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Are Christmas Cruises Worth It? – Full Review – Food, Entertainment, and More

I love cruising and I love Christmas but when I booked an MSC cruise that included Christmas day onboard I didn’t know what to expect.

Christmas is a big deal and the decision to spend it on a cruise was definitely a risk of sorts, you can’t re-do Christmas if it goes wrong. 

My Christmas Cruise – Itinerary and Ship

Ship: MSC Meraviglia (MSC Cruises)
Duration: 7 Nights
Itinerary: Mediteranean from Genoa

MSC are an Italian cruise line and I’m from the UK so I did expect Christmas to be different.

I don’t think I was prepared for quite how different though, the Christmas dinner wasn’t anything like the Christmas dinner we would have at home and the entertainment was definitely a change from what I’m used to. 

I didn’t know if it would be strange being away from home over the holiday and I had no idea if it’d still feel like Christmas if I was somewhere hot. 

Why Did We Book This Cruise?

We booked the MSC cruise because it was relatively cheap, we wanted to try an MSC Christmas cruise and it was onboard a brand new ship, the MSC Meraviglia. 

I say cheap, it was cheap considering the fact that it went over Christmas, usually you pay a big premium to be on a cruise at Christmas just because the demand is higher.

We flew to Genoa in Italy to embark the ship and boarded on Christmas eve.

My First Impressions – Ship Decorations

I have to say I was both disappointed and amazed when I embarked the ship.

I was amazed by the huge promenade street that runs through the centre of the ship, I was amazed by the swimming pools, the ropes course and the general design of the ship but I was disappointed with the Christmas decorations.

When you think about Christmas cruising you probably picture a ship with big Christmas trees in the Atrium, Christmas decorations lining the stairs but there really wasn’t any of that.

There were a few small Christmas decorations around and some big sparkly angels in the atrium but it didn’t feel as Christmassy as I expected. 

I’ve been on other ships near Christmas and this is kind of the level of decorations I was expecting. It really didn’t make a difference to our cruise how decorated the ship was but I was just surprised it wasn’t more decorated.

Top Tip: If you do want to get the Christmassy cruise feeling but don’t want to pay the premium price, cruising earlier in the month can be a great way to do it. Most ships will be decorated by the start of December and some start decorating even earlier.

I took a cruise with Costa in early December and it was amazing to see the ship decorated like this.

The below is a photo of me on a sleigh on the Costa Luminosa.

Costa Cruises Christmas Sleigh

True you won’t get the Christmas dinner or Christmas entertainment but it’s still really nice to be on a ship like this. 

The Crew Had Christmas Hats

One thing that did make the ship feel Christmassy was that all of the waiters and all of the crew were wearing Christmas hats for our entire cruise.

It definitely helped to make the ship feel like Christmas and I hope it wasn’t too annoying for the crew. 

If you do ever take a Christmas cruise remember that it’s also Christmas for the crew, they’ll probably work 12+ hours on Christmas day with their families back at home, so be EXTRA nice.

msc meraviglia main dining room

I always think cruise lines are too tolerant of guests being rude to the crew, if I was in charge there would be a 0 tolerance approach. As my mum always said to me, good manners cost nothing! 

MSC’s Itineraries Are Different From Other Cruise Lines

MSC are a little different from most cruise lines because guests can board and embark in almost every port, there isn’t really a start and end to the cruise in the way that there usually is on other cruise lines.

That meant that when we got onboard on Christmas eve some people had already been on board for a few days, maybe some had even been on for a week or more. 

We were very much thrown straight into Christmas by boarding on Christmas eve.

There were a few Christmas activities on the daily schedule including Christmas carols and a Christmas theatre show.

Let it Snow! A Christmas Show

I had cruised with MSC before this and I have to say they don’t have my favourite theatre shows, I was excited to see what they’d do for Christmas though.

Even though they’re not my favourite I still go most days, they’re included in the cruise fare and fairly short. I do find them entertaining, just not one of my favourites. 

msc meraviglia christmas show snowmen elves

We saw a show called Let it Snow which definitely put us in the Christmas mood. There were colourful costumes and Christmas songs with dancing. Somebody dressed as a snowman and lots of elves.

The show was on 3x that evening so that everybody could see the show.

Does Santa Visit Cruise Ships?

Santa does visit cruise ships and he will usually be available to take photos with and to give out presents. He usually visits on Christmas eve.

I did wonder, if I was on a cruise ship and it was Christmas eve how would Santa find me to give me my Christmas presents? Luckily he was in the promenade that evening to take photos with the children.

On lots of cruise lines Santa will be there to give out presents too, I don’t remember if there were presents on this cruise, but sadly I think I’m a little too old for Santa to give me a gift. 

Christmas Activities and Entertainment on Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve there was also a Christmas musical game, Christmas party and Christmas DJ. The entertainment definitely made us feel like it was Christmas although it was still very different from being at home in chilly England. 

Usually here on Christmas eve we would watch a movie, have some nice snacks and leave out a mince pie for Father Christmas and a carrot for the reindeer, in the US it seems that Santa usually gets cookies, but here it’s a mince pie.

Personally, I’d much prefer the cookies but mince pies are very popular here, they’re made of fruit not meat mince. 

We went to sleep very content and happy but I was thinking about the next day, would Christmas be the same without seeing my extended family? Would it be the same without presents and what would be for Christmas dinner?

msc meraviglia chocolate ship shop

If You Take a Cruise Over Christmas Will You Have a Traditional Christmas Dinner?

American and British cruise lines will serve traditional American and British Christmas meals. Cruise lines from Italy, Greece and other countries will serve dishes local to the origin country of the cruise line which may not be what American or British guests are used to.

In the UK Christmas dinner is usually some sort of roasted meat, roast potatoes, sprouts, gravy, that kind of thing but I didn’t expect an Italian Christmas dinner to be like that.

MSC have guests from all over the world so I’m sure they had a lot of different people expecting different things for Christmas dinner. 

We Visited 4 Countries in 7 Days

The cruise was sailing around the Mediterranean and it visited ports in Italy, Malta, Spain and France.

I did have some concerns about if the ports would be open as usual given that we were visiting on the Christmas holiday. 

port of genoa italy

We Spent Christmas Day in Civitavecchia

We actually had a port day on Christmas day, we were in Civitavecchia, the port for Rome. 

In the UK over Christmas it’s usually pretty chilly, maybe something like 5c (40f) it very rarely snows here on Christmas but it definitely is cold. 

It was INCREDIBLE to feel warm on Christmas day, I’d definitely recommend it if you live somewhere cold.

We decided not to go into Rome, it’s quite a long way, we’d been before and we wanted to experience Christmas on the ship.

We did get off in the port of Civicevvehia and wandered around for a few hours, surprisingly most places were open but I suppose when a megaship like the MSC Mervaiglia arrives in port it makes sense to open the shops and cafes. 

The MSC Meraviglia holds 4500 passengers so she’s a pretty big ship. 

We Didn’t Bring Many Christmas Presents

We decided not to really do Christmas presents, each person had one present to open but really being on the cruise was the Christmas present.

I got some new pyjamas and fluffy socks which really is the best thing you can get for Christmas.

civitavecchia christmas day cruise rome msc meraviglia

If you are cruising at Christmas and you can make your presents usable on the cruise, like clothes, that’s a great way to make sure you’re not wasting space in your suitcase. 

For this week long cruise I only bought a small carry on/cabin sized suitcase because we had to fly to Italy and I usually just take a small suitcase when flying.

It was really nice not to have to think too much about presents and to skip all of that ‘do I have everything I need’ panic feeling that I’m sure a lot of people feel on Christmas day.

There Were Christmassy and Non-Christmassy Events Happening Onboard

After our walking about in Civitavecchia we came back to the ship, there were quite a few Christmas activities happening onboard but it wasn’t overwhelmingly Christmas, there were still usual things like dance classes, quizzes and exercise classes happening as normal. 

Even though our MSC cruise had guests from all over the world, speaking lots of different languages the majority of the entertainment and the music was in English. 

MSC’s Dress Codes Are Pretty Relaxed

There was a dress code in the main dining room but it wasn’t enforced at all. I recently asked you if you thought MSC’s dress codes were relaxed and 96% of you answered yes.

I think that’s pretty conclusive.

To learn more about MSC’s dress codes and to see photos of what others have worn on MSC cruises, check out this post >> MSC Dress Code Photo Guide – 96% Agree The Dress Codes are Relaxed

I decided to wear a spotty black dress because well, it was Christmas and I thought why not. The relaxed dress codes are one of the things that I like about MSC, I like the opportunity to dress up but don’t really like to be told what I will wear.

The below is me with friends on an MSC Cruise.

msc virtuosa cruise monkeys cruise buoys cruising pete drinks

I’ve Booked Another Christmas Cruise!

I have made a decision about my next Christmas which was influenced by what I learnt on this cruise. I am cruising over Christmas again this year but the cruise I’ve booked for this year does have much stricter dress codes and I think it even has a formal night on Christmas day, so that’ll be interesting.

I’m not sure if you would like to wear a tie and a jacket on Christmas day, but for me I’m normally more of a christmas jumper kinda girl. 

My Christmas Dinner and Christmas Menus

The main Christmas dinner menu on my MSC cruise featured a lot of seafood which makes sense for an Italian cruise line, I had the roast suckling pig and from what I remember it was good.

It was good. No Turkey though!

Below is my Christmas day dinner and dessert, again, yummy!

I Had a Traditional Roast When I Came Home

I usually eat a LOT when it comes to Christmas dinner, I pile the roast potatoes high and LOVE Yorkshire puddings. When I came back from this cruise I did cook myself a traditional roast dinner because that part of my Christmas cravings weren’t satisfied. 

It’s really cheap to buy the stuff you need for a Christmas dinner after Christmas though because everybody else is fed up with sprouts. I quite like them but let me know if you do in the comments. 

Are Christmas Cruises Worth it?

There are many benefits to Christmas Cruises that make the price worth it. Christmas Cruises provide a relaxing experience while allowing guests to visit new places on Christmas day. The passengers don’t have to worry about presents, shopping or cleaning.

Christmas cruises are usually more expensive than cruises at other times of year, but it is possible to find a bargain if you are looking for one. If you’d like to know how to cruise on a budget so that you can cruise more, I teach a course that’ll show you exactly this: Cruise For Less.

Cruising With P&O Over Christmas

I am going to get the chance to experience a traditional British Christmas cruise as I’m cruising with P&O over Christmas this year. I’ve already tried P&O’s roast potatoes and yorkshire puddings and I can confirm they are amazing. 

I have high hopes for the decoration of the P&O ship and I’m excited to experience a really British Christmas.

I am nervous about the strict dress codes and we are passing through the notorious bay of biscay, but it’ll be an adventure for sure. 

I cruised with P&O recently onboard their biggest and newest cruise ship, I booked the cheapest cabin available on the entire ship. To find out how that was, and whether me and my brother managed a full week in a tiny room without fighting, check out this video. 

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