We recently did a Very Merrytime Christmas sailing aboard Disney Cruise Line and thought it’d be worth sharing photos, info, and our review of the voyage. Our cruise was a 4-night trip from Port Canaveral, Florida (near Walt Disney World) on the Disney Dream, but these holiday cruises are offered fleet-wide in November and December.
These Very Merrytime voyages promise everything of a normal itinerary, including Pirate Night, holiday-themed atrium entertainment acts, and a stop at Castaway Cay. Disney Cruise Line’s private island is also decked out for the holidays with garland, and icon Christmas tree, and more.
Aboard each Disney Cruise Line ship, there are also entertainment highlights, themed activities for kids, youth parties & crafts, and interactive options. Of course, there’s also a variety of exclusive, holiday-themed DCL merchandise and gifts. In our estimation, this all sounds better than it is in execution…
We’ll start with some basic background info about Disney Cruise Line’s Very Merrytime sailings…
Very Merrytime Cruise Info & Entertainment
Mickey’s Tree-Lighting Magic – When you walk onto your Disney Cruise Line ship on day one, the Christmas tree and garland lights aren’t yet on. This is because there’s a show featuring Disney characters, Christmas music, crew members, and more in this tree-lighting ceremony that makes these festive lights twinkle.
Santa’s Winter Wonderland Ball – Santa and Mrs. Claus invite in some special guests on each Very Merrytime sailing in this performance. This special holiday gathering featuring Broadway-style entertainment (per Disney–we’d say that’s overselling it), classic holiday tunes, Mickey & friends, and snow in the atrium.
Christmas Character Costumes – The costumes that the Disney characters don during Mickey’s Tree-Lighting Magic Ceremony and Santa’s Winter Wonderland Ball are also worn throughout the cruise during meet & greets. The Navigator App specifies meet-and-greet times, but not attire.
Castaway Cay – Disney Cruise Line’s private island is decked for the holidays with a tropical flair. An icon Christmas tree, holiday island music, garland, and even snow flurries greet guests arriving to the island.
Gingerbread House – Each Disney Cruise Line ship features a life-size gingerbread house in the atrium, created by the Crew Members from scratch as they compete against each other for the most creative and whimsical creation.
See Ya Real Soon – The holiday version of See Ya Real Soon is modified, featuring the Dickens Carolers who sing “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” As with Epcot’s now extinct fireworks, this was a perfect way to end the cruise during the Christmas season. This show also provides another opportunity for guests to meet the characters, in a rushed-but-efficient process.
There isn’t enough Christmas. That’s pretty much it, in a single sentence. Don’t get us wrong–we love Disney Cruise Line and had a blast on this sailing. However, this isn’t simply a sailing that coincidentally occurs around Christmas-time, it’s actively marketed by Disney as a Very Merrytime Cruise. From that perspective, it falls woefully short.
First, the decorations. It’s nice to see the atriums of the gorgeous Disney Cruise Line ships decorated, but disappointing that these are generic Christmas ornaments, garland, and lights. They look nice, but there’s nothing on-theme about them, which is a bit of a letdown if you’ve been to the resorts at Walt Disney World around the holidays.
Beyond the ship atrium, there just isn’t much in terms of decor. There are trees in the lobby of each restaurant and scattered in a few other spots, but not much. A few wreaths and scattered pieces of garland, but nothing (that I can recall) that was even illuminated outside the atrium.
Castaway Cay does have an on-theme Christmas tree, which is really well done. Definitely the best photo op of the entire Very Merrytime Christmas Cruise.
Beyond that…Castaway Cay also does not have much. This would’ve been totally fine and more understandable if the ship had an adequate amount of decor.
Then there’s the entertainment. Three shows might sound like a decent amount, but that would be really overselling each. The tree lighting is pretty short and the See Ya Real Soon is a modified version of a normal (also short) goodbye.
Santa’s Winter Wonderland Ball is decent, but it’s also way too short, and the substance of the show is over far too quickly. Disney describes these as “Broadway-style” entertainment, but that’s not even remotely accurate. These are not proper shows, they’re mostly character greetings with a mild musical component. If you’re expecting Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration or even A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas, lower your expectations.
The Dickens Carolers are great in the few moments they’re given to shine, but those are over way too quickly. (If our in-room survey is any indication, they roam the ship and perform carols, but we never saw this.)
A proper stage show featuring the Dickens Carolers in the Walt Disney Theatre would’ve been awesome, but we would’ve been content with much less. Something–anything–of substance would’ve been nice. As it stands, there’s way too much of an emphasis on the Disney characters being introduced and waving, and too little on…literally anything else.
Speaking of the Disney characters, they are one of the few Christmas bright spots. Each of the Fab Five (or is it Sensational Six now?) has multiple holiday-themed outfits, and they rotate in these costumes for meet & greets throughout the Very Merrytime cruise. If your primary concern is meeting a range of characters in rare costumes, you’ll probably leave very satisfied.
We enjoyed these character meet & greets, but they were not our primary motivation for taking the cruise. We were expecting something more akin to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Sea. We would’ve even settled for a holiday version of Star Wars Day at Sea, which we experienced earlier in the year and really enjoyed.
Speaking of which, we’ve previously done two cruises with a Star Wars and Frozen Day at Sea, and each of those single days offered more substance than the entirety of this Very Merrytime Cruise. It’s worth emphasizing that those are marketed as normal cruises with the themed day added to select dates after itineraries go on sale.
In any case, these other themed ‘day at sea’ cruises provide a template for what Disney Cruise Line could do to make the Very Merrytime Cruise satisfying as a Christmas-time experience. Add a deck party, more substantive stage show, daytime entertainment, themed menus & desserts, scavenger hunt, and decorations. (On the plus side, the themed cups were a decent touch.)
We’d personally go a step further and replace the tired and underwhelming Pirate Night offerings with something holiday-centric. Use the same fireworks but set them to Christmas music.
Have a nighttime stage show. Encourage guests to done their holiday finery and get dressed up in yuletide attire. These are not unrealistic expectations–Disney Cruise Line does all of these things well on other cruises, so it’s perplexing that they drop the ball with Christmas.
Overall, our Disney Cruise Line experience was still exceptional, and we remain of the belief that DCL offers a premium product worthy of the premium pricing, elevated level of service, and high standards…at least with all of the normal offerings. Our disappointment here comes in comparing the Very Merrytime Cruise to other days at sea we’ve experienced, as well as Disney Christmas entertainment in the parks.
We wouldn’t hesitate to take another Disney cruise, but will likely avoid November and December in the future. These itineraries are more expensive (at least, in our experience) than their counterparts in January and February, and we’d prefer to save the money and do one of the discounted off-season sailings. With that said, if you’re looking to do a family cruise around the holidays and are only looking for mild dashes of Christmas cheer, there’s no reason to actively avoid the Very Merrytime Cruises. Just don’t go out of your way to book one, either.
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If you’ve done a Very Merrytime Christmas Cruise, did you have any similar disappointment? Did it live up to your expectations? Do you think we’re being too hard on it? Is this seasonal offering something you’d like to experience on Disney Cruise Line? Do you agree or disagree with our review? Any questions? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!