Who says you have to be home to enjoy the holidays?


October 18, 1992|By JoAnne C. Broadwater

If you wish for it, this could be the Christmas that finds you dancing the night away in the grand ballroom of an elegant resort. The air outside will be cold and crisp when you stop to catch your breath, but you can sit by a warm fire, sip hot chocolate, nibble cookies and join in the singing of Christmas carols.

Or, if you prefer, a balmier Christmas can be yours. Open your presents under a beautifully decorated tree, then put on a bathing suit and lie by a pool or stroll along a Caribbean beach.

A yuletide vacation offers all of the festivities and none of the hassles of a holiday at home. It just might be the perfect gift for Santa to pull out of his bag this year.

Families -- be they large or small -- can gather together on neutral territory where the Christmas cheer is plentiful and nobody gets stuck with the cleaning, the cooking or the dishes.

With the right destination, a vacation spot can become a home away from home for the holidays. Make your plans early.

Holiday cruises

If sunny skies and tropical breezes are your idea of a Christmas wonderland, how about some cruising and island-hopping in the Caribbean this year?

"The holiday season is a joyous, fun time to be away," says Rich Steck, spokesman for the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.

"Where else on Christmas Day can you lounge around the pool or sip a pina colada on a sun-swept, palm-fringed beach?" adds Larry Dessler, director of marketing for the Holland America Line. "Going on a cruise is the perfect venue for families to get together."

While the weather outside may be seem unseasonably warm, the inside of a cruise ship is true to the holiday season -- decorated from stem to stern with garlands, wreaths, seasonal floral arrangements and fabulous trees.

"There isn't a corner on board that you can turn to without seeing the spirit of the season," Mr. Dessler says.

Cruise ships, which are noted for their lavish meals, busy activity schedules and fabulous entertainment, are especially festive during the holidays. There are tree-decorating parties, holiday movies and dances, as well as seasonal music, children's activities, traditional holiday meals and religious observances.

The Holland America crew forms a choir, inviting passengers to join in a performance of international carols. Santa Claus arrives by lifeboat to give children their gifts.

Maizie Gibson and her husband, Leroy, took a two-week Holland America holiday cruise with friends a few years ago. The Gibsons, who are both retired from the Baltimore city public school system and live in the Village of Cross Keys, are veteran cruisers who have logged more than 40,000 miles at sea.

"It was fantastic," says Mrs. Gibson. "The atmosphere was just so uplifting. We were at sea on Christmas Day. We took presents to exchange and we also had presents in our cabin from family members. And on New Year's Eve there was a conga line that went around the whole ship. That was when we had the most fun. The biggest parties were that night . . . and there was lots of entertainment in the lounges."

The Cunningham family celebrated Christmas early at their Baltimore County home last year and then flew to Florida for a seven-day holiday voyage with Carnival Cruise Lines.

"It was a different Christmas," says Patricia Cunningham, who loved the warm holiday she spent with her husband, Jerry, and their 14-year-old son. They plan to go again this year.

"It's the one you'll always remember," she says. "On Christmas Day we landed on the island of Dominica and a steel band was playing calypso music. The day after Christmas I was putting on suntan lotion."

For information about holiday cruises, contact a travel agent or cruise lines such as:

* Holland America Line: seven-day cruises start at $1,830.

* Royal Caribbean Cruise Line: four-day cruises start at $725; seven-day cruises at $1,465.

* Carnival Cruise Lines: three-day cruises start at $654; seven-day cruises at $1,424.

, All prices include air fare.

Christmas at the Greenbrier

For a traditional and elegant Christmas, you may want to visit the Greenbrier, an exclusive resort surrounded by 6,500 acres of Allegheny Mountain woodland in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.

During the 12 days of Christmas celebration at the Greenbrier, grand lobbies, ballrooms and dining areas are resplendent with thousands of poinsettias and dozens of formally decorated trees. Outside the front entrance, ice sculptures shimmer in the sunshine.

"It's absolutely breathtaking," says Susan Laubach of Baltimore, who spends the New Year's holiday at the Greenbrier with her husband each year. "It's one of the most beautiful places we've ever been. It's very luxurious but cozy. There's a huge fireplace and a big fire going all the time. People enjoy reading books and playing bridge in front of the fire."

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