Holiday Cruising on the Disney Ships
Festive cheer fills the cruises
Friday, January 14, 2005
by Sue Holland, staff writer
Photo by Sue Holland.
The holiday season may have just ended, but it's never too
early to look ahead to the next one! The weeks that include Christmas
and New Year's Day are two of the busiest weeks ever at the Walt Disney
World Resorts and the Disney cruise ships. It is, however, possible to
enjoy the festivities and holiday décor without the incredible
crowds, by cruising during the first few weeks of December.
The Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder are transformed
just before Thanksgiving, becoming beautifully decorated for the holidays.
There are 25 Christmas trees, in addition to 25,000 Christmas tree lights,
1,260 feet of garland and 3,600 yards of ribbon. Most of the decorations
are found in the central atrium of the ship, but almost every public room
has a Christmas tree and some other holiday touches.
The cruise terminal at Port Canaveral is decorated with large wreathes
that include Mickey's gloved hands, garland, and a Christmas tree. Right
from the start passengers are swept into the holiday spirit, thanks to
the decorations and background music. It does not matter that it may be
80 degrees outsideeverything looks like Christmas!
Atrium decorations will be unlit at first. Photo by Sue Holland.
Passengers board the ship around noon and enter into the three-story
atrium in the center of the ship. Four glass elevators travel between
decks 1 and 10, and a sweeping staircase extends from deck 4 to deck 3
on either side of the entrance to Lumiere's (on the Magic) or Triton's
(on the Wonder). At this point none of the lights are on, but it
still looks wonderfully festive.
Atrium Christmas tree on the Disney Magic. Photo by Sue Holland.
On the first evening of the cruise, there is an official tree-lighting
ceremony. On the Disney Magic it was held at 7:45, which allowed
guests from both early and late dinner seating to attend. The tree itself
is nearly three decks tall, and becomes a popular spot for posing for
photographs during the cruise. The best viewing of the tree lighting is
from decks 3 or 4, as deck 5 seems a bit too high.
The Disney Magic atrium, glass elevators on the right. Photo by
The actual ceremony includes singing a few Christmas carols, appearances
by several of the Disney characters and a family chosen to turn the lights
on. Throughout the cruise the characters are dressed in the same holiday
attire they wear in the theme parks and resorts, with Goofy playing the
part of Santa. Once the Christmas tree is lit, the artificial snow begins
blowing down into the atrium, similar to what guests experience at the
Osborne Lights at the Disney-MGM Studios. The lights will remain on for
the rest of the cruise, so this first night is the only chance to see
the lights actually come on.
Disney Magic atrium all decked out for the holidays. Photo by Sue Holland.
Throughout the ship, Disney music is replaced by Christmas carols, which
may seem odd to people visiting from the colder climates. Floridians are
used to the holiday music when it is sunny and warm, though. There were
a couple Christmas-related activities scheduled during the seven-night
cruise and most likely there will be more holiday activities planned for
Christmas and New Year's. Families (of two to six people) could register
to design their own gingerbread house, with the event held one afternoon
while at sea.
Gingerbread house created by Disney chefs. Photo by Sue Holland.
On a much grander scale, the Disney chefs create a large gingerbread
house. On the Magic it was located on deck 3 near the back entrance
to Lumiere's. On several evenings the ship's photographers were set up
in this area, using the gingerbread house as the backdrop for individual
or family photographs. During the day it was unattended, leaving it available
for people to take photos with their own cameras. Unfortunately, some
guests must have been checking to see if it really was gingerbread, as
Mickey's ears were broken off on some of the cookies used to trim the
One evening after dinner, Disney entertainers sang Christmas carols in
the atrium and Mrs. Claus sat in a rocking chair next to the tree to tell
the story T'was the Night Before Christmas. In order to accommodate
people at the late dinner seating, this event was held at 10:00 p.m. but
was well attended by the children on board despite the fairly late hour.
The children sat on the floor of the atrium, while adults stood back or
watched and listened from the railings on decks 4 and 5.
Christmas tree located at the top of the mast. Photo by Sue Holland.
Perhaps the most unusually located tree is the one found outside at the
top of the mast at the front of the ship. It would be easy to miss unless
you look up to the sky, although it is easier to notice it at night due
to the Christmas lights on the tree. The outer decks were not decorated
at all, other than the tree up on the mast.
The opportunity to meet and greet the Disney characters is a big reason
to choose Disney Cruise Line over another line. During the holiday season
the characters pose for photos with guests in front of the lobby Christmas
tree in addition to the regular locations. Santa Goofy is expected to
have a surprise for all children on Christmas Day, too.
Castaway Cay's Christmas tree, with tropical ornaments. Photo by Sue Holland.
The most popular port of call on the Disney cruises is Disney's private
island, Castaway Cay. Located in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay is also decorated
for the holiday season. The holiday décor is not island-wide, however.
Visitors will see a 40-foot tall tropical Christmas tree on the dock,
next to a winter wonderland display.
Mr. & Mrs. Snowman on Castaway Cay while it is snowing. Photo by Sue Holland.
Mr. and Mrs. Snowman (complete with shell noses and tropical shirts)
stand next to a sleigh full of presents by the tree. Disney characters
are dressed in a tropical version of holiday attire and pose for photos
with visitors. Christmas music is playing continuously, and a fan blows
the artificial snow across the area. During peak times, the ship's photographers
take pictures here.
Island tram takes visitors to the beaches. Photo by Sue Holland.
The island tram is also transformed reindeer for the holidays, becoming
a very long reindeer! The antlers and face are seen first, but be sure
to check out the back end for the reindeer tail. The tram is a whimsical
touch, and adults in particular seem to appreciate it.
All of the holiday decorations make the cruise even more special than
normal. Many families make a visit to Walt Disney World an annual family
holiday tradition, and the Disney Cruise Line ships are also worth considering.
There is nothing on the scale of the Candlelight Processional or the Osborne
Lights, but the ships are beautiful and even Scrooge would have difficulty
not getting into the holiday spirit on board!
Photo by Sue Holland.
Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Sue here.
Sue has been hooked on Walt Disney World since
her first visit in 1972 with her parents and younger brother. She kept returning
more frequently until she moved to Florida in 1986.
After joining the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) in
1997, she now visits almost monthly. She also spends time at
the DVC's non-WDW locations, and is experienced with the Disney cruise ships.
She takes many of these trips on her own, but
she's also toured WDW with large groups of people, including families, the elderly,
and people with disabilities.
She works as the Administrative Services Division Head
for a large residential facility administered by the Florida Department of Children
and Families. She currently resides in Southwest Florida with her teenage son.
Sue is one of our most prolific trip report writers.
Read her trip report archive here.
You can contact Sue here.
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