After a few years of my dad fighting lymphoma and achieving remission, my parents were all set and super excited to be planning a cruise vacation again which they previously had done every winter! But, alas...cancer returned with a vengeance and they were forced to cancel their vacation to go back to an even more aggressive battle. Both of my parents turned 60 at the beginning of this year, and my siblings and I decided to throw them a blow-your-mind AWESOME cruise themed party on a date when they would have been on their trip...and that's just what we did. We brought the cruise to them and invited their friends and family to board the ship. Here's how we did it.
It can be a very dangerous thing when the forces of myself and my sister are combined for one project, but it made for quite the recipe for a mass creative juice overload.
Invitations - we opted for Evite instead of printed, so we could put more resources into the party itself. We gave our parents two orders...choose a date, and email us a guest list...then do nothing until the party date. We didn't let them in on who had RSVP'd. But, we had to let them pick a date in order to time it right between my dad's chemo rounds and before his bone marrow transplant.
My sister Heidi, an illustrator and graphic designer, created the "branding" of the party...including an official logo (based on Royal Caribbean's logo) for the party. With that came signage labeling the cruise terminal, the various "decks" and rooms in the "ship," the coat room, the "head," the "pool deck," etc...
|Sign on our front door...we had a red carpet leading up to the door as well|
|Heidi ordered this awesome custom floor decal online!|
|The foyer..."Birthday of the Seas" ship sign, and a table of "boarding passes."|
Heidi came over to my house 5 days before the party with a car loaded to the roof with stuff, and added to my garage full of stuff, we got going with the decorations early. My husband was on a business trip, and boy was he surprised when he got home! Here's how everything looked the day of the party...
|March in Minnesota...we had snow. But this string of nautical flags in the front yard made it easy to see where the party was...|
|The invitations made it clear that our guests were to come dressed in tropical attire....or else they would be subject to us dressing them! To be prepared for the un-festive guests, we pulled together some tropical shirts and lei's from thrift stores, my sister had the hat with the dreadlocks, she got a coconut bra from a party store and I bought a captain's hat online.|
|Heidi found a customizable "Paradise Bar and Grill" sign online and they printed "Birthday of the Seas" on top for us! Looked SO cute hanging over our little bar and it was really well made. I got a really nice seashell garland which is hanging just under the front edge of the bar. We brought out fake trees and real palms to decorate too. The hanging baskets with ivy came from our deck.|
|More garage! I hung some shiny foil palm tree garland on the deck rail (thrift store), you can see the two foil hanging trees which were cute!! I actually only ordered one but they sent me two. Score! The nautical flags were everywhere too.|
|pendant flags in the living room|
|View from the TV/family room looking into the kitchen. Streamers, nautical flag pendants, and lighted tropical flower garland!|
|I got a grass table skirt that fit just right on the three showing sides of the cake/fruit table. We have a long ledge shelf thing up above in this photo, and for the party I cleared it off, laid a strip of rope lights up there, and then taped balloons in a row. When the sun went down the balloons looked pretty cool being lit from behind.|
|My parents used to own this "FurReal" parrot and they gave it to us a while back as our boys love it. He sat inside the foyer on the table where people picked up their "boarding passes." Throughout the night he moved his head, talked, and made parrot sounds. I programmed him to say things like "Happy 60th Phil & Rollie," "where's the birthday boy?" and "Thanks for coming!"|
|What's a cruise without towel animals?! Years ago my mom gave me a towel origami book and it got some use for this party! I set several animals in each bathroom. I picked up a few pairs of cheap sunglasses at Goodwill since my hubby and I both wear prescription glasses and don't own any. They turned out pretty cute!|
So, with the fancy buffet in the kitchen and the more casual beach-y theme of the "ship deck" in the garage, we turned our other living room area with the fireplace and piano into the "Viking Crown Lounge" (an actual name of the lounge on Royal Caribbean ships). The atmosphere here was all about mood lighting!
|"Viking Crown Lounge" sign - sitting on a mini easel on our mantel, lit up with a giant glow stick|
|After my boys were in bed we lit some of the candles down low on the bay window. We sprinkled seashells around candles too and covered my end tables with white tablecloths topped with a red cloth napkin.|
|Looked pretty cool from the kitchen!|
|I pretty much just pulled out all of the candles we had in the house and grouped them on top of the piano. Underneath them I had some cute fake palm leaves and sprinkled seashells.|
|Heidi made these floating candles in mason jars on the right, with shells in the bottom. We had them outside on the sidewalk, and in the "viking crown lounge."|
|One of my end tables. We put little battery powered tealights in candle holders with shells.|
...And now down to the basement...
|I had one rope light left, and it was the perfect length to run down the railing of our spiral stairs to the basement!|
The food, ooooh, the FOOD! We dug deep into our photo archives of the family cruise vacation our parents took us all on years ago, specifically the midnight buffet! What's a cruise party without a jaw dropping food presentation?!
|The Midnight Buffet! (No, we didn't wait until midnight to serve it, much to the relief of many of our guests who took our invitation a little too literally! Ha!)|
|Silver backdrop behind the chocolate fondue, lighted punch fountain, and ice sculpture!|
|I bought this Rival chocolate fondue back when I worked for Best Buy's corporate HQ with my employee discount. It has been a hit at several parties!|
|Fondue food in a starfish dish (from Goodwill) with palm tree picks and color changing LED ice bucket|
|My brother Ben made this awesome cruise ship cake! He even made all of those little windows out of chocolate...quite a centeripece!|
|The cake table, surrounded by fruit and veggie displays|
|Heidi carved this parrot out of a block of cheddar!!! Yes, we do have a family full of artists.|
|Having a sister with a restaurant came in handy too...Heidi brought several beautiful little pre-made appetizers to have on hand along with the tons of food we made ourselves.|
|Another beautiful creation by Heidi...amazing chocolate cake! I also made a flourless chocolate cake because it was what my mom loved to order on their cruises...it was really delicious but not that photo-worthy.|
|Again...vertical! The lighted punch fountain was really cool and actually not a bad price at $29. Watch out though, it'll leave tiny splatters on it's surroundings...but made quite a statement!|
|Fruit kabobs! We stuck them into a half melon, and then set the whole display on top of an oval shaped mirror I bought at a thrift store a while back.|
|Heidi's swan, carved out of honeydew melon, and awesome flowers!!|
|Heidi working on her chocolate cake|
|This was the view as you entered the house on the right side.|
There are a lot of food items I'm not even posting here that we had...there was just too much to mention. We planned to just not have everything out at once, so that we had a steady rotation of new menu items all night long. As a side note, we also planned ahead to start putting together to-go boxes full of a little bit of every food item, to send home with Mom and Dad. I figured they would likely be so busy visiting with their friends, that they wouldn't get to try everything. Let's just say that all of our families ate well for a long time after this party!
|More pretty little desserts! We carried around trays (this palm leaf tray I got at a thrift store) and offered guests bite sized appetizers and desserts throughout the night.|
|Creative little hummus display in a red cabbage|
|I had to get this color changing LED ice bucket from Amazon. I only paid about $25 but can't seem to find them for less than $50 now. You can set it to rotate colors, or pick one. I kept it on this blue, since our buffet color scheme was aqua, white and silver. It has a rechargeable battery or you can use the cord, and has a remote control. Fun!|
|This is actually my mom's Christmas pinwheel cookie recipe! I just made blue instead of chocolate for one color, and before slicing them I rolled the whole thing in sparkly blue, silver, and pearl sprinkles to get the pretty edges.|
|I found a photo online of a cute lemon fish, sent it to Heidi in one of the thousands of emails we had flying back and fourth, and voila! She made one way cuter.|
|My dad loves mint and chocolate, so I had to try these bars I found on Pinterest. They were AWESOME.|
|My dad always loves getting rum balls on their cruises, so my sister made some! (and the little signs we put by each food too)|
|Rum balls and an assortment of fancy cookies|
|Heidi made some wonderful salads and set the large bowls in a Rubbermaid bin filled with ice to keep them cold. This table is in the garage...the big garbage can behind the table is covered with a hula skirt I got at a thrift store.|
|Swan ice sculpture! Heidi found an ice sculpture mold on Amazon and made several of these for backups. She put it in a clear glass pan, on top of an upside-down clear plastic bin. The sides of the bin are lined with foil inside, and it is filled with lights to create the lighted base. I'm sure there must be a trick to getting the ice clear and not cloudy, but it looked pretty sweet!|
|This cute little tree is made of a sweet potato for the base, and I believe watermelon rinds for the branches! Oh, and don't forget to use plenty of fresh parsley for garnishes everywhere!|
|My brother and sister-in-law's pretty veggie trays...love the idea of serving dip in the pepper!|
With all there was to eat and see in the house, we didn't need much for entertainment. It seemed people were pretty entertained just visiting, looking at the food sculptures and taking photos! So, we didn't really plan much else and that worked out just fine. Don't stress about entertainment...the party itself is entertaining!
We were lucky enough that my parents have a friend who is professionally trained in hula and Polynesian dancing! What are the odds?! She came up with the idea to do a quick little hula lesson and it was really fun and entertaining for the people she called forward, but especially for everyone watching!
I made up a limbo pole by wrapping some colorful ribbon around a tension rod. The idea was to pull it out whenever the limbo song came up on Pandora. But, the party was so busy I never noticed the song so we didn't end up using it.
I also made a photo slide show in iMovie and played it on our DVD player throughout the night. It was full of general cruise-y photos from our last family cruise vacation, and some of the photos my parents had taken of themselves on their past cruises.
You should see the massive Google Doc we put together when we started planning. There were probably dozens of ideas we just didn't get time to even do, and many things I still haven't even shown in this post, but we can happily say that we did as much as humanly possible! Maybe once my eyes stop burning from staring at the screen doing this post for so long, I will come back and share some more ideas and links.
All in all, the party was a raging success. The most people we've ever hosted in our home, the best food, the best decor, hands down. And we host a lot of parties. I told my parents not to expect much for their 70th birthday because there is just NO WAY we could EVER top this party! Ha! Many guests came up to Heidi and I and asked if they could hire us to plan a party, or told us we should do this for a living. We both immediately agreed that no amount of money would motivate us to put this much time and energy into one night again... only for Mom and Dad! (sorry!) But what we can do is share what we did...I hope this post inspires you to go all out if you're planning a cruise themed party, or at least gives you a few ideas!
And if you haven't gotten enough link love in the post above, here are some more links to cruise party stuff...just do some searches for cruise party, tiki party decor, tropical decor, etc and you'll get tons of fun ideas!