I work on a cruise ship and here’s what it’s like at Christmas – we prep months in advance and have our own Xmas dinners

A KREUZFAHRT ship director revealed what it’s really like to celebrate Christmas on board.

Jamie Petts is hotel director on the MSC Virtuosa – a 19-deck cruise ship – and has spent 18 Christmases away from his own family, instead entertaining others at sea.

A cruise employee revealed what it's really like on a cruise ship at Christmas


A cruise employee revealed what it’s really like on a cruise ship at ChristmasPhoto credit: MSC Rights
Jamie Petts has spent more than a decade celebrating Christmas on cruise ships


Jamie Petts has spent more than a decade celebrating Christmas on cruise shipsPhoto credit: Jamie Petts

Rather than spending time with his own family at home in the Norfolk Broads at Christmas, Petts, 51, is responsible for everything from food and drink to entertainment, housekeeping and the health and safety of thousands of guests currently arriving during the holiday at Christmas time.

He is used to long absences from home, having worked at sea on cruise ships for 26 years.

Christmas starts early on a cruise ship, Petts said, and there’s plenty to do to make sure all 19 decks are festive for guests.

He said: “It’s a really fun time.

“We start planning months in advance and at the end of November the decorations arrive and we gradually build up to the big day.”

MSC Virtuosa is currently sailing across Northern Europe in her winter season and while guests can explore the Christmas markets in destinations such as Hamburg and Rotterdam, Petts has ensured the celebrations continue on board.

The ship has had its own Christmas markets since the end of November, including alpine wooden huts with mulled wine, hot chocolate, baked apples and hot dogs
and sausages.

He said that there are many festive activities that the staff organize and run, like a snow party,

Christmas card workshop, gift wrapping master classes, karaoke, and a curling rink.

Petts added: “Santa will come on Christmas morning and bring presents to the children and there will be themed stage shows, Christmas carols and a special big buffet for the occasion.

“It’s fun to see the crew enjoying the season and doing extra magical things to make the kids and guests smile.”

Despite not being with his own loved ones, Petts said the crew members become like family.

He said: “Every day is different and will challenge you in every possible way.

“I enjoy the great places we visit and meet both guests and crew who become lifelong friends.”

MSC organizes a Christmas dinner to appreciate the crew and the staff can use the guest buffet, which they normally do not have access to.

He said: “As officers we will sit down for lunch and have a nice informal dinner together to celebrate together.

“Many departments will also organize their own little celebration or even different nationalities will ask to have certain things prepared by their traditional chef
during the holidays.”

Working at Christmas may sound boring, but he says it’s important to have fun, adding: “Wear a Santa hat, sing songs and make a great day at work for you and others.” .”

Staff even exchange gifts on board and Petts said the best gift he’s ever received was a bottle of Jonny Walker Blue and the worst gift was a harmonica.

However, there is an advantage to being at sea for Christmas, Petts said, as you can visit exotic locations.

He said: “I once celebrated Christmas in Hawaii with my family on board and went to the beach for a Christmas BBQ, now that was much better than being cold.”

Cruise ship employees also find time to phone home on Christmas Day, which Petts says is a lot easier because of modern technology.

He said: “I have to time the call to have the kids open the presents to make sure we’re all together, even if it’s just virtually.

“When I first started working on cruise ships before the internet, on Christmas Day we had to queue outside the radio officer’s room to phone home.

“It was a long line, but if you brought a gift, you didn’t have to wait that long in those days.”

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Many of the festive celebrations require months of planning


Many of the festive celebrations require months of planningPhoto credit: MSC Rights
Cruise ships often have big events and themed shows during the holiday season


Cruise ships often have big events and themed shows during the holiday seasonPhoto credit: MSC Rights

https://www.the-sun.com/travel/6979207/cruise-ship-work-christmas/ I work on a cruise ship and here’s what it’s like at Christmas – we prep months in advance and have our own Xmas dinners

Emma James

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