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Best Christmas Cruises 2014

Sail off into the sunset this Christmas.

Never beaten on price

There are so many great reasons to book a cruise at Christmas time: you can sail into sunnier climes, have someone else do the cooking and the washing up, and escape all the other potentially stressful aspects of the Season of Goodwill back home. And, of course, there's nothing cooler than being able to say you spent Christmas on the high seas...

Caribbean Princess cruise. Image by Daniel Dudek-Corrigan under Creative Commons license.

Christmas Market Mini Cruises

Maybe you want to get away from home over the festive period, but you still like the idea of a traditional Christmas celebration complete with twinkling fairy lights, decorative trees, mulled wine and - of course - cold weather? If so, a mini Christmas Market Cruise may be for you. On these short-haul excursions you can snuggle up in your cabin as you cross chilly seas, before dropping anchor in one of Europe's most picturesque ports.

Cruise & Maritime Voyages, for example, are offering a festive 3-day mini-cruise with dates available in mid-December. You'll stop off at Amsterdam and Antwerp to experience the sights, scents and seasonal delights of the two towns' legendary Christmas markets. What better and more relaxing way to do your Christmas shopping?

Cunard also operates a three-night cruise with stop-offs in Bruges, on board its luxurious Queen Elizabeth liner. Alternatively, you can experience the delights of the Dutch Christmas Markets on a mini cruise on board the same ship. Prices for both start at £299.

Christmas on the high seas

For those looking to spend Christmas Day itself on board, Brittany Ferries has a three-night cruise to Antwerp, which sets sail on Christmas Eve. With a festive, party atmosphere promised, tickets are available now from just £99 per person.

Cruising at Christmas. Image by Gail Frederick under Creative Commons license.

Cruise the Canaries

The Canary Islands are a fantastic cruising destination, and can be visited as part of a voyage around the coast of West Africa. Temperatures at Christmas time are in the low twenties with around seven hours of sun, so you'll sail into mild and pleasant climes; a dramatic departure from what you'll leave behind in the UK.

Sounds good? How about taking 14-night long cruise around the peaceful islands for your warmest and most laid-back Christmas yet. We've found one such tour with Fred Olsen, on board the modern and luxurious Braemer. You'll need to fly to Tenerife where the ship departs - but you'll probably be glad you flew over the choppy seas further North. Stop-offs include Gran Canaria, Madeira and Dakar, Senegal. And if you really want to (literally) push the boat out, the Braemer also hops between the Canaries and the Caribbean, with the option of staying on till New Year if your sea-legs and budget will allow it!

P&O is offering a similar canary islands cruise on board its 1000-cabin Oceana liner: this deal is a little cheaper from £999, and also includes a stop-off in Portugal. There's on board entertainment a-plenty with West-End style shows promised, as well as a relaxing spa and thermal suites.

Sail to the Northern Lights

Northern lights. Image by Jim Trodel under Creative Commons license.

If you want to see some seriously impressive Christmas lights this year, the Aurora Borealis will certainly put your neighbour's garish grotto to shame. There's arguably no better way to see the natural light show than by cruise ship, sailing across open ocean without the light pollution you'll encounter on dry land.

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines operates the 11-night 'In Search of the Northern Lights' cruise, which departs direct from Tilbury before heading North to skirt the entire Western coast of Norway. En route you'll enjoy stop-offs at historic sites, picturesque cities and ancient towns including Alesund and Tromso, before pressing on to the heart of the arctic circle - where you'll be best place to catch a glimpse of the beautiful and elusive lights. Prices start at £1,584.

Christmas in the Caribbean

For a festive experience you'll never forget, cruising the Caribbean takes some beating. So forget your ideas of a snowy, Northern hemisphere Christmas and embrace the sunshine on a cruise-of-a-lifetime on one of the world's largest and most sophisticated ships. The Carnival Freedom departs from Fort Lauderdale during the festive period, with deals currently starting at £1,549 per person, including flights from the UK. You'll then embark on an 11-day voyage with stop-offs at the Cayman Islands, Key West and Cozumel, Mexico. Expect a party atmosphere on board, and non-stop entertainment for those who want to celebrate the occasion in style.

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Written by Abi Silvester, a London-based writer and editor with a passion for great food, fine wine, coffee and cats; always planning my next trip! Follow her on Twitter.

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