Holiday Gift-Giving for Crew: Eight Tips to Reduce Stress

18 December 2008 By Rubi McGrory

’Tis the season…for exchanging gifts with fellow crewmembers. Every boat seems to have a different way of managing holiday gift-giving, especially when guests are on board. But even the Scroogiest among us likes to have something to unwrap.

Here are some tips to minimize buying stress:

· Pick names from a hat, so each crewmember only has to buy one gift. (This is often called “Secret Santa.”)

· Play a holiday game of Greed (sometimes known as Yankee Swap).
Greed is a form of grab bag. Everyone must bring a generic gift of the same value. Players are randomly assigned a picking order. Player one chooses a gift. Player two can take player one’s gift or choose from the pile. Player three can take player one’s or two’s gift or choose from the pile, and so on, until all the gifts have been chosen. Player one then has the last chance to choose a gift. There are many variations on the rules, i.e.: gifts can only be stolen three times, or you can’t unwrap the gift before you decide to keep it, etc.

· Set spending limits. Crew gift exchange is supposed to be fun and morale boosting, but that can go south quickly if gift value appears unbalanced; for example, if the second stew buys a nice watch for the captain while the mate gives the engineer a six-pack of beer. Sometimes lower spending limits inspire more fun and creative gifts. For a Christmas day game of Greed, a $20 limit can see gifts as diverse as an electric fart machine (great fun over the ship’s loudspeaker system) or 20 scratch-off lottery tickets (given that you’ll be in port long enough to cash them in).

· The best gifts are ones the whole crew can enjoy (if the recipient is good at sharing): DVDs, board games, video games, wine or chocolates.

· Clothes can be a tricky choice, unless you are 100 percent sure of the person’s size and style (this won’t work if you’re playing Greed, of course). For a woman, a nice sarong might be appreciated – note, I say “nice.” This means you might have to find your way into a boutique which sells hand-batiked sarongs, instead of the €3 version sold near the cruise ship dock. In a pinch, you could buy a guy a shirt. Mate Ned took a picture of the captain with him shopping so he could buy the perfect one.

· Good things do come in small packages for crew. A two- by three-inch phone card top up, a gift card to a spa, an iTunes card or gift card for a surfing lesson all prove this point. Let’s face it, most of us can’t cram anything else into our cabins and would cherish an experience more than an object.

· Beware – for every good-idea gift, there are hundreds of bad ones. As a general rule, if you can’t make space to hide it in your cabin, the recipient probably can’t store it either. Art is lovely, but a 50-pound sculpture or a four-foot painting is overkill. And while it might be tempting to buy “product” (guys, that means anything that a person uses to make themselves clean and pretty), recipients of either gender are pretty specific about what “product” they use.

· Firsthand experience dictates to never ever give a fellow crewmember a gift whose sole purpose is to make noise. Your colleague may take it as a personal challenge to create as much noise as possible, and you may have to confiscate said gift and hide it and repeatedly have to lie to recipient that you have not seen their lovely musical instrument.

This is your chance to weigh in. What is your idea of a good crew gift? What is the worst one you have seen? What are your feelings about the handmade “coupon book?”