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Hanukkah and Christmas Cruises: A Guide to Onboard Festivities
Hanukkah and Christmas Cruises: A Guide to Onboard Festivities
10 Things to Pack for a Christmas or Holiday Cruise
Caribbean Holiday Cruise on Carnival (Photo: Carnival)

10 Things to Pack for a Christmas or Holiday Cruise

10 Things to Pack for a Christmas or Holiday Cruise
Caribbean Holiday Cruise on Carnival (Photo: Carnival)
Marilyn Borth
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Are you going on a Hanukkah or Christmas cruise? Chances are that you're worried about leaving behind your favorite holiday-themed decorations, gifts and more. Don't fret. You can bring along your own holiday spirit to sea if you simply devote some luggage space to festive gear.

Figuring out what to pack for a Christmas or Hanukkah cruise can take some creativity. With that in mind, read on for our top 10 tips for brightening up your holiday cruise experience, from your cabin to attire and gifts.

Holiday Cruise Cabin Decorations: Christmas Trees, Menorahs and More

Ornament at the Christmas market in Prague (Photo: Ekaterina Kondratova/Shutterstock.com)

1. Festive Knick Knacks, Trinkets and Ornaments

When you cruise on holidays, vibrant decorations are anything but sparse. Cruise lines will decorate public areas with garlands, gingerbread houses, menorahs and many other traditional items. But, it's up to you to decorate your cabin for your favorite holiday.

You'll have to get creative while simultaneously adhering to your ship's rules. For example, most lines do not allow string lights, and Carnival in particular has a strict list of requirements (including that decorations must be flame-retardant and nothing should be hung on light fixtures).

Bring along small, preferably plastic knick knacks from home that you cherish, such as snowmen, menorahs or gift boxes. Just be sure to bring along some double-sided tape to best affix the more delicate pieces to your furniture, which will keep them safe from damage during sudden ship movements.

If you would really like to have something similar to string lights, you can craft your own garland out of paper and place them on your walls via magnetic hooks, since the walls and doors are made of steel. They may not illuminate your cabin like real lights would, but they'll certainly add a unique and festive flair to it.

2. A Small, Yet Quaint, Christmas Tree

Christmas onboard Cunard Line (Photo: Cunard Line)

Most ships will have an impressive Christmas tree on display, usually in the atrium. That doesn't mean you can't bring a Charlie Brown-sized synthetic version for your stateroom. Just remember that both the tree and its decorations need to comply with cruise ship rules (as we said, no string lights).

3. A Battery-Operated Menorah

Candles are big no-nos on cruise ships, which can make decorating your room for Hanukkah a little trickier, but certainly not impossible. Consider packing a small, battery-operated menorah to brighten up your cabin.

There are some elegant non-candle menorahs, plus most have the option to turn on each "flame" in order, so you can light one more candle each night as you sing the blessings. However, you should check with your specific cruise line and ship because some will provide an electric menorah to guests upon request.

Most cruise lines will have community candle-lighting ceremonies (often with latkes) each night of the holiday, but those menorahs are usually flameless, as well.

4. Festive Stockings for the Whole Family

7 Great Cruise Stocking Stuffers (Photo: veryulissa/Shutterstock)

Don't forget to pack Christmas stockings to both liven up your cabin and stuff with small gifts on Christmas morning. As mentioned earlier, you should always use strong magnetic hooks to hang them as many cruise lines are picky about adhesives on their walls.

Since you're not going to want to pack and bring home lots of gifts, we recommend looking for mini-sized stockings since they're great for travel.

Holiday Cruise Attire: Ugly Sweaters, Santa Hats and More

Grinch Delivering Holiday Cards to Crew Members/ Carnival Cruise Lines

5. Ugly Christmas Sweaters

You might not want to put on a fuzzy sweater for your Caribbean beach outing, but dinner on an air-conditioned cruise ship is a great time to show off your wildest Christmas sweater or holiday-themed dress.

We highly recommend you attempt to convince your entire group to go all-out and match or at least stick to the ugly-sweater theme. Then, ask the cruise ship's photographer to take some fun photos for a holiday cruise to remember.

6. Merrymaking Santa Hats and Holiday Headbands

Cruise ship holiday festivities (Photo: Maridav/Shutterstock.com)

If you want to show your holiday spirit on land in a tropical destination, trade in your classic ugly sweater for a much cooler headpiece. Santa hats and Hanukkah-themed headbands look good with shorts or a bathing suit -- and they look exceptional in photo opps, too.

7. Hanukkah or Christmas-Themed Socks

If you'd rather be slightly more subtle with your attire yet still perfectly festive, slip on some fun socks. Wear Christmas or Hanukkah socks to liven up your evening attire or pair with sneakers as you explore the ship.

There is a wide variety of sock patterns and colors for Christmas and Hanukkah to choose from, such as reindeer, penguins, Santas, menorahs, Stars of David and dreidels. You could always opt for the classic yet flashy color schemes, like red and green or blue and white.

8. Classic Matching Pajamas

Matching pajamas for the whole family is a classic favorite holiday tradition. If you're sailing somewhere warm, opt for lightweight sets instead of flannel for increasing your comfort without sacrificing your holiday style.

If possible, bring along these matching pajama sets. Have the whole family put them on and grab some quality keepsake photos with the ship's photographer. Some mugs of hot chocolate from the buffet would up the seasonal vibes, too.

Holiday Cruise Gifts: Holiday Cards and Chocolates

Best Gifts for Cruise-Lovers (Photo: Amazon/realpeople)

9. Thoughtful Holiday Cards for Fellow Cruisers

Don't keep the seasonal cheer to yourself. Share it with others on your trip! Bring a set of holiday greeting cards with you to write notes to new friends that you make onboard, your Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle group and your favorite crew.

Related: Mah Jongg Cruises: How to Play Onboard

Friends Socializing in the Christmas Market (Photo: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)

When bringing holiday greeting cards, we recommend using blank options so you can add personalized messages and specific holiday wishes to each receiver.

10. Delicious Christmas Chocolate and Hanukkah Gelt

Brighten up your diligent cabin steward's day or express appreciation for newly made friends with holiday chocolates. They're easy to transport, loved by most and won't break the bank.

Go for traditional bags of Hanukkah gelt or a box of indulgent chocolate truffles. Chocolates also make excellent stocking stuffers. Just make sure not to leave them anywhere they could melt.

Updated October 10, 2022

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