Black Friday is behind us and we are in full-fledged Christmas shopping season. I have always loved this time of the year, especially getting gifts for the kids. However, as they got older, they became a little more difficult in pin down on what they want for Christmas. Either that or have a list a mile long, that you’d have to get a second mortgage to afford it.
Last year, we opted for another approach for our family gift giving. We purchased memories together. The kids Christmas gifts were to go on a 7-day Alaskan cruise as a family. They were excited and skeptical, as they hadn’t been on a cruise before. When other family members asked what to get the kids for Christmas, we gave them the short list of items they asked for but also suggested Princess gift cards, so they would have spending money for the cruise gift shops, excursions, spa, etc.
Christmas Day we were all together, had a delicious meal and dug through stockings. (We weren’t totally Grinchy on the actual day.) We talked about the cruise ports, things to do on the ship and answered other questions they had. By the time our August cruise came along, I think I was more anxious than anyone about how much fun they were all going to have. We were joined by grandmas, uncle and aunts, and friends for our journey from Seattle. Our party of 14 ranged from ages 16 to 69 years old.
We managed to spend 7 days together on the ship, at four different ports, (plus 4 days pre-cruise in Seattle) and everyone had such a good time! During the days, we would use the Princess Cruise messenger service to arrange meet ups at on board activities or meals. Everyone was able to do what they wanted, with no pressure other than making sure we made our shore excursion meet ups on time. Breakfast, lunch and snack time were usually just a coming and going of our party through the buffets or restaurants. While dinner time was our time to catch up with those we missed during the day to talk about our activities…or lack thereof. (Naps are still an activity, yes?) After dinner, we would usually move on to a music venue or maybe a trivia game, to try and beat out the other families.
After our cruise, everyone was longing to just go back. The 16-year old boy missed the buffets and never ending food options. He also caught his very first salmon on a fishing excursion in Ketchikan! The 20-somethings loved the fact that we had a drink card and the girls, who live in different states now, took advantage of spa time together. Grandma missed the fact that no one makes her bed or brings her room service at home, while she is sitting on her balcony, overlooking the sea. I miss having most of my family together in a relatively close proximity.
I do think this was the most appreciated and memorable Christmas gift we’ve given the kids and hope to do it again in the future. There is already talk of a 5 year cruise reunion! We don’t have a plan for this Christmas yet but it will probably be a little more low-key with our first grandbaby on the way. We worked hard to make the trip happen. The Alaskan landscape and wildlife were amazing but it was the connections with those we were traveling with that I enjoyed the most.