Remember the Crew

The holidays are coming, and anyone who plans to take a cruise for the holidays is in for a special treat. Maybe it's not a traditional holiday season feeling, but when you walk onboard you'll immediately notice the festive spirit, created in part by the cruise lines' magnificent decorating. But the decorations are only a small part of the special atmosphere of holiday cruising.

Many ships will be filled with families, often multi-generation groups, who combine their vacation time with the holidays. In light of recent events, the importance of family has become so magnified that I'd expect a very warm feeling to run through all the passengers. Everyone will feel lucky to be there, and to share this special experience with their loved ones.

But what about the cruise staff? This is generally a very difficult time for the multinational crew members to be at sea. While passengers can take their spouses and kids with them, the staffers are away from their own homes and families, and the celebratory mood onboard could magnify their melancholy. Combine that with the fact that most ships are likely to be full to the brim, adding to the staff's already significant workloads, and there's significant potential for a harried and unhappy crew.

I've found that a bit of holiday thoughtfulness toward the crew on the part of the passengers can go a long way. I don't recommend inviting the service staff to sit down and join you for dinner (that could lead to very slow service), but bringing along a small gift for them will certainly do wonders in helping to lift their spirits.

For cruises over the holidays, I like to pack a box of small candy canes or the like, to give out to non-service staff I encounter as well. One Christmas I came across some small velcro-backed "Santas," and I took along 100 of them, at a cost of about 10 cents each. From the smiles on the face of each crew member I gave them to, you'd think they were worth a hundred dollars each.

Any type of small gifts like these can be very effective. So can a warm smile, and simply telling crew members that you appreciate the fact they're away from their families during a traditional family time. And certainly at these times, more than ever, a simple genuine thank you goes a long way.

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