When I accepted my first contract with Carnival, it took me a little bit before I came to the realization that I would be away from home for all of my favorite holidays. I was originally contracted to start in October 2016 and be home in April of 2017, but I accepted an extension through mid-May. This meant that I would be on the ship for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and Mardi Gras, not to mention Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo and Easter. It also meant that I would be turning 27-years-old on the ship. I was sad about it at first, but after having the most epic time celebrating Halloween, I knew that all of the other holidays would be a piece of cake.
If you’re considering a job on a cruise ship, and you’re on the fence about it because you don’t want to miss any holidays at home, don’t let it deter you. One thing I have to say about Carnival is that they do what they can to make the ship feel like home. I was fortunate that my first ship was a smaller ship because that meant that I got to know the majority of the people that I worked with, even though there were hundreds of us. They put together special meals, parties and events to make a more familial environment so you can miss home just a little bit less.
I can honestly say I had a blast celebrating all of these holidays away from home. Yes, I did miss my family and friends at home, but in a way, being “stuck” on the ship with my fellow co-workers brought us closer together during these times.
Because I worked in kids camp, I got to celebrate Halloween twice. In Camp Carnival, we put together a little event for the kids to go trick-or-treating. Each staff member stands at a different place on the ship. The kids and their families are given a map, and the kids go to each place on the map to collect candy. Also, as a group, we had to dress in a similarly themed costume. We all dressed up like the solar system. Sorry, I can’t tell you which planet I was. Whoops.
We also had a crew Halloween party. I didn’t bring a Halloween costume from home, and I didn’t have the opportunity to get off the ship to buy one, so two of my friends and I painted half of our faces and wore black dresses. That night, we were ported in Nassau overnight, so a few of us ended up leaving the ship to go to a club called Bambu. We were docked with so many ships that night, so it was crazy crowded, and three of us ended up leaving rather quickly to go eat pizza on the ship instead.
Thanksgiving fell on embarkation day, and for camp, that meant that we could all eat together as a family. On every other day of the cruise, we serve kids dinner, and some of us have to work at that time, of course. Luckily we were all able to eat together for this holiday, even though most of the people working in camp at the time weren’t American and normally wouldn’t celebrate this holiday at home. The kitchen staff put together a delicious meal that included a few Thanksgiving favorites, including turkey and dressing.
Earlier that day, three of my fellow youth staffers and I also enjoyed a Thanksgiving lunch at a restaurant in Jacksonville called Ted’s Montana Grill. The workers were so cute, and they took a photo of all of us and printed it out. It ended up looking like mom and dad eating with their two adopted children.
It’s no doubt that Christmas is the hardest holiday to spend away from home, and I’m so grateful that my YD (Youth Director) made it her mission to make sure that all of us celebrated the best we could away from our families. Within camp, we did a Secret Santa gift exchange. We also did a white elephant gift exchange. At the end of each cruise, we have a meeting, and at one of the meetings, we exchanged gifts and played a Christmas version of Family Feud. Carnival also hosted a “Naughty or Nice” Christmas party, and as per usual it was so much fun.
On Christmas Eve, a few of my girlfriends and I went to Junkanoo Beach in Nassau. It was my first time going there, and it definitely wasn’t the last. We had so much fun, and it almost didn’t feel like it was Christmas because the weather was so sunny and beautiful.
As for the kids, youth staff and entertainment staff came together to put together a Christmas show. The Playlist performers have a holiday show that they perform, and the kids get to be a part of it. The 2-5-year-old’s decorate Christmas ornaments and put them on the tree. The 6-8-year-old’s learn and sing two songs. The 9-11-year-old’s and the teen clubs learn a dance that they perform onstage. Also, since Carnival has a partnership with Dr. Seuss, the Grinch makes appearances. I was intoxicated with the spirit of Christmas throughout the month of December.
NEW YEAR’S EVE
I think I had more fun celebrating NYE on the ship than I’ve ever had off the ship. I don’t always do anything big for NYE when I’m home, but on the ship, it’s just a huge party throughout the night. There’s stuff going on everywhere all day. They have a balloon drop, the band’s performing, the DJ does the countdown, champagne showers (not literally; that was meant to be an LMFAO reference), and that’s just for the guests. For crew, there’s of course stuff going on in crew bar. There was also an area for staff and officers to enjoy a view of the band as well as some champagne for the countdown. Unfortunately, there were no fireworks because “the most dangerous event that can happen onboard is fire.” Also, don’t judge me. I’m in two different outfits because I wanted to get fancier.
For most of the ship, Valentine’s Day meant another crew party (which was awesomely fun, and they even had a backdrop setup for us to take photos). While I had the best time at the party, I also took the opportunity to buy some cheesy Valentine’s Day cards and leave them at my friends’ doors because apparently I’m still in fifth grade and like giving out Valentine’s.
I was way too excited to be able to celebrate my favorite holiday while on the ship. Youth staff was in charge of throwing the Mardi Gras party, and it was easily my favorite crew party that I attended. We blew up lots of balloons, had Mardi Gras masks and beads everywhere. It looked like crew bar threw up purple, green and gold, and I loved it. I even bought a new dress for the occasion.
ST. PATRICK’S DAY
This crew party was also hosted by the youth staff, so naturally we went all out with decorations. They also requested that we put out party games, so while we skipped beer pong because there was no room for it, we put out King’s Cup with a posterboard showing instructions, and we also made a dirty Jenga game that we ended up playing several times in crew bar even after the St. Patrick’s Day party. Everything was green of course, and there was lots of dancing. It was an absolute blast.
For Easter on the ship, there wasn’t a crew party, but they did put together a special meal for the crew and staff (including some wine that I actually got to partake in since I was done with work early that day). I also used the opportunity to spread some love with candy-filled Easter eggs, and I even got a few delicious surprises at my door as well.
For the kids, Camp Carnival hosted an Easter egg hunt that was similar to the Halloween trick-or-treating.
CINCO DE MAYO
I’m usually not big on Tex-Mex, but when you’re living on a ship that has to satisfy the taste buds of the entire world, it’s easy to attach yourself to whatever feels familiar, and tacos are what’s familiar. In the crew and staff mess, they put together a delicious Tex-Mex feast, and I made myself a couple tacos and indulged in guacamole.
They also had a Latin-themed party in crew bar, and since it was my last crew party, I made sure I had good time.
At first it may seem like spending the holidays away from home will be daunting, but honestly, I had so much fun celebrating all of these holidays on the ship. For my next contract, I’ll again be missing Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, but luckily, I’ll be home to celebrate my favorite holiday – Mardi Gras!
What’s your favorite holiday and how do you celebrate it?