March 7th, 2011, 11:25am
What a day yesterday!
Taking a break right now, sitting in the staff lounge while Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is playing in Spanish on the television (Senor Potter! Donde está Senor Weasley?).
Traveled through Colón yesterday after finishing my entry -- I can see why the rumor mill has it that we'll be taking it off the cruise circuit next season. Tall buildings are crammed together around tiny alleys filled with trash, some of them with crooked balconies held up with two by fours from the sidewalk below. I'm pretty sure that the ship was the only thing within a quarter mile of the shore that had seen a coat of paint in about twenty years. A few of the larger boulevards have park medians down the center, filled with mangy, partially cut grass, empty bags of chips, and homeless people sleeping on mattresses. If there is a Flint in Panama, Colón is probably it.
Perhaps there are nicer parts of the city, but we didn't visit those parts.
Anyway, our bus picked its way delicately through the city until suddenly the buildings opened up and there was the Grandeur! It towers above the surrounding buildings -- I took a picture later from the railing of the promenade deck, and you can see across the city to the ocean on the other side. It's not as sleek or elegant in build as some of the Cunard trans-atlantic liners, like the Queen Mary or Queen Elizabeth, or like the old SS United States that I saw two years ago tied up at the scrapyard in Philadelphia, but it isn't nearly as ugly as some of the Norwegian line ships. Sure, she may be a little bit portly, but even though I've only been here a day I am starting to feel at home. We tied up next to a Celebrity Line boat today in Cartegna that was hideous with its monolithic facade of cabin balconies. The ship is probably great to sail on, but man, it looks like the Hotel of the Future at Disney World.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Yesterday at the port -- processing, paperwork, luggage scanning, etc., all boring. Got on board eventually and was shown around by the head of the sports activities department, a wiry, energetic Romanian with a neatly trimmed beard. After finishing my (very) impromptu tour and showing me where I live, he gave me an excellent piece of advice: "Today, no one knows who you are. You've got four hours until your first training. Use it to go see all the parts of the ship you wouldn't see otherwise."
So that's what I did. Dressed in khakis and a button-up shirt, most everyone thought I was a passenger. I slipped out of the crew stairway on deck five and found myself in a spacious lounge with a bar and piano. There was a piano tuner working there; I nodded to him and passed through the motion-activated doors onto the promenade.
The promenade is the lowest open deck (deck 5) that stretches all the way around the ship. It is wooden underfoot, and perhaps twelve feet wide at its largest point. Overhead hang the lifeboats, and above them are other decks. I strolled around the ship, noticing the fuel barge that was tied up to the other side of the ship, invisible from the pier as it was totally obscured by the Grandeur's bulk. Leaning over the rail, I estimated the deck is about the height of a three or four story building. Pictures to follow.
I kept heading up until I reached the pool deck (deck 9). This is the highest full-size deck on the ship, and contains (naturally enough) the pool, several whirlpools (all of which I am strictly prohibited from using), a glassed in area with another pool and an extensive Roman decoration scheme called the solarium, a restaurant (where they were seating people by table and so I therefore did not enter), and some other stuff. There's an open deck above that as well that lines the outer perimeter of the pool deck and that has a jogging track and hundreds of chairs for sunbathing (there's also a rock climbing wall at the stern). A few structures stretch above even this deck -- a small area near the front of the ship that has a compass and starcharts, as well as the Viking Lounge, a bar that overlooks the pool and that is decorated with only moderately tacky statuettes of viking warriors. Above these you have only the stacks and foward mast.
I took the elevator down from the Viking lounge to the centrum. The centrum is a tall open space that stretches down from a skylight in the pool deck down to Deck 3 or 4, and is located roughly amidships. There are stairs wrapping around the central shaft, as well as a more functional set of stairs on the other side of the main elevators (aft of the centrum). At the bottom are foutains, a piano, and an assortment of little paths that wind about to various parts of the ship. Most of the larger passenger attractions can just barely be seen from the various decks overlooking the atrium -- the casino, the botique, the Ben and Jerry's store, etc. Meanwhile, a pair of long hallways leading to the passenger cabins connect on the port and starboard sides.
More about the ship later . . . at 4pm, I got my first dose of compulsory safety and employment training, which I can tell is sure to be a joy. Then I headed back to my cabin, met my roommate (he'd been asleep earlier), got dressed and met the rest of the band just in time for soundcheck. An hour or so later we played the "welcome aboard" show as the ship pulled away from the pier -- a rather corny introduction number that gives the dancers and cruise director (my boss's boss) a chance to introduce themselves, as well as three tunes with a tango singer/standup comedian who was fairly decent (or at least probably was . . . gotta learn that spanish!).
Anyway, tonight I'm playing my first full production show with the band! I've looked through the music but I haven't played any of it yet, we'll see how it goes!