Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The First Dream - Greetings From New Orleans!

Originally mailed April 19th, 2005.

Hey Y'all!
Well, where to begin. Although a month has nearly gone by since starting on this cruise, it feels like I am just getting started! After spending three weeks in Fort Lauderdale rehearsing and generally petering my time away, we made the hop over to Mobile, Alabama. Why Mobile? Because that's where the ship was dry-docked. Now, before I came to Mobile, this is what my buddy Mike and I thought the situation might look like:

Well, scratch that. Not even close. Here is what it does look like

I passed a dock worker and asked him if he ship is really on blocks. "Yep, just blocks." Incredible. Oh, and in case you wondered, everybody that works in a big boatyard like this one has to do two things. One: Wear a hard hat. Two: Ride a bicycle. Oh, and they do it at the same time. While smoking cigarettes. Well, I thought it was funny.

We were warned to expect the worst when we were boarding the ship, as often times electricity, plumbing, and AC are off during dry-dock. Fortunately, it was a relatively painless process. Everything was covered in plastic, there were several mountains of chairs in the theatre, and there were contractors working 24 hours a day cleaning and repairing stuff onboard (and outboard... outside the ship... whatever.) One interesting thing though is that since there are no passengers on board, somebody who has the power to plays lots of Motley Crue and Bon Jovi over the ships intercom system. Rock on!

The theatre itself is fairly nice. Its bigger than the one on the Silver Cloud, probably seats 600-700 people. None of the instruments are automated, however, which surprised me coming from the other ship which every light was DMX. Still, like the other, the house is decorated in bright colors and is mainly cabaret style seating. There's also a sextet that plays every show with us, but haven't met them yet.

Oh, and the ship is bigger than the Cloud. It holds 1,748 passengers (double occupancy) and has 700 crew. The Cloud was something like 396 passengers and 350 crew. The Dream has 13 decks, 6 restaurants, lots of bars, a library, 3 pools and Jacuzzis and stuff. No big surprises, its the usual cruise ship stuff to do.

As for me, I get to walk around and do as I please. I have passenger status which allows me anywhere on board (minus the casino), I don't have to abide by any dress code, and can visit any restaurant I like without being invited or asking permission. Not a bad deal! Oh, and I have a passenger cabin too. I am on deck 5 aft (in case you're in the neighborhood). Its really nice, has some portholes, big ol' bed, little ol' fridge... Here are some pictures.

The bathroom is like any other on a ship. Stand in front of the sink and you can bump the toilet with your right leg, and get your foot wet in the shower with the left. Plus, the toilet has a neat sticker that warns you from flushing large items into it, with items pictured including tissue, combs, a knife, a bottle, and something that is either an entire package of cigarettes or a thing of french fries. Either way, they don't belong there.

I was able to go out and visit Mobile's finer sights, like Wal Mart. There's a bus that left the shipyard every hour, and hit downtown, the mall, and Walmart at exact times past the hour. Have you ever been in a slow check out line? Irritating, isn't it? Still, you eventually get out, get to your car, and go on about your day. Ahh... well. I spend 15 minutes in a checkout line, and miss the bus by a minute. You really haven't experienced Mobile until you spend 2 hours at a Wal Mart, with at least one hour spent sitting on a curb outside in the dark waiting for a bus. Good times... good times.

Still, eventually all good things must come to an end, and on the 17th we left Mobile for New Orleans. On the 18th we were seeing land and some off shore drilling rigs. Then at one point during rehearsal, I notice that we are docking. Sweet! Rehearsal ends at 5:30, and at 6 I am on land. Found my way down to Canal Street, and later Bourbon Street. Got me some oysters, shucked right in front of me. Then I went looking for music. Didn't have to go far either. From nearly every bar, there was jazz, blues, funk, rock... No dance clubs, all live music. Stepped into one and listened to some tower of power type music, then on to the next which had a quintet playing some jazz and Dixieland jazz. Later I visited a blues bar where the singer was 485 pounds, or so the sign said.

Today, I went out and had a muffelata at the Central Grocery, where they claim to have invented them. And now, I am waiting to do a small boat drill. I won't have any crew staff duties during this contract, and I believe that the safety drills include me only once a month. So, I am going to have lots and lots of free time on my hands! I have aspirations of writing and playing more piano, so we'll see how things turn out.

As for the shows, they are coming along very well. Today we start our first cruise, a 5 day in the Caribbean. Since it is a shorter cruise than normal, we are only doing 2 of our 3 shows, that being Country Gold and Rock This Town. Then we have a 7 day cruise, and after that we cruise through the Panama Canal, which is something like 15 days from New Orleans to Los Angeles. And in that 15 days, we still only do 3 shows. Think I might learn a new language.

All right, I gotta go... Here are some more random pictures of stuff...
Here is the ship dry-docked at night.
I have heard that ships are named after women, but after seeing this I think my ship is a boy ship. (See the blocks? I wasn't kidding.)
Bourbon street.
Typical Bourbon Street

It's not the typical Arnold House Jazz Jam, but it's close (a typical Arnold jam has more than 5 players... Bourbon Shmerban)
Okay, next time I talk to y'all I'll tell ya about the Caribbean!
Your pal,
Michael Lamendola

1 comment:

  1. Hey Michael, I remember that particular day when we went to Mobile Alabama. It was really fun because we didn't actually work that time, If I'm not mistaken we spent 3 weeks just going around Mobile, Alabama. I remember Karl Robideau and Soozy Atkins as our Assistant and Cruise Director respectively. It was a whole lot of fun. I miss the dream already, by the way it's me Bernie, one of the cruise staff onboard the Dream from March-September, 2005. Keep in touch Michael and enjoy blogging you can also check out my blog: