If you're hoping to avoid holiday craziness by sailing off into the sunset in December, you're heading in the wrong direction. The world's cruise ships are decorated in red-and-green finery, with grinning snowmen, grouchy Grinches and a forest of decorated trees.
Carnival Cruise Line, for instance, estimates it has decorated more than 550 Christmas trees — and used 56,000 feet of garland and 28.4 miles of ribbon— to deck the halls of its 26 ships. It takes about a dozen people per ship to complete the onboard decorations.
Riverside resident Joy Ramos thinks the effort is worth it. I ran into her recently at the Port of Long Beach as Carnival Imagination prepared to set sail on a three-night trip to Ensenada, Mexico. Ramos and 85 friends were getting acquainted with the ship before it sailed.
She was shooting selfies with her group -- "all of us love to dance and love to cruise together"-- in front of a giant Christmas tree in the ship's multistory atrium lobby.
"I love this tree," she said. "They did such an effective job with the lights. It's just beautiful."
And Carnival is not alone. A few days after Imagination sailed south, I stopped by San Pedro's Port of Los Angeles to look at the well-decked halls of Crystal Serenity, which was getting ready for a Pacific Coast voyage.
The ship had just emerged from a four-week dry dock, where it was extensively refurbished with new restaurants, open-seating dining, redesigned lounge and entertainment venues, two new penthouses and a beefed-up tech center.
If you're a Crystal fan, don't worry, the ship hasn't lost its elegant appeal. You'll still be able to spend time toasting your friends in the clubby Avenue Saloon, surrounded by mahogany woods and a make-believe Santa or two, if you sail before the holiday season is over.
Other Christmas decor includes a soaring snow-covered holiday scene in the lobby, with three trees and a Santa, in addition to snowmen, Santas and other Christmas decorations throughout the ship.
If you like snow, Princess Cruises will host daily snowfalls scheduled aboard most December sailings. The white Christmas look is being created in the ships' atriums with the help of snow-making machines.
Other holiday preparations on Princess include a show on Christmas Eve, parades, a Christmas carol pop star talent show, holiday films and an on-board reading of "A Visit From St. Nicholas."
Another surprise on Princess: Cabins feature virtual Yule logs.
Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean International has some surprises planned for its 25 ships too.
Passengers are gathering for ugly sweater parties, decorating gingerbread men in crafts classes, joining in themed scavenger hunts and lining up to visit the milk-and-cookies corner nightly in Windjammer Marketplace, the line's global culinary pavilion.
In addition to decking its halls with traditional Christmas decor, Royal Caribbean also celebrated Hanukkah earlier in December with menorah lightings nightly and Hanukkah-inspired dishes. A rabbi was on board for services.
The rivers of North America are also the site of water-borne celebrations this month. American Cruise Lines, which operates river and coastal ships, is taking passengers on holiday voyages that not only feature decorated ships, but also visit locales known for fanciful and elaborate decor.
One of these is the line's Colonial Holiday Cruise, which stops in Virginia at Williamsburg, Norfolk and Yorktown, among other ports. The cruise includes fireworks displays, festivals of lights and illuminated boat parades.
Cruises along the Mississippi River feature handsomely decorated plantations and cities.