Christmas in July: book now for holiday cruise deals

With the heat wave that’s been sweeping much of the nation, thinking ahead to the winter holidays might seem a bit counterintuitive. But there’s good reason to be contemplating Christmas in July, now that numerous cruise lines have announced early-booking discounts geared toward holidays on the high seas.

This year, leave the holiday hassles back on shore in favor of the festive décor, special activities and sumptuous traditional meals set to be served up by these merry-minded cruise lines and get your clan onboard for a new holiday tradition: adventure!

High-adrenaline holidays on adventure voyages

Why should Santa and those reindeer be the only ones to enjoy some thrills this year? Head out for a wilderness- and wildlife-themed, naturalist-guided weeklong adventure aboard the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Journeys in the Sea of Cortez Christmas sailing to Mexico’s Baja California aboard the 62-passenger National Geographic Sea Bird. Book by September 30, and the kiddies (one per paying adult) save 50 percent (embarks December 21; discount rates from $4,990/adults; $2,495/kids).

Cruceros Australis comps kids (ages 15 and under; one per adult) completely on its Christmas in Patagonia cruise to this legendary land of fjords and glaciers; a duo of 4-night voyages embark December 21 aboard the 210-passenger Stella Australis from Punta Arenas, Chile, to Ushuaia, Argentina, or, vice versa on the 136-passenger Via Australis (rates from $2,340/adults).

For a splurge-worthy white Christmas like no other, make your way farther south to the Antarctic aboard Crystal Cruises’ luxury 922-passenger Crystal Symphony, set to be bedecked in lavish holiday trimmings. Sailing from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso, Chile, the epic 17-night Antarctic Holiday itinerary, embarking December 21, explores far-flung locales from the White Continent to the Falkland Islands to Chilean fjords (book by August 30 for further reduced two-for-one fares; promotional rates from $9,740/person).

Jolly journeys for beach bums

Several major cruise lines have just launched holiday cruise sales, with sailings set for sun, surf, sand and Santa. Cruise on Celebrity’s 7-night South Caribbean Christmas itinerary on the newly revamped 2,158-passenger Celebrity Summit and get up to $1,000 in onboard spending credit. Sailing from San Juan, Puerto Rico, on December 21, spend Christmas week island-hopping in the Caribbean to the U.S. Virgin Islands, Dominica and more (deal ends on August 25; fares from $799/person).

Carnival, too, has posted special savings of $450 to $700 off per stateroom on select holiday voyages to the Caribbean, Bahamas and Mexican Riviera. We like their quickie 4-night Bahamas cruises from Orlando aboard the 2,052-passenger Carnival Sensation (deal ends July 31; embarks December 22 or 29; reduced rates from $369/adults; $339/kids). Or, set out to the Bahamas from the New York City area on Royal Caribbean’s 7-night Holiday Bahamas cruise aboard the 3,114-passenger Explorer of the Seas. Nab up to $200 in onboard credit thanks to a new holiday promotion for select late-December sailings (deal ends July 31; embarks December 29; rates from $709/person; $599 for third/fourth berths in select cabins).

For a an upgraded beach escape, luxury Oceania Cruises is offering a 12-night Tropical Holidays voyage aboard the 1,250-passenger Riviera. Embarking on December 22 from Miami, port calls on the plush liner include Turks and Caicos, Barbados, St. Bart’s and more (deal ends August 31; book further reduced two-for-one fares from $4,498/person, plus get free airfare from select U.S. cities).

Amp up your beach vacation with a little adventure. Look to small-ship cruise expert AdventureSmith Explorations’ 7-night Christmas itinerary aboard new luxury mega-yacht, the 72-passenger Variety Voyager. Embarking December 22, cruise from Costa Rica through the Panama Canal and on to Cartagena, Colombia, with just-reduced rates of 25 percent off (deal ends September 30; promo rates from $1,943/person; save 35-50 percent on kids’ rates). Or have a Hawaii Seascapes holiday with Un-Cruise Adventures and save $400 per person on the 7-night Hawaiian island-hopper itinerary — featuring stops for whale-watching, snorkeling with manta rays and more — aboard the 36-guest Safari Explorer (deal ends August 30; embarks December 21 or 28; promo rates from $4,495/person).

Merry river cruises for culture vultures

River cruising offers front-row seating to a country’s heartland and easy access to some of its most culturally rich settlements. Look to European waterways for an old-world Christmas steeped in tradition, complete with medieval churches, festive decorations and world-famous Christmas markets. Avalon Waterways has posted a sale of $500 off per cabin for select Christmas cruises — we like their 8-night Christmastime on the Danube voyage aboard the 166-passenger Avalon Vista, embarking on Christmas Day in Prague and following the Danube along to Vienna for a New Year’s Eve gala and firework-fueled finale (deal ends on August 13; discounted rates from $1,969/person).

Viking River Cruises is also running a promotion on all its holiday cruises, featuring two-for-one cruise rates and airfares. Try their 7-night Christmas and New Year’s Eve Rhine Getaway itinerary, cruising the Rhine River from Basel, Switzerland, to Amsterdam aboard the brand-new Viking longship, the 190-passenger Viking Baldur (deal ends July 31; embarks December 24; promotional rates from $2,556/person).

Other top picks include Grand Circle Cruise Line’s already affordable 7-night Christmastime on the Seine, embarking December 20 on the 120-passenger M/S Bizet. Sailing from Paris to Rouen and more French ports for special Noel markets and concerts, fares have just been slashed by up to $600 per cabin (discounted rates from $1,145/person).

On the home front, check out American Cruise Lines’ Cajun Christmas Southern-inspired Mississippi River sailing on December 21, aboard the 150-passenger Queen of the Mississippi paddle wheeler. Leaving from New Orleans, guests will be treated to traditional Christmas Eve bonfires on the levees of Louisiana and an onboard Réveillon-style (a New Orleans Creole tradition) feast. Book by September 15 for a complimentary pre- or post-cruise hotel stay, $1,000 off per stateroom and complimentary shore excursions (promotional rates from $3,695/adults; $1,500/kids).