Yesterday, a friend of mine asked me what I thought we should do for New Year’s Eve.
My response: “I’ve only been on land for NYE probably twice in the past 15 years. I’m assuming a huge deck party in the middle of the ocean isn’t an option.”
Growing up, it was always a family tradition to go on a cruise over the December holidays. Most years the voyages included both Christmas and NYE, but based on the days of the week that the holidays took place, sometimes the holidays were spread between two different voyages. While all holidays are extremely entertaining on a cruise ship, if I had to pick my favorite holiday to sail during, I would automatically say NYE.
I have sailed through Christmas, Chanukah, NYE, New Year’s Day, and St. Patrick’s Day. By far, NYE is the best, most fun holiday to celebrate at sea. The whole celebration begins when passengers sit down at dinner. Waiters and waitresses leave hats, beaded necklaces, and noise makers on the tables for passengers to wear and blow. Later in the evening, most passengers and crew make their way to the Lido or Promenade decks. Different bars and restaurants host their own parties, but the largest parties are found on the Lido and Promenade decks.
While it depends on the cruise line, these major NYE parties usually include a large dance party, midnight buffet, and the reopening of everything on the Promenade Deck (shops, restaurants, bars, photo gallery, etc.). The main highlight, the dance party, usually has live music or a DJ. While music plays, the big screen plays the news reporting from the ball drop in New York. Right before midnight, the Cruise Director leads passengers in a countdown along with the New York countdown and ball drop on the screen. Once midnight strikes, the ship horn blows loudly across the ocean, streamers and/or balloons fall on the passengers, and adults celebrate with a champagne toast. The party often continues all night long, but some people head to the midnight buffet or other reopened areas of the ship, like the dance club.
The parties are fun, but what makes NYE on a cruise so special is the people who you are able to celebrate with. Especially when NYE is near the end of the cruise, passengers often meet new people and make strong connections. Growing up, I made tons of close friends in the ships’ teen clubs. On NYE, I would head to the teen club after dinner and eventually we would all go to the Lido Deck to celebrate with the rest of the ship, including my family. On top of this, the crew also joins in, even while some of them are working. The dancers from the shows are often seen without their wigs and the waiters and waitresses are there for a friendly hug. Young and old, new friends and life-long family, all passengers gather together to countdown and celebrate.
While I don’t celebrate Christmas religiously, the cruise lines always make the holiday exciting. From watching Santa on the ship’s radar to chasing him around the ship and eventually getting to sit on his lap to receive a present, cruises offer children an unusual, fun-filled Christmas. When I was little, I would always partake in these activities. I remember sitting in the main auditorium waiting to meet Santa, asking my parents if I can still get a gift from him even though I was at the Hanukkah candle lighting service the night before. With my parents’ permission and encouragement, I went up on stage, sat on Santa’s lap, and received a free blow-up ship! What a day!
As I got older, I started to notice other Christmas traditions on the ships. While I was only concerned about meeting Santa as a child, the adults in that auditorium were drinking eggnog and other holiday inspired treats. Outside of the auditorium, the ships often hold cabin door decorating contests. One friend that I met brought Christmas decorations all the way from Canada to decorate her door for the voyage. On Christmas morning, people often flock to different lounges and decks to celebrate with their loved ones and exchange gifts. The holiday is always a good time.
As I mentioned briefly, Hanukkah does not go forgotten on ships either. Although there is no Hanukkah Harry on the ships, the ships often arrange a candle lighting ceremony every night of the holiday. Along with Christmas decorations added around the ship, there is usually a menorah in the main atrium as well as other religious decorations.
Although not in December, St. Patrick’s Day is also an exciting time to sail. I sailed on the Carnival Victory for a three-day voyage to the Bahamas that left on St. Patty’s Day. Waiting in the terminal, most passengers were wearing green and four-leaf clover necklaces. Once onboard, Carnival offered a bar crawl with Irish music and decorations across the ship for a fee. While not as extravagantly celebrated, the ship hosted a great celebration for adults.
No matter the holiday, cruise ships offer different celebrations with fun activities and other perks. New Year’s Eve will forever be my favorite holiday to celebrate on a cruise. As the best night of the year, I look forward to the extravaganza that the ships put on each year. I truly do not know how to celebrate NYE any other way. So, next time you’re trying to figure out what to do to celebrate a holiday, maybe you should think about hopping on a cruise!
So, next time you’re trying to figure out what to do to celebrate a holiday, maybe you should think about hopping on a cruise. It just can’t be beat!