A day in the life of a cruise ship musician: First Sea Day
A sea day is a day out in the ocean sailing to the next port of call. In this post we’re taking a look at what guests, the different departments, the musicians & I usually do when we’re stuck on the ship for a full day.
Sea Day 1 is the first full day of the cruise. Since most guests have gone to bed early on embarkation night, they get up early on Sea Day 1. They have breakfast or brunch and explore the ship. I’d say most guests spend the day on the open deck areas of the ship. Spending the day outside is beautiful; you can chill all day, watch the ocean and occasional islands pass by. Of course, there’s always a drink at hand and food is never far away.
On Sea Day 1 the ship offers many activities for guests, most of them are hosted by the entertainment staff. They host trivias, pool games, hairy chest competitions, beer pong, scavenger hunts and many more. Many of these activities are held on the open decks. Other departments offer activities as well, like the Steakhouse and the sushi bar giving a cooking introduction with samples or the art gallery holding a presentation about an artist or the dancers teaching a dance class. For guests there’s a lot going on, if they decide to participate in the activities. They can also just hang out by themselves all day.
Sometimes we see other ships sailing not too far from us.
The night for guests starts with dressing up for dinner, it’s elegant night. On Carnival ships 1st Sea Day is also elegant night, which means that to go to the dining rooms you’ll need to be in formal wear. Usually before dinner guests get their pictures taken by the photo team (before dinner because of the waist line). After dinner it’s time for entertainment. Guests can watch production shows, comedy shows, participate in activities and of course listen to live music or go to the club. As you can see there’s plenty of entertainment all day and all night.
One thing to remember is that nights on cruise ships are usually early nights. The comedy shows are over by midnight, live music’s usually done by 12:30am and the club closes at around 2am. The casino is the only place that stays open until 3-4am, depending on the players. Early nights make sense since guests have been drinking all day anyways and the following day is a port day. That means that they’ll want to get off as soon as we dock, so anytime between 8-10am.
1st Sea Day is another busy day for most departments. Housekeeping does the regular; cleaning, maintaining, setting up & breaking down equipment from some events. The waiters and bar staff are busy because all guests are onboard. For the dining room staff elegant night is the busiest night of the cruise. Shore excursions has to deal with all the guests booking their excursions for the ports and guest services continues taking care of guest complaints. Deck, engine and bridge are busy and under pressure since we’re actually sailing now, and everything needs to go smoothly. The gift shop is busy, but for them it’s also the day they make the most sales. The casino is open all day, the entertainment staff hosts a ton of activities, the youth staff is busy taking care of children. Since all guests are onboard and consuming, most departments are insanely busy. Sea Days are also the days Carnival can make the most money.
The sky at night, with the bridge in the foreground.
Musicians don’t usually do much on sea days. There’s simply not much to do, you’re stuck on a ship with a few thousand people. Musicians usually sleep in, drink a lot of water after waking up (#hangovercure), go to the gym, watch movies and review the music.
Guitarists and vocalists who want to practice always find a spot to practice as they don’t require much room or equipment neither do they produce much noise. Some of them can even practice in their rooms. Keyboarders and drummers have a harder time finding a location to practice. You need to find an empty venue with the necessary equipment in it, which is almost impossible on a sea day. Remember; ships offer limited space and lounges are usually booked all day for events and functions. Some keyboarders travel with small MIDI-keyboards which they setup in their cabin, but that only works if the cabinmate is fine with it. Drummers usually travel with their practice pad everywhere they go, so they can at least work on their hand technique in their cabins, outside or wherever. In terms of actual drumming though, practicing on the set on a sea day is basically impossible.
It’s important to note that many musicians don’t practice at all while on ships. They prepare music if necessary and review the material, but in terms of getting better on a technical level or some other “workouts” on their instruments they don’t even bother. Performing six nights a week for up to seven months straight can really tear on one’s motivation to practice.
On days at sea, all musicians work so that Carnival can offer enough entertainment for the guests. Soloists usually play early or late afternoon sets, duos play in the evening. The DJ is busy all day because he (or she) is involved in many of the activities. Trios and quartets play at night, the Piano Bar Entertainer plays at night and the Rockband plays all night as well. The music schedule is thoroughly planned through the Musical Director so that there’s non-stop live music after around 11am.
Performing in the Main Theater on the Carnival Conquest 2015
Elegant night is usually the best gig of the cruise. The guests got a chance to relax all day, drank and ate a lot. For the evening they had to dress up which tends to get people excited. The band usually starts after dinner and/or after the shows in the main theater. That means that we start between 8-9pm. At this time of the evening guests are feeling good already and are ready to party. That’s great for us as a band.
Working elegant nights feels easy and time goes by quickly as the crowd usually participates, sings along, dances and buys the band drinks. After the performance the band hangs out with guests for a few minutes. Carnival wants the band and all the other musicians to engage with guests before, between and after the sets. When we’re done talking to guests we go to the crew bar. Well, not everybody, but most of us. I usually take a shower before going to the bar as I sweat a lot during the performances.
The crew bar is usually packed on elegant night, as everybody finished two days of hard work and the following day is going to be a port day. Many crew members dress up on elegant night and watch shows in guest areas (if their schedules allow it) and dance in the night club. After the crew bar I go straight to bed, usually between 3-5am.
Most crew doesn’t like sea days and I get that they don’t because they’re working their @$$s off. But I really don’t why most musicians don’t like sea days either. I actually like sea days. I can sleep in, go to the gym and take naps. What more do I want? The best part is that I can do all of those things with a good conscious since I can’t practice anyways neither can I get off the ship. Also, during sea days I usually never get to see daylight as I’m always inside.
I hope this post gave you a better understanding of what goes on during a day at sea. Last Sea Day is basically the same with only a few differences, but we’ll go over the Last Sea Day in another shorter post.