Ash sells seashells on the Seychelles shore

For me, the most eagerly anticipated stretch of my seven months at sea was undoubtedly the Seychelles, an archipelago country made up of over 100 granite and coral islands.  The name of the country actually turned into a running mantra between Peter and myself as we reminded each other to eat healthy and workout (to look good in a swimsuit).  “Seychelles, Ashley!” “Shells!”  Get it?

So I did my best, completing workouts and trying to avoid second portions of lasagna in the officer’s mess.  Have I mentioned lately how amazing the pasta is on this ship?  I guess that’s what happens when Italians run a cruise line.  I don’t know how much a difference two weeks of dedication made, but I certainly felt comfortable putting on my bikini and running around the islands without a care.

I last left you, my dedicated readers, as we sailed in to the Baie Ste Anne of Praslin.  I do have a slight regret that instead of being out on the deck taking pictures, I instead sat here in the observation lounge (where I am now) writing this here account of travels.  But let’s face it; my Canon Powershot cannot do justice against the wonders of Google Image searching (and that kind of a photo is a lot quicker to upload to the blog).

The Seychelles, courtesy of Google Images

Regardless of whether or not I took enough landscape photos of the islands on that beautiful first day, the images are seared into my memory. The source of my regret comes from the fact that our first two days in the Seychelles were absolutely beautiful, but I stayed on the ship.  Our first day in Praslin, I only went off the ship for about 30 minutes (had to get back for a rehearsal and then ABBA show), and then the second day when we went to both Curieuse and La Digue, I was stuck on the ship with IPM duty.  The next day, as we sailed into Port Victoria, the capital of the country, on the island of Mahe, the rain started.  December and January are actually the two rainy months of the year in the Seychelles, so it was miraculous we had had the first two beautiful days of sun.  I don’t want to discount my entire visit, but I was pretty damn angry that I missed out on that.  Because, honestly, when am I ever coming back here again?

So anyhow, those first two days were a wash, but one the third day, in Mahe, I went out as an escort with a tour group that had a full-day tour of the island.  We started in the main marketplace of the town of Victoria, which was bustling with an unusual number of locals running around town to do their Christmas shopping.  Our guide explained that the town was not normally very busy, but it was very much a holiday tradition to come into the main market to complete holiday errands.  To put things into perspective on the size of this country’s capital – the entire city of Victoria felt like downtown Danville, California.  No joke.  I was seriously expecting to find myself lunching at Pete’s Brass Rail or running into neighbors at Trader Joe’s.  Quite a charming little city, though I much preferred the more remote areas of the islands. The island of Mahe reminded me very much of Kauai in it’s landscape and the friendly attitude of locals.  We visited the Botanical Garden; where we viewed some Coco de Mer palms (more on that later), saw tortoises, fruit bats, and dozens of beautiful plant species that populate the Seychelles.  After leaving the garden, our group of about twenty drove up into the hills of Mahe, as we learned about the very interesting history of the islands and the ethnic backgrounds of its inhabitants.  I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to learn such an in-depth history of each place I am visiting as our ship sails along on this seven-month itinerary.  I never thought I would be learning so much, and it’s absolutely fascinating to me. Our guide in Mahe explained to us that though the Seychelles were first settled by the French (and then under English rule), the population was never very much or the islands very “settled” until a ship on course from Africa to Asia was intercepted by the British Navy and found to be carrying over 100 African men, women and children who had been abducted as slaves.  As slavery had been abolished at this time, the Navy released these people to the nearest bit of land, which happened to be the Seychelles.  And as time went along on these islands, the area continued to grow with a mix of European, Asian and African settlers.  Today, the population of the Seychelles is a physically beautiful and culturally diverse mix.  The language spoken there is Kreole, basically a slang variation of French, and not at all related to the Creole language of Louisiana.  It was actually fascinating to hear our guide speaking English with us, and then turning to the driver and his intern as they spoke Kreole.  Our next stops in Mahe along our tour was the old schoolhouse that was built for the freed slave children, and then to a teahouse that brewed locals teas harvested from the tea plants growing on the lush mountains of the island.  This was all fantastic, but the highlight of this tour was undeniably our Kreole lunch buffet.  Yummmmmm.

At the top of the mountains in Mahe

Our last stop on the tour was a little craft village where local artisans make and sell little creations like carved wood tortoises, coco de mer seeds and model ships.  All in all, it was a lovely day learning about the culture of the Seychelles, and though we didn’t get any beach time, I knew I still had three days ahead of me that would offer some hopeful beach and sunning time.

Woke up the next day to torrential downpour and lightning.  Okay, okay, it’s all right, I’m here in the Seychelles, don’t complain.  That was basically my running internal monologue for the day.  After taking on new passengers on the ship in Victoria, we had sailed back to Praslin, and my plan was to obviously lay out all day long on the Cote d’Or beach, where Prince William and Kate honeymooned earlier this year.  But the weather changed my plans, and I decided to instead head for the hills and visit the Vallée de Mai, a lush rainforest in the middle of the island that boasts the only indigenous population of the Coco de Mer palm (the largest coconut in the world!).  As almost all our ports in the Seychelles are without a harbor for the ship, we anchored off the coast of Praslin and took tender boats ashore.  On the tender, I was chatting with one of the other crew members, who told me she was meeting up with some local fishermen for a boat tour of the island.  I told her I was headed to the park, and she said she would ask the fishermen if they could give me a ride in their boat to the nearest local bus stop.  We arrived at the jetty, and sure enough, her newfound friend (actually only one fisherman) said he could drive me over to the bus stop.  So I sat there on the side of his motorboat and cruised along through the rain until we arrived at another jetty further into the village, where some other local fishermen pulled me out of the boat and next to stack of freshly caught fish.  Definitely an interesting mode of transportation, if you ask me.  The fishermen pointed me to the bus stop and I headed on my way, wishing my best luck to my friend as she cruised off with her barefoot companion in his boat.  One thing I learned in my time on the Seychelles is that the local population is extremely considerate, hospitable and generous.  Nearly everyone I passed while hiking around these islands would smile, say hello, offer samples of fruit – I first passed it off as a scheme to ask for money, as I’ve been on guard for that sort of activity since being in Asia, but the people of the Seychelles are truly kind and sincere in their actions.  I waited at the bus stop for nearly an hour, and when it finally arrived, I boarded an insanely crowded bus for the price of five rupees (less than 50 cents).  People of New York City: trust me, the MTA is nothing to complain compared to the ride I had.  The buses come about once an hour, and they are PACKED.  Standing the entire ride, I was thrown around as we swerved corners and, well… I got to know my neighbors really well.  I finally made it to the Vallée de Mai, paid the entrance fee and joined in on an organized tour of the rainforest.  It was the perfect day to be under the lush canopy of palms.  I had a fantastic time wandering through the trails, staying with the guide until the end of her tour, and then exploring on my own for another hour or so.

The Coco de Mer Palm

The Coco de Mer palms, which are only found in the Seychelles, boast an enormous and funnily shaped seed that has become the informal icon of the nation.  It was wonderful to see so many of these palms growing freely, surrounded by an impressive variety of other palm species and ferns, inhabited by birds, geckos, lizards, spiders, snails and a peculiar breed of hedgehog-type creatures.  The visit was well worth my time and money, and it also provided a much needed sense of departure from ship life and the people I’ve been living and working with for the last month and a half.  I love everyone on the ship, but sometimes you need that alone time!

A friendly snail
A feathered friend

After leaving the park, and waiting at the bus stop for 45 minutes, the city bus finally came into view, zooming around the corner, flashing it’s headlights and honking the horn, and… drove right by without stopping.  Myself and a few of the people who had all been waiting for the bus went into the shop outside the Vallée de Mai, and the shopkeeper explained that the bus was probably just full and another one would come in an hour.  Yeah, no.  So I instead decided to rough it and just walked the six kilometers back to the ship!  It was a great walk and a hilarious experience.  I was beat after my day of exploration but I felt fantastic.

Our next day, we were back in La Digue, so I was happy to be able to get off the ship.  I had originally been booked as a tour escort for a morning excursion snorkeling on Coco Island, but the ship revoked that privilege when they decided to throw in mandatory safety training at 9:30am.  Thanks guys, really.  So no snorkeling unfortunately. After the training was over, I quicklydeparted the ship on a tender boat to get to the island.  Kathleen and I left together and when we got to the jetty, decided to rent bicycles to ride around the island.  We had the most wonderful time!  The entire island is mostly transported by bike, though tourists can often be found riding the traditional transportation method of oxcarts. The only tricky thing was remembering to ride the bike on the left side of the road! We followed the road signs, as well as advice from some locals we met, and entered a more private beachside excursion area for the price of 100 Seychelles rupees (less than ten dollars).  Inside the area, we freely rode bikes between a vanilla plantation, a coconut oil producer, roadside stands selling spices and coconut products, a seaside restaurant, and, of course, a GORGEOUS beach.  According to everyone I met, both on and off the ship, La Digue boasts the most famous and most photographed beaches in the world. As a granite island, the beach is a beautiful mix of ivory white sands, lush green palms and gorgeous rocky accents along the coastline.  Simply beautiful.  Our afternoon was quite wonderful: eating freshly cracked coconut from a vendor, tasting local fruits from a man selling fruit platters on the beach, feeding massive tortoises their lunch of crunchy green leaves, wading in the shallow salt water and the inevitable afternoon nap on the sand.  To finish it off, we had fantastic grilled fish at a seaside restaurant right on the beach. It was a fantastic, much-needed, break from the reality of ship-life, and the clouds even parted for about an hour of uninterrupted sunshine.  Thanks for that, Seychelles!

The beach on La Digue
A graveyard near the beach in La Digue
Feeding the tortoises

Creepy abandoned ship

That evening, after a quick trip back to the ship for a rehearsal, Peter and I went together back to La Digue for an evening cocktail at one of the high-end resorts on the beach.  We sat right on the deck overlooking the water, viewing our ship in its evening splendor and enjoying the wonders of a tropical lightning storm.  I tried local rum with fresh fruits from the island – so yummy!  Our evening on land was yet another reminder of our great fortune to have this opportunity.  I mean, who would expect to find oneself sipping a local cocktail on the beach of the Seychelles?  Not me.

Our last day in the Seychelles was a major disappointment.  It was Christmas Eve, we were excited for a last day of enjoyment in Eden, but… the waves were too much for our tender operations.  So the main officers on board made the controversial decision to not allow crew off the ship – just guests.  “Merry fucking Christmas!” was the first thing out of my mouth on Saturday morning.  I was seriously depressed and anxious all day.  I tried to distract myself with a trip to the gym, but couldn’t help feeling jealous and angry as I watched from my aerial post a constant stream of mostly empty tender boats making their trips from the ship to the shore all day.  Really?  REALLY?  The day was gorgeous and I should have felt great, but the stress of not being able to leave the ship, combined with the homesickness of being stuck on our mini-island for the holidays, quickly accelerated my mood from bad to worse. The entire day was a test in patience, which I basically failed.  And our last duty of the day, singing Christmas carols around the ship, was a complete personal disaster.  There were about twenty of us total, singing four (ultra happy) Christmas songs in various parts of the ship.  Our first stop was the Panorama Lounge, on the eighth deck, which (lucky for me) has terrible lighting.  For some reason, as soon as we started to sing “Jingle Bells,” the waterworks began.  Now, I am not normally a huge crier.  I think I discovered a new emotional level in myself by joining an acting studio in NYC (thanks Matt), but this was ridiculous.  As we were singing the most ridiculously cheerful lyrics ever: “laughing all the way” and “with a corncob pipe and a button nose” and “you’ll go down in history,” I could do nothing but spew a constant flow of tears from my eyes.  And so I was making that very unattractive face between crying and trying to smile.  While also trying to sing. With a Santa hat on.  And little kids looking at me.  Oh yes, did I mention that there are little kids on this particular cruise?  Who the hell would think bringing kids on this ship is a good idea?  So anyhow – yes, Christmas caroling was disastrous and not fun.  After the caroling incident, I confined myself to solitary time in the cabin and watched Pirates of the Caribbean (I was getting in the mood for yet another period of Somali pirate watch here on the ship).  My last ditch attempt at a happy Christmas Eve was by attending the midnight mass service offered on the ship.  I was happy to be there, and it honestly did lift my spirits somewhat, but being this far away from your home and your loved ones is just not sane on Christmas.  The ship luckily aided my sorrows by providing a constant stream of comfort foods on Christmas Day, and then we performed our Christmas show and gift exchange amongst the cast.  (I got spices from the Seychelles!)  So yeah, it wasn’t the best Christmas I’ve ever had, but I was able to quickly FaceTime the family in Alamo, send some Facebook messages and hang out with friends on the ship.  Next year will hopefully be a different holiday for me – that’s all I’m saying.  Regardless, the pressure of the holidays is over and now we are sitting in port in Mombasa, Kenya – I’ve been blessed with the very special duty of IPM, so I can’t leave the ship.  Hakuna Matata, there’s always tomorrow.  The next few days should be interesting: we’re in Mombasa again tomorrow, then Zanzibar the following day, followed by Madagascar, Reunion Island and Mauritius. And by that point, we’ll be in the clear away from pirates – yahoo!  So hopefully our portholes will open at that point and remain open until the end of our contract.  Our next cruise will take us down to South Africa, where we will remain cruising until mid-February.  So I need to work on my tan and my Afrikaans.  What I really would love is being placed as an escort on a safari tour group.  So cross your fingers I get that opportunity!  Would also like the chance to surf if possible, so I’m keeping my eye out for board rentals.

Yes, I’m battling homesickness, I’m tired, I miss friends and family, I miss New York, my cat, my apartment… everything.  But when am I honestly going to do this again?  Rock on, Africa!

Touring the UAE

If I’ve said it once I’ve thought it a million times.  Ship time (aka “circus time”) is absolutely bizarre.  I feel like it’s been decades since I last posted, and yet it feels like only hours ago.  Time seems to fly by and yet last forever.  I get so much done and then there time to spare, yet I can never manage certain small tasks.  It’s living in an entirely different way.  So strange!

So the last week was our voyage between Dubai and Dubai, by way of Abu Dhabi, Khasab, Muscat and Doha.  Because this voyage was so short in comparison to our first (17 days, Athens to Dubai), we had much less time to put up all our shows and also meet all the guests.

Our theater, the "Parisian Lounge"

But the experience of our first cruise entirely prepared us for the next, and I think we really pulled it out for a great series of shows.  We were extremely motivated by the fact we received our first set of customer ratings, and they were the HIGHEST the ship had EVERRRRRR received for the singer/dancer entertainers!  Yes, the extras “RRR’s” were necessary to help emphasize our absolute joy at this truth.  We let energy propel us forward, and I truly feel that our second cruise had much better shows than the first, as well as more positive social interaction with the guests.  It’s really strange that in just seven days you can get to know some of this people as new friends, then you have to abruptly say goodbye and start all over again.  I met some really fantastic people on this last cruise, and they made a tremendously positive impact on me and my current outlook on performance.  So many genuine people: the New York couple (B and L) that offered to meet up when I’m back in the city; the hilarious Chicago couple (B and P) that kept us laughing with them at some hilarious moments; the lovely W who was perplexed by the color of my eyes; A and J who were celebrating J’s 80th birthday and asked the ship’s captain over dinner to give me a raise (!); and the nineteen Norwegians who kept their blonde/white heads bobbing from the front row during all our shows.  And we even have a few single cruisers who are continuing on to the Seychelles: L from Texas who has the loudest but most honest sense of fun and adventure, and D who is a lovely conversationalist with great advice on sightseeing.  All these people, and so many more that I didn’t name, opened themselves up to honest interaction with myself and the other artists, and really make this experience what it is.

The ladies of the Silver Wind - in colors for National Day in the UAE!

That’s not to say I haven’t been taking advantage of what’s to offer outside the ship.  This last voyage was a great tour around the United Arab Emirates and surrounding areas.  After we left Dubai last week, we sailed for Abu Dhabi, and I was able to actually get off the ship and enjoy some sight-seeing.  We were insanely lucky to get off (as crew members) when we did, because apparently the crew that tried to get off later in the day were unable to leave the ship!  I headed into the city with some of the other cast and a guest lecturer/artist from Jordan who knows all about Arabic art.  We arranged with a taxi driver to take us to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and upon arrival, we were blown away by the beauty of the architecture.  I truly had not expected such a grand and beautiful building!  We, along with thousands of other visiting females, were asked to put on long black gowns and head scarves, removed our shoes, and toured around the grounds of the mosque.  A tour guide asked us to join in her tour, so we haphazardly arrived in the middle of an interesting lecture on the mosque.  The art and design was so truly beautiful and inspiring.  I really loved it most because the designs that were featured were primarily floral, rather than depicting portraits or text as in so many other religious institutions.  The beauty in this place was so connected to nature – absolutely gorgeous.  After visiting the mosque, we went to the main mall in town, and well.. I do have to say that malls in the UAE rival malls of the American Southwest.  Air-conditioned shopping in desert-like conditions just makes sense, right people?

At the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

Bare feet required

Our next port visit was to Khasab, Oman, which really didn’t have much to offer unless you arranged a private tour of the mountains and forts.  Instead, I headed into port with Krystle and Kathleen, convinced we could create a fun day in this small seaside village, but… nope.  There’s nothing there.  I did get some great pictures of the mountains as we left the port, however.  The views from the ship as we set sail are like nothing I’ve ever seen.  So completely breath-taking.

Looking back at Khasab, Oman

Our next port was a return to Muscat, Oman.  As I was assigned to IPM that day, I was unable to get off the ship and instead enjoyed some gym-action and sun-tanning.  I’m starting to realize that I need to treat the entire ship more like my own home.  I discovered last week that my favorite part of the ship is unquestionably the “observation lounge” – basically the very top deck on the front of the ship.  No one is ever really up there, there are windows surrounding the room, a telescope for gazing into the distance, board games for play, travel books for reading, hot coffee, and PEACE AND QUIET.  I’ve taken to sitting up there with my iPad to read books and get my caffeine on.  It’s a lovely place for thinking and relaxing.

Muscat, Oman

After leaving Muscat, we headed back through the Persian Gulf to the small country of Qatar.  We ported in the main city, Doha, but didn’t leave the ship as it would have cost each of us $44 to pay our Visa.  No thanks, Qatar.  I actually was very intriqued by the beautiful city skyline and the fact it is one of the fastest growing cities in the world, but I simply couldn’t part with my $44, especially on a Friday afternoon (holy day and everything is closed).  But I enjoyed Qatar from the deck of the ship, practiced guitar into the sunset, and snapped some nice pictures for all you lovely folks.

Doha, Qatar
Sunset from back deck on the ship, looking out at Doha

Leaving Qatar, we sailed back to beautiful Dubai and arrived early Saturday morning.  After closing a very successful run of shows on Friday night, I was ready for an adventure on foot!  Peter, Kathleen and I shared a cab with our new friends from NYC (B and L) and went to the Dubai Mall.  I managed to not spend much money at all, just picking up a few essentials.  From there, we visited the Madinat Jumeirah (upon recommendation from the MAC make-up store in the Dubai Mall) and had some lunch at Trader Vic’s.  Kathleen then left to visit the beach and Peter and I went to the Mall of Emirates to go skiing and snowboarding at Ski Dubai.  That’s right.  Skiing.  In a mall.

This deserves its own paragraph actually.  So here’s how Ski Dubai works.  You give them $50.  They give you snowpants, a jacket, ski boots (or snowboard), skis and poles.  And a pass that’s good for two hours on the lift.  The lift is unbelievably slow and takes you to the top of the INDOOR ski run.  It took me a few runs to get back into the hang of skiing, but by the third or fourth time I was totally enjoying it!  By the fifth or sixth time, Peter and I were over it and stopped.  Something about sitting on the lift for five minutes without gloves and then zooming down a hill in about 20 seconds that just doesn’t make much sense.

After we warmed up, we got our real cardio in by taking advantage of all the mall had to offer!  I officially found my new favorite clothing store, a Turkish place called Koton.  Unfortunately, there aren’t too many world locations, so I don’t get to go there again until we are in Istanbul next spring.  By then I’ll actually have money to spend and might even just buy a new wardrobe to ship back to NYC.  This place was seriously amazing.  The people in New York would go ape-shit crazy over these clothes.  But all good things (or shopping trips) must come to an end, and so Peter and I bid adieu to our lovely mall (did I mention that it had a SHAKE SHACK?) and hired a taxi to take us to the Emirates Tower for a final cocktail at a place called Vu.  It was a great day, and it was lovely to make the most of our free time and see the sights.  Who knows who often we will have the luxury of an entire day off?

Shake Shack Dubai!

This morning, I was up early for a new embarkation day.  200+ people have now boarded the ship and are anxiously awaiting our departure toward Fujairah, UAE.  Our final port on this voyage is Mahe, Seychelles.  Check out the itinerary:

Dec 05   Fujairah, UAE
Dec 06   Muscat, Oman
Dec 07   Day at Sea
Dec 08   Day at Sea
Dec 09   Mumbai, India
Dec 10   Day at Sea
Dec 11   Cochin, India
Dec 12   Day at Sea
Dec 13   Colombo, Sri Lanka
Dec 14   Day at Sea
Dec 15   Male, Maldives
Dec 16   Day at Sea
Dec 17   Day at Sea
Dec 18   Curieuse, Seychelles
Dec 19   Curieuse, Seychelles
La Digue, Seychelles
Praslin, Seychelles
Dec 20   Praslin, Seychelles
Mahe, Seychelles
Dec 21   Mahe, Seychelles

I’m absolutely looking forward to our visit in the Seychelles.  I think right now the biggest thing on my mind is hitting the gym so I look good on the beach!  Okay, off now to head back towards the ship for our safety drill and welcome to the new guests.

It starts all over again.

Stomach ache remedies

166 days of travel.

49,485 miles traveled (approximately).  Roughly equivalent to circling the earth 2 times.

Thirty-two countries (only two of which I have been to before), including: Cape Verde, Croatia, Egypt, France, Ghana, Greece, India, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives Republic, Malta, Mauritius, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Oman, Qatar, Reunion, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Tunisia, Turkey and United Arab Emirates.

Stay tuned!  Day 1 of 166 is tomorrow.

Nearly there

In just two weeks I’ll be departing for Greece.  I feel almost overwhelmed with emotion, yet at the same time I feel strangely numb and peaceful, just knowing that this is the right step for me to take next.  It’s astounding to think about where I was a few months ago, completely unaware of the ways in which my life would change.  And now, look at me!  Ready to take on the challenges of ABBA, Motown, Verdi, Billy Joel and Lady Gaga.  Yes.  Did I mention that already?  That I’ll be singing “Pokerface” and “Born This Way” in the deck party show we put on.  I’m not exactly sure yet, but I think they have me in a blonde wig and a Pokerface outfit (circa Grammy awards 2010).  Fingers crossed.

Now it is just a matter of preparing myself, both physically and mentally, for the new life in front of me.  So it’s time for new shoes right?  I bought these uber cool waterproof canvas and leather Sebago boat shoes for $10 at the little Astoria discount hot-spot, Theo & Theos. (Thanks Stephanie for telling me about this gem of a designer discount store!)  I’m basically trying to figure out the bare bones of what I need because I absolutely do NOT want to over pack. As it is, I’ll have an array of formal gowns and semi-formal cocktail dresses, as well as my guitar, so the idea of bringing more than necessary simply nauseates me.  Does anyone know of an affordable way to scan in a bunch of sheet music so I can carry just an electronic copy with me?  The alternative is bringing three massive binders of music along.  Not so much fun.  I’m also preparing to J.Crew-ify my wardrobe, after I get my first paycheck from the cruise, so I fit in a little more nicely with the crowd on board our ship.  My Uniqlo/Gap/Target/Urban Outfitters wardrobe might not cut it with the cruise director.  Besides appropriate clothes, I’m also trying to be mindful of other necessities for seven months at sea.  I just acquired a couple hundred movies and over 1000 e-books from one of the other entertainers (his ship departed over the weekend from Portugal), so I think I’ve got my entertainment covered.  I’m bringing about one months supply of toiletries, and hoping I can buy more stuff in Africa or wherever I end up when I run out!  Does anyone have any bright ideas of “must-have” items to bring aboard?  I just know I’ll think of something I forgot once I’m cruising the Mediterranean.  Your ideas are encouraged!

I am loving this down time in New York City before I set out for such a long stint abroad.  I have had a great time catching up with friends and reuniting with my lover, aka NYC. Last weekend was a great time, celebrating Autumn in the city by attending the Tompkins Square Dog Halloween Parade and then Smorgasburg in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Borat!

Borat was my favorite part of the Doggie Parade, obviously.  And Smorgasburg was great!  I enjoyed a carnitas taco from Cemita’s, and split an amazing doughnut with Jess.  And obviously tasted everything that was being offered.  On Sunday I got to catch up with Jenson, who was in town for work, and was THRILLED to see and spend time with Miss Natalie and her boyfriend, Nole.  This weekend will offer more festivities for the Halloween holiday, and I’m excited to catch up with Matt, who is in town from SF.  For my last weekend in the city, I’m planning a get together with friends at my apartment, and then on Sunday the 6th, Jess and I will participate in “The Amazing New York Race”, courtesy of Josh who gave us free passes.  (THANK YOU JOSH!)  This should be a GREAT time, and I’m sure my Amazing Race-obsessed family will be sufficiently jealous of my excursion.

Okay, time to get back to business.  My next step is figuring out how to freeze my cellphone or possibly get an international plan.  Then it’s off to practicing guitar because I really want to be a rockstar in my sunset acoustic set.  🙂

Ciao for now!

Halfway between two worlds

Just sitting here in the Denver airport right now waiting for my transfer to fly to Newark.  Yesterday marked the end of our rehearsal process prior to departing on the Silver Wind.  And what a whirlwind of an experience it was!  I feel like I had my ass whipped into shape for singing and dancing.  This is a seriously talented group of people, both on the creative behind-the-scenes side and on stage.  I feel so blessed to have this opportunity, and I still haven’t quite grasped the reality of what I’m doing.  I imagine that I’ll still be in disbelief that this is my life until the first time I hear applause from our audience.  Our first show, by the way, will be four days into our first cruise (Athens to Dubai) and is called “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” (our Motown show).  Besides the Motown show, we are presenting an all-ABBA show, an opera show, a pop show (in which I will be portraying Lady Gaga – oh yes), a cabaret show featuring Billy Joel songs, and then each of our individual cabaret shows.  I’m bringing my guitar along and will also have an acoustic set.  Lots of music, lots of singing, dancing, smiling, entertaining. This is sure to be an amazing experience.

Aside from what we worked on creatively, it was so wonderful to cultivate new relationships with entertainers from all over America while we were in Las Vegas.  The entire group at Choozi Entertainment was been mind-blowing in their breadth of creativity, imagination and positivity.  They have taken our individual strengths into account and allowed those parts to shine throughout our shows.  In one of our shows aboard the Silver Wind, two of our cast members will don stilts!  And all the other singers that I met were fantastic.  I even met an awesome group of New York-based performers that I’ll hopefully connect with between now and when our ships depart.

Peter and I at all-you-can-eat-Sushi (and we did)
With Camilla in Red Rock (we went to college together at UCSB!)
With Kris, Anastasia and Jovani, seeing "Human Nature"
With Wendee, "Elvis" and Kathleen - at "Legends: In Concert"

The last few days in Vegas were especially great because my Dad booked a last minute trip out and spent time watching our rehearsals and hanging out with me.  It was great to spend time with him while working – and I think he had a great time!

So at this point, I have to just solidify what exactly I’m presenting in my individual cabaret show.  We found out that there will be an instrumental combo on board the ship that might possibly be available to play with us, so I’d like to bring charts for some jazz standards I sang in college with my jazz combo.  Just another possibility.  Why not, right?

Okay so just for fun, I’m going to try adding something on this blog I’ve never used a before, a poll!  In which city along my journey do you think I’m most likely to be mistaken for a local?

I am so looking forward to getting back to my own bed in New York tonight.  Though it will be a little bittersweet without having Marcel to curl up with.  But it sounds like he’s doing great at the Harrell household in California!  Tomorrow (after hopefully sleeping in), it’s back to working out with my Insanity videos (thanks Krystle), drilling our choreography and music, finalizing travel plans, and catching up with my New York buddies!

Final thought:  I just finished reading the Hunger Games series a few minutes ago.  WOW.

Step Ball Change

This week has been FUN!  We started working on our choreography for the ABBA show and have been having such an amazing time whipping our show into quite a presentation.  I am so happy to be working with such talented and creative people.  And unbelievably happy to see that underneath my awkwardly long limbs and silly goofing around, I think there’s actually a happy little dancer inside.  I can actually do this stuff, you guys.  And sing at the same time, you guys.  YOU GUYS!

This week we also discovered the Caesar’s Palace swimming pool.  After a few people recommended giving this a try, we just walked right in, took towels from the front desk, smiled at the attendant, and made ourselves comfortable among the hotel guests.  This was our routine for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  So I’m getting tanner, little by little.  (In case anyone was wondering).  Other recent highlights were a Saturday night out with the Silver Wind crew, to see the Vegas! The Show at the Saxe Theater and then Penn and Teller with Peter and Anastasia on Sunday night.  Vegas! The Show was a lot of fun, and just enhanced the whole Las Vegas thing with my new friends.  It was a great night all together, with some of my new friends clueing us in on the all the little hidden Las Vegas hotspots. Penn and Teller was silly and fun – Penn was so tall, 6’7″!  I’ve been having such a great time with my cast mates.  And we’re even trying to get into shape together!  Tomorrow morning is Day 2 of my attempt at the workout “Insanity.”  I love doing it also because two of my former co-workers from The Ride are IN the video.  That’s got to be motivation right?

Now the one thing I absolutely wanted to share were some pictures from our early morning photo shoot this week at Red Rock.  It was a beautiful landscape for our group pictures, and made me want to organize a little hiking group out there to take advantage of this picturesque location.  Come on you guys, city girl needs to get her hike on!

The Silversea Cruise Cast
The Silver Wind

So there are 24 of us total, the six in the above picture are on my ship, the Silver Wind.  On the top left is Peter (my buddy from NYC and my soon-to-be-roommate on board), then Krystle from Georgia, Kathleen from Los Angeles, Jeff from Indiana, then on the bottom next to me is Paul from Los Angeles.  I LOVE my cast so much, we are going to have a great time on board.  We are all looking forward to working on our ‘songbook’ show which is featuring the music of Billy Joel.  I just placed an order for the a cappella arrangements of “And So It Goes” and “For the Longest Time” and we plan to work on those on our own time to throw them into the mix.  These guys are amazing!

Okay enough for now.  I need to get my beauty rest before an early morning Insanity session.

Above and Beyond

In case I haven’t mentioned it quite enough, the people that I am working with in Las Vegas are absolutely incredible.  Sometimes life truly throws you a curve ball, and the unexpected becomes a dark reality. This happened a few days ago, when one of our cast members lost her mother in an accident.  I can’t imagine what this person has been going through this week, dealing with service arrangements while also preparing for this new job.  The company really stepped it up by supporting her yesterday at the service, by being both physically present for her as a team of support, and then singing “Amazing Grace” while accompanied by one the cast members on guitar.  Additionally, one of the men in show sang an original song that had originally been composed for his own mother’s service, at the same funeral home.  It was so unbelievably beautiful and touching. This was obviously something no one had expected to deal with while here for rehearsals, but a great number of people were gladly there to support our new friend.  My heart goes out to her and to her family.  It was this small gesture that truly pointed to me the absolute sincerity and kindness of my fellow performers. Incredible.

Today we are back in rehearsals, working on the Motown show – let’s keep the up the momentum!