Guests get caught doing filthy things after hours
On board most ships is a spa area reserved for “sea days” -- the time spent traveling to the next port. During the day it’s filled with passengers, but after hours the singers were allowed to sneak in and relax-a-vous. One night a castmate and I were heading to the steam room when we heard some unusual noises reverberating off the tiled walls. When we pushed the door open we were met by a couple well old enough to be our grandparents, indulging in a little fellatio fun. Horrified, we scrambled. My poor friend lurched on the slick floor, grabbed for something to steady himself, and landed his hand on a set of false teeth that had been laid out on the bench.
Never did go back to that spa.
Employees aren’t allowed to party at port
As a singer, I had some of the same status as officers, meaning that I was allowed to dine pretty much wherever I pleased, even in the fancier guest restaurants and bars. I was also able to drink in the Ward Room, an officers bar where I downed enough $1 gin and tonics that I had to rechristen them “gin and regrets.”
But we were still at work, and overdoing it on the clock was still a fool’s move. A woman who worked on the ship’s perfume counter drank with us one afternoon on the island of Tortola, and promptly forgot she wasn’t on vacation. The higher-ups on a ship take this extremely seriously, often breathalyzing staff upon re-entry. Unsure of what to do, we helped her to the gang plank and then filed in one by one. When she didn’t appear behind us, we looked out of a porthole only to see her attempting to board the wrong ship. She was immediately fired, and had to pay for her flight home.
There’s a caste system among the workers
By the end of my first night at sea, I could feel the ship’s distinct and unsettling class system. Singers were near to the top of it, and soon I realized the cleaner who came to my cabin daily to change sheets and bring towels wasn’t considered my colleague, but my staff.
The pecking order among the onboard crew was most stark at meals. Below deck there were three dining tiers: the officers mess, the staff mess, and the crew mess. Your rank determined which mess you were allowed to dine in. The officers (heads of departments, people involved in steering the ship) ordered freshly made food from a menu. The staff (entertainers, people in the office) were offered steam table grub, which was fairly grim but passable.
The crew mess, however, was not for the faint. The lowly engine workers and cleaners, who mainly hailed from the Philippines and India, were given mountains of rice and cuts of meat and fish that included pork knuckles, chicken feet, and fish heads. Then, at Christmas, someone decked the fish heads in little Santa hats.