So on the previous post I explained how I ended up on the ship I am currently working on. And here we go again.
Day 8: Saturday 13th, May 2017
Solstice at Sea Day 2 of 5
My alarm is a cruel bastard today. I barely drag myself out of bed for the first set of training at 9:50am (Evacuating handicapped people in emergencies). The second training, taking place straight after, was about cultural diversity, in which we had to guess the person’s age, home country and name based off of just looking at them (I didn’t even bother trying to guess a name for the person next to me as I would have never been able to guess without sounding comically racist).
After this short training, I head upstairs to deck 4 (6 decks above the training area) for another music department meeting. The new band master asks us how the new sets are going and receives many complaints from all of the groups on board. The solo guitarist and my singer stay behind after the meeting to chat about adjusting the sets.
I head down to lunch with the rest of the band. The food today is pretty awful and I can’t force myself to eat it. I go back to my room looking forward to a day of relaxing until the test at 2pm. Then my singer turns up and dumps a list of songs on my lap that I have to learn for tonight’s rehearsal...
When we boarded the ship, I was given an hour of free internet access to use whenever I needed it and today is that day. I downloaded new sheet music and chord/lyric charts for songs but I am interrupted by friends and family asking me how I’m doing and I end up speaking to them more than actually getting my work ready (Whoops).
The test began at 2pm and our 3pm pool set is cancelled so there is no need to rush. 30 multiple choice questions later and 3 of us are in the crew bar discussing answers and confirming which answers were correct (and which were not). I head up to my room and begin learning songs for tonight’s rehearsal and end up getting sidetracked and learning 4 extra songs.
2 hours before our set begins I begin to get sleepy, so I have a much needed caffeine intake, shower, and get out of my cabin all in the effort to wake myself up. I head to the Grand Foyer where we will be playing this evening and store my gear nearby. I head up to the 14th deck and eat in the Oceanview which is much more edible than the food 12 decks below.
I head down, and as I’m grabbing my gear, I speak to a couple from America who are waiting to watch us play tonight. After setting up and grabbing drinks for the band we begin at 7:45pm. The first set has the dance floor filled within 10 minutes, and between each set I speak to the couple about various topics.
By the our last set, we have definitely played a damn good show, and we pack down our gear ready to rehearse in an hour’s time up in the Sky Lounge. I clock out, head to deck 14... and then I encounter a late night disco party with the whole room jam packed and realise that we are definitely not rehearsing tonight.
Deciding it’s a good idea to head to Oceanview I walk across the open deck to a lovely breeze of cold air and a reminder that we’re going to be in stuck in the middle of the ocean for 3 more days after this one. I get there before my other band members and bump into the keyboardist in for the orchestra; we have an interesting conversation about working in music (my band members join in when they arrive soon after).
The rest of the night is taken up by a band meeting in the room next to the Sky Lounge where we discuss important band matters. I also get in trouble for triggering our singer by singing along to ABBA (as she was in an ABBA tribute band for 4 years). I head back to my room, set the clocks forward again to the next time zone, and finally sleep.
Day 9: Sunday 14th, May 2017
Solstice at Sea Day 3 of 5
I take back everything I said last post, as the cabin fever is starting to set in. I haven’t seen dry land in over 50 hours, and I haven’t been off the ship in a week. Nothing but a void of ocean in every direction and no more access to my one hope spot of wi-fi will do things to your mind.
Morning training at 9am turned out to be redundant as we had already completed this training prior to boarding. 3 of us head to the crew bar and I buy them coffee and snacks. Our bass player and singer discuss other band matters and I’m asked to step away. “The Hills” by the Weeknd is stuck on a loop in the corner where I’m sitting until I head back to them after they finish. The band leader asks me to act more professionally in meetings.
We go to the second training and we’re informed the training will last around 20 minutes... And then the intercom rings, and we’re informed that we are halfway across the ocean and we’re now closer to california than hawaii. This doesn’t help the anxiety and claustrophobic atmosphere of the ship but at least we’ll be off soon. I’ll be able to see something other than water (saying that I’m sure it will now rain in Vancouver).
The training is simple and to the point: “If you see something, say something,” or report people acting strangely. I head back to the crew bar, buy some water bottles for my cabin, head back and sleep until 2pm.
I’m feeling much more relaxed now, and as our first set isn’t until 7:45 and I learned most of the songs yesterday, I have some free time. Part of me is tempted to just keep sleeping, but more than 10 hours sleep in a 23 hour day seems like a waste. The last pool set we’ll be assigned at sea is cancelled and the next two days ahead look like we’ll have to actually perform 4 sets per day. I listen through songs I haven’t got round to learning yet.
Tonight’s sets have a few hiccups. The ship’s keyboard stops working halfway through one of the songs and we have issues with feedback in the Sky Lounge, which we try to resolve as best we can with the AV team. We have people dancing for the Foyer and Sky Lounge sets, and as I have an an hour and half in between sets to kill, I watch a comedy act (Sean O’Shea) in the ship’s theatre.
The show consists of him cracking jokes and impersonating different singers while the ship orchestra provides the music. It was a pretty entertaining show. The 2nd set I make some very silly mistakes and I’m feeling embarrassed as hell for the rest of the performance.
Finally we grab the schedule and see that the clocks are moving forward for the 2nd time this week, and of course we have rehearsals until 3am (now 4am). We add a lot of new material to the set, all of which we will perform tomorrow.
Day 10: Monday 15th, May 2017
Solstice at Sea Day 4 of 5
We had early training again(Surprise, Surprise). Nothing interesting again (‘do the right thing’ training). I find out I’ve been paid into a company account, and go to payroll to find I need a special card, which I am given and told to activate. I head downstairs to the gaming lounge and find half the PCs are in use and the other half are broken, so I give up on signing up my salary card for the day and head to the gangway.
The entire crew are being issued new emergency cards by the safety officer today and after 20 minutes in line I am given... the exact same damn card. The other band members swap cards with their room mates so after all of us queuing up for 20-30 minutes each it turned out to be a complete waste of time.
I head up to the music office to give my “new” emergency number to my boss and mention the issues with one of the keyboards; he suggests I go and look through the storage for a new one. After 15 minutes I find none of them are a suitable replacement, 2 of them are broken and the other is worse than my own keyboard I had come with.
I had back to my room and pass out until 5:30pm. After I wake up I head to the Grand Foyer and set up, and as we start our set during the second song I realise I haven’t signed into Kronos today. Our set runs over time as our singer keeps calling songs, thinking we are playing an hour set instead of 45 minutes. The bar and AVs tell us to leave ASAP so they can set up for the next act and I head to Oceanview to eat after packing down.
I meet my drummer and 4 of the AVs and end up agreeing to go out with them after work tonight. As I do not drink alcohol I rarely go out to bars but as the invite was there I didn’t want to turn it down. after eating we set up in Sky Lounge then head down to watch the theatre show “Rock City”. The show consisted of 2-3 minute versions of various rock classics such as “Walk This Way”, “Highway to Hell”, “Don’t Stop Me Now”, “You Really Got Me”, and many others. I am not a fan of musical theatre and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have liked.
We head up to the Sky Lounge and play our two sets, and we’re told that we will be rehearsing tonight as our schedule has nothing until 11:45 tomorrow. However, there is a cabin inspection AND the clocks move forward again for a 3rd time. We rehearse from 12:30 until 1:30 and I head down to my cabin to clean up and then head to the crew bar to meet the others. I stay there conversing for most of the night until everyone leaves at around 5am.
As I’m heading back to my cabin I hear my bass player down the hall and find him drinking with the jazz band. I join them (but not in drinking), and we talk music for an hour before I head off back to my cabin at 6am to sleep before tomorrow’s meeting.
Day 11: Tuesday 16th, May 2017
Solstice at Sea Day 5 of 5
It’s our final sea day before we hit Vancouver. I’ve been recommended by some guests to visit some places and I will definitely be looking for wi-fi while I’m out. I wake up at 11am and find our room hasn’t been inspected today. My band has a meeting with the bandmaster to look over the new sets. I head to the production office and the rest of the band arrives shortly after.
We are given a draft of our sets for the next cruise, and we have been given some very good sets. No more than 3 sets per day and potentially (If this all goes to plan) a day off. They are also all evening sets between 6:30 and 12 which are the preferred time for us to play and works well with our late night rehearsals.
The band all go to the crew bar after our brief meeting and grab coffee (on our bass player), then we all head back to our cabins to catch up on more sleep. I take this time to set up my salary card and check how much I’ve been paid, and I’m pleasantly surprised by the amount for 9 days work. Our 3 sets today are in the Foyer with a 30 minute break and an hour break in between. The first and second sets pass by without much issue. I start a song in the wrong key and get it in the neck from my singer during the hour break.
We all eat together up in Oceanview and we get a fantastic view of the shore, the first land we have all seen in days. After eating, we all decide that eating chocolate is a good idea (Protip: Singers should not eat chocolate and ice cream before a show) and head back downstairs to finish our sets for the night. Some crew will be leaving the ship tomorrow, so the crew bar is quite busy. I stay until midnight before heading back to my cabin to sleep... Which ends up not happening as I start reading 999 before bed (Which was a very poor decision).
Day 12: Wednesday 17th, May 2017
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Well, staying up late was a definitely a bad idea. I wake up 2 hours after I had planned and get ready to leave the ship. I meet up with my drummer and a few other crew members, and struggle to make it through the crowds as three large cruise ships have all docked here today.
The terminal is manic, and once we finally get through and back onto dry land, we head straight to a cafe for breakfast (and Wi-fi). After an hour, we get up and walk around the city for a bit to explore, passing 7-8 Starbucks and stopping by for a drink and to connect to the internet for the next hour and 20 minutes (I also was bitten by at least 200 mosquitos during the course of the day). I head back to the ship and I’m feeling dead from the lack of sleep and walking, but my day is only just beginning.
The PAX drill is delayed by an hour and our pool set is cancelled due to this. I am allowed to actually help in this drill as I have had some training and I now know my way around the ship more. I still get tripped up on a few questions such as when a guest asks me the location of the martini bar, which as a T-total is not a question I had an answer to.
When I get back to my room, I grab my keyboard and case, then head out into the clusterfuck of new guests and luggage that is being brought on board.
With the set complete, we head to Sky Lounge to set up early, and run into new guests asking us questions about our set. The audience this time seems younger than the previous cruise.
The Drummer and I go to the top decks of the ship and start taking photos of the beautiful Canadian landscape, something I’ll probably continue to do as we travel up to Alaska. We head to dinner and sit with the photography department. After we’ve finished I head back to my room and continue to play 999. I head up to the Sky Lounge, and we play our only set of the night, finishing at 11:15.
As I’m packing down, a couple starts talking to me, so I stay and talk to be polite and friendly. I head to the bar to clock out of Kronos, and get caught by another couple. I end up speaking to them about music for a fairly long time. I finally get to clock out of Kronos and head downstairs 40 minutes after our set was over, and I’m greeted by a passive-aggressive message from my boss asking me to sign out of Kronos (left 20 minutes ago).
I head down to the crew bar to see if my band were around, and after finding they had gone, I leave and end up completing 999s “True Ending” before going to sleep.
Day 13: Thursday 18th, May 2017
Sea day (Inside passage).
I oversleep past any opportunity to take great photos today, as we are heading through the inside passage at 6am. I wake up at around 1pm and get around to my normal daily routine. However, today is the day I end up starting Virtue’s Last Reward, which will dominate my free time during the next 5 days. Of course, as I sit myself down to play, my singer knocks on the door and dumps the next 2 rehearsals worth of songs on me. We’re rehearsing on the 21st and the 23rd so I have enough time to learn these later.
Today is mostly uneventful, with only three sets in the evening at 7:45 (Foyer), 10:15, and 11:15 (Both in Sky); these will be our standard in the evenings for the duration of this cruise. As 8pm is practically the prime time slot for the Foyer, we have people dancing for the duration of the set. Of course, we get interrupted towards the end of our set for one of the directors to introduce the crew to the passengers (which we were not told about in advance).
In the Sky Lounge, we finish up and clock out. We’re invited by the AV techs to deck 15 (Outside) to attempt to catch the Northern Lights. I head back to my room and grab my jacket and we spend the next 30 minutes standing in the cold, staring at the sky. We end up giving up and heading inside the X Club, waiting in the warmth for absolutely nothing to happen. I have to be up early tomorrow, but through some wonderful justice the clocks turn back as we’re going to Alaska, so I get to gain an hour’s sleep rather than lose it.
Day 14: Friday 19th, May 2017
Ketchikan, Alaska, USA.
Well, it’s 8am and I’m heading down to the crew bar to meet other new sign on crew. Today is the day we get our I-95, the document that allows me to get off the ship in US ports! We’re off the ship within 5 minutes of my arrival and today weare tendering (which is basically taking a lifeboat to shore).
After leaving the crew bar, I stand in 3 different lines for around an hour. The first is just to get off the ship, as the lifeboat capacity is 150 people. The second one is to catch the minibus to the federal building (which would have been quicker to walk to, considering the bus only held 10 people at a time). Finally, the third was to queue to get my I-95 approved, which was quick and painless.
I’m now free to wander Ketchikan, and damn is this place is one hell of a tourist trap. I have spent more money here than I do during a week of cruising; I get overcharged for food, I get made to pay for wi-fi and I get made to pay if I want to get money out from an ATM. Needless to say, compared to Canada, this place feels like a massive middle finger to someone who is cheap and just wants somewhere to sit and get wi-fi for an hour or 2.
I spend 3 hours in the downtown before giving up and heading back to the ship. I get back to my cabin and realise I’ve lost my wireless mouse and It may have fallen out of my bag in town. I’m annoyed, but I will try to buy one when I hit a big city.
We have Captain’s Club again tonight, meaning all our sets are in the Sky Lounge today (which is great because we only have to set up our gear once).
Everyone is starting to slip tonight; with our day off tomorrow, I think everyone’s just trying to power through our sets for the evening. We all agree to go and see if the Northern Lights will happen today (for real this time).
However, It turns out I’m the only person to show up and everyone else stays in the cabins, I walk around the perimetre of the ship to see if I can find anyone (of course with no luck and no lights).
I give up and head to the crew bar, and to my delight they’re doing karaoke down there! I sign myself up for a song, and after 25 minutes of waiting around, I get up and sing “Take your Mama” by Scissor Sisters... of course half my band walks in within seconds of the song starting. The irony of the situation is that even though I play on stage everyday for a living, I still get nervous at karaoke. After the karaoke packs up, I stay in the bar to chat with crew and my band members until around 3am before heading to bed.
And of course I’m sitting in Seattle uploading this (again see next time for what I get up to here). Week 2 is finished!
And until next time… I need to get back on the ship.