Tuesday, November 04, 2008

St. George's Dream Part Fourteen - The Final Week That Was

So for this, my final blog on board the illustrious M/S Norwegian Dream, I thought I would do what I should have done this entire contract... and all the others before it: keep a daily journal. It will not be a poetic waxing of the Dream's final days and hours... I've done that already when I thought I had sung my final song on her. If you want a wispy look back through rose colored glasses, you can take a look at "Livin' The Dream, A Look Back", a blog I wrote after my trans-Atlantic crossing after two months in Europe. If it's a day to day explanation of life on board you want, then the following will fill you in... So, here we go.

SUNDAY – October 26th

This being our final day in Boston, you would think that we would have learned how to manage it by now. Since we've been here, the Boston Port Authority has given the crew a strict window between 8:00 and 8:15 in the morning to get off the ship. Most of the time, for reasons that are never explained to us, that window begins somewhere around 8:20... 8:30... 8:40... Still, that early time slot gives us a good six plus hours in port. Well, this Sunday, a week before most of the crew sign off, the Boston Customs Officials decide to have one last immigration for the crew.

What this entails is all of us going down to Deck 3, collecting our passports, showing them to the customs officials, and then giving the passport back to personnel (for safe keeping). It's a painless process, but it takes away our chance of getting off during the afore mentioned window, since the entire crew has to go through the immigration process before shore leave is granted. What's stupid about this is that a week from today we're all going to immigrate off the ship, when we sign off. Can't this wait a week? Huh?

Plus, the Coast Guard decided to have their yearly drill for the Dream today as well... at 10:30 AM, after all the pax have disembarked. This is a yearly exercise, and since I am a blue card (passenger status), it has never really affected me. When this happened last year Tracey (JAR), Villam (Shore Ex) and I enjoyed the drill from a bar across from the port in St. John. Drink in hand, we listened to the seven short and one long, and boy that made for a refreshing drink. You can find that video at the "A Look Back" blog as well. Still, with one week left, couldn't we just not do the Coast Guard drill? Huh?

In any case, us blue cards we able to sneak off before the drill started. I headed to the North End, had a pizza, then slowly made my way back to the ship. That's pretty much my last day in Boston.

Back on board, we had two performances of “Fame”, our opening number for the Variety Showcase that occurs every embarkation night. Since this is our last week, we are foregoing rehearsals for all the shows. It makes sense, I mean, since if we ain't got it together by now, then what's the point of beating a dead horse. So, we do “Fame” once... no problem... off to the Sports Bar for a little dinner. Then back to the Stardust for “Fame” number two. Then, I get an epiphany... Why not wear my opening SLAS outfit? Sure, it's not anything like the cowboy outfit I am supposed to wear, but it does match the black and red theme of the number... well, I mean the red part... since the costume is mostly white, with gold and red accents... Okay, it's a mostly white Captain's outfit, with red sequins going down the pants and along the jacket, with gold shoulder things that make a funny shishing sound... In any case, I couldn't resist.

Other than the costume change, the performance went on as planned. Christy, when she is introducing the cast on stage, still refers to me as “wanting to be a country superstar”. I sung everything with a low and thick twang, and beat the side of my leg as I normally would do when wearing my red cowboy shirt and black denim. Overall, I was very proud of myself.

The evening was capped with a get together in Christy and Victor's cabin, hanging out with some fellow JARs.

MONDAY – October 27

Just another day at sea. Not much to report today. The weather was cold and wet, but nothing near as bad as the crossing we experienced the week previous. Most of the day was spent visiting friend's cabins and watching television... typical for a sea day, or at least in my department.

I was wandering around the vessel in the afternoon and found myself in the Shore Ex office. Fede, my buddy whom I've mentioned in countless previous entries, invited me in to have a seat, since it was about to be happy hour in the office. A backpack was produced, which contained two bottles of hooch, and bags of ice were brought in to mix with the cokes that were in the fridge.

A not so typical day at your office, I imagine, but a typical one at the Dream's Shore Ex office from what I gather.

Tonight we changed the order of shows and performed Sea Legs at Sea, instead of the usual Rock This Town, for packing purposes. SLAS has the most costumes, props, and set pieces, and since we are off loading most everything (for the closing of the Dream), it was easiest on Tony, our wardrobe supervisor, to pack the big show up first.

As far as SLAS was concerned, it went the same as it always does... sequined and nauseating, just like it should be.

Here I am putting on my red sequined dickey for the last time, showing off my newest air brush tattoo, another classic from last year.

Wasting time during my long break in between songs during the final SLAS.

And finally, the last time I'll be seen wearing by turquoise and white sequined captain's outfit. Ahh, that felt better.

Once the show was finished, we began the task of packing it in. My job was to disinfect and ready the hats for packing. I never knew it, but SLAS is a hat heavy show.

After the show I joined some friends in Dazzles for a drink. Since our crew cards are going to be deactivated this coming Thursday, for accounting purposes, this is to be our last Dazzles outing (since the next few nights we'll be in Bermuda, and given the choice, we'll all want to leave the ship at night).

Here I am with the not so usual suspects. That's CJ (port and shopping), Fede, myself and David (Future Cruise Consultant).

After a few drinks there, I retired back to Victor and Christy's cabin, where the usual subject of JARdom was discussed until late in the evening.

TUESDAY – October 28

This morning the entire crew came down (in an orderly fashion) to collect our sign off materials. Since us JARs don't have our flight details yet (except for me, since I purchased my plane ticket ahead of time), all the pertinent information on our forms said TBA, so it was a pointless affair. Plus, later many of us discovered that another important form, required upon signing off, was not given to us. Well, at least I got to stand in line in the smoky and dingy crew bar... that's always a neat thing to do first thing in the morning!

The final sail in to Bermuda was very, very windy. Of course, if there is even a slight gust of wind, we go to Hamilton, instead of St. George's (and also because the captain plays tennis and prefers the tennis club in Hamilton over that at St. George's). When we sail into Hamilton, we pass by the Western curve of Bermuda, and the Dockyards. As we were turning in, the wind came across the vessel, and leaned us dramatically to the starboard side as we were turning left. I was outside taking pictures, and the wind combined with the lean of the ship made for an exciting ride in!

Still, we made it along side safely, and since we were in Hamilton, and since the rain was coming down in sheets, many of us decided to go to a nice lunch place for some internet (and lunch). So, we put on our rain coats, grabbed our umbrellas, and began a trek of Homer's Odyssey proportions to cover the measly few blocks from the ship to the cafe. There was stinging rain coming down in sheets, there was wind that blew umbrellas inside out, and wandering pax wandering in our direction... there was the bank building that we walked through, got lost in, turned around, then finally found our way, only to yield a sharp falling on my ass once my sneakers hit the slick marble steps outside. "That's what the handrail is for", a very helpful security man informed me... several times... as I picked myself up off the wet sidewalk.

Finally, we make it to the cafe. Laptops in hand, we were ready to have some lunch, some coffee, and waste some time in cyberspace... only cyberspace was closed for repairs. Turns out the cafe's wifi is down. Ahhh... wonderful. So, we drop back and punt, heading over to another coffee house, which while comfortable, does not have wifi. But the coffee was warm, and the conversation glowing.

Here is the view from the coffee house window, where the Dream sat down the hill, getting drenched.

After that, it was a dinner in the Sports Bar, catching the comedian, then off to the Pickled Onion for some drinks and music.

Here are myself, Christy, Megan, Emma, and Tony hanging out at the Onion.

WEDNESDAY - October 29th

This morning I headed out to find my ENT doctor, the fella that I had visited with a few times over the course of the contract about my ear issues. Since I wasn't going to get anything done with my ear while in Bermuda (remember the conversation I had with the cab driver concerning his nephew's... special problem?) I thought I would go get a copy of my files for future reference. Following my nose, I located the doctor's office, finding a peculiarly named laundromat along the way.

Once there, I was informed by the receptionist that the process of getting my files (from the filing cabinet in the next room, I presume) and copying them (in the copying machine in the room we were in) could take some time... really... and after explaining to her that I was only in town another day, she huffed and said she would do what she could... to copy paper... and for me to come back tomorrow.

Most of the afternoon was spent at the coffee house we tried the previous day. With their internet working, I was able to upload the pictures from my photo shoot with Victor, which I received more comments and E mails about than my wordiest, funniest blog... well, at least I understand my audience a little better. After a fruitful few hours on the information super highway, it was back to the ship for a little rest, dinner, and a final Country Gold.

Here are Victor, Kyle, and myself, about to go on and finish up the show with a little "Ain't Goin' Down 'Till the Sun Comes Up." Why Kyle is behind us, shirtless and smiling, is not clear, and probably why Victor and I look so concerned.

After the show it was more packing, followed by another drink at the Onion. On the way back, I took a picture of the Dream docked in Hamilton.

THURSDAY – October 30

Being my last day in Bermuda (unless you count Friday morning, and by reading on, you'll understand why I don't), you would expect that I would be taking advantage of my last day of tropical sunshine and splendor... maybe laying on a beach, or a sunset catamaran trip. Well, you'd be wrong. Instead I spent the bulk of the day working on my new demo DVD with Emma, our female adage. Since she has an Apple, and I have a portable equivalent to a Commodore 64, we used her computer to compile and set all the shots for what will hopefully carry me into cruise ship stardom.

The only thing I did before that was go to my ENT Doctor to pick up a copy of my medical files, which when I arrived I found out that they weren't giving them out. Kind of like a doctor's version of not accepting the competitor's coupons, I guess. In any case, I felt bad making the receptionist go through all the trouble of locating and copying my files. That would have added a stress level at a Bermudian ENT doctor's office unheard of in any medical journal.

Oh, and not to leave out anything, I also did laundry. I have been meaning to mention this in previous entries, but the laundry room of the Dream has been on its last leg for several years now. We have something like six washers and seven dryers for the more than seven hundred fifty crew. But, how many actually work? Two washers, and three dryers. Supposedly, you also have to add your own water to the washers, but my clothes come out smelling clean (maybe I don't know what that smells like). So today, our third to last on the dream, guess what we get?

Are you kidding me? New washers and dryers? Wait, were you intentionally hiding those from us? Really NCL, that's low. Plus, as a way of inventory (I guess) the first thing our crack team of washer and dryer installers do is to label them with a BLACK MARKER. Now that's class. As if to rub it in our faces, the old washers and dryers (read: the old NON WORKING ONES) lined the hall that we walk through to get to the laundry room.

Better late than never does not apply here.

Anyway, after working on the DVD for the better part of the day, a group of us went out to Café Cairo for a last nice meal before weighing anchor the following morning.

We ate, we drank... not a bad way to spend the evening. After returning to the ship briefly, I headed back out to the Cairo for some drinks. Unfortunately I left my camera at home, but what a time... Fede, my Shore Ex buddy, was there, and so were some friendly pax. I met a man named Jim, and his wife Shannon, and we had some drinks with some of their friends, and danced until the bar kicked us out at 3:30 in the morning. After hanging outside for awhile, we all ended up in Lucky's Bar, which had been closed since midnight. With Grant (guest entertainer) at the piano, we had a impromptu jam session, singing everything from country to classic rock. Sometime after 4:30 the group disbanded, and as I write this, it's close to five in the morning... the latest I've stayed up around here since mid July. So, with a shot voice and heavy eyes, I'm going to bed so I can sing my last Rock This Town tomorrow evening... or, I guess I should say tonight.

FRIDAY - October 31

This morning started with us waiting in line for our final payout, and to sign forms saying we were paid out. Immediately after I started out to make sure I would not miss the last sail away from Bermuda. On my way up to Deck 7 Denny, our Cruise Director, came on the PA to read off a small list of people who were not in our system as being on board. Usually they are on board, and after calling reception saying so, everyone is accounted for, and we set sail. So, Denny is reading the names, and finishes with the name "Seymour Wiener"... really. I think this is some sort of prank, and sure enough, when he repeats the names he says, with a slight pause, "Seymour... Wiener".

I immediately go to his office and ask him if he's being serious. He laughs and says yes, that the name is in the system. "Hey, whatever helps you sleep at night" I say to him, to which he swears that he's not making it up... and I'll be damned...

He actually exists. I cannot begin to imagine what childhood must have been like for him. I can only hope that I meet him before the cruise is out, so I can remind him of what a wonderful name he has.

So, after that, I made it to the sail away, taking the same damn pictures I've taken twenty times before... still, since I took them, I might as well put one here.

After that it was more work on the DVD with Emma.

Then the final two shows of Rock This Town. The first show went without a hitch... but the second, the one that was to go down in history as the last Rock This Town ever, had a bumpy start. You see our band plays to a backing track, which has it's own set of instruments playing, and occasionally a backup singer or two, under them. It assists the band by clicking in a tempo for them to start to (which does not play over the speakers), and gives them a fuller sound. This backing track is on a DAT tape, which is some sort of high quality cassette tape... and like any cassette tape, it needs to be rewound before playing. See where this is going?

It's no secret that we have been eternally blessed with a cracker jack team of deck hands turned sound and light technicians on the Dream (and from what I hear from other performers, this issue stretches fleet wide and beyond). So, the no taking pictures announcement is made, and the dancers take their places on the stage... and the track starts... right in the middle of the second song. It stops, it comes back on, in the middle. It stops again... silence. After a minute (seriously), the show starts from the beginning... this is a class act we got here, folks.

Other than that, the show runs according to Hoyle, and everyone emerges from the experience thoroughly entertained. Here are a couple of pictures from that historic performance

Here is Victor, doing his thing.

And here is Kyle, doing his.

After the show, it was time to celebrate Halloween! So, while the passengers had their own party in the Stardust and Dazzles, the crew commandeered the Terraces Restaurant for the last crew party on the Dream. Some folks came in costume, and of course us JARs did our own Halloween thing.

Here is Tony in his Jean Ann Ryan getup. Of course, he made the headdress.

Here are myself, Tony, and Emma, who came as Fall, in a dress she made out of paper bags and leaves.

I spent a good hour and a half making myself look completely awful. I just took some scar wax and some makeup and went to town until I was satisfied. A subtle change from my Halloween getup on the Dream back in 2005... wanna see? CLICK HERE and scroll down.

After that, it was an after party in good ol' 5269.

SATURDAY - November 1

First things first... more standing in line, this time for our November payout... two whole days worth! Woohoo! We also received an 8 by 10 of our crew picture that we took last week.

Us JARs can be seen in the very back, wearing black tuxs and gowns. I am standing second from the right of our group. Unfortunately, you cannot see the sparkly bow tie, but trust me, I wore it!

Most of the day was spent finishing up my DVD with Emma... and we did finish it. Eventually the product will make it's way to my web page, but for now you can see the highlight reel... so if you want to see what 16 performances of my Sammy Revue yields, plus a maiden voyage of my "Hair Band Medley", complete with a horn section, then watch the movie below.

That DVD literally took the better part of three days to complete, and my friend Emma is a huge part of getting in accomplished. Many, many thanks to you!

After we finally finished that sucker, it was time to pack. Since I didn't come with much, or accumulate a lot of stuff, packing was a swift affair. And even though I didn't have much when I started, I still saw fit to get rid of some clothes that had successfully worn their service, including one somehow famous pink shirt.
Here is my pink polo, which I have been laughed at for wearing since the day I bought it, by numerous people, Victor included. I threw it out because it developed a small tear in the front while I was taking it off one day. And so Victor, the man who often poked fun at me for wearing it, decided that the shirt would be better off in his collection than in the trash, so the pink shirt lives on with the Spaniard.

After I finished, I took my bags to security, where after presenting my bag to the security officer for inspection, he says "I check you bag."

"Okay," I say, "I'll open it for you."

"No, I check your bag."

"Huh? Okay, let me open it."

"No... I CHECKED your bag."

Ohh... I get it. He checked my bag. And he put a sticker on it, having checked my bag. I get it.

Today was also the final Sammy Revue I performed on the Dream... hopefully not the last ever.

Here I am waiting to go down and do what I do best.

This metal box is what controls the pumps that shoot water for SLAS. There is usually a bottle of water sitting here, right over the sign warning you not to do so. Today was no exception.

So, after singin' my show, checkin' my bag, and eatin' one last meal in the Sports Bar, I hung out with the gang one last time. We did our usual thing, hanging out one last time and talking about the contract that was... only this time we premeired a video. Taken over the past eighteen Rock This Towns, it's a collection of "Hot Note!" performances, where I, and others, enjoy the scatting that takes place during the song. It may seem a little strange to those who weren't in the room, but if you want to experience it...

Finally, at around 3 in the morning, I took a walk around the vessel. One thing that didn't happen was some big send off for the Dream on her last cruise. There was no special event, really, for the pax or the crew. What did happen, however was a bunch of drunk pax crowding around the piano in the Stardust... singing, passing around a huge bottle of Vodka, and wearing Tony's now discarded headdress that he made and wore for Halloween.

Since all our boxes were up there, the boxes that we spent the whole week filling (and by we I mean mostly Tony), I casually walked out, called security, and went to bed.

SUNDAY - November 2

The day of hurrying up... and waiting. First stop, immigration... Down to the crew bar we go so we can sign more forms and further the overly complicated process of disembarking the vessel. Once down there, I noticed that the line stretched all the way to the bow of the ship... think I'll go back up and enjoy breakfast with the rest of the JARS.

Half an hour later I went back down for a forty minute wait in line that didn't move. This made me believe that the line wasn't moving. Finally the JARs were moved ahead in line so we could be given our passports, show them to the Boston Port Authority, and hand our passports back. Why was the line not moving? Why did it take so long? Why do I continue to ask unanswerable questions? I... Don't... Know...

Well, I can say that we were moved ahead in line so we could go back up to the Stardust and move the boxes that we've been packing for the past week. So we bring them out to the Deck 11 Forward elevators, take them down to Deck 4 Forward... then wait... because we had missed our window to get them to the aft loading dock because we were all stuck in line for immigration. Hurry up and wait.

So, with not a single person in charge on the entire vessel, we sat there wondering how the boxes were going to make it forward. Half an hour later, someone makes the decision, and we move the boxes forward to Deck 4 forward... and stop. Loading dock was being used... nobody seems to know how to use the loading dock for JAR boxes. Hurry up and wait.

Finally, someone gave us the go ahead, so we move our boxes into a room that used to be a huge walk in freezer... now it's a room with palettes for off loading boxes. Boxes go on the palettes, palettes get shrink wrapped. Now we stare at the hand operated mechanical fork lift that moves the palettes from the old freezer room to the loading bay next door. After shrugging our shoulders, we decide as a group that this problem is best dealt with by someone else, and left them there. Here are some pictures of the frustrating event...

Here are all the boxes, which were bursting the Stardust Stage's seams from every possible nook and cranny.

Since there were no more passengers on the vessel, we took it upon ourselves to utilize all three elevators, and at the same time.

Stuck on Deck 4 Aft, wondering when... and how... we are ever getting off the ship.

Finally, in the room that was once a freezer, shrink wrapping the boxes onto the palettes, only to leave them as someone else's problem.

My last hour on the Dream was spent waiting in the lobby to collect my passport and leave the ship. As if someone was trying to tell me something, this is how it went.

1:30 pm - They start to call names for passports... and mine is first! Hot damn! Collect my passport.

1:32 pm - Security checks my backpack. I hand over my crew card. That's it right? No... I must now wait in line, as they want us all to leave the ship in one big group... WHY????

1:45 pm - Still waiting for an appropriate sized group to leave the ship. I am getting frustrated, so I take a picture.

1:55 pm - Group... still... not... big enough...

2:05 pm - Security in all their wisdom agrees that we have a big enough mess of people that we can be let off the ship and storm our suitcases... as a MOB OF PEOPLE... rather than a nice orderly one by one. Constipated by confusion and frustration, I grab my suitcases and finally disembark.

And that's it folks... the final week that was... if you actually made it this far, then you might care to hear what's gonna happen next to the Dream. The official word is that she'll sail down to a place off the coast of Freeport, Bahamas and drop anchor... sort of a floating open house... for two months. A skeleton crew of about 60 will remain on board, flushing toilets and running the A/C in sections of the ship, so things don't stop working... as well as they already do. After that, either she'll be sold, or... who knows... maybe sail under Star Cruises (NCL's parent company) in Malaysia... possibly even sail under NCL (possible, but not likely).

As for me? As I write this, I am sitting in a friend's apartment in Manhattan. I've seen a couple Broadway shows, and taken in the area... Will I move here? Hell, I don't know. Will my Sammy Review take off? Beats me. How about the novel I finished during this contract... Oh ho! I never mentioned that... did I? Well, we'll just have to wait and see. Right now, all I know is that I'll be heading back to Waco for some Thanksgiving turkey, with a Christmas chaser.

So, is this the last time I'll write about the Dream? This time, I can definitely say... more than likely. Thanks NCL, and thanks to you Dream... for everything.

Keep on Livin' The Dream,

Michael Lamendola (waiting in line to pick up my suitcase, wondering why)

11/14/08 - UPDATE!!

Here is a small collection of videos from the last week that I rediscovered on my camera. From a SLAS rehearsal to the final "Home Away From Home", it'll help you waste a couple of minutes... at the very least.


  1. Michael. Jim and Shannon here. We loved our time on the Dream with you and the whole crew. Thanks for the great times and show! As far as our time out till like 4...I haven't been out that late since I was 20! Blessings in your travels...
    Jim and Shannon

  2. Michael. Jim and Shannon here. We loved our time on the Dream with you and the whole crew. Thanks for the great times and show! As far as our time out till like 4...I haven't been out that late since I was 20! Blessings in your travels...
    Jim and Shannon

  3. Hey you! I've watched you on my pc ever since our meeting on the Dream last year. Wondered if you were still cruising, but maybe you should try NYC---that's the place for a smart, talented guy like you. Planning an impromptu trip to Bermuda this fall, but without the poss of seeing your flashing smile and darling cheeks(double entendre), the trip won't be the same... Lady in Red(bra)