Must-See Destinations for the Holidays

From lighting a menorah in Jerusalem to dancing in the street competitions of Rio de Janeiro, here are a list of not-to-be-missed celebrations in world-class destinations.
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Royal Caribbean helps vacationers make the most of their holiday memories, no matter which traditions you celebrate.

Credit: Royal caribbean

One of the most wonderful times of the year is the holidays, and with so many different cultures and communities around the world, there is a lot to celebrate with family and friends year round. Whether you’re looking to revel in the festival of lights in Dubai, get lost in samba on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, or watch the ball drop in the city that never sleeps, your next celebration is just around the corner.

If you’re planning to travel somewhere in the midst of a holiday celebration—or looking for some wanderlust inspiration—keep reading for a list of the top destinations that should be on your radar.

Spectrum of the Seas, a Quantum Ultra Class ship, calls Shanghai home, sailing to destinations throughout China, Japan and Russia. Custom built for the Chinese market, the ship debuted the first private enclave for suite guests, AR experiences and innovative dining concepts.

Credit: Royal Caribbean

China–Shanghai

What better way to sail into Fall than reuniting with family to discover new places and enjoy cherished destinations across China and Japan? In China specifically, there’s no better time than Golden Week–the first week of October–right when the weather becomes clear and the air crisp. Cross off an item on your bucket list by observing the national flag raising ceremony at Tiananmen Square in Beijing before enjoying festive song and dance shows, plus a firework and light display that is out of this world. Pro tip: Golden Week is also a great time to snag some of the best deals with big discounts at local boutiques and shopping malls.

Explore cruises to China here, including a special sailing on Spectrum of the Seas for the weeklong celebration.

United Arab Emirates–Dubai

There’s no place for jaw-dropping adventures and experiences like Dubai. As the city that continually ups the ante in luxury living, it’s no wonder that this is the place to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, alongside the city’s large Hindu population. Every November, sing along to the Bollywood-inspired, live performances, shop the colorful Diwali Mela market at Al Seef – that’s Dubai’s historic district – and enjoy traditional Indian dishes and delicacies, all in celebration of Diwali.

Don’t miss the chance to sail to the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, among other Arabian Gulf destinations, during the winter season. Book here.

Germany–Hamburg

One of the most special times of the year is even extra special in Germany, the home of the advent calendar and St. Nicholas—the original Santa Claus. Gaze at the fitted trees all throughout cities (think Berlin, Munich, Cologne, Hamburg and more!) and wander the festival markets for fresh gingerbread, Christmas cookies, mulled wine or your next memento. Don’t let Krampus ruin the merriment.

Discover Hamburg when Anthem of the Seas sails to Germany in May 2020, including visits to Belgium, Norway and France. Find more here.

Israel–Jerusalem

Visit the Holy Land and participate in a different type of festival of lights with the lighting of the menorah. During Hanukkah, Israel transforms into a place of magic with a multitude of festivals, including the Ein Yael Oil Festival, where you can learn to produce olive oil the old-fashioned way. Go back in time and relive the country’s history with its annual Torch Relay in Modi’in, a city right outside Tel Aviv. Witness the passing of a burning torch down a line that stretches to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, where it will light a giant menorah for a truly one-of-a-kind experience.

Check out select cruises to Israel here, when we head to the Holy Land next October.

Between the energy, the lights, and the spirit in the air, there’s nowhere in the world quite like New York City during the holidays.

Credit: Royal Caribbean

United States–New York City

We’d never snooze on the city that never sleeps—especially not during the holidays. Whether we’re hopping between art galleries, enjoying a gastronomical journey with a bevy of modern and traditional restaurants, discovering hidden gems, watching the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square or admiring the Christmas windows on the streets of Fifth Avenue, New York is magical. Our favorite thing to do during this festive time of year? Ice skating and finding Christmas trinkets at Bryant Park. Pro tip: The newly amplified Oasis of the Seas arrives to the New York area in May 2020, sailing seven-night itineraries from Bayonne, New Jersey.  

Click here to start planning your cruise to locales like Bermuda, The Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay, and Canada and New England.

Brazil–Rio de Janeiro

Feel the heavy beat of the drums as you witness a runway of bedazzled dresses, feathers and sequins unfold in front of you. Rio de Janeiro in Brazil reimagines the ultimate party with Carnival every February, filling the streets and halls with fêtes, dance competitions, parades, glitzy balls and fast-paced samba music. Be prepared to dress as your favorite character as you eat and dance to your heart’s content: Carnival is an endurance test for partygoers.

Check out our exclusive summer sailing to South America via the Panama Canal, visiting Colombia, Guatemala, Panama and more here.

When Anthem of the Seas makes her highly anticipated return to the UK in 2020, the London Eye won’t be the only glass observation capsule vacationers can flock to in the summer.

Credit: Royal Caribbean

England–London

In the UK, Boxing Day brings all the thrills and chills the day after Christmas. We love the extra time spent with family and friends, and while the tradition of foxhunting is no longer practiced, it’s still a fantastic day to cheer along your local football or rugby team. If you’d rather pass on queueing at the store for savings on the latest trends, then you can also take part in other traditions, such as swimming in the English Channel or dashing into the sea dressed in a funny costume.

Plan your next vacation to the UK here with summer sailings starting as early as May.

One of the many things New Orleans excels at is a celebration. The Mardi Gras parade makes its way through the French Quarter, decorated with garlands and lights.

Credit: Royal Caribbean

United States–New Orleans

Find medieval Europe throughout the French quarters of modern New Orleans in Louisiana, with Mardi Gras parades that come to life with colorful costumes and masks, vibrant beads, dazzling dancers and larger-than-life floats. On Fat Tuesday, indulge (and even find a plastic toy baby) in a traditional king cake before treating yourself to the freshest seafood boils and authentic Cajun flavors of the South. Life really is just better with a bowl of hot gumbo. New Orleans is also the perfect starting-off point to destinations like The Bahamas, Mexico and Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Start planning your vacation here, and be among the first to celebrate Mardi Gras with Royal Caribbean thanks to our new, year-round cruises from the Big Easy. 

There’s no better way to immerse yourself in a different culture, than to experience it at its biggest moments. With Royal Caribbean you can vacation to more than 270 destinations in over 70 countries. Whether a festival, national holiday or weeklong celebration, these are only some of the top moments you won’t want to miss.

Explore these and other destinations here, and transform the way you travel for the holidays when you and your family vacation with Royal Caribbean.