CRUISING THROUGH JANUARY – Activity Ideas for January

When the holiday decorations are tucked away until next season and the last piece of tinsel is swept up, the environment around you can feel sort of blah. Shorter, colder days leave little room for pep and cheer. It can be difficult to rouse your group members from winter’s pull to stay tucked under the covers. In January, keep the momentum of the holiday season going by taking your group on a virtual cruise to tropical paradise this month. The ideas below will have your participants saying “bon voyage!” and “aloha!”

MUSIC – Cruise ships are known for their high energy entertainment. Hire a steel drum band, or one-man drummer, to wow your group members this month. Due to the winter season, most summer entertainers offer discounts if you book them during their off-season. Ask the entertainer to give a five-minute explanation about the steel drum and arrange for a few participants to give it a try after the performance.

CRAFTS – Brighten up your community by making tropical wreaths. You’ll need styrofoam wreaths, plenty of cocktail umbrella picks (found at a party store), and ribbon. To help save money, you can slice each styrofoam wreath in half, right down the middle, so that you are left with two wreaths – each with one flat side and one round side. Instruct participants to open the tropical umbrellas. Once opened, start inserting the pick end directly into the wreath, until the wreath is covered with umbrellas. Use as many umbrellas as you desire. Then, tie a ribbon around the wreath to use as a hanger.

CELEBRATION – Host Port of Call Happy Hours each Friday afternoon this month. Destinations can include Hawaii, the Bahamas, Mexico, and the Florida Keys. Serve signature drinks (non-alcoholic if you prefer) and appetizers for each port of call. Hawaii: Hawaii Blue and Pineapple Salsa; Bahamas: Mai Tais and Fruit Kabobs; Mexico: Mojitos and Mini Tacos; Florida Keys: Margaritas and Key Lime Pie. Play music according to the port of call destination and decorate with palm trees. Invite residents by giving them flower leis during lunch.

COGNITIVE – Create a passport book and feature weekly armchair travelogues to tropical destinations. Coincide the destinations to your weekly Port of Call stops, or venture to a tropical paradise destination of your choice. Spruce up your activity room with tropical decorations and serve tropical punch during the program. Whether you use a travelogue DVD or research the tropical destination of your choice, everyone is sure to feel as if they’re in a warm climate.

FOOD – Have fun with food this month by making pearl shortbread cookies with your group. You’ll need your favorite shell-like cookies (such as Pepperidge Farm Lemon Cookies), blue icing, white-coated chocolate candy, and a piping bag or Ziplock bag. Start by scooping icing into the piping bag or Ziplock bag. If you’re using a Ziplock bag, work the icing into one lower corner of the bag and then cut off the tip of the bag. Squeeze a fair amount of icing onto the flat side of the cookie starting in the middle and working towards the edge, leaving about ⅛ inch icing-free. Then, place one white coated chocolate candy near the edge of the icing. Place another shell-like cookie on top of the icing, propping it up somewhat so it looks like an oyster. The cookie should resemble an oyster, with the white coated chocolate candy serving as the pearl.

SPIRITUAL – Use guided imagery to take your group members on a spiritual journey, reflecting on gratitude and visualizing their own paradise. Play an ocean waves soundtrack quietly in the background as you explore gratefulness with participants. Start by asking participants to close their eyes and focus on their breathing. Take ten deep breaths and guide them to relax from head to toe. Then ask them to picture people, places, and things they are thankful for, one category at a time. Have them hold that person, place, or object in their minds as they breath deeply. Ask them to ponder how each person, place, or thing makes them thankful. Then, transport the participants to paradise by describing a serene beach. Encourage them to visualize a quiet beach, feel the warmth of the sun on their skin, hear the waves crashing calmly against the sand, and smell the ocean water. After a few minutes of relaxation, bring the group back to the present by having them open their eyes. If guided imagery is new to you, look up guided imagery guides on the internet and find one that fits your group.

INTERGENERATIONAL – Remember all of those Boy Scout Girl Scout, church or school groups that came through your community to carol during the month of December? Invite them back for an intergenerational matinee movie! Keeping with the cruise theme, feature the film, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, a movie about a cruise vacation. Serve popcorn and encourage the children to bring blankets to get cozy on the floor.

SENSORY KIT – Create a sandy sensory kit by mixing together flour and cooking oil of your choice. Use ¼ cup of oil to every cup of flour, until you have the amount of sand you desire. For an added sensory experience, use coconut oil for that tropical smell. Place the sand in a resealable container. Encourage residents to put their hands in sand, feeling the texture. Dig out sandbox shovels, rakes, and pails to allow residents to play with the “sand.” You could also use cookie cutters, silicon forks, or plastic cups if your summer items are tucked away.

FAMILY – Cruise ships also feature on-board game rooms or casinos. Host a Family Casino Night and invite your team to sponsor a game. For example, Social Services sponsors Blackjack, Administration sponsors Bingo, Marketing sponsors Poker, Nursing sponsors Roulette, and Dining sponsors dessert and coffee for the evening. Ask each department to run the game they are sponsoring. For games, consider renting casino games from a local company, or create your own using games in your supply closet. Prepare party favors ahead of time with miniature 100 Grand bars and chocolate gold coins. Give participants and their families chips to use; or turn this event into a fundraiser by charging cash for chips.

GIVING BACK – Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day by hosting an all-day fleece blanket service project. Purchase fleece blanket kits from your local craft store. Set up tables and chairs and set out scissors at each table. Fleece blankets are easy to make and require no sewing! Simply stack the two pieces of fleece material on top of each other, line up the edges, and make cuts, one-two inches apart and about six inches in, all around the edges of the materials. Then, tie the top and bottom fringe pieces in a double knot, until all the fringe pieces are tied around the blanket. Residents of all abilities can help, from sorting, to cutting, to tieing. Donate the blankets to Project Linus.


  1. Which of the following companies is not a cruise line? Greyhound, Carnival, Disney, Princess. Greyhound
  2. What is the title of the person who cleans your room while you’re onboard? Steward
  3. While cruising, you can play a game with a card that has letters across the top and numbers under them. What is this game? Bingo
  4. When the cruise ship is unable to dock due to its gigantic size, what is the name of the little boat that passengers take to get from the ship to the dock – Row boat, tender, or raft? Tender
  5. On which cruise line will you see Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy? Disney
  6. Is it possible to take a cruise around the world? Yes (You will be gone about three months)
  7. What is another name for a cruise ship? Ocean liner
  8. I want to go on a cruise to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas. Which country will I be traveling to? Mexico
  9. The world’s busiest cruise port is located in which U.S. state? Florida
  10. What is the term often used to describe the sensation you get when you walk off a ship onto dry land and it still feels like you’re rocking? Sea legs


“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” ~ Martin Buber


“Cruising Through January” was written by Erin McCart. Copyright 2016 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

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