Family Travel

How to do Thanksgiving on the high seas

Celebrate the holiday on a luxury liner.


No cooking for days. No hosting annoying relatives. No beds to make or towels to wash. 

This Thanksgiving, invite those you love most to sail away with you, letting someone else do all the cooking, the dishes, and the cleaning.  

De-stress the famously stressful holiday even more by cruising from a port near your home so you don’t have to deal with sky-high prices for flights or the hassles of flying over the busiest weekend of the year.

You’ve got more than two dozen ports to choose from—San Diego and Los Angeles, Galveston and New Orleans, New York, New Jersey and of course Florida. 

Be prepared that you may not get a bargain as Thanksgiving is considered a peak time, but since you don’t have to arrange flights, you might be able to get a last-minute deal

You can even get bragging rights by sailing on Royal Caribbean’s brand new ship, Quantum of the Seas from New Jersey-- complete with a circus school.

Invite the in laws.  The good thing about cruises is that there are activities for every age group (including supervised programming on some lines like Disney, even for babies.)  And everyone has their own space—unlike when you are all crowded into your mother’s house sharing too few bathrooms and sleeping on a lumpy 20-year-old sofa bed.

Got little kids? Disney Cruise Lines has special holiday sailings with Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and friends dressed in traditional Thanksgiving attire;  Holiday fun and games, of course, continue through Christmas with a three-deck-tall tree.  And there’s a Winter Wonderland Ball where guests celebrate the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Clause with the help of a certain Norwegian princess.

Carnival now cruises from 17 North American ports year round – everywhere from Long Beach, Calif. and Seattle to Norfolk and Baltimore. Imagine a Thanksgiving feast you can just sit back and enjoy—and the food will keep on coming no matter how many servings you want.  (There’s always the fitness center for the next morning!)

Norwegian cruises from eight U.S. ports this fall including Boston, Houston and New York.  

The ships, of course, are decorated to the hilt with holiday music , special holiday shows, caroling on deck and more.

A few tips for booking a holiday cruise:

--Make sure you book the right cruise line for your gang.  If you’re not traveling with kids, you might want a cruise that doesn’t tout their children’s programs.  If you are toting diaper bags (or sullen teens), you want to make sure there are age-appropriate activities.

--Consider a travel agent.  Booking a cruise, especially when you are a newbie, can be complicated—just trying to figure out what cabin to book can make you dizzy. ( The  annual Taking the Kids Family Cruise Guide can help.)  A travel agent who is a cruise expert can make all the difference—and maybe even get you upgraded.  You can find one near your home through Cruise Lines International Association.   

--Be prepared that cabins may not be as spacious as a typical American hotel room.  Remember, you only will be in your cabin to sleep.  But if you have older kids, you might want to invest in a second cabin—get them an inside, less expensive one.

--Be mindful of “extras.” The bar bill, specialty restaurants and shore excursions can add up fast. Plan ahead to stay on budget.

Now all you’ve got to do is drive to the port—and  enjoy!

Eileen Ogintz is the creator of the syndicated column and website Taking the Kids. She is also the author of the ten-book Kid’s Guide series to major American cities and the Great Smoky Mountains. The third-edition of the Kid’s Guide to NYC has just been released.