• Paul Curtis

What Happens at Crew Parties?

The main differences from land-based parties is that there is usually a far greater mix of nationalities than ashore, which is not surprising given the nature of cruise ship crews. Also, there is a wider age mix. This is because we are a small community and we mostly all know each other and literally live in the same boat. As parties are a let your hair down gig, uniforms are not normally worn as it inhibits friendly interaction. It’s very hard to turn round to an officer with more stripes than you and you normally call ‘sir’ and get into full party mode. Partly for this reason, crew parties frequently have dress up themes to help us all gain new identities for the night. Back in the Sixties there was a craze going where everyone was trying to create new records on how many people could be squeezed into a small space, such as a telephone box or a minicar. And so it was with the parties on board ships. There was always an all out bid to cram as many people into a single cabin as possible. Being squashed up against each other in outlandish dress and with hardly room to breathe, certainly created an atmosphere of informal intimacy! We would amuse ourselves by raucously singing disgustingly filthy sea shanties, of which there seemed to be an endless supply. And always somebody at the party, whatever their nationality, could and would recite the entire poem Eskimo Nell. Oh yes, we were a classy lot. These photos were taken on either my 18th or 19th birthday. I don’t remember which! At 8.00am the chef arrived at my place of work, the darkroom, wearing his chefs’ hat and bearing a special cake. After generous rounds of Bacardi and coke were served, I was presented with an old saw to cut the cake. My workday had begun. Having managed to get through to later that night, my birthday party was given a Halloween theme and people poured into our cabin. One officer, who shall be nameless, arrived through the porthole. To do this he would have had to have been lowered on a rope from the cabin above, all while steaming across the Atlantic in the middle of the night. You could always tell when things were getting a bit too raucous because some of the more senior officers would start to discretely disappear! This party ended like so many others, with an overly dramatic finale. The heat from all our crushed together bodies and the heavily smoke laden atmosphere, eventually triggered the automatic fire sprinkler system, completely drenching us all. Initial screams quickly died down and a whispered evacuation happened with incredible speed as everyone tried to get clear before the alarms going off on the bridge would send a fire crew to start taking names for punitive action. At this stage, the party would be judged to have been a complete success. In deference to the fine ladies and gentlemen pictured here, I will not name this ship. Photographer: somebody sober, but not me as I can be seen peeping over shoulders in the middle of the very back row.