Bar Rotation on Princess Cruises and Crooners Bar With an Anecdote

Oct 06, 2019

The bar manager Janice was English and was very fair during my contract on Island Princess. She would make Bar waiter rotations so that everyone would get a chance to work in different bars. If there were four-bar waiters in one bar, then you would spend four weeks working in that bar and after that, the crew would rotate places. I thought that was really fair. Especially because those that arrive first have the most energy and they would get assigned to work on the open deck right away. 

There is more work there plus you have to run all the time so four weeks there are quite bearable. The passengers were great and now the All-inclusive packages were active. It was a special sticker (blue or white) with the Princess Company logo which signified that the passenger bought drinks in advance, for the entire duration of the cruise. 

They could drink an unlimited number of drinks that cost less than 10 dollars, which was about 90% of the menu. We had more work with passengers like that because a lot of them ordered a bucket of beer. You order four bears for 22 Dollars and you get the fifth for free. That meant that we had to type in five checks so the bartender could give us five bears of any brand. It made the job easier. I always said how that’s a smart move because everyone is happy – the passenger could make one order and get five bottles at a time, and we had a bit more time to focus on the other passengers. 

People drink a lot. Some start at noon with a Bloody Mary, Screwdriver or Mimosa while others start with beer. That was the first time in my life that I saw someone drinking bear with tomato juice. The lady explained how she loves to drink and adding tomato juice is a great way to avoid getting drunk. It’s something like Shandy, a popular drink where you mix bear with Sprite.

Running around the open deck in the heat with everything on the tray was no easy thing. I was a bit overweight when I got there but I melted and lost weight in the three weeks spent there. Ten hours on your feet and eight of them are spent running around. It was like a preparation for a small marathon. I had a step counter and it showed I crossed some 10.000 steps per day. I soon figured out the earnings system. With the All-inclusive stickers we made about the same amount of money for ten-day cruises, with a difference of about 50 to 100 Dollars. But that money would be earned back once we rotated to a different, better bar. 

I was assigned to the Martini Bar Crooners Piano. This bar existed on every Princess cruise ship and everyone had to work there for a rotation or two. We had to wear special uniforms in that bar, a west with black and white stripes and ties that had little martini glasses printed on them. I brought one of these ties back home as a souvenir from one of my previous contracts. Crooners Bar is designed in the classic Sinatra era, it has an accompanying piano repertoire, specially hired musicians and its famous Martini menu is offered to the guests. Talented mixology bartenders worked in this bar and guests would often come here for a drink before dinner, and then they would come back after dinner. Most guests wore formal clothing for this bar because it was the most popular bar and it was always crowded. But compared to 2013 and the Royal Princess, where this bar was considered more elite and where guests dressed very formal and posh, it was quite different. All-inclusive stickers changed that drastically.

We were very busy because most people who had these stickers would order almost all the martinis that were on the menu. From the classic ones like Cosmopolitan and Vodka Martini to the more specific ones from the Bond collection, that included Skyfall or Quantum of Solace. Another popular collection was the Princess collection which included cocktails like Lemontini and the more complicated Dunes, which was made from Coconut Rum, Banana liqueur, Melon liqueur, pineapple juice, and sweet&sour mix. 

One of my favorites was the Baccarat which was made with Absolut Raspberry, Frangelico liqueur, blackberry brandy, and cream. It’s a very nice and refreshing fruit based martini. There were also several chocolate-based martinis on the menu. There were instances where four guests who were sitting at one table order certain martinis that had to be served a bit differently. The glasses had to very chilled and the drinks themselves had to be brought in small shakers, and they had to mix and poured right there in front of the guests. It took a few extra seconds because of the different serving methods, unlike the standard way, when the bartender makes the drink and then we just have to serve it to the guest. The idea was that the guests try as many martinis as they could and then decide which they like the most. 

If they disliked a certain one that they tried they would ask “What else do you recommend” or ordered new ones by saying “We would like new, different ones”. The dynamics in this bar are quite different, the guest didn’t dress in a formal way but rather in a more casual way, wearing jeans and regular shirts. 

During the one day, right before my shift ended a woman sat at a table in my section, minutes after I whipped that table and cleaned it with disinfectant.  She looked a bit strange, like an old biker. She pulled out a deck of cards and ordered a diet Coke with her Soda Sticker. Every single American thought that if they drink a diet Coke after a ridiculously big meal that all the calories would simply disappear and that it would help with their weight. The Soda Stickers can be used for all bubbly drinks, not just Coke. 

A similar way of calorie ignorance or misunderstanding happens when guests order Mocha Coffees which are made with chocolate syrup, but they order it with skinned milk. We would, of course, say yes but everyone just used the first milk we could get our hands-on. I understand people who have lactose intolerance or some other condition, but this sort of request I really can’t. 

My biker lady guest didn’t like how the table was still a bit wet from the disinfectant so she called me and asked me to wipe it again. I smiled politely and said ‘Don’t worry it will dry up very soon” and went to the bar to get her diet Coke.

I didn’t want to appear rude or lazy, but that chemical has its own properties and it is not recommended to be wiped again after it was used on a surface. When I was coming back with her drink on my tray I saw something that I’ve never seen before in the seven years that I spent working in the Hospitality industry – she took off a sock with her right hand, place it on the table and started wiping. I couldn’t hide my shock when I saw her doing that. I just gave her the Diet Coke that she ordered and went to the kitchen to come together a bit. 

I had four more orders with my regular guests who were very nice and always ready for a good laugh. I was bringing them their martinis but at the moment I reached their table I couldn’t remember who ordered what. I apologized and said, “I’m a bit shocked by something that just happened and I can’t remember who ordered what”. They reacted so gracefully and asked if they could help in any way. I told them what happened and of course, they were completely shocked. They asked me who the woman was and what table she was sitting at. I looked at her and all four of them looked in the same direction. 

In that moment the rude woman’s’ friend joined her. As far as I could tell they had an argument because the friend saw the rude woman wipe the table with her sock and told her that she was extremely inappropriate. They both stormed out of the bar soon after that. 

When the four great ladies finished their cruise, they gave me a tip and a pair of socks. They said with a huge smile “A little something to always remember us and this day by”. It was the most incredible thing that happened to me.