Halloween and Christmas on Disney Cruise Line: Here’s What You Need to Know

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Disney Cruise Line offers a number of special sailings, with enhancements above and beyond the normal cruise experience. Two of the most popular special sailings are Halloween on the High Seas and Very Merrytime.

Halloween on the High Seas Cruises

Halloween on the High Seas sailings take place on every Disney Cruise Line ship. Halloween-themed cruise typically take place from mid-September until the ship’s sailing that includes October 31. You can search for Halloween sailings by visiting the “Our Ships” tab on the Disney Cruise Line website and scroll down to the “Themed and Holiday Cruises” section.

You can verify that a cruise will be Halloween-themed by looking for the Halloween banners on the sailing listing.

Components of Halloween Cruises include:

  • Changes to ship decor. Each ship has version of a “pumpkin tree” that fills much of the lobby atrium. There will often be one night with a ceremony that brings the tree to “life.” Often ship portholes are filled with Jack-O-Lantern faces and the atrium railings are festooned with orange and black bunting.
  • Changes to ship music. Instead of standard Disney tunes, you’re likely to hear songs like “Monster Mash” piped into the ship’s public areas.
  • Characters. Many of the Disney characters on the ship will appear in costume. (I’m going to pretend you didn’t just think to yourself, “Aren’t they always in costume?”) Some variations occur from year to year, but often Mickey and Minnie are dressed as a wizard and witch, Goofy is often King Tut, Chip & Dale are often comical thieves.
  • Onboard activities. Some of the normal onboard craft sessions will have a Halloween twist. For example, a character drawing class will have the character in a Halloween setting. Trivia sessions might include a Halloween trivia game. There might be face painting or temporary tattoos available.
  • Guest costumes. Typically one day of the cruise will have a costume party or parade called something like a “Mouse-querade party.” Kids and adults are welcome to dress up, but there are a bunch of rules about acceptable costuming. For example, you’re not allowed to carry anything that looks like a weapon, you can’t dress exactly like a regular character (no Cinderella replicas, for example), and you can’t wear non-medical masks when you’re walking around.
    Be sure to check the DCL website for specifics. Costumes are absolutely NOT required. If dressing up is not your thing, you don’t have to participate in dress-up activities.
  • Trick or Treating. Kids will be invited to visit trick-or-treat stations during one day of the sailing.
  • Food and drink. The drink-of-the-day will likely have spooky name and a few of the offerings in Cabanas (or Marceline Market on the Wish) might include pumpkin.
  • Movies. The selection of films shown on the Funnelvision screens or in the onboard theaters typically includes Halloween-themed Disney films such as The Nightmare Before Christmas, Halloweentown, or Hocus Pocus.
  • Merchandise. There will be some Halloween-themed merchandise for sale in the onboard shops.
  • Photo backgrounds. Some of the onboard photo backgrounds will have Halloween themeing.
Characters in costume ©Disney
Characters in costume
Onboard trick or treating station.
Halloween tree
Halloween tree face
Lobby display
Lobby bunting
Jack-o-lantern porthole
Onboard photos
Mouse-querade party
Guests in costume playing games in the lobby

Very Merrytime Cruises

Fun fact: the word “merrytime” in the Very Merrytime name for DCL’s holiday cruises is a play on the word “Maritime” meaning “connected to the sea.”

Merrytime cruises typically start in mid-November and end with the last sailing of each ship that includes December 25. If you’re on a New Year’s Eve cruise, the Christmas decor will still be up, but it won’t have the Merrytime designation. You can verify that you’re booking a Merrytime cruise by looking for the ornament and light illustrated banner on the listing for your sailing.

Components of Merrytime Cruises include:

  • Changes to ship decor. Each ship will have a giant Christmas tree that fills much of the lobby atrium, which will also feature a life-sized gingerbread house. The atrium railings are festooned with faux pine boughs and holiday ornaments. Additional trees will appear in nearly every public corner of the ship – and even on Disney’s private island Castaway Cay.
  • Changes to ship music. Instead of standard Disney tunes, you’re likely to hear songs like “Jingle Bells” piped into the ship’s public areas.
  • Characters. Many of the Disney characters on the ship will appear in wintery variations of their usual clothes – think cozy scarves and hats. On some sailings, you may have the opportunity to meet Santa.
  • Onboard activities. Some of the normal onboard craft sessions will have a Christmas twist. For example, a character drawing class will have the character in a Christmas setting. Trivia sessions might include a Christmas trivia game. There will often be one night with holiday storytelling.
  • Stateroom gifts. For sailings that actually include Christmas day, guests will likely receive a small gift in their stateroom such as candy or a print of the ship.
  • Food and drink. The drink-of-the-day will likely have festive name and a few of the offerings in Cabanas (or Marceline Market on the Wish) might include red and green embellishments.
  • Movies. The selection of films shown on the Funnelvision screens or in the onboard theaters typically includes Christmas-themed Disney films such as Mickey’s Christmas Carol.
  • Merchandise. There will be some holiday-themed merchandise for sale in the onboard shops.
  • Photo backgrounds. Some of the onboard photo backgrounds will have Christmas themeing.
  • Religious observances. The ship will typically hold a midnight mass on Christmas Eve as well as Catholic and non-denominational services on Christmas morning, all in the Walt Disney theater, check your Navigator app for exact times. The ship lobby will have a Jewish menorah and a Kwanzaa Kinara placed somehere and there will be brief lighting events during sailings that include these holidays, but expect that these celebrations will be dwarfed by all things Christmas. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, you’ll have to consider how you’ll feel about the pervasive merriment.
Lobby decor
Lobby gingerbread house
Holiday decor in Cove Cafe adult coffee bar
Holiday decor in the It’s a Small World nursery
Christmas towel “animal” left in our stateroom
Stateroom gift of chocolates
Stitch wearing a poinsettia wreath
Holiday decor at Castaway Cay
Mickey in a cozy Christmas sweater
Meeting Santa
Themed merchandise

What is the Pricing Like?

There is no specific upcharge for the enhancements on these cruises. With a tiny handful of exceptions, all the holiday perks are included with the price of your cruise. Prices related more to the date of the sailings rather than the holiday overlay. For example, sailings during the first two weeks of December include all the Christmas decor, music, food, and more, but the prices are very reasonable. Rates go up as more children have their holiday school vacations and the cruises that actually include Christmas can be quite pricey.

Need Help?

If you need assistance with deciding whether a holiday sailing on Disney Cruise Line is right for your family, contact one of our specialist travel agents for consultation and free quote.

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Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel (now PlanDisney), a regular contributor to TouringPlans.com, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obsession - Broadway theater.

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