WASHINGTON- Like most Americans, John McAllister of Hagerstown will be traveling this Thanksgiving, but his trip won’t simply be over the river and through the woods. It will be more like over the ocean and through the waves.
McAllister and his 15-year old son, Chris, will be headed for four tropical islands on a weeklong cruise, two of a growing number of people who are using Thanksgiving as vacation time, instead of spending it at large family gatherings.
“It’s a time we can go on a vacation and take advantage of Chris’ break from school,” said McAllister. “I don’t really have a lot of family in the area, but I like to spend some quality time with my son during the holiday.”
While most Marylanders will still be going home for the holiday, many will be heading off to New York City, Walt Disney World or Williamsburg, said Myra Wieman of the Maryland office of the American Automobile Association. She said the Caribbean has become one of the more popular alternatives for local travelers who are not planning the traditional Thanksgiving with family and friends.
“Every year there is an increase,” said Hector Diaz, a cruise agency owner in Miami. “The last few years have shown that a lot of people are becoming interested in Thanksgiving cruises. The ships are full all the time.”
Phil Craig, owner of a small bed and breakfast in downtown Williamsburg, said his inn has been booked for weeks by out-of-state travelers looking to experience the colonial city during the holiday.
“We have a lot of activities in downtown Williamsburg,” Craig said. “And there’s plenty of fine dining for Thanksgiving dinner.”
Despite the increasing popularity of Thanksgiving vacations, the majority of Americans still go home for the holiday. AAA estimates that only 19 percent of travelers nationwide are headed to ocean resorts or amusement parks this Thanksgiving.
For those who will be staying in Maryland or having out-of-town guests for Thanksgiving, there are several holiday-related activities scheduled. They include holiday craft fairs around the state and colonial holiday demonstrations in historic St. Mary’s City on Friday and Saturday.
Wieman described Thanksgiving vacations, whether near or far, as an “escape” from the sometimes-hectic holiday.
“They really cater to you,” said McAllister of the cruise ship staff. “They really have a tremendous Thanksgiving dinner and I don’t have to do a thing.”
This is McAllister’s third consecutive Thanksgiving cruise. An avid sports fan and high school football referee, McAllister still watches the traditional Thanksgiving Day football games on the ship or catches up on the scores when in port.
McAllister, who was recently divorced, said the only thing he really misses by taking the cruise is his daughter, who is 31 and married and spends the holiday with her husband.
Spending Thanksgiving with the family has been the trend in America for the past century, said Bryan LeBeau, chairman of the history department at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.
“For the last 100 years, it’s been returning home, as illustrated by Currier & Ives and Norman Rockwell,” LeBeau said.
But Diaz, who has been in the cruise industry for 27 years, said that changes in family life have made cruises more popular.
“You have so many single people, families away from families, retired seniors who don’t want to fly home,” Diaz said. “These people want to cruise instead. The ships will offer them that family ambiance.”