Christmas Family Cruise a Magical Experience

Day 12, 2023 Holiday Panama Canal Sunfarer

Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024; Bimini, Bahamas

As we pack up from this holiday cruise – nephews Zan and Colton to return to work; sisters Elaine, Eloise and me to change staterooms for the next cruise – I’m struck by some of the differences in cruises.

While I’ve spent several Thanksgivings at sea, this is my first Christmas and New Year’s cruise. It truly has been magical. When we boarded on Dec. 22, the ship was already decorated – with garland and bright red balls on the atrium stairs and many railings around the ship. Trees were around every corner. Toy trains wound their way through small villages.  The crew frequently wore Santa hats, and many doorways sported holiday decorations.

On Christmas Santa arrived and delivered gifts (stuffed animals) to all the children. And with a full ship (2,000 passengers), there are many families. But not quite as many children as I expected. Perhaps the reason is the length – 12 days versus the typical seven-day cruise. And thankfully the kids haven’t been the little terrors that I’ve read about occasionally in social media.

The Crow’s Nest has been quite the family hangout, in part because of the large number of board and card games and puzzles available there.

And the line for specialty coffees (lattes, etc.) can be long. I understand that they have added an espresso machine in the Pinnacle Bar, which some passengers find more convenient for their morning coffee run. Early in the cruise we waited in line for dinner seating. As usual, that settled down after a few days, but with the full ship the service was noticeably a bit slower than I have recently experienced.

Our cabana in the Retreat on Deck 11 is a new experience for me. There are about a dozen cabanas, most open at two sides to allow a breeze, and ours is right in the middle, overlooking the sliding roof of the Lido midship pool. Our steward Made serves us with coffee in the morning, prosecco throughout the day and chocolate-dipped strawberries in the afternoon. Sometimes it’s a bit too breezy, hot or cold, but it has been a good meeting place for the family. I’m not sure I would use one enough to justify the expense ($600 for 12 days) on a longer cruise, one in colder climates or when I have a verandah. But it was perfect for this trip.

Because, like most people on this cruise, I am traveling with family, I haven’t met many new people. There are at least two dozen who like us will continue on to the world cruise, most of whom I already knew. It does feel strange to me to not see new acquaintances in the Crow’s Nest or around the ship. I’m looking forward to meeting more people on the world cruise.

Since leaving Costa Rica after our partial transit of the Panama Canal, we have been spent two and a half days at sea, just arriving in Bimini, Bahamas, mid-afternoon today. We will leave about 11 p.m. and by 7 a.m. tomorrow be docked in Fort Lauderdale.

We squeezed in another dinner in the Pinnacle Grill. My nephew Colton must have been trying to set a record – he managed to finish a 36-ounce tomahawk bone-in ribeye steak and most of a Beecher’s lobster mac and cheese side dish!

At the Orange Party, I wore my new orange wig – inspired by the lovely dining room host Josephine last year. This year we posed for an “opposite” shot.

My sisters and I will see the nephews off to the airport and then make a shopping run to pick up a few things we didn’t get earlier. We plan to be back on the ship by noon.

One thing I really like about this cruise is the enthusiasm among the passengers. They remind me that I can become jaded – about ports I already have visited, lectures I have heard and shows I have seen. Too often my reaction is “been there, done that.”

I’ve decided my word for 2024 will be “enthusiasm.” I want to approach each day with new eyes. Feel free to call me out in the comments if you see my energy lagging. This is a wonderful life and I want to cherish every moment.