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Lighting up your holidays at sea

Maybe you can’t take another Christmas on your mother-in-law’s lumpy sleeper sofa. Maybe your grown kids are going to be elsewhere this holiday and you want a new way to celebrate the season. Maybe you just ended a long relationship and need to get away. Maybe you want to gather the gang for the holidays without all of the work of cooking and decorating.

It’s not too late to treat yourself—and those you love most—to a holiday cruise whether you want to spend a week sampling the beaches of the Caribbean via a mega Royal Caribbean ship decorated to the gills or an intimate sailing yacht that visits smaller ports. Cruise with Mickey and Minnie for the first time on a Disney Cruise Line ship from Miami or Galveston, TX or visit historic Christmas markets in Europe via a river cruise like those from Uniworld .

You don’t have to spend a bundle either. Sites like www.CruiseOne.com and www.DiscountCruises.com can help you find a deal, an expert to guide you through the process, and the right ship for your family or yourself.

A tip: minimize the stress by working with a travel agent who is a cruise expert, especially if you are new to cruising. You don’t pay them; the cruise lines do and you can avoid all the confusion of trying to sort out what the different lines offer—including which has got the best deal. Plug in your zipcode on Cruising.org to find cruise experts right in your neighborhood.

If you are cruising with kids or teens, check out the excellent TakingtheKids 2012 Cruise Guide that tells you what the different cruise lines can offer your family, whether you are cruising with toddlers or teens. If you’re sailing without kids, you may want a ship that won’t be crawling with kids this holiday season.

You might even be able to cruise from a port near your home, avoiding crowded airports entirely. Park at the port, check out the holiday lights (even in New York City) and then leisurely board your ship.

The best part: You won’t have to wash a single dish, prepare a single meal or make a bed this holiday. Bon Voyage!

Eileen Ogintz is a nationally syndicated columnist and creator of TakingtheKids.com. Her new  Kids Guide to Boston is available online and from major booksellers, along with the Kids Guides to NYC, Washington, DC, Orlando,  LA and Chicago. Coming  later this year: San Diego, San Francisco and Denver.