Beginning as early as the first week of November and extending to Christmas Eve, Disney Cruise Line embraces "the most magical time of the year" with themed holiday sailings known as Very Merrytime cruises. Differences you will find onboard during Merrytime cruises include Christmas decorations, holiday-themed activities and, of course, visits from Santa Claus.
If you are booked on a Very Merrytime Disney cruise (basically any cruise during the months of November and December), expect a little added joy throughout your sailing. Garlands bedeck the atrium, wreaths hang in porthole windows, poinsettias line the halls and a 24-foot Christmas tree can be found in the lobby along with a life-size gingerbread house. (It's important to note that if you sail on one of the first Merrytime cruises of the season, decorations -- like the gingerbread house -- might still be under construction, and not every activity is offered.)
'Tis the season activities include Mickey's Tree Lighting Magic Ceremony on the first night of your cruise, a Deck the Deck Tropical Holiday Party with your favorite Disney characters dancing and singing, and a build your own gingerbread house session. (Gingerbread house-making is free, but tickets are required to attend. Be sure to reserve a space on the first day of your cruise, even if the activity is held the last day.)
In the kid and teen clubs, there might be themed parties and crafts -- decorating cards or stockings -- to celebrate the season. Also expect a number of meet-and-greets with Disney characters dressed in their most festive attire, along with none other than Santa Claus himself. Once per cruise, Mrs. Claus can be found in a rocking chair beneath the tree, hosting a story time.
If you're one of the lucky kids (or adults) on Santa's Nice List and you're booked over Christmas Eve, you might find special towel animals and a plate of cookies in your cabin, as kids and crew go caroling throughout the ship.
If your ship visits Disney Cruise Line's private island, Castaway Cay, during your Very Merrytime voyage, don't be surprised to find another Christmas tree and maybe even a surprise snow flurry. Looking for Rudolph? The island tram comes close -- it's decorated to resemble a reindeer, complete with antlers and a tail.
The holidays wouldn't be complete without a little shopping. Seasonal merchandise can be found in the onboard shops, including but not limited to ornaments, sparkly shirts, a nutcracker that looks like Mickey Mouse and even a pack of Disney dreidels. (You won't find much else that's Hanukkah related onboard.)
All of Disney's Very Merrytime activities and festivities are free. Merchandise is additional.
Very Merrytime Christmas cruises are offered seasonally, fleetwide. However, the start and end dates might differ by cruise ship.
Updated September 21, 2017