Sunday, March 13, 2011

Entry 3, 3.8.11

March 8th, 2011, 12:59pm (shipboard time)

More training today. Woke up at 7:30 thinking that I was late, threw on some clothes and ran astern to the training room only to discover I was an hour early. I passed the training officer on broadway on the way back and she gave me a rather quizzical look. Showered, shaved, dressed, went to training. Learned about the line, the fleet, rules, the cruises we'll be on, etc. I'm excited for the stops we'll be making -- tomorrow is Jamaica, and Aruba is on the itenerary as well.

Took a foot tour of the ship as well, mainly of the passenger spaces. It was difficult at moments to remind myself that I was not actually on vacation, I hope to get on deck later at some point today as the weather is beautiful. I have to wear a name tag in passenger spaces, but with any luck I can find somewhere where I will not get hassled as much (since I don't speak Spanish (No hablo espanol, Senor)).

We're making the crossing North from Cartegena to Jamaica today. There's nothing but blue ocean as far as the eye can see; it is glorious! Having never really been on the ocean before, all I can say is . . . wow. Only one word really described it: BIG. I didn't the think the Granduer could feel tiny after seeing it in port looming over Colón, but I feel like we are a speck in the ocean right now. I have a new respect for the explorers of old.

Grandeur, by the way, is one of the smallest ships in the fleet. We have about 750 crew and 2000 passengers. The Oasis of the Seas, by contrast, carries nearly 5000 passengers. Our pool deck is on deck 9 . . . their pool deck is deck 14.

Grandeur is a cozy, relaxed ship, though, as far as crewing her is concerned. She's either called (rather affectionately) "Lady G," or (less affectionately) "This Old Piece of Shit" (the word "antique" has been bandied about some already). The general feeling among the crew is one of relaxed camadrie, as far as I can tell -- every once in a while the captain has a waffle breakfast up on the bridge. The last stage production cast put together a redubbed version of that song "New York," filmed entirely on the Grandeur to be used as a humorous addition to the otherwise rather dull training videos, and I think that's the sign of a happy ship.
I'm one of 16 Americans on the ship (three of us compose the G's brass section), and in combination with the 12 brits and 3 aussies we comprise the Grandeur's native English speaking population. Most of the crew is from South America, Central America, or the Philippines. The officers and staff, though, are a much more mixed bag, with mainly brits and frenchmen (/women) at the top (including a security chief with the absolutely fantastic name of Dragomir) mixed with Romanians, Hungarians, Bulgarians, and such filling out the middle ranks. The new doctor is an incredibly timid South African woman, and the assistant who took my ID picture is from Ecuador I think. All in all there are 65 different nationalities represented on board.

A brief side note -- today's training officer explained that last fact, and then showed a brief DVD about that "What if we shrank the world down to a village of 100 people?" email that went around a couple years ago. When it got to wealth, it said, "6 people in the village control 50% of its wealth, and they are all American," I slid down in my chair a little as everyone turned around to look at me.

Last night's show went well -- we played an 8 and a 10pm. Each show is about an hour long, and we played pretty steadily through this one (the broadway medley show, "Rhyme and Rhythm" or something). It was a lot of sightreading but I came out the other side of it feeling pretty good. The lead player (a guy from LA named Rob) said everything sounded fine and he didn't have anything major for me, just a couple missed notes here and there. I have to work out some page turns (particularly in the Ellington medley, the thing is like 9 pages long!) but other than that I pretty much have the first show licked. The band sounds good and is very professional -- i.e. no one is late, sound check takes maybe five minutes, no one is drunk on the gig, etc. I'm really impressed with the quality of the cast (singers/dancers); talking with them at lunch I discovered that the while musicians all come on as individuals, the cast comes on as a single unit after rehearsing in Miami for 6 weeks. They were solid -- the show moves from song to song quickly and there are many costume and scene changes that all have to happen at the right times, but it moved like a well oiled machine. I suppose that's what you get when you do each show 2-4 times each week.

The other musicians told me that the band on this boat plays less than bands on other boats do. Part of that is the clientele that we have on board right now -- the Latin crowd doesn't really enjoy the midday jazz sets as much as the Europeans -- and part of it has to do with the fact that our music director is not pushing very hard to play any more than he already is. Personally, I don't mind playing a little bit more (especially if it's actually jazz) and neither do the pianist or bassist, so maybe we'll be able to work something out after the G transitions to Europe (this is not a gig that is about artistic expression, but I knew that going in).

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