Bar Tender Training – Setting the bar for a life at sea Pt. 2

Continuing my story … The first formal night came around and the uniforms changed. We followed our trainer like baby ducks following behind their mother into a gun port of the ship which is like an alcove where the gangways can be set up. There were tables set our with trays and trays of champagne glasses and cases of champagne sat on the floor. It was explained that on this day each cruise it was a cruising tradition that on the first formal night there is a champagne waterfall and that we would be serving complimentary champagne to the passengers who were enjoying it. I was instantly filled with dread. I have never in my time of customer service work held a tray and delivered anything and I openly admitted it to the bar team around me. With a smile on their face they told me how to hold the tray on my arm and started to fill the tray ensuring that it wouldn’t be too full for me to carry. Once they said it was good to go I slowly took a step and turned around finding my balance however I lost it very quickly and sent all the glasses to the floor. I was surrounded by a puddle a lot of broken glass and a mixture of mockery and annoyance around me. I apologised and stared the process of clearing it all up continuously warning all the others to watch their step and be careful refiling my embarrassment each time.

Once I was done, I propped up my tray ready to go again filled with conviction that this time that I would not be the only one unable to hold a tray and hand out drinks and it was on my mind that if I failed the training I would be a steward and carrying the tray would be my job and so I had to get it right. I stood in front of one of the current bartenders a kind Filipina girl who told me she would load half as many up this time and it would be a good starting point. I stood watching as she loaded me up and as my colleagues came in for their second tray to go out and I turned so carefully and walked towards the door – I could feel all eyes on me. One step, two step, three step and floor this time it was less glassware and less liquid, but the spillage was right at the entrance in everyone’s way. I was beyond embarrassed, and I cleared it as quick as I could. One of the bar tenders came to help me and put a hand on my shoulder and suggested that maybe I could help him opening champagne bottles. Now that was something I was capable of doing and more In my skillset. I shoved my embarrassment and frustration deep down inside and put my chatty smiley face on opening bottles and feeling back in my comfort zone.


On the second to last day, we were to have 3 exams one was written with the cocktail recipes, one was practical and timed and the other practical and not timed but had to show personality. The written one we did in a room together and the junior food and beverage manager was to proctor however he wanted us all to pass and ended up helping when we did the exam and so everyone passed with flying colours. The second was the timed exam and we had to go into a back of house bar and make 3 cocktails that they gave us in 3 minutes, and we were not allowed to say anything.

I went first. I walked in and I was told to make a frozen speciality margarita, a mojito and a negroni and I immediately told them I didn’t remember how to make the negroni to which they gave me a look and said okay make an appletini but I don’t want to hear you say another word – and your time starts now. I put my ingredients into the blender for my margarita and popped in my ice and turned it on, but the blender didn’t work. I turned to tell them, and they shushed me. I looked and them and then at it and took out the ingredients and started to crush the ice by hand. I already knew I was over time at this point and so I rushed in the mojito making it as quick as I could and then threw the ingredients for the martini into the shaker and poured it out and as I poured it, I saw a mint leaf float on top and I knew that I hadn’t cleaned the shaker between drinks. I finished and looked at my drinks and they did not look good. Not only that but when I looked at the timer it showed 6 minutes 30 seconds. I was so far over. They said thank you and asked me to leave and speak to no one so that they didn’t know the drinks that were coming. I sat in a room on my own thinking I would never make it.

champagne waterfalls

Sat in the room together they called us back into the room this time they asked us to do 3 cocktails of our choice, but we had to talk our way though so that they didn’t know how long it took. Now as a chatterbox this was not a problem for me however, I was trying to make up for the last test I gave it all my chat. I am pretty sure those examiners got my whole life story in the space of 3 cocktails and I left feeling more unsure than ever. As I went back to the room to wait on everyone else, we started to talk about what had happened and it turned out no one has made the 3-minute mark and I started to relax a little as maybe just maybe we were all in the same boat so to speak. And then I found out I had taken the longest apparently, they fixed the blender after my turn. The instructor came in and asked us to follow him and this time all of us quiet we followed in step behind him through the ship to the Hotel General Managers office. As we walked in there was some of the ship’s officers and the Captain and a buffet set out and mocktails. They all clapped as we walked in as all of us had passed the training and we were getting a certificate from the Captain to congratulate us. It was the best feeling and the best part about it was we had 3 more days before we were being sent to our official ship and so that night, we went to the crew bar and we partied.

And this was the start of a crazy career at sea.