Unless you live under a rock, you probably get the message that the “Christmas experience” of choice is to go home for the holidays. “I’ll be home for Christmas.” “Driving home for Christmas.” “There’s no place like home for the holidays.” It’s kind of hard to miss. But for these discerning travelers, Christmas beside the hearth at home hasn’t been in the cards for many years – not since our then-eleven-year-old son spent his first Christmas away from home performing in the National Ballet of Canada’s Nutcracker – and Christmas has never been the same since.
Many hotel rooms have played host to us on Christmas morning – and this year will be no different as we head to the French Riviera to spend the season once again with now twenty-two year old Ian who is once again dancing through the holidays. But—one of the most memorable Christmases we spent as a little family was the year the three of us (almost) skipped Christmas. We boarded a Holland America cruise ship at Port Everglades in Florida and sailed away to the Caribbean for the festivities.
From the beginning of the cruise it was clear that you couldn’t really “skip” Christmas by taking a cruise (despite what the Cranks might suggest!). We were just taking Christmas with us. I had a personal, long-standing wish to spend Christmas under a palm tree I used to say.
Well, on Christmas Eve we found ourselves on Half Moon Cay, Holland America’s private island in the Bahamas, enjoying the pristine almost unreal beach, palm trees swaying overhead and Santa Claus para-sailing. Yes, that’s right. In full Santa regalia, he soared back and forth across the tiny bay. We even have photos!
The Christmas present issue was one of the most fun. We had a family agreement: we would each buy one present for the other two. The catch was that the presents – and the wrapping – had to be procured on the ship. No cheating.
So, Christmas shopping took place on Christmas Eve as we all split up and sneaked around the shelves laden with the inevitable perfume, jewelry (both fine and other), T-shirts, cruise-line emblazoned mugs and all the rest of the bits and pieces that the boutiques sell. The wrapping was very interesting as we cajoled the shop people into parting with a few Christmas decorations to adorn the boxes. It was wonderful! Even sixteen-year-old Ian took his job seriously.
Christmas day was one for the memory books as well. It started with a lazy breakfast in the specialty restaurant The Pinnacle (we were staying in a suite so this was our breakfast room). Later in the morning, after opening the presents under our table-top Christmas tree that we had arranged to have in the suite before boarding, we made our way to the grand foyer where passengers arranged themselves on three or four levels to imbibe eggnog and participate in a carol sing. Now, ordinarily carol sings are not our ‘thing,’ but on this occasion, we all took part happily, and when Santa arrived (via helicopter according to the captain), it was wonderful to see the children on board. Their excitement was contagious.
Later that day we decided that our Christmas day activity would be to count the Christmas trees on board. The public spaces were adorned at every corner it seemed with the most wonderful Christmas trees. So we toured the ship looking for trees and stopping for a drink here and there.
Then it was time to dress up – something we do love to do. Resplendent in format attire, we repaired to the dining rom and had our Christmas dinner.
The whole cruise was one to remember – and something that all three of us decided we’d do again sometime. Instead of skipping Christmas, we enriched the experience. Highly recommended!