Tuesday, July 22, 2008

St. George's Dream Part Five - Ship Life As Usual

At the moment I am sitting in my room... good ol' 5267. Earlier today I went out to St. Catherine's Beach for a little sun and surf, then realized that I had lost my crew ID card. I knew I had it when I swiped off the ship, and remember putting it into the small velcro pocket on my swim trunks. So, I guess at some point as I was swimming in the ocean, it fell out. After scouring the ship for signatures, I am proud to say that I have a brand spankin' new crew card, and am still able to come and go as I please. Meantime, security is on the lookout for a fish posing as a “Production Cast Principal.”

So, what's new? Oh, you know, the same old same old... we are in the middle of our eleventh Bermudian cruise. The weather is sunny and in the 80s, and the water is cool and refreshing. This is the kind of itinerary that can make a man crazy, or lazy... it all depends on your outlook. Personally, I have no animosity towards perfect weather and endless trips to the beach. There are a few who would differ, but like I said, they are few.

And I haven't forgotten that I am here to work... after all, it's not like NCL pays me to go to the beach (but if they decide to, I would have no problem working a double shift). The shows, as I have mentioned dozens of times, have been and will always be the same. Still, lately we have been doing some things to keep it fresh. Sometimes it's because we need to, when a new dancer joins for example, and other times because we know you, the audience, will never notice.

Lets discuss the former first. Last week Tom, one of our Dancers, left us for the West End. He had already booked a gig performing West Side Story, and JAR HQ saw no problem in hiring him for a half contract. Now, for those of you faithful readers who know the end to this sentence, skip ahead, but for the rest of you, we did not get his replacement until the day he left. In a perfect world, we would have gotten a new dancer a week before, so that we could rehearse him after he saw the shows, and wouldn't have to dump him into the fire a day after boarding. Still, our new dancer, Rashiff, was with us back in 2007, so it had only been a little over a year since he last danced in the Stardust. Thankfully, his transition was painless, and after a week of slight reblocks, he is dancing a hundred percent of his track.

Also, just last night one of our dancers fell ill, so we had to drop back and punt, reblocking some numbers, and cutting one number all together. At first glance, this wouldn't seem like a big deal, but one thing that makes this a little more difficult is the backing track to which the band plays to. If it were on a CD, the techs could just skip ahead one track... but since it's on a multitrack tape, fast forwarding is our only option. So I was called upon to give a narration over the seven to ten second blank spot in the show... no problem.

I had my stuff to say, and I deliver it on the balcony stage right, and bang, music starts and the show goes on. First time I do it, no problem. The second time... well, my buddy Steve thought it would be funny to lock the door behind me, so that I can't get backstage after I finish my stirring narration. There's the audience, staring at me as the spotlight goes off as I tug at the door, like a child... a well dressed child. Finally, the door clicks open, and Steve cackles and howls as he lets me in. This brings me to the latter subject mentioned earlier... the changes to the show which aren't exactly necessary, but are too good to keep out, for example:

Victor, our Spanish gymnast, is very serious about what he does. I found my self chuckling one night as we were opening Sea Legs... and not because I was wearing a hideously ridiculous sequined mess of a captain's outfit, that's a given... but I notice that Victor does his pass across the stage, ending with a fist in the air and a bow to the audience, with the most stoic, concentrated face he could muster. So, I approach him backstage with a request. I told him I would give him five bucks if he did that pass with the biggest shit eating grin he could force, the whole way from the start to the bow.

The next time we did the show, I was not disappointed. He came out, looked at me with the stupidest grin, then proceeded to do his back handspring across the stage. He even yelled “Whhheeee!” as he went across. Came back to center, fist in the air, stupid toothy grin, and bowed. After that number I slapped a crisp five dollar bill in his hand, and it was the best damn five bucks I had spent in a long time.

Speaking of Victor and changes, I have also altered my bow narration for him to the following. “Spain is known for many things... one is tapas, the other is their very own world class gymnast Victor!” It's nice to have some sort of artistic control over your craft...

Another slight variation to the rule happens a little later in SLAS, when Steve and I sing “Muddy Waters/Waiting For The Light”... two songs from the musical Big River. I start the song solo, and Steve comes out and joins me for some harmonizing. At some point during this run, I've noticed Steve will slap my shoulder to punctuate what we're singing. So, since this realization, I've always slapped him back within a few seconds of his initial deliverance. So far, we're up to three a piece, and our goal is five for the next show. Of course, if we were hired for your show, we would never think of doing such a thing... seriously... and I would never make fart noises into the microphone during a performance, but it could add to the artistic integrity of the piece... we'll talk.

Blah blah blah, enough typing... how 'bout some pictures?

Here I am with Fith, coming out of the ocean. Now, blow up the picture... if you look a little past my left shoulder, you'll notice a little green speck floating in the water. That's a giant metal buoy, marking where the ferry boats travel. It's way the hell out there, and we swam to it and back. Probably fifty minutes or so, round trip. This was after he and I jogged the island. Once we had gotten all the way out there, I look back at the beach, which was nothing more than a spit of land with tiny ants crawling on it. We were really, really far out... that's when my stupid mind started thinking about sharks. Needless to say, the swim back took a little less time.

On my next trip out to the beach, I was swimming with Fith and Steve around St. Catherine's fortress. Along the way I see something blue and opaque floating in the water. I couldn't tell if it was a piece of trash, or a jellyfish. I was about five feet away from it when I felt a tingle on my arm, which turned into searing intense pain within seconds... that's when I decided, while screaming like a girl, that it was indeed a jellyfish with a freakishly long reach. From this experience I have gleaned two things.

One: If you think it's a jellyfish, it's a jellyfish.

Two: Bathrooms next to the ocean smell like pee because of the people who have not discovered bullet point one for themselves. Never have I willingly peed on myself, nor have I been so grateful to do so. And my pee went everywhere... on the toilet, on the floor, on my feet... but dammit if it didn't take the sting out.

Fith, Steve and I traveled out one day to visit the Crystal Caves, naturally formed by the ocean water and discovered around 1908. Here are some pictures

While we were surrounded by stalactites, stalagmites, and soda straws, our tour guide pointed at over a hundred things, telling us what they looked like. One was a dragon, another was a castle... that was all pretty harmless. Now it's time for you to play. The picture isn't very good, but there are actually two things that the following stalagmite looks like. Ready? Let's play name that natural rock formation! Look at the orangish thing in the middle of this picture and guess what it looks like.

Give up? The correct answers, as given by our tour guide are:



What the hell???

After that, it was time to go to the Swizzle Inn, for one of the only things the island is famous for: Rum Swizzles.

In case you were wondering how a man named Fith signs his name...

Meanwhile, the ship is going about her normal routine. Last week we played a game of dodge the hurricane. When we all heard about Bertha, we were leaving Bermuda to head back to Boston. We were getting ready to take an angry mob of passengers to Halifax instead the following week, as Bertha was a category three for a while. The Sunday we left Boston, she was a category one, and then got downgraded to a tropical storm... but she was hanging out in Bermuda none the less. So, we headed towards Bermuda, with a couple of game plans. If it was too windy, we'd dock at the Dockyards, Bermuda's old naval port. If the wind died down, we'd head towards St. George's as usual.

Tuesday morning I was in the gym, and no one knew what was going to happen. The captain came on the loudspeaker, and after his usual mumbling, said that we would go to St. George's. Actually, his exact words were “We'll give it a shot.” We'll give it a shot? That sounds promising. Fortunately we had a head wind coming into the cut, and we shot straight through and made it to port. The weather that week was gorgeous, but the first day we were there, all the beach clubs were closed... no one had expected our arrival! By the next day, word had gotten out, and it was business as usual on the tiny island.

Speaking of the captain, for a few cruises now he has welcomed the guests on board with a rambling speech, including a couple curious subjects. Picture yourself embarking on a cruise, perhaps for the first time. You don't know what to expect, but figure that from what you've heard, every whim is catered too. After all, you're on a cruise ship! Then you here the captain warn you not to overuse the fresh water on the ship. That means showers, basically... Hot dog! Let's have a great time, but let's not hog the showers, m'kay? But, look at the following picture... would you want to take a long shower in this?

No kidding, this came out of my shower and tap for a couple hours. I didn't realize it until my shower started making funny noises and spitting water at me. Poor, poor Dream... Back to the captain.

Midway through his ramblings he addresses the “youngsters” on board, reminding them not to run up and down the stairs, and not to push all the buttons in the elevators. True to form, every child that hears this runs up and down the stairs and pushes all the buttons in the elevators. Hearing him say that, I have to admit that I am tempted to do the same. This cruise I have heard the captain's announcement three days in a row, and he reminds the kids to behave... Seriously, most of the adults tune out his monotone announcements.

Of course, it's not just the Captain's warnings that go unheeded. I have mentioned a time or two about how careless and disgusting the pax can be when it comes to handling food in our buffet style restaurants. Well, one new shining example of reckless abandon is the lack of clothes worn in the Sports Bar. People come in, without SHIRTS, with CHEST HAIR, and help themselves. Sneeze guard or not, come on people. One day we heard one of the servers nicely ask a pax who was as described above to please put a shirt on while serving himself food. He replied “Okay, I will.” Then as he walked away he muttered, defiantly, “tomorrow.” Yeah, you showed her. Later, as if he was just trying to make a point, he walked back in with seemingly better posture and freshly coiffed chest hair for more food.

Late night in the casino pax can grab a snack while they give the ship what would otherwise be their drinking money. As I was walking in from the theatre I catch a glimpse of a passenger reaching out to grab some slices of pineapple with his bare hands. Almost immediately the server standing next to the table swatted his hand away with a pair of tongs. No kidding. And you know what, that guy slunk back and got a plate, and used the tongs. That's friggin' STYLE 2 point oh!

Speaking of STYLE, guess who finally got invited to be on the panel for Liar's Club? Heh heh heh... The way I looked at this opportunity, it would only come around once, as it is usually made up of the cruise director and three of the guest entertainers. So, I decided to give it my all, and while I killed, I probably won't be on the deus next time. Below are the words and my definitions, one of which is correct. At the end are the number of groups that voted for me as correct. Can you guess which one?

  1. CRAPULENCE – Increased density in the air due to flatulence (1 of10)

  2. MUNTJACK – Person who dresses or poses as someone they are not, originating from the days when everyone wanted to be a lumberjack (7 of 10)

  3. TITUP – From the Elizabethan period, this was a polite way women let each other know that a nipple was being pushed out of their corset (1 of 10)

  4. HEMIPYGIC – A person with only one butt cheek (3 of 10)

I have seen this show done many times, and as you can imagine, there are many “cutesy” metaphors that can be drawn from the following words. Crapulence, for example, is how doodoo gets to the hospital, or titup is how you bury Dolly Parton, or is the incorrect way to scuba dive. Well, if everyone is going to hint at it, let me be more direct. So, as I defined the word “titup” I used the word “boobies.” I have always wanted to say “boobies” to a large group of people. And, of course, I got to say “fart” a few times while defining crapulence, all while Fith cradled his head in his hands, questioning his decision of allowing me on the panel.

I also got my share of jabs in off the cuff, something I have always thought I was good at, and finally got my chance to try it without a net. The funny thing about the experience was that for the rest of the cruise, I received more name recognition from that than any other cruise where I just did the same old shows. So, let me paraphrase, if you say the word “fart” and “boobies” repeatedly on stage, people will remember who you are, and will approach you one of those words as a greeting. This to me, is part of the perfect world I have always envisioned. Here I am in action:

Finally, I close this blog with a heavy heart. A few of our friends have left us to go on vacation or to be transferred to other ships. It's true with any entertainment job that goes gig to gig, and cruise ships are no exception. Below are some pictures of me and my buddies that have gone on to greener pastures:

Here is my buddy Seymour, half of the “Black Street Boys.” Their humor was born from street performing and refined with razor sharp wit and rapid fire jokes. Seymour and his cousin Alfred spend the first ten minutes of their show chasing after and harassing people who walk in late or are passing through the theatre during their show. Priceless!

My good buddy Tim, half of Full Impact, another comedy duo. Tim is the guy that started the applause when I made it down the flight of stairs while singing “Home Away From Home.” Tim is also the guy who threatened to eat cheeseburgers off of Steve's butt during poker. Tim is also the guy who tries to tongue kiss you in public, and without warning. Tim is also the guy who somehow managed to damage one of his testicles during a prat fall, then go into excruciating detail to passengers about how he got 5 cc's of fluid drained from it when it swelled up. Oh, Tim is also the guy that forces you to feel the swollen testicle. Tim is also the guy who advises younger passengers on the proper use of a cup, and to pad either side of it with maxi pads, after explaining to him and his parents about his damaged testicle.

Finally is my good buddy Fith. Steve, Fith and I were like the three musketeers for the two months we all worked together. The first time I met Fith, he was pulling me on stage to do a game with a female passenger that involved busting balloons off of various parts of our bodies, instructing me to take off my name tag before doing so. Fith is definitely the most outgoing cruise director I have ever worked with. Extremely friendly and awesome to be around, he will surely be missed around here. Here are some of my favorite pictures.

As we pass through the cut into Bermuda, Fith walks onto the bow of the ship with his life vest, snorkel, and flippers and goes diving into the jacuzzi for fish, as the passengers lined up on the front of the ship cheer him on.

Steve, myself, and Fith, who is dressed up for 70's night.

Fith in action on stage

Last week I gave in and joined Steve and Fith for the dancing to “It's Raining Men” during our Monte Carlo Night.

Here we are after our last fountains.

And I think I'll end on that note. See ya later Fith. Well miss ya buddy... and ciao.

Keep on Livin' The Dream,

Michael Lamendola (with Fith and Steve during the White Hot Party)

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