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Sunday, January 15, 2023

Christmas & New Year's Cruises - Celebrity Summit & Disney Fantasy!

Ahoy! It's time for another Christmas Cruise.... and New Year's cruise review!

This year's Christmas/New Year's vacation was elaborate in both planning and executions, so in order to set the stage, I'm dedicating an entire post to the story of how our Christmas Cruise - WDW - NYE Cruise vacation came to be.

Disney Fantasy and Celebrity Summit

If you've been following the blog for awhile now, you probably know that it is Shinglebell family tradition to cruise over Christmas. From 2009 to 2019, my sister Rachel and our parents (a.k.a. Stove and Judy) would meet together and set sail to spend the holiday at sea. However, we introduced our boyfriends into the mix, and Christmases became more complicated. Back in 2020, Rachel and I came to the conclusion that we could alternate Christmases every-other-year with our family and our boyfriends' families. Since the cruising industry was not yet open in 2020, Rachel and I offered the first year to our boyfriends' families with the hope that cruising would return by 2021 in time for a Christmas cruise. And it did! (See my Trip Report for our 2021 Christmas on NCL Encore.)

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That brings us to 2022.... a boyfriend Christmas year.

My boyfriend, Aaron, has (thankfully!) grown to really enjoy cruising. When we started to talk about how we would spend Christmas with his family, Aaron suggested that his parents would enjoy a cruise. Actually, Aaron thought everyone would enjoy a cruise. He envisioned a Christmas cruise with his parents, my parents, Rachel, Landon, Landon's parents, Landon's siblings - bring everyone! We floated the idea to Rachel and Landon, but because Landon has grandparents and siblings to account for, it seemed a little too complicated for this year.

So Aaron and I continued to explore the idea of a cruise over Christmas with his parents. There was one caveat: Aaron's parents are devout Catholics and must attend Christmas Mass led by a Catholic Priest. This meant that our cruise search was narrowed to cruise lines that have Catholic Priests onboard. I started doing some research, and thanks to The Catholic Travel Guide, I learned that Holland America has Catholic Priests on every sailing, and Celebrity and Norwegian guarantee Catholic Priests on Christmas sailings. (Royal Caribbean has stated that they intend to have Catholic Priests on Christmas cruises, but as of April 2022, it is not a guarantee.)

We sailed Norwegian over Christmas last year, and Aaron was a little disappointed in the overall Christmas ambiance onboard. We also wanted to find a more "traditional" cruise line for his parents' first cruise. Freestyle cruising is great, but we were hoping to give his parents a more formal first experience. I've never sailed Holland America, but HAL was offering only 7+ night cruises over Christmas, and we were hoping to find something a little shorter for Aaron's parents' first cruise. Which brought us to the Celebrity Summit 5-night Caribbean Cruise sailing from Miami to Cozumel and Grand Cayman. Over 4th of July weekend, Celebrity was having a massive sitewide sale (60% off second guest), so we jumped on it and booked two verandah staterooms. We opted for "All Inclusive" fare for Aaron and myself (includes the Classic Drink Package, Basic Wifi, and Gratuities), and "Cruise Only" fare for Aaron's parents.

To select the Shinglebells New Years cruise, we work from a spreadsheet -

NYE Cruise Spreadsheet

Originally, my preference was Oasis of the Seas because it went to both RCCL private islands - Labadee and CocoCay. However, Rachel was more interested in the longer itinerary and new-to-us ship class with the Odyssey of the Seas. As we hesitated to book, the fares went up (in the spreadsheet above, red indicates an increase in fare since last tracked). And then there was a surprise.... 

I work for The Walt Disney Company, and Disney Cruise Line offers discounted rates on select itineraries to TWDC employees. Itineraries typically become available closer to the date of sail, and more popular itineraries typically are not released for cast rates. I figured that there was a slim chance that a New Year's Cruise would become available. However, in August I was checking spreadsheet which lists which itineraries available for Cast Discount, and the Disney Fantasy New Year's Eve Western Caribbean cruise from Port Canaveral appeared on that list. The discount was significant, making the fare nearly half that of the cruises we were considering on Royal. We jumped on it, and I booked three Guarantee Navigator's Verandah Staterooms.

Our Celebrity Summit cruise returned to Miami on December 27, and the Disney Fantasy departed from Port Canaveral on December 31. What better way to spend the few days between than at Walt Disney World?! This is a very popular time to visit the parks, so resorts were almost entirely booked. I figured out that the key was to narrow my search for rooms for 2 people, rather than 4 people. By doing that, I was able to book three Premium King Rooms at Coronado Springs Resort (full disclosure: also at a discounted cast rate).

Since we were with first-time cruisers, and on vacation for so long, I was much more hands-on with pre-cruise planning than I've been in recent years. I created a master spreadsheet to keep track of our itinerary, flights, hotel reservations, expenses, packing list, and to-do list. I also booked all of our excursions in advance (no winging it!).

Master Spreadsheet

And of course, I documented all of it for a detailed photo recap! Now who's ready to set sail for a holiday extravaganza?! All aboard!!

Celebrity Summit Christmas Cruise - Pre-Cruise Miami

Celebrity Summit Christmas Cruise - [Day 1] Miami Embarkation

Celebrity Summit Christmas Cruise - [Day 2] At Sea

Celebrity Summit Christmas Cruise - [Day 3] Best of Cozumel

Celebrity Summit Christmas Cruise - [Day 4] Grand Cayman

Celebrity Summit Christmas Cruise - [Day 5] At Sea

Celebrity Summit Christmas Cruise - Post-Cruise Miami

Walt Disney World - Coronado Springs Resort

Walt Disney World - Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot

Walt Disney World - Epcot and Hollywood Studios

Disney Fantasy New Year's Cruise - [Day 1] New Year's Eve

Disney Fantasy New Year's Cruise - [Day 2] At Sea

Disney Fantasy New Year's Cruise - [Day 3] Cozumel

Disney Fantasy New Year's Cruise - [Day 4] Palo Brunch & Pirate Night

Disney Fantasy New Year's Cruise - [Day 5] Falmouth, Jamaica

Disney Fantasy New Year's Cruise - [Day 6] At Sea

Disney Fantasy New Year's Cruise - [Day 7] Castaway Cay

2 comments:

  1. Great minds think alike; I always do a spreadsheet for cruises too

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    Replies
    1. I've recently entered my spreadsheet phase, and it's lifechanging.

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