Ship Blessings to Baked Alaska Parades: Cruise Traditions Explored and Explained


The cruise holiday is the perfect marriage of state-of-the-art technology and honouring time-tested and beloved traditions, with passengers returning year after year to experience the old and the new. Many of the traditions of the cruise holiday been prevalent for decades: growing and evolving organically from a range of humble beginnings. Here, Cruise1st  explore some of the more unusual traditions that have grown to epitomise the unique joys of cruise holidays.

The Baked Alaska Parade

For first-time cruisers, the Baked Alaska Parade can seem a bemusing, random event. Emerging from the kitchen during dinner service, waiting staff will parade and dance around the restaurant holding flaming desserts aloft in one hand and twirling napkins in the other.

The origins of this tradition are mysterious but its routes may be traced back over 100 years. In his classic 1905 novel, The Only Way to Cross, John Maxton-Graham describes the experience of the maiden voyage of the Hamburg-America liner Amerika. Maxton-Graham revealed that the lights were dimmed during dinner and a parade of waiters emerged from the kitchen carrying a sizzling combination of fire and ice.

But it wasn’t until the 1950s or 60s that this evolved into the Baked Alaska Parade, with waiters carrying the sweet treat. The parade was perfected in 1987 when singer David Johansen released the dance track ‘Hot, Hot, Hot’ which became the Baked Alaska’s unofficial theme tune.

baked alaska - vxla

The Captain’s Cocktail Party

The Captain’s Cocktail Party has been completely flipped on its head since its early appearances. Whilst the modern next-to-last night dinner on the cruise affords passengers the opportunity to dress in their most formal attire and enjoy a night of splendour alongside the captain and officers, the original incarnations had a far more practical and pragmatic reasoning.

The original Captain’s Cocktail Parties were thrown in honour of the captain as a thank you for not sinking the ship. The early days of sea travel were not the incredibly safe experiences they are today with the modern, advanced technologies and techniques. There was a genuine cause for celebration as the passengers were assured of their safe passage.

Cocktail Party - Lyn Gateley

Blessing the Ship

The history of blessing or christening a seaward ship goes back hundreds of years when Vikings offered human sacrifices to the gods when a longboat was being launched. This sacrifice was meant to appease the gods and ensure a safe passage.

Fortunately, more civilised boatwrights swapped the human blood blessing for wine. The marketing men of the French region of Champagne successfully popularized the eponymous sparkling wine as the blessing alcohol of choice. Still today it is tradition to bless a launching ship with a smashed bottle of champagne.

Christening - Official U.S Navy Page

Images sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credits: Official U.S Navy Page, vxla, Lyn Gateley


About Author

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Claire has worked in the travel industry since leaving college in 1994. One of this blog's most regular contributors, Claire covers cruise news and industry trends.

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