Vacation Suggestions for Christmas

<i> Greenberg is a Los Angeles free-lance writer</i>

It’s only two weeks before Christmas and three weeks ahead of New Year’s Eve, and you still haven’t made your holiday vacation plans.

If you find yourself confronted with this dilemma, you’re not alone.

If you’re not going to have a Norman Rockwell Christmas, but you also don’t want to have a Charles Dickens one, there is hope.

Christmas and New Year’s travel alternatives range from a Christmas air safari over Africa and a Caribbean Christmas cruise, to New Year’s Eve aboard the Concorde and a trip to Angkor Wat.


For example, there’s still room at The Greenway, a British country house hotel in the Cotswolds. If you’re looking for a traditional Christmas, the Greenway has it.

The annual Christmas party at the small hotel involves a minimum of formality but a maximum of charm and style.

It starts with a candlelight dinner complete with musical entertainment. On Christmas Eve a Christmas carol service will be presented (with guests encouraged to participate), and owner Tony Elliott then leads guests to a church to celebrate Mass at midnight.

And there is a traditional Christmas Day feast. The hotel’s special Christmas tariff begins at $564 U.S. per person. For more information, call (800) 543-4135.


How about a cruise? Many cruise lines offer last-minute holiday excursions. Even at this writing, Christmas space is available on many lines.

For example, Sun Line’s 14-day Christmas-New Year’s cruise combines a holiday at sea in the Caribbean and a traditional Greek Christmas. The captain and crew dance native Greek dances and sing folk songs. Adult passengers will receive a complimentary spa stay. Children younger than 12 sail free.

Fares for the two-week cruise, which departs from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on Dec. 22, are from $3,220 per person. A one-week Ft. Lauderdale-Curacao segment costs $1,190 per person. See your travel agent.

Sun Lines is only one line offering special holiday cruises. some lines promote special Mexican Riviera cruises over Christmas, complete with Santa Claus. Almost all have last-minute space available. Others, such as Ocean Cruise Lines, offer discounts on Christmas cruises up and down the Amazon, or in Asia.


Royal Cruise Lines has a special Sydney-to-Auckland Christmas cruise. It starts with Christmas Eve dinner at the Sydney Opera House. And there are even shorter three- and four-day Christmas cruises from Miami and Los Angeles.

For the more adventurous, Mountain Travel (based in Albany, Calif.) has 17 exotic Christmas journeys, from Antarctica to treks in Nepal. For more information, call (415) 527-8100.

Abercrombie & Kent offers an upscale tented safari in Kenya, complete with a traditional Christmas dinner and even a Christmas tree.

Travel Corp. of America still has Christmas tours available. If you’ve always yearned to spend Christmas in Africa, the firm has a holiday tour through medieval Yemen.


Travel Corp. also has a special trip to India on Dec. 15 to Jan. 2. The tour will be in Agra at Christmas, coinciding with a full moon to view the Taj Mahal by. Christmas Eve will be spent with a drive to the Taj Mahal. The tour continues east to Bangkok and Hong Kong, with New Year’s Eve at the Peninsula Hotel. For more information, call (714) 476-2800.

In case you want one of the more unusual Christmases, Travel Corp. also fields two 16-day Christmas tours of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, in Cambodia. Departures are Dec. 19 and 26.

How about New Year’s Eve in Paris? Jet Vacations will fly you from New York City to France on the Concorde on Dec. 29. You’ll stay at the Hotel de Crillon for four nights. The price, including airport transfers, daily continental breakfasts and the Concorde, is $3,599 per person. Call (800) JET-2999 for more information.

Can’t think of a great last-minute Christmas gift?


British Airways sells “Gift of Travel” certificates. The certificates, which can be bought in any dollar amount, include virtually everything British Airways has to offer, from vacation packages in Britain, Ireland and Europe to hotel accommodations and motor-coach tours.

One package offered with a certificate purchase is “London on the Town,” a three-night, four-day program that includes air, hotel, continental breakfast and service charges for $499 per person (from East Coast gateways), double occupancy.

Dozens of major hotels and resorts are offering attractive last-minute Christmas packages, from the bare minimum (rooms sold at the hotel’s low weekend rates) to all-inclusive luxury Christmas-New Year’s packages.

Even if your favorite hotel isn’t offering a deal, you probably can negotiate on your own with the hotel, because most operate below 50% occupancy levels during these holidays.


If you’re worried about the recent increase in air fares, consider two options. If you’re a member of an airline’s frequent-flier program, use your accumulated mileage (some airlines have blackout periods, but none cover all of December).

If that’s not an option and you’re traveling within the United States, consider taking the train. No long lines at ticket counters, no air traffic control delays and, in many cases, it’s less expensive . . . and less crowded.