the travels of a green actor

and then some

quiche.

Written By: Lukas - Mar• 11•16

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We have arrived in Naha, Japan. Our third port of call. The capital city of the prefecture of Okinawa. An island In the south of Japan. I’d not considered Japan’s islands before. I guess I knew they existed, but I’d never thought of the apparent extent of them. We’ve also at this point crossed back down into a warmer latitude. It’s been quite cold since boarding the ship. Sweater weather every day. Long sleeves around the crew areas. I went out to the open decks this morning as we arrived and was broiling in my jumper.

Yesterday was our first sea day. Had I had more energy I would have written some blogitude during the hours of floating around. But I was so spent after the long day before (our first show day, up late celebrating with Jean Ann and champagne, and then a spot of wifi in the middle of the night as we were far enough from Japanese shore) that I had to keep moving or risk falling asleep. I’m on an early rising schedule. Ready for bed at about 3pm. Waking back up around 5pm. And ready to pass out at 7pm. Awake and perky at 6:00am. Sluggish again at 8:30. Jet lag is a thing. Laurence (my good friend from Riviera, HR manager there, now a Food and Beverage director) came to the ship a few weeks ago, also from eastern standard time, says it took about two weeks for her to fully adjust to this time zone. Yippee.. another week and a day or two to go.

I’m waiting for another crew drill to start at 10:15. We’re doing extra crew drills this cruise because we’ll be at sea for a week next cruise and won’t be able to do them then. I’m in muster station A this time, assigned to Lifeboat number 4. I’m just a guide this time around. Last time I was in charge of ticking guest names off the list making sure everyone was accounted for. This time I just hold a lollipop and guide people out to the lifeboat deck. It’s an odd switch. But that’s what and there ya have it.

I don’t know if it’s the ship, or the local seas, or a bit of both, but it is a LOT rockier this time around. A lot more drunken pirate walking. A lot more cast members running for the bathroom during rehearsals. It’s not been so rocky that it’s unnerving though. However there were a few questionable shudders last night. But mostly just nice rocking to sleep. My cabin this time around is on deck three (just above the water line) starboard side (because we’re stars), about mid-ship. If you look at a picture of the Voyager’s starboard side and can spot the portholes at the bottom of the ship, I’m across the hall from the second porthole from the front. Last time I was on deck 7 in the front, and I used to get to experience the bow of the ship whacking onto the cresting waves with a smack, which I found really relaxing. Now I’m further back and down I don’t feel that so much. I admit to missing that sensation a bit.

The cast cabins are all together this time. In a hallway labelled “Broadway” (each of the cabin hallways have a name, all NYC references except for “Rodeo Drive”). We’re right off I-95, the main drag for the crew to get from one end of the ship to the other. It’s convenient, but noisy. My cabin is shaped differently, but similarly sized in comparison to last time. My shower, amazingly, has shrunk even more I think. I would not have thought that was possible. I have carpet this time. The carpet is fantastic (note sarcasm, it looks like Shrek’s pants). My bed however is bigger this time. I have a desk, (no chair) but it’s mostly taken up by a clunky old tv that has a habit of turning itself off. Apart form the lack of places to sit it’s comfortable and I like it.

The theatre is amongst the best upgrades. It’s very large. Includes a balcony. It almost feels like a real theatre. The other upgrade is the outer decks on this ship. I have the luxury of being able to walk the entire circumference of the ship outside on deck 5. The crew deck is on the bow of the ship which is a joy. And there is a bar that has an outside deck at the stern of the ship that is part of this lovely stroll. I’ve been getting up too early, breakfast hasn’t been open yet, so I’ve been getting a nice morning stroll outside on a daily basis. On day two, I opened the door to the outside deck to head out for my stroll as we were sailing into Shimizu. I was not aware that were were so close to Mt. Fuji. I literally clutched my chest, mouth agape, in awe, as I opened the door. What a treat. What a view. It was literally stunning. My photos did NOT do it justice.

I did not get to see much of Japan. We went out for dinner in Narita when we arrived at the hotel form the airport. A charming little town. Japan is stunningly clean. They have very tight rules about littering. There are vending machines everywhere dispensing any number of mysteries to sample. We went to a small restaurant we sat at a table, shoes off, set into the floor. I ate a bunch of mystery chicken parts on skewers. I know there were hearts and skin. Maybe some neck? Not sure. And also some rice balls. And hot saki. It was fun. We had a lovely time. And we managed to get off for a little wifi in Osaka as well, we dashed across parking lot to the mall on our overnight. I spent the last of my Japanese yen on a mug for having tea in my room. And got some wifi. Lots of bridges, lots of ferris wheels in these cities.

We’ve performed on show so far. “On Broadway”. It went well, though Camille and I were both pretty vocally tired by the time we had an audience. Our next show is tomorrow night, thankfully, for me at least, a slightly less vocally exhausting show. I was also asked, day of, to be the first cast member to perform on day two of the cruise. Originally our specialty duo was to do a number for the Captain’s Welcome but Pru was having some knee trouble so I was asked to step up. It was a blast. The band sounded great. An honor to be the first.

More later. Gotta get back to the ship.

-Lukas.

set an open course for the virgin sea.

Written By: Lukas - Mar• 05•16

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 10.05.19 PMI’m sailing away. Flying actually. Over the Bering Sea (though the picture is over Alaska). Presumably about to cross the International Dateline into tomorrow. Four more hours until we arrive in Tokyo where we will board our new home for the next 8 months, the Regent Seven Seas Voyager (#hashtagtocome). I’ve got a window seat. I’ve got wifi. I HAD ice cream. And Bernie just won Kansas. It’s been a good flight so far. I’m tired. My eyes are slowly turning red. Looking forward to our arrival in Japan. We will be going straight from the airport onto the ship. So how much of Tokyo we’ll actually get to see…. not so sure.

So far we’ve flown from the early morning heat of Florida, to the midday snow-dusted plains of Chicago. Up and across the patchwork quilt of Canada. And across the white-capped peaks of Alaska. I’ve been feeling, throughout the last several flights I’ve taken, that I feel less comfortable on planes with turbulence (this has been a very calm flight though). But I still LOVE to look down at the Earth from above. The rising sun hitting the clouds over the coast of Florida this morning was stunningly beautiful.

This plane has the most giant wing I’ve ever seen. I’m sitting right on the trailing edge of it. Cool to see it at work. I used to find it frightening to see the wings flexing and bending in the wind. It should be firm and sturdy, no? I recently read a great book about being a pilot of these monster planes. It was written by a 747 pilot who adores his job. A wonderful mix of poetic waxing on the beauties of his job, and the science of it. I had never noticed, til he talked about it, that during flight, the entire angle of the wing changes. Once airborne the wind and weight push the wings waaay up, like a bow, leaving the fuselage dangling below it. I was watching for that today as we sat on the tarmac, noticing where the wingtips appeared to be. And now, at 39,000 feet, the wingtip is far above us. Fascinating. The more you know.

Someone waiting for the bathroom next to me is saying that this dreamliner is brand new, the very latest version of it. He’s an engineer. It’s a beautiful plane. Inside and out. The windows are super fancy. It has been afternoon since we left Chicago. The sun has only lowered the tiniest bit in the sky. And yet they’ve managed to make it dark in here but still letting me enjoy the views. The windows can change their tint. I took some pictures when we were on the ground of one that was maybe all the way dark, next to one all the way light. Bizarre as all get out. But, anyway, I was fully prepared to have to hold the blanket over the window so I could peek out from time to time. But I haven’t needed to. The fact that it appears to be darkish outside and yet my window is very warm, is peculiar.

The food has been fine. Entertainment system is beautiful. Seats comfortable. And head rests effective. I’m still super dry. My eyeballs are like crispy raisins. My seatmate, Lucy has been divine. It’s been a good flight. It’s interesting. I don’t fly very often. So I tend to think of these opportunities as a rare treat. A gift. And so I always worry that I’ll fritter away these 13 hours. And get off later saying, “Boy, I wish I had used that entertainment system more, or managed to get more milanos. Should have taken advantage of the free booze. Wish I’d stared out the window at the clouds below us instead of getting some shut eye.” I’m not really sure what to make of it. Who nows when I’ll get to be on such an aircraft. But still. Get the rest. Watch the movies. Whatever you want. Stop worrying about wasting precious airplane time.

I like being at the top of the work like this. I lil sit best when you’re above the clouds, way above them, but there is a thin layer of cirrus clouds still just above you, forming the ceiling. And you look like you’re maybe a few feet below them. I remember thinking the same thing on my first flight, form NYC to Seattle with Shrek. I sat just agape for half that flight, in awe of the new vantage point.

Tonight we will join the ship. Tomorrow we will begin safety trainings, drills, install rehearsals, getting lost and found again on the ship. Meeting our cabins. Meeting our fellow crewmates. And in a few days time we will put our work in front of an audience. We’ve got four shows again this time. All revue style theme shows: a Broadway one, a Dancing With the Stars style show, a French Cirque show, and, of course, some music of the 70’s. It looks like Broadway and the 70’s will be my favorites and I will enjoy the 40 minute break I get in the Cirque L’Amour. (enough time to recover from butchering the French language as I sing a duet with a singer from France). I’ll do my cabaret again. More than last time, I’m sure. And we’ll have some less formal theme nights, an evening of the Beatles, and a night of Bond music. Should have brought a bow tie.
Our install cruise is 18 days this time around. So maybe we WILL get to see a little of Japan.

As is the custom, I shall end this post with the obligatory promise that I will try and try and try to keep up with the blogging. But we all know how that goes. Much love to yo all, be well!

-Lukas.

a quiet day

Written By: Lukas - Jul• 27•14

Boy, the Dardanelles, for being known as one of the most crowded, hazardous, and potentially dangerous waterways, it is mighty quiet. If it weren’t for the sound of the ship breathing (whatever this vent behind me is doing) it would be silent but for the gentle trickle of the water slowly passing by below. As quiet as being in a kayak. I look forward to those days. Being on a ship means that though you spend every day and night with the sea water faithfully below you and on all sides. But for most of the time, it is out of your reach. As I stand on the lifeboat deck today and watch the swirls of sea foam drift by, I can’t help but wish to strip off my uniform and leap into the sea. It’s always calling.

It’s been a quiet day. These days are very rare on this contract. A pleasant quiet day. It’s a sea day. We are on our way from the northern coast of Turkey, the city of Sinop, to the western coast, the familiar city of Kusdasi, gateway to Ephesus, guaranteer of Turkish Delight bellyaches. We left the Black Sea this morning, passing between the two towering columns of a future bridge on either side of the opening to the Bosphorus. I watched from the starboard lifeboat deck with Corey our dedicated and wonderful ACD and our freshly vacationed Security Head, Phil. Wonderful people to watch a sail away with. We watched the pilot climb aboard to assist the bridge navigators through the Bosphorus. We spotted some dolphins. Mused about how that bridge looks like it’s going to be too low for us to get past. Waited for our arrival at the first of a number of huge bridges we’d sail under. Though I had to leave for rehearsal before we arrived, I kept an eye on the window and stole away for a moment to witness the sail under. We sailed through Istanbul, the place where these guests began their cruise, sometime during our tech run of Flower Power.

Now I’ve eaten a sparse dinner in the crew mess, not a whole lot going on down there this evening. My plate turned out very white colored. And am waiting for my cabin steward to finish up freshening up my cabin. Outside of the show and its requisite tech rehearsal I’ve had but one duty today, greeting at the door for a workshop/lecture/thingy with the current guest comedian on how to make everyday life stories funny. It’s been a quiet day. I’ve missed those. Tonight, as we’re nearing the end of this cruise, we’ll be presenting the crew saluté after our show where we fill the stage with a large portion of the crew and give the guests the opportunity to thank (read: applaud) them. It’s really kind of nice, though perhaps a bit toot-your-own-horn-y. Our crew however is fantastic in every which way, so it is quite deserving for these people to have their faces seen and commended. It is also nearing the end of the month which means that saluté will include the presentation of this month’s Employee of the Month, an award for which I’ve somehow managed to get nominated for. Surely, a mistake. There a many far more deserving than I.

We’re headed back to Greece next cruise. Seven days of island hopping, including one of my last two stops in Santorini. I look forward to returning to Greece. I do believe that I skipped over Greece last time I wrote. Greece is a fantastic country, with delicious food. Between fresh Greek yogurt with honey, and gyros, moussaka and saganaki, the cuisine of Greece could possibly be my favorite. One of my favorite days onboard Riviera was my most recent trip to Santorini. We rented a scooter and went to Oià, the more famous town on the island, and old volcano who has blown her lid. It’s where all of the images you see of the white buildings with the blue domes is. It’s a picturesque place of dreams. We hiked to the bottom of it’s donkey path and around the corner to a fantastic swimming hole. Complete with a cliff-jumping spot of sorts. Spent over an hour basking in the cool water of the Med before heading to a restaurant on Oià’s waterfront for some lunch. Had a tomato and cucumber salad and a piece of swordfish that was probably swimming that morning. Then after finally riding the donkey’s that Santorini is famous for back up the hill to town we set off for the main port town, Thira. I dropped off Julia who had tea, and then I headed off on my own for awhile. It takes a little while to get used to driving a scooter if you aren’t doing it regularly and because of that I’m usually less than eager to jump on one and often am a little ornery for the first 10 minutes of riding. Santorini manages to push that limit a little further as it has some of the most winding roads, and all at the top of cliffs. But by the afternoon I was over it and was speeding along on my own to the other tip of the island. We kept sailing past the lighthouse on the way out of Santorini, and as we know, I’ve got a thing for lighthouses and I wanted to see it. So in a race against time, I made for it. I saw the lighthouse, though very briefly as I needed to race back to Thira again to return the scooter and board the tender back to the ship. But I saw it, and it was glorious. It appears to be at the end of the world. High atop the cliff. It made me look forward to my inevitable trip down the Camino de Santiago, a trip I intend to take that will lead me all the way to what they thought thousands of years ago was the end of the world. It was a fantastic day.

Who knows what else I have to look forward to. Somehow we’re actually managing to near the end of our contract. Which is good. I’m tired, a bit burnt-out. Ready to return to normal life, with normal time, with a night out. I shall miss greatly these incredible ports of call and the adventures that come with them. But I shall carry them with me. And there is still plenty ahead. Most of the ports ahead, all but I think one or two, we’ve been to. But most of my very favorites are in there. Another three days in Istanbul means another Turkish Bath. Another two days in Venice means two days in the most beautiful city on earth. More Barcelona means more falling in love with a very Gaudi city. More Santorini, more of Italy’s Amalfi coast, Sicily, and charming Portofino. Another day in St. Tropez, beautiful Palma de Mallorca. Croatia. It’s easy to get lost in the negativity that arises when you allow yourself to get tired of the work. But all it takes is a moment in any of these places. Or even just noticing the stillness of the Dardanelles. And you remember just how lucky you are to be on this pale blue dot. I’m starting to wax like a superfluous poet.. it’s definitely been a quiet day aboard the ms Riviera.

unfinished.

Written By: Lukas - Jun• 04•14

more to be written , but thought I’d best get this up there:

 

Freakin’ Europe, man, freakin’ Europe. I want to stay to there. I have to start with another apology. I think that may become a regular occurrence. there is just so much going on here that how on earth am I supposed to get it all done. Since my last post I’ve done everything from touch the spot where Jesus was born to eat a a Shake Shack in Istanbul, from leap from twenty feet (or something, I’m terrible at distances) into the B-E-A-UUUUTIFUL water of the Mediterranean to explore a pitch black tunnel that maybe we weren’t supposed to be in under an ancient medieval wall, and EVERYTHING in between. I’ve touched a few more continents, in the last two months I’ve set foot on five. North and South Americas, Africa, Europe and Asia. Boom. It’s been quite a taxing adventure, being in a land that’s so old and so full of history, so identified with stories and tales in your head makes you feel as though you need to sprint around every city and see every single thing. Slowly I’m learning to take my time to take it all in, realize I’ll be back again to just about every one of these ports before the summer is up. But I haven’t quite learned the lesson yet so I’m exhausted. Briefly:

From Funchal we put our feet on the ground in Morocco, Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Greece, and Turkey. I’ve seen many famous sights: La Rambla, the Gothic Quarter and Gaudi’s Segrada Familia in Barcelona; Monte Carlo’s race track for the Grand Prix; in Florence I saw the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio, NOT Michelangelo’s David; I posed with the Leaning Tower of Pisa; tasted fresh Turkish Delights with the emphasis on the Turkish and heard numerous sales pitch one liners from the Turks in the market, stepped inside and fell to the floor in awe of the ceiling of the Blue Mosque, and slipped into nirvana at a Turkish bath that was built in 1584; I narrowly avoided being trampled by the famous donkeys of Santorini in Greece before feasting my eyes on the views of the island, saw the Acropolis and the Parthenon, the Theatre of Dionysus, ascended straight to heaven (in countless dishes of fresh Greek yogurt); I’ve floated in the Dead Sea, spotted the cave of the Dead Sea Scrolls, visited the SPOT of Jesus’ birth and the Mount of Calgary where he died betwixt which I crossed the tense border between Israel and Palestine;  and I devoured entire pizzas in Italia. So much to be seen, so much to be remembered. Not so briefly:

“Don’t mind him, he’s from Barcelona,” flitted through my head on an endless loop as I criss-crossed the city. Barcelona is was the beginning. It was my first proper European cosmopolitan city. It was amazing. It was an embark day, though I had the last gangway shift of the day so I hopped off the ship early despite the threatening rain clouds and ventured forth. I meandered up the main drag, La Rambla, seeing as shops were opening up, the crowds had not yet formed, the pick-pockets not yet prowling. Stopped to grab some breakfast (a water and a fresh bread and chorizo sandwich). Made my way to the Segrada Familia, hoping to beat the crowds. Hoping doesn’t always work unfortunately. The Cathedral was surrounded. Pile of people, curling around the massive building. But that’s ok. One day I’ll make it in, but I’d find it hard to believe that there isn’t just as much to see on the outside of this church as there is on the inside. The cathedral is Gaudi’s masterpiece, it’s been under construction for over a century and has still not yet reached it’s completion. It’s SO detailed and SOOOO WEIRD. The decor is so wacky and out there, I love it. The steeples are covered in the fruit, the gargoyles are all snakes and lizards and creepy-crawlies. To get in for mass you have to walk past a life-sized or slightly larger than life statue of Jesus tied to the whipping post. There is a concave sculpture of Jesus’ face over on door that creates the illusion of following you as you cross the width of the building, His eyes never straying from you. lots of crazy shapes and angles and colors. When I was there there was yet one whole side that was still a blank canvas. But I can not wait to see the inside of this place. I walked through town, through the streets, watching the spaniards go about their day. Stopped for some churros and chocolate sauce. Then found myself walking through the Gothic Quarter. The old part of town. My first experience with the now daily winding, tiny, cobbled streets. I love it. Bars and shops lining the stone walls, all ancient. It was wonderful. Had some lunch and some wifi, and headed back to the ship for duty. Looking forward to returning to the city once again.

Spain one day, France the next. It was another rainy day (a common occurrence during that cruise, rainy mornings clearing up for some sun in the afternoon) when we arrived outside Marseilles. I again ventured out anyway. Took the bus into town where we got off and hiked up the hill to the big cathedral on top, overlooking the whole city. It at one point had been the lookout/fort for protection, but a cathedral has been built there now. What a view, even through fog and mist. A massive build, not as crazy as the Segrada Familia, but still just as beautiful. Outside was fairly simple, a HUGE golden statue of Mary and the baby Jesus topped its spire. Inside, inside the colors! Beautiful stripes, and incredible mosaics. Little wooden pews. strings of model boats hanging from ceiling, couldn’t tell if they were a decoration or a permanent fixture in the church. It was an exquisite sight to behold. We marched around town a bit looking for a bite or two to eat, and found some delightful little shops, both old and new things to admire. I ate my first French croissant.

Spain one day, France the next, but the following day: Monaco! A brief stint in Monaco showed us, this time, the old side of town with views of the new. We climbed up the hill just at the entrance to the port and walked through a beautiful park on the edge of a cliff, past the Aquatic Museum where we saw Cousteau’s little yellow submarine, couldn’t help but think of Life Aquatic as we did so, and as we wandered the tiny streets of the old town. We made it to the palace where we saw the changing of the guard. Bought some sammies to devour in the park by some gigantic seagulls. I had to return to the ship for some duties but leapt ashore again on the next tender to have a lovely dinner al fresco in one of the many courtyard restaurants in the old part of town. A wonderful fresh fish, with some veggies and a bottle of wine. Booom. Next time I’mma have to see to this famous casino, maybe the Grand Prix will still be happening..

The next day we were introduced to Italy! Ah Italia! I also was introduced to my first adventure with a guest tour. I got up bright and early to hop on the bus to Florence and Pisa! What a day. I must start by mentioning that since arriving in Europe (in Funchal) my debit card had stopped working, apparently this trip the bank DOES give a crap. However, I talked with my mom, who talked with the bank, and this morning after breakfast I found out that I’d be able to have some spending money beyond the 20 euro that I’d borrowed from Julia the day before. Huzzah. Guess I won’t need the boiled eggs and the roll and the apple that I smuggled from breakfast after all. Cut to an hour later. We stop halfway to Florence at a little gas station somewhere just outside the heart of Tuscany. I stand up and feel my pockets… no wallet. Debit card works today, but only if you have it with you!! I don’t even have the 20 euros that I’d borrowed. Thank goodness for the smuggled lunch. So I had to do Florence and Pisa on no budget. What a freaking beautiful city is Florence amiright? The Duomo, the Pontevecchio. We walked past the Academia and the Uffizi the two major art museums of Florence, where the David is kept, amongst many others. We saw all of the old sights, and heard about their histories from our tour guide. We were led to the Piazza of St. Croce, our meeting point after free time. The group scattered. I wander back through all the sights that I wanted to see again, the Pontevecchio, the Duomo, in awe of their aged beauty. I wandered throughout the back alleys. Found myself in a leather working school that I was hoping would have a back door into the one of the cathedrals (where Michelangelo and Galileo are buried) but alas, fell in love with a leather jacket that one day I’ll be able to afford (after I win my first Oscar perhaps). I ended up crossing the river and climbing the hill on the other side. I could see some incredible looking gardens overlooking the city, perhaps I could find my way into them. Think again. I did however stumble into some beautiful scenery, followed an ancient wall around, stepped in some less ancient dog crap. I spotted another piazza above me. This one I DID find. And what a view. It turned out to be the Piazza of Michelangelo and had I gone a little further I’d have spotted some more wonderful sights, maybe next time. I sat down on the steps to the piazza and had my boiled egg and my roll. as measly as it was, I don’t think I could have been any happier in that moment with a corned beef sandwich, ok maybe a little, but thats just cause, well, corned beef. anyway, i wandered back down, had to meet up with the group to get back to the bus and off to Pisa. Fell asleep on the way to Pisa.

Our stop in Pisa was ever so brief. We had a good warning about the dangers of gypsies in the area from our tour guide and then we hopped off our bus and tottered down the path to Pisa. It really is leaning y’all. All of it, the tower, the cathedral, the baptistry, all of it. And you stand there and you look at it and you can see that they tried to correct it as they went along, the tower is kind of banana shaped. the Cathedral, that thing is WONKY. beautiful, but WONKY. IT looks kinda straight at the top, but the whole way up to it is going every which way. Fascinating. I got some strangers to take my picture in front of the tower, doing the classic pose, sadly not the pose I wanted, but I didn’t want to make a stranger wait for me to figure it out. Next time.

The next day we arrived in Civitavecchia, the port city to ROMA!!! Unfortunately, a few days prior an old WWII bomb was found in the area and that, coupled with the fact that it was Italy’s fourth of July AND they were canonizing two popes into sainthood, the cast was not allowed to get off the ship. Next time.

After that we finished our stay (this time around) in Italy with stops in Amalfi and in Sicily. Two beautiful spots. We ate pizza and drank wine. Not much else to say about these places as you simply can’t describe their beauty in words. The colors, the tiny streets, the limoncello, the gelato, the pizza, the mountains, the fog and rain, THE HUGE-ASS MOUNTAIN in Sicily. What a beautiful place. looking forward to my return.

After this stop we got to Turkey and Greece, and most of the ports I’ve done a number of times now. So I’ll lump the visits together, I think.

In Turkey we’ve spent several days in both Kusadasi (the port city to Ephesus) and Istanbul (the port city to the freakin’ world). In Kusdasi we’ve done a number of things. First and foremost we found the shop that has the most delicious Turkish Delight. It’s all made fresh by the family who runs the shop and instead of using sugar (which I’ve tried and it’s simply too much) they use honey to sweeten it. It is amaze balls. I’ve had so many kilos of turkish Delight from this family run store. We met Matt and his father and they’ve invited us to stay with them in the winter time for a week or two. They’ve given us the family discount on all of their delights as well. And of course several cups of apple tea. The people of Turkey are so friendly. Unbelievably so. Everyone I’ve met, just the nicest people, the most helpful people. We made it one day to Ephesus, the best of the Greek ruins, and they are incredible. You need to see them to believe them. They are extensive. And you walk right through them. Right down main street. The front wall of their ancient library is still standing. The amphitheatre still in wonderful shape, and HUGE. Next time I simply MUST sing a song. Stupid me didn’t do it that time. Ah well. On our most recent stop in Kusadasi (yesterday, at least that’s when it was in terms of when I’m writing this, hopefully it’ll be posted today as well) we discovered the dolmus, the local bus service and we took it 45 minutes out of town to an incredible national park. The most beautiful part of Turkey I’ve seen. It actually was incredibly similar in feeling to Acadia, which of course I liked. Never have I ever thought that I’d find myself bushwhacking through the woods in Turkey. Who does that?! We thought we were following a trail but it all of the sudden turned into what MUST have been a warthog path (a perfect path but very low) before disappearing entirely. We made it through to a road that looked a lot like the park loop road in Maine. Then decided we wanted to get to the incredible looking water below, so we did. We decided that we’d like to walk back to the entrance and the bus stop via the coastline so we could enjoy the ocean and the neat volcanic rock. Bad idea. Julia’s shoes are wearing out so she had to be very careful climbing over these rocks and we were running out of time to get back to the bus. We hadn’t even swam yet. She’s a great swimmer though so eventually I said, why don’t you give me all of your stuff and you swim across the cove and I’ll scamper over all of these rocks and meet you there, it’ll be much faster. Great idea for her, TERRIBLE idea for me. I imagine that was what it must be like when you are stranded on a deserted island or are in the Amazing Race. At one point I had found myself trapped in a huge briar patch at the edge of a cliff. Awful. After that I was very reluctant to leave the rocks, even when I got to cliffs, some bad decisions were definitely made. But I survived, as did Julia, she had a great swim, I came home covered in scratches, a hole in my shirt, and socks so dirty that I threw them away. I’ll never make that trip again, but it was quite an adventure.

Istanbul is another wonderful place full of color and history. The Blue Mosque is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The intricate and ornate decor was stunning. And the fact that you must remove your shoes before you enter made it incredibly humbling. The Hagia Sofia is another wonder. And the Galata Tower. All these ancient beautiful things. Then there is Taksim Square and the long pedestrian shopping street (complete with a SHAKE SHACK and the best concrete I’ve ever tasted) that leads up to it is a whole different can of worms. I tried a lot of street food and drink in Istanbul. Pop, find yourself some sahlep flour, if I understand correctly it’s made from orchid root (?) and find a recipe for sahlep, it’s a delicious hot drink that even Sophie would love. We finally had a cast dinner (all ten of us) one night even. The three dye overnights that we get to have in Istanbul are incredible. Being off the ship in the evening is amazing. But you finally get to have the feeling that you don’t need to rushrushrush around. The best night of the whole cruise so far may have been the other day and it was because of the relaxed and gentle timeless schedule. We had a rehearsal until 8 o’clock on an embarkation day. Afterwards Julia and I took the tram to the Cemberlitas Hamami, a Turkish Bath. Somehow I was able to surrender to the fact that I was only going to be wearing a skimpy and thin little half towel while getting scrubbed down by some turkish man whilst I lay on a slab of hot marble. And it was amazing. Google a picture of the inside of a Turkish Bath. It’s hard to describe. This big octagonal slab of marble with little silver bowls all over at the center of this big steamy marble room under a mosque-like dome with little alcoves around the room and 10-15 water faucets and marble sinks. Then imagine yourself lying on that warm slab getting scrubbed down by a big turkish man. Then you just lay there (or get a massage in the other room) relax, maybe pour more water over yourself, maybe swipe a bar a soap and scrub yourself down some more. Take a cold shower in the other room and then go back that marble slab. Unbelievable. I can’t wait to go again. I was so peaceful. I waited outside for Julia to come out of the women’s section and we walked all the way back to the ship. Just so peaceful inside. We stopped at the Blue Mosque and sat in the courtyard, gazing up at the gulls as they circled the domes and the spires flying in and out of the light. Finally there was no rush to be anywhere. No hurry to see everything and get back to the ship before it leaves. We wandered some more, through the fountain area between the mosques. Bought some sahlep from a man on the street. enjoyed it slowly as we watched children play and dogs sleep in the flowerbeds. It was a perfect night. I still smell clean.

duhn duhn duhn!!!

Written By: Lukas - Apr• 17•14
A keyhole in the rocks of Horsehoe Bay, Bermuda.

A keyhole in the rocks of Horsehoe Bay, Bermuda.

My bad. My bad. I’m sorry. I’m here I swear. It’s been almost a month since my last update. Too long. So much has happened. The last time I wrote I was sailing out of the Roatan, Honduras, we were hanging out in Mexico, I’d still not been off the ship in St. Barth’s despite stopping there twice, I hadn’t even eaten in the Grand Dining Room. This afternoon I’m writing to you from just past the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Somewhere between King’s Wharf Bermuda, and Funchal. Lots has happened. Many wonderful adventures. Let’s see what I can remember.

Before we begin, let me just say this: If ever you decide to do a crossing of the Atlantic, GO THE OTHER WAY!! We’ve lost four (or is it five) hours so far, and have a couple more to ditch. And it is exhausting. They tend to take them in pairs, for example, we lost one last night and will lose another one tonight. My internal clock feels like it’s going haywire. I should probably be napping right now, but ah well. As they guests often say, you can rest when you’re old.

Anyway, highlights from the second half of the Caribbean:

Belize: I finally got to visit a port via a tender. And have done it once more since then, but we’ll get to that. In Belize we were anchored I believe they said it was five MILES offshore, I don’t know why we were so far out, but thank goodness we used the local port tenders and not our little lifeboats to get to shore. It was about a 20 minute speedy boat ride on an open decked pontoon sort of thing from Mama Riviera to the docks in Belize City. Because it was a tender, and because we had a busy day, I probably had tea time duty or something we had only an hour and a half or so to explore the immediate surrounding areas, but it was a lovely little town with lovely people. The water was beautiful. It would have been nice to get out and snorkel or something, or see more of the actual country, but we saw what we could. But the tender alone was super fun. It’s funny, actually, how excited we all get to ride a little boat after being on the ship. For tendering there are little “docks” that fold out of the side of the ship on deck three that you access either from deck three or via a foldable stairway from deck four. They lower the four fancier lifeboats, with windows and a handicap area and whatnot as well as some other features, these four lifeboats serve as our tender boats and come and go on a schedule that is decided depending on how far from shore we are, usually about every 20-30 minutes. I’ve done it twice now and it’s still very exciting for me, but then, I’ve always enjoyed littler boats. It’s cool to see the ship out in the middle of the water and to sail right up to her as she turns and bobs in the bay.

Cozumel, Mexico: One of the best days we had on the Caribbean was in Cozumel. The port are of Cozumel is a bit hectic, filled with tourists and locals hawking their wares. They’re were something like seven or eight ships in port that day I think. But we got out of there on our own and saw more of the island. It was truly spectacular. We finally saw some Mayan ruins, so crazy to see these ancient, ancient buildings still standing strong, thousands of years they’d been standing there, and some even still had some paint on them. I kept thinking about how I’d read about these people for years in school, talked about the way they lived and how their societies functioned, And now I was standing in the ruins of their houses, their kitchens, their living rooms. Incredible. They weren’t the biggest or most famous ruins, but they were the ones we had the time to get to. The temples we saw were for fertility. They’re were some incredible ones in Guatemala, but I had such little time there to get out and see them. After the ruins we went and meandered our way down the quiet side of the island. Stunning, we rode along the coast, literally, and just watched the beaches with the most beautiful blue sea crashing against them, the smell of the sea air, the wind. Some flamingoes flew past us. We made our way to the bottom of the island where there is a nature reserve. We went up a tower that overlooks a freshwater lagoon that has lots of crocodiles in it in hopes of spotting some, but didn’t see any. Then on to the lighthouse at the bottom of the island, climbed up it for a fantastic view. Absolutely gorgeous. If ever in Cozumel, I suggest you head straight to the far side of the island. Incredibly beautiful.

The Cayman Islands: Didn’t actually get to see this port, just wanted to mention it as it was the only port so far that we had to cancel our stop in. I woke up to the announcement from the speaker in my room of the captain telling us that the sea was too rough for us to get into port that day. It was another tender port, and because we were the last to arrive we wouldn’t actually have a place to anchor and would just be holding our position using our engines. Which would normally be fine, but the seas we all very rough and the swells would make getting on and off the tenders too dangerous. They’re were many an unhappy guest that day. But safety comes first.

After that we began repeating ports we’d seen before, though trying to avoid repeating activities.

On our second trip to St. Lucia, we found a much better place to be. We took a taxi further up the island to another national park type area, with an old fort up on a hill. The view was spectacular, a lovely little jaunt of a hike to get to it, but it was absolutely stunning. We also did some snorkeling in the bay around it. I was trying to remove a head cold from my system and being in the fresh air and in the ocean water was much better for me than the stale ship air I stayed in in bed the day before, very happy that Julia was adamant enough to get me out of my bed. Dayquil and all. Some some crazy fish, not our best snorkeling, but possibly the best up til then.

That brings us finally to St. Barth’s. This was our third trip to Gustavia St. Barth’s and finally our first time getting off. It was my favorite stop in the Caribbean. It’s an island of France, and a very wealthy one at that. It’s where all of the celebrities and uber wealthy people go when they want to visit the tropics. Letterman has a places there, Oprah, people like that. Being so expensive, that day a picnic was the way to go. The weather was a bit rainy throughout the morning, so much so that many didn’t bother getting off the ship and they threw a movie on in the afternoon. But we did. We had to duck for cover during a few Hollywood rainstorms, but I thought it made the day even more enchanting. We explored the town, climbed to some forts on hills, spotted a hummingbird mama feeding her tiny hummingbird babies in her tiny and incredibly exposed nest. I couldn’t believe that the nest survived the rainstorms. It was so far out on a branch. The views were great. The spot included a couple of picture maps telling you what you were seeing off in the distance. It also looked down on shell beach below. The beach we had heard tell of from previous crew members. We headed there for our picnic lunch. We had a fresh baguette front he grocery store, some cheese and some fancy meat and we ate on this beach that was made mostly of seashells that had washed ashore. the sun came out, it was gorgeous. It was here that we had our best snorkeling. We found some huge reefs, some really deep, incredibly clear beautiful blue water. We watched a little octopus for a good twenty minutes. He’d jump from one rock back to the other trying to hide, changing colors to match the rocks. So freaking cool. I wish we had had Colette’s underwater camera that day. We found some great spots for cliff jumping, sadly we didn’t partake. Someone had even tied a rope up to climb up to the top with. On our way back to shore, about 20 or 30 yards out, we were swimming back along and looked down and someone had spelled out “HELLO” on the seabed in rocks, too funny. I also dove really deep at one point to retrieve a large sand dollar from the sea floor. Which promptly crumbled on the way back to the surface. I was still suffering from congestion and going more than a few feet down made it feel like my head was going to explode. I knew going down the 15 or 20 feet that it’d take to get to the bottom would hurt, but I really wanted to get the sand dollar, I’d never found one before. It hurt SO BAD. At one point I thought that I might have just killed myself. So the trip back up was bait less careful and I accidentally crushed the sand dollar in my fist. So sad. It would have been a wonderful souvenir. We sunbathed for a while longer, took some little mermaid photos on a rock on the beach and made our way back to the ship. We were the first crew members off that day and almost the last ones back on. We made the most of that one, and it was definitely one of our most successful adventures.

Shell Beach, Gustavia, St. Barth's

Shell Beach, Gustavia, St. Barth’s

Then we had two days at sea that closed out the Caribbean season for the ms Riviera.

We had our final stop in Miami, I had a rushed but very productive trip into town to get supplies, got my sunglasses fixed, a new pair of Toms, made phone calls, finished joining Equity and then greeted the new guests. The guests that would spend the next 14 days (or in some cases 24 days) with us crossing the Atlantic.

We started losing hours right away. Losing one even before arriving in Bermuda. We also had one of our roughest sea days on our way to Bermuda, which they say is common. So rough in fact that we had to postpone our first show until later on, so it wasn’t until six nights into the cruise that these guests saw us perform. They must have thought our duty was to march around the ship and say hello to people.

Bermuda. Of all of the places that I visited throughout the tropical portion of this adventure, I think that it is Bermuda that I’d most like to vacation in. St. Barth’s gives it a run, but Bermuda was just swell. We had our first overnight there. Very exciting to get to be off the ship at night, and to do something one day and be able to say “ooh that looks nice, I’ll go there tomorrow.” The first day we hopped off the ship bright and early and took the ferry from the port area, King’s Wharf, to the main town. From there we took the local bus service to some caves that one of the dancers had seen that morning on the tv. There were two caves, neighbors. One was the Crystal Cave, and the other Fantasy Cave. Both spectacular. Crystal caves is the more known one of the two, though they both have the same tour booth/ gift shop thing. Crystal Cave was discovered over 100 years ago when two boys playing cricket lost their ball in the brush. While looking for it they came across a sinkhole and, like any 13 year old boy would, went and fetched some rope and lowered themselves down. I can’t imagine losing my soccer ball in a hole, going to fetch it, and coming across this huge cave made of stone so lightly colored that it almost appears to be crystal. Though I suppose it was pretty dark so it didn’t look as magical then, but I bet it was still a pretty fantastical experience. One thing I thought was incredibly fascinating was that the caves both had pools of water in the bottom of them, Crystal Cave’s pool is actually incredibly deep. But this water is actually seawater that seeps in through various tunnels and crevasses from the sea. In fact, the pools are even tidal! TIDAL! Because of the distance and the route that the water takes to get to the caves the tide is about half the size of the tide on the coast, but still, to be in there at high tide when the floating bridges are lifted up three feet must be an entirely different experience. They had some divers come in last year to explore the depths of the pool and they go very very far down, and they did find a tunnel that they could follow all the way to the sea, a narrow squeezing winding tunnel, but a tunnel nonetheless. Shoutout to our tour guide from the Crystal Cave who, alone, was possibly worth the price of admission. A Bermudian who loved his home deeply and LOVED to tell stories. What a spirit. And hilarious. Afterwards we dashed back to town after that and I split off from the group to get back to the ship for tea time. They went on to a place that I would visit the next day.

That after I completed my duties for the day, I dined in Terrace, like ya do, and waited for the others to be finished. Almost all of the crew was getting off that night to go to this beach bar on the other side of the old fort that is next to the ship. On the way we gathered some people who’d gotten off earlier and had dinner and beers at this charming pub called The Frog and Onion. Personally I wish we had stayed there all night, but they were actually closed and had stayed open just for us. The beer was brewed next door and was delicious, the food, as I was told, and discovered for myself was amazing. We then headed over to a very loud and crowded beach bar. Not exactly my thing, but I hung out for an hour or two, I don’t know how long. Before heading back to the ship and snuggling up in my bed.

On the second day in Bermuda Julia and I got up early and she brought me to the spot that really sold me on Bermuda. About a half hour bus ride from King’s Wharf is a National Park type area called Horseshoe Bay. Now there is a beach there, a lovely beach, with “pink” sand… eeeeehhhhh… pinkISH. If you look really close at the right time its kind of pink. Anyways, forget the beach, on the right hand side of the beach is a WONDERLAND of rock outcroppings and formations that you could explore for hours and hours. We spent all morning there climbing and scampering all over, exploring ever nook and cranny, trying to get to every pointy peak that we could climb to without dying. Bring water shoes. They are required. The rocks are very sharp and pointy, even the ones that look smooth and flat. Julia wore sneakers and could enjoy climbing up and down rocks, but couldn’t get to some of the rocks that required a wade through a tide pool or the likes. I was barefoot (wanted my feet to be airing out, a whole other can of worms). I could get to all of the rocks, but goodness gracious me some of it was PAINFUL. My feet got a good tenderizing that morning. Eventually we discovered this incredible system of keyholes, holes that erosion has carved into the rocks. But to enjoy them you had to cross a large lagoon. Which I did immediately. Upon discovering how awesome the other side of this rock formation was, Julia went back to the beach to get rid of her shoes, and get our swimsuits and snorkels. The lagoon was connected to the ocean and you could see from far above that there were huge turquoise fish swimming around. We explored the rock before jumping in the almost Maine-cold water and exploring the underwater area. Bermuda is known for its reefs and shipwrecks, one day I’d like to go back and explore a shipwreck, but for now we enjoyed these lovely reefs, despite the huge ocean swells, perhaps not the safest idea, but it was amazing. We followed the school of big blue fish around, through all of these grottos, saw lots of coral and sea fans and all this stuff. I think it beats out St. Barth’s (by a hair) for the best snorkeling we had. Eventually we had to get out to do a time check and warm up. We then realized that we’d better head back if we wanted to eat at the Frog and Onion. So we did. We stopped at the pharmacy and got some supplies before dashing through a scrumptious heavy meal of burgers before running back to the boat. Farewell, Bermuda, you were, as our cave guide said, bermudiful..

Me, still waking up, in Horseshoe Bay, Bermuda.

Me, still waking up, in Horseshoe Bay, Bermuda.

It’s now the fifth and final sea day of the bulk of the crossing. We’ll have another couple of busy sea days before arriving in Barcelona. We’ll make a stop in Funchal, (Madiera) Portugal tomorrow, and then past the Rock of Gibraltar to Tangier, Morocco (AFRICA!!) and then on to Spain and the Mediterranean Sea.

These sea days have been some of the most busy days we’ve had onboard Mama Riviera. Various special events in the mornings got us outside on the cold and windy sea days (they were often postponed because it was so windy) and they we fantastic.

One day we did the Officers Challenge. After a grand entrance march around the sun deck and down to the pool deck, led by a flag waving Artem, the guests play against the officers to win Big O points. I was in charge of the mini golf putting challenge. It was far too difficult a challenge, the golf. It was a long putt into a hole, you had three chances to get a hole in one. Out of probably thirty guests only four made it in. And only ONE officer did, congratulations Staff Captain Marojic, it only took, what, five turns? There was also a ping pong challenge, a, I’ll call it, corn hole challenge, they call it bagg-o, and also a ring toss type event where our General Manager and Cruise Director were in the pool and you tried to throw balls through the life ring they were holding up. It was a fantastic event.

One event that was even more fun, though sadly much more poorly attended due to cold and winds was the ship-building contest’s Sea Trials. Throughout the cruise guests gathered odds and ends from around the ship or around wherever to build a ship that would float and could take a cargo of six soda unopened soda cans. Only two participated. :( It was a fantastic event. The boats were great! The captains were so funny. They had to fill out a questionnaire about their boats and Nolan read them out loud, hysterical. Then the boats were put in the pool to test their seaworthiness. Because ether were so few entries they both won a bottle of champagne. I wish there had been more entries. It did however end up giving me much more of the morning off. Always a welcome happening.

Also on this cruise the cabarets have begun to come out. Elias opened it up with a Motown and Soul cabaret and Julia followed a few days later with a Jazz cabaret. Both were pre-dinner cabarets in Horizons and were fantastically well attended. And incredibly enjoyed. They both did an amazing job. I’ve said it many times that there isn’t much that Miss Johanos can’t do, but we were all astounded when we learned that by singing about the rainbow she could make one appear in front of the ship…. No kidding, as she sang her penultimate number, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, a rainbow formed in front of the ship and we sailed through it shortly after her bow.. What an experience for her. My cabaret will most likely be scheduled next cruise and I don’t think I could be more terrified.

After Julia’s cabaret she and I were invited by our friend Jack, a very fascinating and wonderful guest onboard to join him for dinner in the Grand Dining Room. A first for both of us. The dinner was several courses. The food was marvelous, we shared a lovely Chilean Merlot, and the often spoken of and seldom (once before) seen cocoa sorbet made an appearance. What a lovely evening we had.

This has taken me so long to type that we are now sailing away from Funchal, Madeira, Portugal, and towards the Rock of Gibraltar and Morroco. What a day did we have today.

I know it seems as though I say this a lot now, but friends, family, distinguished and disguised guest, Marcia.. FUNCHAL, MADEIRA!

We started the day with Nolan (CD), Margaret (ACD), Tim (SM), and Bette (a stage technician). We took a quick taxi ride to go to an irish pub for a full english breakfast. It was 10:30. We arrived at Moynihan’s only to discover that it didn’t open til noon. so we went up the block and got some coffee or Guinness at the first pub, called Pub #2. We hung out, drank and snacked on bar nuts and chips while we wifi’d until noon when we hopped along to the Irish Pub to get our breakfast. Twas super delicious. The company was fantastic. It was a sort of a last lunch with our Margaret who is going on vacation at the end of this cruise. We had a lovely time.

After breakfast (lunch) Julia, Bette and I walked through the B-E-A-UTIFUL town of Funchal to get to the cable car that would take us up the mountain. Funchal is gorgeous. It’s green, it’s clean, it smells heavenly. You’re constantly walking into these vistas of either ocean or mountains. The town crawls up the side of the mountains and all you see in the distance are lovely clay roofs. We enjoyed every moment. Even taking a moment to walk barefoot through a park (though that moment was over quickly after Bette stepped on a bee). We then stopped at a gelateria at the bottom of the cable car and gave the famous Madeira wine a try. Yum. Wished I could bring some back but the alcohol content was higher than we are allowed to have in our cabins. We then took an amazing 10-15 minute ride up the mountainside on the cable car, looking out to sea, down on the beautiful streets and gardens, the terraces, the roofs, it was extremely swell. At the top we walked along the narrow windy road past the 13th most beautiful botanical garden in the world in 2013 (very nice looking) towards our main event. We made a detour to see the view from this beautiful church that looks out to sea. At the top of these huge steps, a brilliant white church, a mass was happening inside so we quietly ascended the stairs to the roof, took some photos, and enjoyed the view before heading back down the steps to get in line (though there was no line at the moment) for the famous Madeira Wicker-Basket Toboggan Run. For ages they have been doing this. They have these basket sleds that you sit in and they ride you down the narrow winding streets for 2kms at high speeds. What a freaking rush. The two pushers(?) guided us down, twising and turning, running, pulling, braking using the rubber soles of their boots. It was awesome. I took a video that didn’t turn out as well as I would have liked, but one day perhaps you’ll see it. But it was awesome. And far undersold. It was somehow even more fun than you think it is. We bought the picture.

Basket Toboggan Run. Funchal, Madeira, Portugal

Basket Toboggan Run. Funchal, Madeira, Portugal

We then headed back to the ship, walking, enjoying the city, wishing we could stay.

This evening I enjoyed my first European sunset. The sea was very calm so I was hoping to glimpse the ever-illusive green flash, but no such luck. I did however spot a whole pod of dolphins and we think maybe even a whale. We’re keeping our eyes out. A guest saw one right of the side of the ship the other day… so jealous.

It’s been a LOVELY crossing. I’ll leave you with that. Cheers.

one monthiversary

Written By: Lukas - Mar• 22•14
costa maya, mexico

costa maya, mexico

Janusz plays the violin, first chair for the Quadrivium String Quartet. I enjoy his and his colleagues’ music every time I go to tea, and occasionally elsewhere about the ship. They, like all of the musicians on this ship, are very talented. Janusz is always smiling. He believes, as I do, that it’s important and beneficial for the crew to “keep the serious private.” This evening I ran into him on the lifeboat deck as I meandered my way back to my cabin after supper. As I approached he was staring seriously out to sea, the sky was still ever so slightly purple and orange where the sun had gone down some time before. But he turned and caught my eye and his wonderful smile reappeared. “One month!” he exclaimed, “less than thirty more days!” Janusz will return to his home and to his wife in Poland. Just in time for Easter. I’ve spoken to him on a number of occasions. He could be one of my favorite people to run into. A very quiet but very friendly fellow. He reminds me a lot of Stefan actually. He’s very happy to be returning to his wife, Joanna soon, and to see his children for Easter. He has two grown children, both studying in Germany, architects and engineers. His wife also plays the violin, though “is more talented.” They’ll be playing together in the philharmonic when he gets home. Janusz is always very interested. He likes to learn about where I’m from, we talked about weather today, “is there winter in your state? Can you ski?” He likes to share knowledge as well. He told me about Polish food today. I told him about Eva and the Apple Tree Bakery. He told me his family, his children, you could tell he misses them and loves them dearly. It seems he may have been worrying about tuition when I found him today. “There is a lot of time here to think, to think about the bad things and to think about the optimistic things… there is a lot of time.” I will miss Janusz when he goes home. But I’m very happy he’s going.

Tomorrow morning (which, hopefully, is today for you) marks the one month anniversary of our joining the Riviera and the Oceania family. Ship time is funny. Maybe it’s the long days. Maybe it’s the lack of windows. Maybe it’s the way no one talks about the different days of the week, speaking only in terms of where we are, were, or will be. Maybe it’s the switching back and forth between 12 hour and 24 hour clocks. Maybe it’s the two hours we put our clocks back at the beginning of this cruise. Maybe it’s that his shoes were tight. Whatever the reason, his heart or his shoes, the grinch stood there.. wait..

It doesn’t seem like a month since I joined this vessel. It doesn’t NOT seem like a month though either time flies, and drags on forever and you never know which it’s going to be. Life is busy. Life is changing. Life is cool.

Highlights of from my first month with Mama Riviera (in no particular order):

  • seeing the sea everyday. that’s always been a dream of mine, to be able to see the sea every day. CHECK. now to be able to TOUCH the sea every day…
  • snorkeling on Klein Bonaire, gorgeous Bonaire, with her reefs and her fish and her sea turtles.
  • riding around in Antony’s van in Grenada, seeing the island, SMELLING the island, discovering hot chocolate balls, hope it tastes as good as it looks and smells,
  • the pontoon bridge in Curacao, the bright beautiful colors of the town of Willemstad. Managing to get off not once but TWICE. Watching us sail away at midnight, our first and so far only late night sail away.
  • my first chance at getting off the boat, in St. Maarten. Walking along the beach with Miss Julia as the sun set.
  • sun sets in general. I’ve caught a fair few now. LOVE watching the sun set over the ocean. Still waiting to see the illusive green flash that supposedly occurs sometimes the moment the sun disappears..
  • the terrain of all of those eastern caribbean islands. crazy angels jungly mountains, it was super cool to be driving through them in Grenada.
  • the freakin’ food on this ship
  • stargazing from my secret spot
  • discovering secret spots!
  • days spent on the beach with the gang from boutiques/destinations
  • nights spent in Horizons with Jim the current guest comedian. The point where Jim and Julia discovered they were related.. several beers in this was super funny to me…
  • the color of the water in the caribbean sea. un. freakin. real.

It goes on and on. I’m super excited that this is just the beginning. The Caribbean portion is amazingly somehow almost over already. In just s few weeks now we’ll be crossing the Atlantic Ocean and dipping our toes in the beautiful waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Our first overnight (in Bermuda). Barcelona. The Greek islands. Sailing into Istanbul at sunrise-ish. Looking forward to those things. Dreaming forward. But at the same time doing pretty well with staying in the present. For once..

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And since I didn’t post this this morning or last night you get a bonus bit. Today IS my one month anniversary onboard Mama Riviera. And it could not have been a better day, so far.. and tonight we have only the disco bumper to do and then freedom! So I don’t see how it could go sour.. knock on wood..

This morning I arose early to attend the welcome breakfast in the grand dining room, what a fancy affair that was. It seems so odd to be waited on so elegantly at such an early hour.. yes sir, and what year are your froot loops.. the ’77? Yes we’ll take the box.. oh thank you I would inDEED like to smell the box top.. Seriously though, what a breakfast. We were seated right below the giant crystal chandelier. We were free to choose any item or items from the menu that we wished. It was Andriy, Ana, Jules and I and several people we didn’t know. And we were led by the head of HR and the officer in charge of trainings, Laurence and Lynette respectively. Lovely ladies. Seeing as Julia and I and the two leaders were the only four at the table who spoke English as a first language, (well, Laurence is French, but has perfect English) the four of us dominated the conversation. We had a wonderful breakfast before setting out to enjoy Roatan, Honduras. I had Eggs Benedict and tropical fruit. mwah.

There isn’t much to be seen here by foot from the port. Plenty of taxis and minibuses, but nothing but an incredibly gorgeous resort within walking distance. We attempted to walk further out, but didn’t see much. Several locals hassled us for a bit about giving us a tour, which normally we would have taken them up on, but as we had booked spots on a crew excursion, we didn’t feel we had time. So we took the chair lift (free for crew members) down to the resort area/beach. Just lovely.

It’s a manmade beach, but they did a beautiful job. It looks out on the open sea, and on mama. At the far end we found a loooong pier. For snorkeling. Or snerkeling as they seem to pronounce it here. We walked to the end and jumped off with our snorkeling snerkeling stuff and went beneath the sea. We followed some tiny fish, brightly colored, some big fish, almost translucent. We spotted some anenomes, (I can’t spell that word and apparently neither can my computer.. but with friends like these…) and some weird feathery thingies. And a fish performing for his friends at the purple fish amphitheater.

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gracie

 We toweled off and headed back towards the ship. It was time for our dolphin excursion. Awesome. It took both a bus and a boat to get there. We were part of our crew group, who turned out to be part of a larger group as well. There were several dolphins and several trainers all leading groups through the experience. Our trainer’s name was Michael and Gracie was our beautiful dolphin. She’s 24, she’s a rescue and has given birth to three babes whilst there at the marine somethingsomething place. We learned about dolphins, and were shown some of their abilities, and took some photos and videos of the dolphins, and posed for some photos WITH the dolphins (that we did end up paying the arm and leg for, though not too bad if you call yourselves a couple and split the couple rate…) I don’t have those for your viewing pleasure yet, but soon I’m sure. It was wonderful. We got to pet her, and feel her tail muscles and her funny little teeth, she splashed us, spoke for us, sang for us, danced for us. Top notch experience. And what a gorgeous backdrop. You take a speed boat out (not far) to a beautiful little island (looked like it started as a reef) and thats where all of the dolphins lived in their enclosures. I think they said they have about twenty dolphins there. It’s all also part of a resort, where you take a boat to your little bungalow on another little island. It looks like a fabulous place to spend a vacation.

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Anthony Key Resort or something like that.. the dolphin place.. Roatan, Honduras

Ok, I want to get to the gym before supper. So I’ll leave it there. Hope all is well on your end of the interwebs, for all is spectacular over here.

 

dancing through life

Written By: Lukas - Mar• 20•14
Jolly Beach, Antigua

Jolly Beach, Antigua

I couldn’t decide if I wanted the cinnamon ice cream or the nougat ice cream to go with my cocoa sorbet. I asked the Honduran scooper which one I should choose, and I don’t know if he didn’t understand or if this is just the way they deal with people who don’t know which to choose, as part of going above and beyond in search for customer loyalty, but I ended up with with all three flavors in my dish. Cinnamon I’d had before and adored. It’s perfect. It’s marked as “no sugar added” (which I’m told does not on this ship mean fake crap sugar and splenda and yuck stuff, it just means no sugar has been added, it’s only sweet because of the other ingredients) so I don’t understand why the cinnamon ice cream is sweet, but it is. And it’s perfect. The cocoa sorbet is like nothing I’ve ever had. It’s this very, very, dark, glossy, brown, sweet, bitter, dark chocolate heaven in it’s little silver bowl. It’s so dark, and yet somehow incredibly refreshing because of it’s sorbet-ness. Two thugs way up. The nougat was also very good but I couldn’t focus on it because I was distracted by the other two flavors. And by the lovely guests who snagged me on my way back to my lunch table and had me join them. Some friends who’d met a couple cruses back, from Philly (one can see Drexel from her window), with a new friend who, because she’s lived so many places, refers to herself simply as a citizen of the United States. Always lovely to talk to people about Philly, especially those who are familiar with our wonderful theatre scene. They wanted to compliment me on my performances thus far. These shows make the socializing so easy. The first day at tea time it was like pulling teeth, for me and I’m sure for the guests, trying to get through the 45 minutes of tea, but now I find that I walk around the room and get to talking with three, maybe four tables, and ll of the sudden I’m late for library duty. And it’s actually FUN! So many interesting people onboard, elderly folks who’ve been all over the place, all of that wonderfulness. But everyone is eager to snag us and talk about how much they loved the show. So that’s easy.

 

I was just walking back from said ice cream and I took my usual detour along the lifeboat deck to look out at the shanty-lined mountainsides of St. Vincent. My cabin is located super far forward in the ship, steps away from the bow actually, literally. So the nearest elevator to my cabin doesn’t go as high as I need it to, so I need to go to the midship elevator to get up to places like the pool deck, the Horizon Lounge, anything up top towards the front. The quickest way is to take the deck 6 crew cabin corridor, but its small and entirely tan, who wants to do that, so unless its super windy and I’m headed somewhere that requires my hair to remain superbly kempt (snort), I take the lifeboat deck, also deck 6, which takes maybe a few seconds longer, but gets me some sunshine,some fresh air, and a lovely view, even if we’re at sea. But today it’s a misty day in St. Vincent, and I’d already explored the little town, and had gotten quite deep in, in the locals territory and had realized that all of the brightly colored shacks that you can see from the lifeboat deck that look so magical from there, so postcardian, are in fact.. shacks. And that people, different and not so different at the same time live there. And that when it gets dark out, they’ll fill up with people, and maybe with light. I don’t know, sounds silly now, and perhaps like a waste of typing, but it struck me in someway, as life has taken to doing lately. Those post cards you see in the shops, the ones of the lovely towns and villages on a coastal hillside, that’s life in there, those are homes and people live there. Thought that was interesting. Ok, I’m off to my meeting with the Cruise Director, we’s all going to talk about some folk rock I think.

 

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Life continues to be swell. Though it’s quite an enjoyable life, it’s very difficult to get a routine going. Days are long. Nights are short. And everyday, though very much the same, is very different. Gymtimes, meditation, healthy eating and sleeping habits are hard to manage. This cruise I have sworn off all ship desserts, though I allowed for a piece of frozen chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick in Key West yesterday.. or maybe two. I think I may need to rethink my priorities..

 

We have started our third cruise now. this one is called “Mayan Mystique” and will take us to Mexico and some of the Western Caribbean islands. We left Miami on Tuesday (it’s now thursday), yesterday was spent enjoying the lovely island of Key West, a tragedy that we aren’t going back to that wonderland. Such a lovely looking vacationland. I went upstairs for breakfast at Waves grill, the burger joint on the pool deck. It serves breakfast, including an egg station until 11, and is the last place open for breakfast. Anyways, I sat looking out towards the sea as I ate my eggs, looking across two little islands, watching vacationers having fun riding their jet-skis and parasailing (that’s what that’s called right? the thing where you ride a parachute-like thing behind a speedboat, boy I’d like to do that.) But it was this incredibly isolated and beautiful view. I hadn’t looked out the other direction yet and couldn’t believe that behind me there must be an island of civilization, and assumed it probably didn’t look too appealing, not in comparison to the small islands and open sea in front of me. But Key West is absolutely gorgeous. I can see why people go there. And why people never leave.

 

We’ve been getting to know the other crew members slowly but surely. We’ve spent several days at port and several evenings in Horizons (the lounge at the top of the front of the ship) with the gang from Destinations and the Boutiques. Phillipo, Jamie, Sonny, Tom, Jess, et al.. Lovely people, all Europeans. I enjoy their company very much. Yesterday we had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe in Key West with some of them. They’ve all been on ships for much longer than we and know many of the best spots to go. Jamie, also in my muster station, helped me try to fix my watch, has been telling us where we should do what and is going to take us to a fantastic spot in Bermuda for a birthday party, our first overnight. I also spent an hour (the hour it takes to sail out of the port of Miami) chatting with Laurence, the head of Human Resources onboard, she’s from France, she’s got a sister in school to be a horse veterinarian, a brother who’s a pastry chef in Washington, she’s done a lot of traveling. She’ll be with us for another month or so. She also taught some of our trainings and will be our hosts at our Welcome to the Company breakfast on (I think) Saturday.

 

Today we’re back on the boat for a day of cruising the Straits of Florida. The sea is incredibly calm today. I’ve crossed the lifeboat several times on my way to and from the laundry room and each time I’m struck by how smooth the sea is. Of course it’s got some waves, but there’s hardly any surf beyond the surf created by our bow. I really should be sitting gout there looking at it now. But I just finished folding my laundry and am about to leave for teatime.

 

We had a full department meeting today with the Cruise Director and staff, all of the musicians and everyone. We are doing very well as a team. Nolan is VERY satisfied with our work. The ratings for last cruise aren’t officially out yet but Nolan assures us that as a team our ratings are very high and the higher-ups are very happy with us. So much so that rules and regulations are being looked at, restrictions that could perhaps be loosened, that sort of thing. Which is very good news for poor Elias who has to socialize every time he wants to have a drink, or eat a meal, as he cannot at this point go into the crew bar.

 

This week while we were in Miami, the dancers and two of the singers, not me, but Elias and mostly Holly, had to learn another bumper, a Burlesque style, as in Burlesque the movie, show. It turns out that there is a chartered cruise coming up and they had told the charter-ere that they’d be seeing the Burlesque bumper, but Jean Ann Ryan Productions wasn’t told, so now they’ve abandoned “One” (the Chorus Line bumper) and scrambled together the Burlesque one. Less work for me 😉

 

I’m signed up for a crew excursion in a few days, in Roatan I think, to swim with some dolphins, that should be a blast and a half.. and hopefully I’ll get to see some Mayan ruins in the next few days. Life is ever exciting, ever changing, and ever joyful. Now to get myself ready for the Captain’s Welcome Cocktail Party..

officer’s MESS

Written By: Lukas - Mar• 09•14
mama riviera aglow

mama riviera aglow

It’s Thursday morning. We’re currently in an anchor port, the port of Gustavia, St. Barth’s. We opened the second show last night, “Now and Forever: the Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber” and it was very well received. It’s a much lighter show for me. I sing the first song, and then dance in a couple of songs. The guy who was my track before me, I’m told, was even less of a dancer than I am, so apparently would sing his song and be gone for the rest of the show basically. But Helen was adamant about keeping me in.

The first Crew Party was last night, a Hollywood themed party in the Crew Bar, also my first actual visit to the legendary place. Free beers were being offered, so I figured it was a must. The different departments go through a rotation of, I think, two-week-long turns at hosting the crew festivities, the galley team has been the host thus far and though this is was the first event I’d been to, they’ve had several others. Today somewhere there’s a hot dog social, but I’ve got rehearsal.

I’m currently writing from a patio chair on the drew deck, it’s on and off sprinkling, I’ve just had my Harassment Training, or perhaps ANTI-Harassment training is what it was or should have been called.. And am now on an hour break until my costume fitting for the next show : “Flower Power” Then it’s lunch, and then we start spacing and cleaning “Flower Power”. If we were in a port with a proper pier I would absolutely be off the boat right now exploring, but as we are tendering (anchored in the harbor and using the lifeboats to take people to and from shore) I do not have enough time to make a brief escape. And that’s fine. We’ll be returning here gain at some point, twice more I think. And I managed to escape yesterday for a little more than an hour in Phillipsburg, St. Maarten. And it was absolutely lovely. Julia and I scampered off during our pre show dinner break, and got to walk along the beach and the boardwalk during golden time and sunset before returning to our lit up Mama Riviera. It’s actually quite a fascinating experience getting off at pier and walking down between ships. They are huge. As I walk around inside the Riviera, she’s starting to feel smaller and smaller, perhaps she’ll get bigger again once I have time to meander about the guest areas more, but she’s starting to feel small. But when you see her from the outside, she definitely is very large. However, as we were walking down the pier towards shore, The Eurodam, a Holland America ship was sailing into port on the other side of the pier and she made us feel small. And on top of that when we got past Mama’s big aft and could see the Oasis of the Seas, the World’s Largest Cruise Ship.. mama began to look mighty small nestled between those two big ships.

St. Maarten was lovely. It was about a 20 minute walk to the beach and boardwalk from the “Harbor Point Village” but it was nice to be out in the sun and fresh air. We walked along the road, beside a crazy cool cliffy mountain, complete with goats bouncing around the craggy edge. We didn’t have much time to do anything but walk up the beach and back down, but we got to put our toes in the water (finally, it drives me a little crazy that I’ve spent this much time literally ON the ocean but unable to touch it) and admire the sunset and the golden glow reflecting off the palm trees and whatnot. It was a lovely time, I would like to have been able to climb some of the mountains, their shapes were all so fascinating. St. Barth’s today also looks to have some cool mountains that I’d like to have time to visit, but perhaps next time. On our way back we stopped to get some macaroons to share, best macaroons I’ve ever had. She got a passionfruit one, I got a poppy flower one (amazeballs) and we shared a salted caramel butter one (also amazeballs) as they came in 3’s. Food so far has been very delicious particularly desserts. Until getting on the ship, I’d been pretty good about avoiding desserts since christmas, but any weight I lost during rehearsals is definitely going to be reappearing, at least during this first cruise. I’ll make it to the gym next week maybe…. maaaaybe…..

I also managed to get off the boat for about a half an hour in San Juan, made it to a CVS, that didn’t have anything that I was hoping to find. But it was nice to get off, and now I can say I’ve been to Puerto Rico. TADAA! I believe tomorrow we’re in Tortola, we’ll see if I manage to get any time there. We’ll be opening “Flower Power” tomorrow night, so I doubt it. It worked out yesterday because we were in port until midnight.

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This post is really rambly. Sorry. I guess. So here’s more out of order rambles.

Yesterday I was on break when we were sailing into St. Maarten and got to watch ourselves dock. I stood on the port forward outside deck on deck 6, by the lifeboats, and watched as we pulled into the harbor, turned ourselves a bit and backed into our terminal. It’s crazy how they can maneuver this thing. Just nutso. Then I watched as the lines were thrown to the dock to tie us up. I stood with one of the officers, Phil, lovely fellow, already learned my name (a LOT of the high ups learned our names incredibly quickly) he talked to me about docking, about the Oasis as we sailed past her, about how close St. Barth’s was and how we’d travel really slowly last night to get here. I like him very much. He might be my ticket eventually to get to see the bridge.. fingers crossed. I’d better head back inside and see what ridiculous hippie outfits they’re gonna want to stuff me into now.. I’ll type more soon. I imagine that this will be another of those several day long posts, except this time less organized. Sorry, again. But at least I’m managing to stay on it. Sort of.

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Tonight we wait to open our last show: “Rock On”. The house open a full 45 minutes before curtain, so we have to be warmed up and sound checked and all of that before that happens. So now we have a good load of waiting to do. So tonight’s blog post is brought to you via iPhone. The dressing rooms are quite spacious on this ship.  And if I could punch a hole through the wall in front of my spot on the table, I’d have a window on the port side of Mama Riviera. Actually my window would be right below her name, I think. But there is no window sadly. So all of that matters not. It’s been a whirlwind of a ride trying to get all of these shows opened. All of the costume fittings have happened onboard, the two costume ladies, Gay and Michelle, have been working so hard altering costumes, fixing issues, and just generally figuring all of this out. And Helen has been working so hard to help us get everything looking top notch. Hard to believe that after tonight she an the rest of the install team will be gone and it’ll be just us. Little baby birds trying to find our.. sea legs…

Tonight is the final night of the first cruise as well. Tomorrow morning we’ll be docking in Miami again an all of these guests, and some of our friends (Ed! Don’t go!!!), will be leaving us and new faces will appear.  And we’ll start all over again. This first cruise our main purpose was to get the shows open. And get the necessary trainings completed. So, though we did a little bit of socializing here and there it was never required of us. This next cruise, however, it’ll be our job to host trivia, karaoke, ping pong tournaments, BINGO and all of those things. Ed, the wonderful Assistant Assistant Cruise Director has been filling all of those duties for us this cruise, what a saint. It’ll be interesting to see how the end of rehearsals and the beginning of social duties will affect ship life. It’ll be lovely to finally get on and off the ship on a daily basis  for more than 20 minutes, actually see some of these ports. I managed to hop off for an hour or so today in Nassau, Bahamas, touched the water, had some ice cream, bought a magnet. (I’ll be collecting magnets for awhile it seems, as souvenirs and as something to use to put things on our walls as the use of tape is forbidden).

Last night after our bumper show, Margaret (the actual Assistant Cruise Director) did a cabaret in the main theatre, after which we did Saluté, where the whole crew of the ship fills the stage to receive thanks for their work from the guests, and sing Auld Lang Syne together as a farewell. It’s a cute time. Then we dashed upstairs to Horizons, the lounge/bar area on forward deck 15 and caught the tail end of the Oscars which they had a proper stream of.

The night before that we had a Crew Bingo night, top prize was $2000. I didn’t win. But it was fun to see the whole crew together having fun and all. And Nolan, the Cruise Director had a lovely time goofing off and calling the numbers.

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Ok. I’m gonna finish this now. What a mess is this blog. But at least this is where the mess is. It’s March 9th, y’all have miserably just set your clocks forward, I did that several days ago manner manner naaaaanerrrr.. I’m having the time of my life. I’m meeting a lot of wonderful people, eating too much wonderful food (this boat… I tell you… just…. food… that’s all I’ve got to say about that..), and seeing the most beautiful places. Now that we’re finished with our install and are into what will be a more normal routine I’m finally getting to get off Mama Riviera with more frequency. Two days ago, following two days at sea, I hopped off the boat in Aruba and found myself slurping down some delicious mojitos with the one and only Billy Shaw. His ship was docked a few slots ahead of us in line at the pier. We met up and had some food and drink and caught up. I don’t believe I’ve seen him since the summer of “Kindergarten.” So that was nice. Aruba was nice, but the two days since have been absolutely awesomesauce.

Yesterday we had a good long day in Willemstad, Curacao. It was a wonderfully long day at port, we didn’t set sail until 11PM, so despite it being my day to shoulder the duties, I still managed to get off not once but TWICE. Finally got to see what Mama Riviera looks like from afar at night, all lit up, she’s real purdy.. Willemstad is a gorgeous city. So colorful. All of the buildings on the island are painted in bright colors (a doctor had advised the government that because of the strong caribbean sun, if they allowed everyone to paint their homes white, it would be bad for their eyesight, so it’s legally required for the city to be brightly colored.) It’s lovely. I wandered a bit through the Dutch settlement, explored both touristy areas and a pier where the locals were swimming, tucked behind a church. Finally broke out my real camera, so look for those to appear soon as well. The highlight of the day, and the evening was the floating pedestrian bridge that connects the two halves of the city. A river cuts it in half and huge ships, shipping ships or oil ships or something come frequently up and down it. But they’ve got this incredible footbridge that swings open and shut, floating on pontoons. And at night it’s covered in yet even more brightly colored lights. I thought it was just the best day. I thought too soon…

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queen emma pontoon bridge

 

This morning at sunrise, (which I got up to watch, but it was half covered by a cloud, though still loverly) we docked in the tiny town of Kralendijk, Bonaire, another Dutch island. It’s small and quiet. And beautiful. I had breakfast up on deck 12 at the Terrace (guest food) and hopped off to explore. I walked up the the shoreline along the marina-like area, children played in the water, vacationers having coffee on their timeshare terraces, shops still closed up on this early sunday morning. The water down here isn’t actually real, I’m convinced. They’ve dyed it, it’s just too impossibly blue. I kid, but seriously. The water down in this sea is outrageous, the shallow water is brighter than a robin’s egg, the deep water is bluer than the royal-est of blues. And warm, not too warm, but just right. I swam for about two hours today (we’ll get to that) and never got cold. It’s amazing. Even as we sail form island to island I can just sit and watch the water roll past and easily lose track of time. Anyhoo, I’d read that one of THE things to do in Bonaire, read and heard last night from one of the guests, a man from Lebanon, that one of THE things to do in Bonaire is to take a water taxi from the main island to it’s baby island Klein Bonaire, about 20 minutes out. So after looking around and waiting for Patchoulia (gesundheit [nay, GAZundhite]) to get out of bed, we did just that. A roundtrip ticket: $20, snorkel/goggles rental: $5, two hours of carefree drift snorkeling, chasing sea turtles, and frolicking in the surf: priceless. I’ve still got sand in my ears and a bright red back (I look like a backwards robin) as we sail away, but it was absolutely worth it. We caught the water taxi back with time to walk through the town once more, pick up a souvie or two and get back on the boat for a second meal today on the terrace before the guests got back on the boat and swarmed it.

klein bonaire

klein bonaire

Duties: I know someone is curious… Pop…. The duties are split between the singers and the dancers. The dancers take the sporting duties, running shuffleboard and ping pong tournaments and all that jazz, and the singers take the more social activities, your teatimes, your evening trivias and greeting at the doors and that sort of thing. Elias has guest status and is therefore free of duties outside doing the show so the singer duties are on a three day rotation, mostly, a sea day can throw off the rotation, meaning that every third day its my turn to get back on the boat and sit and chat with the guests at teatime, greet them as they go to a lecture, entertain them with a game of trivia, tidy the library etc. It’s not so bad. My day was yesterday in Curacao, and I still managed to get off the boat and see much of the port for several hours. The singers, though we have a duty day more often than the dancers, our duties don’t start as early in the morning, so it evens out. All in all, I really can’t complain.

All of the sun I’ve gotten today has set me up for a lovely nap now, so I will try to get this thing posted and close me eyes for a bit. I think tomorrow we’re in Grenada, woo woo. Life is good. Seriously though, I’ve had a lot of happy times in my life, but this seems to be a record setting happy. Much love and peace to you all. And some warmth.

welcome to the world’s best ship

Written By: Lukas - Feb• 25•14
IMG_8361

boarding. Now that I’ve been introduced, I believe that’s the captain (left) at the top of the gangway. And Laurence, the Head of the HR department and my muster station crew leader, lovely woman, French.

 

I’ll be writing this blog post as the week goes on. It may get confusing to read as I’ll be jumping from day to day to place to place. And I should know more about cruise life by the time I reach the end of the first cruise, so I imagine I’ll be answering my own questions as I go along.

It’s 8am on my first morning onboard the ms Riviera, one of Oceania Cruiseline’s two bigger of their four ships. The Riviera is the twin sister of the cruiseline’s flagship the Marina (currently hanging out in Australia). Though we are not the flagship, we are in fact the best ship in the world. Apparently we won that title in a vote that took place two days ago, from now, so Friday the 21st of February. At this moment, we are sailing along the coast of Cuba, and can just see it in the distance. Pop probably was following along at home. I keep thinking that. As we watched out the theatre windows as we sailed away I kept thinking, “I bet Pop is watching us leave right now on the webcams in the port of Miami and has a better idea of what’s going on than I do.”

I managed to get up early this morning after struggling to fall asleep last night. Not because of the rocking of the ship, which was minimal at the time, though I can definitely feel it going as I type this now. I’ve found that the strongest sense of rocking I get is when I sit on the can (there’s your daily dose of TMI). Anyhoo. I got up at about 6:15 this morning, determined to be showered, shaved, uniform on, and breakfasted in time to get to the crew deck for the sunrise. And I did it, sot of. had it not been just slightly cloudy I’d have missed it. But because there were some clouds just on the horizon, I saw it rise over the clouds right when I got there. It was beautiful. I imagine as most mornings will be free I’ll be attempting to view as many of those as possible. And definitely sunsets where possible. The crew deck, amazingly, is NOT down in some corner and covered in pipes and stuff as I expected, but however it is the highest point of the ship, the little deck around the funnel at the back. I got the Assistant Cruise Director, Edward, to take me up there last night after our late supper. Couldn’t see a damn thing outside of our globe of light last night, it’s dark out here on the open ocean. There was a mystery cruise ship a little ways off our port side, we raced her, I think we’re winning, there’s a ship way behind us now in the distance, I saw it this morning. World’s Best Ship.

I did a little exploring this morning as well before coming back to my little room to write to you all. After the whirlwind of yesterday I’m quite surprised at how well I’m finding my way around, at least around the crew areas. I’ve not seen too much of the passenger areas yet, though what I have seen is quite beautiful. Today we’ve got more rehearsal, we get our official crew cards with photos on them today, Security and Environmental training, and more rehearsal. We’re working on “Up In Flames” spacing today, though are going to tech one of the bumpers, “Libertango,” a dance piece, in the afternoon as it will be used this evening to open up for the guest entertainers, a comedian and a country singer. I’ll probably watch from the back of the house, at least my friends. That is if I can manage to get some of these nice clothes pressed and tidy. Then I imagine I’ll wander about the passenger areas so I can see what they look like a lit up. Maybe get my picture taken with the big “O” on the funnel. I’ll keep you posted.

Yesterday was our first day. We left the hotel in a big van with a little trailer for all of luggage at about 5 to 9AM. We arrived at the port of Miami probably about 45 minutes later, I’m truthfully not quite sure as we sprinted through the crowds of disembarking passengers to get to the crew gangway. I was amongst the first group of us to get on the ship. Through a security checkpoint or two. We left our big bags outside to be brought aboard and kept our little ones with us. Once all of us were onboard waiting in the atrium, by the fancy steps, beautiful, we were taken downstairs to a conference room to do paperwork, to the crew office to hand in paperwork and sign the manifest (I think that’s what that was) and then Edward (the wonderful ACD, we lose him in a week to the Marina, BOO HISS) took us to our rooms. What a ridiculous job he had yesterday. He had just gotten in form Sydney the day before, had been up since two, and was taking us back and forth, back and forth, just flying through the passage ways, walking each person to their room, a chore as none of us knew where our cabins were hidden, and few of us live near one another. I’m on deck 7, the girls are mostly on 10, Artem and Laura are on 6 (?). And he brought us all around, then brought us to lunch (deck 4), though didn’t have any as he had to keep flying around the ship. But he picked us up from there to take us to laundry on deck 3, the bowels of the ship, to get our charming uniforms (I’m actually kind of fond of my little uniform, it’s blue cargo shorts and a short sleeve white button up with the shoulder loops, I feel like I’ve got the summer St. Agnes uniform on). After uniforms were handed out, I had to get my trousers hemmed by the onboard tailor, then we took our big bags from where they had been dumped in a corridor, to the dressing rooms, no time to take them upstairs, and we immediately started putting the shows together before our safety training session at 2PM. Then it was back the to theatre to rehearse more before our first Guest Drill. Every Embarkation day, presumably around 4:30, we’ll all get our little uniforms on, our safety lime green caps and our life preservers and make our way to our Muster station. There are 4 Muster Stations onboard the Riviera. From fore to aft (front to back): Muster Station A is in the theatre, B is in the.. somewhere (maybe it’s the grand staircase), C is in the casino area, and D (my muster station) is in the Grand Dining Room at the very back of the ship. All stations are on level 5. During and emergency or drill my job is to report to the dining room with my life jacket and cap and pick up my clipboard and stand by my section of the room and check off the people in group 10 as they approach me. Then we demonstrate (amongst many a grumble) how to put on the life jackets. And then when given the all clear the guests go back about their day and then shortly after staff does as well. Back to rehearsal.

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the very serious Muster Station D10 Group Leader.

 

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It is now day three aboard the Riviera, and I’ve only got a few minutes before reporting to the training room for.. yes… more training. Actually this morning its a Welcome Induction, which I can only assume means hazing…. I jest. Following that will be a crew drill, not sure of what, probably the same thing, but I did see them lower a lifeboat this morning, so maybe something cooler? Then it’s lunch for an hour before we do two runs of “Up In Flames” this afternoon before our (the singers) Opening Night! Last night the dancers all opened up with “Libertango” as the opening act for guest comedian Noodles Levestein (very amusing). I got all dressed up for the first time and stood in the back to watch, mingled with some guests, chatted for awhile with a couple from Chicago, wasn’t too bad, kind of fun actually. I had intended to find all of the singers, but I only managed to find Julia. Julia explored the public areas while we were properly dressed up before and after the show. The ship is crazy beautiful. Lots to be seen. After a quick stop in the Crew Bar to see if any of the dancers were around (they were) we went to our beds. We’re in Grand Turk this morning, and I made my daily commute to the Crew Deck, sunrise was too early for me today, but it was quite lovely out anyway, the view of Grand Turk was lovely, very flat looking, but I’m afraid that’s all I’ll see of her. Off to my meeting.

We’re in Crew drill mode now. Waiting for an announcement for what I have to do. Hopefully they make an announcement in my room. Time will tell.

We just finished our Welcome Induction with the lovely training and something officer, Lynette. It was a short overview of the company’s history, the hierarchy of ship command, and an little bit about how things work for crew members (i.e. where the launderette is, how to borrow the playstation, info on upcoming crew events, etc.) We also got lovely little leather wallets to keep our crew card and our safety card in, and a bit of cash if we’re going ashore. Quite fond of the little thing actually.

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So, crew drill is much more interesting than a guest drill. The first time it is anyway. When we did the guest drill we had to go to our muster stations and check in all the guest in our group and that was it. For the crew drill we went from the onset of a situation (today it was a “Code Bravo” which means fire or damage in Zone 1, Deck 5, One day I’ll have that figured out, somewhere on deck 5, towards the front, I thought I saw some people dressed to fight a fire) all the way through muster stations (sans guests, to getting into lifeboats. I was pleased to find out that I share a lifeboat with the doctor. My duty for this half is to lead my group when it is called from the dining room to our lifeboat, #10. And then count them as they get in the boat. I have 90 guests this cruise, and 14 crew members to account for. Then we wait in our boat until they’ve finished the drill. Then it was over. It was kind of hard, but not as bad as you might think, to be standing on the deck of the ship, next to my lifeboat, looking at the beach of Grand Turk knowing that I will not be getting off this boat today. Or any day in the near future.

We then had lunch and some more truing before our two runs today. I finally got some costumes today, I was starting to stress a bit about not getting to run the show with quick changes before having an audiences, but it’s all working out. Slowly but surely the kinks are ironing out. Poor Gay, the lady whose fitting all of our costumes. Not only is she sick, but there is supposed to be two people doing her job and something happened with the other persons passport and they were unable to board with us on Saturday, so Gay has been working OVERTIME to get us all sorted out. I think they’re trying to get someone on to help at one of the upcoming ports. That’s the scuttlebutt anyway. Hope it’s true.

I’m about to head down to my first show onboard the Riviera in a few minutes. In fact, the second half of this paragraph may well be written long after I’ve bowed my first bow. I’m quite nervous. But it’s going to be fine. I’m in wonderful company. Tired, but wonderful. It’ll be nice to get this beast of our shoulders, if only to yoke up the next one tomorrow, which I can’t even recall which show it is we’re doing tomorrow..

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One down. Two down for the dancers. Woof. Fast, it was, young padowan. But very well received. We managed to get ourselves a standing “O” (for Oceania? Maybe?). So that’s good. The show was pretty good for me, except for two costume changes that went a little long.. I use the term “little” lightly, for one the song I was singing may or may not have been almost half over by the time I got out there… but it’ll work itself out. We were treated afterwards to a lovely bottle or six of champagne by our wonderful cruise director, Nolan. We chatted a bit and now it’s time for bed. We start up on “Now and Forever: the Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber” tomorrow, which thankfully, for me at least, should be a lot less stressful than “Up In Flames”

I’m really enjoying ship life. The boat is beautiful, the ocean is present, the people are wonderful, truly, wonderful people. As I type now, we are sailing from Grand Turk to San Juan, we must be in some choppy waters as I feel that feeling of the bow of the ship smacking against the water, which I think I actually really enjoying. It’s interesting, the same sound and feeling would make me feel very nervous, but I find it quite soothing on the ship. Though I truly am enjoying these first days, I can’t wait for this first cruise to be done and the shows to be up and running so I can have some free time back. I walk about the ship every morning after breakfast, trying to find all it’s nooks and crannies. My favorite spot as of yet is the crew deck, and maybe the spot closer to the water on deck 6 in front of the lifeboats, you can stand there and watch the spray from the bow. I bet eventually I’ll manage to spit some dolphins from there.

I wish you all as much joy as I am experiencing. Really looking forward to these next six months. Peace.

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sunrise along the coast of Cuba

As always, feel free to ask any questions you might have. Email or Facebook would be your best shot, though it may take me a bit to get back to you. Love.

 

the luckiest

Written By: Lukas - Feb• 22•14

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Howdy y’all. Long time no diddly, but I’m back. Back with a vengeance. And life is awesome (everything is awesome..everything is cool when you’re part of a team).

For those of you who aren’t aware, I’ve spent the past monthish in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, rehearsing several production shows for a new gig on a cruise ship. Well, rehearsals are finished, and the bags have been repacked and we board our new mama tomorrow. For the next 6.5 months I’ll be living it up on the ms Riviera, the flagship of the up and coming cruise line Oceania. I’ve been told, repeatedly (REPEATEDLY) that she is one gorgeous ship and I’m very excited to meet her. At this point there isn’t a whole lot that I can tell you about her, as there isn’t a whole lot that I know myself. But there are some things that I am now well versed in and can share with wild abandon.

I’ve been hired as one of the singers for the productions shows aboard the ship, and M2 for those of you that that would mean anything to. We have four main productions that we’ll be rotating through: “Up in Flames,” the music of Billy Joel and Elton John; “Flower Power,” the music of the 60’s; “Rock On,” a show in the vein of Rock of Ages, a silly little love story woven through some loosely related rock songs; and “Now and Forever: the Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber,” I think that one’s pretty self-explanatory. Each of these shows is about 45 minutes long and moves along quite quickly. They seem like they’ll be a lot of fun to play in, but ask me again in six months…

There are also three bumper shows that we’ll perform. Bumper shows are short mini shows that are used to lead into guest entertainers shows, or to open up a pool deck barbecue or who knows what else. These feature our incredible cast of dancers more than us singer types, especially, Libertango, the ballroom feature, a wicked awesome show our ballroom pair can put on.

What’s perhaps most exciting, terrifying, and personally engaging and exploratory is that in addition to these group performances each of us singers has been tasked with putting together a 45 minute cabaret of our own design complete with an eight piece band. A very daunting task for someone like me. Though with some help from the wonderful Tammy one of our musical directors, and the miracle that is music arranger, Ryan Shirar, my cabaret piece is shaping into something I’m actually really excited by. It’s so very me in every which way. Very goofy.But hopefully very charming and earnest in it’s goofiness. My theme is one of confidence and the looking for the courage to embrace being true to yourself. And perhaps by the time I’ve finished this cruise it’ll be something I’ve got a better handle on. Putting it together was really stressful for me, but once I finally did it all out loud once in front of my fellow singers (and then a brief selection from it for the whole cast and some of the ladies from the office) its weight was lifted from my shoulders and I’m genuinely pretty excited exploring this new opportunity.

And though my focus will be on performing, I believe a majority of my time socializing with the guests, playing shuffleboard with them, leading karaoke nights, trivia games, encouraging them to buy more drinks, and generally being entertaining.

The best part of this experience so far (besides getting to spend so much time in the warm Floridian sun instead of the brutally cold and messy audition circuit grind of New York City) is the people I’ve been spending my time with. These people are wonderful. I am so fortunate to have been placed with such an incredibly fun, funny, kind, interesting, and TALENTED cast. and diverse! The four singers are all Americans, three of the dancers are Ukrainian, two of them English and one gal is from Australia. Everyone onboard has had a multitude of different experiences, all of them interesting. A lead dancer from the Moulin Rouge (two actually), a two-year Simba from Disney Hong Kong, a pair of crazy awesome champion ballroom dancers, a super-talented-in-every-outrageously-possible-way-like-seriously-it’s-stupid-Jesus-Christ singer from the mountains of Colorado, two English roses, a gal who’s toured with Chubby Checker and some other old famous teen heartthrob whose name is escaping me now and an ogre from the swamp. There is NEVER a dull moment with these people and I couldn’t be any happier to be spending the next 6 months with them. Seriously.

I feel like it’s been awhile since I’ve been this solidly happy. I’m having the best time. I’m so happy to be here that even the craziness of the past couple weeks has been unable to stress me out. I feel as though I’ve found a new home, a new family to help me grow and evolve to the next level (a Lukasizard? [holographic]).

It’s now 2AM, I have to get up in a few hours to get on the van to the port of Miami to start the next adventure, so I should wrap up. But I wanted to get something out there for those of you awaiting news. I’m really going to try to be good about this blog this time. Last time I got a little lazy, and surely I will again this time, but I promise to try harder. We start tech tomorrow and will have no time for anything beyond tech and safety trainings for the next ten days but perhaps when I can finally get off the boat for a few moments at the end of the first cruise I’ll be able to tell you something about ship life. Maybe.

 

Talk soon.

Lukas. (with a K)