Christmas and New Year’s Eve on board – An interview with Jan-Hinrich Behnke on the “Budapest Express”

Public holidays don’t stop the international flow of goods – and therefore the global shipping industry. In our interview for this month, Captain Jan-Hinrich Behnke tells us how Christmas and New Year’s Eve are celebrated on board, what his best memories of the holidays at sea are, and what he has in mind for the new year.

You are one of hundreds of captains who spent Christmas and the New Year’s Eve sailing on our ships. Were you able to spend Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve in port or were you at sea?

We spent all the Christmas holidays in the Port of Yantian, and then we were in Busan, Korea, from 31 December to 1 January, as was stipulated by our sailing schedule.

Do you celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve on board, or are they normal working days?

We normally also celebrate these kinds of days on board. But since we were in port for both of them, we had to work just like on any other day. That’s why we made plans to hold our celebration later, once we were back out at sea.

How do you celebrate? Are there certain traditions on board, perhaps even a Christmas tree?

My team of cooks always prepares a very delicious buffet with all kinds of foods that are appealing to all the different nationalities on board. My crew and I traditionally gather in the officers’ mess early in the evening. I prepare a brief Christmas speech, and then we open the buffet. Later on in the evening, we play some games, such as Secret Santa. And, of course, all of this takes place with a real Christmas tree.

Is the entire crew there? Do you all celebrate together?

Yes, with the exception of those members of the crew who have watch duty.

What is your favourite memory of a Christmas on board?

When I was an apprentice, I was able to spend Christmas at sea on my very first voyage. The captain read aloud some Christmas short stories in English to the entire crew. That really impressed me at the time, and I always like to recall that episode.

What do you miss the most when you are spending Christmas on a ship?

Although the mood on board is of course particularly festive, I naturally also miss my family – but that probably also holds true for the entire crew.

How do you celebrate Christmas when you aren’t working?

When I’m at home for Christmas, my wife and I visit our parents and relatives or invite others over.

Do you have a new year’s resolution? What are your special plans for 2020?

This probably sounds very clichéd these days, but I would really like to do more sports. I’ve worked out on board several times during this voyage, but my motivation to do sports decreases significantly when I spend my holidays on shore. I should really work on changing that.

Is there any port in the world that you prefer to spend New Year’s Eve in and where you might also see some fireworks?

The most impressive ports that I’ve spend New Year’s Eve in have been Singapore and Hamburg. The ports are definitely worth a visit – and not just because of the fireworks.

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