Year after year, you tell yourself this time will be different. You'll be prepared, you'll have a game plan, and you won't crack under the pressure. But year after year, you fall into the same old trap -- rushing around at the last minute, trying to get all your holiday shopping done in time for the festivities, and inevitably walking away with picked-over socks and stale fruit cake.
Cruise Critic knows exactly how you feel. So forget the screaming kids, rude salespeople and crowded malls. Since Christmas is just around the hull, we've made our list of the greatest holiday gifts for cruisers -- and checked it twice -- to lend you a helping hand this season. From books to water bottles, we've outlined the best of the best.
So what do you get the cruiser who has everything? Well, that's obvious: a cruise! This year Carnival's really promoting cruise travel as a great gift (seems like a brilliant gimmick) and if you've achieved past-guest status you can purchase one with a reasonable discount but still look like a Rockefeller to your lucky recipient. Prices start from $249 for a four-night Western Caribbean sailing on Fascination, and free upgrades are available for those who book before December 31, 2005. Not sure which line to pick? Travel agencies will be happy to sell you gift certificates that your recipient can use to choose his own cruise.
But there are other, just as nice ways, to honor the cruise traveler in your nearest and dearest. Here are some ideas:
Tasty Holiday Treats
This holiday season, you can bring a taste of the Caribbean to your loved ones. The number one exports of the Cayman Islands, Tortuga Rum Cakes ($25) have been a favorite treat of Caribbean cruisers for years. The new cake flavor, spiced with cinnamon and studded with plump raisins, is a tropical gourmet treat fit for a ship's godmother.
You might not be able to afford buying a real ship for your loved one, but you can certainly afford to buy a chocolate one! Carnival's six-ounce solid semi-sweet chocolate Fun Ships($11.50) come with the Carnival logo and state-of-the-art funnel, and are a sure-fire way to please any sweet tooth.
Stocking Stuffers to Scream For
If you know someone who loves to cruise but succumbs to some unpleasant doses of sea sickness, BioBands ($12.85) is the answer -- and the perfect gift. The acupressure wrist bands control nausea that comes with rough seas without drugs or side effects. Adjustable for maximum comfort, BioBands can quench any queasiness.
Captain's wife Joyce Gleeson-Adamidis, who pens Cruise Critic's popular Under the Captain's Table column, came to us after she'd written her first book: If I Were Not Upon The Sea. If you think she's candid about what goes on below decks in her column, her book is even more explosive!
Rain or shine, a cruiser will never miss a chance to explore a port of call. Soleil Chic has designed umbrellas ($31.95) with just that attitude in mind. The umbrellas not only block the rain, but are UV-proof as well, and come in several sizes with matching totes.
No cruise is complete without the stateroom mascot -- the unique towel animal Carnival has become famous for that sits eagerly on your bed awaiting your arrival each night. The cruise line has release a new instructional book ($12.95) offering step-by-step directions, along with accompanying photos for guests wishing to recreate these creatures back home.
A book that truly captures the essence of cruising, What Time is the Midnight Buffet? ($12.95) is a humorous and entertaining read by chesterh (otherwise known as Richard Holleran), a self-proclaimed computer geek hailing from New Hampshire who cruises regularly with his wife. This book has everything from travel tips to plot twists to a pronunciation guide.
No cruiser wants to be hassled with technicalities once onboard, that's why Bumps B Gone Travel Hangers ($12.85) are a packer's prime present. Made of soft, padded foam and sturdy plastic, these bendable folding hangers let shirts drip-dry without bumpy bulges at the shoulders, and thin-strapped garments stay firmly in place.
The Queen Mary 2 is one of the most impressive and luxurious cruise ships in history, and with the special DVD Come Aboard the Queen Mary 2 to Rio ($19.99), cruisers can relive the maiden voyage of this special vessel from London to Rio. Cruise authority Doug Jones directs and narrated the eighty-five minutes of footage that highlights the unforgettable voyage.
Perfect for the cruiser who loves some fun in the sun, the Panama Jack Cabin Cruise Collection($35) says you care. A bamboo gift basket is stuffed with premium First Cabin Suncare products, such as exotic tanning oils and waterproof sunblock, and the free Panama Jack canvas tote makes a great beach bag.
Make your Christmas gift truly one to remember with a personalized illustration from Whimsies Personalized Cartoons ($8.95). The design features a personalized cruise ship imprinted with their name and any other expressions you would like to add. Whimsies can change hair color, length and style, as well as skin tone.
On active adventures in exotic ports of call, cruisers can be left dehydrated with no safe water sources in sight. The Katadyn Water Bottle ($44.85) enables you to drink from any fresh water source in the world you choose without the worry of getting sick. It purifies as you go, eliminating protozoa, bacteria, viruses and bad-tasting chemicals.
Every experienced cruiser knows there's nothing harder to find on a ship than a good cup of joe. The Unbreakable French Press Carafe ($14.85) lets you brew a delicious cup of coffee anywhere you go in just five minutes. Made of unbreakable polycarbonate with a stainless steel rod and screen, the carafe will withstand any travel pressure you can muster.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so it should have the perfect frame. Photoboats ($29.95) displays your cruise-worthy photograph on its main sail and your message or name on the jib sail. Silk sails are set in position and the base is at an angle to give the boat a more windblown appearance.
Reports that toothbrushes carry more bacteria than your kitchen sink (perhaps we exaggerate a tad, but still) -- and the fact that cabin bathrooms are awfully compact, with the toilet right up against the sink -- encouraged us to pack the Vio Light Travel Deluxe Ultraviolet Toothbrush Sanitizer. Selling for $29.95, it's sleek and compact and operates on AA batteries.
The South Pacific has become the hottest up-and-coming cruising region, with sailings selling out so fast it'll leave your head spinning. Landfalls of Paradise: Cruising Guide to the Pacific Islands is the best book for any cruiser who wants to be in the know about the latest trends in the industry.
Get your cruise-lover a beautiful keepsake to treasure. Monarchs of the Sea: The Great Ocean Liners ($47.25) is a must-have coffee table book for ship enthusiast. Monarchs of the Sea chronicles great vessels such as the Mayflower, Imperator, Ile de France, Normandie, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, providing interesting facts, figures, personal accounts, photographs, plans and cutaways.
Whether it's a cruiser who has yet to embark on their latest voyage or one that wants to relive past adventures, the Ultimate Cruise Collection ($29.99) six-disk DVD set has over eight hours of cruising footage. The collection whisks you away to exotic ports in Alaska, Hawaii, Tahiti, Mexico, the Caribbean and Northern Europe, highlighting the top attractions in each destination.
The Ultimate Wish List
Do as the locals do -- or in this case, talk like they do. The Ten-Language Talking Translator contains 200,000 words and 23,000 phrases per language, both orally and in writing in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. It also includes a currency and metric converter, calculator and databank, and gives the time in 200 cities.
Nothing says "I love you" like jewelry. Seawear Boat Yacht Jewelry's 14k-gold cruise ship pieces are sure to make any cruiser smile. Sleek ocean liner pendants, nautical cuff links and ocean-wave wedding bands are great options for splurging on that special someone this season.
It's all about strategy, and the Captain's Cottage nautical chess sets ($260 - 500) are an elegant and classy twist on an old favorite. Pieces are sculpted into unique seafaring characters such as mermaids, seahorses and lighthouses, and if ordered before December 15, 2005, you'll receive free shipping on your order.
, which launched in 1995, is a comprehensive cruise vacation planning guide providing objective cruise ship reviews, cruise line profiles, destination content on 125+ worldwide ports, cruise bargains, tips, industry news, and cruise message boards.
Cruise Critic has been honored by the Society of American Travel Writers with its Lowell Thomas Award and has been named named in Travel + Leisure's "Best 35 Travel Sites" list.