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Where are the Big Holiday Parties Around the Caribbean

There might not be snow and sleigh rides but there are plenty of holiday festivities for cruisers to enjoy throughout the Caribbean. These joyous events span north to south from Florida to Trinidad and east to west from St. Lucia to Guatemala. Here is a sampling:

Fort. Lauderdale, Florida - Over 100 yachts take part in the Winterfest Boat Parade, an event that attracts over one million spectators as well as TV cameras. This year’s 40th anniversary theme is ‘Rockin’ Boats and Holiday Floats’. The parade sets sail December 10th starting at 6:30pm from downtown Fort Lauderdale. To commemorate Ft. Lauderdale’s 100th birthday, Winterfest is adding a new category and calling on vintage boats to enter. Another highlight for 2011 will be limited edition poster artwork by marine life artist Guy Harvey. This will be available for sale as commemorative prints and T-Shirts. www.winterfestparade.com

San Juan, Puerto Rico - San Juan Bay will be the grand stage for Club Nautico de San Juan’s San Juan Christmas Boat Parade. Now in its 3rd year, nearly 30 merrily lit and decorated yachts took part in 2010 – including a 100ft sailing yacht visiting from Australia – and even more are expected this year. “Spectators can watch the parade, which takes place on December 10th from 6pm to 8pm from the Paseo de la Princesa in San Juan, along the Canal de San Antonio in Puerta de Tierra, the cruise ship docks and the boardwalk in Catano,” says commodore, Gustavo Hermida. Visiting boats are welcome to join. www.nauticodesanjuan.com

Christiansted, St. Croix – Over 25 vessels, everything from 65-plus-footers to dinghies, sail and power boats, will deck their bows with lights and colourful decorations and sail east to west two-to three-times around Protestant Cay in Christiansted Harbor starting at 6pm. The Christiansted Boardwalk is the best viewing point for the December 10th St. Croix Christmas Boat Parade. “Activities on the Boardwalk will include Christmas carolling, dance groups, choirs, a cantata from Southgate Baptist Church and many others, all starting around noon,” says organizer, Martin Oliver. The evening concludes with a grand fireworks display. For information, call: (340) 773-1453.

North Sound, Virgin Gorda, BVI – Join the 11th Annual Holiday Lighted Boat Parade, starting at 5:45pm on December 24 at the head of the Bitter End Yacht Club (BEYC) channel. “Santa and his merry elves on the steel drums will be aboard Ponce de Leon leading the parade,” says John Glynn, the BEYC’s vice president of North American Sales. Great prizes will be awarded ashore afterwards at the Christmas Eve Celebration for well-lit and creatively-decorated boats. “This year we are adding an ‘anchored yacht’ category for large yachts,” Glynn adds. Sail, power, crewed charter boats, plus private boats all welcome. www.beyc.com

Nelson’s Dockyard, Antigua - There are three nautically wonderful ways to enjoy the Christmas and New Year’s holidays on Antigua, notes John Duffy, past president of the Antigua & Barbuda Marine Association and president of the Caribbean Marine Association. “On Christmas Day there is a champagne party in Nelson’s Dockyard and not to be missed. The Antigua Yacht Club’s annual Nelson’s Pursuit Race takes place on New Year’s Eve and up to 40 yachts take part. Also on New Year’s Eve is a fireworks party in Nelson’s Dockyard conducted by the National Parks.” www.abma.ag

IGY Rodney Bay Marina, St. Lucia - Activities and festivities dial up a notch with the combination of the holidays and arrival of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC). The ARC Village opens from Noon to 6pm from December 9th to 16th. Chef demonstrations, sporting events for kids, live music and beach and costume parties are some of the fun. In addition, says Portia Mogal, the marina’s marketing, sales and event coordinator, “The Christmas Flotilla takes place on December 23rd. Participants can dress up themselves, dress up their vessels and join in to go round and round in the outer bay singing carols.” www.igy-rodneybay.com

Admiralty Bay, Bequia - A great 10 to15-minute fireworks display on the stroke of midnight at the head of the harbor attracts over 200 yachts to Bequia on New Year’s Eve.  “All of the restaurants in and around the harbour in Admiralty Bay offer special New Year’s Eve menus and entertainment. Most if not all have excellent views of the fireworks display and all plan their own ‘party’ at midnight,” says Nicola Redway, secretary of the Bequia Sailing Club. “It’s probably by far the best, most celebratory, fun, and anticipated New Year’s Eve around and it makes for a really special night.” www.bequiatourism.com

Chaguaramas, Trinidad - Celebrate New Year’s at the SSCA (Seven Seas Cruising Association) Trinidad Gam. Organized by SSCA members and the Trinidad SSCA Cruising Station, this is a special potluck and meeting for SSCA Members and their cruising friends that starts at noon on January 1st 2012 at the Trinidad & Tobago Sailing Association. “We expect 60 to 100 sailors to not only taste and share special foods, but also to boast about their special and favourite adventures while sailing the oceans and, of course, to share their experience about various destinations,” says Jesse James, Trinidad SSCA Cruising Station host. There will be door prizes and a Guest Speaker.  www.membersonlymaxitaxi.com

Rio Dulce, Guatemala - Cruisers who dock at the Monkey Bay Marina for Christmas end up enjoying a truly giving holiday, says Heather Graham, director of communications and fund development for Casa Guatemala orphanage. “Our cruiser community plays a huge part in the festivities every year, holding a toy drive, helping with the Christmas dinner and even donating their time to play Santa,” says Graham. “We don’t have a Santa yet for this year, so any interested cruisers (preferably with their own big white beard, and belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly) are welcome to apply for the job!” www.casa-guatemala.org

Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

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