The Best December Voyages for Holiday Travel

As Christmas Eve progressed in 2022, guests sailing aboard Silversea Cruises’ expeditionary Silver Endeavour in Antarctica gathered in the ship’s Explorer Lounge to share tales of the day’s adventures. Conversations flowed freely about Zodiac rides, gorgeous icy landscapes and the thrill of seeing penguins and humpback whales, while servers offered holiday drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Then, the expedition team conducted the normal evening expedition recap/briefing, followed by a fun, holiday twist.

Silver Endeavour’s entertainment director led the way as the ship’s officers, crew members and young guests (kids and teens), many wearing Santa hats, entered the lounge to sing traditional carols and modern holiday favorites. On stage, huge LED screens displayed vivid imagery of Christmas trees and holiday landscapes. Using Silversea-provided paper song books, the ship’s guests sang along—often joining arms, hugging family members and toasting to friends. Collectively, they soaked up the spirit of the Christmas season at the end of the Earth. And that was all before a fabulous Christmas gourmet feast in the ship’s restaurants.

Look for Silver Endeavour, carrying fewer than 200 guests in Antarctica, to return to the "White Continent" for the 2023 holiday season. Elsewhere, Silversea’s other ships also offer holiday options. Most notably, Silversea’s new 728-passenger Silver Nova, a new class of eco-friendly ship with asymmetrical design, will sail its first holiday season voyages to Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Panama later this year. A nine-day voyage from Callao (Lima), Peru, to Cartagena, Colombia, will depart December 19, 2023.

Silver Endeavour
Silver Endeavour, carrying fewer than 200 guests in Antarctica, will return to the "White Continent" for the 2023 holiday season. (Silversea)

Regent Seven Seas Cruises also serves up a festive onboard aura during December. Travelers will discover elegant decorations, watch holiday-themed performances in the Constellation Theater and even find a bit of mistletoe for yuletide romance. As always, gourmet cuisine and fine wines are a top focus, too. Some December voyages also conveniently sail roundtrip from Miami, so no international air travel is required for U.S. travelers.

Among those, a 25-night “Christmas in the Amazon” itinerary sails roundtrip from Miami on December 12, 2023. Operated by the 696-passenger Seven Seas Mariner, this voyage will deliver a festive aura in an exotic locale as it heads up to Brazil’s Amazon River with an overnight call at Manaus. Guests will also visit Bahamian and Caribbean ports, plus other Brazilian destinations.

Desire a holiday trip next year? Seven Seas Mariner will offer a 10-night “Caribbean Holiday” voyage roundtrip from Miami on December 18, 2024. Ports of call will include Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic; San Juan; Gustavia, St. Barthelemy; Roseau, Dominica; St. John’s, Antigua; and Nassau, the Bahamas. Guests will receive up to 63 “included” shore excursions. For repeat visitors who’ve previously seen Dominica’s natural beauty, Luxury Travel Advisor would suggest a bit more indulgent shore excursion—either “Champagne Snorkel” or “Chocolate Experience at Bois Cotlette,” the island’s oldest coffee estate.

Travelers desiring a lengthy, exotic 2024 voyage that extends through the holiday season can check out Seabourn’s first-ever, 90-day “Grand Africa Voyage.” Departing November 30, 2024, the 450-passenger Seabourn Sojourn will sail roundtrip from Barcelona, Spain, and circumnavigate Africa on a 17,000-mile journey. Guests will spend Christmas day at sea between Oman and the Seychelles and ring in the new year before arriving in Kenya.

Adventure lovers on Silversea’s Antarctica cruises can opt for  snorkeling, scuba diving or kayak expeditions. (Silversea)

Seabourn’s holiday season festivities will include decorated Christmas trees and Hannukah menorahs in public spaces, and evergreen swags draped on railings and balusters. Also on tap are a dazzling gingerbread village display, crew caroling, a Christmas variety show by the ship’s entertainment team, and holiday feasts and celebrations.

During the 2023 Christmas holiday, the 264-passenger Seabourn Venture will sail in Antarctica, while sister expedition ship Seabourn Pursuit will explore South Georgia Island on Christmas, with guests ringing in the new year in Antarctica. Coincidentally, Seabourn Venture recently debuted Seabourn’s new, elevated room service menu, coming to other ships in the fleet too.

Crystal Cruises, owned by A&K Group, will offer holiday season voyages this year on the newly revitalized Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity. Guests can expect specialty themed dinners, Santa Claus visits for children and a dazzling New Year’s Eve party. On December 20, 2023, Crystal Symphony will operate a 15-night holiday voyage from Auckland, New Zealand, to Sydney, Australia, while Crystal Serenity will sail a 13-night voyage roundtrip from Miami on December 23, 2023. On the latter sailing, special guest, Chef Jon Ashton will offer live cooking demonstrations on sea days.

Post-pandemic, Grand Voyages have soared in popularity. Spanning the Christmas holiday season and departing from a U.S. port is Oceania Cruises’ 50-day “South America Kaleidoscope” itinerary, operated by the 1,248-passenger Marina. On December 7, 2024, the ship will sail from Miami to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Guests will spend Christmas Eve cruising the Pacific Ocean, and Christmas Day at Coquimbo, Chile. On New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, they’ll peruse gorgeous scenic vistas while cruising the Chilean fjords.

Seven Seas Mariner
Seven Seas Mariner (Regent Seven Seas Cruises)

On December 8, 2023, another lengthy, even more exotic option is Oceania’s 44-day “Dubai to Papeete” voyage, from the United Arab Emirates to French Polynesia. The 670-passenger Nautica will call along the way at ports in India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa and American Samoa.

Starting in early December, Azamara’s fleet will be decked out for the holidays, crew members will sing carols, and guests can enjoy Christmas singalongs, cookies, hot chocolate and other festive treats. A priest will be onboard to lead religious services. In addition, a Christmas show is planned for December 24 and 25, and a Tree Trimmers party for December 24.

For the first time, Azamara is including Antarctica during a new Christmas cruise itinerary. On December 10, 2023, the 702-passenger Azamara Quest will set sail on a new, 20-Night “Antarctica Holiday Voyage,” which begins in Buenos Aires, Argentina and sails through the Antarctic Sound. Guests will spend a festive Christmas at sea before sailing to the Falkland Islands, Uruguay, and finally Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, the day before New Year’s Eve.

On December 22, 2023, Explora Journeys’ luxurious new Explora I, with 461 spacious, luxurious suites, will set sail on a seven-night “White-Sand Wonderlands for the Holidays” itinerary from Miami to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Ports of call will include Key West, FL, where guests can head out for beach yoga, if so desired; Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda, B.V.I.; Deshaies, Guadeloupe; and St. Johns, Antigua.

Azamara Quest’s 20-Night “Antarctica Holiday Voyage” will end in Rio de Janeiro (shown here) the day before New Year’s Eve. (Azamara)

Continuing to expand on the world’s oceans, Viking just launched Viking Saturn, its 10th 930-passenger vessel. On December 20, 2023, this new ship will set sail on a 15-day “Mediterranean Antiquities” sailing from Piraeus (Athens), Greece, to Barcelona, Spain; 11 tours within six countries are included in the fare. One fun factoid? Guests aboard who’d like to see snow for the holidays can simply head to the vessel’s Nordic Spa. Within its thermal suite, there’s a small, cold snow grotto, where snowflakes waft from the ceiling.

Among Windstar Cruises’ holiday season voyages is the 11-day “Colombian & Southern Caribbean Coastlines” voyage, from Bridgetown, Barbados, to Colon, Panama. Departing December 19, 2023, the 148-passenger sailing yacht, Wind Star (also motorized for travel flexibility) will call at Bequia and Pigeon Island, St. Vincent and the Grenadines; St. George’s, Grenada (overnight); Oranjestad, Aruba (overnight) and Cartagena, Colombia.

New for Windstar this holiday season are Middle Eastern voyages, starting in November. For instance, on December 3, December 13 and December 23, 2023, among other dates, the 312-passenger Star Legend will set sail on a 10-day “Sparkling Sands & Cities of the Persian Gulf” voyage from Muscat, Oman, to Dubai, U.A.E. Travelers will spend New Year’s Eve in Manama, Bahrain. Windstar’s shore excursions that day include pearl snorkeling, lunch with a Bahraini family, or a 4x4 vehicle adventure on a Bahrain International Circuit rally course in the Sakhir Desert.

Some travelers wish to sail in December and enjoy the voyage’s holiday flair, yet still spend Christmas or New Year’s Day with their families. Providing that flexibility is Scenic Cruises & Tours’ 13-day “Antarctica In Depth” voyage on Scenic Eclipse, which carries fewer than 200 guests in Antarctica. Departing December 2, 2023, the yacht will sail roundtrip from Buenos Aires and explore Antarctica. For a celebrity bent to a holiday season sailing, Cunard Line’s transatlantic crossing on Queen Mary 2 from New York City to Southampton, U.K., on December 8, 2023, will feature stage-and-screen star Alan Cumming. He’ll sail, offer a Q&A session, host two screenings and a book signing.

Azamara has also planned a Christmas show for December 24 and 25, and a Tree Trimmers party for December 24. (Azamara)

Another early December option is Ponant’s seven-night “Ancient Fjords and Unspoiled Islands of Southern New Zealand” voyage. The 184-passenger Le Laperouse will depart December 3, 2023, roundtrip from Dunedin, New Zealand. One plus? Thanks to a partnership with Relais & Chateaux, the Ponant voyage is designated a “Gastronomic Voyage” hosted by famed Chef Jimmy McIntyre of New Zealand’s Otahuna Lodge.

Looking much further out, SeaDream Yacht Club’s 112-passenger SeaDream I will sail a “Spanish & British Caribbean Delight” itinerary from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, on December 13, 2025. Guests will explore Culebra and Vieques, Esperanza, Puerto Rico; Prickly Pear and Sandy Ground, Anguilla, B.V.I.; Gustavia, St. Barthelemy (overnight); Sint Eustatius, Netherlands Antilles; South Friar’s Bay (evening beach party) in St. Kitts and Nevis; and Falmouth Bay, Antiqua and Barbuda.

Other upscale lines including The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Swan Hellenic Cruises, Emerald Cruises and others also offer enticing December voyages. For multigenerational family groups, Royal Caribbean International is among many lines with luxurious suites, children’s and teen clubs, and razzle-dazzle, diverse activities. A festive, holiday season cruise is often a great way to close out the year.

Related Articles

Cunard Launches 2024 “Event Voyages” Program

Regent Launches Free Three-Night Inland Journeys

Ponant to Debut Zero-Greenhouse Gas Emission Ship by 2030

Exclusive: One-on-One With Natalya Leahy, New Seabourn President