Celebrating New Year On Board or At Home? Which is Better?

by | Last updated Nov 24, 2023 | Seaman's Life | 0 comments

New Year holds a special place in our hearts. The holiday season brings everyone much closer as relatives and friends gather nearby to celebrate the coming of a new era.

Seafarers aren’t different. We are normal people too and we enjoy family gatherings. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, they say.

That’s why just after our vacation, we immediately plan our next scheduled embarkation hoping by the end of that contract, we be at home for Christmas or New Year.

That’s because if you can’t be home before Christmas, you will usually spend these holidays on board or in the airport.

A chocolate cake written with "Happy New Year 2015" and other food served on the table inside the messroom.

6 New Years On Board. 12 Years at Sea

Time flies really fast and suddenly, I’m 12 years in this profession! Half of those New Years are spent on board.

There were some memorable ones especially that time in Novorossiysk, Russia when we met in 2014 in a loading operation in a -1 degree Celsius temperature.

In another tanker ship, we almost hit the jetty in Le Havre after losing the engine during an unberthing operation on New Year’s Eve around 22:00H.

Ship's crew playing some games during New Year.
Games on board tanker ship during New Year celebration

Lastly, we had the craziest New Year in the whole shipping world. There were games, fun, and prizes and everyone had a good laugh until our belly ached.

My first New Year on board came when I was a deck cadet. This one was quite similar to other New Year’s that followed. 

However, the shore leave proceeding while we were in Rostock, Germany will always be memorable.

Different but similar

A few years passed while jumping from one company to another, I learned to appreciate the ways seafarers celebrate the New Year. 

The food may vary but the way it is presented, the surrounding backdrop, and arrangements will always look familiar from one ship to another.

Some companies provide various gifts and tokens to their crew. I received my very first imported perfume after winning a raffle.

On several occasions, there were lucky coins. Whoever gets the coin hidden in one of those slice pieces of cake will win something big. Other companies provide cash incentives to their crew in addition to gifts.

I was also on board where we had a toast of champagne at the bridge while waiting for the New Year countdown.

The Sherlock Holmes Museum during my shore leave in London 2017.
Shore leave to UK during January.

Would You Choose New Year at Home or On Board

In every choice we make, there are consequences to follow. You can not take the positive without leaving the negative behind. What to look out for is if the good outweighs the bad.

Let’s see some of them here one by one.

New Year At Home

Spending the new year at home could be very memorable for a quite few reasons.

You get to celebrate a very special day with your family making meaningful memories with them like reunions. Most of your friends who are working out of town will be at home so you can bond with them too.

Many shops, malls, and even your local town will mostly set up attractions like lights and fireworks. These same malls and online shops may have sale items just for you.

Your mom or wife will cook some great dishes that can only be tasted on certain occasions but never on board. The kids will be there to add merry.


However, since many people want to spend the holiday at home, there may be traffic jams and public transport could be overcrowded.

Air and bus fares will shoot through the roof as passengers cram for seats. The roads will be filled with vehicles and shopping malls will literally be full!

You may agree with this or not but holidays are also costly as exchanging gifts, reunions, and food preparations need money to materialize.

One more thing is that December is the season for strong typhoons, especially in the Philippines.

New Year On Board

The thing I like about celebrating New Year on board is our mobility. Imagine crossing from the previous year to the next in different places.

I particularly remember watching the laser light display in Rostock way back in 2010. I also witnessed fireworks displays in many different countries, especially in Europe.

Those travels and shore leaves opened my eyes to the various cultures this holiday is celebrated. And it didn’t cost me a fortune to experience it.

Onboard, everything you need for the New Year is given by the company, like food and drinks. Then you can buy special gifts not found in our country to give them to your loved ones at home.

Lastly, you continue getting paid while doing all those things!

A vessel navigating on the waters that has turned into ice.
Navigating on Ice during the Winter season


New year also means winter in some places and this translates to cold temperatures and bad weather. 

Imagine spending the birth of a new era in the middle of the sea battered by a Force 12 hurricane. Furthermore, you could be navigating or berthing in half a meter of ice.

If you are lucky enough to avoid the storms due to your meteorological skills, you could be in the port channeling, in the locks waiting for a pilot, or doing cargo operations while the rest of the world is celebrating.

Yes, business makes the world go round and seafarers usually help make it that way. That’s why you could find yourself in a tank cleaning operation any time of the year.

So which is better?

There is really no concrete, one-size-fits-all answer to this question. We all have something in our mind coupled with the situation we’re in that is applicable to us but not to others.

If you are on vacation for a longer time than expected, getting a contract in December is a wise move. It’s hard to celebrate a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year on an empty wallet and stomach.

On one side, if your contract is finished with enough savings for holidays and vacations, it’s good to be with your family in these seasons. They are, after all, the reason why we work on board.

Merry Christmas and a Prosperous 2024. Safe sailing and

May the winds be in your favor.



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