4 Festive Ways Cruise Lines Spread Holiday Cheer

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Every cruise line celebrates the holiday season in their own style. - Photo by Celebrity Cruises

Tis’ the season to be jolly and the cruise lines are delivering an abundance of holiday cheer. Here’s what you can expect from sailings from late December until New Year’s.

1. Decking the Halls

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Crystal has particularly extravagant decorations. - Photo by Crystal Cruises

Holiday décor abounds with cruise ships transforming into floating festive beauties, starting with majestic Christmas trees. You’ll find plenty of wreaths, holly, mistletoe, and you might even see a waiter or two wearing Santa hats on Princess Cruises ships. Disney Cruise Line goes all out for the holidays as it transforms its ships into a winter wonderland for its Very Merrytime cruises. Highlights include a 24-foot tall Christmas tree, garlands and poinsettias all around the ship, and Disney characters in their full holiday attire. 


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Decorating a cabin door - Photo by Celebrity Cruises

On Cunard, guests sailing in the top Queens Grill accommodation on Christmas are contacted by Guests Services prior to their voyage to see if they want their own Christmas tree set up in their suite. Uniworld places small Christmas Stars in all guest suites. Hanukkah menorahs are part of the décor on numerous ships, including on MSC Divina and Holland America Line, Seabourn and Princess’ ships.

2. Holiday Meals

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MSC celebrates its Italian heritage during the holidays. - Photo by MSC Cruises

Traditional holiday meals and special menus—for Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s Eve—make anywhere in the world you sail a little bit like home. Norwegian Cruise Line's holiday sailings all feature special holiday meals. Carnival Cruise Line also goes over the top with a special Christmas dinner meal featuring roast turkey with all the trimmings and homemade pumpkin pies. 


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Gingerbread houses are a particularly popular decoration. - Photo by Celebrity Cruises

Gingerbread houses and villages can be seen on many of the ships, with Seabourn featuring a gingerbread house, Christmas chocolates, a chocolate Santa Claus, fresh Christmas cookies, candy canes, dried fruits, and fresh clementines at The Restaurant’s entries. On Christmas Eve, a special Christmas basket or plate containing the same selection of goodies is delivered to each suite at turndown. SeaDream Yacht Club not only serves a traditional dinner, but also offers a variety of other Christmas-related food items such as mince pie, Christmas pudding, gingerbread crisp, mulled wine, gold chocolate coins, and eggnog. 

3. Festive Activities

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Carolers on Independence of the Seas - Photo by Royal Caribbean

Caroling, special holiday entertainment, holiday-themed movies and shows keep the mood festive throughout holiday cruises. Holland America Line's sailings feature Holiday Karaoke and Holiday Party Planner crafts such as Christmas cards, and Christmas-themed cooking demos. Holiday music, ugly sweater contests, and a special holiday show are a part of Carnival Cruise Line’s Funtastic Christmas Cruise programming. 


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Cruisers take their New Year's parties seriously. - Photo by Celebrity Cruises

New Year’s Eve has its own set of festive excitement on a cruise ship. Norwegian Cruise Line's New Year sailing features special themed cocktails. Holland America Line and Celebrity Cruises offer special New Year's countdown parties complete with champagne and balloon drops at midnight. Football fever takes over on New Year’s Day with telecasts (if available) in shipboard lounges on such lines as Princess and Holland America.

4. Children's Programs

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Santa has been known to make an appearance on many cruise ships. - Photo by Celebrity Cruises

Santa Claus comes bearing gifts for the youngest cruisers on many of the ships. Holland America ships feature a special Breakfast with Santa Claus. On Costa, Santa visits and brings panettone (sweet bread loaf) and a gift to be delivered to cabins for all the children onboard. Throughout holiday voyages on a number of cruise lines, kids and teens can enjoy their own activities like New Year’s Eve parties and holiday performances. 


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Your kids won't miss out on Christmas just because you're at sea. - Photo by Celebrity Cruises

Kids on Royal Caribbean ships are in for a treat with a range of holiday programming. Special activities include a festive on-ship walk in support of World Wildlife Fund's Arctic programs (presented by Coca-Cola), DIY ornament classes, cookie decorating, and even holiday ice skating aboard select ships. 

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Have you ever cruised during the holidays?

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