What’s It Like to Spend Christmas on a Cruise Ship?


According to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), record numbers of Brits are packing their bags this Christmas and spending the festive period on their jollies. More than 4.5 million of us are turning our backs on the traditional festivities and opting to have a decidedly different and more relaxing Yuletide.

And at Cruise1st, we can certainly see the appeal. Rather than peeling buckets of Brussels and venturing into the attic for rickety spare seating, as the extended family descends up or down the M6 for their annual visit – heading to sunnier climes and distant lands where neither cooking the turkey dinner or washing the pots after is your responsibility.

Holidaying at Christmas gives the whole family the chance to make merry and get into the festive spirit, with the sherry flowing and no need to return to work for those weird few days between Boxing Day and New Year.

So, cruise fans, what is it like to pack your bags and head down to the Southampton cruise terminal and board a leading liner for the Christmas period? Here we have a look at what the different cruise lines offer their festive guests, and chat to a few of our favourite bloggers who like to holiday at this magical time of year.

What to Expect

Most cruise lines like to put on something a little extra special over the Christmas period, keeping guests entertained and in the festive mood. These are just a few things you should expect if you board a Christmas cruise.

Shows and Activities

Many cruise lines organise special festive shows, performed by the crew. These will often be packed full of cheesy songs and jokes, and are always good, light-hearted fun for the family. Musical performances, plays and nativities are par for the course. Festive choirs also do the rounds on cruise ships during the Christmas period, really getting you in the spirit on the run up to the big day.

christmas onboard a cruise

Kids Activities

Christmas is all about the kids really (OK, and the food and booze), and cruise ships go to great lengths to ensure the youngest members of the family are spoiled rotten over the festive period. P&O Cruises have taken a lead with this, treating kids with a range of activities for them to enjoy. Alongside children’s choirs and festive matinee performances, the P&O Cruises fleet also offer festive arts and crafts classes. Great for keeping the kids busy and happy, whilst you sample a little festive spirit.

Additionally, if you’re travelling with the kids, most cruise lines boast a Santa’s grotto, giving the youngsters a chance to meet the big man himself.

Christmas Dinner

Almost always the most important part of Christmas Day, the turkey dinner is something that most people just couldn’t cope without. And, fear not, cruise lines won’t let you down. All the major cruise lines take food very seriously, and Christmas dinner is no exception – all the trimmings are available alongside skilfully cooked meats, gravy and sauces. The roasties, crackers and Christmas pud will all be waiting for you in the main dining room, so you don’t have to worry about missing the best meal of the year. And there’ll be no mountain of washing up to tackle afterwards.

New Year’s Celebration

With only a week separating Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, many cruise itineraries straddle both celebrations – meaning you’ve only got to make one plan this year. No more agonising over which party you’ll attend or whether you should take a bottle of fizz, simply put on your best glad rags and party the night away. Complimentary Champagne is not uncommon on a New Year cruise itinerary.


In the run up to Christmas, most cruise ships will receive a festive redesign with classic ornaments and tinsel decking the halls. These are most commonly found around the atrium and main public spaces of the ship – with a massive Christmas tree traditionally serving as a centrepiece.

Don’t expect to find decorations spreading to your suite or stateroom, however, these are respectfully left unadorned for those who are escaping Christmas on the seas.

Christmas on a cruise


Obviously this depends where your itinerary takes you, but winter sun is one of the great benefits of booking a cruise for this time of the year. Head to the Caribbean for guaranteed sun, or even the Canary Islands for more temperate climates at this traditionally chilly time of year.

What Our Bloggers Think

We’ve asked a couple of our blogger friends to share their experiences of cruising during the Christmas holidays.

Jamie, Explore with Ed

“Christmas is a wonderful time of year to take a cruise, the ships are all decked out with garlands, twinkling lights and poinsettia plants and the on-board spas are a perfect opportunity for some rest and relaxation during this busy time of year.

“Throughout my festive cruise on board Queen Elizabeth, guests were enchanted by the on-board Chef’s gingerbread village display inside the grand Queen’s Room, a place where many of us enjoyed a luxurious Afternoon Tea. After all, Christmas time is a great excuse to indulge and cruises offer the most enticing menus and tempting treats around the clock.”

Lance and Laura Longwell, Travel Addicts

“I can think of no better way to explore the Christmas Markets in Bruges, Amsterdam and beyond than some stress-free slow travel by sea.

“Cruising for the holidays offers the best of all possibilities:  escaping the cold, wet weather of northern climates in exchange for the sun and sand of the south.  All cruise ships decorate to some degree, so you can still have some amount of a holiday.  Plus, on a cost-per-person basis, cruises are excellent travel value – significantly cheaper than staying in a hotel or a vacation rental.”

It may be a little late to book your Christmas 2016 cruise, but there’s plenty of itineraries for December 2017 which can be booked today. Head over to our homepage for an incredible selection of great Christmas cruise deals aboard the world’s best-loved cruise ships. Alternatively, call our friendly sales team on 0808 2746 777.

Image credits: Wilson Hui

What’s It Like to Spend Christmas on a Cruise Ship?
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What’s It Like to Spend Christmas on a Cruise Ship?
Here we have a look at what the different cruise lines offer their festive guests, and chat to a few of our favourite bloggers who like to holiday at this magical time of year.

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Claire has worked in the travel industry since leaving college in 1994. One of this blog's most regular contributors, Claire covers cruise news and industry trends.

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