the Christmas Craze – Cruise # 25

Explorer of the Seas Voyage # 639
Bayonne – Bahamas 7 nights cruise

New ports!! I was excited when I saw that I would be spending Christmas in the Bahamas. I mean, it sounds super cool right?

Nassau, Bahamas
Nassau, Bahamas

Our first port was Port Canaveral (Florida) on Christmas Eve. Yiling, Misha and I hopped aboard the shuttle to do some last minute Christmas shopping. The mall wasn’t as big as I was expecting, but there were some cool shops and we had fun looking around and picking out our Secret Santa gifts. For those of you who don’t know, Secret Santa is when each person buys a gift so that everyone in the group receives one present. Everybody’s name is written on a piece of paper, thrown into a hat (or any container) and then you take turns picking out a name. Voilà!! You are now someone’s Secret Santa. Since it’s SECRET Santa, I can’t tell you who I got!

The best part of the day was realising how close Yiling and I have grown. While looking around the shops we would pick out items that, if we were each other’s Secret Santa, we could have bought. It was so easy! Each item we picked up was something the other would enjoy. To be fair… Buy me anything with a penguin on it and I’ll love it! Haha. The point is that she knows that! I’ve got BIG sisterly love for my cabin mate!

After work on Christmas Eve we met in Ioana’s office, where she had put up a little Christmas tree (another tree on there ship!) complete with lights and decorations and candies surrounding the base. It was pretty magical considering that she and more than half the team don’t celebrate Christmas on the 25th December and 3 don’t celebrate the holiday at all! After exchanging gifts, we all went to the back deck for a couple drinks. In the early hours of Christmas morning I woke up my family in South Africa for some badly needed Christmas love and cheer! It was lovely to Skype with them and see them and made me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Christmas day itself was actually a bit of a let down and I can’t believe I’m going to admit this, but I’m actually getting sick of Christmas trees… Well, just one! I Spent Christmas morning shooting that massive tree again and I was surprised when most of the guests didn’t really respond (and when they did, it was without any real enthusiasm) when I wished them a “Merry Christmas”. This was strange for me, as back home the 25th December is the day for big celebrations, but maybe these Americans celebrate on Christmas Eve? Or maybe they had hangovers? Haha. I’m inclined to believe it was the latter, as some were grumpy too!

After shooting for a couple hours, I was working in the Photo Gallery when a lady with a stormy face stomped purposely towards me. I very deliberately put on my most fake, cheerful, sweetest voice and wished her a MERRY CHRISTMAS! In response she grumbled, “It’s not a merry Christmas! I’ve looked everywhere and I can’t find my photo!” After very sweetly (because I think it was pissing her off) asking her a few questions, I walked up to a panel and picked her photo out right away. Sigh. Yes, I’m sure she had looked EVERYWHERE! Definitely a reason to get your knickers into a knot over on Christmas Day…

The unenthusiastic and grumpy guests didn’t deter Santa (AKA Father Christmas) from making an appearance or three! I’m not sure if it was because we were in international waters, but the first time I saw him I would swear he was American, then the next time I passed him he was British… And then he was Filipino!

We were super busy this cruise, working between 9 and 12 hours a day. But, ‘Tis the Season and the guests want to have family photos (in their matching outfits) taken. I also shot my first wedding – it went quite well I think and the guests were pleased – so you can imagine that I’ve been quite tired. This may have contributed to my disappointment in the Bahamas. If I was a guest and had gone to the beach and that was all I wanted to do on my vacation, then yes, I may have really enjoyed my holiday. The beaches at Cococay (a private Royal Caribbean beach in the Bahamas) were pretty amazing!

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Funny guest story: For obvious health concerns, there are hand sanitiser stations outside all the ship restaurants. One night I was in my studio (set up outside one of the dining rooms) when a little girl came out. I was rather impressed to see her head straight to the hand sanitiser station and then I couldn’t help but giggle when she didn’t stop at washing her hands, but continued washing her arms, shoulders and neck! When she passed me I teased her, saying “That doesn’t mean you don’t need to take a shower” The poor thing went bright red, but her parents loved it!

Highlight of the cruise: It’s all about who you know and I know someone who has spoilt me with home-made marshmallows and glühwein! Not that these goodies are normally a part of my Christmas celebrations (especially when you consider that Christmas is during Summer in South Africa) But it made the ship feel homely and the days special. So thanks Chef!



The Christmas Trees – Cruise # 24

Explorer of the Seas Voyage # 638
Bayonne – Eastern Caribbean 10 night cruise

What a way to begin a cruise… 3 sea days! Ahhhh! I had embarkation off, but the freezing cold and the allure of my warm, cosy bed (which isn’t as NICE as Yiline’s bed, but is still pretty amazing) kept me inside the ship. Lazy? Maybe… Whatever! The result was that I spent 4 days stuck on the ship. Cabin fever?

But this post is all about Christmas trees, so let me not get off topic! There are several Christmas trees on the Explorer… One on the (crew) back deck with a measly 5 ornaments dangling off its fake branches (which are at least covered in lights) one slightly better looking one in the (guest) Magellan Dining Room that is decorated with loads of assorted colour baubles and then of course there’s the one I’m shooting, the 5m tall tree covered with larger than life red and gold decorations, on the Royal Promenade (the shopping area on deck 5). I am thrilled to announce that I have added my very own to the list! My wonderful brothers sent me my very own, golden Christmas tree, which is at this very moment sitting proudly on the teeny table in my tiny cabin. The trees on the ship are ALL better looking than the two I saw in Phillipsburg, St Maarten!

I love Christmas and, in my VERY important opinion, Christmas trees are one of the highlights of the season! When I was little (okay, I’m still little, but when I was younger and even shorter) we used to dedicate a whole day to setting up the Christmas tree… You see, we lived out of town on a small holding with access to plenty large pine trees that were just begging for the axe, or in this case, the saw. My childhood home had a sunken lounge with a very high ceiling that could fit a 4m tree perfectly! You may be thinking “Wow, a 4m tree?” but actually, sometimes we would misjudge the height of our chosen tree and end up having to chop some of the top off! You would think that these Christmas trees would surely fulfil every child’s Christmas fantasies. Well not for “Christmas-tree-crazy” Helen! Sometimes I would even have my own (much smaller) Christmas tree in my bedroom!

One problem with having such large trees is that super loads of Christmas tree decorations are needed. To supplement our beautiful (and many not so beautiful) old and newer decorations, we began hanging random things on our tree. We started by hanging chocolates (normally boxes of Astros or shiny Crunchie bars) which isn’t too weird as I have leant that this is actually a Ukrainian tradition. Next we started hanging ANYTHING with a hook, be it Christmassy or not! As an example, we had a big, yellow, bouncy, springy wasp that made its way into the Christmas decoration box. Lastly, my mother started to add the ribbons from her presents to the tree. Obviously this only happens on Christmas Day itself, but you would be surprised at how many of these damn ribbons make it back into the decoration box to be rehung the next year! Grrrrrr! My mom and brother do this just to annoy me and every year I have to throw away a bunch of ribbons and gift tags before they see them and add them to the tree again. It’s become a tradition and although I act grumpy about it, I secretly love it, how could I not when it’s the “Wright” tradition.

So what about my Christmas tree? Well, truth be told, it’s bling enough without any decorations, but that’s not my style! I was given a proper ornament (a cute snowman sunning his bod!) by a special someone, but just having this ornament on my tree made it look sad. So, keeping with the “Wright” tradition, I have added bits of curled red ribbon, gift tags and at the top (I don’t have a star or fairy) I have tied a pretty ribbon! It looks cute and pretty and amazing, especially next to my Advent Calendar (thanks David) and my Gingerbread house (thanks Chef).

My Christmas display
My Christmas display

Funny Jamaican story: To end off this festive post, let me share with you how the Jamaicans tell someone they love them: “Me love you bad, bad, bad… Me love you like cooked food, me love you like fresh vegetable!” I kid you not, this is Jamaican romance!

Highlight of the cruise: On the whole, this was a pretty great cruise. I’ve been shooting Christmas tree again, which means no resi on formal nights – I can hear your cheers of joy and congratulation echoing down the i95, the main crew corridor. I was nominated for November’s Smile of the Month. It’s a self explanatory award and I didn’t actually win, but I was still made to (embarrassingly) go up onto stage to collect a certificate. Sasha left us this cruise (sad face) and Ivan (from Colombia) has joined the team. He’s a new hire and is VERY enthusiastic and excitable, he’s really great. I have been appointed his “buddy” and so have been showing him the ropes. Oooooo!!! I’ve also been receiving more poems and letters from a special Chef. I have quite a pile now!