|Time to reflect…
I mentioned above that the post-Christmas wind-down and now lockdown, offer time for us to reflect upon the past year and it has to be said, Christmas was a real highlight for us and the most magical way to finish 2020.
Planning for our Sail with Santa experience generally begins in January, when bookings for that year go live on our website. 2020 was very different and whilst we remained optimistic throughout the year that it would go ahead, it was clear that there would be significant challenges, as we went back and forth, round and round and up and down, agonising over possible formats and how to make it safe and fun for everyone.
We limited our capacity to around 1/3 of ‘normal’, in order to facilitate appropriate social distancing, there was table and chair seating for each family, we operated more sailings than usual in order to accommodate all of our bookings and it was a complete sell-out. Admittedly, not the most profitable enterprise by any means but boy, are we glad we did it!
The gifts which the children receive from Santa Claus are not just generic gifts, they are good-quality, carefully thought-through, hand-picked gifts which are selected, wrapped and taken onto the boat the day before each sailing. It was therefore an added challenge for us that there were countless necessary booking alterations, often on the morning of their cruise, due to people sadly having to self-isolate at the last minute but everyone showed kindness and compassion and our staff seamlessly handled the administrative side to the event with complete competence and grace and for this we are extremely grateful to them all. It was a real team effort and could not have been done without the help of everyone involved.
On board, the atmosphere was just as magical as ever and there was a real sense that everyone was so pleased and grateful to be out, doing something relatively ‘normal’ but feeling incredibly safe. This was confirmed by the feedback which we subsequently received, making us feel quite honestly elated and that all of the hard work, planning and sleepless nights, were thoroughly worth it.
In particular, one of the sailings was booked by a charity organisation which looks after children with visual impairments across the South West, offering a support network for them and their families. These children and their families have experienced an indescribably difficult year; all of their school learning went onto Zoom during the first lockdown, which many of them were unable to fully benefit from and many were completely excluded from – in addition to which, all of the organisation’s yearly events had been cancelled since March. This was the first event they had been able to run and I can honestly say that it was possibly one of the most moving but rewarding experiences which we have had all year – one of the proudest moments of our career. It was clear that everyone had such a wonderful time and I’d be lying if I said that we didn’t shed a few tears under our masks. It was truly wonderful and utterly heart-warming and I will never forget the look on their faces.