Getting away for Christmas is a great option. Avoid all the stress and running around required at home and simply board a ship and get away. This year was our third Christmas cruise - we have written before about the Pros and Cons of Christmas Cruising having sailed on the Pacific Jewel in 2014 and Pacific Eden in 2015.
This year we opted for a 12-night Fiji and Vanuatu itinerary that sailed out of Brisbane on P&O’s Pacific Dawn which departed December 16, 2017.
Many people ask us if the ship does anything special for Christmas, for those considering a Christmas cruise, here are some of the the extras we experienced this year that made our trip Festive.
Passenger Christmas Choir
If you love your Christmas Carols and have always wanted to sing on a stage, here is your chance. The entertainment team recruited a passenger choir early on in the cruise and rehearsals were held on the sea days . A repertoire of Carols were performed on the main stage of the Marquee theatre in front of 400 odd passengers on Christmas Eve.
Kids Christmas Play
If you have children in the kids club they will also get the opportunity to perform in the Marquee theatre in front of a crowd of passengers. The kids club scheduled rehearsals for the children who had the opportunity to take part in a Christmas play performed on stage on Boxing Day. The play was a cute story about a little Christmas tree waiting to be picked from the woods and taken home to be a part of a family’s celebrations. Our daughter played a bird!
Family Christmas Fair
On Christmas Eve from 10am-12pm the Dome was transformed into a Christmas Fair for families to enjoy. Stations of activities were set up including face painting, wreath making, Christmas colouring and cookie decorating.
The kids club team conducted family games, ice-cream vouchers were handed out and families could opt in for a gingerbread house making competition. With only 10 minutes to construct and decorate a gingerbread house we failed dismally and opted for just piling on as many sweets and decorations as possible so we could eat it later! Needless to say we did not win that competition - we did get to eat the gingerbread house though!
For those wanting to celebrate the actual reason for Christmas, there was a catholic midnight mass and a Christmas morning non-denominational church service held.
The ship slowly became festive over the course of the cruise in the lead up to Christmas day. A display in the atrium of gingerbread houses and trees, the bars all had trees and decorations, the pantry came alive with gingerbread house displays and the waterfront restaurant had a great display that greeted everyone. All the staff wore Christmas hats and t-shirts and there was a really festive feel about the cruise.
Passengers also got into the spirit decorating cabin doors with wreaths, children’s drawings and even Christmas lights. We took it a step further and put tinsel up in the cabin and many passengers wore Festive t-shirts, hats and other outfits throughout the cruise. Top marks to the group of girls wearing the ugly Christmas jumper rashies.
Letters To and From Santa
At reception there was a Santa letter box set up with special paper for children to write letters to Santa. On Christmas Eve both our children received personalised letters on their beds in return from Santa, along with a towel animal of a reindeer!
Christmas Eve Carols
On Christmas Eve a special Christmas production was performed in the Marquee theatre with all the Christmas classics sung by the Entertainment staff. Passengers were all provided with song books and encouraged to join in the with the passenger choir when they took to the stage.
In the Atrium the crew also performed a few carols during the night to get everyone into the spirit of the Festive season.
Waterfront Christmas Menu
On Christmas Day the main restaurant, the Waterfront, presented a special Christmas menu. A traditional menu was served for dinner only (the restaurant was closed lunch on Christmas Day as we were ported in Port Villa). The menu included all the traditional offerings of Christmas ham, turkey with cranberry and Christmas pudding for dessert. The tables were set with bon bons and the staff all wore Christmas hats and were in a Festive mood.
The restaurant was packed for dinner on Christmas night. We forgot to make a booking (most people did this on the first day of the cruise!) and by the time we remembered they had booked out. Having said that, we simply arrived at the restaurant at 5:30pm, was told to come back at 6pm and was seated by 6:15pm. The restaurant did two seatings that evening and did the best they could to accommodate as many passengers as physically possible. The service was a little slow but that was to be expected with a full house and it gave us as a family plenty of time to catch up and enjoy the bad jokes in the bon bons!
Visit from Santa
On Christmas Day Santa visited the ship! All the children gathered at the marquee which was decorated with hundreds of red and green balloons and a big red chair for the special visitor. The entertainment team had packaged a video together of Santa and an elf around the ship which was shown not he big screen before Santa entered the theatre and took place on the stage.
Every child onboard was then invited to the stage to receive a gift and the ship photographer was unhand to capture Santa photos for all.
Our children received a P&O Selfie Stick (11yo) and a P&O frisbee, ball and drink bottle (8yo).
Late Night Babysitting
After a long day, our kids were of course up at 6am!, the kids club offered complimentary late night babysitting. Normally charged at $5 per hour after 10:30pm until close at 1pm - on Christmas night the late-night service was offered complimentary.
The kids were given blankets and a Christmas movie allowing the adults some time for a late night drink or visit to the night club to celebrate Christmas.
Overall the crew did a great job to get us into the spirit of Christmas. We noticed many large groups travelling together and multi-generational families enjoying a stress free Christmas where no-one had to cook, clean or drive!
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
Christmas can be both an amazing and a stressful day all within hours of itself. I think many of us have a love/hate relationship with the day. We look forward to it and many magical memories are made on that one special day of the year - but it can also be a rushed and stressful time of year.
We have taken two Christmas cruises and whilst we are not doing one this year, I would absolutely do it again. Here are my top three pros and cons to Christmas cruising.
PROS to Christmas Cruising
1. No cooking or cleaning!
When at home, Christmas day means someone has to cook and clean - or you go to a restaurant and pay top dollar for the experience. Christmas Day on a cruise means wake up, enjoy the morning opening and playing with kids presents, get dressed and walk to the restaurant for lunch. There is no rush to get a turkey on, a pork in the webber or a ham glazed, it is all done for you!
The restaurant staff go all out with all the traditional trimmings and it is all there to simply order. When you are finished, the waiter clears the table and you are done! No dishes, no clearing, just nap time.
2. No rushing
The two Christmas cruises we have been on departed on 18th and 19th of December. By the time you get to Christmas day you are chilled and in holiday mode. There is no need for any mad last minute rush to the shops to fight for the last minute ham glazing or any fights in busy shopping centre car parks to get that one last present for Uncle Jim who decided at the last minute he was coming for lunch!
You are on holiday, de-stressed and simply enjoying the moment.
3. No car travel
Many people try to squeeze everyone in on Christmas Day. A trip to visit one lot of parents on Christmas Eve, a brother on Christmas morning, parents at lunch, other parents for dinner. There can be a lot of car travel in that 24 hours.
On a cruise you don’t have to drive anywhere. If you are fortunate enough to have extended family on board the most you will have to do is walk one end of the ship to the other to knock on their cabin door. No-one has to drive, there are no responsible drivers needed at the end of the day and there are no sleepy over stimulated children screaming in the car at the end of a long day.
CONS to Christmas Cruising
1. No Family
Whilst some may see this as a Pro, it depends what your traditional Christmas looks like. Christmas to me means being surrounded by family. Having come from a large family of five children, having a crazy day with lots of family is what Christmas is to me.
The first Christmas cruise we did we had a set of grandparents with us. The kids loved having them with us and it was nice to have them there to share the experience.
The second Christmas cruise we were just the ITCHY FEET FAMILY and the kids really missed having all their cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents around.
When we asked the kids what they wanted to do for Christmas this year they specifically asked NOT to travel. So instead we are going away for New Years.
2. Packing Presents
Packing gifts for Christmas day can be a bit challenging. If you require a flight to get to the departure point, your airline baggage allowance can put some limitations on what you take.
You certainly can’t have a bike or a swing set under the tree on Christmas Day and you need to be selective with what to take.
We made sure extended family knew well in advance of our travel plans and gifts were purchased accordingly - or left under the tree at home for when we returned.
Thankfully Santa makes his way on board and every child on the ship receives a gift from him - and amazingly Santa also magically left something under our cabin door each year.
3. Missing Out
Because Christmas Cruises in Australia are generally 10 or 12 nights in duration and departing before the 20th December we did miss out on a few family and work Christmas parties.
Sporting club and social group end of year break ups, work break-up parties and the like all seemed to happen in the last week before Christmas.
Most businesses don’t break up until closer to the 25th and this therefore also meant eating into our annual leave more than we would want to. The cruise returns a few days after Christmas and generally businesses are still closed for that week until the New Year which meant we would be returned from our travels but still in enforced annual leave. Annual leave allocations are precious to us as we are always maxing out our allowance and having leave and being at home is not something we enjoy!
Have you taken a cruise at Christmas? What were your thoughts? Would you do it again?
Penny - ITCHY FEET FAMILY
In Australia P&O offer Christmas Cruises departing Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.