Thanksgiving on a cruise sounded like a great idea. I wouldn’t have to worry about cooking a multi-course meal at the perfect time to please my in-laws. More importantly, she wouldn’t have to clean up after the party. You wouldn’t have to spend the weekend trying to find fun ways to entertain the kids while avoiding crowded stores. I could trade the cold Northeast for the warm Caribbean.
The thing is, once you replace a family vacation with a family vacation, it doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving anymore.
Here’s how Thanksgiving went at Carnival Celebration, and what to expect if you decide to ditch the dishes and set sail for your November vacation.
For cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for the TPG Cruise Newsletter.
Thanksgiving for many begins with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, continues with the National Dog Show, and ends with a football game. Our Carnival cruise embraced two of the three traditions, broadcasting the parade and NFL games on the giant poolside LED screen (as well as all the big and small TV screens dotted around Heroes Bar and Pig & Anchor Smokehouse Brewhouse). ). The ship’s entertainment staff also hosted a turkey scavenger hunt and turkey trivia.
However, I’m not sure there are many people on board to appreciate your efforts.
You see, when I signed up for this cruise, I assumed Thanksgiving would fall on a sea day. That is often the case on Christmas cruises when you normally spend Christmas Day at sea; this is because tour operators also take the day off to spend time with their families and are not available to take you snorkeling or drive you around their cities.
However, Thanksgiving coincided with our visit to Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic, as well as the day we had booked a long tour. My family got off the ship at 8:30am and didn’t come back on board until 3pm. We miss everything but soccer, which was never our tradition to begin with.
On our tour, I sent my mom photos of my family wearing helmets and life jackets to slide down the Damajagua waterfalls and wearing squirrel monkeys on their heads at Monkeyland in Puerto Plata. It only occurred to me later to wish her and my dad a happy Thanksgiving. I had already forgotten that it was a holiday. It felt like another day on our cruise, especially since we were on vacation, not because of Turkey Day.
Sign up for our daily newsletter
It didn’t help that the ship wasn’t decorated for Thanksgiving. She expected seasonal decor in public areas or a pumpkin spice latte advertised at the JavaBlue coffee bar, but neither a pumpkin nor a bale of hay was found. I met a woman in the elevator who was wearing a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving jersey, and several shipmates were rooting for their teams at Thanksgiving games in football jerseys. Also, our room attendant left a turkey-shaped towel on our bed (which was a fun touch).
The most festive moment came as the Carnival Celebration pulled away from the pier at Amber Cove. We were docked off the sister ship Carnival Freedom, and many guests on both ships came out onto the balconies and upper decks to watch the sail sail away. Everyone started waving and yelling “Happy Thanksgiving!” to each other In that moment, I felt gratitude that even in an age when cruise ships are festooned with roller coasters and water parks, people still enjoy the simple pleasure of greeting strangers as a ship sets sail. sea.
At our house, the big event of Thanksgiving is dinner. My husband and I like to cook, and so does his family. So you can expect homemade pies and cranberry sauce, creative filling recipes, and plenty of garnishes. I actually enjoy turkey, especially when it’s loaded with garnishes, and I love making sandwiches out of all the leftover Thanksgiving entrees the following weekend.
I was excited to see how Carnival would go all out for Thanksgiving dinner, served at regular dinner times in the main dining room.
It wasn’t a formal night, which surprised me, but I guess Carnival needed to accommodate the sports team attire. Anyway, I forced my family to dress up a bit because I was in a festive mood. The main dining room was also not noticeably decorated; I didn’t see Thanksgiving decorations or other nods to the holiday.
Accessible exclusively on our phones, the menu had an autumn leaf design and seemed longer than a typical dinner menu. The only culinary nod to Thanksgiving, however, was a slow-roasted turkey entrée, served with cornbread dressing, bourbon honey sweet potatoes, gravy, and cranberry sauce. For dessert there was a choice of pecan or pumpkin pie or a Christmas sponge cake with ginger biscotti, pumpkin cream and mascarpone and hot plum (no added sugar).
I’ll be honest: I ordered the turkey to see how well Carnival did for Thanksgiving…and then I ordered the Indian vegetarian plate of nizami paneer (a dish made with Indian cheese) and malai saag (a spinach dish) because I adore Carnival’s Indian Cuisine. My husband ordered a Sweet Tea Brined Pork Chop, my son the Fried Tenderloin Steak, and our table mate the N’awlins BBQ Shrimp. My daughter declared that she was not hungry, that she did not like the noisy dining room and she went back to the cabin. (So much for family dinner.)
For dessert, I ordered one of each Thanksgiving dessert because it’s not a holiday if you have to choose. My husband and son ordered Carnival’s famous chocolate cake.
I started my meal with a stone fruit and country greens salad because there was nothing green on that Thanksgiving plate, no green bean casserole or salad mixed with cranberries and walnuts.
When my Thanksgiving plate arrived, the presentation was disappointing. It looked like a diner, with yam and stuffing balls, a bunch of turkey slices next to some kind of stuffed turkey bagel that wasn’t on the menu, and cranberry sauce on a metal plate. While I found the food to be edible, and it’s hard to go wrong with mashed sweet potatoes, both the gravy and cranberry sauce were watery, the turkey was bland, and the stuffing was uncreative.
The Indian dish was tastier, but I have had other Indian meals at Carnival that I liked better.
I was hoping dessert would redeem the meal, and then I thought about how cake isn’t usually served as dessert on cruise ships. The pecan pie is my favorite, but the crust was tasteless and I make a better pie filling than the chefs at Carnival. The pumpkin pie came with an adorable carrot-shaped meringue, but it was also unremarkable. The Christmas pound cake was not holiday inspired in any way, and I don’t think it was made with pumpkin and hot plum. (It clearly tasted like strawberry.)
Lesson learned: Regardless of the vacation, when you’re on a Carnival cruise, order the chocolate cake melt. You can never go wrong with that approach.
Later, when my daughter finally got hungry and I took her shopping for a classic Thanksgiving meal of a hot dog and roast beef sandwich, we walked into the Pig & Anchor area; it was packed with people watching football and eating Guy Fieri’s smoked meats. Clearly, this was the winning Thanksgiving dinner, and next time I’m going to have to pack my New England Patriots jersey, sip a Carnival-exclusive Parched Pig IPA, and cheer on the offense (either team, not really). matter) with my new family cruise.
Please don’t wait for me at the last level of Turkey Trot tomorrow. Instead, we’ll devour the green eggs and ham breakfast.
Pros and cons of spending Thanksgiving on a cruise
Let’s put the cons aside so we can end on a high note. The downside to spending Thanksgiving on a cruise is that it may not feel like Thanksgiving. Since the Caribbean doesn’t celebrate US Thanksgiving, there may be no fall leaf wreaths or pumpkin spice daiquiris. In fact, I saw several Christmas trees and nativity scenes in the port. Your ship may or may not decorate, and depending on which line you sail, a turkey dinner might not be the best thing on the menu.
On the other hand, setting sail over the Thanksgiving holiday is a great way to get a week of vacation without missing too many days of school or work. You can easily find something amazing for you and your family to do together, and it will probably create more memories than if you were at home cooking.
Speaking of which, not having to do Thanksgiving chores (cleaning the house, cooking, making civil conversation with your family or in-laws, doing the dishes) might just be the best part of the whole holiday. If you’d otherwise spend the holidays alone, a cruise is a great way to surround yourself with friendly people and gain automatic dinner companions.
Personally, I think I prefer Thanksgiving at home, but I also like my family and in-laws, which not everyone does. If I were to plan a Thanksgiving cruise for another year, I’d do some more research on Thanksgiving activities and perhaps choose a more foodie-oriented line that could serve up a gourmet holiday feast.
With that being said, my family had a pretty memorable Thanksgiving filled with together time, food, and fun. I’m definitely thankful for that.
Are you planning a cruise? Start with these stories: