A Day in the Life of a Cruise Ship Stage Manager

A Day in the Life of a Cruise Ship Stage Manager

A Day in the Life of a Cruise Ship Stage Manager | brokeGIRLrich

I realize I advocate some crazy ways to pay off debt, like going to work on a cruise ship… and that life seems way out there to some of you. But one of my favorite kind of posts to read is 24 hours in someone else’s shoes… so today I give you 24 hours in a cruise ship stage manager’s shoes. The good, the bad and the ugly.

First the good:

Average Port Day

8:00 AM – 2:30 PM – Sleep or Explore Port

Sometime before 12:00 PM – Check and answer e-mails.

3:00 PM – Rehearsal for cast show or guest entertainer.

5:00 PM – Check e-mails. Attend to paperwork. Make next day’s schedule.

6:45 PM – Check house. Open doors.

8:00 PM – Showtime

10:00 PM – Showtime

11:00 PM – Strike current show. Build next night’s show.

1:00 AM – Go to the bar.

Exploring Port - that was a tough day ;o)

Exploring Port – that was a tough day ;o)

Average Sea Day

9:00 AM – Travel Guide Talk

10:00 AM – Port Shopping Talk

11:00 AM – BINGO

12:00 PM – Rehearsal for evening show.

2:00 PM – Travel Guide Talk

3:00 PM – Shops Talk

4:00 PM – BINGO (cruisers love their BINGO)

5:00 PM – Check e-mails. Attend to paperwork. Make next day’s schedule.

6:45 PM – Check house. Open doors.

8:00 PM – Showtime

10:00 PM – Showtime

11:00 PM – Strike current show. Build next night’s show.

1:00 AM – Go to the bar.

The Officer's Bar

This was Team Jager. Yeah, that’s what we called ourselves. Not totally sure how my liver survived ships.

And when I look at that schedule, I get all nostalgic for how it used to be. Sometimes, life as sea was so EASY. But there were other times too.

The bad and the ugly:

Most Days at Sea

5:30 AM – Phone rings. Chief Housekeeper. The house lights in the main lounge won’t come on. If you can’t get there and get them on in the next 15 minutes, he won’t have his stewards clean the lounge.

5:45 AM – Desperate call on my behalf to the Electrician on call who now wants to kill me.

6:15 AM – Houselights restored. Lounge to remain dirty. Housekeeping and Electricians now both pissed off at entertainment department (even if it was SHIP POWER and not ANYTHING in the lounge that kept the houselights from working).

6:30 AM – Go back to sleep, happy I don’t have any of the morning talks.

8:50 AM – Panicked call from Rigging Tech. Projector will not work for first talk. Recall power issues that morning. Advise him to actually climb into the ceiling and do a hard reset.

8:52 AM – Get dressed, still reeking of last night’s trip to the Officer’s Bar and total lack of sleep from Housekeeping incident. Go up to the booth through all the possible back ways to avoid passengers. Try to avoid contact for the brief corner I have to go around in public. Climb into ceiling while muttering angrily at Rigger and hard reset the projector. Ta-da. Magic. It worked. Go back to bed.

9:05 AM – 2nd panicked call. The VGA cable has decided to stop recognizing the Travel Guide’s computer (which it is only used on 426094639106 times per cruise). Put blacks back on. Return to theater. Go up onstage to podium where disgruntled Travel Guide and frazzled Rigger reside. Try to Function + F5 that sucker. Then try to go into settings and start randomly guessing at display settings to make the flipping thing work. Remember Light Tech once claimed to fix a computer. Call him, wake him up, beg for mercy.

9:10 AM – Very pissed off Travel Guide has now called Cruise Director to tell him how inept your entire team is and then proceeded to just start his lecture without his slides (what a novel idea!). Light Tech turns up. Hits 2 buttons. Perfectly sized projection appears on screen. Applause from passengers.

9:15 AM – Give up all hope of returning to sleep and slink up to get some breakfast from the Lido. In an attempt to hide from everyone, you sit in a far back corner, but one of the Lido staff clearing the tables thinks that 9:15 AM is the perfect time to start asking you lots of questions about borrowing band equipment and scheduling rehearsal time onstage for the Indonesian Independence Day/Crew Show/Battle of the Bands/Whatever New Nightmare Event the HR Manager Dreamed Up Without Ever Consulting You band (this does actually make sense because the poor guy has probably been up rolling silverware since 4 AM – however a disgruntled Travel Guide did not just tear him a new one, so you’re not considerate enough to think of this then).

9:35 AM – Beat Travel Guide to entertainment office and convince Cruise Director and Event Manager that this was just some odd fluke. You and your techs are totally on top of things and all is well in theater world (a.k.a. please don’t show up and loiter awkwardly near the next tech to set the next talk in 20 minutes, please, please, please. This only pisses them off).

9:45 AM – Loiter awkwardly by the next tech to set the next talk. This pisses them off slightly less, as you are their director supervisor and you have managed to instill some confidence in them that you generally know WTF is happening there.

9:46 AM – Rejoice! You’d forgotten you’d assigned the Light Tech this talk anyway. Thank goodness someone around here is PC and/or Mac literate (whichever one you are not- this will always be the type of laptop all the guest lecturers have).

10:00 AM – Check e-mails. Delete angry and still oddly polite email from Indonesian Chief Housekeeper re. Early Morning Cleaning Schedule. Accept that no Cabin Steward will probably be sent to clean your cabin for a week.

10:03-10:15 AM – Receive, in quick succession, exactly 36 emails requesting an inventory of every broken light in the disco and exactly what is wrong with each one. Deadline – 6:00 PM this evening, corporate office time. Why? You’re not important enough to be given this detail.

10:16 AM – Call Lounge Tech and tell him of this request. He reminds you it’s a sea day and the disco will not be empty at any time until about 3:00 AM. Or 5-6 PM – his dinner break. You don’t mess with a Filipino’s dinner break. Tell him 3:00 AM will be fine. Email back corporate and tell them you’re on it.

10:30 AM – Go check out disco. Has something gone drastically wrong with all the lights since last time you were in here? No. 8 instead of 6 lights are out now. 6 were waiting on lamps. They are always waiting on lamps. Run into Cruise Director – wants to know when the mirror ball you just ordered (instead of lamps, at his demand) is scheduled to arrive. 2 weeks ago, sir. And yes, I have sent roughly 420325 follow up emails. Actually, I just forward the 420325 emails to my supervisor now that you send me. However, if you’ve noticed, we really need some lamps, sir. Right, sorry me, how irrelevant. I’ll go pester them about that mirror ball again. I mean, who needs to see?

11:00 AM – Try to take a nap for 45 minutes before rehearsal.

11:08 AM – Friend calls to ask if you know where the heck her shoes are. In my room, you say, also slightly surprised to find them on your floor. I am napping. I will pop the lock for you. Make no noise when you come pick them up.

I probably tripped over her shoes 8 times - because that was the size of my cabin.

I probably tripped over her shoes 8 times – because that was the size of my cabin.

11:14 AM – She makes noise. But since you’re up, she tells you about the cute new officers she stalked, apparently barefoot, after you had passed out amidst stolen bakery pastries and Mario Kart in your room around 4 AM last night.

11:25 AM – Give up on sleep again. Go back to theater. Work on whatever side project you’ve got going (organizing MSDS for psychotic inspections, computer training courses on sexual harassment clearly never written by someone who has worn a headset, inventorying the storage spaces).

11:47 AM – Start to death glare the Port Shopping Ambassador. He was supposed to be done with his lecture 2 minutes ago and you have a rehearsal to set for.

11:55 AM – Seriously consider just cutting his mic.

12:00 PM – Call his supervisor.

12:02 PM – Death glare him again as he wraps up but then remembers he still has a raffle to do.

12:05 PM – Talk to him about how it is not an option for him to go over like this on sea days. Talk to his supervisor as well. Send a memo to the Cruise Director, Event Manager and even Hotel Manager on days when he particularly pisses you off. Remind him that he has to give out those stupid flyers OUTSIDE THE THEATER!!!

12:08 PM – Make an announcement on the god mic that the theater is closing for rehearsal.

12:12 PM – Politely approach the passengers who seem hard of hearing or did not think that last announcement actually applied to them and remove them from the theater.

12:15 PM – Give the last old lady loitering by the door a death glare and “I see you” eyes, but start rehearsal anyway.

1:20 PM – Rehearsal concluded. Run like heck to the Lido before they stop serving lunch. Pray the lines aren’t too long, since you have the 2:00 PM talk and have to be back in the theater setting up by 1:45.


We took rehearsal seriously! Except when the lead male was quarantined and one of my technicians thought he could just do the part instead.

1:45 PM – A kindly miracle has happened and the ASM and stage crew set up the podium, screen and mic while you ran to get lunch. Heave a sigh of relief because that podium is frickin’ heavy.

2:00 PM – Check on all the outstanding Purchase Orders while Travel Guide, who is now calmer and your buddy because he wants to play clips of Pirates of the Caribbean on the side screens for his pirate talk, which is against regulations but you just might allow to smooth over the fact that he clearly keeps changing all the settings on his computer between his talks, lectures. Email asking for an update on the mirror ball and cc. Cruise Director so he thinks you do something. If no mirror ball arrives, clearly you are not doing anything with your time.

2:38 PM – Travel Guide concludes.

2:39 PM – Brown out.

2:39:05 PM – Call all techs immediately back to work to check their systems. Call electricians but they are too busy with other parts of the ship to care about the theaters. Run down to cabin for hair dryer.

2:47 PM – Sound Tech starts using hair dryer on sound system to get it to power back up.

2:55 PM – All systems back up and running except for sound. But it’s time for BINGO. You do NOT mess with BINGO. Event Manager keeps giving you anxious glances and then returning her attention to passengers telling them they get an extra 5 minutes to buy cards, aren’t they lucky??

3:04:55 PM – Sound system powers back up. BINGO commences. Passengers none the wiser.

3:07 PM – A good Event Manager shows up in the booth and tells you and the Sound Tech that you are amazing for fixing it at all and first drinks in the Officer’s Bar that night are on her. A bad Event Manager shows up in the booth and yells at you for holding up BINGO for 5 minutes.

3:07-4:00 PM – Anxiously prowl booth waiting to see if anything else is going to go wrong with the power, sound system or projector today. Between prowling, make and distribute tomorrow’s schedule.

4:00 PM – Host cast chat. This is an event where the passengers sit and have a question and answer with the cast before getting a backstage tour. Questions that we were asked EVERY. SINGLE. TIME include: do you live on the ship? are any of you dating each other? what do you actually do all day? do you think you’ll ever get a real job? (If you’re a more visual person, this video gives you an idea of what life was like in the theater, but it’s a little long – it used to play as the passengers were coming in before the top of cast chat.)

4:30 PM – Answer phone call from Cruise Director about something being wrong with the microphone in the Crow’s Nest. Call the Lounge Tech in charge of that room. No answer. Go to Crow’s Nest. Look at microphone. Change batteries. Give Cruise Director new, magically working microphone.

4:45 PM – Walk through disco on way back to main theater. Find Lounge Tech half in, half out of ceiling, working on lights. Remind him to check battery levels in microphones before events. Remind him to go eat.

5:00 PM – Check e-mails one more time. Ignore e-mail asking for inventory of disco lights status. Read update from Safety Officer that Traffic Director Training will be moved to tomorrow. Smack dab in the middle of a port day. Swear. Update schedules. Highlight change. Redistribute.

5:15 PM – Eat dinner. It will be the puffy pastry thing filled with mystery seafood or the piece of steak(?)ish thing since that’s what it always is on the first sea day. But actually, for you that means this will be pasta bar. Again. Hello 15 extra pounds.

6:00 PM – Nap for 45 minutes.

6:45 PM – Groggily check the evening presets are done. Open doors. Realize if you go back to your room, you will not wake up again until tomorrow. Walk to Explorer’s Lounge to check on string quartet. For the 800 time they ask you for stand lights. Tell them you would love to give them stand lights, but there are no power outlets in that room. Anywhere. And you have asked for something battery operated, but it’s held up in the approval chain somewhere. Probably with the mirror ball. And the lamps.

7:15 PM – Swing by Ocean Bar. Check out jazz trio. Try to hide from the one that was paying you too much attention at the bar last night (no, sir, I do not want to see your photos from Guatemala back in your room. I’ve been there. I’m good).

7:35 PM – Head backstage. Peek into house to make sure it’s still there. Nothing on fire. Etc. Sit on steps and play Angry Birds for a few minutes.

7:43 PM – Put on headset.

7:45 PM – Give 15 minute call.

7:46 PM – Angry Birds

7:50 PM – Give 10 minute call.

7:51 PM – Help male dancers find missing plastic duck props that have disappeared since rehearsal.

7:55 PM – Give 5 minutes.

8:00 PM – Showtime. Call show. Try not to kill dancers.

The Cast of One of My Ships - in their feathered finest.

The Cast of One of My Ships – in their feathered finest.

9:00 PM – Wander through Queen’s Lounge. Make sure game show or party band set is happening. Hide in dark corner if it’s the band to avoid the boy you dated for a few weeks (because a breakup after two weeks of dating on a ship is like ending a 10 year marriage – who gets to keep the new, fluffy comforter you bought together?).

9:35 PM – Head back to theater. Peek into house to make sure it’s still there. Nothing on fire. Etc. Sit on steps and play Angry Birds for a few minutes.

9:43 PM – Put on headset.

9:45 PM – Give 15 minute call.

9:46 PM – Angry Birds

9:50 PM – Give 10 minute call.

9:51 PM – Help male dancers find missing plastic ducks that have disappeared since last show.

9:55 PM – Give 5 minutes.

10:00 PM – Showtime

11:00 PM – Strike set. Acquire no less than 14 bruises and donate ¼ pint of blood to appease the angry theater gods before strike ends an hour and a half to two hours later.

12:30 AM – Final check of e-mails. Final awesome disco inventory on your desk from incredible Lounge Tech. Type it up and send it out. Log hours. Harass techs to log their hours on the way out of the theater.

12:45 AM – Climb steps to Officer’s Bar. Cursing those four flights of stairs with every breathless step from the second landing on.

12:52 AM – Shenanigans



2:00 AM – Last call

3:00 AM – Security officers come turn on the lights and kick you and all the other stragglers out of the bar. Your friend who left her shoes in your room last night shows up.

3:15 AM – Raid bakery. This is easy if you are a girl. More difficult if you are not.

3:25 AM – Mario Kart until you pass out.


*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on Femme Frugality and The Pursuit of Riches*

29 thoughts on “A Day in the Life of a Cruise Ship Stage Manager

  1. Ha! I love this Mel! From the second I met you and found out you worked on a cruise ship, I wanted the details. It is definitely a “different” lifestyle and I imagine it was difficult for you to get adjusted to life on land afterwards. It was like when I worked in the bar/restaurant biz in college. It was crazy and I loved the people and shenanigans, but I just couldn’t imagine myself being a “lifer.” I still go to bars, though, and wax nostalgic at my days in the industry.
    Shannon @ Financially Blonde recently posted…Music Mondays – Girls Just Want to Have FunMy Profile

    • Yeah, I’m definitely terrified a small part of me is a lifer, since I still miss it a lot at times. The best times there were honestly the BEST times. But there were lots of crappy days too. Either way, I’m definitely thrilled it was how I spent half of my twenties.

    • Oh yeah, definitely. The majority of the crew are under 35. It’s mostly the nautical department and engineers that are lifers, although quite a few Filipinos and Indonesians do stay for years. Even though their wages seem terrible compared to people from first world nations, what they make actually supports entire families and makes it easy to purchase a home. I’ve thought of retiring to the Philippines more than once.

  2. This is so interesting, because we just went on our first cruise a few months back and one of the things I wondered was what it must be like to work on the ship. The entertainment was amazing on our ship…probably my favorite part of the cruise. :)
    Melanie recently posted…Power OutageMy Profile

  3. I thought my life as a mom was an adventure. Yours is definitely an adventure lady! It sounds like your days are somewhat predictable because of the schedule but then again not really. Thanks for sharing the day in a life of a stage manager on a cruise ship with us at Countdown in Style! Don’t forget to stop by Friday to see if you are featured :)
    Brittnei recently posted…Letters to My First Born: 20 and 21 monthsMy Profile

    • I definitely think life as a mom is an adventure! You not only have to put up with your own decisions, but your children’s too. I think my mom twitches whenever the phone rings and it’s me since she never knows what crazy job idea I’ve got next.

  4. Here from Budgets Are Sexy. :)

    I’d by lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me that wants to drop what I’m doing and try a few crazy stints on a cruise ship. It certainly would be a different use of my plumbing license. ;)

    • Heck yeah it would! It’s not so much the dropping things and going that’s difficult – it’s the return to the real world that’s much rougher. Honestly, I probably could’ve written a second post all about the difficulties of working on a cruise ship too.

  5. Articles like these do help me make up my mind on things in life. Currently my main job is a dairy farmer. While it has gotten me to age 32 the more I think about it the less I see myself farming full time in the long run. There are other opportunities I want to explore, farming full time will leave no room for this. Letting go of a family business is not an easy one to make. :)

      • Ha ha,

        Well from your article it sounds like you’ve had a far crazier time than I ever had as a dairy farmer. Farming sounds easy by comparison. ;)

        Now, to shift gears (yet still keep it on the crazy money saving wagon), the tiny house movement intrigues me. I can definitely see myself driving across Canada, hauling my house in tow.

  6. Pingback: How to Plan Financially to SINK - DINKS Finance | DINKS Finance

  7. Pingback: There’s no need to be broke in college | Blonde & Balanced

  8. Pingback: HowAreYouMakintheBacon: Melissa Bondar - MakintheBacon

  9. Pingback: URL

  10. Hello! I’m so glad I found this – I am going into my second year of stage management training (probably sound like a right baby!) and am fascinated by the idea of working on a cruise. Probably cheeky to ask but do you have any advice on how to get into this line of work? Thank you for the great read and insight! :)

    • Hi Amy,

      Just start applying really. Try to search the websites to apply straight to the cruise line. You can also get your foot in the door working as stage staff for some lines like Celebrity or Royal Caribbean. If you can pick up any automation or moving light experience knowledge of those areas will make you stand out.

      Good luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge