When it comes to maritime celebrations, there are plenty to choose from. The obvious one to highlight is the famous Crossing The Line ceremony for passengers on any ship passing across the equator. Equally, Christmas is a great time to be at sea, with every vessel breaking out its festive finery for a truly nautical Yuletide.
And then there are the great land-based occasions, where ships typically dock in order to enjoy the local festivity or happening. Carnival in Rio is a great example, as is Mardi Gras in New Orleans and the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Monaco.
Then there’s New Year’s Eve, when ports around the world stage hugely spectacular gala events, with fireworks, special effects and various other types of merriment. Funchal in Madeira has become the perfect choice in recent years, while Sydney Harbour is possibly the grand-daddy of them all, with an annual December 31 jamboree that is extravagant in the extreme.
And then there’s Halloween. This Thursday night marks the big date for 2019, and it’s sure to be a memorable occasion in large parts of the world, and not just the USA these days, where the celebration of All Hallows’ Eve has become a national pastime.
This traditional Christian festival has pagan roots dating to at least the 16th century but has come to be enjoyed beyond mere religious boundaries. It has also been embraced by the cruise world, hence there are great ideas for making it a Halloween voyage these days, either in the destinations visited or just the onboard fun and entertainment.
Here are our top places to enjoy October 31 either at sea or where cruise vessels visit:
It’s called Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, in Spanish, and it’s a huge October 31 tradition in Mexico. Some places manage to make it last a full three days, while the Oaxaca region is especially lively for this annual event. Huatulco is the major port in the region, hence this is where you should look to maximise your seasonal fun.
Who goes there: Royal Caribbean
It might be hard finding a cruise that has the exact time and location, but Ireland is increasingly a great Halloween destination these days, and the capital is usually the epi-centre of the fun. With mask-making workshops, murder mystery houses, a Haunted Mansion Festival and even a themed roller disco, this is definitely a happening occasion that is sure to provide a great Halloween craic.
Ready for some big-time thrills and chills, Los Angeles style? Head for Universal Studios Hollywood, where their Halloween Horror Nights programme runs throughout October, culminating in a grand celebration on the 31st. With set-piece themed haunted houses, like Stranger Things, Ghostbusters and House of 1,000 Corpses, and outdoor Scare Zones, it is grisly, gruesome – and lots of fun!
Who goes there: Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean
New Orleans, Louisiana
OK, this city has pretty much cornered the market for creepy and the paranormal in the usual run of things, but The Big Easy goes all the way up to 11 for the Halloween season, with major events, elaborate costumes and an annual Parade that underlines the local fascination with Voodoo and the other dark arts!
Who goes there: Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Disney, American Cruise Lines and American Queen Steamboat Company
This might not be obvious, but Italian line MSC has made something of a speciality in recent years of the Halloween season, running onboard events, including their signature and extremely popular Costume Ball, which invites guests to dig out their most eye-catching costumes and get in touch with their inner Freddy Krueger or Sweeney Todd. And there will be blood, sorry, prizes!
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The Dutch might seem a bit laid back for an all-out fright-fest on October 31, but they definitely get into the, ahem, spirit of things with some major festivities in the big port city. Join a Ghost Tour of the city centre, celebrate at a spooky rave or take in the headline attraction of The Amsterdam Dungeon, which has specially-themed shows for the Halloween season.
Sleepy Hollow, New York
For a truly literary Halloween, this small town on the Hudson River just north of New York is the place on which Washington Irving based his best-seller The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, an 1820 gothic story of ghostly goings-on. Today, it celebrates the occasion with haunted hayrides, Gothic mansions, blazing pumpkins, live music, street fairs, parades, and, of course, the Headless Horseman.
Disney Cruise Line
If there is one company guaranteed to make Halloween on a cruise special, you just knew it had to be Disney. All four ships make a big effort, not just for the night itself but the whole duration of any voyage including October 31, hence you get maximum spooky bang for your cruise buck. Look out for the Mickey Mouse-querade Party, Haunted Stories at Sea, mask-making and pumpkin carving sessions, and other seasonal activities. And be sure to pack your favourite costume!
Yes, this was the place where alleged witches were actually put to death in the 17th century, hence it doesn’t get much more ‘real,’ in spooky terms, than this. Be sure to visit the Witch House Museum, take a guided tour of the many supposedly haunted and infamous spots, watch the trial and hanging re-enactments from the late 1600s or, on the night of Halloween itself, just enjoy the fireworks, magic shows, séances and other celebrations.
Who goes there: Silversea.
And that’s it, folks. Our Halloween Highlights in a nutshell. Even if you don’t manage to visit any of them in the near future, we hope you have a great Halloween wherever you are – and don’t eat too much candy!
Have you had a memorable Halloween on a cruise? Tell us about your experiences in the Comments section below.