As musicians aboard a cruise ship, the vast majority of working hours will be spent at night, entertaining guests before dinner, after dinner, before comedian shows, after comedian shows, in between losing efforts at the casino, and so on. And after the last set is finished, a musician’s options (or any crew member’s options, for that matter) are, generally speaking, one of the following: relaxation (back in one’s own cabin); partying (heading back up to guest areas for the dance club), eating (late-night food served in the crew mess), or socializing in an environment more exciting than a solitary cabin but less wild than a party. This socializing most commonly takes place in the crew bar, a lounge designated for the very purpose of providing crew members with a place to unwind after work and for spending time in the company of friends.

Certainly one of the appeals of the crew bar is the exceptionally low cost of alcohol (at least by American or European standards). But beyond that, the crew bar is a valuable aspect of ship life in that it promotes interaction between crew members — between bandmates, other musicians, other members of the entertainment department, and even crew from different departments around the ship. The congregating factor might be the job (an orchestra drummer and saxophonist), a common interest (a piano bar entertainer and lounge band member conversing about Elvis), or a common background (a Peruvian Latin trio member and a bartender who would be an example of ‘paisanos’ — a nickname for those who hail from the same country). In this way, the crew bar is an amazing intersection of information, experience and culture.

There are usually at least a couple specific sources of entertainment within the crew bar, ranging from foosball and pool tables to dartboards to large televisions. And a handful of times per month, there are organized activities in that lounge, from trivias to wine-and-cheese nights to blackjack tournaments to crew karaoke. But even when there’s nothing special happening, the crew bar functions as the nighttime social hub for the crew, promoting fun, light conversation between acquaintances and co-workers, as well as fostering friendships and relationships that can last far beyond the few months spent on a ship together.

So whether it’s to hang out with friends, play some darts, make a new friend, or just to let off some steam with a cool beer in hand after a long day’s work, there’s always a good reason to visit the crew bar. And chances are, some of your best memories and best friends will have roots stemming from that humble late-night lounge.