If you’ve ever been to Walt Disney World or Disneyland from September through December then you are aware of how Disney decorates for the holidays. Some people love the Halloween and Christmas additions so much that they choose to travel yearly because of the parties and decorations. Before I moved to Orlando, I was one of those people. One thing I was not aware of when I first started cruising is that Disney Cruise Line also gets into the spirit of the holidays with specialty cruises. I’ve had the benefit of being on one Halloween on the High Seas cruise and two Very Merrytime Cruises, but which one would I choose to revisit in the future? That requires further questioning.
Which holiday is the best?
This question is one of the most polarizing when it comes to Disney fans in particular, especially when it comes to how the parks represent the holidays. However, I think the first question anyone should ask is which holiday do they truly prefer. If you are like me and you celebrate Christmas starting in July and just take a temporary break in October for Halloween then the answer is pretty apparent. However, some people don’t celebrate Christmas or to the extent that many do and they find Halloween to be more appealing. If you can’t get a clear answer from this question then start looking at what each specialty cruise offers.
Halloween on the High Seas
Since Halloween comes before Christmas, it only makes sense to start there. Like the Disney Parks, Disney Cruise Line celebrates Halloween in a fun and family-friendly fashion. The porthole windows have a Jack-O’-Lantern overlay and you’ll see a Halloween tree in the atrium as soon as you board the ship. The tree is very barren at the start of the cruise, but pumpkins begin to adorn the tree as the cruise goes on. Ultimately, the Pumpkin Tree comes alive in a special ceremony with a story.
Other highlights include Mickey’s Mouse-querade Party featuring your favorite Disney characters in their Halloween costumes along with dancing, trick-or-treating, and tons of fun. Haunted Stories of the Sea brings spooky storytelling to the top deck, and you have the chance to sing your head off during Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas Sing and Scream. Random activities also take place throughout the cruise that show off your crafty side with things like mask-making and pumpkin-carving and of course the classic Disney characters will be meeting and greeting guests on the ship.
Very Merrytime Cruises
Halloween on the High Seas is pretty special, but Very Merrytime Cruises feel slightly more plussed. The atrium of each ship features a unique life-size gingerbread house along with a gorgeous Christmas Tree that gets lit on the first night of the cruise during Mickey’s Tree Lighting Magic Ceremony. After the holiday festivities start on the cruise, the music also begins to switch over from traditional Disney music to Christmas music and the spirit is more widespread throughout the ship.
Santa’s Winter Wonderland Ball brings Santa and Mrs. Claus to the atrium with all your favorite Disney characters along with a pair of royal sisters – one of those sisters brings a snowstorm to the atrium that has to be experienced. Throughout the rest of the cruise, Santa Claus and the Disney characters are meeting and greeting at various times. There’s even a special Storytime with Mrs. Claus at one point during the cruise along with plenty of other activities and crafts.
Castaway Cay also gets a minor overlay for the holidays, but it isn’t a lot. Island-themed Christmas music was playing all over, there’s a giant tree where the ship docks, and that’s about it.
What do both cruises offer?
If I didn’t make it clear, both specialty cruises offer plenty of special entertainment to get you in the holiday spirit, but aren’t overbearing. For example, if you chose to skip the special entertainment in the atrium for the Christmas cruise, the only thing that would tip you off to it being a Christmas cruise is the tree, gingerbread house, various decorations throughout the ship, and holiday music in the hallways. You can either choose to go all in on the holidays or maintain a distance.
It wouldn’t be Disney without merchandise, so both holidays feature exclusive Disney Cruise Line merchandise that spark a shopping addiction in me that I don’t normally have. If you don’t want to spend the extra money on merchandise, you can actually grab some of the holiday-themed cups at the drink stations on the pool deck that are available for each holiday. If you spend a lot of time in your stateroom, you’ll find that special movies are added to the lineup so you can continue celebrating in private.
So, which is the better choice?
Again, this is completely subjective, but I’d place my money on Very Merrytime Cruises. Both are extremely fun and worth trying, but I definitely prefer sailing during the Christmas season. I do miss walking through the halls hearing “Whale of a Tale” and “Ugly Bug Ball” playing in the background, but I also love being immersed in Christmas and having plenty of opportunities to take the perfect Christmas card with Disney photographers.
To be completely fair, both cruises are a bit lacking in terms of entertainment on longer cruises. The entertainment feels right on 3 and 4-night cruises, but feels a bit lacking on 7-night cruises.
Also, the Christmas entertainment feels more well-rounded for all ages. Storytime with Mrs. Claus is completely aimed at toddlers and young kids, but the rest of the activities don’t feel inclusive to kids only. Maybe it was just my specific sailing for my Halloween on the High Seas cruise, but I remember it feeling more aimed at kids than adults, which is perfectly fine.
Regardless of which specialty cruise you decide on, you can’t go wrong with either cruise. There is something special in the air during these sailings just like there is at Magic Kingdom or Disneyland.