Carol ship season is upon us.
Every night from Dec. 1-Dec. 23, as part of one of Vancouver’s most eccentric holiday rituals, dozens of cruise ships decorated with brightly coloured lights will circle the waters around the city in a floating parade.
The Carol Ships Parade of Lights tradition began more than 50 years ago with a single boat decorated with Christmas lights in Coal Harbour. This year, more than 50 boats – strung with hundreds of thousands of lights – will carry some 30,000 people during the month-long festival.
Multiple cruise lines offer carol ships packages, which generally include a holiday dinner on the high seas, accompanied by carolling, live entertainment and some quality time with Santa. The cruises set out around 7 p.m. and last from two-four hours. Some lines also offer holiday-themed dinner-and-dance cruises on the weekend, with onboard DJs and more of a party atmosphere. A list of all the participating cruise lines is available here.
Each night, the flotilla of brightly coloured ships follows a different route around Vancouver and the surrounding communities. Popular routes explore the Inner Harbour and North Shore, False Creek, the waters off of West Vancouver, English Bay and Jericho and as far into Burrard Inlet as Port Moody and Deep Cove. A full calendar of sailings is available here. Tickets for dinner cruises vary in price, but generally range from $50-$80.
For revelers looking for a different way to celebrate the season, carol ships offer a unique option. Holiday tunes echo over the darkened water as you slide by the the skyline of downtown Vancouver. Christmas carols and seasonal music – not to mention plenty of eggnog – make for a festive atmosphere onboard. It’s essentially like you’re on your own Christmas island – complete with full bar and lavish turkey dinner.
Has anyone done a carol ship cruise? How was it? Let us know below.
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