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Bar Steward - the true engine behind the bar operations on cruise ship

Submitted by kgnadmin on

In the company where I have spent nearly a decade, the bar steward position was one of the toughest jobs. There were two primary ways in which people got that kind of job on the cruise ship. Number one was by getting a job on the land through the agency. I don't know how much clarity and credibility the agency information provided to the candidates on the land for the bar steward job. However, the second way of getting the bar steward job was internally from the cruise ship company. For example, 25 of us were on three weeks of training on board a cruise ship when I was at bar college. After those three weeks of intense bar training on board the ship, we had final exams. Of those 25 candidates, 21 candidates passed the exam. The remaining 4 of my colleagues scored below 75 percent on the final exam and did not pass. The company gave them the option to either go home or accept the job of the bar steward on board the ship. That was the second way of becoming a bar steward. Generally speaking, the bar steward job is one of the most challenging jobs; it also comes with very low pay huge responsibility level. When I say the low pay, I think about the huge responsibility, long working hours, and never ending job. Most of the deep cleaning on the ship is done by the bar stewards, and usually the bar waiters and bartenders would overload the bar steward with many different tasks, even the jobs that bar stewards are not supossed to deal with.

  • Some of the duties of the bar steward were the following:
  • - General cleaning, sanitizing, tidying, and maintenance of bar and store areas, including sweeping or scrubbing floors and surfaces.
  • - Cleaning of glassware, utensils, and equipment.
  • - Sorting and removing trash, placing it in pickup areas, and cleaning garbage cans.
  • - General assistance to the bartender/s and manager.


That responsibility came from the job description itself. Depending on the size and type of the cruise ship, there are usually 3-5 bar stewards on each ship. They are allocated to handle and maintain the cleanliness of the specific bars, and each bar steward usually has a rotation schedule. One bar steward would usually handle maybe three or 4 bars on the ship. Their duties included garbage cleaning from all the bars, cleaning the drains, and heavy deep cleaning before USPH check-ups. Also, their shifts were tough because deep bar cleaning was usually done at night after the operational bar hours. After the bar is closed, the bar steward will come to take the garbage from the bins and do some deep cleaning of the bar.

When I was a crew bartender, one of the most important people on board the ship was the bar steward assigned to take care of the crew bar. I remember my first day in the crew bar; I called the bar steward and asked him to help me to take care of some extra glasses that were needed for the bar and give a little extra care to the cleanliness of my bar.

On my first day, I gave him $250, and I told him that every SPG every 14 days, I would give him $250 to take care of my busy bar. Some of my bartender colleagues told me that I was crazy and that $100 was more than enough, but I did not care. Moreover, I wanted to look after the bar steward to show him respect because I knew their job was hard.

Consequently, my bar was always loaded with glasses, and the cleaning of the bar was spot on; therefore, I was fine with USPH inspectors and the bar manager. It's like that; respect is always earned, never given. I knew that this was the way to show respect towards the bar steward, and that was tremendous help for me, especially during the busy operational hours; I could rely on the hard-working bar steward to help me with anything. I would even let him serve some drinks when I was working very busy hours on my own, so he could practice the beverage service, his next desired job that he was waiting to get. That way, the crew also did not need to wait too long because the bartender was working on his own most of the time in the crew bar.

Bar Steward's salary

The bar steward's salary is around $500 per month, but depending on the commitment levels, they can make more money with the tips from the bartenders and bar waiters on the ship. Same as the case with the galley steward, the company is sometimes abusing the best bar stewards on board. I know several of my friends who worked for 3 or 4 years before getting a promotion from the bar steward position and becoming bar waiters. The reason is crystal clear: it was a very hard job with very low pay, and only a few people could survive longer in that role. For those who did, the company wanted them to stay as long as possible before moving up to the bar server job. If it happens that you work as a bar waiter or bartender on the ship, make sure you take care financially of your bar stewards in the bar department, those are great and resilient people who deserve all respect. 

The truth is we always have to put ourselves in someone else shoes. I worked with one bartender who was so cheap and with a stingy pocket. He always complained to me that the bar steward does not help him much with his bar and that it is not always cleaned as it should be. One day, I asked him: " Do you take care of the bar steward who was assigned to clean your bar"?

Surprisingly, he answered me: "What do you mean take care? I don't understand. They have a fixed salary, correct?"

I just took a deep breath and looked at him with disbelief:

" What are you trying to tell me? You are expecting your bar steward to do miracles and to bring you a lot of glasses and help you with the cleaning, and you won't give him any extra money? Are you serious?"

He answered with obvious embarrassment on his face: " I am...I was not sure..."

At that time, he was shy and got my point. You need to take care of your people if you expect anything in return. That is very simple. If you expect anyone to go the extra mile for you and do some extra duties, show them respect. We are especially talking about one of the hardest jobs on the cruise ship, with low pay, long working hours, and abusive management most of the time.

 Be the one who makes the difference. Just make sure that it is a positive difference. God bless you all!

Photo: P&O Australia

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