Updated March 4, 2019
Arrrrrr! If ye landlubbers be searchin' for some swashbucklin' fun on yer next Disney cruise, Pirate Night -- offered once per sailing -- is a don't-miss affair. Like everything Disney does, the line spares no detail and employs all sorts of special effects and jaw-dropping displays to make Pirate Night feel magical.
What It Is
On Pirate Night, Disney cruise ships transform into a haven for buccaneers. But don't let the name fool you; themed fun is offered all day long. Starting in the afternoon, there are pirate-related activities in the kids clubs and chances for families to meet Mickey and friends -- in pirate costume, naturally -- for photos. Everyone onboard is encouraged to dress up, and many passengers bring costumes with them.
Before the evening festivities begin, cruisers who don't bring their own gear can make appointments at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (on Disney Dream, Fantasy, Magic and Wonder) to have themselves transformed with the help of swords, eye patches, bandanas, scars, earrings and makeup applications that include either black eyes and beards or lip gloss and gems. (The for-fee packages start at $44.95.)
At dinnertime, meals in the main dining rooms are themed, featuring waiters in pirate garb and menus that look like treasure maps. Menu choices are also themed and might include dishes like Jolly Rogers Barbecue Rib Salad and Pirates Golden Pot Stickers.
After dinner, cruisers gather on the pool deck for a dance party and games with Mickey and other Disney characters. But, as the sun sets and the sky darkens, it's clear something more sinister is afoot. A band of pirate thieves -- costumed actors, of course -- try to take command of the ship. Their efforts are thwarted by Captain Jack Sparrow, who excitingly appears atop the ship's funnel and then rappels down it in a theatrical display. The night culminates with an impressive at-sea fireworks show.
Admittedly, we weren't expecting much participation among passengers when we attended Pirate Night on Disney Dream; boy, were we wrong. We donned a pirate hat and hook with some shredded clothing and striped tights -- and we fit right in. Costumes ranged from elaborate Jack Sparrow replicas to simple earrings and eye patches, but everyone seemed to have fun.
We observed several of the character-led dancing and games (including what appeared to be a ring toss activity involving treasure chests). That part, clearly geared toward children, was peppered with crew members selling expensive light-up toys and glow sticks from carts surrounding the pool deck area.
When the festivities ended for the younger crowd, we made our way to one of the upper decks for a better view of the pool deck stage and the anticipated arrival of Jack Sparrow. Although we were fully aware of what was to come, the experience still left us feeling amazed. Those around us who weren't in the know made the performance even more memorable as they stared, wide-eyed and open-mouthed, heads to the sky, at Jack and his antics; many gasped audibly as he jumped from atop his perch high above us all. The fireworks drew cheers and smiles everywhere we looked.
Worth a Try?
Absolutely. Although it is possible to avoid the fanfare, why would you want to? It's free, it's fun, and whether you're the oldest or the youngest onboard, we guarantee you'll be impressed.
Things to Note
On Halloween sailings, Pirate Night is scheduled on October 31. If you're planning to dress up for Halloween, you'll either have to trick-or-treat as a pirate or pack two costumes and do a wardrobe change, which can be a bit cumbersome.
When packing your pirate costume (or any costume), be mindful of toy weapons. We had no trouble taking our plastic hook in our checked luggage, but we've heard tales of fake swords and other lookalikes being confiscated if they're packed in carry-on bags. (Read more about it in our piece on Halloween cruise tips.)