Plan A Last-Minute Thanksgiving Cruise
Thanksgiving is a popular time for families to cruise. After all, why gather around in a crowded kitchen when you can get together on a lovely ship and cruise to the Caribbean, the Bahamas or Mexico? Cruisers can escape all of the cooking and cleaning and enjoy roast turkey with all the trimmings on Thanksgiving Day. In addition, there are programs and amenities for every age and interest on today’s cruise ships.
Prices for Thanksgiving cruises are generally lower than those during the festive December and New Year’s holidays. In fact, last minute prices on Thanksgiving cruises to the Caribbean, Mexico and the Bahamas can sometimes be as much as 60-70% off regular fares. Sites such as VacationsToGo.com, Cruises.com, CruiseCompete.com and others make it easy to check prices or you can contact your favorite travel agent or cruise line for more details.
Thanksgiving cruises can also be an excellent value when compared with other last-minute land-based tropical holiday vacation options. Airfare is generally one of the most expensive parts of a tropical holiday vacation. Cruises from close-to-home U.S. ports will take your family to those same warm weather beaches, often for less than the price of a round-trip international air ticket. Cruise lines have positioned their ships in a variety of locations that are within driving distance of major cities, making these drive-to Thanksgiving holiday cruise vacations easier and less expensive.
During the Thanksgiving holiday week, cruise lines offer sailings from a wide variety of U.S. ports including New York, New York; Bayonne, New Jersey; Baltimore, Maryland; Charleston, South Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; Port Canaveral, Florida; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Miami, Florida; Tampa, Florida; Mobile, Alabama; New Orleans, Louisiana; Galveston, Texas; Los Angeles, California, and other areas. Parking can be found near all of the cruise terminals and there’s no limit to the amount of luggage you can bring on the ship. Try not to over pack, however, due to the relatively small size of most shipboard staterooms.
Families cruising with children should look for ships that offer lots of kid-friendly activities on lines such as Carnival Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean. Today’s cruise ships cater to kids and teens with extensive age-specific programming, special club and lounge areas, kids’ menu items and more. Ships on popular family-friendly cruise lines are typically packed with children over Thanksgiving, so kids and teens will have plenty of company and can make new friends on board.
If you’re considering taking a last-minute Thanksgiving holiday cruise, here are six tips:
1. Plan on driving to your cruise. Last-minute airfares for flights around Thanksgiving week can be very high. Instead of flying to your cruise, focus your search on options that will enable you to drive instead. There are convenient cruise home ports within easy driving distance of most major U.S. cities.
2. Choose a ship that’s a good match with your interests. Thanksgiving sailings can be packed with families and larger ships can easily have hundreds of children on board. That can be wonderful for those traveling with kids, but not as great for those seeking a quieter, more peaceful cruise. Certain ships also have more specialty dining, bars and entertainment options.
3. Consult with a good cruise travel agent. Travel agents can be a big help when planning a last-minute Thanksgiving holiday cruise vacation. A top-notch travel agent will be able to quickly find the best available options for your cruise, determine which ships best match your needs, and identify packages that can save you money.
4. Ask about special discounts. Some cruise lines provide military and senior discounts on cruises. On MSC Cruises, kids 11 and under also cruise free on selected sailings if they are sharing a stateroom with two adults. Some travel agencies, online sites, and travel vendors such as Costco may offer on board credit as well.
5. Reserve specialty dining and shore excursions before boarding. Make your specialty dining and entertainment reservations as early as possible. High demand specialty restaurants can fill up quickly. In addition, if there are several shore excursions on your “must do” list, don’t forget to book those in advance as well.
6. Arrive early. Plan to arrive at your departure port a day in advance to give yourself some cushion, just in case of bad weather or heavy traffic. Arriving a day early minimizes travel stress and any chance of missing your ship's departure. It's also wise to get on the ship early to get settled and explore.
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