Best Holiday Decorations Aboard Cruise Ships

Holiday displays on the Crystal Symphony. Crystal Cruises
By Heidi Sarna

The atrium is typically the first thing you see when you board a cruise ship. The equivalent of the ship's town square, the tallest soar up to nine floors and are decked out with dramatic sculptures and fountains. At holiday time, most of these public spaces are festooned with tinsel, trees, lights, and more.

Even if you're escaping the snow to thaw out in the Caribbean, cruise ships pull out the stops to make sure everyone enjoys the holidays away from home. Enjoy everything from traditional Christmas meals and potato latkes for Hanukkah to holiday-themed craft projects for the kids.

For the most festive photo ops, check out these five best-dressed cruise ships during the holidays.

Photo Caption: Holiday displays on the Crystal Symphony.
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A traditional nativity scene is among the many holiday decorations on the Crystal Symphony. Crystal Cruises
Crystal Cruises (www.crystalcruises.com) has spent more than $100,000 on new holiday decorations this year for its two elegant ships. The three-deck-high Crystal Cove and Plaza in the central lobby area of the Crystal Symphony is outfitted in festive fun: Father Christmas himself is driving reindeer through snow-covered trees twinkling with shimmering lights.

Nearby, a grand Victorian-style Christmas tree is adorned with ornate ribbons and hand-painted, jewel-covered glass ornaments. The ship also boasts a 6-foot-tall menorah that lights up.

Photo Caption: A traditional nativity scene is among the many holiday decorations on the Crystal Symphony.
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Holidays are magical aboard Disney Cruise Line where guests will find a nearly three-deck-tall tree festooned with decorations in the atrium lobby. Disney Cruise Line
The three-deck atrium of the Disney Dream (www.disneycruiseline.com) showcases a Dale Chihuly glass chandelier that extends some 13 feet from the ceiling and shimmers with thousands of hand-crafted crystal beads. This holiday season, a glittering 20-foot-tall Christmas tree turns heads in the atrium as well -- some 20,000 white LED lights illuminate the one-ton tree's 300 branches.

Each night, a lucky young cruise passenger helps Disney characters light the tree as part of "King Triton's Tree Lighting" ceremony. In total, the ship is festooned with more than 1,000 feet of garlands, 29 wreaths, and 41 trees, creating one of the most festive holidays settings at sea.

Photo Caption: Holidays are magical aboard Disney Cruise Line where guests will find a nearly three-deck-tall tree festooned with decorations in the atrium lobby.
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The Capitol Atrium Grand Staircase on Pride of America, Norwegian Cruise Lines. Norwegian Cruise Line
The Pride of America's (www.ncl.com) Christmas tree stands center stage on the stately Capitol Atrium's Grand Staircase. Traditional poinsettias are clustered at the foot of the red-carpeted staircase. The atrium's elegant Corinthian columns are dressed in softly lit garlands.

Photo Caption: The Capitol Atrium Grand Staircase on Pride of America
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Central Park, Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas. Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean's (www.royalcaribbean.com) pair of megaships has impressive holiday displays in the atriums that bookend the Royal Promenade entertainment and shopping district. From Crystal LED snowflakes hanging from the ceiling to giant cone-shaped displays of poinsettias, both Allure and Oasis celebrate the holidays in style. Look up at the 6½-foot Christmas trees in front of the shops. Take time to stroll through the always-leafy Central Park neighborhood that is decorated with holiday lights.

Photo Caption: Central Park aboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas
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Christmas decorations on Cunard's Queen Mary 2. Cunard
Cunard (www.cunard.com) is all about tradition. It comes as no surprise then that the holiday décor aboard its newest liner, Queen Elizabeth, is elegant, tasteful, and nostalgic. The ship's Grand Lobby showcases a Christmas tree dressed in golden ornaments, and thick evergreen garlands line the atrium's railings. Queen Elizabeth also has a traditional gingerbread village display, while Hanukkah observers appreciate the festive menorahs.

Photo Caption: Christmas decorations on Cunard's Queen Elizabeth
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