Halfway Done! (Already?) BLOG #10
Warm greetings from the southern hemisphere! Our first stops in South America brought with it new adventures as well as the end of the first half of my contract. Time has seriously been flying by! Still have quite a long ways to go before the end though. With new tour excursions and various exotic foods, it made for an exciting start to the voyage around an entirely new continent!
Departing from the Caribbean, we began our voyage south where for the first time, I crossed the equator! I guess I’m upside down now in relation to Utah (unless the world is flat 😉). They hold a “crossing-the-line” party for the passengers and invite the ones who haven’t crossed to participate in the ceremony. Thankfully, I was able to avoid it all costs, I heard some strange things about it, stuff like kissing dead fish heads and getting old food and Jell-O thrown at you, before finishing the christening by jumping into the lido pool! I chose a slightly different way to celebrate my crossing (practicing).
Our first stop in South America was Fortaleza, Brazil, and due to poor weather, the “Sights of Fortaleza” tour I was escorting ended up being a rather rainy one. They took us to a church with beautiful stained-glass windows but other than that the weather kind of put a damper on things overall (heard some guests complaints this time around), however I was able to find a couple of nice avocados.
From there, we headed to Buzios, Brazil, an old fishing city home to around twenty beaches- The tour I got on was a bus which took us around the hilly city, to beautiful views of the various beaches and mountainsides, each stop as beautiful as the one before! It’s definitely a location I hope to return to one day and enjoy the different areas a little longer. We would merely stop and sight see for a little while before getting back on the bus.
Up next was perhaps my favorite stop of the contract so far! Rio de Jeneiro! I was caught off guard at how beautiful and vibrant the city was. From breathtaking landscapes to beautiful beaches, Rio (Brazil in general) quickly climbed the ladder to the top location of where I want to return, in travel, not work. Though the beaches were a little too busy and crowded for my taste, it was nice to walk around and take in all the various sights and sounds of Corcovado and Ipanema beach, I can also see now where the tunes Corcovado and Girl From Ipanema (Jobim standards) found inspiration, some beautiful people!
I was able to hop on another tour excursion, this one taking us up Corcovado mountain through dense forest by train to one of the seven wonders of the world, “Christ the Redeemer.” To be entirely honest, I was more interested in going up for the view, as opposed to the statue, but it was still cool to see! The view from the top was one of the most stunning glimpses of the world I’ve seen yet to date, I was completely overwhelmed in awe as I looked out over Brazil’s landscapes.
You know the view you can sometimes only find while flying high in an airplane? It was very similar to that except you could walk around and look at the various points of view, which were pretty great in all directions. Unfortunately, it’s one of those popular tourist attractions where there’s just a few too many people up there, I believe there were also two or three other cruises in port at the same time. Similar to when I saw the Mona Lisa, everyone was bumping around into each other trying to pose with wide arms like the statue, or taking selfies with their selfie sticks! Talk about a pick pocketers paradise! People would just throw their bags carelessly to the side so they could lie down on the steps (no idea why). There was absolutely no way to snap a picture of myself with my favorite view in the background (literally standing shoulder to shoulder) but I was able to sneak this beautiful shot, quite proud of this one 😊, it’s hard to imagine the thousand or so people bustling behind me when I took it!
As for lunch, we were able to find a restaurant that served a “Rodizio” style grill, anyone who’s close to me knows my favorite restaurant since childhood in Utah is Rodizio’s Brazilian Steakhouse in Salt Lake, finding a restaurant like this was a necessity, and a bit of a dream come true for me!
The initial shock of working on a cruise ship has officially worn off, I feel more comfortable and settled in with my surroundings and I have a good grasp of what I can expect on a day-to-day basis. Now that we’ve had multiple voyages since the beginning, not only have I played the production shows repeatedly but some of the guest entertainers I’ve seen before have come on to perform again. Things become much easier the 2nd time around! The dialogue seems a bit more corny as well, as most of the guest shows are scripted and they run the exact same show with the same jokes every time (spoilers!). Seeing some of them struggle with cringe-worthy dialogue makes me think I could write and put my own show together one day too, not saying my jokes would land any better 😉.
Three months in, I still enjoy the job very much! It’s been a very different experience for me music-wise, I’ve never had a gig where I had to sight-read music so much, or read music in general, and it keeps me on my toes. To be honest it’s not the gig I see myself doing long term (the pit gig type stuff), but it’s good to know that’s a path I could potentially take in the future. Reading night after night in this setting should help tighten my overall sense of time and groove, which I’ve always seen that as a weakness in my musicality. Performing in an environment that can change every day, I’ve learned that unexpected things can happen at any moment, ship movement, injuries, illnesses, obscure requests from guest entertainers, complaints from the passengers, the list goes on and on.
I’ve more or less turned myself in the “yes” man of the group, I try to look at everything as an opportunity to improve myself, or bring myself out of my shell a bit, I’ll usually agree to do it (within reason, of course!) For example, our pianist was needed last minute in the Queens Room, but our guest entertainer requested string patches to back up one of his pieces, so I volunteered myself to play for that number! Or another guest entertainer randomly approached me out of the blue right before her show to do a “muppet dance” with her on one of her rag numbers, I reluctantly agreed to do it (if you can picture that!), in my mind I saw it as an opportunity to get over my stage fright as I was very uncomfortable! And just recently, the MD asked if I could talk on the mic between songs on the Jazz set we do, which I’ve never had much experience with- it’s definitely something I’d need to be comfortable with if I ever want to be a band leader (ship or land), so I agreed to that as well.
The more I talk to the different musicians that come and go on the ship, the more grateful I become. In my eyes, I’ve had a serious stroke of luck that has put me in the best possible scenario for working as a side-man musician. Not only are the band members great musicians, but a lot of them have spent time as band leaders on various ships as well, and they offer me a lot of professional knowledge and advice while being positive and content to be performing in #shiplife (I heard a lot of cruises can have a dark vibe, the guys who have done it awhile can feel trapped and become cynical). I also heard how easy it can be to wind up with people you don’t get along with, agencies are mostly looking at musical talent, not how easy they are to work with- musicians are well known to sometime have some “peculiar” personalities, it can more or less be a crap shoot on who you end up with. The musicians here are pretty “western,” meaning a lot of them come from the states or Canada (we’re bracketed as North Americans in the eyes of everyone else), ships hire performers from all over the world so it’s been nice to have people from familiar territory. In addition, some ships don’t allow areas for practice or crew gym access, some put the musicians to an insane amount of performances, and some give the musicians tedious unrelated ship duties. Having a roommate that’s not around too much is a pretty nice bonus too 😉, it’s good for my sanity! Hopefully we can remain “roommates” for the remainder of my time spent here!
My confidence in my own musical performing (and life in general) has skyrocketed since the start of the contract, instead of being shook and scared by “reality in the big world,” I instead discovered that things more or less remain the same anywhere you go. You meet similar personality types, the work vibe is very similar to my old jobs, you even meet people that look similar to ones back home! It makes me extremely grateful I spent time working at Subway and Lagoon as it provided an opportunity to work with a wide variety of people, leaders and characters which helped prepare me for this situation. For whatever reason, I never used to believe that I was a decent musician, even after I put in the countless hours of work back home. But to come out here and see that these professional musicians are excited to play music with me, as well as being approached and complimented by many passengers, makes me think, “I can do this, I could be successful with music if I continue to work.” I don’t want to attribute finding my confidence solely to performing on a cruise ship necessarily but coming out on my own into the world and seeing what I’m capable of has been the perfect push for me to strive for something greater.
Even now, after I’ve found some confidence in my music again, I still don’t feel like I’ve really accomplished anything. I do truly enjoy working here, but already I’m thinking about what I’d like to do afterwards, the immediate ceiling comes to mind when I think of working long term on ships. I’m learning it’s just who I am, I constantly am looking for new ways I could improve myself or others (back when I was a manager). In general, when I start to achieve goals I think, what now? It used to be a double edge sword that heightened my insecurity, I would so sorely focus on trying to improve dramatically I would end up neglecting to take notice when I did actually progress at anything. A lot of times now I set small, achievable goals that when completed gives me energy and motivates me to go after another project. Who knows? I’ve learned it would be very wise to learn Spanish, or maybe I’ll try improving my cooking, or trying yoga and karate.
Working on ships is not for everyone, in fact, I feel in a different situation I could easily see myself quickly growing tired of the enclosed environment. It’s 100% a new, bizarre change to living life on land, and must be embraced if you want to survive it (mentally). I mean, for one thing, you LIVE with the people you work with! Can you imagine if you didn’t enjoy working with the people around you, but also having to eat lunch, dinner and perhaps running into them around the ship every day? No escape on sea days! Easy place for drama to happen (like school), but I do my best to stay out of it, and thankfully everyone seems hospitable enough here! Getting away from my phone and the internet too has shown me it was more a distraction than a resource, and it’s easier now to allocate my time to more productive things because I can’t access it (unless I want to pay a lot of money!).
Three months down, three months to go! Not everyday has been paradise, I’ve definitely had a few frustrated moments here and there but I’m learning to try and be nicer to myself too in understanding I’m still working out the weird kinks of being employed in what can sometimes feel like an entirely new planet. Overall, still one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, my life was in need of a big change and it’s given me an opportunity to reset my life, reflect on myself and strive for what I want to be. I’m glad things have worked out well so far! I can only hope to keep looking for opportunity to find new adventures and progress in the future!
That’ll be all for this blog, Brazil was a beautiful introduction to the Exotic Voyage, I’m finding South America to be a place full of adventure, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the Patagonia region and beyond have to offer. Be sure to check out the Gallery for more pictures! 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.