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All At Sea For Christmas – Sarah Bennett

Christmas brings back so many memories for me. One of the happiest ones from my childhood is a skiing holiday in Austria we took with other members of the Forces Caravan Club. I was eight or nine and my father was in the Royal Air Force and based in Germany at the time. I can still picture the glittering fairy lights on the trees everyone put next to the caravans.

It snowed so heavily one night the weight caused some of the caravan roofs to bend. Being one of the smallest children there, I was boosted up onto the roofs so I could push off the snow that couldn’t be reached with brooms, ski poles and whatever else came to hand. I’d never skied before, and I had no fear, no worries that anything would happen if I fell other than I’d end up face first in a snow drift. A quick brush down and I’d be bombing down the slopes again in minutes. I think I terrified my mum, but the exhilaration of the wind freezing my cheeks as I tucked over my skis and flew across the snow makes it one of the most memorable holidays I’ve had.

These days I prefer something a little more sedate and there’s nothing more magical than a Christmas cruise. The ships are always decorated so beautifully decorated and there’s always a real holiday atmosphere on board. They have all the same traditions – carol concerts, midnight mass, Santa giving gifts to the children on board, roast turkey and all the trimmings on Christmas day. They also celebrate specific seafaring traditions, and one of my favourite is ringing out the year. As the clock strikes midnight, the crew and passengers gather. The oldest member of the crew rings the ship’s bell to mark the passing of the old year. The youngest member then steps up and rings in the new year.

Decorations in the atrium of P&O’s MV Ventura

We visited Jerusalem on Christmas Eve one year, and explored the ruins of ancient Herculaneum another. We’ve sat in the sunshine in Rhodes and drunk a boot of beer.

Ancient olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem

The ruins of Herculaneum near Naples, Italy

The infamous Rhodes boot of beer being modelled by my husband!

This year, like many other families, we will be spending a quiet Christmas at home. 2020 has been a difficult year for us all, but there is hope on the horizon and once it is safe to travel again I’ll be looking forward to a Christmas all at sea once more.

From my family to yours, I wish you a peaceful, happy and healthy Christmas and all good wishes for a New Year where we can once again all be with our loved ones.

Sarah Bennett xx

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