A Cunard Christmas- BLOG #7
Merry Christmas everyone! I hope the holiday season finds you well, wherever you may be. As sad as it makes me to be away from family for Christmas this year (first time ever, I believe), I’ve had a great time seeing new sights and places around eastern and southern Europe. In the span of two weeks, the QV (Queen Victoria) made it’s way around to the Netherlands, France, England, Belgium and then the Canary Islands!
I apologize for the delay for this post, I meant to have it published Dec 31st, but I ran into some unforeseen problems in Amsterdam, but more on that in the next one ;)
The week after the Caribbean voyage ended up being a difficult one, as I was sleeping rather poorly. In the span 10 days, we had six hour-forward time changes! That meant trying to go to sleep in England at midnight was like trying to go to sleep at 6pm in the Caribbean! Quite a big change in only a week’s time, however, there’s only ship time, and my work schedule makes it impossible to stray from it. They do the hour-forward at midday, I believe to make it easier for crew with morning schedules to get up in the early hours of the day. On top of everything, I also think I came out working a little too energetically, practicing and working out every day plus performances I think was giving my hands and wrists more strain than they had been used to in a while! I felt a little pain in certain areas of my hands and gave a self-diagnosed prescription to take it easy for the week to avoid any injury (and do lots of hand stretches!). The sad truth about any musician based gig or job, if I happen to get seriously injured and can’t play anymore, the only outcome is to find someone new.
The previous time I was in Southampton, England, I couldn’t get off the boat due to IPM (in-port-manning) duties, which is essentially a maritime law that require a 3rd of the boat to stay on in every port in case of emergencies (turns are taken in rotation), so I finally got to explore my homeport and walk around the city. It’s a great shopping port! There’s a huge mall/food court, a cheap sports store, supermarket, and plenty of local places to eat (and find Wi-Fi). After such a lengthy voyage with the same faces it was nice to see a different, younger, crowd of people milling about doing their Christmas shopping. Very crowded time of year here too! And I must say it’s weird to shop for toiletries and clothes, not as a tourist, but more so as a local, stocking up on supplies to take "home". You start to see similar products and stores exactly like the states, but under different names most likely for marketing purposes.
The culture change shock has worn down a bit, the music’s getting a bit easier (the repeated shows), and the routine is setting in overall. To be honest the hardest part about the music is playing with a click track in my ear and the constantly changing times, turning pages, and swapping instruments, I’ve never had many pit gigs (maybe I’ll find more after this). I’ve started to notice how much people can tell I’m not from here- my accent gives it away! It’s made flirting a big challenge cause half the time I have to think for a moment about what they just said to me (even though it’s in English!). I’m sure that’ll go away with time, most of my engagements with people onboard are with people from England, I’ll just need to get used to it. Also, the boat’s been nicely decorated for the Christmas season, you can find all sorts of trees, lights and wreaths all around the ship.
The cruise voyages closer to the holidays consisted of younger families and some children, someone said the longer the cruises, the older the passengers (work and school reasons). That week I found an awesome food market in Rotterdam (after stopping overnight), visited Bruges for the first time, and did some shopping for cheap clothes in Southampton before the start of the next voyage (I wish I could’ve brought my whole wardrobe ☹). A problem I ran into was a lack of workout clothes, after sweating through one I couldn’t really work out in my undershirts like I used to back home (I need them for my uniform!), so I figured I could buy some cheap stuff that I’ll wear down and discard by the end of contract. It's funny, looking back when I was a kid I remember asking everyone for "PLEASE NO CLOTHES," but with the limited laundromats available (they tend to break easily too) on the ship, I would cry tear of joy if someone but me more socks and underwear right now! You can probably guess I tend to spend a lot more money on the port days, but the budget balances out when we have repetitive sea days- for example, in the three days heading out to the Canary Islands I spent $3! That’s $3 TOTAL, which is insane!
Upon arrival in Madeira, our first stop in the Canary Islands, a group of us went to a place that serves, “steak on a stone,” where they essentially bring out a scorching hot marble slab and raw beef and you cook it yourself! Very delicious, I highly recommend it to anyone that happens to go out that way, especially if you like garlic (garlic chips/fries, oil and bread) the pianist dubs it his favorite restaurant in the world! It's one of those places you get to choose how rare you'd like your meat as you're the one who cooks it, not a chef in the back. I was able to pull up my location on the free Wi-Fi, it was pretty cool to take a step back see where I was in the world.
Of all the cruises so far, this is the one I went into go-go-go mode and started doing as much as I could possibly squeeze in, with the idea that I’ll have plenty of time to rest on the future sea days. The following morning I got myself up at 7am (the earliest I’ve been up on the boat), to volunteer for the tour excursions with the guests! Whenever I’ve been on a cruise ship as a passenger, I always dreamily read through the excursion guides, thinking they sounded absolutely amazing, except for the price tag. All the company asks me to do is “escort” the tour, which includes counting passengers at every stop (so nobody gets left behind) and writing a report on the details (departure/return times, itinerary, food included, etc.), essentially, making sure the description of the tour matches what actually happens. Sounded like a square deal to me! Unfortunately, me being so new meant I’m at the bottom of the priority list, meaning of the six tours I requested, I ended up getting zero ☹. I pretty much had to take what was available, which for La Palma ended up being a trolley ride and walk through town, I figured take what I could, try to do a good job and hopefully I’ll move up the list. Ended up being a nice tour too!
After a late night performance of the Christmas production show for the crew only (started at 11:45pm), I got myself up the next morning at 8am to do another tour excursion, this one being a tour of three different botanical gardens on the island of Tenerife. I was hoping to land a hiking excursion, but I was happy with this one, as it went up into the mountains and all around the island. The tour guide taught me a trick for counting when there’s a lot of passengers (count the empty seats, not the individuals 😉), and I got to see a wide variety of plants and animals, some native and some exotic- great day! The all aboard time was at 9:30pm so after the tour I went back out and explored the city. I’m happy with how a lot of my pictures turned out that day, be sure to check out the website gallery to see the rest! I've attached a link to a couple of my favorite pictures that should take you to the gallery.
Our last stop of the Canary Islands was called Lanzarote, where I once again got myself up at 8am to go golfing with a couple of guys on board. The sound engineer had a couple of crew sets from the boat in his room and he let me borrow one. Now, they look like nice Callaway clubs, but I’m 99% sure that they’re fakes!
The putter looked like the ones you find when you mini golf, but I was happy to play with whatever we had instead of renting clubs. I’ll be honest it was a very tough round!
Everything was in meters, which threw me off, I had no golf shoes/gloves and was trying to work in the new clubs! I got to see just how forgiving my clubs back home are, as I was having trouble hitting straight (everything was going right). On top of everything else the course itself was very difficult, some of the par 4s were 450 yards, and it would sometimes take me three hits to get to the green. Still, it was worth every penny, and it felt amazing to be far away from the ship (you could see it floating in the background) and focused on a round of golf.
We started sailing back to Southampton on Christmas day, where they decorated the mess areas and served us some higher quality food such as steaks, turkey and even sushi. Everyone seemed to go all out for the Christmas festivities, lots and lots of desserts (which I tried to avoid) and friendlier than normal crew. I made sure to call and say hello to the family and then took lots of naps to catch up on sleep! There was a pretty funny comedic/juggling act that we performed with, which was difficult as it’s hard to play and laugh at the same time! The boat was moving a lot too, but the guy still rode around on a huge unicycle and juggled knives!
Music update: I transcribed this great pop solo from Time of My Life, it appeared in one of the productions shows and I figured I'd tried to get it as close as I could to the original!
That’ll be all for this blog, I had an adventurous Christmas on the Canary Islands, and hope I can continue to find similar stuff to do in future ports! I’ll be talking about the New Years celebration as well as my resolutions on the next. Thanks to you who are reading! Please give it a thumbs up, or share with anyone you’d think would find it interesting! If you’d like to ask me anything feel free to do so in the “Contact Me” box that should be in the bottom right of the screen.