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Halloween on the High Seas Archives

December 14, 2013

Disney Cruise Line expands Halloween on the High Seas to all ships and keeps more Christmas sailings in 2014

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Next year, pirate parties won't be the only themed events on all four Disney Cruise Line ships. The fleet recently announced that it will increase its holiday offerings in 2014: Halloween on the High Seas will expand to all four ships and Christmas activities will once again be available for six weeks.

"If you look at the trends, people are engaging more in holidays," Jennifer Haile, manager of Disney Cruise Line marketing strategy, told me. "Halloween continues to grow and grow, not only for kids, but also for adults. Adults are putting on costumes and trick-or-treating along with the kids. We realize that this is something where the whole family really gets in the spirit, and why not do it on the ship?"

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Halloween on the High Seas is a collection of activities that debuted in 2013 on the Disney Dream. Among them were: Halloween Tree (a multi-day experience in the lobby); Mickey's Mouse-querade Party (trick-or-treating, games and a dancing with the characters in the atrium); Haunted Stories of the Sea (story-telling on the deck); spooky movie marathon; and an adult costume party. Some of my extended family members experienced Halloween on the High Seas and you can read about it and see plenty of photos here.

Perhaps the most popular event, though, in the first year was Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas Sing and Scream. This interactive experience was described by some as a "Rocky Horror Picture Show" for families, and it ends with a special meet-and-greet with Jack Skellington and his love, Sally. In the last year, Disney has begun offering character experiences with the pair and they have commanded hours-long lines at Walt Disney World.

"We did the 'Nightmare' Sing and Scream, which was very popular," Haile said. "At the very end, there is a scene where Jack and Sally are posed, and we had the scene end with the spotlight on the Walt Disney Theatre curtain and you could see their reflection right through it. Then the curtain rose, and they were in that pose and everyone went wild."

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The same entertainment will return for 2014 Halloween on the High Seas, Haile said, but Disney Cruise Line staff is tinkering with the schedule to better suit passengers' needs, based on guest feedback. The most difficult task is on the three-night sailings on the Dream, where they add the holiday programming to an already jam-packed schedule.

"It was difficult for us because we haven't taken anything away from our typical cruise experience so we had to decide where do you sandwich these [Halloween events] in," she told me.

Also returning next year will be the longer, six-week period of Christmas celebrations.

"We're taking a cue from the [Disney] parks to transition earlier," Haile said. "We're rolling it [the Christmas programming and decor] out in early November."

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The Very Merrytime Cruises feature King Triton's Tree Lighting Ceremony; Deck the Deck Holiday Party; family activities, such as making gingerbread houses and meeting Santa Claus and his elves; holiday storytellers; and a holiday edition of 'Til We Meet Again farewell party.

My extended family and I sailed on the Fantasy at the beginning of December and experienced most of these events. To see photos and read about our experiences, click here.

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October 28, 2013

Review: Disney Cruise Line's Halloween on the High Seas

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Welcome, foolish mortals, to your Bahamian cruise.

This fall, Disney Cruise Line has introduced new Halloween-themed entertainment on all four of its ships. Such new features might seem to be nothing but a treat, yet -- according to some firsthand accounts -- some came off a little trickier than other holiday activities we experienced in the past.

Last week, some of my extended family members sailed on the Disney Dream for a three-night cruise. We had all been on the ship together in 2011, but they went back specifically for the new Halloween on the High Seas events. (The Disney Fantasy and Disney Wonder also introduced Halloween-themed activities, but not to the same extent of the Dream.) My sister's family includes two children who are the same ages as my own, 9 and 11 years, so they focused on the activities planned for elementary-school-age children.

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The centerpiece of Halloween on the High Seas is a giant Pumpkin Tree in the three-deck atrium. This multi-day experience begins with a Caretaker character explaining about the barren tree and other Halloween customs. In addition, she tells the audience a version of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" during the 30-minute activity. Finally, passengers are invited to write their names on pumpkin seed cards and to return to check on the tree the next day.

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When they do come back to the atrium, passengers find that the seeds supposedly have grown into the 60 pumpkins that bring the dead tree back to life. The pumpkins light up during the reveal and "dance" along to music. Much like the Christmas tree lighting ceremonies, this one ends with a surprise burst of confetti over the crowd.

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On the second night, the atrium is used for Mickey's Mouse-querade Party, which features games, a dance party with characters and trick-or-treating. Mickey and his pals line up before the party to pose for photos with guests and to sign autographs. Having attended dance parties and trick-or-treating at Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party in the Magic Kingdom, my sister and brother-in-law were able to compare the two Disney experiences.

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And although their children enjoyed Mickey's Mouse-querade Party, the adults found it to be chaotic and not as well-organized as the party at Walt Disney World. There was no map for the trick-or-treating, which resulted in long lines for the stations on the lobby floor, while others on the other decks went virally unnoticed. In addition, the lobby space just wasn't big enough for all the passengers who wanted to attend the event, my sister said. (Cast members told them there were 3,800 passengers on her cruise, and the ship can accommodate 4,000.)

It's understandable that Disney Cruise Line would choose that location. Obviously, planners want the Pumpkin Tree to be not only part of an entertainment experience, but also a larger-than-life decoration that guests see when they enter the ship and are crisscrossing the decks. Putting the tree in one of the theaters would hide it and interfere with other programming. And the other space for larger groups --Decks 11 and 12 by the pool and AquaDuck -- wouldn't be ideal for a stationary prop, either.

And when it comes deck parties, an unfortunate scheduling issue crops up on the three-night Halloween cruises: Mickey's Mouse-querade Party is on the same night as Mickey's Pirates IN the Caribbean party and Buccaneer Blast Fireworks. For my sister's family, this meant a lot of rushing from one party to dinner and then to the other party, with a change of costumes in between. I can't imagine they were alone in this frenzy, as many families would want to experience both signature events. On the four-night Halloween on the High Seas cruises on the Dream, however, the two parties are scheduled on separate nights.

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Passengers also can attend a special screening of The Nightmare Before Christmas, which is shown in 3D. Guests are invited to sing and scream along, and afterward the movie's stars, Jack Skellington and his lady love, Sally, appear for a meet-and-greet. The event was offered at 2 p.m. on the second day and at 10:30 p.m. on the third day. These characters have commanded hours-long lines this year at Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, but reports from the cruises are that lines were minimal.

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In the kids' clubs, additional Halloween activities, such as pumpkin carving and mask-making, were on the schedule. While the little ones were having their own fun, adults could check out the spooky programming in the nighttime district, such as the Creepy Cabaret with performances by ghostly musicians and a Villainous Takeover on the dance floor. Also, on the last night, Haunted Stories of the Sea were told from the deck stage at 11 p.m.

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Halloween on the High Seas continues this week through Oct. 31.

Overall, my extended family enjoyed Halloween on the High Seas, but they thought there was room for improvement in scheduling and how some activities were arranged on the decks. Still, it was the first year for this Halloween programming, so growing pains are to be expected.

And you have to remember: The only thing scarier than being on the seas with young kids during Halloween and not having festive -- though chaotic -- fun like what was offered on the Disney Dream would be casting away on an ocean cruise and missing out on all the candy and activities completely.

Because if the happy haunts don't materialize for Halloween season, how can a youngster not think of the voyage as anything except an ill-fated one?

July 27, 2013

Disney Cruise Line celebrates Halloween on the High Seas

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My family and I enjoyed sailing aboard a Disney Cruise Line ship last year at Christmastime, and that journey made the holiday a unique occasion. But as much as I love Christmas, Halloween always has been my favorite holiday at Walt Disney World, thanks to the trick-or-treating fun of Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.

So imagine how excited I was to hear about DCL's recent news that the cruise line is bringing a similar family friendly Halloween event to its floating properties, too, as it launches Halloween parties and activities aboard its ships this year.

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The Disney Dream will see the largest share of spooktacular activities, but there will be elements on each of the other three ships in the Disney fleet, too. Beginning Sept. 22, Halloween on the High Seas will be celebrated aboard the Dream. The entertainment, as described by DCL, includes:

** Mickey's Calling All The Monsters Mouse-Querade Deck Party, a celebration in addition to Pirate Night with games, dancing and Disney characters in Halloween costumes.

** A Nightmare Before Christmas-Sing and Scream, an interactive movie experience where guests are part of the action, followed by a meet-and-greet with Jack Skellington and Sally. (A Jack and Sally meet-and-greet last fall at Downtown Disney in Orlando was hugely popular.)

** Haunted Stories of the Sea with a mysterious sea captain storyteller.

** Creepy Cabaret with performances by ghostly musicians and a Villainous Takeover on the dance floor in the adult nighttime district.

** Mask-making, pumpkin-carving and a Disney villain takeover of the ship announcements.

** Elaborate d├ęcor including a Halloween Tree that transforms throughout the cruise.

The Dream alternates 3- and 4-night itineraries. Halloween on the High Seas takes place through Oct. 31, excluding the Sept. 29 sailing.

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The other three ships -- Disney Fantasy, Disney Magic and Disney Wonder -- will offer passengers some tricks and treats that debuted on DCL in 2012. These include:

** Costume parties -- Disney characters will get dressed up for this Halloween party, and guests are invited to, as well. Expect live music, dancing and candy! Adults will have their own party and costume contest in the nighttime entertainment district.

** Spooky movies -- Halloween-themed movies will be shown in Buena Vista Theatre, on Funnel Vision by the family pool and in guest staterooms.

** Ghoulish Delights: Disney Cruise Line chefs have conjured some very special treats for Halloween, including chocolate cake with pumpkin filling, spider cakes and "Witch's Brew."Ł

Halloween entertainment begins Sept. 21 on the Fantasy; Sept. 28 on the Wonder; and Oct. 27 on the Magic, when it comes out of drydock.

And here's something that's more of a treat than a trick: Passengers on the October sailing of the Magic not only will experience the Halloween activities, but also all the new water features -- The AquaDunk, a three-story body slide; the AquaLab; and Nephews' Splash Zone. Plus, the kids club has been redesigned with an Avengers theme; restaurants have been re-themed; and the adult clubs have been re-imagined. Read more about the Magic's changes here.

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About Halloween on the High Seas

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to A Mom and The Magic in the Halloween on the High Seas category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Disney Fantasy is the previous category.

Holidays with Disney Cruise Line is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.