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The most wonderful time of the year


As the festive season is upon us, we talk to guests about the joys of a cruise holiday over Christmas

Young guest getting in the festive mood on board

Even our young guests like to get in the festive mood on board

If you love the spirit of Christmas but could live without the British weather and turkey leftovers, one of our festive cruises could be perfect for you. No matter which ship you’re on or where you are in the world, Christmas with us is one to remember. Expect delicious menus, dazzling entertainment and plenty of holiday spirit. There’s a really special atmosphere on board too, and many of our guests say there’s no better way to spend the festive season than sailing to new places. Imagine visiting an idyllic Caribbean island, the blissful Canary Islands, festive Christmas markets… We asked some of our guests what makes a P&O Cruises Christmas so special.


Festive fun on board

The magic starts as soon as you step aboard, says guest Ian Fleming, who travelled on Arcadia with his partner Marion last year: ‘The ship was decorated very festively – there were Christmas trees everywhere. This was our first Christmas cruise, and it was the first time Marion had been away from her family at Christmas. But we thoroughly enjoyed it – it was very relaxing.’


Aside from the festively decorated public areas, many guests also choose to decorate their cabins to make the most of the season. ‘We always decorate the cabin with Christmas cards from the children and grandchildren, so we’re thinking of them while we’re away,’ says Ventura guest Christine Richards.


Reminiscing about her family’s Caribbean cruise on Britannia last year, Wendy Cole has a special mention for the staff: ‘The crew, and especially the children’s club staff, were amazing and worked so hard to make everything special – from the letters and presents left in the cabin for the children to the cabin stewards putting decorations on our doors.’


Guests of all ages are well catered for with a range of activities in the run-up to Christmas Day, including festive films, quizzes and shows. ‘There’s normally a big Christmas party up on deck for the children, and everyone joins in with things like carol singing,’ says Ventura guest Faye Wilmot. Her son Jamie, on his third Christmas cruise, agrees: ‘It’s fun being on board. There’s lots to do.’ You’d better be well-behaved though, as six-year-old Jacob Halsman reminds us: ‘Father Christmas comes on board and he always keeps an eye on you.’


The big day arrives

The day itself is packed with all your favourite British traditions. ‘I always start my Christmas Day with carol singing and listening to the Captain lead the service,’ says Ventura guest Jane Challen. Different activities appeal to different people, of course, but one highlight frequently mentioned is the food. ‘I look forward to the food because I don’t have to cook it – and afterwards I don’t have to do the dishes!’ says Christine Richards. Fellow guest John Ireland agrees: ‘The food is always fantastic. I’ll try and keep a few pounds off, but I can’t promise, obviously.’


We want you to have the best Christmas, and the celebrations last all day. ‘After the excitement of finding presents left for us in the cabin, the children took part in a fantastic nativity play in the Headliners theatre on Christmas morning,’ says Wendy Cole. ‘One of the most memorable moments came later in the day. Standing on deck together waiting for the Captain to announce the arrival of Santa was magical. It was wonderful to see the excitement on the faces of the little ones. Everyone was so happy.’


Oh the weather outside is… delightful!

‘It will be hard to beat spending Christmas Eve on the beach in Jamaica,’ says Wendy Cole, something her eight-year-old daughter Eva wholeheartedly agrees with: ‘It was funny being in the sunshine for Christmas but I really like it. You don’t normally build sandcastles on Christmas Eve. Dad helped us build a huge one.’


Also important to our guests is the chance to spend some time together in a relaxed and special atmosphere. ‘No shopping, cooking or cleaning – just relax and chill,’ says Ventura guest David Ogilvie. ‘I would recommend a Christmas cruise to anyone – it’s a wonderful way to spend Christmas with one huge family,’ agrees Angela Mabbett. John Ireland sums it up: ‘Christmas in shorts and sunshine when it’s cold and rainy at home – what more can you want?’

A group of friends getting into the festive spirit on board

The festive spirit is infectious on board our ships during the Christmas season

Christmas spirit

If you can’t make it on board over the day itself, you can still join in the fun on one of our Christmas market cruises. With the ship dressed up in glittering decorations, it’s a special time to be on board. A short cruise will kick-start your festive season in style, say guests we chatted to on a Christmas market cruise on board Oceana last year.


‘The ship looked magical and everyone on board was in high spirits. It felt very festive, with loads of groups of friends and families, and plenty of Christmas jumpers!’ says Kate Johnston, travelling with eight friends on a mums’ weekend away.


Paul and Karen Rendle, travelling with friends Brian and Sue Stephens, tell us: ‘We wanted to get away just before Christmas as we can’t spend Christmas together. We thought a cruise would be an ideal opportunity to be together and have some fun. There’s a great party atmosphere on board – everyone’s building up to Christmas and has that fun attitude to everything.’ Margaret Moorhead agrees: ‘The staff really do get into the spirit of things at Christmas. They are wonderful. Everyone’s happy and it’s the best time to be on board.’


Hitting the markets

Of course, between all the parties and activities on board there’s the small matter of visiting the markets themselves. Our festive cruises visit a range of atmospheric ports, including Copenhagen, Oslo and Hamburg, but one destination that captures many hearts is Bruges (tours from Zeebrugge) . The Belgian town features on many of our longer trips, as well as being accessible in a short two-night hop from Southampton.


‘You can’t beat the Bruges Christmas market. You can get some lovely little gifts; completely different things that you’d probably never get at home,’ says Amanda Stephen Jones. It made a great day out for Kate Johnston and friends: ‘We headed straight to the market for mulled wine and hot chocolate, then wandered around picking up a few presents, including chocolates of course, and some traditional decorations for the tree. We even had time for a lovely lunch and drink by the canalside.’


The atmosphere of Bruges certainly lived up to expectations for Kevin Austin and Danielle Welch, travelling with daughter Fay: ‘The town was beautifully decorated with lights and sparkles everywhere, and an ice-skating rink in the middle of the town. Fay really loved all the amazing chocolate shops and the Christmas lights and decorations. Ever since, she has been asking when we can go again. It’s safe to say she had an amazing time, and so did we!’


Find out more about our festive season cruises >