Docent Policies


These are the policies that relate to your employment as a docent rather than the content of your tour.

Pre-Tour and Departure Protocols

  • Captain makes pre-boarding announcement regarding the location of the bar and bathrooms
  • Bar menus are distributed to passengers in line
  • At DEPARTURE TIME, either the docent begins crowd work or the captain begins the safety speech
  • Crowd work and safety speech must fill the time between scheduled departure and when the boat pulls away from the dock.
  • Each docent can be creative with crowd work, but the easiest pre-tour content is explaining Shoreline and our offerings. For example, explain that this is a 75 minute tour exclusively on the river. Then you can explain that we have tours exclusively on the lake, as well as water taxi service.
  • Availability, Schedule, Shift Switches, Call-Offs. The docents enjoy a great deal of flexibility in their schedules. To support this, the team adheres to clear guidelines for communicating their availability, switching shifts, and responding to emergency coverage.
    • You are to enter your weekly unavailability on ADP no later than Monday night for the following week. On Tuesdays, Courtney will assemble the schedule. You are welcome to input conflicts as early as you want. Conflicts submitted after Monday may not be accommodated.
      • Submit conflicts for part of the day, or list yourself as unavailable for the entire day
      • If you have OPEN AVAILABILITY, please send Courtney an email or text making note of that
    • When you start and end work, clock in and out on the ADP app, which is location sensitive. If you do not have wifi or cell service at the time of your punch, ADP will save that punch and put it online as soon as your phone reconnects.
      • If you forget to clock in or out, email or text your time to the manager on duty
      • If you experience technical difficulties with the app, email or text your time to the manager on duty
    • The schedule is published on Wednesdays for the following week. Shoreline operates on a weekly schedule, Monday to Sunday. Shifts will appear live in ADP and the GoogleDocs schedule shared with the team, kept live throughout the week to reflect canceled or added tours, and shift switches.The GoogleDrive document is the authority over ADP.
    • Shift switches and coverage can be coordinated between two docents and submitted to Courtney for approval. When the switch is approved, the shifts will be updated in ADP and the GoogleDoc.
  • If you need to call off for a shift later in the week (not today or tomorrow):
    • 1. Try to find coverage from an unscheduled docent
    • 2. Email Courtney to post the open shift on ADP.
    • 3. When an open shift goes live, please check to see if you are available to cover.
    • Open Shifts can be claimed in the ADP app.
  • If you need to call off for a shift that is TODAY OR TOMORROW:
    • Email EVERYONE by emailing and state that you need emergency coverage.
    • Text the manager on duty for the day and let them know you’re looking for help.
    • The manager on duty will help come up with a plan for coverage, but if you are available for and interested in the entire shift, please respond to the group email ASAP.
  • Attendance and Tardiness. You are expected to be present and on time to your scheduled shifts. If you are going to be late, please notify the manager on duty as soon as possible. If they are unavailable, feel free to call the ticket booth at your scheduled location. 

Courtney: 312-764-3024
Antonio: 314-737-3282
Ogden Booth: 312-464-6432
Michigan Avenue Booth: 312-446-5945

Repeated tardiness, call off’s, or no-call-no-shows could result in disciplinary action. 

DOCENTS ARE REQUIRED TO STAY UNTIL THEIR REPLACEMENT ARRIVES. This is why tardiness is not respectful or appreciated on our team. 


Do not only submit a drop shift or shift swap in ADP. The notifications can be spotty and I might not see it. If you need coverage you MUST email or text a manager.

The best way to find coverage is to text unscheduled docents. Their plans may have changed and they may now be available. Antonio and I are here to assist, but you should try to find coverage on your own first. Their numbers are all in the Docent Contacts list on Google Drive.

If you are sick on the day of a shift, you must tell us as soon as you wake up. We have the best chance of helping you if you communicate early.

Team players that pick up shifts when others need help are the highest valued on our team, and are rewarded in scheduling

  • Boat Etiquette. While you are giving tours, you defer to the captain on duty. Communicate with the captain about weather, and any predicted barges or obstacles that could occur on your trip. Understand that they are in charge of the tour route based solely on safety and river traffic. Captains may have to turn the boat or stall if an obstacle appears. It is your responsibility to edit the tour accordingly.
    • Do not board the boat if the crew is not ready. Confirm with the captain or senior deckhand that it is safe for you to board the boat. They may have open hatches or wet surfaces. You are not to board the boat without their permission. 
    • No yelling between boats, or from boats to land. Yelling is meant for emergencies only. If you yell, the crew will assume there is an emergency.
    • Passenger Safety. From your post at the front of the boat, you are naturally monitoring passenger safety and communicating with deckhands accordingly. The only time you are to address an individual passenger on the microphone is if their safety is compromised. Example: a child leaning too far over the railing, or a passenger standing on a chair or bench.
  • Uniforms. While giving tours you are expected to wear khaki bottoms and a royal blue Shoreline polo. In addition to the polo, Shoreline provides rain jackets, baseball hats, and knit beanies. In colder months, you are welcome to wear snow/rain pants and coats/parkas as needed. Try to have a Shoreline logo featured somewhere while heavily layered. No matter the weather, you should have your name tag visible.
    • Uniform variances. Uniform variances will be addressed individually.
  • Be prepared for the river. Working outside in Chicago ten months out of the year presents a myriad of physical challenges. Sun, heat, rain, snow, lightning, wind…metal boats. Prepare yourself with comfortable, supportive shoes (must be closed-toe); ample sunscreen and electrolytes; and always bring an extra pair of socks. If you find yourself at work without a necessity, alert the manager on duty as soon as possible.
  • Recharge as needed. It is understood and respected that each docent needs to recharge between tours in their own particular way. Be present and approachable to guests to the degree that supports your tour. If the mingling drains your energy for the tour, take five or ten minutes alone by the bar or in the galley to reset.
  • Bring as much food or drink as you need! Giving tours is very physically demanding and you are encouraged to bring as many snacks, meals, or beverages that you might need. Every boat has refrigerated space and a microwave, ask a member of the crew if you have trouble finding them.
    • When the water/soda guns are hooked up, you are welcome to all the water, soda, or fountain juice that you need.


These are the policies and expectations that specifically relate to the content and execution of your tour. 

  • Edit and re-edit your tour. The tour is a reflection of an ever-changing urban space. Your content should change as new buildings are constructed, landscapes change, and collective understanding of history evolves.
  • This is a family tour. All jokes, humor, references, and anecdotes need to be rated E for everyone.
  • No political or social opinions. Architecture and history are inherently political, and while we report on them, we are not to express individual political opinions. You have no control over who is on board your boat and how they think. For the success of the tour, your gratuity, your safety, and the safety of everyone on board the boat, you are not to engage in divisive political or social discourse.
  • Know what’s going on. Research current events and Chicago news. Parades, festivals, bridge lifts, and road closures all affect the experience on the river and guests will have questions about what’s happening.
  • Tips and Gratuity. Docents are consistently offered cash tips by our passengers after their tour. There is little rhyme or reason behind what drive tips, beyond cultural knowledge and whether passengers see someone else tip first.
    • You are not to verbally ask for gratuity on your tour. Not explicitly, not with word play. If you trust yourself and your performance, the tips will come.
    • You ARE permitted to display your Venmo or CashApp QR Code on the back of your nametag.

  • Ogden vs. Michigan. A tour that begins at Ogden Slip has a different structure than a tour that begins at Michigan Avenue. Each docent decides how best to structure their content to meet these differences. At Ogden, you have more space at the beginning, at Michigan, more space at the end.
    • Ask a veteran for tricks. Veteran docents all have developed their own ways to differentiate their tour between locations and are the best resource for ideas and tips.
  • REQUIRED: North Branch Break. Give passengers clear expectations of what will happen during the North Branch turn. With your own creative flair, tell them that we are turning around, that they can visit the bar or restroom, and when you will be back on mic.
  • REQUIRED: Opening. The first and last 30 seconds are the most important of the tour. First impressions are key!
    • Start strong. Your first sentences should be engaging, clear, and pique the passengers’ excitement. 
    • Start with what you want them to remember. This is the time to introduce the key takeaway, main idea, or thesis that you want passengers to be thinking about long after they leave the boat.
    • Transition to content in a meaningful way. You should have a thoughtful sentence or two that links the ideas of your opening to your first topic of tour content.
  • REQUIRED: Closing Housekeeping.  Present closing housekeeping before your official closing and applause cue. Here’s what to cover before the boat pulls into the dock:
    • Stay Seated. Give clear instructions for passengers to remain seated until the boat is tied up and it’s safe to stand. It’s fine to repeat this as needed for safety.
      • At Michigan Avenue, the captain will come on the PA system to let passengers know it is safe to disembark. At Ogden, it is safe to stand when the deckhands have opened the doors.
    • Check for personal belongings. Make sure passengers don’t leave anything behind.
    • Trash. Ask passengers to collect any accumulated trash, and give a clear location of the trash cans on the boat and/or dock. 
    • Zeller Realty. When giving tours at 401 N. Michigan Avenue, shout out the primary tenant of the building, Zeller Realty.
    • Where’s the guide? Clearly indicate where you will be standing after the tour (top of the stairs at Michigan Ave, top of the ramp at Ogden) so that passengers can interact with you as they depart.
    • Photo Sales. When weather and staffing permit, tour passengers pose for a souvenir photo with the skyline in the background before they board the boat. Encourage passengers to purchase these photos, which will be on display on the dock after they disembark the vessel. 
    • REQUIRED: Closing. The first and last 30 seconds are the most important of the tour. Wrap up loose ends and tie the themes together with a powerful closing.
      • Evoke an emotional response. Leave passengers relishing a final emotional punch. The closing should evoke more emotion than the opener.
      • No Housekeeping. The closing is not to be confused with closing housekeeping. They are separate items. Housekeeping precedes the closing. 
      • Cash in. Remember the metaphors and themes that you’ve developed throughout your tour to redeem the value of the imagery and vocabulary you’ve presented.
      • Clear final applause cue. End with one strong sentence or salutation that unambiguously shows you are finished and prompts their applause, echoing in their hearts and minds. 
      • Prepare to disembark. Let passengers chat and give them a chance to unwind while you prepare to disembark, don’t forget you need to be the first one off the vessel.
    • Social Media/Online Reviews. You are welcome to urge passengers to write online reviews about Shoreline Sightseeing. There is no competition/reward for most online reviews.
      • There is a QR code on the back of passengers’ printed tickets which will take them to a site where they can easily post reviews.
    • Stool/Chair for Physical Needs. There is a stool or chair on board each boat for you to use as needed. Ask the crew to help if you need to move the chair.
    • Chinatown route. Sometimes, when there is a barge on the river or a blockade on the North Branch, the Captain will drive south of Roosevelt, sometimes all the way to 18th Street. Research The 78, the Chinatown neighborhood, Ping Tom Memorial Park, and the vertical lift Amtrak bridge for ideas on how to fill this time. Know that passengers will have a great view of the skyline once the boat turns.
    • Centennial Fountain. When it is running, the Nicholas J Melas Centennial Fountain (located at McClurg Court across the river from the St. Regis) will launch an 80-foot water arc every hour, on the hour, for five minutes. Know that the captain will speed up, slow down, or pause if the water arc is about to launch, or already spraying. You need to be prepared to fill that time with information or frame a photo op for passengers.
      • Note: The Centennial Fountain has not run since 2019, operations were paused during the pandemic and have not resumed as of 2022.
    • Don’t miss the moment! The following are particularly gorgeous moments of wonder and awe that are sure to wow the passengers time and again. Encourage photo ops and lay the gravitas on thick.
      • Wolf Point
      • Coming out from under the bridge at DuSable Lake Shore Drive
      • Skyline views from the turning basin