If you were up and about on Christmas morning at 8, Santa and several elves strolled through the buffet restaurant on Deck 12, down an elevator to deck 6, through the main dining room, then down the grand staircase to the lobby, where a pile of presents awaited to satisfy the 52 children onboard. (The cruise line, which does not encourage children, brought on two extra employees to oversee their activities on this voyage).
“Someone, go round up the children,” said Santa about 8:30, as the lobby was empty of all but a dozen adults hanging around, waiting for what the occasion might bring. Business was slow, despite a shipboard announcement heralding Santa’s mission.
At 8:40, Olivia, 10, arrived with her sleepy father. She sat at Santa’s knee, chatted a bit, smiled, and walked away with two presents. By 9, after fewer than a dozen children had showed up, Santa called it a day. For the record, the temperature outside, at the port city of Kingstown, St. Vincent, was 85 degrees, perfect for a long hike in the forest.
On New Year’s Eve, Oceania’s Riviera put on a pool deck party that drew hundreds (the ship sailed with more than 1,200 aboard) for drinks, snacks, and dancing deep into the night, which, thanks to the guidance of some young folks, included my writhing about, Gangnam Style.
Riviera’s herd of chefs arrived before midnight, dragging out a four-piece ice sculpture. They set it up beside the pool for all to see the “2 0 1 2.” As the New Year arrived with the traditional singing and champagne toasts, the chefs appeared with one new piece of ice, to complete the dripping sculpture that now read “2 0 1 3.”
Though the holidays still are months away, booking is most economical in summer, as discounts for the late December cruises tend to end by Labor Day, or sooner.
Holiday cruise sales from Oceania and Carnival end Aug. 31. Though Royal Caribbean’s holiday sale ended in July, Celebrity is offering up to $1,000 in onboard credits through Aug. 25.
And it’s not too early to plan ahead for December 2014 if you have a specific cabin suite or exotic destination in mind. Passengers onboard Azamara Journey’s 12-night Southern Hemisphere cruise in 2014 will spend New Year’s Eve anchored off Copacabana Beach, Brazil, for the midnight fireworks.
David Molyneaux writes monthly about cruising. He is editor of TheTravelMavens.com