Deck the Halls

7 December 2010 By Joanne MacKenzie

It’s nearly December and that means it’s time to deck the halls….

“It’s hard to get [my] crew interested [in decorating] because the owners of the boat are Jewish and don’t celebrate Christmas, says one chief stewardess. “There are no decorations on the boat. It makes it harder for the crew to get in the spirit especially when we’re working, too.”

But if you’re looking to put your crewmates in that holiday spirit, “Give them hats and ask them to help hang decorations. Maybe pour some wine or make them a special holiday drink. That always gets them going. Whether they moan about it or not, I put up a tree and hang stockings for all the crew,” says another stewardess.

If the master of the vessel is bah humbug, you may have to take a different route. One chef says she got the guests involved and finally, the captain was interested. After Christmas however, “He kept nagging us to take down the decorations so we did …and turned the Christmas décor into New Year’s hats. Even the captain had one on at midnight and said he was all good with decorations you can wear.”

Even the smallest decorations can have a big impact on the jolliness of the crew. One captain says he didn’t used to make a fuss about decorations until one Christmas when his sister brought him a tiny fir tree in a map tube. “The crew was so excited about it. You wouldn’t think the smell of a fresh spruce needles would be such a big deal, but it gives the crew a lift so every year, I make sure there’s a tree in the crew mess.”

Sometimes, when in a country that doesn’t celebrate the same holiday traditions as the crew, you have to make due with what you can find locally. “We found a dead century plant and mounted on the aft deck. Other boats made fun of it, but it was good fun. The guests and crew added things to it every day…flip flop, knotted line, shells. The boys put lights on it and that was our tree. We also made wreaths of bougainvillea and put tea lights and sand in coconut shells. We decorated our tender, too. After all, in the Caribbean, Santa arrives in a boat, not a sleigh,” says one crewmember.

Once you’ve made up your mind to decorate, you have to locate the goods. Finding decorations in Fort Lauderdale is easy. You can go to Wal-Mart or any drugstore to find standard lights, garland, balls and bells and pretty much any decorations you need. For something a little more interesting, try Pottery Barn or Party City.

In the Bahamas, there is a good online source at In Tortola, Sunny Caribbee has nice, locally made decorations. In St. Thomas, Kmart and Cost-U-Less are good standbys for standard decorations.

If you’re in St. Maarten, the best place to find reasonably priced decorations in volume is Ace Hardware by PDP Marina. For something more interesting, you can go to Shipwreck Shop on Airport Road in Simpson Bay. They have hand painted balls and tasteful tree decorations made out of shells and other beach debris. There is a large Christmas market in Marigot Bay that features live music on the waterfront and artists selling various art and crafts – this might be the perfect place to put everyone in the holiday spirit.