Cruising at Christmas: My Experience

Christmas Cruising Guide Cruise and Maritime Voyages Columbus

Hey Owlets,

If you haven’t been keeping up to date with my Instagram account then you might have missed the spam all about my trip on board Cruise and Maritime Voyages’ MV Columbus. This was a bit of a first for me - both being on board CMV’s flagship and cruising so close to the festive season, arriving back in the UK in the first week of December. It’s one of those times where you aren’t entirely sure whether or not it’s a Christmas trip so I wanted to give you a rundown of my trip to help you.

We left on 10th November so it was still too early for anything Christmas-related to have appeared (I know the shops were full of the spirit at this point but they start in September so I’m choosing to ignore them) so I wasn’t feeling festive at all; if I was feeling anything it was a little bit of dread about crossing the Bay of Biscay in Winter, mixed with being totally ready to soak up some sunshine. I think on most cruise lines Christmas tends to start on the closest cruise to the beginning of December so it doesn’t confuse (or more likely irritate the odd miserable passenger) so our ship was devoid of any festive cheer for the duration, and I’m assuming it would’ve started on the cruise after ours. With the lack of decorations on board Christmas was one of the furthest things on my mind and it stayed that way for about the first half of the cruise - after that things started to catch up.

Christmas Cruising Guide Gibraltar Christmas Lights Switch On

I was fully in the swing of my (extremely late) summer holiday when I arrived in Gibraltar in the final week and was slapped in the face by Christmas. We had a tour booked in the morning and our guide made sure to tell us no less than 6 times that we should visit the lights switch on that night, and as we were in port for the evening we thought we might as well - it was weird. Bright sunshine, beautiful weather and Christmas just don’t go well together if you have grown up somewhere where you expect “Christmas” to mean wear 8 layers when you go to visit your relatives. 

Walking around a Christmas market in a thin coat and sunglasses is a bit of a weird mix, and I can’t really say that my summer clothes matched the Santa hat, yet weirdly Gibraltar is one of the most festive places I’ve ever visited. In my mind I justify it as being one lights switch on for an entire country (I know it’s not technically a country but please ignore my warped logic) so I suppose it had better be good, but I never expected five hours of every kind of festive performance you could possibly imagine. Having spent a day singing Christmas carols in possibly the most festive nation I could visit it was a weird juxtaposition when I got back on board to “business as usual”.

Christmas Cruising Guide Vigo Spain Decorations

This trend continued in each port we visited - our final port of Vigo was where I started to feel really conflicted. I thought Gibraltar was the most festive place in Europe until I got to Vigo - their motto is “donde vive la Navidad” which means “where Christmas lives” and I can’t say I disagree. I actually spent a good hour walking around the city centre just to see all of the different decorations and there were hundreds. Everywhere you walked there was Christmas music playing in the street and every shop, restaurant and even banks were decked out so thoroughly that Santa himself would’ve felt at home. In the afternoon fairies started walking around the shopping centre, singing carols and inviting everyone that walked past to a huge concert and lights switch on in the centre that evening. We had to be back on board so I missed it, but if you imagine Lapland with sunshine you’re not far off of Vigo. The confused feeling only arrived when we got back on board our ship, totally devoid of Christmas spirit and wondering if we’d just time travelled.

When we arrived back in the UK everyone was fully in the swing of Christmas and after our 3 day at-sea festive detox it felt like it had all been and gone and I actually felt less festive than before the cruise. That feeling continued and even with a few sleeps until the big day I just don’t feel that festive.

Christmas Cruise Cruise and Maritime Voyages Columbus Tilbury

One of the main reasons to cruise in Winter is because it’s so much cheaper outside of the main season for travel (May to September), but it’s also an amazing way to experience the traditions that other countries have when it comes to celebrating Christmas. If you want to book later in the year solely for some winter sun then make sure you pick your time carefully. If you travel at the end of October or beginning of November you still have enough time to come back and enjoy your traditions at home.

However, if you want to explore Christmas from other cultures and come back feeling suitably full of cheer then try to book a cruise at the end of November or start of December, when the cruise lines really start to wind up for the big day. 

I know this post is a bit different compared to my usual tips and travel diaries, but this answers all the questions I had before cruising so late in the year so hopefully this helps you too! I’m also planning a guide to cruising in winter, so if you have any questions please let me know!

Love and Feathers, 
 The Owlet 💜 
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