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Last California Ports

(**DISCLAIMER**: The views expressed in this post do not reflect the views of my employer!)





11/11

Today was a day at sea. We had cabin inspections in the morning. I went to practice afterward; we just got the music for guest entertainer Stephanie Hodgdon, who is doing a rock show!



My morning was fairly free and I didn’t have a whole lot to do. I watched some anime and hung out in the crew bar, and had a nice lunch.

The shows in the evening went well, though I think we would all have liked to have a bigger space so we could really rock out! Still, the two earlier shows were well attended and people seemed to really dig it!

Tomorrow is our last visit to San Francisco.


11/12

In San Fran for the final time! This morning we had a crew drill, and the US Coast Guard was present so we had to really do a full drill, with lifeboats and crocodile lines and the whole shebang. Fortunately we did not have to actually get on the lifeboats! They're safe and all that, but they're very claustrophobic when filled to capacity!



After the drill I got right off the boat to enjoy this city one last time. It was a bit smoky due to the the forest fires burning in various parts of the state :/


I visited a Ross Dress for Less to try and find some camis, had no luck, and found a Trader Joe's instead! I find it amusing that the simplest places--grocery stores and internet cafes--are the most exciting to find when you're on tour. Anyway, I got just a few things to stock my "Emergency Rations and Snack Drawer" in my room: Clif bars, RX bars, some dried fruits, and a jar of honey.

After that I was hungry. In San Fran's Little Italy there are tons of great places to eat. I settled on Brioche Bakery & Cafe. They had some awesome-looking food in the display case!




I got a caprese panini and asked them to add prosciutto as well. Simple yet absolutely delicious. Hit the spot!


Next I spent some time using the free wifi at a cafe (mostly to write this post).
After finishing my internet stuff, I thought a real Italian gelato might be nice!

There were so many gelato places to choose from…some were even right across from each other! I decided on Lush Gelato, because it was on the main drag and they also had non-traditional flavors. But then, how was I supposed to decide between such awesome options?!



Lush makes their gelato in small batches, so they were already out of some of these flavors. That helped me to narrow it down! I chose the banana salted caramel gelato, and the chocolate orange peel sorbet. Both were absolutely delicious! The gelato had a better texture, but the candied orange peel chunks in the chocolate sorbet were right up my alley! I’m glad I tried both!


When my treat was finished I found a thrift store and did some browsing. Didn’t find anything this time, but that’s how thrifting goes! I made my way back down to the tourist area and had one last look around. It’s been wonderful to visit this city once again. Who knows if or when I’ll get to come back? I’m grateful that I could make some sweet memories here. Thank you, San Francisco.

Back on the ship, I put away my things and had dinner at the crew mess, then showered and got changed before reviewing the charts for tonight’s jazz set in the Wheelhouse bar. As you all know I dislike jazz and especially lead sheets. And this entire set was jazz, and lead sheets. Sigh.

The set went pretty well, I think. My solos were not very good…it’s been a while since we’ve done a jazz set, and I was nervous again. I need to keep practicing this style every day so that even if I’m nervous my muscles will remember what to do. But hey, everyone else sounded great!

Tomorrow we are in Monterey, but I have IPM duty.


11/13

I got up at my usual time and had breakfast, enjoying the phone data I was able to receive in the crew mess. Afterward I did laundry, washed my trombone slide (which was an “interesting” experience in the tiny shower), and went to the gym. After a little chill-out time, I went to Café Caribe for their “tea time”, featuring mini scones and fruit and other tasty treats.

Somewhere in there I went out onto the deck and observed a “man overboard” drill taking place. You can see some sea lions milling about in the background.

https://instagram.com/p/BqNniwxAhVL

In the evening we had a dance set in Explorers lounge. Personally I’m not a fan of Explorers as a space, it is rather cramped. But the dance floor is nice and so is the seating and the bar. We had some dancers, and I always love to see people enjoying our music by dancing as we play :)

It was a nice IPM day for me.
Tomorrow we are at sea. I think we will do the rock show again with the guest entertainer.


11/14

Today is Jameson’s birthday!! Sadly he has to work, but I hope he will have a good day anyway! I sent him a present and hopefully there are more on the way from his friends and family!

After wishing Jameson a happy birthday, I had a nice breakfast and took advantage of the ship’s internet to send a few more texts to family. My sister is preparing for a trip to Italy, and I wanted to wish her well. I also needed my brother and sister’s addresses so I can send Christmas presents later.

For breakfast in the crew mess I always have oatmeal, eggs, yogurt, and fruit. The oatmeal is pretty runny, so I’ll add a scoop of muesli to give it a little texture. Then I add my own honey, spices, and dried fruits that I’ve brought along. With the eggs, I’ll get two or three hard boiled eggs and eat the whites along with ketchup or a piece of bacon. The yogurt is just your standard fat free stuff, and then I’ll have a slice of pineapple or cantaloupe as well, and a cup of coffee. I try to eat healthy.

I didn’t feel much like practicing this morning. Instead I went out on the deck to stretch (I was sore from the gym) and to read a little while enjoying the fresh ocean air. As I was reading, guests were walking by for exercise or for pleasure. A few saw my “musician” name tag and stopped to say they enjoyed our recent performances, or to ask when our next one was. One lady suggested that I move to Canada and teach there. “We have health care!” she exclaimed proudly, “and not enough lady musicians!” Selling points, indeed!

In the afternoon we had the Voice rehearsal, lots of talented singers this time! Then later in the evening we had a rehearsal and two shows with Stephanie Hodgdon. Stephanie has been working for Princess for quite a long time, but this is her first time as a guest entertainer and only her second performance as one. Her show was well received, and hopefully she’ll be able to continue entertaining on other Princess ships!

After the show Stephanie insisted on a group photo. Ain't we a lovely bunch? One very cool thing about working here has been the ability to interact with artists of many different genres, and to see how each artist rehearses and performs. It was a pleasure to be a part of Stephanie's performances!



Back in my cabin, I was a bit bummed to find that I’d been scheduled for training at 10am tomorrow. We will be in San Diego, and I was hoping to get off the boat early because there’s a Marine Evacuation System drill between 9am-11am during which no one can get on or off the boat. But it looks like I’ll have to wait until the drill is over. Oh well…I have to appreciate any time off the ship, because remember, it’s never guaranteed.


11/15

Well, training was not so bad, and neither was the MES drill! Both took place at about the same time, and did not take nearly as long as I expected. I should learn to be more optimistic :P

I was able to get off the ship around 11am. Yay!



It was a beautiful day. I hadn't really planned anything...I considered the zoo, but Jameson and I have already been, and it's a bit expensive. Working here has been more about saving money. But I still do want to have SOME fun! So I decided on a nice brunch at Cafe 222!

Cafe 222 has been around for over a decade, which is saying something. The owner is a woman who sold a screenplay and used the money to finance the cafe. Although there are many awesome dishes on the menu, Cafe 222 is known for its peanut butter & banana stuffed French toast, which was featured on Food Network's "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" (CLICK HERE to watch a clip from the episode). Apparently Bobby Flay is a big fan. Of course I had to try it!



Oh my goodness. First off, the peanut butter and bananas inside were pretty basic. Let's get that out of the way. But the TOAST. Just, WOW. Whatever seasonings they're putting in there, coupled with a perfect griddling, make it amazing. Next time (if I get a next time) I would just get the French toast alone. It was that good. There's something special in the batter. No part of it was soggy...it was light and fluffy and crispy caramelized on the outside. The pb and bananas were nice, but the actual French toast is where it's at!

There are tons of amazing things on the menu, and I wish I could have tried them all! If you ever go to Cafe 222, be sure to try something from the griddle, whether it's French toast or pancakes or waffles. Very much worth it!! I only wish Jameson could have been with me so we could enjoy it together!

After that, I decided to walk to some thrift stores. This took me through some pretty rough neighborhoods, but oh well. There's no rougher neighborhood than a train yard, and I've been in plenty of those. I had fun looking through the clothes, but once again didn't find anything.

I decided to give myself one more affordable treat while in San Diego. I took an Uber to a Japanese shopping plaza! There's no Japantown per se here in San Diego, but there is this little block with three or four Japanese groceries and shops huddled together (along with a used book store, Starbucks, and Target, sooooo...). I certainly don't NEED anything from these stores, but I love to look!

I mean come on.



Come ON.


I looked at everything, and bought a very few things ;)
I went to the bookstore and browsed.
I went to the Starbucks and typed while savoring a black pumpkin spice coffee.
It was nice.

Sometimes the nicest thing is just existing in a space. Not necessarily spending money, or rushing between points of interest. Just being in a place, in a moment. Thank you, San Diego.

Anyway. When I was finished I made my way back to the ship for a relaxing evening. Tomorrow we sail to Ensenada. In the morning the whole band is supposed to have a group interview for the onboard tv program, called Wake!


11/16

This morning we all had to be up early for an interview up on Deck 19 in the photography studio. The interview is for the Wake show, which is onboard programming showcasing all things Princess, from the shops to the people to the inner workings of the ship.

We wore our black show clothes and spoke with Natalie, the Princess hostess with the mostess. She asked us some questions about our time on the ship, what it’s like to be a musician here, what it’s like to be part of an all-female group. We were trying to decide how to verbalize that last one, and having trouble. Stacey (bass) nailed it:

“When men join a band, they have an instant fraternity. And when we joined this group, we found an instant sorority.”

She’s right, and that’s the perfect way to describe it. Men don’t have to think about integration on that level, because any group they join is pretty much guaranteed to be made up of men. There is already an existing camaraderie. But as a woman, I can tell you that I’ve almost always been the only female in any band I’ve joined. One just does not feel naturally accepted entering a room full of men. All of the women in this band agree that this has been our experience as musicians.

For most of us, this is the first time we’ve ever been in an all-female ensemble. Some of our members have been musicians for decades. Think about that. An entire career as a musician without ever playing in a band made up of women. Always being the only chick in the male ensemble. It was really fascinating to think about.

As a trombonist, I always just took it as a matter of course that if I wanted to play the trombone, I’d have to be “one of the guys” at all times, because there just aren’t women involved. I wonder how things might have been different if there were more women in music. In a classical setting there were of course other women in the orchestra…but never in the trombone section. It was always me + the boys.

Anyway, this was just an interview, but it led to some interesting thoughts. We had fun and hopefully passengers will enjoy learning a little bit about our ensemble!

After the interview was over Stacey (bass) Molly (drums) and I had a nice breakfast at the guest buffet. Molly had unusual trouble opening her banana, and finally managed to rip the top clean off. It looked like a little samurai helmet and we couldn’t stop laughing!



The afternoon was pretty much free. I have no interest in Ensenada, so just took a few pictures of the port from the deck.



I decided to give my body a break and skip the gym. I read a little bit, and wrote, and had a nice lunch. I practiced of course. We had a rehearsal and performance of Voice of the Ocean. All of the candidates were very good this time around! Usually it’s easy to pick out 1-2 strong singers with a good chance of winning, but this time it seemed everyone had a pretty even shot. Great job everyone!

Later on we had an evening dance set in Explorers lounge. There weren’t a whole lot of people there, and it took a lot of coaxing to get even a few couples to dance. Bummer, but that’s how it is sometimes. Other times the dance floor has been full…it varies every time.

Tomorrow we are back in LA (or more specifically, San Pedro). This is now our only American port, so I’m going to be really gunning to get off the ship each time we visit!


11/17

We had a crew drill this morning, only this time the US Coast Guard was there to inspect us as we completed it! Very interesting. Mostly it was a normal drill that just took longer than usual. Stacey and I checked in at our department muster station, then we went to our stairwell where in a real emergency we'd direct passengers. After over an hour of waiting, some Coast Guard personnel came through and questioned us on our ship safety knowledge. I was only asked one question--"Where are the children's life jackets?"--to which I replied, "Deck 7 and on the lifeboats themselves." Easy. But poor Stacey really got interrogated! "Where is lifeboat No. 13?" and "Where is Muster Station X?" and "Which side of the ship has the even-numbered rooms?" My goodness!

After that we were sent to our regular muster stations, and then we were released around 11am. We were all excited to get off the ship, but for some reason shore leave had not been granted yet :( probably due to the drill. We were not able to leave the ship until almost noon. I booked it to Hojas Tea House for the latest i-device updates, and to post this blog, and to enjoy some matcha tea and a bagel sandwich!



After this I'm going to visit a guitar shop to pick something up for Stacey, then it's back to the ship for the passenger drill. The Disco Deck Party has been moved back to our day in Cabo San Lucas, so I actually have the rest of the day off! I'll probably hit the gym, and maybe treat myself to the guest buffet :)

We have nine cruises left, all of them in Mexico.

San Fran and San Diego

(**DISCLAIMER**: The viewpoints expressed here are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer!)




Just as a little addendum to last week’s post, Theresa Barlow, my circus boss’s wife, sent me the infamous chocolate chip pumpkin bread!! It was just as amazing as I remembered. Typically any circus person lucky enough to get one of these treasures would hoard it for themselves. But this time—just this once mind you—I sliced it up to share with the band. The first and last time I’ll ever share a Theresa Barlow chocolate chip pumpkin loaf!



In addition to that excitement, Stacey (bass, my roommate) got us a hot water kettle! Neither of us had packed one because it was on the list of Things You Can’t Have, but since then we’ve been told it’s OK as long as it has an auto-off function. Yay!

Why is this so exciting you ask? Let me tell you a little something about the Ruby Princess.
The crew mess (that’s the crew dining room) is located on Deck 4 Aft. Aft means “the rear end of the ship”. My room is located on Deck 7 Forward (“the front end of the ship”.)

This means that if I want coffee, or hot water for tea, I need to go up and down three flights of stairs and walk the entire length of the ship and back. To give you an idea of how far this is, if you were to do 2 ½ laps on the deck of the Ruby Princess, you will have walked one mile. Therefore, walking the length of the ship twice plus going up and down three flights of stairs adds up to approximately ½ mile.

I’ve been walking ½ mile for each cup of tea.
That’s why having a kettle in the room is such a wonderful thing! FEWER STINKIN’ STEPS!!!




11/04

The water is very choppy today! After breakfast I practiced in my stairwell. Our guest artist today is a Motown group called Horizon. There’s a lot of music so I was concerned, but after playing through it I feel a lot better about it :)

While packing up I overheard a guest telling someone that they could see whale in the distance. I stopped to look and sure enough, you could see mist every once in a while from a blowhole. It was too far away to see the whale itself, but it was still cool.

https://instagram.com/p/Bpzgdb3geNJ

I spent the afternoon taking it easy, because from about 3pm-11pm it was non-stop music-making!
First we had the sound check and performance of the Welcome Back/Welcome Aboard Captain's Circle event. After that we went right into a rehearsal with Horizon. Then there was just enough time to eat dinner and get changed before launching into three shows with Horizon. All three shows went well, although we were all pretty tired by the last one! I think the second show at 9:15pm was the best, because we had the biggest and most energetic crowd and the best sound. Here is an audience clip of the show!

https://instagram.com/p/Bp0Ww_-gRXJ

The guys in the band were fantastic. We're going to be doing another show with them soon and I'm looking forward to it!

After such a long day, I was quick to get to bed!


11/05

Today was special! We were docked in San Francisco for the entire day, from 7am-11pm! Not only that, our bosswoman was able to get us a WHOLE DAY OFF! No playing! Whee!!!

Molly (drums) and I were scheduled to have IPM duty this port, however Stacey (bass, my roommate) was a true champion and took my IPM duty!! I can't thank her enough! She said she wanted some chill time on the ship. No one was available to take Molly's IPM, so I chose to return to the ship early and take over her shift so that we can each enjoy a half-day ashore!

I was so excited that I had trouble sleeping! I woke early in the morning and was off the ship right at 8am! I walked to Boudin Bakery for some breakfast and internet time. And then...

Japantown!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Japantown is only about six blocks, but there’s a lot packed in there. I started off at the most notable landmark, the Peace Plaza pagoda.

I was a bit early as most of the shops didn’t open until 11am or so, but I walked around and just looked at everything. Los Angeles has a Little Tokyo area, and this was like that only much smaller and more residential. But it was interesting to see that many of the houses and apartments even had Japanese architectural elements.

The two things that were open were the Daiso (Japanese dollar store) and a Japanese grocery. I went to both, and though I didn’t really need anything I always enjoy looking around. The grocery especially…I just want to try everything!! I did end up getting some taiyaki bean buns for Molly, because she’d mentioned that she likes sweet red bean filling :) And I got some standard seaweed crackers for myself.

By the time I was finished with that, most of the other stores were open. There was a large mall featuring food stalls, restaurants, a two-level bookstore, tea shops, and any number of retailers selling products from Japan. I really wanted a yukata but unfortunately they are pretty expensive, and I didn’t find any on sale this time.

Although I saw many things that would be fun to have (bento boxes, wall hangings, sake sets, etc), there was nothing that I actually needed. It was about lunch time, so I settled on Udon Mugizo inside the mall. I've never had udon before and wanted to give it a try!



This is niku bukkake udon, served cold with scallions, shredded nori, seasoned thin-sliced beef, and a lemon wedge. There was also a small pouring container full of dashi sauce, which you’re supposed to either dip the noodles in or pour over them. My goodness, it was delicious! Kind of like a cross between ramen and pho. The seasoning on the beef was fantastic! I ate too much but it was so dang good!

After that big meal I needed to walk it off! I revisited some shops and walked around outside for a bit as well. I went down to a nearby Safeway to get Stacey some chamomile tea. When I felt like there was a little more room in my stomach, I went back to the mall for dessert!



This is a taiyaki ice cream from Uji Time Dessert. Taiyaki is a popular snack item in Japan, named after (and shaped like) a fish. The fish is just waffle batter that’s been poured into a mold and then filled with something tasty, usually sweet red bean paste or custard or something. In this case they were using it as a cone for ice cream! The flavor choices included matcha tea, black sesame, or seasonal maple peach. I had intended to get maple peach but got distracted by the black sesame! You could also choose a filling for the fish, either red bean paste or Nutella, but I was still pretty full from lunch and didn’t want to overdo it so opted out of the filling. Both the ice cream and the taiyaki were delicious :)

After that I was feeling pretty tired (food coma?) so got myself back to the ship to relieve Molly of her IPM duty and give her her taiyaki. I took a short nap, then went to the gym. Around that time we got tomorrow’s schedule, and it looks like I won’t be able to go ashore this time. But I’m happy that I’ll still be in California and will still have data!

I was very happy to enjoy this lovely day in San Francisco. Yes, I ran off and did this stuff by myself. But remember that in a cruise ship environment, privacy is virtually nonexistent. Look back at the pictures of my cabin and think about sharing it with another person, who needs to eat and shower and study and fart just like you do! It’s not terrible by any means, and Stacey is the best roommate I could possibly ask for! But when the opportunity presents to be alone for several hours, I’m going to take it! It was very refreshing. I only wish Jameson could have been there.

We’ve been in touch pretty frequently actually. He’s been busy with gigs and work, and looking after my houseplants (thanks my dear!). I like to find out what he’s up to, and I’ll be excited when we’re sharing space again :)


11/06


I woke up and did my routine, or what seems to have become my routine. Breakfast at 9am, practice sometime between 10-11:30am. Depending on how practice goes, maybe a little reading or computer time left over. Lunch around 1pm.

Then usually my “work day” begins with some kind of training, or a rehearsal or sound check, or maybe an afternoon performance in the piazza. And then there’s usually a few hours for a trip to the gym or more practice or relaxation, followed by dinner, followed by the evening performances…usually jazz sets, or dance sets, or a production show, or a show with a guest entertainer. Wash, rinse repeat.

Today I had training at 2pm and a set at 8:30pm. I had intended to go to the gym, but was feeling physically very tired and decided to call it off in favor of some time enjoying the fresh air on the deck. I don’t have time to go ashore in Monterey before we leave, but it was still nice to watch the ships coming and going and enjoy some clean air (many of the larger ports are rather…smoggy.)

Training was fine, the evening set was fine. As the sun was setting I managed to catch this little pod of sea lions heading out to sea.

https://instagram.com/p/Bp3B46rAU_O

11/07

Today we are at sea all day on the way to San Diego. Our band has a rehearsal for Voices of the Ocean (or VOTO as we call it), followed by some more shows with the Horizon Motown band. Once again I skipped the gym...I have actually been trying to go about four times per week, and I think my body hasn't adjusted yet because I feel extra tired :/ So I'm going to scale it back just a little this week, and try again next week!

The rehearsals and the Horizon Motown shows went well. Here is the main Ruby Princess Theatre stage, where we were preparing to rehearse for the Motown show.




11/08

Today we are very lucky! Well, the horn section is haha. The only show scheduled for our band is the production show Magic to Do, which only the rhythm section has to play. So the horns have an entire day off in San Diego, and shore leave from 8am to 7:30pm!!

San Diego is another circus-nostalgia city for me. Lots of great circus memories here from 2013 and 2015.

I stepped off the ship and took this picture from the prow.



My day began with a nice lox bagel from Spill the Beans. It was kind of overpriced if I'm being honest, but they do make their own bagels and cure their own salmon and make their own cream cheese...so maybe not. Stop on by but be prepared for long lines of hipsters!


There was nowhere to sit in Spill the Beans, so after finishing my meal I moved on and found another coffee shop to type up this blog and do some work. Pretty soon I'm going to have to start applying for jobs again, and I also have another project in the works that requires a lot of computer time (I'll share what it is if it actually works out!).

Once done with that...I had to do it.
I went to the train yard.

It was a long walk. The closer I got to the train yard, the more homeless folks I saw camping out, the more dirty it got, the less attractive. But that's what life with the circus was all about. All of the glamour was in the shows. All of the grit was on the rails. When I have the opportunity to visit the places where we used to stay, or perform, or enjoy each others' company, I will do so. I was glad to stand here today and see how much has changed, and to look back on what it was like.



After my little nostalgia trip I walked over to the public library for a little more wifi time. Although the wifi was good, it was difficult to find a seat because there were a LOT of homeless folks in there, using the internet to look for work, eating lunch behind the bookshelves, or brushing their teeth in the bathroom. This was not annoying, it was just saddening. Thank God for public libraries, probably one of few places where people can look for work or clean up for a few minutes without being asked to move along.

I did what I needed to do, then walked through the Gaslamp District and found a pizza place for a slice. For old time’s sake I stopped in the Ghirardelli store and got some dark chocolate. Then I began the trek back to the ship. It was a two mile walk and I had plenty of time, so I took it slow and just enjoyed the day and the fact that I was getting to enjoy this city again.

I was still hungry after a while, so when I found a Panera I stopped there for a small salad and stayed for a while to text with friends and family. When it got dark I decided to continue walking back. Along the way I ran into other crew members returning. It reminded me of how we all used to converge on the circus train after a day in each city. The ship looked beautiful; it’s the first time I’ve seen it from the outside at night.



Back on board I put away my things and had a light dinner in the guest buffet, then since it was payday I decided to splurge on an ice cream sandwich from the café on Deck 16! This is the Cookie Colada: two ginger coconut sugar cookies with pina colada ice cream! It was pretty good!
45661496_10103727082314192_8783589414631636992_o.jpg

Tomorrow we are in Ensenada, and I do not expect to have time to get off the ship.


11/09

We arrived in Ensenada this morning. After breakfast I went to an all hands meeting, which was really an awards ceremony for people who have been Princess employees for years and for those who have provided exceptional service to guests. We also received a few updates on things happening in the company.

After the meeting I did a little organizing on my music tablet and my ipad, then practiced a bit, had lunch, went to the gym. The usual stuff.

Around 4pm there was a rehearsal for Voice of the Ocean, which went nice and quickly. We wrapped it up just as the ship was pulling away from Ensenada. I had a nice lunch of fish, rice, and broccoli in the crew mess, and then we performed Voice of the Ocean. To be honest the audience was kind of dead, not a whole lot of energy this cruise. I guess that happens sometimes. All of the singers did a great job. Were they great? No. But they had the courage to get up there and sing in front of a theater full of strangers. That’s something even I, a supposed “musician”, will not do. One elderly woman was shaking the entire time, and it turns out she was singing for her husband and they were celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary! How amazing is that? I was very happy for her!

Anyway, that was all the house band had to do today. Stacey (bass) and I went up to the guest buffet for some light snacks with members of the party band, and then we met up with Molly (drums), Paula (sax) and Rebeca (guitar) in the piazza to see the Mariachi band play for the Day of the Dead celebration!

Once again the guests did not seem to be in an interactive mood! We tried to liven things up by joining the party! Here is a clip of everyone dancing together :)

https://instagram.com/p/BqAoiKAAlOc

If people do not want to dance, at least they can enjoy watching others dance! I’m not much of a dancer myself :)

11/10

It's turnaround day in LA! I decided to try a new coffee shop today, but their wifi was having issues so I found a tea shop instead. Sitting here now typing this. It's kinda busy so I may go explore around the block and come back to see if the line has gone down.

It's been an eventful week and this was a long post! Next week is our last one hitting the California ports, so I'm going to explore as much as I can and enjoy the wifi. Because after that I'll only have Saturdays in LA and the Walmart in Vallarta for my internet time!

3rd LA Port

(**DISCLAIMER**: The views expressed here do not reflect the views of my employer!)


10/28

Today we had cabin inspections at 9:30am. For these inspections, we have to make sure our beds are made and the cabin is reasonably neat. Our life jacket, muster hat, and safety card all need to be on our bed. Since I’m on the top bunk, my safety rails and ladder have to be in place. And then someone comes through and has a look to make sure everything is in order. They might only glance into the room, or they could do a thorough inspection…it seems to vary. This time we got a cursory glance.

I had breakfast and practiced for a while. First I worked on improv, using Stacey’s suggestion of practicing a ii-V-I pattern. If you’re not into music theory you may not know what this means…don’t worry. It’s pretty much just an exercise that helps train my ear to listen to a certain pattern and make things up over it. When that was done I played through a Mariachi song that I’d recently downloaded in the hopes that the Mariachi band will let me sit in with them one night. After that I played through our set list for this afternoon, which is a bunch of dance tunes.

When all of that was done I packed up and started walking back to my room, but on the way I noticed several passengers looking over the side and pointing. There were some flying fish leaping out of the ship’s wake! I have never seen flying fish in person before! I tried to capture a video for you, but they were small and fast and it was unpredictable where they’d appear. I mean, if you can see it, there's one in this clip:



I put away my things and enjoyed some quiet time before lunch. Normally this is when Molly and I would have our art auction work. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, they’ve done away with our positions. It’s a bummer, but I had fun while it lasted and perhaps having the free time will be nice as well :)

Later in the day we had our dance band set, followed by a sound check and then performance of the Captain’s Circle Welcome Back event. This is just a short little special event for people who are members of Princess’s VIP club. Guests can win prizes and such, and we musicians and dancers are featured for a few songs.

After that I went to the gym, and then to dinner. And later in the evening I went to the crew bar for drinks and card games with some of the band ladies. All in all a nice day. Tomorrow we arrive in Cabo San Lucas. I have a rehearsal in the afternoon, but after that might have some time to go ashore! We’ll see!


10/29

As it turned out, I did have time to go ashore! In the afternoon there was a short sound check, then I got on the ferry to land. It was my first time riding the tender port boat!

Once in Cabo San Lucas, I wasn’t sure where to begin, so just wandered. There were many touristy things to do, including a dolphin experience, glass-bottomed boats, snorkeling, and any number of beach activities. For now, though, I just wanted to look around. We’ll be coming here a lot over the next three months, and I see no need to do everything at once.



It was a lovely port with some nice shops. It was a very hot day, so after a while I went into a mall to cool off. But I didn’t need to buy anything. I ran into Molly (drums) and Rebeca (guitar) and Ray and Kiba from the Mariachi band. They were lamenting the shoddy wifi situation. We headed back to the port together, where Molly and Rebeca decided to sit in a restaurant in the hopes of wifi and Ray, Kiba and I decided to head back to the ship. Sorry my shore excursion wasn’t full of thrills, but hey, that’s just the kind of day it was.

That night we had another Disco Deck Party, and it went well. Our music is paired with a sort of cheesy video featuring some Love Boat cast members, but the guests seem to enjoy it. After the set some of the girls went to get ice cream, but I wanted to go to bed because we’ve got an early morning tomorrow.


10/30

First thing in the morning we had our first bi-monthly entertainment department meeting in one of the ship’s lounges. Most guests were ashore having fun, so the lounge was empty. We got some information on upcoming guest artists, safety drills and inspections, and promotional/financial statistics.

Right after that we had a crew safety drill. For a passenger drill we would don our lifejackets and perform a safety demonstration for the passengers, much like an airline steward would. But for a crew drill we take our lifejackets and neon yellow hats to an assigned check-in station, where we have our ID cards scanned. From there we go to our normal passenger safety positions, and from there to our “muster stations”, which is basically any room large enough to safely hold a large number of guests in the event of an emergency.

Once we arrived at our muster station, our muster captain came around to make sure we were standing in the correct position. From there, we received directions on how to organize guests and take them to the life boats in the event of an emergency.

After the drill was finished, I was starving! As a special treat I went up to the guest buffet for breakfast. I had banana bread, smoked fish, yogurt parfait, fresh fruit, and scrambled eggs with mushrooms. Yum!

Then it was time to practice and go to the gym. I had taken Rebeca’s IPM duty, but in the end she decided to stay on the ship because the crew drill was longer than expected. It was also very hot and humid here in Mazatlan. We will be visiting this port very often, so I’m not worried…I’ll definitely be checking it out another day!



After the gym I decided to eat lunch at the “tea time” that takes place in the buffet area around 3:30pm. Molly (drums) has been raving about it ever since we set sail haha. It was actually pretty awesome! Mini scones and mini burritos, salads, fresh fruit, ice cream, and a chocolate fondue fountain, among other things! I made myself a little plate. Yeah don’t judge me for all the desserts :P


The rest of my day was pretty uneventful. I got myself a Princess logo water bottle, since washing and reusing plastic bottles is getting old. I wandered around the ship and on the decks, and just enjoyed some quiet time. The ocean is so big and blue. On the circus train, traveling between cities was part of the excitement. You’d see so much along the way. Here it’s just the vast ocean, so it can seem a little boring. But every once in a while you can see something amazing, like sea turtles or flying fish. And there’s a nice calm feeling that comes with the rolling waves and the sounds they make on the ship’s hull.


10/31

This turned out to be a busy Halloween!

First thing in the morning we had a training session that went for over an hour. After that most of us decided to go ashore in Vallarta, if only to visit the Mexican Walmart that was close to the port. Going there was pretty nostalgic because it reminded me of the Supermercado we loved to visit in Mexico City with the circus. I didn’t actually buy much, just a dish towel and a few cheap shirts to flesh out my ship wardrobe.

After Walmart I walked over to the Galleria mall next door. I enjoyed window shopping and looking at all the cruise ships from the food court.

https://instagram.com/p/Bpm9U2JhWLf


It was very hot and humid, so after getting my free wifi fix at the mall I headed back to the ship, got a shower, and had lunch. That evening we had a rehearsal with our first guest entertainer, Anne Martinez from the Vegas show BAZ. Although we were essentially sightreading her music, the rehearsal went well and so did the two evening shows. The shows were pretty much just Anne singing and talking a bit about her background and musical experiences. She’s an interesting person and a very talented vocalist. It was a privilege to perform for her!


Later on there was a Halloween party in the crew bar! I went up to check it out around 10pm, but apparently that was too early because it was dead (pun intended). I decided not to wait around because I hadn’t made a costume and we’ve also got such a long day tomorrow. But still, I got a video of the decorations.


I should mention that other parts of the ship have also been decorated for Halloween!



I wasn’t very festive for this holiday, other than eating a bunch of candy! But hey, we’ve got three more major holidays while on this ship!


11/01

Only two months and nineteen days until I can see my boyfriend again! But who’s counting ;)

Today we had another early morning training session. After that many band members went off to practice. There’s a lot to do…we’ve got our first Voices of the Ocean rehearsal today, plus a rehearsal and three shows for the guest entertainer. The last show starts at 10:15pm, so it’s going to be a long day for us. For that reason, and because my parts for all of these are not very involved, I chose to chill for an hour before lunch and just run through the music right before the rehearsal.

Voices of the Ocean is copied after the hit TV show The Voice. Contestants are auditioned, and then must choose from a list of pre-selected songs, which the house band (us!) will play for them during the “show”. There are even gonna be spinning chairs and buzzers, just like on The Voice!

We rehearsed in Adagio, which is a sort of lounge way up on Deck 16. I’ve never been to this little corner of the ship before.



The rehearsal went well. It was fun to play along with amateurs who were brave enough to get up there and do their thing! That takes a lot of guts. I hope everyone will have fun!

Afterward we found out that Anne, our guest entertainer, was not feeling well and would not be performing this evening. Instead, one of the cast members from the Princess Theatre company would be performing some rock songs with the rhythm section as backup. We were a bit surprised to hear that, since she also has two theatre performances this evening at 6:30 and 8:30, and the guest entertainer spots are at 7:30 and 10:30. It’s a lot of work for her on short notice, but it’s wonderful that she’s stepped up to fill in!

As for the horn section, we suddenly found ourselves with two fewer shows to perform. We’d still cover the middle guest entertainer time slot with a dance band set at 9:15, but I felt bad for the rhythm section for having so much work. I attended their 7:30 set, partially to be supportive and partially in case something else came up and the horns were needed after all (you never know!). They did a fantastic job. Our dance set went well too.


11/02

Today is another sea day. After yesterday’s shenanigans, we were happy to have a light day today. Just a rehearsal at 2:30 for Voices of the Ocean, and the actual show at 7pm.

In the morning I had breakfast and chatted with Jameson and my family. The ship wifi is sketchy any time we’re moving, but by refreshing often I’m able to get messages every few minutes. After breakfast I chilled for a bit and spent some time reading on the deck.

Our rehearsal went well, the show went well. All of us got to play with the judges’ chairs!





11/03

Today is weird. We have a crew inspection today, but not all of us...but none of us can get off the ship until it's done. Sigh...
I woke early to do laundry, then went to a sound check for the Disco Deck Party show which will be later tonight. After that several of us pooled on an Uber to Target. We have very limited shore leave, maybe two hours. I'm typing this from the Target actually.

So pretty much every Saturday I'm going to be posting to this blog because that's when we're in LA. There may be one or two exceptions to this, but expect postings once per week, Saturdays.

In closing, here are my pins, which I must wear any time I’m in a public area on the ship!

2nd LA Port

(DISCLAIMER: These statements do not reflect the views of my employer. Thank you!)

10/22

Let’s see, where did I leave off? We had docked in LA, and Molly and I were running errands. After coffee and internet time we ended up going to a nearby Marshalls for random stuff. She needed cheap headphones for the gym and a laundry bag, and I needed a notepad for both myself and Stacey (somehow I forgot to bring one?!). I also got honey for my morning oatmeal, as honey is not readily available in the crew mess. I couldn’t find cinnamon, but did find nutmeg.

Then we took an Uber to a UPS store to collect our packages. We got back to the ship in time to catch the buffet for lunch, then there was a passenger safety drill and two dance band sets. The sets went well. I focused really hard on my improv solo when the time came. One of my biggest issues is that once the solo starts, I forget to keep counting and lose track of the chord changes. So today I tried extra hard to count, and as a result my solo was noticeably better than usual (I know because everyone said so!). Just keep swimming.


10/23

Today is a “sea day”, meaning we’ll be at sea all day on our way down to Cabo san Lucas. Last night the ship’s clocks were set ahead by one hour. Losing an hour of sleep sucks.

It’s a busy day for me, at least up until dinner time. I got up at 8:30 (technically 7:30, eew) and had a nice breakfast with my new oatmeal seasonings. While I was eating I noticed people putting up signs advertising a “kombuka” sale, along with a list of beverages…wine, beer, liquor, soft drinks, and water. Intrigued, I started walking around Deck 4 to see if I could find where this sale was taking place. After a while I noticed crew members dragging bottles of loot from a particular direction, and started walking that way. I still couldn’t find it, but finally stopped a Russian dude carrying three bottles of whiskey to ask. He didn’t speak English at all, but I was able to gesture and flail in a way that said, “Hey, where did you get that?” His hands were full of bottles but he nodded enthusiastically and pointed a finger at the floor. Down. I thanked him and went down to Deck 3. I’ve never been to Deck 3 before today and wouldn’t have known to look there. 

There was a big queue down there leading into an office. The majority of folks in line were wearing blue or white jumpsuits indicating that they worked in some mechanical capacity on the ship. I was the only woman and the only one dressed up. I got a few amused looks, but I was amused as well. Just because I dress nice doesn’t mean I don’t also enjoy a nightcap once in a while ;)

When it was my turn at the office, I handed over my crew ID. The officer at the computer ran it, then asked what I wanted from a list of beverages. The prices were very reasonable, and for a moment I was tempted to stock up. But I just don’t drink all that much. I got a bottle of vanilla vodka. The officer seemed surprised: “That’s it?” Her reaction was pretty understandable, as people were leaving the deck dragging hand carts stacked tall with cases of Coke, water, and liquor. But a liter bottle of vodka is more than I’d ever need. Hopefully the band ladies will help me enjoy it!

I went to a different section of Deck 3 to collect my booze and trekked back to my room to store it. After that I practiced for a bit, then Molly and I had our cherry pie work at the art gallery again (that pretty much paid for the vodka!). From there we went straight into an afternoon dance band set, which went well even though personally I hadn’t gotten much practice time on that music. And right after that we packed up and carried our equipment to the theater, where we did a sound check and then played for the Captain’s Circle club members Welcome Event.

After that, we were basically free for the day! I was very tired, having not slept well the night before, so took a short nap after dinner. In the evening we all went up to the Crew Bar to enjoy a “wine and cheese night” event! It was really nice to have some social time with everyone. The crew bar is basically a rec room just for crew. It has a pool table, couches, a DVD and book library, a small convenience kiosk, and a bar of course!


10/24

We arrived in Cabo san Lucas around 1pm. Before that I woke up and had a nice breakfast, then practiced for a while in the theater stairwell. I had planned to eat lunch and then go to the gym, but as I was packing up Molly (drums) found me. Apparently we were needed in the art gallery for our cherry pie work at the last minute! I ran back to the room and got dressed, careful not to wake my roommate who was still sleeping.

The art gallery wasn’t very busy, so we were only there for about an hour. Afterward we decided to go up to the guest gym, bringing Rebeca (guitar) with us.



I did the elliptical and finished just as we were docking in Cabo san Lucas. This was a “tender port”, meaning that we must drop anchor offshore and use ferries to carry passengers to and from the ship. I traded IPM duties with Rebeca today so that she could get off the ship, because while she has most of the day free I have rehearsal and a show at 4 and 10pm. So since I can’t get off the ship anyway, why not do IPM? And when we are in LA, because Rebeca is not a US citizen she will not be allowed off the ship, so I’m hoping she’ll be willing to take my IPM shift.

Anyway, after the gym I got cleaned up and had lunch in the mess, then had a rehearsal for a disco event later in the evening. Then it was dinner, laundry, and some plain old chill time. At 10pm we had our disco set. It was the Ruby Princess Orchestra horn section (Paula, Nia, and myself) performing with the Party Band consisting of drums, guitar, bass, keys, and vocals. We had a lot of fun playing and the guests had a great time!



Afterward Molly and Rebeca came up to join the party, and everyone started dancing while the Party Band continued with more disco medleys. I was ready to call it a day, so packed up and started heading down to my room. Walking along one of the decks, the breeze was very nice and the lights from Cabo San Lucas were pretty, so I stopped to just enjoy the silence and beauty for a moment. As I was gazing down into the black water, I got a bit of a surprise. This sea turtle drifted to the surface right in front of me. I scrambled to get this blurry photo before he sank back into the dark water.



10/25

Strangely, I have absolutely ZERO work today! I’d love to explore Cabo san Lucas, but we’re supposed to leave at 1pm so I’d have to get up super early.

Instead I thought I’d try the guest breakfast for the first time, just to break up my oatmeal-and-boiled-eggs routine. Guest breakfast is awesome! There was so much to choose from: pancakes, French toast, every kind of egg imaginable, bagels, fish and pork and beef, sausage and bacon, all kinds of fruits…the list goes on. I got myself a yogurt parfait, coconut French toast, an eggs benedict, a roasted tomato, and some fruit. Crew are often not allowed to eat at the breakfast buffet because it gets very busy, so this was a rare treat.



After breakfast I practiced for a bit. There aren’t really any practice rooms here, so we all have to make do with any spaces not in use. I like this stairwell, because it’s close to my room and in a deck area that guests don’t use.


After practice I had a small snack at the crew mess and talked with one of our pianists for a bit, then went up to the piazza to check out some of the shops. I was hoping to find a retractable lanyard, but no such luck. But it was nice to see what the stores carry, because guests will often ask.


Back in my room, I said good morning to Stacey before heading up to the gym. In the evening I went to see my bandmates perform in Magic to Do, a new Princess production show. Though I couldn’t record any part of the show, I did catch these ladies laying down the playoff music! Way to go girls!!



10/26

Today was busy! I had a nice breakfast and practiced a bit, then had work at the art auction with Molly. Afterward we had a piazza set right away, so we ran over there and laid it down. Then I had a short meeting with my boss, basically it’s been a month and she’s checking with all of us to make sure we’re adapting to ship life all right, which I thought was really considerate. Then I had to charge my music tablet, then Nia (trumpet) had to install an update on said tablets so I lost all of my real books! Instead of reinstalling them all I decided to use my iPad for the evening set instead.

The ship seems to be moving a lot today, but so far I don’t feel sick. We still have one jazz set in the evening, and I’m kind of stressed about it already. I dunno, some days I wake up with the mindset that it’s just not going to turn out well, and I don’t know why. Today I think it’s because there’s not much time to practice, so maybe I’m already feeling underprepared. But I need to remember that it’s just one set, and whether there’s time to go over the material or not all I can do at any given time is my best, and that will have to be good enough.

Tomorrow we are back in LA. Rebeca (guitar) and Paula (sax) were kind enough to take IPM duty for Molly and I, so we are going to Target to pick things up for ourselves and other people in the band. Most importantly, Halloween candy!!


10/27

Finally back in the states! It's so nice to have phone service. This morning Molly and Stacey and I took an Uber to Target. I wanted to get a few pieces of clothing and some cleaning supplies. Still no luck finding a lanyard, my goodness! I also picked up some Halloween candy per my boss's request. After that we went to Sacred Grounds again to enjoy the wifi and coffee. Shore leave in LA is very short because that's where we take on passengers, so there's always a passenger safety drill around 3pm and we need to be back an hour before that. But still, any time off the boat is nice!

As we head into our next week of cruising, I hope to get more time in some of the Mexican ports. So far things are going well, I just wish I were a better musician. But maybe with time.

LA Port

10/17

We are sailing to LA today. Upon returning to the ship last night, Paula (sax) wasn’t feeling great, so I was asked to fill in for her set. I did a very poor job, mostly because I spent the entire day goofing off and hadn’t played a single note or listened to any jazz.

I’m having confidence issues. Well I guess you all know I had them before coming here. All I can do is keep trying. In a few minutes I’m running up to Nia’s room (trumpet) to pick up some recordings. Stacey (bass) has already given me quite a lot of music as well. And I’m going to try to do one hour of listening every day.

One thing that I forgot to bring or buy is a notepad/paper. Everyone has suggested that I write out the music as a way of practicing that goes along with listening.

Today we had our first outdoor set, wearing our cute little “Hawaiian” shirts and standing near the pool. It was very hot, but we made the best of it and afterward many people came up to thank us for playing and tell us we did a good job. And then we saw some whales! I wanted to take pictures, but really all you could see was a blue lump in the vast blue sea. In person, they were beautiful.


10/18

We arrived in LA sometime last night or this morning. We had another outdoor set today, but this time it was a special PR event for some company VIPs to experience some of the new sound equipment that’s been installed during ship renovations. The sound check was in the morning, so I got up early and ate breakfast then climbed nine flights of stairs(!) to reach deck 16. It was a beautiful day and we had a fantastic view of the shipyard and bridge.




The sound check went well. During the down time before the event I checked my email and spoke with other band members about how we can arrange some pop/rock/funk charts for ourselves for future sets. It’s a little difficult without reliable internet, but I think we’ll be able to pull something off, just maybe not right away.

We had to wait over an hour for the event to start, but start it did, and it was over in just a few tunes. Afterward several execs came over to thank us and introduce themselves. I was happy to meet these people, who very likely had a hand in hiring me!—and who also have a say in the equipment and facilities that we’re able to use. So even though it was a long wait to perform for them, I was glad that we got to do it.

Afterward we were starving! The crew mess was closed, so Stacey (bass) and I went to the Horizon Court buffet. It’s for guests, but we have permission to use it on certain days during certain hours. We figured this probably qualified as a permissible time to eat! The food was delicious :)



Then we had a little bit of free time before the turnaround day safety drill. “Turnaround day” apparently means the day we take on passengers and then “turn around” and leave haha. We all spent the time resting and enjoying our American cell phone data service, although we could only get signal by sitting in the hallway near a door. I felt bad every time an international crew member approached our little hallway huddle to ask, “Wifi?” only to find out we were using data.

The safety drill went well. I returned to my room and decided to risk washing some of my “dry clean only” clothes…so far it looks like nothing was ruined, yay! Then I downloaded some real books, jazz exercises, and recordings that Nia (trumpet) had graciously put on a flash drive for me. I’m going to begin working these into my daily routine to see if I can’t improve my musicianship a little bit.

I am well aware that it’s my own fault that I’ve avoided everything jazz for so long. I didn’t like it to begin with, and then after getting shamed or embarrassed every time I tried to perform it I started to actively avoid it. But I think these ladies are making me reset how I approach jazz music. Here I am being given the opportunity to improve, and I NEED to take advantage of it. Afterward I may decide that I still hate jazz, or whatever, but at the very least I need to really make an effort this time.

Tonight at dinner there were WHOLE SQUID! And I do mean whole. Guts and eyeballs and everything but the beaks and ink sacs. I like to try new things and I already know that I like squid, so I slopped some onto my plate and took a big bite. Blech! Squid guts are not very good! The taste isn’t actually that bad, but the texture was pretty awful. Rubbery and gritty and just no. Plus it was oversalted. I ate it anyway so as not to be wasteful, but probably gonna cross whole squid off my list :P




10/19

Today was pretty slow. We only had a little training in the morning, then a set around 6:45. In the time between we were “” docked at Catalina Island. “” docked means that we’re not in an actual port, but rather anchored offshore, and then the cruise ship provides little orange ferries to take people to and from the island. I know this because we woke to an awful grinding noise, which my roommate said was the anchor tearing up the bottom of the sea. But anyway, here’s Catalina Island.





I didn’t disembark myself because I felt I needed to practice for the evening set. And it’s a good thing I did, because even with the practicing I didn’t play very well. But then I think most of us weren’t happy with how we played. Personally I was nervous, Molly (drummer) said she just wasn’t in the groove, and I think Paula (sax) might have wanted a sectional beforehand. And we should have tuned as well. But, hey. It’s only been two weeks, and we haven’t had that many sets together. People still danced, and applauded, and seemed to have a good time. Of course we want to do better, but what’s important is that people are still having fun and enjoying what we’re putting out in the now.

In other news, we have begun sailing to Mexico!
Tomorrow I’ll have a sectional with Paula and Nia (trumpet), then Molly and I have volunteered for a “cherry pie” job: helping out at an art auction!


10/20

Today we had a dance set in the afternoon and it went quite well. Even my solos were not terrible. The only hitch was a request from a guest, and we thought we had the lead sheet for it, but turns out it was a Bb sheet. So I started to play and thought, “Well this doesn’t sound right!” That’s because it needed to be transposed! Whoops! But we got through it one way or another, and we still got applause when we were done.

Oh, before that, Molly (drums) and I had our “cherry pie” work registering people for an art auction today! It was very easy. We each got a computer and a spreadsheet with some formulas already entered. If a guest wanted to register for the auction, we’d ask for their room number, and their name would come up automatically on the sheet. Then we’d assign them a bidding number and give them some raffle tickets. A fun job for a little extra cash! When we were finished we enjoyed lunch at the guest buffet, since crew mess was closed by then. I enjoyed spending time with Molly and getting to know a little more about her :)

Other than that, it was a pretty slow day. I went to the crew gym for the first time and used the elliptical. Tomorrow Molly, Stacey (bass) and I are going to the guest gym together to exercise. All of us have almost the whole day free in Ensenada, but I am stuck with In Port Manning (IPM) duty and can’t get off the ship. I’ll probably spend the day practicing, searching for stray wifi signals, and exploring the ship (I STILL don’t know where everything is!)

10/21

It was a nice slow day. As mentioned, I couldn't get off the ship because of IPM duty, but made the best of my time. I practiced, did laundry, and went to the gym. Here are some pictures of the port. We were docked next to a Carnival ship.




In the evening we had a rehearsal for a Disco Deck Party to take place in a few days. Pretty straightforward stuff.

10/21

I'm typing this from a coffee shop in LA. Molly and I walked there to get our wifi fix, and we also need to pick up some stuff we ordered and had sent to a UPS store. I also want to pick up some honey and cinnamon (for my morning oatmeal) and some office supplies, like a lanyard for my ship ID. This coffee shop is awesome by the way...Sacred Grounds. Stop in if you get a chance.

We need to be back on the ship by 2pm, then we have a passenger safety drill at 3:15pm. At night we'll have two dance band sets, which should be fun (because there's less improv haha). I like it when people are dancing and having fun :)

San Francisco Day

(REQUIRED DISCLAIMER: this content contains my own personal thoughts and opinions, and does not reflect the views of my employer.)

Hi!

Today I was allowed off the ship for the first time since last week! We are in San Francisco right on the pier!



It's great to have phone service and wifi again. We are only here for a day, so I'm making the most of it, reaching out to everyone and updating all of my devices. We're supposed to port in Los Angeles once per week, but there's no guarantee I'll have service or the time to access it, especially if I'm not allowed off the ship.

Our band played our first sets this week, and they went well. Our first set was a bit of a snafu because our equipment was not ready for us at the scheduled time, but we made the best of it and still had a nice set. I was embarrassed at my amateur improvisation skills every time it was my turn to solo. So much so that I felt very much like crying after the set was over. But again, my bandmates were very supportive, and although it's clear that my improv skills are not as advanced as theirs, they assured me that what I'm doing currently is at least acceptable. I hope to improve by watching and listening. And practicing A LOT!

I'm trying to think about about what to type...so much has happened. Passengers came on board in Vancouver, that's what our first set was for. We also had a "Welcome Aboard" set in the main Princess Theater, that went well too. We've had tons of safety training sessions, learning about company policies and life jackets and evacuations and tons more. We've had safety drills and rehearsals and cabin inspections. I need to do a better job of documenting all that we are doing, like I used to do in the circus. Part of the problem is I only have one outlet in my room, and so my priority electronics get to use it (without internet my computer has not been a priority!!).

Well, let me just tell you about today then. Early in the morning we had to line up, the whole crew, to have our passports checked by immigration. I'm a US citizen, but I still needed to have this done. Our international crew needed additional paperwork in order to get off the ship here as well. I have been doing my best to help my international bandmates and friends with things that require a lot of English language, or localized knowledge. I know how it feels to be in a country where the language and culture are not yours, and it is difficult to communicate and get around. I know that I will feel that way in Mexico.

But today, I decided to be a bit selfish. I knew I'd need several hours in a Starbucks to type this, while our international crew would want to explore the city! So once we were off the ship, I broke away from the group and spent several hours typing this up. After this, I don't really have any tourist-y plans other than to walk around, maybe visit some of the parks or get close to the Golden Gate Bridge as that was something that Jameson and I didn't get to do on our visit to San Fran so many years ago.

It feels weird to be here without my circus family. I've got so many memories here.
I miss Jameson a lot. He had wanted to come out on a cruise around Christmastime, but it looks like it'll be too expensive. That's a disappointment, but we'll both just have to hang tight until we get to see each other again. I'm just happy we can still text once in a while.

Anyway, I think this may be my last chance to pick up American supplies before we dive into Mexico, especially if we're not allowed off the ship in LA. There's a Target about a 30-minute walk away...I still need a power strip and a few other necessities, and although there's a CVS right here on the port I think a Target will have more choices and better prices. I feel almost guilty thinking about this stuff instead of touristy things haha! But later on I'll be thankful that I wasted my shore time here getting boring necessities!

(Updated 6pm)

I walked all the way to Target! Ok, it was only a 30-minute walk haha. I had made a list the night before, so was ready to shop and go!
On the way I came across a Cole's Hardware, which had a huge selection of extension cords. This was a better choice than a power strip because the strips often have surge protectors, which you are not supposed to have on the ship. I picked a cord with 3-prong and several 3-prong ports. Yessss.
I got to Target by walking directly down Columbus from Pier 39. This took me right through San Fran's Little Italy. And that reminded me that I had promised one of the Mariachi band members a margherita pizza! Crap! I reached out to the few crew members whose numbers I'd gotten, but no one had seen him recently. Oh well...maybe in LA.

But anyway, it was a beautiful day and even without doing touristy stuff I really enjoyed just walking around and seeing the sights (there are some pics on facebook, nothing spectacular, just stuff I saw along the way.)

My bank was next to Target, so I stopped in to make sure I had enough cash for souvenirs in Mexico (or tips on the ship, whichever). Then it was time to go shopping. I needed lotion, conditioner, a bit of hair product, and a comb for my roommate. Small ziploc bags and extra toothpaste. Some Bronner's hemp soap, because the ship's septic system is sensitive and organic cleaners are preferred. Some granola bars in case I actually get to the gym one of these days :P And some peanut butter and a few bars of dark chocolate, because I have not seen a single peanut since boarding this ship and plain dark chocolate seems to be a novelty as well.

I walked all the way back to the pier with my haul. The last thing on my list was tea...Target had a poor selection, so I found a looseleaf place and picked some vanilla black tea and some chai. I am not sure if they will be allowed on the ship...but I will try. I spent the rest of my shore leave eating this awesome sourdough bread bowl and watching the fog roll in.



After today I'm not sure when I'll get to update again. I'll try to do it once per week, but cannot guarantee anything as my schedule varies day to day. Please check my facebook and instagram for the most recent updates and pictures.

Thanks for reading!

Super huge update post

(REQUIRED DISCLAIMER: All statements made here are my own, and do not reflect the views of my employer!)


10/09 10:36pm

Good LORD. The last 48 hours have been insane.
Both flights to get out to the ship were fine. Once in Victoria I went through Canadian customs, which was very easy. There was a cab waiting for me on the other side. The drive to the ship was longer than I expected. I enjoyed looking around, though I was feeling a little overwhelmed and lost.

That feeling was multiplied when I reached the dock. The driver just dropped me off outside the gate, pretty far from the ship and with no instructions. I dragged my luggage up to the gatehouse and showed my ID, and was let in. Straightforward. Good.

It took me a while to get down the hill with all of my crap. Partway down I took a break, set my bags down, and took a pic of the ship.



Once I was alongside I began to look for a way in and eventually found a walkway. Gangway. Whatever. I went inside and my luggage was scanned, then a photo of exhausted, deer-in-the-headlights me was taken for an employee ID. Security called someone from HR to come get me. He introduced himself (I was way too overwhelmed to be remembering names) and we went to HR, where I filled out some paperwork and got my Princess pin and nametag (pics later). These are to be worn at all times on the ship.

After a few minutes my boss Jane showed up, and together the three of us dragged my luggage up to my room, number 7114. My roommate Stacey (bass) was already there and unpacking. I introduced myself and we talked a bit. I didn’t want to start unpacking until she’d finished as the room was very small. While it’s probably about three times as large as my train room, it also contains a bathroom, we have to keep our instruments in the room with us, and of course there’s two of us in there. But that said, there is still plenty of room for both of us. I gotta say, cruise ships are not nearly as efficient with storage space as the circus train was. Everywhere I look there’s potential that wasn’t taken advantage of. :P

Anyway. After that I went and found a porthole and used my roaming plan to contact everyone and let them know I’d reached the ship all right. It was hard to text Jameson, because we usually talk by text every day and I knew that after today our contact could be cut off for long periods of time. It made me feel very lonely. We don’t usually have giant conversations or anything…just “At the grocery if you need anything” or “Just got out of work, heading home soon”. But I miss that contact.

I forced myself to stop texting and began to explore the ship. This was actually really difficult, because the entire ship—the ENTIRE ship—was under construction! Contractors were coming and going, wires were hanging everywhere, huge pallets of materials were being moved around. It was chaos. I imagine that the ship would be confusing anyway, but this was extra!



Most of the crew cabins reminded me of train rooms, with kinda bigger hallways. Each floor of the ship (they’re called decks, my bad) even has a distinct smell, much like the train did in each car.


I got lost several times, but did manage to find my room again. Just in time, because we were asked to attend our first safety training session! It only took ten minutes, and it was just showing us how to operate the watertight doors. There will be a lot of safety training throughout the whole first month because everyone on the crew has a role in the event of an emergency.

After training, Stacey was about finished unpacking so I did my part. We actually ended up with room to spare, can you imagine that? Here are some pictures of our room.



These are our beds. You can see we each have a little wall lamp and privacy curtains. I took the top bunk of course 😉


Here is our closet, with just my door open so you can see what’s inside. My trombone fits nicely in there. I brought a lot of dressy clothes because any time we’re in guest areas we need to look nice (and that will be often!)


The desk. I think Stacey will be using this more than me because she can practice her bass here with an ipad.


The bathroom. It’s tiny but functional. And if you wanted to you could shower and sh*t at the same time haha.


Later in the evening I had more training, followed by a meeting with Jane (our boss, pianist, and MD). We went over some of our safety duties and just general questions, then Jane informed us that due to the renovations we’d all have to participate in “key running” duties. Key running is basically holding a master key, and when a contractor needs access to a room to do repairs you open the door for him and then watch as he does his work, to make sure nothing gets damaged and to keep yourself available to open other rooms as needed. I was assigned key running duties starting at 6:30am the next morning. Ugh!

I wanted to get a shower and go right to bed, but right then an announcement was made that there would be a water shutdown until 8am the next morning. So I went to bed gross and went to key running the next morning gross :P But it's to be expected when the ship is under construction! I ended up not having to run keys, so it was six hours of reading and trying to stay awake. I met some awesome people from Mexico and Wales, and had some nice conversations! The ship also moved to another dock during that time, which was exciting for me. I found a window and stared. We moved very slowly, and when I wasn’t looking out the window I could tell we were moving by watching my water bottle (the water inside was vibrating). I did not feel sick, but it was only a small move. Still super paranoid about motion sickness.

After key running I had lunch with Stacey, then went back to the room and managed to get an ice cold shower before they shut the water off again. Then there was another safety training session, and then at 5pm we had our first sound check!



We get to use these huge music tablets instead of paper books! I am so excited!! It just makes it so much easier to have your music backlit, and searchable. SO nice! We were all really thrilled and impressed. I was very nervous during sound check and made some mistakes, but our boss still seemed pleased with how we sounded and even sent a recording to her boss. Our Argentinian wind player and guitarist were a bit frustrated I think because this style of music is very new to them, and without internet it’s hard to figure out how things are supposed to sound. But honestly, they did a fantastic job, and once everything settles down I’ll bet we’ll sound great!

After that we all got changed and grabbed our IDs, because there was a brief shore leave from 8:30pm-10pm. Many of us needed to get necessities, especially toiletries. Some girls didn’t bring any at all because they’d been told they could buy some from the ship store, but it’s closed for all these renovations. So our boss called us a cab and took us downtown to find a pharmacy. As we were walking there some of us were looking around and taking pictures, but I chose instead to frantically search for wifi. It was already 9pm and I knew we wouldn’t have much time. I was able to send off a few texts and update my facebook.

Inside the pharmacy we hurriedly grabbed what we needed off the shelves. The circus totally prepared me for this kind of nonsense…I went in with a list of exactly what I needed and was out the door in no time. Even so, by the time we were all checked out we really needed to hustle to get back to the ship. Like the circus train, once the vestibules (or in this case, gangways) are shut, you ain’t getting back on. We were late. Our cabbies really stepped on the gas, and I think that’s why we ultimately made it back in time. We were the last ones on the ship. Laughing and relieved, we decided to pose with our pharmacy loot for our first group photo.




10/10 3pm

This morning I had my first hot shower since joining the ship. It was glorious :D

After that I had a nice breakfast of eggs, bacon, and fruit, then went to life jacket training. Waiting for us inside was Doug Tann, my boss’s boss. He’s the one who hired me. It was awesome to finally meet him in person! We didn’t have a lot of time to talk but he asked about circus life, and said he’d really enjoyed the recording Jane had sent him.

Safety training was quick and easy. Afterward I decided to do a load of laundry, mostly because I only brought one sweater and have been wearing it non-stop since arriving here. It took a while to find an open washer, but then it only took about 90 minutes to wash my stuff.

When that was done I put my things in my room and went to the mess for lunch. There is a lot of interesting food being served, but as anyone can tell you I love weird foods! Today there were chunks of whole fish with fins and tails and everything still intact, some sort of curry relish with beans and other unidentifiable shredded veggies, and roasted pumpkin. There was “typical” food too like apples, white rice, roasted turkey, green beans, and potatoes. I got a little of each of the weird foods. They were all great! The fish was wonderful, the curry was tasty, and the roasted pumpkin was so good I can’t wait for them to serve it again! I might try making that myself when I get home! At some point I will take pics of the food. I’ve heard lots of rumors about how awful crew food is on the ships, but honestly so far I think it’s been very good.

After lunch I was walking outside to get back to my room. The view was lovely and the sun was out, though it was cold, around 50 degrees. Just then it occurred to me that we were docked near a tourist area. Might there be free wifi accessible from the ship? YES!! I got access and did not move for an hour, texting and updating and just enjoying being in touch with everyone. God bless technology.

Now I am lying in bed typing this up and trying to warm up a little after being outside in the cold. For the first time, I have nothing else scheduled for the rest of the day. Since Doug is here we might have some sort of meeting or rehearsal later on. But for now it’s nice to just chill for a bit. I feel like it’s been non-stop since coming here, and it’s been a bit overwhelming. In a little bit if I haven’t been assigned any other duties, I’ll go practice and explore.

10/11 9:12pm

Today we had a photoshoot in the morning. All of us ladies put on our concert blacks and did some headshots, then group shots with our instruments and without. Initially we thought we were only doing headshots, so none of us brought our instruments. This meant we had to run all the way down twelve decks to retrieve our instruments on Deck 7, and climb back up to Deck 19! It was a heck of a lot of stairs but we made it haha. Here is one of our group photos, which may be featured in several women's magazines:



After the photoshoot some of us went to the training center to take a safety course and test, but the internet was not working so we had to wait a bit while they set it up. During that time our boss sat with us and answered some of our questions. At one point she turned to me and asked if I could put together a list of lead sheets I’d be comfortable playing melody for. I’m sure I must have had a horrified look on my face as I nodded and walked away, fretting.

I am not a jazz musician, AT ALL. A lot of that is because I don’t like jazz very much. Another part of it is my personality…I’m a little shy and not fond of taking solos. But ultimately there’s more to it than that.

Throughout my “career” as a “musician”, I’ve been included in jazz bands only to be laughed out of the room after the first rehearsal. Because I’d had no formal jazz training and no ear for the music, I’d make a fool of myself when asked to solo. I just had no idea what I was supposed to do. And often as a result I'd be asked to leave the ensemble. This usually meant the teacher or conductor pulling me aside and saying, “It’s just not going to work out,” or “Why don’t you come back after listening to some Coltrane.”

There was one band in Philly, I was driving an hour each way to get to rehearsals each night, and as I got out of my car for the second rehearsal I was told that my sound “just doesn’t fit in with the group” and asked to leave.

There was another band that hired another trombonist for a gig, and then proceeded to give me a false gig location so I’d miss their set. I found out when I called the supposed venue to ask a question.

And then there have been all the times that I’ve explicitly, desperately explained to the bandleader that I am NOT a jazz player and am NOT good at improv, only to be waved off and told “You’ll be fiiiine”, and then have to experience the shame of embarrassing myself when it was time for me to solo. Even in the circus, I was never comfortable soloing, and in fact my coworkers’ insistence that I solo only made me want to avoid it more.

I’m telling you all of this because it leads up to today, and my boss asking me to make a list of lead sheets I could play or solo over. Shortly after that conversation, I pulled her aside and confessed that I have almost zero knowledge on how to properly read a lead sheet or improvise over one. I asked if I could please start with a short list of three lead sheets. She said yes, but I was already tearing up from the embarrassment of not having the skills she was asking for.

My roommate Stacey noticed my distress, and we talked a bit later on about the difficulties of becoming a jazz musician. She was incredibly supportive and understanding, which made me cry all over again. You have to understand, up until this point whenever I revealed my jazz shortcomings to another musician, I would either be waved off or shamed in front of the whole band before being asked to leave. And here was Stacey, and also my boss, telling me “That’s all right!” and “We’ll help you to learn!” and “Let’s just take it slow.” Oh my God. Where were these ladies in my formative years!

After composing myself a bit, I got together some music and practiced for a while. It’s been a long time since I’ve wanted to practice. Not being able to find work for an entire year, and getting fired, has made me feel incredibly inadequate. I just want to contribute to this band. I don’t want to drag it down or be the reason we have to play kiddie tunes. I’m sorry that I couldn’t practice more before joining, but that was a choice I had to make in order to pay the bills. I was embarrassed to cry in front of two of my bandmates today, but I’m also glad it’s over with. Because if it didn’t happen today, it would have happened after my first botched solo in front of a live audience. At least now I know I won’t be immediately asked to leave over this.

Anyway, that was my emotional afternoon. Later on I had a bit more safety drill training, then I spent some time outside. Oh, I forgot to mention! I woke this morning to the rumbling of the ship’s engines coming to life. When I got up I could immediately tell that we were moving. We continued to sail for the entire day at a good clip. I’m not sure exactly where we’re going…Vancouver?...but it was wonderful to see the ocean and the mountains in the distance. Here are some photos and clips that I took from various points on the ship.




https://instagram.com/p/Bo4WYDcg8Un

Posting

Hi everyone!

I am preparing a post, but because it takes so much data to upload photos I’m going to have to wait to post until I can find free internet. I can’t afford $40 per blog post haha!

Things are going ok, so much has happened! Today is my first day of performances and I’m nervous, but I’m sure it’ll be fine.

I will make a real post with photos when possible (may not be for a while but please be patient!)

Off I Go

Well...I guess this is it.

I'm all packed. As ready as I'll ever be, or could have been with the lack of practice. I'm nervous and excited and sad. Jameson is being great. He's hoping to come on one of the weeklong cruises in December, we'll see if I can get a discount.

Not sure how often I'll be able to post here, but I'm aiming for once per week. If I can't, at the very least I'll do one big post when I get back.

Tomorrow we have to get up at 4am to drag me to the airport. My flight leaves at 7:15am and arrives in Seattle around 10:30am (1:30pm ET). From there it's a one hour flight into Canada, and I'm supposed to get directly on the ship.

Thanks to all of you who support me. Actually support me, not just say nice things and then disappear when I no longer have exciting freebies to offer.

See you down the road...

Preparations

At first I was worried that I was leaving work too early. But now I'm glad I did. Every day it seems like there's more to do to prepare for the trip.

The hardest thing so far has been clothes shopping. Most professional musicians have at least one set of decent, dressy concert clothes. I do not. I used to, in college. But in college I weighed 155 lbs, and now I'm at 126, so over the years my women's suit and my concert dress and my expensive blouse have all found their way to the thrift store, where hopefully someone found the perfect fit. And having been on the circus for the past five years, I was either wearing the provided costume, or extremely casual clothes that could survive industrial train yards.

So I have about three weeks of not working, during which I need to buy a whole new wardrobe. The cost makes me wince, but honestly, if I'd behaved like most professionals I'd have all this stuff already.

About two days ago I spent nearly six hours clothes shopping. Can't believe people do that for fun! Ugh! Mobs of people everywhere you turn, clothing racks all messy and picked-through...I had to nix bra shopping because VC was having a "buy-two-get-one-free" sale and it was like a massive cat fight in there.

It took most of the day, but I found three dressy tops to wear under the blazer that I bought, and two button-up blouses, one black and one ivory. The hardest part was finding a classy black dress for "cocktail hour". Black is not a popular dress color in Florida, and even right before autumn it seems like selection is limited. But I did find one that I think will be good with a little alteration, and a sparkly black jacket.

Yesterday Jameson went with me to help find clothes for my "outdoor set", which is supposed to be "cream/khaki dress pants" and a "Hawaiian shirt or something else colorful". I nervously picked out a few shirts and tried them on while he waited. I wonder every day how he feels about this. Are his feelings hurt that I'm leaving (again) for so long? Does he take it personally? Does he understand why I feel I have to do this? He knows that I'm not happy to do it, but in some ways I think that makes it worse because he's imagining me miserable on a boat for four months while he's miserable at home. I know I want him to be happy and have fun while I'm gone. I think maybe he wishes the same for me.

Anyway, I got a Hawaiian shirt. I have a "theater outfit", and a "jazz/dance outfit", and the "cocktail hour" outfit. All I need are the cream pants, bras, and maybe a pair of shoes. And some workout clothes. And stockings. Damn, I keep remembering other things I still need :/

And then I need to buy toiletries, and a sewing kit, and get a haircut, and take the clothes to the tailor, and start packing, and, and...

It seems like a lot. But now that I'm not working noon to nine pm every day, I have the time.

Today's agenda is to finish the clothes shopping if at all possible, and get things to the tailor before the end of the day. Tonight I have the union hall reserved for badly-needed practice. Tomorrow I have volunteering at the Audubon in the morning, then I'll probably cook dinner at night.

Oh, speaking of the Audubon. I've been volunteering at their Center for Birds of Prey. It's mostly a lot of cleaning, but I do get to interact with the birds a bit. I've gotten some good pictures and video.


https://instagram.com/p/BnmAtayDI1G


https://instagram.com/p/Bnju3gxg7U3


https://instagram.com/p/Bnl9_fBDqzU

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