7 Ways Cruise Ships Celebrate Holidays

cruise holidays ship holiday thanksgiving halloween
Cruise lines hold festivities for a number of holidays throughout the year. - Photo by Disney Cruise Line & Thinkstock

It’s no secret that nearly all cruise lines celebrate major holidays on board their ships. You’ll find Christmas trees and lights for Christmas, spooky decor and costume parties for Halloween, and champagne and a countdown for New Year’s Eve, but there are plenty of festivities in store for holiday cruises sailing over Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day, and the 4th of July, too.

1. Enjoy a Thanksgiving Feast

thanksgiving feast dinner cruise ship holiday
Photo by Thinkstock/bhofack2

If you’re headed out on a cruise over Thanksgiving aboard a US-based ship, don’t fret about missing one of the best meals of the year. You’ll find all of the turkey, potatoes, stuffing, yams, and pie that your heart desires right onboard. In fact, we haven’t heard of a cruise line yet that doesn’t host a scrumptious feast for Thanksgiving on ships sailing from the United States, and most lines go above and beyond with special themed activities for families like a “duck” hunt, trivia, and the big football game on the big screen, and even have Thanksgiving-inspired cocktails for the adults.


2. Take Part in an Irish Pub Crawl

irish pub disney cruise beer st. patrick
Photo by Disney Cruise Line

Nothing says celebrating St. Patrick’s Day like drinking Irish whiskey and beer. To celebrate, Holland America and Carnival both host Irish-style pub crawls on their ships. Travelers can try green beer and other favorite Irish beers and liquor, as well as specially-created cocktails just for the holiday. Don your best green getup and move from bar to bar throughout the ship for a fun afternoon of imbibing. You’ll also find green beer, decorations, and other themed activities on Princess, Disney, and Norwegian.


3. Have an Independence Day Party

disney cruise fireworks independence day july
Photo by Disney Cruise Line

On many US-based cruise ships, there’s often a big party to celebrate the 4th of July, a.k.a. Independence Day. Royal Caribbean puts up decorations around the ship and resident bands are known to play patriotic music for the occasion. The holiday is a full-on affair for the day aboard Carnival ships, where passengers are encouraged to attend a themed deck party, take part in American-themed trivia and line dancing, and watch movies about our great nation on the jumbo outdoor screen. The kid’s clubs also join in the fun with special 4th of July activities and a party that the entire family is welcome to enjoy. We’ve ever heard that some lines have a special dinner menu to celebrate the holiday, with dishes like barbecued meat and apple pie.


4. Sing Christmas Carols

disney cruise christmas caroling holiday activity
Photo by Disney Cruise Line

Aside from the Christmas decorations and music throughout the ship, most cruise lines also offer caroling as a festive activity for passengers. Carnival hosts a caroling event for everyone interested in the atrium, Norwegian sets up a little holiday sing-along at the piano bar, and Disney actually has a group of carolers that invite kids to join them during the cruise’s farewell show. Other lines that feature Christmas caroling during the holiday season include Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity, P&O, and MSC Cruises.


5. Deck Out a Pumpkin Tree

disney cruise pumpkin tree halloween holidays
Photo by Disney Cruise Line

Not only does Disney Cruise Line do Christmas trees, but they also have a special tree just for the Halloween season. Each vessel features its own Pumpkin Tree, which holds a prominent spot in the atrium. Every ship’s tree is slightly different with their own personalities, and throughout the voyage they transform from eerie to beautiful with the help of their “caretaker” who tells the story of the tree’s troubling past.


6. Attend a Holiday Church Service

carnival cruise ship chapel holiday church
Photo by Carnival Cruise Line

Did you know that nearly every cruise sailing over a Sunday can have a church service onboard? It’s usually done on a volunteer basis, meaning that any minister sailing on the cruise can ask permission to perform a service, which anyone onboard is welcome to attend. This is especially popular over religious holiday sailings including Easter, Passover, Hanukkah, and Christmas, and some lines even provide their own clergy for these occasions. If you’re sailing over one of these holidays and want to attend a service, be sure to keep an eye on the daily activities calendar to see if one will be available. If you’re a clergy member, check your line’s website for details on how to volunteer and be sure to bring the appropriate supplies and documentation.


7. Go Trick-or-Treating

halloween costume trick or treating cruise holiday
Photo by Disney Cruise Line

If you ask kids what their favorite holiday of the year is, those who don’t say Christmas will probably say Halloween for one good reason: trick-or-treating. Luckily, most cruise lines out there have plenty of activities surrounding the holiday, and it just wouldn’t be complete without toting around a bag to gather free candy. Disney starts off their Halloween festivities all the way at the beginning of September, and each sailing during the next two months includes time for kids to trick-or-treat from shop to shop. Other lines have just one or two Halloween-themed voyages, or just celebrate on the actual holiday, October 31. Trick-or-treating can be found on Norwegian, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Princess, and Celebrity.


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Which holiday cruise do you most want to take sometime?

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