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CLIA: Book winter travel now: The top seven holiday highlights

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Summer is coming to an end and it’s not too early to start thinking about winter travel. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, has revealed the top seven highlights of winter travel and why cruisers should book a holiday getaway now.
“The 2017 winter season has many opportunities to create a memorable cruise holiday,” said Cindy D’Aoust, president and CEO, CLIA. “Cruise lines continue to offer special holiday itineraries, destinations and onboard celebrations enticing travelers to set sail this winter and the 2017 season will prove to be full of unique, once-in-a-lifetime experiences.“
Top Seven Highlights of 2017 Holiday Travel:
1. Celebrate in the Sunshine:  Be it the beach or a storybook village in Europe, cruise travel in winter offers guests a chance to celebrate the holidays in unique ways.
Looking to celebrate the season on an island getaway? In December, Paul Gauguin offers a 7-night Tahiti & Society Islands Voyage on which cruisers can explore the best of the South Pacific, with stops in lush Huahine, beautiful Bora Bora and postcard-perfect Moorea. Cruisers can spend a relaxing day on Motu Mahana, the line’s private islet, complete with white-sand beaches, swaying palm trees, a barbecue lunch, drinks served in coconuts and a floating lagoon bar—a tropical alternative to a white Christmas.
Holiday vacationers can celebrate close to nature on the Silversea Cruises Silver Galapagos cruise. Nature lovers can skip chilly winter days at home to snorkel with sea lions and hike along lava tunnels and back to the beginning of time. Cruisers can experience tropical beauty and unbelievable wildlife—a perfect way to ring in the New Year.
Travelers aboard Crystal Cruises can celebrate the holidays in a variety of far and away destinations including the West Indies, Vienna, Bora Bora and more complete with multi-faith celebrations onboard. The line’s 16-day South African Holidays cruise sails round-trip from Cape Town, marking Crystal’s first-ever holiday voyage in Africa. Cruisers can enjoy Big Five safaris in South Africa and Mozambique, while authentic village feasts and visits highlight the rich culture of the region.
MSC Cruises brand new next-generation smart ship, MSC Seaside, will be christened in Miami in December 2017 and offer winter cruisers a unique Caribbean experience. The ship will feature a beach condo design, connect guests to the sea like never before with a 360o outdoor promenade, two glass-floor catwalks extending off the side of the ship and glass elevators with a panoramic ocean view—not a bad way to spend a winter day.
2. Special Seaside Celebrations: Winter on the water is bustling with special celebrations and holiday cheer. Cruise lines offer special holiday celebrations, decorations and holiday-themed destinations, so travelers boarding a ship in the winter need not leave holiday cheer stateside.
Over the holiday season, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection offers travelers a variety of festive journeys. A celebration of traditions and culture, Uniworld’s special Holiday Season Cruises allow guests to travel to multiple cities and countries during the most magical time of year. Beginning in late November, Uniworld offers seven holiday-themed cruises that travel through Germany, Hungary, Austria, Switzerland and France including a Rhine Holiday Markets tour that includes stops to see Strasbourg’s famous Marche de Noel, the oldest Christmas market in France and Rudesheim’s life-sized Nativity scene, one of the largest in Germany.
Disney Cruise Line celebrates the holiday season during Very Merrytime Cruises starting in early November aboard all four of the line’s ships. During these select voyages, events include: “Mickey’s Tree-Lighting Magic” in the atrium lobby featuring Disney characters in their winterbest, “Santa’s Winter Wonderland Ball” featuring Santa, Mrs. Claus and a grand celebration of favorite holiday tunes with an appearance by Anna and Elsa from “Frozen,” as well as holiday activities, carolers, holiday crafts and a special “Deck the Deck Holiday Party.” Special holiday décor adorns each ship from bow to stern, anchored by a three-deck-tall tree in the atrium lobby as well as “snow flurries,” holiday island music and a decked-out Christmas tree at Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises offers guests a chance to ring in the New Year far from home. On the line’s Seven Seas Voyager, guests can herald in the New Year 12-hours ahead of New York on the December 29, 2017 holiday voyage from Beijing (Tianjin) to Singapore on a renewed ship after a recent bow-to-stern refurbishment. This special 19-night holiday voyage will overnight in Shanghai on New Year’s Eve, so guests can join in the celebration in one of the largest cities in the world.
Azamara Club Cruises brings guests to the other side of the world for the holidays with a sailing from Western to Southern Australia aboard the Azamara Quest. Guests indulge in a celebratory Christmas feast at sea followed by a New Year’s Eve air show and magical Harbour of Light Parade in Sydney Harbour. Once the clock strikes midnight, fireworks explode over the bridge and Sydney Opera House for a once-in-a-lifetime memory.
3. Christmas Market Magic: Europe is home to some of the most famous Christmas markets in the world, complete with ornaments, handmade gifts and plenty of holiday cheer. Cruise travelers looking to fully engulf themselves in the holiday spirit can cruise to these markets and sip traditional mulled wine along the way.
Cruisers onboard Tauck’s Christmas Markets Along the Rhine cruise will experience holiday magic from Cologne, Germany to Basel, Switzerland in an intimate setting with a maximum capacity of 130 guests. Travelers can enjoy guided visits to traditional Christmas markets, walking tours of market towns, visits to Old Town Heidelberg and Heidelberg Castle, a traditional German lunch in Heidelberg, cookie-baking demonstration in Rudesheim and a traditional storytelling demo in Strasbourg.
Avalon Waterways offers a Christmastime on the Danube itinerary in which travelers can enjoy the sights and wonder of some of Europe’s finest Christmas markets to peruse an array of Christmas tree ornaments, wooden toys and Czech handicrafts. On this journey, cruisers can also explore Nuremberg, the thousand-year-old city with its medieval fortifications and gothic churches and later the famed Astronomical Clock in Prague’s Old Town.
Cruisers looking for a shorter trip to the markets can hop onboard Cunard Line’s Bruges Short Break Getaway on the line’s Queen Elizabeth ship for a three-day winter holiday. Travelers can explore Bruges and its famous Christmas market filled with traditional gifts, chocolates and the scent of waffles.  Cruisers can also take advantage of the wooden chalets that surround an ice rink on the cobbles of Grote Market for a unique holiday experience.
4. Conversations & Special Guests Winter travel offers a unique chance to explore the world and cultures, but travelers can also heat up their minds in the chilly winter months with educational onboard lectures and seminars from renowned thought leaders in a variety of areas including: health and fitness; food and wine; technology; music; entrepreneurism and more.
Seabourn Cruise Line offers a variety of special guests and speakers onboard their cruise ships headed to many different destinations with their Seabourn Conversations series. For example, Steve Wozniak—designer of the hardware, circuit board designs and operating system for the Apple I personal computer—will be hosting a conversation onboard the Seabourn Quest in December 2017 for tech-loving travelers. Fashion-loving cruise travelers can enjoy a December evening with celebrity stylist and TV personality Brad Goreski on Seabourn’s Sojourn while those looking to learn a bit about etiquette can listen in on a conversation with Grant Harrold, Britain’s Official Etiquette Expert, “Royal Butler,” and leader of The Royal School of Etiquette and Butlers.
5. Holiday Fun for Families: Cruise travelers looking to fully embrace the winter and holiday season with the whole family can feel at home on a cruise vacation.  Family cruise travelers looking to enchant their younger travel partners with holiday cheer can find special kid-friendly holiday cruise itineraries and even special visits from Santa Claus himself. Families of all ages can enjoy traditional holiday feasts and activities, as well.
Carnival Cruise Line which, onboard holiday cruises, are decked out in holiday décor and feature Santa Claus toting a bag of gifts for children, as well as Midnight Mass and a special Christmas Day menu featuring Roast Tom Turkey and pecan pie. Looking for a unique special guest? For Carnival’s holiday sailings, in partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the Grinch will make special onboard appearances for photos, in the holiday show and themed kids camp activities.
Whether traveling for Christmas or New Year’s Eve, many lines including Costa Cruises offer itineraries that celebrate both. On Costa Cruises’ Costa Deliziosa cruisers can enjoy a seven-course Christmas dinner featuring Italian specialties will be served on Christmas Eve, and a mass will be held onboard in addition to Christmas caroling and holiday arts and crafts as well as a visit from Santa. Their New Year’s cruise includes New Year’s Eve celebrations kicked off with a lavish six-course dinner followed by a holiday party with live music, DJ and a countdown clock. The festivities carry on after midnight with a special midnight buffet and dancing in the disco until the early morning.
6. Experts at the Helm: Cruising offers a chance to see beautiful corners of the world alongside crew and guides that love the land and can offer great insight as to what to see, do and eat in each destination. Having knowledgeable experts at their sides, travelers can experience once-in-a-lifetime trips full of amazing memories.
In January of 2018, cruisers onboard Windstar Cruises’ President’s Cruise to The Best of the Philippines and Borneo with Windstar President John Delaney, will enjoy a bit of a homecoming for much of the ship’s Philippines-born crew. As such, cruisers will have the chance to explore the culture and country alongside those who love and know it best with a chance to also spend time with Windstar’s President. Cruisers will visit islands and beaches like Palawan and Boracay, as well as Hundred Islands National Park. A visit to Brunei will take guests inside one of the wealthiest countries on the planet, affording a look at some of the largest and most beautiful mosques in Asia.
7. Deals & Discounts: The holidays can be a great time for finding deals and discounts on cruise travel, especially when working with a cruise-certified travel agent who can help navigate the waters of vacation planning. Even for travelers looking on their own, many lines offer discounts on holiday voyages.
To help travelers experience the holiday season for less, AmaWaterways is currently offering up to $1,500 off per stateroom now through September 30 for select Christmas Markets departure dates.  These discounted sailings include trips to the Christmas markets on the Rhine or Danube, voyages from Budapest to Amsterdam and more.
Travelers can explore these destinations by booking a cruise with a CLIA Certified Cruise Agent at http://cruising.org/cruise-vacationer/cruise-travel-guide/clia-agent-finder.

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