If you’ve been on a cruise before with a line such as Royal Caribbean, Holland America Line, Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Lines or Disney Cruise Line, chances are you’ll have returned to your room at the end of the evening to be greeted by quite an unusual sight but one which has become a novel cruising tradition.
Towel animals, it seems, are now as much a part of cruising as the sail away cocktail the buffet and fight for the best spot by the pool. The clue is in the name but to those not familiar with this curious but endearing tradition, a towel animal is created by forming a towel, or a number of towels into the shape of an animal, or sometimes two. Apes, swans, lobsters, elephants, peacocks, snakes, fish and even stretching the definition somewhat – towel people – it seems nothing is beyond the realms of possibility.
But where do these creations come from? The exact origins of the tradition are unknown, though it involves the skilful efforts of passenger’s cabin steward, who’ll fashion a number of the room’s towels into a creature, or creatures, often with the help of the odd prop, such as a pair of sunglasses, as part of the nightly turn-down service.
Essentially, towel folding is a form of origami, where towels are used instead of paper. Remember the last time you went out for a meal and the napkin was arranging in an upright fan shape? Well, towel animals are like that but on creative overdrive. When you think how many cabins there are on your average cruise ship and all the work that the stewards have to do to get each of them fit for occupation at the end of the day, it’s quite a commendable effort and a testament to their commitment and sense of humour.
There’s certainly a knack to creating these animals, especially at speed, and a number of lines stock books in their on-board shops which tell you more about the cotton-based art and how to further enhance your creations with skilful use of eyes and noses.
Perhaps the best way to explain about towel animals, however, is to show you one being made:
By Simon Brotherton