If you have survived the stresses and strains of a long hard day enjoying yourself, either on board or ashore in the latest port, then it is time to put your glad rags on and party til’ the early hours. There will be so much to choose from and to enjoy.
Obviously, the main event of the evening is dinner and depending on your cruise line you may have a fixed or open sitting. You may like having a late dinner or an early one. However it doesn’t matter there will be things going on all round the ship for you to peruse.
I like a late dinner, typically around 8.30pm, this gives me plenty of time to recover from the exertions of the day and to leisurely prepare for the night. We will go for a pre-dinner drink in one of the many bars, there will be a piano player quietly working through the Billy Joel and Elton John back catalogues. Maybe we will fancy the main bar with a guitarist rocking away at the back. If we need a quieter mood there is always the traditionalist string trio in yet another drinking establishment.
By now, most of the guests are dressed for the evening. On non-formal nights dress will be fairly casual but there are always some ladies who are dressed to kill, with all their bling on show. What you wear on board is entirely up to you, whatever you are comfortable in, that is what you wear.
On most ships there will be a secondary stage/entertainment venue where a resident band plays nightly, sometimes relieved by solo singers from the ships entertainment team. Whatever, the cocktail of the day will slide down without a problem. Some evenings there may be a themed night like Margarita night or a Martini night, where the staff will dress up and try to sell more expensive drinks to you.
Then it is time for dinner, for me this tends to be five courses of fine dining which, with table service, can take up till 10.00pm to complete. This is just in time to get to the main show venue for the evening’s entertainment. The theatre will vary enormously from ship to ship, cruise line to cruise line. I have been in a theatre so small we were almost sitting in with the artists as they changed. Others are huge multi-tiered auditoriums that would not be out of place in the West End. On some ships the sound systems and acoustics are so basic that the sound on my phone is better. Conversely, on the better ships, even I could be made to sound like Nat King Cole.
Do not wait to go and get your seat. There are good seats to be had but they will be on a first come first served basis. We will go and settle down as early as we can, order a nice large G&T and wait for the show to begin. Some nights there will be the resident Show Company which, depending on the size of the stage could be between 6 and 20 singers and dancers. They will perform shows which are claimed to be to West End standards. The show starts at 10.30pm, and depending on how much we have had to drink, we usually agree we have had a good time. However if they were West End standard performers, then they wouldn’t be on board, they would be in London.
There will be a variety of other performers that alternate with the show company. A male vocalist, usually a wannabe Pavarotti. A female vocalist who once came 3rd in a TV show. A comedian, (do not sit in the front row because he will have a go at you). A magician, what these are like I don’t know because I never go to see them – not my scene. You may even see a multi-instrumentalist who can play a violin faster than anyone else. Don’t get me wrong, the evening main shows are great live entertainment and I do – despite their subtle quirks – really enjoy them.
Whilst the main theatre is the big attraction there will be plenty of other venues to go to where musicians and singers will be performing. There is a perception that, on cruise ships that cater for the more experienced cruiser, the entertainment venues must all be empty because the passengers are in bed by 9 o’clock. Nothing could be further from the truth. There will be music and dancing into the small hours for some. In fact, most cruise lines have dance hosts who are available to dance with solo cruisers, both male and female.
After the evenings show we quite often go to the Main Bar where there will be a singer/guitarist belting out all the hits from our youth. You have not seen anything till you have seen a room full of pensioners singing “YMCA” at the top of their voices as the witching hour approaches, the bar staff lined up doing all of the actions.
If it sounds as though there may be a lot of drinking going on then, yes I admit it, it does go on. Many people are on the wonderful “All Inclusive” package and you have to keep on drinking to get your money’s worth, don’t you?
Roger will continue to share his adventures at sea in this special cruise ship diaries series. These will be published here on the blog every Tuesday into the New Year.