Christmas time onboard for Crew

Christmas is a time when we get to spend the festive season with family and loved ones. However, when you are spending Christmas away at sea, with your new onboard family it can feel quite different.

My first Christmas working at sea was 21 years ago, sailing onboard a small cruise ship. For Christmas Day we were at sea, in glorious sunshine, sailing off the coast of India, en route to Sri Lanka. It seemed like a very long way from home.

For some working at sea can be a challenging and lonely time at Christmas. For me I found that being on board a cruise ship at Christmas you are not alone, with your colleagues, the ship’s crew and passengers.

A fairly quiet Christmas morning was followed by a lunchtime Deck BBQ. For the passengers there was a chance to relax in the afternoon, then in the evening we held a formal Christmas dinner in the main dining room. This was followed by a show and entertainment in the evening.

For the ships crew they enjoyed a lunchtime Christmas dinner in the crew mess, served by the Ships’ Heads of Department – as well as a visit from Santa!

This was to be my first in a number of Christmas’ onboard, which in following years included spending Christmas in the Caribbean, South America and in 2008 cruising off Antarctica.

Antarctica at Christmas was different. The voyage took in the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica Peninsula; and whilst previous Christmas Days had normally been at sea, Christmas Day 2008 would mean we would be landing by zodiac to Salisbury Plain in South Georgia. Wow – what a treat to be greeted by so much wildlife, including thousands of King Penguins and plenty of elephant seals on the shoreline!

Whilst I have been fortunate and my Christmases onboard have been at locations all over the world, with crew, passengers (and wildlife) you still know you are a long way from your friends and family at home.

Back 21 years ago communication was not as advanced as it is now. In 2021 it is now much easier to stay connected with family and loved ones – especially with social media; but it is always worth remembering that there are those onboard at Christmas who still find it hard and challenging to be away from their family.    

On Christmas day I will raise a glass to toast friends and colleagues who will be onboard all over the world on Christmas Day.

Written by Paul Rutterford, Operations Director at Viking Crew, Dover.