bell-ringing practice held at the beginning of the new year.
Tips for Finding an End-of-the-Year Cruise
Holiday cruises are a beloved way to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s, and there are many options to explore. Follow these tips to find and plan the best cruise for you.
Work With a Vacation Planner
If you’re looking for the ultimate stress-free experience, work with a professional vacation planner. Vacation planners and travel advisers will ask about your trip goals, wants and needs, then use that information to take care of all the details. They can help you arrange air and ground transportation, plan and reserve tickets for onshore events and walk you through your cruise line’s travel protection plans, when applicable. Because they have so much industry experience, they are usually the best way to find deals and learn more about the area you’re traveling to.
Spontaneity is an asset in some parts of travel — like trying new foods and picking your onshore activities — but choosing and reserving your cruise stay requires some forethought. Many people embark on holiday cruises each year, so early strategizing is crucial. Most holiday cruises fill quickly and need to be booked as early as six to eight months in advance if you want to secure your spot. The sooner you start preparing, the more likely you’ll be to get the accommodations, event tickets and amenity reservations you want.
Start planning in the following areas.
- Book your cabin: If you want a particular view or cabin location — like in-demand balcony or ocean-view rooms — early booking is the best way to get it.
- Event tickets: If there’s a special onshore event you’re excited about, purchase any tickets or passes ahead of time to secure your spot. Most cruises also allow early reservations for onboard amenities and events, like spa treatments, classes and shows with limited seating.
- Onshore activities: Some shore activities might require tickets or reservations, like NYE celebrations, concerts, theater shows or popular restaurants. Check your cruise itinerary and use it to plan your onshore activities.
- Flights and rental cars: If you have to travel to your cruise ship, reserve your flight and rental car as soon as you make cruise reservations, so you can secure transportation at a good price.
As you make plans, consider investing in travel insurance to protect your reservations if you have to cancel or reschedule your trip. Many cruise lines also offer individual protection plans for things like onboard amenity reservations and cabin bookings.
Research Your Options
Take the time to research all your travel options before making a reservation. Cruises travel the globe every day, taking travelers to new and exciting places. Just because a specific destination might be a popular holiday choice doesn’t mean it’s the only one! For example, many December cruisers seek warm beach getaways, while others might enjoy the cultural flair and winter coziness of a more northern adventure. Explore your travel options, including onboard and onshore activities, and create your ideal holiday itinerary.
Once you have a good idea of where you want to go, use the months before your trip to dig into the local culture. Get a good idea of what to expect, like holiday cuisines and regional traditions you might want to experience. That way, you won’t miss out on what could be the best part of your journey.
Have a Backup Plan
While cruises have a reputation for their expertly executed onboard events, shore excursions are less predictable. Despite your best-laid plans, inclement weather and event cancellations can interrupt your New Year’s plans without notice. Ensure your holiday celebration schedule includes one or two backup plans just in case.
What to Bring on a New Year’s Cruise
You’ve picked your travel destination, and you’re counting down the days until the ship leaves shore. But first, you have to pack your bags with everything you need for a fun holiday on the water. If you’re going on a long trip, consider making a master list of items you need to bring with you and checking off each one as you go, so nothing gets left behind. Remember to consult your cruise line’s guidebook and note any restricted items.
Pack the following.
- Clothes: The clothes you pack depend on where you’re going, what you’ll be doing there and what types of activities you can do aboard your cruise ship. For example, if you’re spending New Year’s in the Caribbean or Australia, pack plenty of lightweight options. Colder climates call for layers and winter coats. Rain gear is always a good idea, regardless of destination. You also need to pack cruise-specific items, like a swimsuit and formalwear, plus festive sweaters and NYE attire.
- Decorations: Cruises during New Year’s and the holiday season are usually festive affairs with plenty of lights and seasonal décor, but you can also bring the holidays to your cabin with streamers, holiday signs and banners, noisemakers and other celebratory gear.
- Gifts: If you’re spending the holidays aboard a cruise ship, don’t forget the presents at home! Instead of wrapping items ahead of time — which might cause security concerns when boarding — bring along everything you need to wrap your presents on the ship. Consider gifting your loved one something they can use on the cruise, like a new swimsuit or activity, or purchase a ticket to a surprise event during your shore excursion. You can also bring along small gifts for crewmembers and attendants to spread the festive cheer.
- Necessities: Never board a cruise without the essentials, like personal hygiene items, your passport, a copy of your insurance and medical information, emergency cash, sunscreen, a camera, a map and guidebook of the local area and any comfort items that will help you relax and unwind during your journey.
- Entertainment: Cruises and shore excursions are brimming with entertainment, but sometimes you want to spend your downtime in the comfort of your cabin. Bring along your favorite board games, cards, movies or festive craft projects.
Leave enough space in your luggage to accommodate souvenirs and memorabilia you’ll bring back from the ship and shore excursions.
Enjoy a Holiday Cruise With Windstar
If you’re looking for an exciting, memorable way to spend the New Year, a holiday cruise is the ticket. Windstar Cruises travel worldwide, so you can always find a destination that speaks to you. All our cruises offer an intimate experience, free of large crowds, so you can spend your trip enjoying the company of your loved ones and relaxing to your heart’s content.
Enjoy elevated onboard amenities, like complimentary watersports, library access, relaxing treatments at the WindSpa, a sparkling pool and world-class culinary dishes. You can also participate in special events and enrichment programs, like culinary demonstrations, guest lectures and unique shore excursions, designed to help immerse you in the local culture and experience everything your destination has to offer.
Learn more about Windstar Cruises and start planning your holiday getaway today!