In this episode of “Katie Talks Travel,” the host, Katie White, and her guest, Lynn, discuss the joys of celebrating holidays on cruise ships. They highlight how holiday cruises offer a unique and stress-free way to enjoy special occasions. The episode covers various cruise lines that go all out with festive decorations, seasonal food, and themed activities for holidays such as Christmas, Hanukkah, and Halloween.
Katie and Lynn emphasize the importance of booking holiday cruises well in advance due to their popularity and increased cost. They also recommend being open to trying new experiences, such as participating in holiday-themed events and embracing the festive spirit while onboard.
The episode encourages listeners to add a touch of holiday magic by bringing their own decorations and participating in unique cruise traditions like hiding and finding cruising ducks. Ultimately, the message is to prioritize self-care and relaxation by indulging in the special moments and memories that holiday cruises offer. The hosts express their excitement for discussing new year travel goals in the next episode.
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The following is for conversational purposes only and should not be interpreted as advice. Please consult a professional before making any decision based on this content. This content should not be considered as travel advice.
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Welcome to Katie talks Travel, a podcast where we talk travel and accessibility with a little fun along the way. Let’s pack our bags and head out on an adventure.
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Hi, I’m Katie White. I’m a travel agent who specializes in accessible travel and today I have Lynn joining me. Hey Lynn. Hello.
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Hi. It’s great to be back again.
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I’m glad. How have you?
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Good. I’m glad to hear that we’re going.
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To be traveling on the high seas today.
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Yeah, exactly. They were to talk about holidays on the high seas, so I thought it would be fun. Instead of trivia this month, which is normally what we do, I thought it would be fun to just talk about our favorite holiday traditions that we have. And I figured I could go first and tell you about mine and then I would love to hear about yours.
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So with our family, I mean, we have a lot of traditions, but I think my very favorite one that we do every year is I get matching Christmas pajamas and I give it to the kids on Christmas Eve. So when they go to bed, they’re wearing their matching jammies. Mommy and daddy are wearing their matching jammies. And then the day of Christmas, they get to wear the matching pajamas all day with mom and dad, like we just planned, this is what we’re going to live in and just be in these all day. And they love it. They love helping to pick out what we’re going to wear every year and they can mix it up. So one year, like last year, my daughter wanted pants and a shirt and this year she wanted a nightgown. So she got to look at some different options there. And it’s just always a fun little thing for us to do. I know there are some families that give their Christmas pajamas on December the first, and I’ve thought about that too. So we could wear it the whole month. But I don’t know. I like how excited my kids are on Christmas eve when I give them their pajamas.
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That’s my favorite.
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It’s fun when you have kids, right? Yeah. And now I have my, and she’s four and she’s just getting into the whole Christmas thing and Santa Claus and all. So I think my favorite thing to do now is to craft with her, to sit and crafting is so all sorts of crafts and she loves it. Now you have to sort of do it within 15 minutes, or else you lose her attention span. But clay and things like that is awesome. And she’s learning Spanish in school.
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Her daycare center. She’s in preschool right now, I guess you could say preschool. And, yeah, they’re actually teaching the kids Spanish, which I think is awesome. And so we did some things, some Christmas cards, and we put some Spanish on them, and she loves it.
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That sounds amazing.
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Come out. And all of a sudden, she’s speaking Spanish. I’m like, peyton, guess what? You have to speak to me in English, though. She just loves that. She thinks that’s really cool.
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That is awesome. Well, thanks for sharing.
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Give her two years, and you can do all of those really in depth crafts. That’s what I’ve determined. So, my daughter Evie, she is almost four, so she’s not quite there. And then Wesley will be six later this month, and he can sit and work on the same craft for an hour, 2 hours. Like, we can sit together and do a really in depth craft. But like you said, 15 minutes is all Eevee has in her, pretty much.
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And then they start playing and smearing the paints all over their face. Okay.
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I totally understand. Same business at our house. Okay, so let’s get to talking about the holidays on the high seas.
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So the holidays can be pretty stressful for everyone between balancing all the party invitations, entertaining. If you’re throwing your own party, all of the gift shopping and the gift wrapping, and it can be just so overwhelming. So I always encourage people, if the holidays are a real stress point for you and you kind of dread them every year, maybe we should look at mixing that up a little bit. And next year or the year after that, we should look at doing a cruise for the holidays. And maybe instead of the whole family buying each other gifts, everybody goes on a cruise together and kind of relieve that stress. They are special holiday cruises, whether it is for Christmas, whether it’s for Hanukkah, whether it’s for Halloween, whatever holiday it is, they really go all out and fully commit and try to make it fun and special.
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Cruising isn’t the emphasis on the experience rather than the material goods. Right.
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We think very much doing things together.
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It’S like, very materialistic, sort of the way that we do things now, but there’s nothing like creating memories with experiences, travel or otherwise.
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Exactly. And it really is just an excellent way to spend time together as a family and really connect because you’re away from all of those daily stresses that you have every day, not even just during the holiday time, but making sure that the laundry is run and the dishes are washed and the beds are made. You don’t have to worry about that kind of thing when you’re on a cruise ship. So you really are able to be so much more present with your family, and you’ll have some really special and unique things that you can do together and memories that you can make. I might have told this story before, so, Lynn, please stop me if I have. But one of my son’s favorite memories and things that he loves to talk about is when he went on a cruise with my parents and our family. We cruised together and my parents took him off the ship at Cococay, which is Royal Caribbean’s private island. And a bird came and took his french fry. And he just thought that that was the coolest thing in the world. He has been talking about that for two years. He tells anybody that will listen about the bird who stole his french fry. I actually made him a shirt that had the bird stealing the french fry because it’s like his favorite thing. He loves to talk about it. And it’s a special memory that he has with his Grammy and his papa that he would not have had any other time. Like, we don’t live anywhere where bird is going to come take your french fries. So that kind of thing, you get those special little moments and memories that you would not get at home.
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Yeah. And they last, right?
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Even with her, with Peyton’s toy box. She had a sleepover and her mom went through and basically cleaned out her toy box and just left a few things. And it’s like somebody spent a whole lot of money on that. And it’s like it’s just being given to the goodwill, which is okay. But like you say, memories last forever, right? Memories of good times, of things done together with people, the bird and the french fry.
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And no matter what you celebrate, whether you celebrate Hanukah, whether you celebrate Christmas, whether you celebrate Halloween as a special holiday, or the 4 July, no matter what you do, you can do it up special on a cruise ship. And they have different options for everyone. Now, all of the cruise lines do different things for that, so I’ll just kind of talk about some of the main ones. Probably one of the most popular cruise lines in the US is carnival cruise line and so on. Carnival. The ships will be decorated with wreaths, trees, Christmas lights. They’ll have signs and stuff that will have traditional holiday greetings. And then they also typically will have seasonal music that’s playing as well. So they kind of try to make it a fully. What is that word I’m looking for? Immersive. They try to make it a truly immersive experience. The other thing that’s special about a carnival sailing versus a different line is that as part of their Seuss at sea program, so they have a special program where they partner with Dr. Seuss and the copyrights that are involved with that. So as part of that program, there’s actually Grinchmas activities on carnival that you’re not going to get on any other cruise line. So those are things like arts and crafts, face painting. The Grinch makes an appearance himself, which is a lot of fun. I have heard whispers that the Grinch can sometimes steal things from the kids club, and the kids have to go find him around the ship to get their stuff back. Like all kinds of fun little things. So carnival is a big one, and they do it a little extra special. I would say Disney Cruise line is the other big one that does special things for Christmas. Kind of above and beyond, just decor and ambiance. They have cruises that are specifically called a very maritime cruise. And they have some amazing decor. They will have gingerbread houses. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the gingerbread houses at Walt Disney World, but they make some massive and impressive gingerbread houses, and they bring those on board their ships as well. And then they will have carolers on board, story time with Mrs. Claus, and even festive fireworks. So they will shoot off fireworks while you’re out sailing, which is really cool. So basically, with any cruise line, like norwegian royal caribbean princess Carnival and Disneyland, like I talked about, the main way that they celebrate the holidays is with the decor. So there’ll be trees, there’ll be lights, there’ll be wreaths, there’ll be music. They also all do special food. So that’s every cruise line, no matter which holiday we’re talking about, if it’s Thanksgiving, they’re going to have a traditional Thanksgiving meal with stuffing in a turkey and cranberry sauce. All of that for Christmas time for Hanukkah. They do all different sorts. I mean, it’s a whole smorgasbord. It is a feast. That’s what it is. It’s a straight up feast. Some other things that they tend to do on holiday cruises that are a lot of fun is ugly sweater competitions.
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Is a good time.
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The infamous ugly sweater competition.
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I actually don’t own an ugly sweater. I see them around and I’ve never found one that’s really spoken to me. I need to find one that really speaks to me. I like the ones that have a lot of tinsel and are very touchy feely, very tactile ones, but I’ve seen ones that have holographic stuff on them and all kinds of things.
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So I know I mentioned Hanukah a couple of times. I do want to make sure that I mentioned for holiday cruises over the Christmas and Hanukah season, you do not have to forego any religious services. They do have menorah lighting ceremonies on all holiday cruises. And then for holiday cruises they also will bring on rabbis, ministers, priests, so that they can meet with and talk with the guests that are sailing. So that you don’t have to forego any of your religious affiliations or anything like that to sail on a holiday cruise. They’re very inclusive of that. So now that we kind of know what is a little bit different about when you’re sailing on the holidays, I just wanted to talk a little bit about thinking about booking one. Some tips and tricks if you’re going on a holiday sailing. So it is really important to note that holiday sailings are more expensive. They just are plan to spend more money for Christmas, New Year’s, Halloween, even Valentine’s Day, even though that’s a fairly smallish holiday, you’re still going to pay a premium if you are sailing over the holiday. But they do try to make up for that price difference in those extra experiences that they have on board and those extra touches that they have to make it really a special thing when you’re talking holiday cruises as well. That’s booking early is absolutely key. That goes in with be prepared to spend more. Well, the later you wait to book, the more you are going to spend on a holiday cruise. So if you know that you want to cruise over Christmas in two years, then we need to book it now, not in a year and a half, six months from when you want to sail. That’s when you’re going to be spending the most money. So booking at least nine to twelve months in advance is absolutely key. With holiday sailings, they also tend to fill up pretty fast. So that’s an important thing to keep in mind, too, with holiday sailings is they are special, they are in high demand, so you want to lock stuff in while you can. It’s also really important when you are thinking about a holiday sailing in the budget to think about your flights. Because flights around the holidays are always also more expensive.
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They tend to really crazy pain point, right?
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Just that whole flying experience.
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Exactly. I mean, that’s when airports are the busiest all year is during the holidays, and then you’ve also got to throw in the wrench of the weather. You never know what that’s going to do. You could get hit with 3ft of snow, cancel your flight. So that’s always something to keep in mind when you are thinking about holiday travel as well. Another thing to think about is kind of what you would like to do for your trip. So, like I said, each cruise line does things a little bit differently. So having in mind something that is really important to you, like, is it really important to you that there are fireworks to celebrate? There are some people that that is part of their family traditions is doing fireworks on Christmas. If that’s important to you, then we need to make sure that we’re booking you on a cruise line that’s going to offer that so that you’re continuing that tradition with your family. The last thing about when you’re thinking about booking one is just kind of thinking about how you want to celebrate that holiday, where you want to celebrate that holiday. Do you want to make sure that that holiday falls on a port day so you can be laying on the beach or out exploring in the Mediterranean? Do you want to make sure that you’re on the ship for that holiday? Some people want to even be getting off the ship and they want to finish their cruise on the holiday. That doesn’t typically happen, I would say, around Christmas and Hanukkah, but especially holidays like Thanksgiving, a lot of people don’t really mind if they’re getting off the ship on Thanksgiving day. So there are quite a few options where you can actually still do your holiday at home if you want to, just maybe on a smaller scale, since you’ve celebrated on the cruise ship already. So that’s an important aspect to think about.
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One of the things that I was thinking about is the paradigm shift of instead of you having to do everything on the holidays, right, you have to cook, you have to clean, you have to do all this. When you have a cruise like that, you’re sort of being pampered, you’re sort of the one being taken care of, as opposed to you having to take care of everything, right.
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It’s all sort of absolutely care of for you.
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And so you can really enjoy the holiday more?
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Oh, yes, way more. And you get to do. I mean, it’s those experiences like we were talking about. You get to do things you never would get to do at home. My honeymoon cruise, we actually cruised over Halloween, and we have never learned how to do the thriller dance in my area. I don’t even know that there’s dance classes that teach those sort of things. I’ve never been involved in a flash mob, but on that cruise ship, I learned how to do the thriller. And then we did a thriller flash mob on Halloween. How fun is that? That’s something I’ve never been even offered in my life since that point in time or before. And it’s just a special experience that I got to have for my honeymoon on Halloween. And that’s not something I’ve ever seen on any other cruise. I’ve been on only that one Halloween cruise. So it’s those really special and unique experiences that you’re going to get when you cruise on the holidays. So I do want to talk about some things to think about packing for holiday cruises, because your packing is going to look a little bit different when you’re sailing over the holidays. So it’s important, in my opinion at least, to bring decorations. I’m big into decorations, bringing the holiday spirit. I bring them out and it’s like instantly I need to curl up with a hot cocoa and watch a Christmas movie. They’re like magic for me. I know that they’re not big for a lot of people, but at least for our family, they are a really important tradition that we do. So remembering to bring that on the ship with you, you can bring in your string lights. You can bring a little wreath if you would want to hang that on your door. You can order all sorts of specialty decorations for a cruise ship because everywhere on the ship essentially is magnetic. It’s all metal. So you can put magnets on your door and you can decorate them with all sorts of Christmas or Hanukkah magnets. The different holidays, like whatever, is going to make you feel festive, that’s what you should bring along. And I’ve taken tinsel before and wrapped it around the headboard part just to make it a bright little sparkly part of the cabin. It’s fun to spruce it up and make it your own, especially if you’re there for something as special as the holiday. And that kind of leads into the other aspect of packing and getting ready to go that’s going to be different is being festive, bringing that ugly sweater along. Bring along a Halloween costume. If you’re sailing over Halloween, because they’re going to have Halloween parties and they’re going to have costume contests, bring that along with you. Bring Valentine’s, if you’re sailing over Valentine’s Day, if you’re sailing over Memorial Day, bring little flags that you can hand out to everyone. There’s all sorts of ways that you can be festive and kind of share that holiday spirit and the holiday just vibes around the ship. So just kind of thinking in different ways because other people will too. You’ll get a lot of really neat ideas if you’ve ever gone on a holiday cruise before of things that you could do for next time. There are some really cool things. My favorite tip when packing for a holiday cruise is holiday ducks. So I love cruising ducks. Have you ever heard of cruising ducks, Lynn?
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No, I haven’t. Wow.
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So they are a lot of fun. Cruising ducks is rubber ducks that you hide for others to find. And then you can also find ones that others have hidden. Sometimes people will hand them to you. I’ve had that happen before as well. But it’s just really all about spreading joy and love and it’s a really fun thing to do. So I like to bring along ducks to hide that are holiday theme. Not just a regular rubber ducky, but one that’s maybe wearing a Santa hat or one that’s printed with little Christmas lights. One that I had a red, white and blue one one time for the 4 July things like that. Just as an extra way to again spread that holiday cheer and make it a little extra special for you. So that’s my little extra special must have item. And I try to send it to my clients if they’re going to be traveling over a holiday too. I try to make sure that I’m getting them some sort of holiday something if I can. It’s not always an option, but I do try.
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So that’s like kind of putting a little bit of yourself into making it more personal, special to you as a person. You’re sort of really putting yourself into the whole process and sharing yourself with other people.
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Some of those interesting traditions with other people, your cruise mates, which is pretty awesome.
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Yeah, it’s really neat. And cruising ducks is a really unique way to make connections with other people and a really unique way to kind of share things that you would like to share. I found a cruising duck before that was in memorial for someone who had passed and it was their last cruise and they were taking their ashes to where we were going. I’ve seen ducks that are celebration ducks, pink and blue for them, finding out that it’s a boy or a girl and they’re pregnant and celebrating that it’s really neat. And you’re able to share that with your other travelers and it just makes it even more precious, in my opinion, just even more special. Making those memories, like, I don’t remember every single duck I have ever found on a cruise ship, but I remember those ones. I remember the ones that were there for a reason. And I remember that I rehid those ducks. It was important to me to keep spreading that celebration and that love around to other people. So it’s a very neat way to get involved with your other cruisers and make new friends because you’ll meet other people that are going on duck hunts, too.
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Wow, that’s awesome. I’ve never heard of that. That’s pretty neat.
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Yeah. It’s one of my favorite things about cruising now. I look forward to it almost as much as the cruise is hiding the ducks and finding the duck.
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Wow, that’d be awesome. As a blind person, if you could somehow make them tactile, if you could put braille on them somehow, that would be awesome.
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You could with braille tape.
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Yeah, you absolutely do that.
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Yeah, absolutely, you could. But a lot of the rubber ducks really are very tactile. I’ve got a couple that I like to take. I mean, you know me, I’m a Disney adult that have little Mickey hats on them, and you can feel all of the different parts of the Mickey hat. And then at the bottom they have, like, a little Mickey trousers and you can feel the buttons on that. And those are really fun once you’re actually on the ship, some things that you can do, and that I absolutely recommend that you do is find that seasonal food and those seasonal drinks because they’re only there that special time of the year. They’re going to have spooky Halloween donuts, for example. I’ve had that on a cruise ship before. And around Christmas time, they’ll have those specialty Christmas dishes like fig pudding I’ve actually had before, roast turkey, potato pancakes, eggnog. All of those seasonal food and drink items they bring out for the holiday cruises. So you’re not even going to miss out on those. And a really neat aspect of it is a lot of times they have holiday foods from other countries as well and other cultures. So you get to experience what the holidays would taste like in this culture from across the world that you never would have been able to experience at home. And they like to include every nationality that they can. Most of these cruise ships have a minimum of like 70 different nationalities on average on the cruise ship. So they like to represent the nationalities of the crew, and the crew like to prepare these dishes for you and it’s a very unique aspect of these cruises.
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So you’re not only having fun, but you’re also sort of learning a little bit about the cultures of other countries and how they celebrate the holidays, and that’s pretty neat to know.
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The other thing that I recommend that you do once you get on the ship is making sure that you are checking the app or the daily newsletter, kind of whatever it is that you’re looking at for those holiday themed activities because they will have some of them that are available on the app before you cruise, but they usually have more once you’re on board that will load in that are a special sort of surprise for you. So making sure that you are staying on top of that and attending those special holiday themed activities because like I mentioned, they are very far and in between, you’re not going to see them on the other sailings that you go on in your life. You’re going to find them only on a holiday sailing. So you want to make sure that you’re attending those and having fun with it. Really immersing yourself, being there to truly enjoy it.
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I think many of us have, especially as adults, we kind of have forgotten how to have fun. Like life is so busy and we’re always moving and we’re always trying to get things done and to go on a cruise and just let go, let all of that go and just focus on yourself and your family and the fun that you would like to have. It’s kind of like relearning that whole skill of just relaxing and having a good time, not worrying about stuff.
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Exactly. Cruise is sounding really good to you, isn’t it, Dallas?
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It is. It really is.
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Yeah. So the last kind of tip that I have once you’re on the ship of things to do special for a holiday sailing is to just really be open and be willing to try new experiences and new foods. Maybe learn a new dance or try a new beverage you’ve never had before because there’s going to be a lot of opportunities that open up for you while you’re on board that you might be hesitant to or a little afraid of. I definitely don’t like to dance in front of people, so learning how to do the thriller and then doing it as part of a flash mob on top of that was out of my comfort zone. But I’m so proud of myself for doing it and I’m so glad that I did. It’s a really special memory that I have so keeping that open mind and being willing to try all those new things and new opportunities that are going to come your way when you’re on a holiday cruise.
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It sounds like that you’re saying that people should try to allow themselves to go out on the limb a little bit and relax and just, I guess, have an open mind about things. Right. You sort of have this concept of what your trip is going to be, but once you get there, you’re going to find out there are things that you didn’t expect. And if you’re willing to embrace those things and just allow yourself to just have fun and be a little crazy and just let your hair down and you can really get the whole benefit of your cruise experience.
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Go out on the limb. What’s that expression? You should go out on the limb? You go out on a limb because that’s where the fruit is, right? Yeah, the limb is where the fruit is.
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That’s all that I’ve got to share on holidays on the high seas. If anybody out there is interested in a holiday cruise, feel free to reach out. I’d be happy to help you with that. I also wanted to kind of give a little sneak of what I’d like to talk about next month. I was thinking it would be really neat to talk about the new year and new travel goals. I know for New Year’s resolutions, a lot of people set a bunch of new goals in many aspects of their life, and I think it’d be really cool to talk about travel goals, kind of what those are and how we can make those attainable.
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Yay. Yeah. Like really putting that fun and relaxation as part of your goals. We really need to do that more often, right?
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Absolutely. I had a friend have to tell me just last week, she said self care is not selfish. That is great advice and something I definitely needed to hear. So we’ll try to talk about how to bring travel, relaxation, all of that to you next month. And we thank you for being here with us. And have a happy holidays, everybody.
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Have a great holiday season. And we love your feedback. And thanks so much for listening.
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Thanks for listening. If you’re planning a trip or are interested in my complimentary planning services, if you have any questions or suggestions for the show, please give me a call at 317-694-4023 or shoot me an email at katie. K-A-T-I-E white, spelled just like the [email protected]. See you next time.