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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?