Christmas might ring some people's bells, but not everyone feels the festive glow. Elisabeth Easther hunts down some alternative ways to spend December 25.
Not everyone enjoys Christmas, or holds with traditional ways of recognising it. Whatever your reason for wanting to put the "no" into Noel, here are some suggestions for getting away from it all.
1. THE ARANUI - A TAHITIAN CRUISE
This delightful freighter ship embarks in mid-December on a three-week adventure skirting the far-flung Marquesa Islands, collecting and depositing goods as she goes. Setting off from Tahiti, she pops in and out of various ports while the passengers avail themselves of exciting activities on and off board. The ship is decked out in such a heap of tinsel, fairy lights and decorations, it's a miracle she even stays afloat. On Christmas Eve, the lavish dinner will blow your mind, and Santa makes an appearance for the kids. Christmas Day is spent on the legendary island of Bora Bora where options include swimming with stingrays, admiring coral reefs or lazing on a deserted island before enjoying a delicious barbecue feast. Because the Christmas cruise tends to transport a larger than usual contingent of children (the offspring of passengers and crew) a child-minder is part of the deal, which means parents can enjoy a little time out and children have lots of playmates on hand.
2. GREAT SOUTHERN RAIL
At Christmas time, famous Australian train the Indian Pacific trundles out of Sydney and makes its merry way to Perth. Setting off on December 23, the trip includes stops at Broken Hill, Adelaide and the Barossa Valley, one of Australia's oldest and most respected wine regions. From one coast to the other, this is one of the longest straight rail tracks in the world, with passengers treated to an impressive changing landscape from their windows. And the best thing is, Christmas Day is spent in the middle of the Nullarbor Plain at a place called Rawlinna, which is about as far from your relatives as you're likely to get. Rawlinna is 910km from Perth (which is pretty far-flung anyway) and the nearest big town is Kalgoorlie, three hours' drive away. In fact, it's so out of the way, residents of the Rawlinna sheep station need to take a short drive towards the main highway just to get a mobile phone signal so you won't even be able to make the obligatory phone calls. Oh dear, never mind. Plus the food is amazing and you don't have to cook it or do the dishes.
3. MEDITATION AT MANA RETREAT
Mana Retreat is a little gem tucked away in the Coromandel, a place where people can attend retreats and workshops and enjoy a rest while looking for answers to some of life's bigger questions. During your quest for the meaning of life you can also play volleyball, tennis, visit the beach, enjoy bush walks, or simply sweat it out in the sauna. This year, after Christmas, esteemed yoga teacher Katy Carter is leading a retreat called The Space Between, which has been designed to help participants pause, be present and focus on life's possibilities. The retreat runs from December 26-30, although for an additional $95 people can opt to arrive on December 25 for an "Orphans' Christmas" that will include a community vegetarian dinner, bed and breakfast. Not only is this a great way to slip away from the obligations of the season, it's also a chance to face up to the new year in a calm fulfilling way with like-minded souls. Participants are treated to healing yoga and meditation, with plenty of time set aside for rest and contemplation. Imagine starting the New Year feeling refreshed and restored instead of wrung-out and overwrought. Wouldn't that be novel?
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
4. DIAMOND PRINCESS CHRISTMAS CRUISE
Leaving from Auckland on December 17, and returning13 days later, this Diamond Princess Cruise is a most charming ocean voyage. With an itinerary that includes the Bay of Islands, Sydney, Fiordland National Park, Akaroa and Picton, there is plenty of time at sea and just the right amount of time in ports where you can take advantage of a range of delightful activities. On Christmas Day itself you'll be in pretty Port Chalmers where you can go to Dunedin for a look around, stop in at some of the area's outlying rugged beaches or just noodle around Port Chalmers. Because it is a festive cruise, the ship will be decorated in a fashion befitting the season, so you can't be allergic to tinsel. Boasting a range of seasonal distractions including carolers, a gingerbread-house-making competition and a tree-lighting ceremony, this is the perfect way to embrace Christmas without having to actually cook the turkey yourself.
5. RAILBOOKERS - EUROPE
Despite us being down in the Southern Hemisphere, most of us grew up with Christmas cards and wrapping paper that were all about snow and reindeer, which means nothing says Christmas quite like winter. Book a trip through Railbookers and you'll find yuletide itineraries with options including Christmas markets in Germany, Brussels and Bruges. Passengers on board Railbookers' trains will be treated to extraordinary shopping, snow and ice sculptures of course, and to keep nice and toasty warm you can sip mulled wine while nibbling on velvety chocolate waffles. Add in strings of twinkling lights, the scent of roasting chestnuts and ice-skating and you'll be sorted.