Friday, October 10, 2008

St. George's Dream Part Eleven - There's Never a Dull Moment on The Dream

At the moment I am once again in my room. It's a quarter after nine on a Thursday night in St. George. Outside my portholes I can see the walkway/parking lot that leads to the terminal building. Dozens of scooters line the pavement, parked for one last night before being returned to the rental place for next week's batch of pax. As for me, I am watching show footage for Sea Legs at Sea (or SLAS for the initiated). Why the hell am I doing something like that, when I've done the show over a hundred times, and I could be out in Bermuda doing anything else? Why? Because there's never a dull moment on the Dream, my friends.

First, lets look at the big picture. NCL has a deal with Louis Cruises, a Greek cruise company, to sell the Dream over to them on November 4th. Well... actually, they had a deal. Sometime in late September the deal done fell through. What happened? No one really knows... although a source on the ship told me that a couple of Sundays ago the chief engineer for Louis came on board, for some sort of inspection I imagine. Well, after ten minutes he excused himself. If it's true, then I guess he didn't like what he saw. So the Dream, who is owned by Star cruises (and I guess owns NCL or something to that affect), is back on the market. Oh, in case you are curious what the going rate for the Dream is... $218 Million Dollars... and the deposit??? TEN PERCENT... Wow.

Now, we all know that November 2nd is the last day of the Dream. A check to will verify that... no new cruises have been added to the itinerary... yet. The rumors are running wild around here, even after news from NCL HQ came over, telling us that we are to still go through with off loading extra supplies as planned (of course, if I had any extra sequined captain outfits, I'd gladly send them back to wherever they came from). One such rumor is that she'll be extended (again... at one point she was to quit service in early 2006) and do three day runs to nowhere. Another guess is that she'll be sent back down to the Gulf of Mexico, doing Mexiribbean cruises to Cozumel and Belize... something that sounds a little Belizeable. Another theory is that she'll just be sent to pasture until someone buys her. Anybody's guess is as good as mine, but if I were to pick one, it'd be seven day Mexican cruises.

Still, NCL has some bigger fish to fry. This whole Freestyle 2.0 thing came about when NCL was bought by one of those super big companies that buy other big companies. This one owns AMC and stuff, and once they bought us, they did some house cleaning. Lots of upper management, including the CEO, got let go. Also, the F3 ships... you know, the ones that are going to make NCL the “Largest and Youngest Fleet on the Planet”... well, they've halted production on the first one. Inside scoop is because the original design can't support all the changes they've made.

But, what do you care about all that? Why am I watching stupid SLAS when a rum swizzle is only steps away? Because JAR stands for Just Another Reblock. Last week Peter, the other male singer, went out to visit a doctor in Bermuda. Nothing serious... he was just taking advantage of NCL's free health care for its employees. It's how I got all those neat pictures of my skull, and since he's had a problem with his lower back for over ten years, he thought he'd get it looked at. Well, the Bermudian doc told him that it's gotten more serious since the last time it was looked at, and that he ought to consider going home. The ship doctor agreed, so the following Sunday, last Sunday, Peter went home!

Good news for Peter is that NCL is going to take care of his medical stuff on land, so his problem may be fixed. Bad news for the rest of us is that now we're one singer short! Usually in this situation, I get a phone call to come in last minute... I mean, out of my five contracts, FOUR of them have been last minute affairs (including this one). JAR HQ has actually called people who are already employed and working on ships, asking them if they'd like to work on a ship... They're that disorganized. Hell, they called Steven, whom Peter replaced, because Steven had a prior contract in JAPAN, to see if he was available. So, while I haven't checked my cell phone yet... I mean, I am the perfect candidate... how ironic that for once I am already on the Dream when calamity strikes!

Now, we actually have a replacement. He's never done the Dream before, so he'll get to learn all three shows. Good news, he was scheduled to arrive yesterday (Wednesday). Bad news, he ain't here. We received an E mail saying that he is to arrive in Bermuda today (Thursday) at 7:55 pm. Right now it's 9:41, and we got nothing... nothing, that is, except for me.

I've been Mr. JAR the past two shows, having sung just about every cotton pickin' song in Rock This Town and Country Gold. RTT was no big deal... I had already sung every song before, and the opening song, “Crunchy Granola” sounds fine with just one singer. Country Gold, however, has a couple songs that just sound better with two people... “That's Just That” for instance, especially since it's a song written and performed by two people (Diamond Rio? Rio Diamond?). So, with SLAS looming over the horizon, it's quite possible that I'll be Singin' in The Rain (something I've never done!) and also reprising “We Dance”, a song I sung a few years ago.

So, like I said... There's never a dull moment on the Dream. (Note: Later that night, around 10:00 pm, our new singer, Kyle, arrived... No Singin' in The Rain for me!) I actually had one of my five dollar bets with Victor that Kyle would arrive on time to be able to perform "Singin' In The Rain." Here's a picture of my well earned five bucks, all because of Kyle's timely arrival (he's on the right).

The shows have had their moments this cruise as well. Take the last Country Gold for example. We've brought up our three participants for the Country Line Dance number, and I walk up to contestant number three... and she's visibly drunk. I ask her the usual... “What's your name and where ya from?” She replies, and while I forget what she said, her breath nearly knocked me over. As I walk away I say, into my mic (which is attached to my head) “You smell like Pina Colada!”

Later on in the show I was singing “The Dance.” Our drummer, Constantine, had got one of those shakey things that has a handle on one end, and kind of a wood sandwich holding some metal things that make that shish shish sound. Anyway, he was shaking that thing at the wrong time during the beginning of the song. No big deal... The part that bothered me was our band master, Gannadi, making his own shish shish noises in hopes of getting Constantine on the right track. Oh, and Gannadi is sitting two feet behind me. So I am getting him shishing at Constantine, who is shishing back, and in the wrong place. It took some real concentration not to laugh and shish my pants during that song.

Later that week I was doing my Sammy revue. I had my buddy Victor taping it from the house, and I was having a great show. I was towards the end... had just finished “Mr. Bojangels” and was in my final spiel to the audience before singing the final number, “Somethings Gotta Give”... when from overhead I hear that familiar Bing Bang Bong.

“Uhh... Yes... This is your captain speaking from the bridge.” Dammit. I take a seat on the stage. I knew this was gonna take awhile. He tells us about the weather in Boston, which was TWO DAYS AWAY, and does it in his usual style... which is long winded and full of sweeping pauses. Then he finishes, with some sort of mention to me (as if to apologize?), then he clicks off. Ahh... Wonderful...

Wanna see it?

But hey, the Sammy show is actually getting better... lots better... here's proof!

And then there was this one guy... he was like so many of the others that take pictures during our shows. Now, personally, I could care... really... some folks think it's rude, but it's not like their stealing our souls. Besides, most of them don't use the flash anyway, so if they actually get a picture out of it, it'll be blurry. But there was this one guy, the guy I mentioned at the first of this paragraph. He had an expensive camera, one capable of taking good pictures in low light settings. Later, I saw him in the Sports Bar, and gave him my E mail address. Hell, if they're good pictures, I'd like to see 'em! Well, a week later, I got these... not bad!

Doin' a little fountains.

Doin' a little SLAS, singing "Muddy Waters"

There you go... this is what the Captain's finale outfit looks like when I'm workin'. Spellbinding.

Chrsity and I singing a little "Home Away From Home."

Back to the heath and wellness of the Dream... I am part of a committee that meets once a month and discusses safety and environmental concerns (SEMS). A rep from each department comes with concerns or problems from his group, and we all sit and talk about what could be done. Also in attendance is the chief of security, chief safety officer, doctor, the environmental officer, and the staff captain. Issues brought up here are taken pretty seriously, complete with minutes from the last month's meeting and follow up's on what's been done. Still, the first meeting I attended (a couple of months ago) kinda surprised me.

Here's the SEMS committee, which can be seen at the Deck 3 Mid Crew Elevators. My picture, taken when I was a new hire back in 2005, in in the lower left corner. The board itself could use some upkeep...

One of the guys in attendance brought forth a concern regarding the “orange water.” This phenomenon occurs when the water is shut off for maintenance. Once the water is turned back on, it comes out of the tap (or shower) looking orange for a few seconds... and not in an appetizing way. I mean, you're not gonna mistake this for orange juice, or Sunny D for that matter... and what was that purple stuff anyway? I think it got a needless bad rap... I mean, no one ever tried it, yet it was always in the fridge. The children always crooked their noses at it, as if it was there by surprise... Obviously it didn't just appear there, somebody more than likely bought it at the store. Now, why it was called “Purple Stuff” is also strange. Unless it was actually called “Purple Stuff”, someone must have ripped the label off of it. But why would you do that? (Sunny D, I'm looking at you) I think we put too much stock in the competency of advertising.

In any case, the fella bringing up the problem wanted to know if anything could be done about it, because passengers have gotten in the shower and got the stuff on their hair and skin... and what happens, the fella asked, if they drink it?

The safety officer laughed, saying “Well, hopefully no one is drinking the water.” WHAT??? WHAT??? I nearly fell out of my chair. Okay, first of all, yeah, I usually drink bottled water, but we all drink it... what do you think gets served to us EVERY DAY in EVERY RESTAURANT? Are you telling me there's a different plumbing system that gives us a cleaner water than what you send to our sinks and showers? And if that's true, why do you put GLASS CUPS in every passenger bathroom, next to the sink? Really... Oh, and then the staff captain says “Well, the rust isn't gonna kill ya.” Oh my God... it's rust. Two Hundred and Eighteen Million Dollars... Two Hundred... and Eighteen... Million Dollars.

Seriously, though... most of the time the water is fine. Sometimes, like when we're in Bermuda, we have to make our own water through a complex desalinization process. Now, that'll taste a little off... but to laugh about the quality of the water and say “well, hopefully no one is drinking it.” For shame...

As far as Bermuda goes, we spent our first day in Hamilton, due to strong winds that kept us out of St. George's. The following morning we made our way around and spent the rest of our time there. Yep, I went to the beach... yep, I got a tan. It's all good.

Last week, however, I went for a final visit to the ENT guy, just to see what could be done about my problem child left ear. We discussed grommets, which are itty bitty spacers put in my ear drum to allow air, and pressure, to come out. The doc wasn't so sure if it would work, so he was hesitant to encourage the procedure, which is fine.

On the taxi ride home, I somehow got into that discussion with the driver, and since every time I ride in a Bermudian taxi, I have some new strange tale to tell... He starts off by explaining to me how no one in Bermuda gets medical things done there. “We all go to the States” he says. Then he follows up with an example... Turns out his nephew was born with every man's dream... two penis heads. The way he described it, there was another barely formed urethra and... head... coming out of his... shaft... below were the real... head... should be. Funny thing... the doctor didn't see it when he... circumcised... the boy. So, as my driver eloquently put, “he pees out of two holes.” My mind shot back to countless Warner Brothers cartoons, where Wily Coyote (or was it Wyl E. Coyote?) got punctured with buck shot, then drank some water, only to have it pour out the many holes of his body. Somehow, they fixed the leak on the boy, and everything went back to “normal”, but that driver successfully talked me out of having anything done to me while on the island... and mostly because I don't want somebody mistaking my penis for my ear. Seriously... that's how I am justifying all of this.

And on that fantastic note, I will end this here thing. “Where are all the pictures?” you ask... Beats me... I was sleeping on the beach! Okay, here's one...

St. Catherine's Beach.

Not really Bermuda... but we got them airbrush tattoos again! Remember this one?

Keep on Livin' The Dream,

Michael Lamendola (Bedazzled in my “Cup of Life” costume, and feeling like a complete tool)

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