One year after kids began cautiously crawling back into Santa’s lap—following a holiday season of socially distanced wish list sharing—another local holiday icon is set to return: the Cinnamon Bear.
The Portland Spirit has announced it is resuming its popular breakfast cruises with the cuddly mascot of Christmas cheer following a two-year absence due to the pandemic. The bear, sporting his traditional, jaunty sailor’s cap, will return to his throne on the ship for photos with kids both smiling and melting down.
However, there will be a few changes to the experience that potential guests should keep in mind.
When cruises get underway in November, they will operate at a reduced capacity and feature reserved seating for each party and a dedicated server for every table. Prior to 2020, the Cinnamon Bear excursion was general admission.
But perhaps the best modification of all—at least in the eyes of parents who view the experience as a two-hour bizarre Yuletide delirium—is the addition of a full, hot meal of eggs, potatoes, sausage and bacon instead of the pre-COVID La Quinta-style continental breakfast, which means at least you’ll be well fed as you watch adults dressed as fairies prance around a stage.
If you happened to move to Portland in the past two years and are asking yourself, “What the hell is a Cinnamon Bear?” we’re here to help.
The character is really just part of a long tradition of quirky yet beloved local mascots—from Oaks Amusement Park’s Chipper the Squirrel to the Hillsboro Hops’ anthropomorphized eponymous green cone to the button-adorned Ramblin’ Rod, the late, longtime master of ceremonies for morning cartoons.
The Cinnamon Bear was the subject of a radio program in 1937—a protagonist in a tale about two children searching for their silver star tree topper through the enchanted world of Maybeland. The 26-chapter series ran from Thanksgiving through Christmas, and for many families, listening to the show became a ritual and way to count down the days to Dec. 25.
Department store chain Lipman Wolfe sponsored the broadcasts, and the Cinnamon Bear took up residence in its local outlets, holding the role a mall Santa Claus normally would from the 1940s until the 1980s. In fact, the holiday breakfasts first took place in Lipman’s, and featured musical performances as well as cinnamon cookies for each child.
In 2004, Portland Spirit acquired the rights to produce a Cinnamon Bear Cruise, and its first themed series of outings happened the following year. Many original breakfast details appear in the updated version, including custom cinnamon bear-shaped cookies (baked by Simply Sweets), story time with Queen Melissa, a magic show with Jack Frost, and other character appearances.
“We are so excited to bring back Cinnamon Bear and his friends for our local community,” Dennis Corwin, Portland Spirit general manager, stated in a press release. “After being absent due to the pandemic, we’re happy to provide families a safe and fun activity to enjoy this holiday season.”
There are 11 breakfast cruises on select dates in November and December. Boarding begins at 9 am at the Salmon Springs Dock. Tickets can currently be purchased online.