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What is a Christmas Cruise Like? (Onboard Dining, Entertainment and Decorations)

Christmas Cruises Vary From Cruiseline to Cruiseline

Christmas Cruises vary a lot from one line to another.

If you are cruising onboard an Italian cruise line you may find it a more “low-key” event than you are used to. Don’t expect to be served what, to a British or American cruiser would be considered a Traditional Chrismas Dinner.

I have taken four Christmas Cruises – two with Norwegian, one with P&O and one with MSC. I have also taken a Christmas-themed river cruise – and a Christmas Markets Ocean Cruise that was cancelled before we even set sail!

Emma Cruises Christmas on Ventura
Christmas onboard P&O’s Ventura

Cruise onboard the MSC Meraviglia – An Italian Christmas

We boarded her on Christmas Eve in Genoa and set sail for a 7-night cruise around the Mediterranean.

I LOVE Christmas cruises and I was lucky enough to have been on two others before this one – both onboard NCL.

Cruising with MSC is very different to cruising to NCL but I enjoyed Christmas with both Cruise Lines.

Ship decorations

I have to admit I was a little disappointed with the decorations around the ship. There were a few sparkly little trees and some really cool glowing angels but there wasn’t a big Christmas tree.

I think I’d been spoilt by cruising with Norwegian, where they always have a massive Christmas tree in the atrium.

Images of the Cunard ships decorated for Christmas also made me realise how bare most of the Meraviglia was…

msc meraviglia christmas cruise decorations atrium piano angels sparkles
This was the Christmassiest part of the Meraviglia…
Cunard christmas tree ship
Christmas is a grand affair onboard Cunard Ships. One day I must cruise on Cunard at Christmas!

The staff

The waiters did wear their Christmas hats for almost the full week that we were there.

I imagine that they got very annoying but I did like seeing them wearing their hats. It made all of my photos look a little more Christmassy!

msc meraviglia christmas cruise main dining room
MSC Meraviglia dining room at Christmas.

Christmas Eve

Below is the daily itinerary for activities that happened on Christmas Eve.

msc meraviglia christmas schedule

As you can see there isn’t anything Christmassy in the day (apart from the Christmas Carol rehearsal – not sure who the people who do the singing…)

I had kind of expected more Christmas-themed activities on a Christmas cruise.

Theatre show

The theatre show was a bit of fun. I enjoyed watching elves and snowmen dancing around the stage to various Christmas songs.

Most of the songs were in English, although there were a few in Italian. It definitely got me into the Christmas spirit!

Christmas Day

On Christmas day we were docked in Civitavecchia. We decided not to go into Rome as we’d been there before and thought that getting the train might be difficult on Christmas day.

Below is a video of what we got up to. The sun was shining and I was walking around in my T-shirt because I thought it was really hot. The Italians (who were wearing their coats) may disagree with me...

The weather was around the early to mid 20s Celsius – which I believe is around 70 Fahrenheit.

Watch the video below to find out more:

Christmas day daily schedule msc meraviglia
Christmas Day Itinerary onboard MSC Meraviglia


The only real Christmas event on in the daytime was the Christmas quiz. Most people will be off the ship though, so I suppose that makes sense.

Civitavecchia was decorated for Christmas but it seemed to be business as usual, all the restaurants and shops were still open.

civitavecchia christmas day cruise rome msc meraviglia
Civitavecchia on Christmas Day

Christmas lunch

We had a sit-down lunch, below is a picture of my food. I have a full food review of the MSC Meraviglia with all the menus here.

I am aware that the food is one thing that often gets criticised on MSC but I enjoyed all of the food and was never hungry when onboard:

MSC Meraviglia food review + menus. 

Christmas dinner

They had a special “Christmas” menu for Christmas dinner – although I don’t really see anything special about it.

I wasn’t expecting a full British roast dinner on MSC – and I definitely didn’t get it…

Whatever it was, it was very nice. You definitely won’t put on weight eating this though! I honestly didn’t know what to expect from a Christmas cruise in regards to food.

msc meraviglia christmas dinner menu
msc meraviglia christmas dinner
Christmas Dinner MSC Meraviglia

Christmas Dinner Dress Code

I took the opportunity to wear a spotty dress. The ‘gala’ nights onboard MSC didn’t really seem very formal. There was a dress code, but it wasn’t enforced at all.

I saw people in jeans eating in the main restaurant and some even had baseball caps or other strange hats. I’m not really one for dress codes so this suited me perfectly,

msc meraviglia dress code gala night christmas day girl spotty dress

As I mentioned, cruising with an Italian cruise line at Christmas does not offer your traditional American/British Christmas experienceso don’t expect it!

Find details of other my Christmas Cruise experiences below:

Christmas Onboard P&O Ventura

Christmas onboard P&O’s Ventura was far more of the British Christmas experience I am used to!

The ship was decorated beautifully, and a traditional British Christmas dinner was served.

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t very kind to us, and a lot of my family felt seasick for a lot of the cruise.

Find out all about that below:

Christmas Markets River Cruise

I took a Christmas Markets river cruise with Tui. Unfortunately, river cruising in December can be unpredictable.

We had to fly to a different airport and had a different itinerary to the one we were expecting. This was due to high water levels.

We still had a wonderful time though. Find out more about that lovely pre-Christmas cruise here:

Ambassador Christmas Markets Cruise – The Cruise That Never Was…

I planned a cruise on Ambassador Ambition – a ship that was originally planned to be scrapped in 2020.

She was saved from the scrapyard by a new British cruise line and I booked a 3-night mini break onboard the ship.

Our cruise was cancelled 4 hours after we boarded and in total, we were onboard this ship for about 8 hours. During that time we had more problems than we would usually find on a full two-week cruise.

We boarded the ship in London Tilbury and were planning on heading to Bruges to the Christmas markets. Embarkation was pretty easy and despite the bad weather we were really excited to get onboard

Find out what happened here:

Before You Go

Find a full review of my Ventura Christmas cruise – entertainment, food, ship and more, here:

P&O Ventura – Christmas Cruise Review (Entertainment, Ship, Food & More)

Find out if Christmas cruises are really worth it here:

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

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

Ever wondered how the mainstream cruise lines compare? Cruise lines won’t tell you this, but I will.

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Explore With Ed

Monday 26th of November 2018

I’ve always wondered what cruising is like on Christmas Day, I’d love to go on Cunard’s QE again too, so festive.