Nightlife at Sea
I’ve often felt that the most bittersweet hour on any cruise vacation begins once the ship pulls away from port and starts sailing towards its next destination. You brood over all the memories and magic of the day and wish you could have spent just a little more… time. You had a glimpse of paradise, and now it’s gone.
It’s amazing, though, because the moment you step away from that railing, and stop staring at that rapidly shrinking island, it’s like you find yourself suddenly transported onto the nexus of Las Vegas, Broadway, South Beach, and your local ‘Good Times’ bar, all rolled into one! The nightlife on contemporary cruise ships is incredible and simply has to be experienced.
The sheer number and breadth of night activities is overwhelming. It is impossible to partake in every single one of the night activities onboard a ship. What typically happens on your first or second night is you’re just getting into the groove of things. You usually have at least one thing planned for that night; let’s say, a dinner reservation. You and your significant other get dressed, show up to dinner, enjoy an aperitif, and finish off with dessert and coffee. As you exit the restaurant and walk through the pool deck, you notice the rapid panning movement of blue, red and green lights. There’s dance music playing also, and you see crowds of well-dressed people just having the time of their life. You and your partner glance at one another, and simultaneously size up each other’s willingness to investigate a little further… You’re already dressed, why not? And before you know it, the both of you have already ordered drinks from a roving waiter and are gently rocking back one leg to the other, big hearty smiles on both of your faces! Nobody cares if you can’t dance worth a scratch, by the time the night is through, it’s like you got infected with the dancing bug. Now you’ve really gotten into the groove!
So the lesson learned on the first night: Rule #1 – It is totally worth being curious or open to things, and just seeing where the night leads. Keep this in mind, because you’ll often find that the urge to plan activities only strengthens as you become a more “seasoned” passenger while the week goes on. This is almost inevitable for two main reasons: One, you want to maximize your efficiency — you want to see a certain show, have dinner at a certain restaurant; and you don’t want those times to overlap. Two, you are going to make new friends. Some of your fellow cruise passengers are very cool people, and you will all end up wanting to hang out with each other. But this can put a greater burden on your simple plans, because now you have to coordinate with the activities of two (or more!) groups of people.
Thankfully, this is not as hard as it sounds. Like-minded people often choose the same venues, whether it is poker night at the casino, a wine tasting event, karaoke, the comedy club, live music on the promenade deck, the game on satellite TV at the sports bar, a dinner at the Japanese Hibachi restaurant, and so on.
There are also a couple of “big” events each night that are heavily attended. “Everyone will be there, don’t be left out!” Listen to the Cruise or Entertainment Director’s PA broadcast to give you a heads-up on what NOT to miss. These include shows in the ship’s main amphitheater, talent shows, game shows, any entertainment from a special guest, ship-wide parties, etc. One very popular event available on some ships is the adult-themed “Quest.” If you’ve never heard of it, remember Rule #1 and jump in with both feet!
As the night leads on, you may begin to witness your well-laid plans ‘evolving.’ Perhaps you’re walking past the champagne room to get an early seat for the night’s trapeze show, and are stopped dead in your tracks as you overhear the faint but beautiful sound of someone masterfully singing and playing the piano. Spellbound you walk to the source and slump into the closest available chair as you listen for more than an hour (Here’s to you, Benny Martini!). Just remember to be considerate of your new friends who may have also made plans with you.
If you’re inexperienced at coordinating plans with people without the benefit of cell phones and text messages, here’s a pro tip: use (and encourage others to use) voicemail. As long as you know your friends’ stateroom numbers, you can call their phones from any shipboard phone. Most likely, neither of you are in your stateroom. However, you can change your personalized voicemail message as many times as you wish.
For instance, record a custom message explaining your whereabouts at such and such block of time. This “bulletin board” system has been useful on quite a few occasions. On the other hand, chances are you’ll probably cross paths eventually. And if you know where somebody is but you are temporarily stuck someplace else, you could try to send a “runner” from your group. All of this adds to the intrigue and excitement of the evening.
Rule #2 – Communicate.
Depending on your stamina, the night continues until the early hours of the morning in the ship’s nightclub. This is where all of the hard-core partiers end up late at night; it’s the only game in town. For a sizable minority of the ship’s passengers, these nights are the highlight of the cruise. Partying all night, every night – who can beat that!? One final caveat: Remember that the ship docks at port sometime between 6AM and 8AM. If you have to meet anybody for shore excursions first thing in that morning, make sure you go to bed at a reasonable time so you don’t accidentally oversleep. If not, Rule #3 – Party On!