Who doesn’t love a cruise with the Disney Cruise Line, but when it’s combined with the Christmas holiday season it’s even more magical! On Disney Cruise Line there are sailings called a “Very Merrytime Cruise” that sail early November through December on all four ships. On November 5, 2016, I was fortunate enough to sail out of New York City heading to San Juan, Puerto Rico on the DCL Magic, which happened to be the first Very Merrytime Cruise for the fleet that year. As we entered the atrium and heard our family “welcomed aboard” we caught the first glimpse of the magic we were about to experience. Standing 24 feet tall was a magnificent Christmas tree adorned with pretty ornaments and there was garland hung on the railings and staircase.
On the first night, there was the Mickey’s Tree Lighting Magic hosted by Captain Mickey and his Friends. We watched the ceremony from deck three in the atrium, and there were many fellow cruisers along the railings on the upper decks of the atrium. Merriment abounded as the tree was brought to life with thousands of lights. Later in the evening was the Winter Wonderland Ball celebrating the arrival of Santa Claus. The cruise director and the Snowbells entertained us for awhile before Santa made his entrance, and it was even snowing in the atrium. Mickey Mouse even stopped by for a photo-op dressed in his holiday sweater. This was a great way to start our Very Merrytime Cruise.
The ship was decorated through-out with holiday decorations in the public spaces. The dining rooms had garland and small trees, even the adult lounge areas were decorated. In my opinion the amount of decorations was just right, so if you were not into this holiday celebration you did not feel uncomfortable.
Undoubtedly one of my favorite parts of the cruise was watching the life-size gingerbread house being built. Upon our arrival, in a back corner of the atrium there was an area partitioned off from public viewing, but you could “peek” at it from the higher atrium decks. Slowly, the gingerbread house was being put together and by Day 3 the partitions came down and the beautiful structure was revealed.
Prior to the assembly, the culinary team had been busy designing and baking the required gingerbread pieces. During the day, the culinary team was busy attaching the gingerbread bricks and shingles to the house. It all looked so delicate and meticulously placed. The house assembly takes about 6 – 7 days to complete and remains onboard through Christmas. It was interesting to chat with the culinary team each day and to learn more about the techniques used. The house had 500 pounds of gingerbread dough, 2,500 bricks, plus 1,500 bricks on the roof, and 120 pounds of icing! We learned that there is a gingerbread house competition between the four ships each year. Therefore, each ship has its own design making it unique for the guests. We later found out that the gingerbread house on the Magic won the 2016 competition!
During our six night cruise, there were other holiday festivities in which to partake. The ship’s stores had special holiday themed merchandise including shirts, mugs, plush characters dressed in holiday attire, ornaments, Mickey ears, and more. Throughout the cruise, there were character Meet and Greets with the characters dressed for the holidays. Mrs. Claus had story time near the Christmas tree scheduled several times during the cruise. The Youth Clubs had holiday events scheduled on various days including a scavenger hunt, arts and crafts, dance parties, and more. Another festive experience was walking down the stateroom halls on each deck and seeing stateroom doors decorated to celebrate the season. Some even had battery operated lights hanging on cut-out trees.
This cruise was also the WDW Radio E-ticket Cruise with Lou Mongello. Our group had fun celebrating together that week. We participated in a private door decorating contest, fish extender exchange and 12 Laps of Christmas running on deck four, all sponsored by WDW Radio and MEI/Mouse Fan Travel. On our last sea day, the group had an ugly sweater contest, and boy were some sweaters unique! We even had a white elephant Disney-themed gift exchange. Sailing with WDW Radio was quite memorable in itself, but combined with the Very Merrytime Cruise, it was even more magical!
In 2014, I was fortunate to sail on the Disney Dream during a Very Merrytime Cruise. This cruise embarked from Port Canaveral where DCL has its own private cruise terminal which was decorated for the holidays as well. Guests could sign up to decorate their own miniature gingerbread house for a nominal fee. During this cruise, we stopped at Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line’s private island in the Bahamas. The island was also decorated with Christmas trees, garland, and sandmen (think snowmen made out of sand). Even the trams that transport you around the island were decorated with a beachy Christmas theme.
Disney Cruise Line has taken themed cruises to a new height. Not only do they go overboard for their Very Merrytime Cruises, they also offer Halloween on the High Seas cruises in the fall, Star Wars Day at Sea cruises, and a Marvel Day at Sea cruise. So if you are thinking about sailing with DCL, I highly recommend sailing during one of these wonderful special cruises. Please let me know in the comments below if you have experienced any of the special themed cruises.
Very Merrytime Cruise logo © Disney. Photos from DCL Dream are property of Beci Mahnken of MEI/Mouse Fan Travel, additional photos by Bruce Brodsky and Darlene Nagi, all other photos are from author’s private collection.
To learn more about Vanessa and read her recent posts for WDW Radio, visit her author page by clicking the link on her name at the top of this post.