It’s the eve before Christmas Eve and you may be preparing for the annual extravaganza of eating and drinking that most Australians generally associate with Christmas Day.

This process behind all the preparation can be stressful, much less the clean-up at the end, even if it is worth it to see all the happiness on the faces of your loved ones, everyone enjoying the season for what it is – bringing the family together in the spirit of the season.

But what if it could all be easier – the cooking, the cleaning, the entertainment, no stress with driving, traffic or the dangers of the highways at holiday time and in some cases, even some of the presents? Many people think of travelling at Christmas as the opportune time for cruise lines to whack their prices into the stratosphere and out of the realms of affordability. However we’re here to show you now that compared to regular costs, the reality is a cruise with the whole family for Christmas may actually end up saving you some money.

Firstly, let’s look at what generally gets spent around Christmas time (prices are estimates).

  • Presents: According to a recent study, the popular toys being bought for Christmas 2016 include BMX Bikes (with a price tag of around $179), Barbie dolls ($30), LEGO ($50+) and other general toys of around $70-80 each. Of course some presents cost a lot more, with digital cameras, game consoles and other technology also high on the popularity list.
  • Christmas Tree: The average Christmas tree retails at between $60 and $225 each.
  • Food: A half-leg of ham (around $35), frozen turkey ($45), 1kg of prawns ($30) plus the accessories such as crackers, pudding or mince pies (around $15 total).
  • Petrol: Around 4-5 tanks of fuel for the break at $50-60 each ($200 minimum).

Cruising year-round is incredible value for money and even at Christmas time, this rarely changes, with cruise lines competing just as hard to appeal to you and your brood, so the great offers are often still there to be enjoyed. Let’s look at some of the cruises setting sail from Australia for Christmas 2017 (and booking bonuses at the time of writing).

  • Carnival Cruise Line: Carnival Legend departs from Sydney on 16 December 2017 for an 11-night South Pacific cruise, while Carnival Spirit leaves 18 December for a 10-night Pacific Islands cruise.
  • Royal Caribbean: Ovation of the Seas sails from Sydney on 17 December 2017 for a 12-night New Zealand cruise. Voyager of the Seas departs on 20 December from Sydney for a 10-night cruise to the South Pacific. Radiance of the Seas sails New Zealand for 12 nights, leaving Sydney on 22 December. And the South Pacific beckons for Explorer of the Seas, which leaves Sydney on 24 December.
  • Princess Cruises: Diamond Princess returns to Australia next year, spending Christmas on a one-way 11-night cruise from Sydney to Auckland, departing on 19 December 2017. Golden Princess sails from Melbourne on 21 December on a 13-night New Zealand voyage. Sea Princess cruises from Brisbane on 21 December for a 14-night New Zealand cruise. And from Sydney is Sun Princess, sailing on 22 December for a 13-night adventure to the South Pacific.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line: Brand new to the Australian scene by this point, Norwegian Jewel will spend Christmas Day on a 13-night cruise to New Zealand, setting sail from Sydney on 23 December 2017.
  • P&O Cruises: Pacific Jewel leaves from Melbourne on 16 December 2017 for an 11-night Australian cruise. Pacific Dawn sails from Brisbane 16 December on a 12-night cruise to the South Pacific and Fiji. Pacific Explorer heads from Sydney on 17 December for a 10-night South Pacific adventure. Pacific Aria departs Brisbane on 18 December for a 9-night South Pacific sailing & Pacific Eden cruises from Sydney to the South Pacific for 10 nights. Cabins can be secured for a $1 per person deposit if booked before 14 February 2017.
  • Celebrity Cruises: The line’s one and only ship in Australian waters remains Celebrity Solstice, which departs from Sydney on 21 December for a 12-night New Zealand cruise.
  • Holland America Line: Two HAL cruise ships will be in Oceanic waters for Christmas next year. MS Maasdam sails round-trip from Auckland on 19 December for an extensive and in-depth 17-night adventure in New Zealand. The larger MS Noordam sails from Sydney on 21 December for a 15-night South Pacific itinerary.

Once the ticket price is paid and you’re onboard, at your disposal are multiple smorgasbords and buffets with all the food you can eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner – all included in your fare. And the best part is that nobody has to do the shopping, carry it home, prepare it, cook it or even clean up at the end.

Drinks are also plentiful, however you’ll need to carefully assess how much you think you might want to drink and whether a ship’s drinks package is better value or not. These packages are capable of blowing some budgets and buying as you go may be cheaper.

Some cruise lines even give out presents on Christmas morning, usually something from the ship’s gift shop. This won’t appear on your bill at the end of the cruise either. Plus, cruise ships are favourite haunts for Santa after he has finished delivering presents to the rest of the world – he’s often found enjoying breakfast or lunch on his favourite cruise ships.

Of course, the best incentive for taking the family on a cruise next Christmas is the ability to be whisked away to a variety of picturesque, warm parts of Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, including some very remote islands perfect for enjoying a day at the beach. And if you’re at sea, there are a variety of swimming pools, kids clubs, activities all day, music and other entertainment and the vast majority of it is free.