Working on a cruise ship means working seven days a week for months at a time. One of the biggest drawbacks of cruise ship jobs is thought to be spending holidays working.
Indeed, this could be said of any hospitality job. However, on a cruise ship you might actually have a better time than you would at a similar land-based hotel job.
Reputed cruise line companies make it their business to ensure the crew are fairly well looked after. This includes helping to cut some of that nostalgic, home-sick feeling with holiday festivals on board.
The biggest holidays celebrated around the world are part of the festivities for crew – Hallowe’en, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year, and Easter. However, because many of the crew are from South East Asian countries like India, cruise ships include celebrations for festivals such as Diwali as well.
It is rather hard for cruise ship crew to ignore festivities even if that is some sort of defence mechanism to avoid the painful feeling of missing their families at that time of year. Decorations and symbols of the festivities are everywhere – Christmas trees and snowmen at Christmas, scary costumes at Hallowe’en, candles for Hanukkah, eggs and Easter bunnies for Easter.
Many crew join in the festivities full swing, buying cheap, small decorations from shore to string up in their cabins and create an air of joy. The cruise line company typically organises a slew of related events. At Christmas, each department will have its own party, filled with exchange of gifts or Secret Santa events, spiked eggnog, themed food and drink.
Sometimes, smaller department heads put together less formally organised parties in their cabins. This, however, is restricted to roles in the higher end of the hierarchy, say the captain having his or her deck officers over in the spirit of the season.
Similarly, New Year’s will have a full scale party in the crew club for those who are off work. If the ship is in port, as many are, there will may be fewer guests on board, but the vessel will pull out all the stops for celebrations in any case. If by chance, they are at sea, more hands will be needed and the crew party might be deferred to a slightly later hour.
But it’s not all about themselves. Cruise ship companies often take holiday festivities as a time to engage in charitable work. The department responsible will often organise a volunteer crew trip for the less fortunate people at the ports they berth at. For Christmas, they may distribute toys to orphans or visit an elderly care home with treats dressed as Santa and elves.
A few charities even work to bring the holiday cheer to those on board. US charities such as the Seamen’s Church Institute celebrates Christmas at Sea each year by donating scarves and other garments for crew who sail. In 2008, it added cruise ship workers to its list of mariners to receive garment donations.
Cruise ship crew may not be with their families at home on holidays, but they are treated with celebrations on board complete with festive food, drink and decor. With dozens of others in the same situation, together they create an excellent holiday vibe in crew only areas which makes up, at least in part, for missing out on celebrations back home