Christmas is the great American holiday. It’s a time of presents and decorations, and mistletoe and holly, of yuletide cheer, of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and families gathering for a feast. It can be a wonderful time, but it can also be a lot of stress.
For years, our family went all out for Christmas, driving long distances, dropping a small fortune on gifts, and cooking up sumptuous feasts. We spent many hours in the kitchen and many dollars in the shopping malls searching for the perfect present for each of member of our large family. This year, my wife and I decided to skip all that and go to the Bahamas instead.
After exploring some options online, we chose a four-night holiday cruise on the Carnival Ecstasy from Charleston to Nassau.
We invited our extended family to come with us. Most declined, but my 80-year-old father chose to join us. Three days before Christmas, we all met in the port of Charleston and boarded the Carnival Ecstasy. We sailed at sunset, passing by historic Fort Sumter at the mouth of Charleston Harbor. Let the holiday relaxation begin.
On the morning of Christmas Eve, we docked in Nassau. The cruise line provided many options for spending our time in port. We could swim with dolphins. We could ride ATVs on the beaches of New Providence Island. We could visit the water park at the luxurious Atlantis beach resort. Or we could just wander the streets of Old Nassau, eat seafood, and drink rum in one of Nassau’s many fine restaurants, and explore local history at the Pirate Museum.
Or we could choose a sea kayak and snorkel adventure and spend the afternoon exploring a coral reef in the warm turquoise water off Athol Island, chasing fish. And that’s just what we did.
Christmas Day was a sea day. We spent much of the long slow ride back to Charleston sitting on the pool deck, soaking up the sun and sipping rum punch delivered by waiters in Santa hats.
In the evening, we gathered in the atrium, strung with tinsel and holly and Christmas lights, and sang carols. Hundreds of people of all colors and backgrounds, white, black, Indians, and Asians, joined together to belt out “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” “Walking in a Winter Wonderland,” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” It was like the Who in Who-ville gathered around the Christmas tree welcoming in song the arrival of Christmas.
My wife and I entered the 1980s music trivia contest and took first place. We brought home a trophy, a gold painted plastic replica of the ship. All the while, the ship’s officers drove the ship and a battalion of cruise line employees labored tirelessly to ensure our Christmas was merry and our days were full of fun.
It was non-traditional, but it was well worth the time and money. Instead of giving each other material things, we gave each other memories. In 30 years, our son may not remember what he got for Christmas when he was 15, but he’ll long remember snorkeling in the Bahamas with his grandfather. That can’t be bought in a store.
Instead of our normal exhaustion, we ended Christmas Day sitting on our stateroom balcony, sipping champagne, and watching the sun set over the Atlantic Ocean.
As the sun dropped below the horizon, we raised our glasses in a toast and wished the world a Merry Christmas.
This story and photos were submitted by Jeff Robertson.