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Holiday Cruises Are a Delightful Recipe for Family Fun

Holiday cruises are a popular way for families to celebrate the season. It's easy to understand why, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the nonprofit marketing organization which represents 19 cruise lines and more than 16,000 travel agencies. Travel is easy, and the family is spending time together experiencing exotic travel destinations and a wide variety of holiday events and activities.

"With ships decked out for the season, and all the menu planning and entertainment taken care of, families can relax and focus on what truly counts during the holiday season: spending quality time with each other, celebrating old traditions, and creating new ones along the way, " said Terry Dale, president and CEO of CLIA.

This holiday season, CLIA-member cruise lines are offering a wide variety of holiday itineraries, including the Mediterranean and Europe, the Caribbean, the Bahamas, the Panama Canal, South America, Mexico, Tahiti, and Australia.

All holiday itineraries include special religious observances, gourmet menus featuring classic holiday favorites as well as regional specialties, and live onboard holiday entertainment, sometimes with an international twist. And let's not forget visits from Santa, who manages to squeeze cruise ship visits into his busy schedule. CLIA fleets will also feature holiday parties for children, adults and teens -- as well as champagne toasts, under the stars and in magnificent ballrooms on New Year's Eve.

Here is a sampling of how some of the cruise lines will be celebrating the 2004 holiday season:

Carnival Cruise Lines offers a variety of three- to eight-day holiday sailings to the Bahamas, Caribbean and Mexican Riviera, with special treats for children including a visit from Santa, and a chance to shine in a special holiday performance. Ships are decorated with Christmas trees, wreaths and mistletoe; carols are performed on deck and in the shows, and piped into cabins; midnight mass is celebrated; and Christmas dinner features roast turkey and pecan pie. For more information, visit the cruise line's website at: Carnival Cruise Lines.

Celebrity Cruises' ships feature Christmas trees and wreaths, sparkling garland and other festive dicor to help set the tone on sailings to the Caribbean and Mexico which are timed to whisk guests away to celebrate Christmas and New Year's at sea. For more information, visit the cruise line's website at: Celebrity Cruises.

This year, Costa Cruises offers 18 holiday itineraries for Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year's. Expect seasonal menus, religious services, Santa visits, Hanukkah and Christmas gifts for children, tree-decorating for kids and holiday-themed entertainment. Itineraries are designed to showcase the splendors of the eastern and western Caribbean, Europe and the Mediterranean, and South America. For more information, visit the cruise line's website at: Costa Cruises.

Families onboard Crystal Cruises find the ambiance festive, with each ship showcasing $100,000 worth of seasonal dicor, including handcrafted ornaments, ornate sleighs, Old English toy soldiers, and a dozen twinkling Christmas trees. Christmas Eve services and masses are planned, and Christmas Day serves up eggnog, a noontime buffet, a "Chocolate Tea Time," a visit from Santa and an extravagant dinner. For more information, visit the cruise line's website at: Crystal Cruises.

Celebrate the holidays in British style aboard Cunard Line's QM2 and QE2 in the Caribbean. Festivities include a visit from Father Christmas, a Festival of Carols, a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, a Yuletide show and religious services. And, passengers get to experience an additional holiday: the British celebration of Boxing Day on Dec. 26. New Year's Eve is celebrated with a black-tie gala, deck parties, hats, noisemakers, streamers and Baby New Year and Father Time. For more information, visit the cruise line's website at: Cunard Line.

Disney Cruise Line offers a Christmas experience for the entire family. Highlights include a tree-lighting ceremony where "snow" magically falls; a visit from Santa Goofy; carols performed by crew members from around the world; opportunities for families to design and decorate their own gingerbread houses; a reading of "'Twas The Night Before Christmas" by Mrs. Claus; traditional holidays feasts; and multiple faith and inter-denominational holiday services. For more information, visit the cruise line's website at: Disney Cruise Line.

On Holland America Line, guests experience a multi-cultural holiday, with the international crew choir and staff singing native carols to entertain passengers. Other special holiday features include seasonal decorations throughout the ships; holiday movies; a visit from Santa; and a feast featuring goose, turkey, plum pudding and eggnog. For more information, visit the cruise line's website at: Holland America Line.

MSC Cruises' new MSC Opera is the setting for a pair of roundtrip holiday cruises out of Fort Lauderdale: a 10-night Dec. 18 "Christmas of Your Life" Panama Canal sailing, and an 11-night Dec. 28 "Swing Into The New Year" deep Caribbean sailing. The Dec. 18 itinerary features entertainment by the Lorri and Mike Hafer Quartet and screenings of holiday film classics, and the Dec. 28 sailing features the "Swing! Swing! Swing!" cast, Michele Anastasio and the Music of Your Life Swing Band, and comic Bill Terrell. For more information, visit the cruise line's website at: MSC Cruises.

Guests aboard Norwegian Coastal Voyage's vessels experience the traditions and customs of the Norwegian Yuletide, with local holiday delicacies and an extravagant Scandinavian smorgasbord on Christmas Eve, readings of the Christmas gospel by the crew, caroling, Santa visits, and shore-side church services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, when ship schedules permit. Passengers also can make old-fashioned ornaments and revel at an after-dinner dance on Boxing Day. For more information, visit the cruise line's website: Norwegian Coastal Voyage.

Norwegian Cruise Line's holiday itineraries feature all the usual amenities, with special decorations, feasts, carols, seasonal shows and visits from Santa Claus. Catholic priests and Protestant ministers are onboard for masses and services, and rabbis for Hanukkah observances. For more information, visit the cruise line's website at: NCL America.

Princess Cruises' ships are trimmed stem to stern with wreaths, holly, mistletoe and, of course, Christmas trees, sometimes even on the ship's mast. It's not uncommon to see Yuletide carolers strolling the decks, waiters wearing Santa hats, and seasonal entertainment including live shows and classic movies. Midnight mass and interdenominational services are offered, and Christmas dinner features seasonal favorites such as roast turkey or goose, gingerbread mousse, mincemeat pie, chocolate Yule logs and cookies. For more information, visit the cruise line's website at: Princess Cruises.

Radisson Seven Seas Cruises offers a wide array of holiday itineraries aboard festively decorated vessels, such as an 11-night French Polynesia voyage aboard the Paul Gauguin. Departing Papeete, Tahiti on Dec. 28, guests visit Motu Mahana and Bora Bora, ring in the New Year at sea under the South Pacific sky, then visit the Marquesas' Hiva Oa (Atuona) and Nuku Hiva (Taiohae) as well as Rangiroa and Moorea before returning to Papeete. For more information, visit the cruise line's website at: Radisson Seven Seas Cruises.

Royal Caribbean International's vessels are decked out with Christmas trees, wreaths, sparkling garland and other festive dicor, and holiday revelers have their choice of voyages to the southern, western and eastern Caribbean, the Bahamas, and Baja Mexico, with departures from Galveston, San Juan, Fort Lauderdale, New Orleans, Miami, Los Angeles, Port Canaveral and Tampa. For more information, visit the cruise line's website at: Royal Caribbean International.

Families on Silversea Cruises can sail the Far East and South Pacific aboard Silver Cloud's 16-day "Passage Down Under" cruise, departing Singapore Dec. 22 and calling at Semarang, Darwin, Thursday Island, Cairns, Townsville, Hayman Island and Newcastle before reaching Sydney. Silver Wind features a 16-day "Voyage to the Bottom of the World" itinerary departing Valparaiso, Chile, for Buenos Aires on Dec. 21, and sailing through Chile's scenic fjords and around Cape Horn. For more information, visit the cruise line's website at: Silversea Cruises.

Holiday festivities onboard Windstar Cruises' ships blend traditional decorations, such as trees and wreaths on stateroom doors, with cultural activities based on the individual itineraries and holiday shows by the crew. These ships are appropriate for families with older children of at least 12 years of age. Special menus pay homage to the season with time-honored favorites accented by flavors of the tropics. Itineraries include 11 days in Tahiti aboard Wind Star, nine days in the Caribbean aboard Wind Surf, and 10 days in the Caribbean aboard Wind Spirit. For more information, visit the cruise line's website: Windstar Cruises.

To find a cruise expert to help plan your vacation, visit CLIA's Web site, CLIA - Cruise Line International Association (http://www.cruising.org). By typing in your zip code you can find the nearest CLIA-member agency. The Web site also features a wide range of information on cruises and destinations, as well as numerous links to member cruise lines and other resources.

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