Costumes? Check. Candy? Check. Mickey Mouse in the middle of the ocean? Huh? This past Halloween, I found myself aboard a cruise — and not just any run-of-the-mill “bring a costume” cruise. A Disney Cruise. To be honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of The Mouse, but when I was assigned to cover the line’s “Halloween on the High Seas” aboard Disney Dream, I was mildly excited. I love the fall, I love Halloween, and kids are pretty cool, too.
Sure, lots of lines do Halloween by allowing costumes for the holiday, so I was expecting that there would be some people dressed up. What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was exactly how well Disney does Halloween (and “some people” was a gross understatement). As I left the three-night sailing, my aforementioned mild excitement had turned into sheer glee and awe.
Here’s a recap of the All Hallows Eve festivities onboard and what you can expect if you plan a Disney cruise during October 31.
The ship’s atrium rises three decks; because it’s located just off the gangway, it’s the first thing you’ll see when you board. Deck railings were decorated with purple valances and artificial pumpkins in the shape of Mickey heads.
Next to a statue of Admiral Donald, which stands proudly on Deck 3, facing the direction in which the ship is sailing, there was a real pumpkin, complete with Mickey ears, carved in the shape of the famous mouse’s face.
The piece de resistance, however, was the Pumpkin Tree, anchored in one corner of the atrium. Two decks high, the giant, smiling tree — yes, it has a face — is a curiosity that presides over the hub’s activities.
There weren’t many other decorations, but I did notice some jack-o-lantern face window clings on the portholes that line the hallway to the Royal Palace and Animator’s Palate, two of the ship’s three dining rooms.
Cruisers are allowed to decorate their cabins, and there was plenty of door decor to ogle while walking down the corridors on the accommodation decks — everything from cardboard cutouts of zombies to Minnie Mouse witch magnets and cobwebs. I also noticed festive pouches and bags hung outside of several doors. By the time Halloween was over, they were stuffed with treats. (We’re guessing fellow cruisers brought candy and went door-to-door to hand it out.)
On the night before Halloween, children and adults alike gathered in the atrium, around the Pumpkin Tree, to hear about the history of Halloween. The event culminated in a poetic chant, which lit up the tree as it began to speak, threatening a surprise the next day. (Fair warning for parents: While it’s a fun event, the tree could be too much for children who are easily frightened.) When we awoke on Halloween morning, the tree had “bloomed” with artificial jack-o-lanterns.
Games and Activities
On the evening of Halloween, after everyone had fun ashore and slipped into their costumes, a family-friendly party was held in the atrium. Complete with children’s games, dancing and more costumes than I’ve ever seen anywhere collectively (the ship holds roughly 2,500 passengers, and we swear 2,499 of them were dressed up, many as families following various and staggeringly creative themes), the space was even more packed than the pool deck on a sea day during prime sunbathing weather.
Character meet-and-greet opportunities abounded throughout the sailing. (One perk of cruises with Disney is that Mickey and his usual gang of pals are far more accessible than they are in the Disney parks.) On Halloween, however, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Chip and Dale headlined the atrium’s three-deck DJ-spun dance party shenanigans — in costume, naturally.
For kids who were all about the candy, trick-or-treating was offered in the evening (in conjunction with the atrium party) at the onboard shops, just past the Guest Services desk on Deck 3.
Halloween or not, each sailing also features Pirate Night, encompassing costumes (adults, too), afternoon pool deck fun, a pirate-themed dinner and after-dinner “Pirates in the Caribbean” fun — games and music on the pool deck, as well as Mickey and his friends in pirate garb. The highlight of the event was Captain Jack Sparrow, who rappelled from high atop the ship’s funnel to “rescue” the vessel from evil pirates; his victory kicked off an impressive fireworks display. (Disney is the only cruise line to offer fireworks at sea.) Although Pirate Night is enjoyable, it’s normally scheduled on October 31 for sailings during Halloween, so unless you and your little ones want to trick-or-treat as pirates, prepare to pack — and change into — at least two costumes for that day.
Kids aren’t the only ones who get to have fun on Halloween. Sure, it’s Disney, but it doesn’t have one of the best kids clubs at sea for nothing. Drop the brood off in the Oceaneer Club or Oceaneer Lounge after hours, and head to The District — an adults-only (after 9 p.m.) area comprising the 687 pub, District Lounge, Pink Champagne bar and Evolution nightclub, where grownups enjoyed dancing and a costume contest. Those wishing to participate were told to head to the dance floor, where judges handed out cards for the most impressive costumes in several categories: best Disney theme, best group theme, most creative, scariest, etc. The audience then picked winners based on applause after each contestant gave a brief interview. (As a side note, Halloween for adults — especially women — can be an excuse to wear skimpy clothing and drink heavily. Due to the family-friendly nature of the ship, I was impressed with the level of taste exuded by the adults onboard. Similarly, the level of creativity and effort that went into most costumes was jaw-dropping. Kudos to Cinderella’s fairy godmother, an elderly woman who not only won in the best Disney theme category but who also made — by hand — her costume and the costumes for everyone in the family group with which she was traveling. Among them were Syndrome from “The Incredibles” and Cinderella’s stepsisters, Anastasia and Drizella.)
— Ashley Kosciolek