During the festive season, in particular, thousands of holidaymakers choose to set sail aboard a cruise ship. They will find Christmas festivities with lights, trees and wreaths in a southern holiday atmosphere awaiting them onboard. However, care is taken to ensure that less “Christmassy” guests will also enjoy the cruise.

Imagine it’s Christmas. You spend the day in a festive atmosphere with time for your family – without, however, having to cook, clean or drive. In addition, sunshine, sea and exciting excursions are awaiting you. You swap your typical wintery frost and cold for pleasant warm breeze – and yet, you do not have to do without Santa Claus, nor a decorated tree and festive meal: This is what it is like to spend Christmas Eve and the festive season aboard a cruise ship. 

Over Christmas, many holidaymakers ship along southern coasts aboard ships operated by the cruise line TUI Cruises and TUI’s subsidiary Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. This year, TUI Cruises’ Christmas itineraries will take the passengers to the Canaries, the Mediterranean, Asia with Singapore and Bangkok, to the Orient, the Caribbean as well as to Central America and Jamaica. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises will offer luxury cruises around the Falkland Islands and from Thailand to Vietnam aboard EUROPA and EUROPA 2 over the festive period. The guests will not have to dispense with the seasonal cheer on any of the cruises – on the contrary, they will enjoy a very festive atmosphere onboard. “It’s the most wonderful time,” says Susann Fabiero, Cruise Director for TUI Cruises’ Mein-Schiff fleet, looking forward to the special voyages in December. 

Swimming pool and cocktails will mingle with Christmas trees and traditional Christmas decoration including Advent wreaths.“On our ships, we have genuine trees up to seven metres tall,” says Negar Etminan, Head of Corporate Communications at Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. High-calibre guest artists contribute to the festive atmosphere. And the bakers aboard the Mein Schiff fleet produce piles of Vanillekipferl(vanilla crescent cookies),Lebkuchen(gingerbread) and Zimtsterne(spiced cinnamon stars). On each ship operated by TUI Group, a Christmas market is held at least once during the Advent season, for instance on the pool deck. The guests enjoy mulled wine on the sun terrace. “On Christmas Eve, Santa Claus visits the guests,” says Negar Etminanfrom Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. “He even brings small gifts for the children.” Of course, the passengers will also enjoy a special festive menu. “We offer traditional roast goose, sausages with potato salad, fresh truffles and many other delicacies,” continues Etminan.“Special culinary delicacies aboard EUROPA and EUROPA 2 are genuine Dresden Stollen(fruit bread) and home-made Zimtsterne.“

The stress-free Christmas experienced by the guests follows weeks and months of preparatory activities, including obtaining official permits, arranging deliveries of containers with Christmas decoration and other shipments with forwarding agents, and planning the menus and necessary Christmas items. “On Christmas Eve, we perform a special Christmas show aboard all ships of our fleet,” explains Godja Sönnnichsen, Director Communications TUI Cruises. “It is specifically designed by a team in Berlin.” After New Year’s Eve, the Christmas decoration is taken down, packed in containers and returned to Germany via many international routes to be stored until next year’s festive season. 

However, what if passengers are not exactly the “Christmas type”? “We also have to meet the wishes and preferences of this group,” emphasises Susann Fabiero. Non-Christmassy guests wishing to escape the celebrations will find sufficient places to retreat – for instance in the spa and fitness centre. There is one more question guests may wonder about: How, actually, does Santa get on board? On a number of Mein Schiff liners, Santa even arrives on a tender boat for Christmas. However, if you want to preserve the magic and imagination, you are advised not to read on from here. For all realists, we can reveal: Santa Claus is always already on board! “This is organised by each crew on its own,” says Godja Sönnnichsen. “We provide the costumes, and a crew member plays Santa Claus.”