Carnival fêtes kids aboard cruise ship
Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
OCHO RIOS, St Ann:
CHRISTMAS CAME early this year for more than 150 children as they were fêted on-board the Carnival Victory cruise ship which docked in Ocho Rios on Monday.
Despite heavy showers that pushed back the start of the event, the Carnival Victory crew welcomed the children with open arms once again this year and ensured that the event was the highlight of their year.
Once onboard, the children let loose, dancing up a storm in the vessel's Club Arctic before being ushered into the Caribbean Lounge (theatre) where they were entertained by a five-piece band, dancers and singers who performed several Christmas carols much to the delight of the children.
Later, each child was given gifts in the true spirit of the season.
The children, as is customary, came from several schools across St Ann.
"We brought 126 children this year," said Captain Lizeth Sanchez of the Salvation Army Basic School in St Ann's Bay.
It was the second year for students from that school, after a visit in 2012.
"They were really excited!" exclaimed Sanchez, who was accompanied by several teachers from the school.
"They ate, [and] they drank all they wanted. They got entertainment and they got a gift, so they love it!"
It was a big bonus for the students who, two days later on Wednesday, had their Christmas concert at school before going off for holidays.
Senior librarian at the St Ann Parish Library, Debbie Bonnick, took 35 children, drawn from the library membership.
"They totally enjoyed themselves," Bonnick said of the children's on-board sojourn. The children, aged six to 11 years old, came from various schools across the parish.
"They are who we consider well-behaved members of the library," Bonnick pointed out.
Cruise liaison officer at the Jamaica Tourist Board, Sharon Williams, said the Christmas treat by Carnival Cruise Line has been going on for around two decades.
Each year, the children are taken on a tour of the cruise vessel, entertained, and given gifts for Christmas.
"We submit a list beforehand, stating how many boys and girls and the age groups, so the gifts are pre-selected," Williams stated.
The gesture by Carnival is not limited to Jamaica, as kids from other Caribbean countries have received the same treatment.
At a similar fête in Belize two weeks ago, the St Ann-based Chukka Caribbean Adventures played a major role by providing transportation for the children there. As a goodwill gesture, Chukka Caribbean was invited as special guests on board the Carnival Victory on Monday with Kelley Wates, who is in charge of cruise relations, representing the company.