After my broken wrist and return to Renaissance Cruises in November of 1993 in Antigua I worked as a waiter , then a Maitre’d , till I left in March of 1996. It was one of the longest lasting periods of employment I have ever had up to now.
There is still a lot of fond memories I have of working on the ship. Renaissance Cruises had a capacity of 114 passengers which made for a real intimate atmosphere for all the guests to get to know one another and for the staff to give the best personal service that one would expect with a 5 Star service.
It was an open seating so people could come anytime they wanted during the service which usually went from 7-9:30 , 12-2, 7-9:30 , for breakfast , lunch , and dinner. Because it was an open sitting everyone would join others and by the end of the cruise you could see the guests had made some long term friendships with one another.
In the dining room there were 4 stations with a front waiter and a back waiter working in each one that would seat anywhere from 28 to 32 people. There was a choice of 3 appetizers , 3 salads , 3 entrees , then 3 desserts. On the Captain’s welcome dinner and farewell dinner there was a five course dinner with a choice of Lobster or a Beef Wellington entree , and to finish a delicious souffle at the end.
On a ship everything was built for speed. I remember being the front waiter taking the food choices of the guests and by the time you finished taking all the orders from your 5 tables the 2 top you first took the order of was already on their main course. The written order was left on the station for all courses and the person who was running the food would run into the kitchen and pick up the food then set it down on the table and cross off what he brought out. Whoever put the food down whether it was the food runner or front waiter had to make sure he crossed off what they served or you could easily get confused.
Once I finished taking all the orders , then the runner would just bring out the food and I would deliver it to the guests. When the main course was to be fired ( called for pick up ) , then we would deliver the fire slip to the chef who had our order for the entrees for each table. The trick was as soon as you delivered the salads then you had to see how the firing line was in the kitchen. Usually once a table got fired then all the tables started getting fired and if you had a late table you could pretty much fire the table once they got their soups which was before the salad so the entree would come out without them having to wait. You see everything including the entree could be picked up within a few minutes. The salads were prepared in advanced as well as the appetizers so it was just pick up. The soups you poured yourself.
You as a front waiter had to move fast , preparing the cutlery on the table , clearing quick , pouring wine and filling water , and delivering the food once it was brought out. Then the souffle would be fired upon delivery of the main course. Souffles take about 20 minutes so when they were ready you had to make sure you had the table cleared and crumbed down then whoosh the souffles would arrive. Coffee and tea or cappucinos and the petits fours and it was done. Usually a five course farewell dinner for up to 118 people which included officers of the ship took only about 1 1/2 hour to complete. Most everyone would be on their coffees by then. A two top could finish everything in about an hour.
The front waiter had to be very attentive and sensitive to special needs and instruct the back waiter to slow down or speed up , other times maybe I would need ketchup or something and ask the back waiter to get it pronto. It was a team effort for sure. The whole idea was to be prepared for anything. Get a good mise en place for each service.
As well as the usual meal services , each waiter had a side duty to perform and it was his job to make sure it was done properly whether it was setting up the buffet or making coffee. Then we had the general cleaning once a week when everything was cleaned so it shined and the following morning it would be inspected by the Hotel Manager and Chief Officer with the Dining Room Manager.
I tell you that I enjoyed the team environment we had. All in the pursuit of making the guest happy. Sure there was loading of supplies on embarkation day and life boat drills we had to do , like a winning team in sports where everyone blends in well together for the good of the team and parties together it was great fun. People worked in the dining room of all nationalities. I went to visit some of my workmates in the States , France , Germany , and Sweden because of friends I made on the ship.
Our salary was $50 a month but the tips were good and we usually on a monthly basis made over $3000 US which is not too bad considering everything was included.
More about the ship later….