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U.K. Cruise Lines’ onboard holiday festivities

U.K. Cruise Lines’ onboard holiday festivities

For some, the season of good will is a great time for a getaway. The stress of the year has taken its toll, so many will pack up the presents and head for sunnier climates.

One great way to escape the cleaning and cooking, yet still enjoy tinsel and turkey, is to take a cruise. Cruise experts at online cruise news and review website,, ran a poll that showed nearly 70% had either cruised at Christmas or would love to, and over 80% had either been on a cruise at New Year or would love to try one. The majority of cruise lines get into the festive spirit for December 25, December 31 and the days in between, so why not give it a go?

U.K. lines generally offer decorated ships and Christmas-themed events, such as carol-singing and pantomimes. Plus, just think of the Christmas dinner you can tuck into—all the trimmings and more—without lifting a finger.

If you are onboard a ship for New Year’s Eve, you’ll find that festivities vary from a low-key dinner and countdown to glitzy and glamourous celebrations.

Every cruise line puts its own spin on holiday cheer. Keep reading for a roundup of onboard celebrations from U.K. lines, and enjoy!


Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

Seasonal style: Traditional festivities

Christmas: Santa Claus gives presents to all children onboard, and the crew performs a show in its native language. Passengers can test their holiday knowledge during a Christmas quiz show and take part in themed craft events. There are Christmas carols, and on Christmas Day there is a traditional Christmas dinner. On Boxing day, passengers can enjoy a seasonal show. Christmas Day is always spent at sea on Fred. Olsen ships.

New Year’s Eve: Most of Fred. Olsen’s ships spend New Year’s Eve in ports renowned for great New Year festivities, such as fireworks at midnight, so the ships don’t offer their own onboard celebrations.


Seasonal Style: Norwegian Christmas traditions are observed throughout the fleet.

Christmas: “God jul,” the traditional Christmas greeting in Norwegian, will be heard throughout the Hurtigruten fleet as its ships ply the waters along the Norwegian west coast from Bergen to Kirkenes. Guests will experience a traditional Norwegian yuletide including an elaborate Christmas Eve smorgasbord (buffet) and feast (sit-down supper). There will be caroling and readings from the Christmas gospel. Santa Claus (or “Julenissen” in Norwegian) will make an appearance.

New Year’s Eve: If you’re lucky, the Northern Lights will put on an elaborate show for you during your voyage—but there are definite festivities on tap such as a gala dinner and dance followed by a Champagne toast and a countdown to the New Year.

P&O Cruises

Seasonal Style: A traditional British Christmas and New Year’s Eve with all the trimmings

Christmas: Passengers sailing from Southampton (Arcadia, Artemis, Aurora and Oriana all depart from the U.K. port) are encouraged to get into the Christmas spirit upon embarkation at the cruise terminal, where they are welcomed with sherry and mince pies, a children’s choir, a military band and Santa Claus.

Passengers cruising on ships in the Caribbean (Azura, Ventura and Oceana) won’t miss out—decorations are sent to the ships and professional decorators are flown out to get passengers in the festive spirit.

These festive cruises offer carol concerts, Christmas music, Christmas shows and parades. Nativity plays are typically a highlight for children onboard P&O Cruises’ kid-friendly ships, including Azura, Ventura, Aurora, Oriana and Oceana. On Christmas Day, Santa Claus arrives at the ship’s funnel, and the event is a highlight for young and old. Christmas church services are held onboard, and traditional menus in the dining rooms feature turkey with cranberry sauce and traditional Christmas pudding with brandy butter.

New Year’s Eve: A gala evening meal and countdown for all guests takes place on December 31.

Thomson Cruises

Seasonal Style: Social and fun with a traditional feel

Christmas: The ships are decorated with holiday wreaths, Christmas trees and lights, and signs proclaiming traditional holiday greetings. The cruise director and staff will offer several holiday-themed shows throughout each cruise, and at least one seasonal movie will be shown. Santa Claus makes an appearance with gifts for the kids, and a traditional Christmas dinner—featuring turkey and Christmas Pudding—is served. A special midnight mass will be celebrated; it is usually held in one of the main show lounges because of its popularity.