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Hanukkah and Christmas Cruises: A Guide to Onboard Festivities
Hanukkah and Christmas Cruises: A Guide to Onboard Festivities (Photo: alex_gor/Shutterstock)

Hanukkah and Christmas Cruises: A Guide to Onboard Festivities

Hanukkah and Christmas Cruises: A Guide to Onboard Festivities
Hanukkah and Christmas Cruises: A Guide to Onboard Festivities (Photo: alex_gor/Shutterstock)
Cruise Critic
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Whether you relish a visit from Santa or celebrate by lighting a Hanukkah menorah, you can celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah on a winter cruise. Cruise lines go all-out with seasonal decor (generally from Thanksgiving through New Year's), holiday activities, religious services and festive food and drink. Even better, you don't have to cook, clean or make nice to your least favorite relatives.

Of course, every cruise line puts its own spin on holiday cheer. Keep reading for a line-by-line roundup of onboard celebrations to find the best Hanukkah and Christmas cruises for you and your family.

Azamara

Azamara Pursuit (Photo: Azamara Cruises)

Christmas: Azamara ships will be decorated for the holidays from the beginning of December. Crew will perform carols at various times and in different venues, Christmas cookies will be served the entire voyage and a priest will be onboard to lead religious services. The cruise director will have a special Christmas Show on Dec. 25.

The ships will offer holiday-themed buffets in Windows Cafe, as well as special menus in the main dining room and specialty restaurants on Dec. 24 and 25.

Hanukkah: A rabbi is onboard all ships for the Hanukkah celebration.


Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Spirit (Photo: Carnival Cruise Line)

Christmas: On Carnival's Christmas cruises, ships will be decorated with holiday wreaths, Christmas trees and lights, and signs proclaiming traditional holiday greetings. Seasonal music will play in passengers' cabins.

The cruise director and staff will offer several holiday-themed shows throughout each cruise, and at least one seasonal movie, such as "The Polar Express," will be shown. A special holiday performance, featuring children and the decorations they made in the kids club, will be a highlight. Santa will visit with gifts for the kids, and a traditional Christmas dinner -- featuring turkey and pecan pie -- will be served.

As part of Carnival's Seuss at Sea program, there will also be special Grinchmas activities, including arts and crafts, face painting and an appearance by the Grinch himself.

Hanukkah: A menorah lighting ceremony will be held on each night of Hanukkah.


Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Edge (Photo: Celebrity Cruises)

Christmas: During the season, Celebrity ships will be decked out in festive decor, including Christmas trees covered in tinsel and ornaments. Special programming features choir performances, a holiday-themed show, Christmas movies and gingerbread houses and cookie decorating.

For kids, there will be a visit from Santa with gifts for kids and teens, kid-friendly interactive classes and a Fun Factory holiday carnival. There will be Christmas services on the holiday itself.

Hanukkah: The Festival of Light is celebrated with a menorah lighting ceremony. Hanakkah services take place, plus fun crafts at the kids clubs and traditional foods such as latkes are served.


Crystal Cruises

Crystal Serenity (Photo: Crystal)

Christmas: Each Crystal Christmas cruise will be kicked off by a tree-lighting ceremony. Decorations will include trees bedecked with shimmering glass ornaments and jewels, gingerbread houses and whimsical reindeer wearing pine harnesses.

Hot chocolate, glogg (mulled wine) and an incredible daily assortment of holiday cookies from around the world will be served throughout the cruise. Special seasonal movies will be shown in the ships' theaters and on the in-room televisions. Clergy will be onboard to lead Catholic and Protestant Christmas Eve and Day services.

Christmas Eve will include a dinner of roast goose, religious services and an evening holiday show. Christmas Day will bring eggnog, a gala luncheon and a visit from Santa in the morning with gifts for youngsters onboard. A traditional Christmas Day dinner, featuring roast turkey, will also be served.

Hanukkah: Hanukkah will be festive with blue, white and silver floral arrangements. There will be a menorah lighting, daily get-togethers with a rabbi and Hanukkah gelt (chocolate coins) for kids of all ages. Special Hanukkah meals will include gefilte fish, kosher chicken, matzo ball soup and latkes (potato pancakes).


Disney Cruise Line

Disney Dream at Castaway Cay (Photo: Disney)

Christmas: On Disney’s "Very Merrytime Cruises" passengers can enjoy holiday-themed displays like a gingerbread house, décor and a tree in the atrium, where Santa Claus will also make an appearance. Dickens-inspired carolers, Storytime with Mrs. Claus, spectacular festive fireworks at sea and themed crafts in the youth activities spaces are just some of the festivities taking place.

Disney characters will of course be in holiday attire. Restaurants will offer holiday-themed dishes and there’ll be holiday movies scheduled on Funnel Vision. Holiday-themed merchandise will also be available to purchase, along with holiday photos with fun festive backdrops. Passengers arriving in Disney's private island, Castaway Cay, will be greeted with a holiday display.

Hanukkah: For Hanukkah, there’ll be Menorah displays and celebration sunset services.


Holland America

Veendam (Photo: Holland America Line)

Christmas: Holland America’s Christmas cruises feature tree lighting, a holiday choir performance (comprised of crew members), a midnight mass in World Stage and a visit from Santa with presents for the kids. Holiday menus typically feature festive turkey with all the trimmings.

Holland America also host New Year’s Eve on each ship to ring in the New Year, including performances from B.B. King’s All-Stars and Billboard Onboard (and the Rolling Stone Rock Room Band on Pinnacle-class ships).

Hanukkah: Holland America Line is offering a Hanukkah Celebration and Candle Lighting services from November 28 through December 6.


MSC Cruises

Bellissima (Photo: MSC Cruises)

Christmas: On MSC Meraviglia, MSC Seaside, MSC Divina and the new MSC Seashore, Santa will provide gifts to kids, including Chicco and Lego-branded items. The ships feature traditional decorations, Christmas trees and lights,. Holiday entertainment includes a Christmas parade, family disco, teens’ talent show, flashmobs and a Christmas prom. Passengers can also participate in an onboard Christmas mass.

On Christmas Day, a special dinner features traditional Italian touches including Panettone.

Hanukkah: For those celebrating Hanukkah, ships host nightly menorah lighting, with a large menorah on display in the main atrium; there will also be daily prayer service. The ships' buffets will serve some traditional Hanukkah foods, and special kosher meals can be ordered in advance.


Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Jade (Photo: Norwegian Cruises)

Christmas: Norwegian ships are decorated with trees, garlands in the atrium and main dining rooms during the holiday season. Special family events for the holidays are available. Holiday menus specially curated for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Additionally, other major holidays are celebrated onboard.

Hanukkah: A centrally located menorah will be lit each evening during the holiday.


Oceania Cruises

Oceania Regatta (Photo: Oceania)

Christmas: Oceania ships will be decorated with festive yet tasteful holiday decor, with trees, garland and gingerbread villages for passengers to admire. Christmas dinner will include a seven-course feast including a roast turkey with apple stuffing and sweets like Christmas pudding. On Christmas Eve, there will be a special reading of "The Night Before Christmas" along with Christmas caroling and a festive Christmas show in the lounge. Santa and his helpers will make a special appearance aboard each of the ships on Christmas Day.

Hanukkah: A nightly menorah lighting ceremony will take place.


Princess Cruises

Star Princess in Alaska (Photo: Princess Cruises)

Christmas: A tree lighting ceremony will take place early in the season, and passengers can take holiday crafts classes, including card making. Ships will be trimmed with festive holiday decor, including evergreens on deck and sparkling Christmas trees in the Piazzas, while cabins TVs will feature virtual Yule logs and a range of holiday programming.

Passengers can take a seat for the Holiday Wishes variety show and the T'was the Night Before Christmas reading. Other Christmas celebrations feature gingerbread house- and snowman-making competitions, holiday movies and an Ugly Holiday Sweater contest.

Hanukkah: Hanukkah will be celebrated on each of the eight nights with the lighting of a menorah, traditional songs and special holiday meals that will feature Jewish foods, such as latkes, matzo ball soup and gefilte fish. Themed activities for kids might include holiday stories, such as a reading of "Sammy Spider's First Hanukkah."


Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Seven Seas Navigator (Photo: Seven Seas)

Christmas: The ships will be festively decorated for the holiday season -- think magnificent gingerbread house displays -- and passengers can attend holiday-themed entertainment.

On Christmas Eve, Regent's dinner menu will feature a roasted goose, and on Christmas Day, the line will offer a traditional American Christmas dinner. An interdenominational service will also be held on Christmas Eve. Christmas cookies, eggnog and Christmas carols will be part of the festivities. There will even be Christmas cookie-decorating classes for children.

Hanukkah: There will be candle-lighting services each night of Hanukkah, as well as a Hanukkah dinner, featuring gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, latkes, roast chicken and cheesecake, concluding the eight-day celebration.


Royal Caribbean International

Enchantment of the Seas (Photo: Royal Caribbean International)

Christmas: On Royal Caribbean's Christmas cruises, ships will be decorated for the holiday season. Christmastime activities include a tree lighting ceremony, holiday movies shown poolside and at the Aqua Theater (passengers are encouraged to dress in their PJs), an ugly sweater party, gingerbread cookie-decorating classes and holiday-themed scavenger hunts and trivia. There’s also a special event to celebrate Santa's arrival, plus family time with Santa's elves and holiday arts and crafts in the Adventure Ocean kids club.

Royal Caribbean’s restaurants offer additional holiday-themed options on menus, including a holiday-themed Bottomless Galley Brunch, while the entertainment teams but on festive shows and activities. A priest is also onboard to conduct mass services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Hanukkah: A rabbi will be onboard for services. Hanukkah will be celebrated with a daily candle lighting and holiday-inspired food.


Seabourn Cruise Line

Seabourn Quest (Photo: Seabourn Cruises)

Christmas: Seabourn ships will be decked out for the holidays with a gingerbread "village" (complete with cookies to keep passengers from eating the display), Christmas trees throughout the public areas and evergreen decorations on the railings. From Christmas Eve through the day after Christmas, an additional display made up of a gingerbread house, themed chocolates and candy, Christmas cookies and dried and fresh fruits will adorn all the buffet service areas.

On Christmas Eve, a basket or plate of holiday goodies will be delivered to each cabin at turn-down. A special Christmas performance will showcase holiday music throughout the ages, Seabourn singers will sing Christmas carols throughout each ship and there will be an eggnog, glogg or Gluhwein party scheduled. A Catholic priest will be onboard during these cruises.

Christmas Eve dinner is a traditional meal with a duck main course. Christmas Day brunch includes extras such as Yuletide log cake and cookies, and there will be Christmas High Tea featuring stollen and Christmas cake. The feasting continues with a Christmas Day formal dinner featuring a traditional roast turkey, as well as decorations, paper crowns and Christmas crackers.

Hanukkah: Several menorahs will be on display, and a rabbi will be onboard to lead nightly services. A menu of Hanukkah dishes -- featuring latkes, matzo ball soup, oven-baked chicken, chopped liver and herring -- will be available nightly.


Seadream Yacht Club

SeaDream Innovation (Photo: SeaDream Yacht Club)

Christmas: On SeaDream I and SeaDream II the holidays are celebrated in the line’s signature yacht club fashion. On Christmas Eve, festivities include SeaDream’s crew singing Christmas carols during cocktail hour. Santa makes an appearance with gifts given to any children onboard. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day menus feature traditional, festive dishes and passengers enjoy an after-dinner Christmas party at the open-air Top of The Yacht Bar with Glühwine and gingerbread cookies served.

Each ship is tastefully decorated with several real Christmas trees, holiday ornaments and poinsettia plants. A highlight is the ship’s elaborate handmade gingerbread house; each year the “house” is a different theme.

Hanukkah: Passengers that celebrate Hanukkah are asked how they would like to celebrate with events tailored to individual requests.


Silversea Cruises

Silver Shadow in Shimizu, Japan (Photo: Silverseas)

Christmas: Not only will Silversea's ships be decorated for the season, but the cruise line's master chefs will get into the act, as well. Cheery and whimsical gingerbread cottages, chocolate creations and cookies will add to the decor, along with the traditional greenery and ornaments. During the season, eggnog, mulled wine and hot chocolate will be available.

Christmas services will be led by onboard clergy. Both passengers and crew can participate in caroling. There will also be a special holiday offering in the show lounge and a visit from Santa Claus for all onboard.

Hanukkah: Hanukkah will be celebrated with a menorah display and lighting.


Viking Ocean Cruises

Viking Sun (Photo: Viking Cruises)

Christmas: Viking ships will sport elegant decorations for the festive season. Various onboard activities and culinary surprises will be holiday-themed. On Christmas, a festive dinner, which varies by ship and chef, will feature classic holiday dishes.

Hanukkah: Ships will have a menorah onboard that is lit each evening of the holiday.


Windstar Cruises

Wind Star at Sea (Photo: Windstar Cruises)

Christmas: Each Windstar ship will be decorated with beautiful holiday decorations, including trees, wreaths, garlands and lights. The crew also will put on a holiday talent and caroling show.

The ships' executive chefs will go all-out with a special holiday menu, featuring seasonal ingredients. Dishes include roasted butternut squash, griddle-seared scallops with parsnip puree, butter-poached lobster tails, herb-crusted beef tenderloin, gingerbread souffle and Yuletide logs.

Updated December 01, 2021

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