Whether you’re a guest or a crew member, port Days are the most exciting days of being on cruise ships. In this post we’re taking a closer look at what port days can be like and what guests, crew and musicians do when they dock in a foreign country.
Ships usually dock between 8-10am and set sail again somewhere around 4-6pm.
Most guests try to get off the ship as soon as the ship docks. Some guests though simply stay on the boat and enjoy the fact that there’s almost no other guests left onboard. The ones staying on the ship have the pools to themselves, no queues to get food and they can go to the spa without being disturbed by other guests.
The ones getting off the ship have many options on how to spend their day. Some booked excursions ahead of time, others like exploring the islands by themselves and others just go shopping and get sunburned at the beach. What most cruisers do have in common when getting off the ship, is that they always get food and have drinks. Eating and drinking is a big part of cruising, on and off the ship. For some cruisers the drinking starts even before embarkation.
Guests going back onboard.
It’s usually hot on the islands and drinking feels easy because you sweat it all out. In all the ports there are many great bars with good drinks and snacks. In my opinion; Sadly, most guests don’t try local food or drinks. Most ports have a Señor Frogs, a Fat Tuesday or a Margaritaville. Those restaurants are great options, but they don’t offer any local food or drinks, plus they’re quite expensive compared to the local options. Anyways, guests get drunk. And sunburned.
Once guests are back onboard again, it is soon time to get dinner and enjoy the onboard entertainment. On port nights there are two main types of guests: The ones that have been drinking all day and keep the momentum going up until they go to bed after partying all night. And there’s the ones that are too exhausted to do anything other than going straight to bed after dinner. Especially when another port day follows, guests tend to go to bed early because they want to get off the ship again as soon as the ship docks the following day.
The crew loves port days. Many departments get to schedule less crew, since most guests are off the ship. The logic is simple; A guest doesn’t need a waiter if the guest is not even onboard, neither do they need a whole lot of entertainment.
Waiters, bar staff, entertainment staff, dancers, musicians, casino & gift shop staff, photo, guest services, the youth staff, the spa and the list goes on. Those are all departments whose workloads depend on whether guests are onboard or not. They get to get off the ship, even if it’s just for a couple of hours. They run to the beach, get drinks, relax, get WIFI connection and catch up with family & friends.
Waterfalls in Ocho Rios, 2017
There are three main criteria for a crew member to stay in a place: strong WIFI, cheap beer, good food. The crew’s that simple. Other things the crew does when off the ship include buying groceries, exploring the islands, buying souvenirs for family or meeting friends from other ships that are currently docked in the same port.
Just like guests, the crew likes to party when off the ship. I’d argue that the crew parties even harder than guests. We, the crew, live on ships. So getting off the ship always feels like a short weekend and we want to get the most out of it. When off the ship, we’re not working. We’re not wearing nametags, no uniforms, guests usually don’t recognize us and we’re not available for our bosses to call us.
The Carnival Sensation music team in Cozumel, 2017
In every port the crew has a few hot spots such as bars, cafes or restaurant. Those places are quickly filled with crew. You know it’s the crew because everybody’s on their phones and laptops. You won’t find any guests in there. They’re usually not the nicest places but they always meet at least two of the three main criteria (strong WIFI, cheap beer, good food). Everybody works different hours, so some crew members have to get back onboard earlier, so they can only spend a couple of hours on land.
Musicians & I
Since I’ve been on ships for quite a while now, I’ve visited most of the Islands several times. I know now what each island has to offer. When I started though, I wanted to get off the ship as much as possible and explore the different places. And I did. I’d get up early, meet friends and spend the day outside. Those times were awesome and I got to see many places without spending much money. I’d get back to the ship, shower, eat, warm up and play. It’s an exhausting lifestyle, but since you do it for the first time you have this amazing energy and the momentum just keeps you going. Once you’ve seen the islands a couple of times though, you start to chill. You start going back to places, spend more time at the beach rather than walking across the islands. A sense of routine kicks in.
Crew Gym on the Carnival Miracle
Now, I’m in place where most of the times I don’t even bother getting off the ship anymore. There are some ports that I really, really like and never want to miss, but there are only a few of those. Most of the ports I choose to just sleep in, go to the gym, practice, do laundry and take a few naps. It’s not that I don’t mind not getting off the ship, it’s that I actually enjoy staying onboard.
Doing laundry on the Carnival Miracle.
There are musicians that can’t wait to get off the ship early in the morning and come back last minute. I don’t think that those musicians have a healthy relationship with the life onboard and most of those musicians don’t do many contracts. I get it though, this lifestyle’s not easy, it’s not for everybody, and that’s fine.
One last note on spending the day outside: There’s (almost) always alcohol involved when going out. Most of my best stories from ship life took place on port days and made life on ships f*ck*ng awesome. I’ll be sharing some of them in later posts.
I hope you can now imagine a little better what port days can be like for guests and crew. With these posts I try to roughly explain what a cruise looks like. I’m not going into details for now. More detailed posts will follow.