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U.K. Lines' Onboard Holiday Festivities
Home > Cruise Styles > Holiday Cruises > U.K. Lines' Onboard Holiday Festivities
New Year's Champagne Toast On the Boards: Holiday Exchange Forum

You may not be prepared for it, but the festive season is just around the corner. Yes, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve will soon be upon us, as will the rush of buying decorations and presents while working out how to make this year better than the last.

For some, the season of good will is a great time for a getaway. The stress of the year has taken its toll, so many will pack up the presents and head for sunnier climates or exotic locales.

One great way to escape the cleaning and cooking, yet still enjoy tinsel and turkey, is to take a cruise. The majority of cruise lines get into the festive spirit for December 25, December 31 and the days surrounding, so why not give it a go? Here's what you can expect.

U.K. lines generally offer decorated ships and Christmas-themed events, such as carol-singing and pantomimes. Plus, just think of the Christmas dinner you can tuck into -- all the trimmings and more -- without lifting a finger.

If you are onboard a ship for New Year's Eve, you'll find that festivities vary from a low-key dinner and countdown to glitzy and glamourous celebrations.

Every cruise line puts its own spin on holiday cheer. Keep reading for a roundup of onboard celebrations from U.K. lines, and enjoy! (And, if you're interested in American lines, check out our companion story: Onboard Holiday Festivities.)


Seasonal style: Traditional, classy and British -- with a nod to the Yanks.

Thanksgiving:A turkey dinner will be served.

Hanukkah: Menorahs will be displayed, and rabbis will conduct daily services during Hanukkah (yarmulkes available). A selection of kosher meals will be available, including traditional potato latkes.

Christmas: All three ships will be festooned with greenery, including trees and wreaths, poinsettias, ornaments, nutcrackers, gingerbread cottages and twinkling lights. Father Christmas will visit, of course, and hand out gifts to the kids. All passengers will find a Christmas gift and card in their cabin. There will be special shows in the theater, caroling and pantomime, and a gala Christmas supper with roast turkey and Christmas pudding. Queen Mary 2's Grand Lobby is also featuring periodic “snowing events” whereby special holiday activities are conducted under a light snow fall (simulated, of course). Since Christmas is at heart a religious holiday, the ships will offer Catholic and Protestant services.

New Year's Eve: Passengers will have a jolly old time at the black-tie gala with horns, hats, streamers and blowers.

Cruise & Maritime Voyages

Seasonal style: Traditional elegance

Christmas: Adults-only Marco Polo has two Christmas market sailings from Tilbury -- a three-night cruise to Ghent and Amsterdam on December 15 and a two-night Amsterdam cruise on December 18. The Christmas & New Year cruise leaves on December 22 for a 14-night cruise to the Canary Islands and Madeira. The main Christmas celebrations will take place on Christmas Eve with a traditional Christmas Dinner served, with all the trimmings. On Christmas Day expect a traditional Christmas Lunch. The ship will also be decorated festively, passengers are invited to join staff and put together a choir and there will also be a Christmas pantomime and a variety show.

CMV's other two ships, Discovery is off charter for the winter. Astor is sailing from Fremantle in the Australian market.

New Year's Eve: When Marco Polo is in Madeira on New Year's Eve there will be fireworks and a New Year's Eve party.

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

Seasonal style: Traditional festivities

Christmas Eve: There is a chaplain onboard each ship conducting services, including Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Day: There will be regular carol services throughout the Christmas period. Santa Claus will be on hand to give presents to any children onboard. Christmas-themed shows and a pantomime. The Cruise Director and staff will put on festive games. There will be craft sessions with a Christmas theme, including card making. Every ship will be decorated. On Christmas Day -- always spent at sea on Fred. Olsen ships -- there is a traditional Christmas dinner. On Boxing Day, passengers can enjoy a seasonal show.

New Year's Eve: On New Years Eve there will be a formal dinner with a special menu across the fleet. There will also be fireworks (depending on where the ship is) and seeing the New Year in on Deck (weather permitting).


Seasonal Style: Christmas Norwegian-style

Santa Claus Northern Lights

Christmas Eve: All Hurtigruten ships will dock in their respective destination ports for 24 hours. Guests are invited to attend Christmas mass at the local churches before coming back onboard to celebrate with fellow guests and crew members, and tuck in to an elaborate Christmas Eve smorgasbord (buffet) and feast (sit-down supper). "Julenissen", the Norwegian Father Christmas, will also pay a visit.

Christmas: "God Jul," the traditional Christmas greeting in Norwegian, will be heard throughout the Hurtigruten fleet as its ships ply the waters along the Norwegian west coast from Bergen to Kirkenes. Guests will experience a traditional Norwegian yuletide including caroling. Guests and crew join together to decorate the ship and the Christmas tree with decorations made on board, learn and sing Norwegian carols and decorate gingerbread houses. Traditional Norwegian Christmas food is served, including ‘Julekake', a sweet Christmas bread with rasins, candied lemon peel, nuts and cardamom and ‘Julegrot', a Christmas porridge. A full Christmas buffet is served in the restaurant. Julenissen will make another appearance.

Those passengers wanting to experience a true Norwegian winter on shore should join The Wilderness Adventure camp excursion which includes reindeer driving plus dog sledding or a snowmobile safari.

New Year's Eve: "Godt nyttår", the Norwegian New Year greeting, is heard on New Year's Eve on board the Hurtigruten ships when the change of the year is heralded in. The New Year itself is spent in the harbour, lit up by fireworks, with dance and a champagne toast. Guests on the MS Midnatsol will be able to welcome the New Year in a very special place: after a festive New Year's Eve on board in the port of Tromsø, they can enjoy a New Year's Day excursion to the North Cape, mainland Europe's northernmost point. There, guests are greeted by an exclusive New Year's concert in the North Cape Hall.

P&O Cruises

Christmas Pudding Seasonal Style: Traditionally British with all the trimmings

Christmas: For cruises sailing from Southampton, passengers are encouraged to get into the spirit with entertainment from a children's choir and military-style band. Father Christmas also makes an appearance at the terminal to wish passengers Bon Voyage and as the ship sail away he leads the Christmas send-off from the quayside along with the band, children's choir and entertainers.

On board, public rooms are richly decorated with trees, garlands and wreaths, and festive events are offered including carol concerts, Christmas music, Christmas shows and a Christmas parade. Nativity plays are a highlight for children onboard the family-friendly ships.

On Christmas Day, Father Christmas arrives on board, which is a highlight for young and old. Christmas church services are held on board and passengers feast on Christmas dinners with all the trimmings, glasses of Champagne, Christmas crackers and party hats, all rounded off with traditional Christmas pudding with brandy butter, Christmas cake, mince pies or freshly made Yule log.

New Year's Eve: There will be a five course gala dinner in the dining rooms followed by live music, West End style shows or comedy acts, casino and then there is a countdown to midnight in all the bars and nightclubs.

Saga Holidays

Seasonal Style: Traditional celebrations for the 50+ crowd

Christmas: Saga Pearl II will be offering 'A Christmas in the Mediterranean' cruise departing from Southampton on December 16 for 22 nights to Spain, Italy, France and Portugal. Christmas Eve will be spent in Barcelona. Christmas Day promises to be a magical occasion, spent at sea with a host of festivities and a traditional lunch; Boxing Day will be in Rome.

New Year's Day: New Year's Eve will be spent in Malta, watching a spectacular fireworks over Valletta harbour.

Saga Sapphire will be offering a ‘Canary Island Christmas' cruise departing from Southampton on December 17 for 20 nights. Passengers will head for the warmth of the Canary Islands via Lisbon, Casablanca and Agadir before arriving in Lanzarote on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day will be spent in Tenerife and Boxing Day in Gran Canaria.

New Year's Eve: New Year's Eve will be spent in Madeira.

Thomson Cruises

Seasonal Style: Social and fun with a traditional feel

Christmas: The ships are decorated with holiday wreaths, Christmas trees and lights, and signs proclaiming traditional holiday greetings. The cruise director and staff will offer several holiday-themed shows throughout each cruise, and at least one seasonal movie will be shown. Santa Claus makes an appearance with gifts for the kids, and a traditional Christmas dinner -- featuring turkey and Christmas Pudding -- is served. A special carol service will be celebrated on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

New Year's Eve: Passengers are provided with hats, party favours and noisemakers, as well as complimentary Champagne to see in the New Year.

Voyages of Discovery

Seasonal Style: Traditional festivities in exotic locales

Christmas: Voyager will be at sea during the festive period. The ship will feature Christmas trees throughout the Discovery Deck and selected areas will be decorated for the festive season including reception, bars and some of the lounges. Gingerbread houses made by the chefs on board will be displayed outside both restaurants and in reception.During the cruise a wide range of themed festive passenger events will be organised including quizzes, competitions and other participation events including Reindeer Racing! As the weather should be good a number of fun Christmas activities hosted by the entertainments team will be offered around the pool throughout the cruise.

Christmas Eve: Choirmaster Jonathan Palmer will be onboard for passengers interested in joining the Voyager Choir -- they will perform in a traditional Christmas Eve Carol Concert incorporating readings from passengers followed by mince pies and mulled wine on offer from the bar.

Christmas Day: Reverend Tom Leary will offer a traditional Christmas day morning service including readings, Christmastide hymns and music.
There will also be a Christmas lunch menu with a full traditional Christmas Dinner served in the evening of Christmas Day as a formal occasion; the ship's in-house Theatre Company will provide a Christmas variety show on the evening of Christmas Day and a traditional Pantomime will take place.

Boxing Day: Big Boxing Day BBQ Brunch on the pool deck with more passenger activities.

New Year's Eve: Special themed New Years Eve dinner followed by a show and a deck party for the countdown into the New Year.

--Updated by Adam Coulter, U.K. Editor

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