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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.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 17th, 2018 02:03 pm (UTC)
Your group photo is fantastic! It looks like you've all known each other for ages and are so comfortable with one another.

I'm so darn happy for you that your band mates are supportive and helpful instead of what you've experienced in the past!
Oct. 22nd, 2018 04:55 pm (UTC)
Haha we've known each other for like a week! Photos lie :D
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )