Waking up to the infinite darkness like a scene in the movie “Taken” and a booming voice over the PA system that links to every room on the ship, I stumbled towards a light switch. “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen! We regret to inform you that due to adverse weather conditions we will NOT be docking in that wonderful island port that we told you about when you purchased your cabin for this voyage we’re taking!”
Cue an audible groan from the minds and hearts of the thousands of non-seafaring citizens brought on by howling winds combined with darkened skies.
Ten minutes pass. A phone rings. I pick up. “Yes, Cruise Director, how may I help you?”
CD: “Bad news, we won’t be able to dock so we’re gonna need the happiest of happy music up on the Lido deck. Soon.”
Me: *grunts*”… You got it.”
Thus begins the type of day that most cruise ship employees aren’t too crazy about; a day jam-packed with activities and food for the guests and a lot of long working hours for the staff and crew. My job goes from “party-starter” to “just keep a good vibe going and if it becomes a party then so be it.” for a few hours between late morning and mid-afternoon. My co-workers, however are up and at it from the early AM hours until way past children’s bedtimes keeping guests from the truth; we’re surrounded by water and there is NO. WAY. OUT.
Activities take on all shapes and sizes from ice cream eating contests to scavenger hunts. Kids and their parents make up most of the people likely to get bored with life the quickest on a long day so most activities are geared towards them. For entertainment purposes, the adults get things like a drink mixing competition (my personal favorite activity), a hairy chest competition (one guy came in with the Batman logo shaved INTO HIS CHEST… needless to say, he is my hero) and, wait for it, an ice carving demonstration. Cruise ships are like giant amusement parks on a sea day; something for everyone, food everywhere and people walking around EVERYWHERE. Every voyage we’ve ever taken, there’s a point in the sea day where you see children under 15 sitting on stairs doing nothing but peoplewatching. Go to the open deck, people laid out everywhere. Bodies as far as the eye can see and even further off than that. Some ships, there would be nothing but kids in the hot tub that we nicknamed “kids stew”. As far as the nightclub action, it would get the most packed on the first sea day’s night, the last port day and the last elegant night (where people would get sexy and fancy for people they didn’t know, didn’t like but didn’t mind trying to sleep with).
For the non-entertainers that comprised of the spa staff, casino, youth program staff and a few others, sea days could be either a gift or a curse. Anyone who has ever worked a retail position on Black Friday in the States can relate to the hustle and bustle, the over-the-top antics and the influx of customers who all suddenly realize what they’re paying for on the Sea Day. In the casino, business could be Google some days and Service Merchandise/Eckerds on the others. The youth program never EVER runs out of kids who need to be burped, farted, fed, quenched, entertained and watched. The spa was it’s own animal bringing in guests who would ask the girls to move mountains but couldn’t be asked to tip anything. All of this would happen for 12-15 hour cycles until you could catch a breath at the nearest port which once reached, still wasn’t a 100% safe haven because you could very well run into guests (the same people you work for!) out in the streets. I know of all these things because I’ve been to the one of the few places safe to talk about it without fear of reprimand or termination. The one place guests who “know” of it want to go but can’t access because they’re guests and they can’t sit with us in this place.
It’s called… the crew bar. And will be the subject of the next post.