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night view on Bruges. Bergen. Norway

Top Destinations For The Festive Season 

night view on Bruges. Bergen. Norway

COLUMBIA cruise services expertly caters to the needs of a variety of different cruise ships and knows that careful itinerary planning is vital for passenger satisfaction. 

At this time of year, destinations take on added excitement as the globe gears up for the holiday season, with countries celebrating the festive period with different customs, traditions and festivities. 

While many countries go all out with their decorations, creating magical and stunning displays, others pride themselves on hosting huge Christmas markets, offering a vast array of delicious foods and gifts not available at any other time of year. 

Visiting a new destination at Christmas means there’s also the opportunity to experience variations in the weather, such as magical winter wonderlands or some warming winter sun, all adding an extra layer of joy to the holiday experience.

We look at some of the top destinations offered by each continent, which provide that extra sparkle at the most wonderful time of the year. 


New York City in the USA epitomises the magic of Christmas, as the city comes alive with dazzling decorations, festive lights, and a contagious holiday spirit. One of the most iconic symbols of Christmas in NYC is the Rockefeller Center, where tourists and locals alike skate on the famous ice rink beside a huge Christmas tree festooned with thousands of twinkling lights. 

On Fifth Avenue and in the city’s renowned department stores, elaborate window displays lure in last-minute gift buyers, while markets such as Bryant Park’s Winter Village offer delicious treats. There’s also a feast of entertainment with Broadway theatres featuring special holiday shows and street performers and carolers on hand to contribute to the musical ambiance. 


Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, is a vibrant and lively city that celebrates the festive season with a unique blend of traditions, music and festivities. The city is beautifully decorated with Christmas lights and ornaments and many iconic landmarks, such as Copacabana Beach and the Christ the Redeemer statue, are illuminated in festive colours. 

As Rio is known for its beautiful beaches, many locals and tourists celebrate Christmas by spending time at the seaside. Some people dress in white, a traditional colour associated with New Year’s celebrations in Brazil. Fireworks are also a significant part of the celebrations in Rio and the sky is lit up with colourful displays, especially during New Year. Brazilian music and dance are also integral to the Christmas celebrations, and Samba and other traditional rhythms can be heard in the streets. 


Bergen on the west coast of Norway is known for creating the world’s largest gingerbread town, Pepperkakebyenn, where people of all ages contribute to building a miniature town made entirely of gingerbread. The historic Bryggen Wharf, with its colourful buildings, is particularly enchanting during the Christmas season as the area is often decorated with festive lights, and you can explore the narrow, cobblestone streets lined with shops, galleries, and cafes. The charming city also hosts several Christmas markets where you can shop for traditional Norwegian crafts, Christmas decorations, and enjoy seasonal treats. 


While Christmas is not a traditional Japanese holiday, it has been embraced in a more secular and commercial way, and in Tokyo the city is lit with fantastic festive displays. Christmas is peak shopping season in Tokyo and department stores and shopping centres offer special Christmas sales, with the streets bustling with shoppers looking for gifts and decorations. Tokyo’s famous shopping districts, such as Ginza and Harajuku, are especially lively during this time. For Christmas cuisine with a difference, KFC has become synonymous with Christmas in Japan, with many people ordering a “Christmas Chicken” bucket well in advance.  


In Cape Town, South Africa many locals and visitors head to the beaches on Christmas Day with popular ones such as Camps Bay and Clifton offering a festive atmosphere with picnics, beach games, and a relaxed vibe. The city is beautifully decorated with Christmas lights, especially in popular areas such as the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, while there are plenty of activities to partake in such as a cable car trip up Table Mountain or a trip to the nearby Winelands to enjoy wine tasting at the vineyards. Many restaurants in Cape Town offer special Christmas Eve and Christmas Day menus and there are numerous Christmas events such as the Cape Town Carols by Candlelight. 


Also offering laid back Christmas vibes is Sydney, Australia where, given the warm weather, it’s common for locals and visitors alike to enjoy picnics, barbecues and trips to the famous Bondi Beach. One iconic Christmas event in Sydney is the lighting of the Christmas tree in Martin Place, which attracts huge crowds, as well as the huge fireworks display over the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge. Various festivities take place in the weeks leading up to Christmas with Christmas markets, concerts and special events happening around the city.  

Whatever the time of year, COLUMBIA cruise services’ expert management of cruise vessels helps to deliver total passenger satisfaction wherever they may be sailing in the world.