Backstage Travels

All the world's a stage…

Abandoned/Not Abandoned

It’s been a long time (almost a year!) since last I posted.

I’ve done a lot of really cool things, and I’m still traveling. I will, I promise get around to posting about the snorkeling, and the time I sat with a rescued jaguar…

And I haven’t abandoned this blog…but I kinda have.

I have been struggling at work. Not because of the work itself…it’s stupid amounts of easy. Real stage managers would laugh at the lack of difficulty at my job right now. Come to that, most stage hands would too. I’m struggling because of just that. It’s easy work…almost to the point that it’s insulting. I want to be challenged, and the only way I’m being challenged at the moment is with piles of unnecessary paperwork and a boss who doesn’t question ANYTHING he’s told, and gets miffed when I do.

I’m becoming quite disillusioned. Because of this, Backstage Stitches is getting a lot of attention because I just keep throwing myself into that hobby.

Over the next month, I’m stuck in trainings forever and ever, but I’m hoping in October, I’ll be able to start working on my SCUBA license.

I also hope over the next month, I’ll be able to organize my photos and start to post about my other travels.

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Cabin Chrismakkah

Holidays on a cruise ship are very different from what you get at home, but they have their own weird charm.
Hanukkah was celebrated for eight nights in the Main Atrium with a giant menorah.

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Being one of the only Jewish crew members onboard, I led the celebrations, and dealt with concerns regarding certain traditions including why we couldn’t light actual candles. We don’t allow candles onboard due to risk of fire, which is the most dangerous event on a ship. I say this, but the guests’ counter is “but smokers!”….and I don’t know how to respond to that…

“Our centuries old tradition could kill us all…but you could totally carry a tiny firestarter in your pocket always, if you want. Just flick it eight times.”

….

We had a Holiday Christmas Show that we put on a couple times. It’s mostly just singing, and a short story for the children, but it’s set up kind of homey, and it’s cute.

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Meanwhile, my mom sent us some Hanukkah and Christmas stuff for our cabin, and then I found a gingerbread kit at Target that I couldn’t resist. So decorations!

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I meant to cross stitch a little menorah for our cabin, but between all the Christmas prep, I didn’t really have time, and I couldn’t find the right plastic canvas in time. I’ll make one for next year. I already have a pattern all ready 🙂
This coming cruise is the New Year’s Cruise and the parties should be pretty good. See you all next year!

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New Pride

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We’ve started a new contract on a ship called the Carnival Pride, and boy is it…something.

This contract started in Hollywood, Florida for a month. Frank and I were selected to bring out new shows to the Pride. We were provided with a little furnished house to live in with our supervisors, and went every morning to a warehouse that was converted into a rehearsal studio.

This was our little house.

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There wasn’t much to do except go to the studio most days, but every Monday, there was a gathering of food trucks not too far from where we were staying. We made a point of getting out of the house and going every week.

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The month went fairly slowly. While I had all the set pieces and most of the props for the shows, and Frank had all the sound equipment he needed, most of the time I’d set up a scene and then they’d spend all day in that one scene. There were days I did nothing but cross stitch. I tried to watch videos of the shows and write the cue sheets, but my supervisor left after just a few days to demolish the old shows, so I had little direction. It didn’t matter…all the paperwork I did there was eventually scrapped, and we did everything from scratch…but I digress.

In the last few days of October, we were sent to the Pride while it was in dry dock in Freeport, Bahamas. We had to take the tiniest plane ever! And, clearly, the whole airline was on what we call “island time,” because the plane was sitting at the gate when we arrived at the airport, but we didn’t start boarding until what was supposed to be departure time.

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The flight was super short, though, and we actually got to the Bahamas at the time we were supposed to. Our luggage, however, did not. I suppose they didn’t consider that at least 10 of the passengers would be packing for 7 months, and the rest would have tools and equipment…about 100 lbs per person. The plane ended up being too heavy to fly, and without telling us, the airline personnel took several bags off the flight, including one of Frank’s, and one of mine. We were not happy, to say the least. Luckily, there was another flight coming from that same airport that evening, so we eventually did get our bags.

For dry dock, basically the entire ship was undergoing renovation while sitting on blocks out of the water. We missed the worst part, apparently, but there was still no air conditioning some days, and the water was shut off at night. There were a couple days when the water wasn’t shut off, but we couldn’t use it because of fluoride.

We could get off the ship in the evening if we had time, and take a chartered bus from the port to Port Lucaya, about 30 minutes away, for decent food and internet. The bus only had about 50 seats on it, and left on the half hour. Some bus drivers were sticklers for having only the amount of passengers that there were seats, which means some nights, people got left behind to either wait an hour or take a taxi. Luckily, Frank and I were never left behind, but there was never a line, just a mob of people elbowing other people to get out of their way. It was frustrating and chaotic, and gave a real insight to how certain people operate.

We finally set sail on November 7th (maybe? The days ran together…) and got to Tampa on the 9th (definitely the 9th). Our department still had several shows to install. We opened with two main shows and the Love and Marriage show, but we have 7 day cruises, so we brought on several variety show acts to fill the other nights. We still had two main production shows and three other shows/games to install. Every week we opened something new for another month or so.

That month was…interesting. I learned about working with bosses whose idea of encouragement was kind of degrading. I also learned how difficult it is working under two people who are at the same professional level in the hierarchy…especially when they don’t share certain visions.

But it’s over! The Office Personnel have left, we’re in operation, and the ship is ours now. We’ve opened 4 great production shows from PLAYLIST ™ Productions, and Carnival’s Hasbro the Game Show, which is actually kind of fun (go Red Team!).

This is the first time I’ve been able to get off the ship anywhere but Tampa the entire time we’ve been in service. Frank’s stuck on the ship on duty, so I took the day to just see the sun for more than ten minutes at a time and grab some free-ish WiFi. More updates coming soon!

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Carnival LIVE

Carnival Cruise lines has been rolling out a bunch of new and branded ™ initiatives lately, to mixed reviews from passengers and crew alike. There is one, though, that I recently participated in, and thoroughly enjoyed: Carnival LIVE.

We had REO Speedwagon onboard this week. I got to meet some of them! I did not take pictures with them, but I watched the concert from backstage. It is by no means the best seat in the house, but with two fights out in the house, it wasn’t the worst.

We had banners all over the ship to sell tickets, and some people were given buttons to wear

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The load in was insane! REO by themselves had 44 road cases, and then there were the ones from the production company

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat blur there is me, apparently.

Frank had to run one of the spotlights, but got a couple of pictures of the band

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I also got a set list

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I forgot how much I love/hate big load ins 🙂 After the concert, we had to load everything out in time to leave Cozumel at 1 am. We made it with about half an hour to spare, I think.

We get to do it all again next month!

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Welcome to Paradise!

Okay, I’ve actually been on the ship for about 2 months now. I really needed to finish the Israel posts before I did any other ones, I told myself.

Really, it’s been pretty mundane, up until a couple cruises ago, when this happened:

Cruise ship rescues 24 stranded Cubans

We were actually getting ready for our first show of the evening when we heard our cruise director say something about a tiny boat that appeared in distress, so we all went out on deck to see.

That’s the Celebrity Silhouette in the distance. Maritime law states that any ship within a certain distance of a distressed vessel must respond. There was also another ship that we could barely make out on the horizon heading toward us as well.
Most of us had never seen anything like this before…
All photos courtesy of Scott, our bass player.
There were 23 men and one woman. They were brought onboard and subjected to a security search, after which they were looked at by the medical staff and given fresh clothes, food, and water. They’d been stranded for 5 days, with very little to eat or drink. They stayed in the Officer’s Mess where they were watched by security overnight, and disembarked in Grand Cayman when we arrived the next day.
I hope they’re alright now.
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I haven’t abandoned this ship…

I haven’t been updating this blog as much as I really should be. It’s going to sound horrible, but I haven’t been getting off in ports very much for anything more than internet, and in Port Canaveral, groceries. I go to these amazing-ish tropical places, and I’ve spent much of my time in bars and shops.

The thing is, this is my job. I work here. So things that intrigue tourists, annoy me. Don’t ask me for a taxi, Bahamas man, I just want a coke and a connection. And I don’t want a horsey ride either. Frank doesn’t like heat too much, and while we’re saving up for our wedding, we haven’t done any excursions, though I do want to try one before we leave. Also, in Freeport, you need to take a bus out of the port, which costs money, and in Nassau it’s just shops and some unsavory looking alley ways. There are a couple beaches, but then…tourists. I get quite enough of our guests on the ship.

Also, while I don’t mean to speak ill of our guests and crew, there’s a weird vibe on this ship that I simultaneously can and cannot pinpoint. I will not name specifics, though it probably has something to do with our run. Ah well. Hopefully the next ship will feel different.

Also also, we just got out of cast change. This month-long rehearsal process starts out innocently enough, but then it attacks the techs with weird half tech runs where I and one other guy try to do the show backstage by ourselves when there are usually me and my six stagehands from the deck, and then full techs where we need to coordinate with Fire Patrol and the Deck department. Then, suddenly, I’m changing a stranger and we get to know each other very well as she struggles with her costume and ends up elbowing me in the nose.

And in the middle of all that, we have a work call to fix something…kind of. But because the dancers are using up the day, we get to work at night. And then we have to fix it again, because the first thing didn’t work. For the record, because we are using the wrong equipment, it’s still not working right.

When I finally got to get off the ship for the first time in weeks, I spent the afternoon downloading every episode of 30 Rock and Parks and Rec, along with the latest America’s Next Top Model and Masterchef. Don’t judge me.

Really, this is very similar to when I worked at Kings Dominion. Why didn’t I go on the rides all the time since I got in for free? Because my dark bedroom is cool and quiet and doesn’t smell like funnel cake and throw up and emotions. Why don’t I go to the beach all the time? Same reasons, except for the funnel cake. There’s none of that on the ship.

And my wedding is in less than a year now….I should get on that…

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Carnival Triumph

I feel like I should say something about this subject. Everyone else has. I am friends with a couple of the crew members who were there for the incident. I was just as glad to find out that they were okay as everyone else.

I am a Carnival Team Member, and while I was not on the Carnival Triumph, I can certainly imagine what the staff and crew must have been going through in terms of keeping the passengers and even each other calm and collected throughout a truly awful situation.

I know that there were some people who were angry. And sure, that’s a natural response. But there’s no reason to be angry when you hear a code name being called over the loudspeakers. Real and true panic would ensue if they just yelled “FIRE! FIRE IN THE ENGINE ROOM!” When you first board a ship, you perform a short safety drill. This is basically equivalent to when you ride an airplane and you watch the person at the front with the mask and the life vest. It’s just a little more time consuming because we have to collect everyone in their Muster Stations. In an emergency, a signal will sound. Everyone it told what the signal sounds like, and it is blasted through the horn, whistle, and speakers at the start of the drill. The Muster Station is where people will get the situation explained to them. It is much safer for everyone to hear the news like this than to just shout about it. Code words are not to keep secrets forever. It’s to keep people from panicking.

Now, here’s something I’ve heard people (not at all involved in the situation) say: “Why didn’t they get in the lifeboats and go to shore that way?”

Seriously?

The Triumph was at sea for five days. One vessel. Five days. Now imagine ~30 cramped life boats (150 ish people in each one) and ~30 life rafts(25 ish people) floating around the middle of the Gulf of Mexico for five days. The Triumph was structurally sound; there was no reason to abandon ship. It was literally the safest place to keep 3000 tired, scared, and angry passengers.

From what has been reported by passengers, and not CNN, the staff and crew did all they could in the conditions. Food was rationed, power was rationed limitedly, and some entertainment was provided as they could. They were all literally in the same boat, and passengers said that the crew were positive and helpful, especially the cruise director. I would also like to point out that many of the complaints that people had about other people were mostly about other passengers fighting or not following directions given to them by staff.

No one was hurt in the incident. There were a couple injuries subsequently from the lack of light. Carnival is taking care of the people and refunding everything plus extra things, including another 3-5 day cruise in the future.

Our crews and specialty teams are well trained.

I would also like to add, because I read an article on CNN on this subject, that as a crew member myself, I can tell you that conditions for us are NOT hellacious. It is true that some crew member work more hours than others (in fact, last week for the charter cruise, I was clocked in for 14ish hours a day), but our health and safety are a priority. We get healthcare, extensive protective equipment and we have dining rooms for just us. I should also point out that each ship goes through about 3 safety audits a year, one internal, and two outside companies.

The worst part about the job is being away from the people you love for so long. But we’ve also all signed up for this. All of use are paid and can quit at any time.

Please comment if you have questions or something. But I hope it will put into perspective that this was indeed an accident, not a planned engine fire, and the crew acted in the best way they could. Everyone got home safe and whole, and people are still cruising with us.

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Bye, Jenny!

…you lucky…

Anyway.

My roommate left on February 1 to go home. The last couple months, we did a bunch of stuff together.

The dolphins excursion:

Ziplining:

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And basically just hanging out. Once our group diminished from Vessel Transfers or people just going home, we spent more and more time just hanging out at port and in our room, rather than the crew bar/lounge.

We met because she was always in MY SPACE (the theatre). Just kidding. She was allowed. Entertainment host and all. She’s also a nerd like me, and we quickly bonded over our nerdiness 🙂

She was on the bottom bunk, and I was on the top. Now, when you’re a child, the top bunk is the best. You’re basically sleeping in an indoor treehouse. It’s awesome. However, I’m a grownup now…and as much as I like being whimsical and stuff, sometimes actually having to climb into your bed kind of sucks. And I’m pretty sure I sprained my ankle a couple of weeks ago bypassing the ladder and just jumping out of the bed one morning.

So, after she left, and before the new temporary roommate (which i got right away…lame) got it I was quick to claim it.

“I-is okay. I take.” That’s kind of how I felt.

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New Beginnings

This past week, Frank has been on my ship. He bought two back to back cruises. I even got to stay in his cabin.

We were celebrating our 7 year anniversary. Now he’s been teasing me for months, telling me that he had a present for me that I couldn’t have until he saw me in person. It ate away at me…for a while. Then I forgot about it mostly. Until his trip got closer and closer. I had a guess as to what it was…but I wasn’t going to say it out loud. You know, just in case I was wrong. But if you were with someone for 7 years and they said they had an important present for you, what would you think?

So he gave me this box:

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This box is a puzzle. And it locks. So you have to figure out part of it to get the key, and then different parts to find the keyhole. It’s beautiful, no?

So I open it up, and there is…lingerie. I tried not to look to disappointed. Apparently, I wasn’t very good at it. So, I let it go…sort of…and we went to do other stuff.

Later, we had a bottle of wine. Moscato…the only wine he drinks…and I don’t drink wine very often, but it was pretty good. I started to think about what I wanted, and if he really wanted it too… So I started to ask him what he thought our future was. I laid it on pretty thick.

Then I got upset…I didn’t want to pressure this man into proposing to me…I wanted this to be a choice that he really thought about and wanted. So I tried to stop talking about it…but couldn’t…word vomit, you know.

That’s when he told me to shut up. Not in a mean way, but he did use those words. I tried to protest, but he just walked away to the closet. When he came back, he had that box in his hands. It was empty, but he said it had a story.

He told me that the box was beautiful. But it’s also complicated. Like me, he says. Then he said when you figure it out, there’s something more beautiful inside. Then I had to close my eyes. When I opened them, he was down on one knee, holding this box:

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With a ring inside, of course.

The design is something about the roots of new beginnings.

Here’s the ring:

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So, we’re engaged now. It’s weird to say he’s my fiance…

So, officially, it happened at sea, on January 12 at about 1:30 am.

And at our Welcome Aboard Show, our Cruise Director Called me out, and showed and told everyone that I’d just gotten engaged. (I liked it a little bit.) Later, while I was doing our “Behind the Fun” tour, one of the guests asked “So, you just got engaged…how is this going to work?” Well, I’ve gotten my sign off date. Actually, I got it a while ago. I leave March 1. And my next ship it the Carnival Ecstasy on May 21. Frank signs on the the Ecstasy on February 20. So…that’s how it’s going to work.

I’m very excited.

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New Year’s and Swimming with Dolphins!

So I swam with dolphins today ^_^

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And we danced.

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And we kissed. My New Year’s kiss!

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Her name is Troya, and she’s about 5 years old. She was really cool to swim with.

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This was my first excursion and it was awesome. I went with my friend and roommate Jenny. This is us on New Year’s :

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We had the date right up there on the famous Carnival Funnel:

 

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It was supposed to change from 2012 to 2013, but it just ended up looking like this:101_2002

These were our guests:101_1994

And this was the crew, where we were all invited to the Lido Deck for the countdown:101_1988

 

Apparently someone complained about us partying up on deck to ring in the new year. There were drinks, but none being served up there, and there was just music and hugs, mostly. This person wrote that since they paid to be there, they should have been able to party, while we wait on them. They wanted their cruise comped. Fortunately, our Guest Services person is sane, and disregarded it.

Oh, and Frank’s coming to visit on the 11th! So excited!

All in all, it’s been a pretty good year so far 😀

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