With Christmas sneaking up fast, many cruise lines are taking the work out of the holiday equation with festive sailings that focus on family fun without the seasonal stress.
Some celebrations start early while sailing along one of Europe's mighty rivers to classic Christmas markets that are usually located close to where the ship berths. Traditional festive decorations and seasonal gifts can be found for family and friends, who will be told of the magical European villages where they were bought.
For others, the celebrations will be timely while adrift in the middle of an ocean, enjoying the sunshine, and anticipating what Christmas cheer the on-board chef has in mind, and what seasonal entertainment will be staged. One cruise to Antarctica will have Santa and his helpers arriving on board the ship from a Zodiac.
Often intergenerational families - mum, dad, the children, and grandparents - sail off to have Christmas on a cruise so the festive celebrations are light work for everyone. Most cruise lines factor in Christmas Day at sea without ports of call so passengers can enjoy the celebrations, including a visit from Santa.
Here are some possibilities:
• The morning of Christmas Eve sees the arrival in Fremantle of Regent Seven Seas Voyager, which sails again that night to continue its 21-night cruise from Bali on December 19 to Auckland (New Zealand), on January 9. The ship calls into Exmouth (December 21), Geraldton (December 23), Kangaroo Island in South Australia, Geelong in Victoria - the gateway to the renowned Great Ocean Road - and Hobart for New Year's Eve, before crossing the Tasman to New Zealand. From $8699 per person twin share, the cruise includes three nights in Bali pre-cruise or three nights in Auckland on disembarkation. rssc.com
• A five-night Spice of Asia Christmas cruise on Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas sails from Singapore on December 21, with calls to Port Klang and Langkawi in Malaysia and Phuket in Thailand before returning to Singapore. Included in the package is one-night at the Swissotel Stamford in Singapore, from $2379 per person twin share, including return economy airfares from Perth and transfers in Singapore. ecruising.travel
• Christmas carols, festive cooking demonstrations, and a visit by Santa are all part of celebrations on Holland America's Oosterdam, which sails from Sydney on December 19 on a 14-day cruise around New Zealand returning to Sydney on January 2, from $1599 per person for interior cabin. hollandamerica.com.au
• P&O Cruises' 10-night South Pacific cruise on Pacific Pearl departs Sydney on December 17, for the Isle of Pines (New Caledonia), Lifou (Loyalty Islands), Vila and Mystery Island (Vanuatu) and New Caledonia's capital Noumea. A traditional Christmas feast has Santa dropping by - from $1199 per person quad share, airfares from Western Australia not included. pocruises.com.au
• The ultimate Christmas Day luxury experience has to be in the great white continent aboard MV Le Boreal sailing near the rugged island of South Georgia to see king penguins and fallow deer before Santa delivers seasonal cheer from a zippy rubber Zodiac. The celebrations are during an 18-day cruise of the Antarctic Peninsula amid glacier-topped mountains, nesting penguins, sleek seals, mighty icebergs and pristine waters full of marine life. Le Boreal sails from Ushuaia in Argentina on December 18 and returns on January 4, from $US16,995 ($16,306) per adult, children from 7-18 years half price. Flights not included, abercrombiekent.com.au
• European river cruises in winter invariably include visits to lively Christmas markets while sampling gluhwein and roasted chestnuts, with a good chance of snow falling to add further to the festive atmosphere. Christian Schweitzer, of Avalon Waterways, says the company has doubled its Christmas river cruises as they are so popular. "It's not uncommon for entire families to cruise together and make it a grand affair." avalonwaterways.com.au