38. Confession of a Christmas Cruiser

38. Confession of a Christmas Cruiser

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas!

Confession of a Christmas Cruiser

I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than the things I haven’t done.

~Lucille Ball

Who skips out on Christmas? The Kranks tried it in both a novel and a movie but didn’t succeed. So what made us think we could? And why would we?

All of the five Robbins kids had left the nest. They were scattered across the country, making it next to impossible to visit all of them at the holidays and a bit expensive for them to travel back home with their children. Bob and I truly didn’t want to intrude on their family celebrations either. We remembered how much fun it was to celebrate on our own with them when they were little. Facing a Christmas with an empty house did not inspire a lot of Christmas decorating or cookie baking spirit. What to do?

The cruise brochure arrived just in time, filled with dreamy pictures of beautiful Tahiti and the French Polynesian islands. We sat at the kitchen table sipping coffee and watching the last of the autumn leaves swirl past the window. It wouldn’t be long before the snowflakes fell. The brochure sat between us, already dog-eared and wrinkled from our perusal. A big grin spread across Bob’s face.

“Let’s give each other a cruise for Christmas!”

It didn’t take long to sell me on the idea. But questions still arose. Would we mind being away from home for Christmas? Would we miss not having a white Christmas? What would the kids say? We moved ahead with the idea anyway and made our reservations.

The ship was the Paul Gauguin, a beautiful elegant mid-sized cruise ship. We were welcomed aboard to a venue decorated with Christmas trees, gingerbread houses, and nooks and crannies filled with all the traditional decorations of the season. It was a ten-day cruise and Christmas fell in the middle of it. Bob decorated our mirrored vanity with a string of mini-lights and stuck a Santa hat on the small decorative bust that was in our room. I think our cabin steward giggled every time she saw it.

Christmas Eve we caroled and Christmas morning we awoke to another gorgeous view of luscious tropical greens draping the hills and mountains of Raiatea. In preparing for our trip, I had packed a couple of small Christmas stockings and some candy. Playing Santa’s helper, I filled them and gave two to our cabin steward as she began her morning chores.

“One is for you,” I said, “and one is for you to give to a friend.”

Her eyes lit up and she clutched them to her chest as she ran down the hall hailing her friend in her own language to give her the second stocking. I didn’t realize such a small gesture would be so welcomed.

After breakfast, we went on an excursion through the countryside. I was impressed that the driver of our open-sided truck had given up her Christmas morning to show us her beautiful island. Even more impressive was the young boy who quietly played with his Christmas present, a new truck, on the front seat next to his mother.

At noon we were tendered over to a private beach where there were picnic tables, a large barbecue pit, and plenty of beach chairs. Our Christmas dinner consisted of grilled lobster, steak, chicken, tropical fruits, and lots of delicious side dishes. I don’t recall missing the usual pork roast with sauerkraut and dumplings that was a tradition at home for so many years.

After our dinner, we were treated to a visit from Santa. I’m sure he must have come to begin his vacation after his long night out delivering his presents. You see, he was dressed in a short-sleeved fur-trimmed red shirt, Santa cap, red shorts and flip-flops. He ho-ho-hoed his way down the beach and greeted all the passengers, gave a little extra treat to the children he met, and then disappeared to begin a long deserved rest.

Did we miss Christmas at home? Not in the least. As a matter of fact we enjoyed our time away so much that we have made it part of a new tradition. Every other year our kids know that we will be off cruising somewhere warm. They don’t have to worry about Mom and Dad being alone at Christmas and we don’t have all the work associated with the holiday season. I must confess, I love it.

~Karen Robbins

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