I’ve rarely gone away for Christmas, but with two deaths in my family this year, it seemed like the perfect time to break with tradition and take a get-away-from-it-all Christmas cruise to the Caribbean.
I still wanted to celebrate the season, though, so I was pleased to see carolers in Dickens-era costumes singing in the atrium of the Crystal Serenity when we boarded in Miami on Dec. 23. Later that night, more carols were sung during a tree-lighting ceremony, and fake snow cascaded down from above. OK, it was a bit incongruous, considering we were headed for the British Virgin Islands, but I loved it. Christmas Eve day was a day at sea, which I spent attending abs classes in the fitness center and walking the teak floor of the Promenade deck.
After dinner, we went to a wonderful Christmas Eve variety show that featured excerpts from The Nutcracker ballet and an organist playing The Hallelujah Chorus. At midnight, Catholic and Protestant services were held, and Jewish passengers, who had attended a Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony earlier in the evening, gathered with a rabbi. At the Catholic service in the ship’s theater, the congregation was composed almost equally of passengers and crew members, from the Philippines, Austria, Germany and even India. While the ship’s Filipino orchestra played Silent Night, the German man behind me sang out Stille Nacht in a booming voice. Even in the middle of the ocean, surrounded mostly by strangers, the warmth of the season prevailed.
On Christmas Day, I dashed up to the Palm Court, the airy room that is usually the site of afternoon teas and dancing, to watch Santa Claus bring small gifts to the approximately 60 kids on board. This particular cruise has passengers from 35 countries, so the kids were talking excitedly in English, Spanish, German, Russian and several languages I couldn’t pick out.
My next stop was the Trivia Competition, a tradition for me on these days at sea. As we were forming teams and sharpening our pencils, a waitress came by with an egg nog tray. We toasted one another, my team lost the competition in a tie-breaker, and then I was off to enjoy my Christmas present to myself, a hot-stone massage in the Serenity's spa.