“It’s the Grinch!” my nephew exclaimed as he pointed up to the balcony of the two-story theater. We had been waiting in line to get a picture with Santa when I looked up to find the green-faced grump half waving at the kids below.
The theatrics added to the holiday cheer, giving everyone a laugh as they waited to see the Big Man himself. And they reinforced why my family’s choice to spend the holidays on a cruise ship was the best decision we could have made.
I was on Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas, a relatively smaller ship in the company’s fleet, holding just over 2,700 guests on board. We had sailed out of Baltimore, an easy departure point for my family -- a group of 11 ranging from 20 months to 88 years old -- who traveled from both New York City and the Washington D.C. area.
Just two days into our journey, I could immediately tell this cruise was special. From festive decorations to special food, a unique atmosphere, and more, a holiday cruise offers everything people know and love about cruising in general but with just a little something extra added in.
These are five reasons why travelers will love spending the holidays on board a cruise.
Nothing says the holiday season like festive decorations and Royal Caribbean went all out on that front. There was the giant gingerbread town — complete with gum drop roofs and a train set — the large Christmas tree and tinsel adorning the ship’s atrium, and the adorable trio of birds dressed in their holiday best welcoming people to guest services. The ship even put up a giant menorah to celebrate Hanukkah, ensuring all guests felt welcome. (Read more about how cruise lines showcase all holidays).
Individual guests are also welcome to decorate the doors of their rooms, which many did with holiday-themed stickers, lending a festive atmosphere to the halls themselves.
Food is always one of the best parts of both cruising and the holidays, and when you put those together, you get something magical. On Christmas Day, Enchantment of the Seas served up a special brunch with indulgences like chicken and waffles with Tabasco-infused honey, eggs Benedict, and a pastry basket for the table. And for Hanukkah, there was brisket with potato pancakes and honey-glazed carrots for dinner.
Enchantment of the Seas has fewer specialty restaurants than other Royal Caribbean ships, but even Chops Grille got into the holiday spirit with a special Champagne celebration dinner on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Each meal came with a mini bottle of Moet — enough for about two glasses of bubbly — and featured the chance to order both steak and lobster for an indulgent surf and turf dinner. I finished off my meal with a decadent chocolate lava cake and white chocolate-covered strawberries (which happened to go perfectly with the Champagne).
A holiday cruise means a holiday makeover for onboard entertainment from sing-alongs to one-on-one time with Santa, and more. On Christmas Eve, we listened to a Frankie Valli musical tribute that incorporated mash-ups of popular music and holiday favorites like Rag Doll and the Little Drummer Boy. On Christmas Day, the ship hosted a Christmas-themed musical show where the Grinch made a comeback to steal some toys (much to my nephew’s chagrin).
The holiday-themed entertainment also extended beyond the theater with Christmas music playing throughout the ship, a Christmas dinner serenade by the main dining room staff, and special beach-themed gifts from Santa for the children on board (or a non-denominational gift giveaway for families who preferred).
Take it from someone with a big family: holiday get-togethers are always more fun when paired with a vacation. And a cruise makes it so much easier to travel with a big, multi-generational family. Our large group had a lot of luggage and a lot of individual needs. Thankfully, the ship catered to everyone’s likes and dislikes, and allowed us to enjoy different ports all while unpacking just once.
For the kids, the Adventure Ocean kids’ club offered activities like pirate night and chef-themed fun, while the Royal Babies and Tots program allowed parents to have a night off with babysitting. For adults, the ship offered several bars and places to relax, including my favorite spot the Schooner Bar, which tended to be the quietest and best spot to look out over the ocean with an espresso martini (or two).
And then there was the onboard bingo, a hit with the whole family, especially my 5-year-old nephew who got very excited every time he was only a few numbers away from winning — even if he never actually won.
I’ve been on many cruises, and experienced just as many sea days, but I never experienced a sea day quite like I did on Christmas Day. There was something extra jovial about the atmosphere as I walked around the ship, with nearly everyone I ran into offering a kind word or well wishes for the holiday. Many people spent the whole day in matching pajamas, making the ship feel like one big festive pajama party, and everyone seemed extra happy. The day was capped off with a special dinner in which the crew lit up the flashlights on their phones and waved them as they sang Christmas jingles, with everyone gathering around to watch and even join in.
The next day we pulled into Port Canaveral in Florida and headed to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, back to business as usual. But for 24 hours, it felt as if the world had slowed, and there was nowhere better I could think to spend it.
**Did you take a holiday cruise? Leave a review to help your fellow travelers plan for 2023! **