One Lucky Duck

It’s catching up with me that I only have one month left of cruising. I never thought when I started working as a singer on the Silver Wind three years ago, that I would still be doing it today and enjoying it so thoroughly. There are still so many places I haven’t yet visited that I would like to see. I feel so conflicted – such a huge part of me wants to be back “home” and settled, working in NYC and having more regular contact with my friends and family… but the other half wants to continue this adventure forever. I’m absolutely addicted to this wondrous lifestyle. You don’t realize how diverse and strangely accessible the world is until you find yourself in a career of this kind. I can hardly express the gratitude I have toward to universe for all the amazing opportunities I have had.

Yesterday I went on an “Archipelago Zodiac Cruise” around Sept Illes in Canada, where we spotted Minky whales, porpoises and birds. I had this distinct moment during the trip where I could quite process my joy and gratitude. So all I could do was lie down with my face in the sun and smile!

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Aside from the obvious travel benefits, this career has introduced me to so many amazing friends from all over the world. I’ve hosted people in NYC and stayed with friends in the UK. I can’t wait to see what else is to come! Maybe a… National Tour?  Fingers crossed.

In the meantime, I wanted to share some more photos and performance videos from this contract. It’s been an amazing two months so far!

Gaspe, Quebec
Gaspe, Quebec
Kathleen and I modeling some glorious jewelry for the High C's show - we started and are ending our cruise ship careers together. :)
Kathleen and I modeling some glorious jewelry for the High C’s show – we started and are ending our cruise ship careers together. 🙂
Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor, Maine
Baie Comeau
Baie Comeau
Strolling in Saguenay, Quebec
Strolling in Saguenay, Quebec
Chaz and I biked out to the waterfalls in Quebec City then hiked up to the top
Chaz and I biked out to the waterfalls in Quebec City then hiked up to the top
Cooking in the Silver Whisper cooking competition!
Cooking in the Silver Whisper cooking competition!

And here are some videos of recent performances on board:

“Titanium” (Sia) from “The Diva Show”

“Maybe This Time” from my solo show, also titled “Maybe This Time”

“Natural Woman” from “The Diva Show”

“I Miss The Mountains” (Next to Normal) from my solo show, “Maybe This Time”

Thanks for your readership and interest in my traveling and performing! The best is yet to come…

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From Russia to Canada, with love.

It’s not lost on me that I am ridiculously lucky to be traveling to so many places at such a young age, and all for work. Every morning I have to practically pinch myself to double check that this is real. I know I appreciated it the first time around, but each subsequent cruise ship contract I’ve taken, the vaildity of my fortune has deepened. I’m happy to say I really take none of this for granted, and do my best to make the most of each day – even if it’s today: a stormy, rainy, extremely windy afternoon in Newfoundland. I had originally planned a nice hike for today, but the weather absolutely wouldn’t allow for it. I ventured into town, hoping to catch a glimpse of the island’s namesake gigantic black dog – but I settled for mediocre pizza and a walk that hilariously ruined my $10 Forever 21 umbrella. (I believe my castmate, Chaz, took some perfectly timed photographs of my attempt to walk with said umbrella in the gusting winds.)

Perhaps this storm in Canada, our first day in North America, is coming off the end of our designated level three hurricane in the North Atlantic as we left Greenland a few days ago. Damn. 30-35 foot waves, gusts of wind over 100 knots… it was insane. We were obviously glad to step on land today, but after my windy and wet adventure to find pizza, I am back in my favorite spot on the ship, the top deck forward lounge. So today has transformed into a blog and laundry day. Who knows, things might get crazy and I could possibly paint my nails. I’m living dangerously.

Max, myself and Sonja in Warnemunde
Max, myself and Sonja in Warnemunde

Since my last update here, we went another turn around the Baltic, hitting up Stockholm for embarkation day, back to Tallinn, St. Petersburg, and Helsinki, down to Germany’s Warnemünde, through the Kiel Canal, to Amsterdam (I saw the Van Gogh museum!), Antwerp and Zeebrugge in Belgium, and finishing in Southampton. I was so lucky to catch up with Sonja and Max, who drove to Warnemünde for a visit with me!

Ashley and the Belgians
Ashley and the Belgians

Next voyage took us to Fowey in Cornwall, then to Cork, Ireland (home of the famous Blarney Castle), Dublin, Belfast, up and over to Rekjavik, Iceland, to Qaqortoq, Greenland and now in Newfoundland, Canada. It has been fun visiting many of these ports for the second time – though it was my first time to Belgium this year. Wow! I love Belgium so much!

Mussels and Frites!
Mussels and Frites!

I ticked off everything on my indulgences list: chocolate, beer, mussels, frites and waffles. It was absolutely worth all the calories, in case you were wondering. Here’s a picture of my incredible lunch in the gorgeous city of Bruges, Beligum.

After that lunch, I visited a really cool brewery in the old city and went on a tour.

Old bottles and brewing equipment
Old bottles and brewing equipment

What a beautiful place!

I obviously didn’t have much free time in Southampton as it was embarkation day, but I was pleasantly surprised with the quaint town of Fowey in Cornwall, England. I ventured out for a walk about town, and found myself wandering down a grassy path picking blackberries along the way! An absolute gem of a destination, and it was the perfect spot for me to wander solo, practicing songs aloud for my upcoming solo cabaret. A fabulous day!

Beautiful Fowey
Beautiful Fowey
Gorgeous Blarney
Gorgeous Blarney

My next adventure was of the Irish variety with my castmate, Marcus. Marcus has Irish roots, and with my red hair, people think I do, so we felt very compelled to complete the pilgrimage to Blarney Castle and kiss the famous Blarney Stone! It was an excellent experience, with sumptiously verdant wildlife all around… I am 99% sure I even saw a leprechaun that day. And yes, I kissed the stone! Feeling very much like I have the gift of gab now, as the legend prescribes (though I’m not sure I needed any help with that one).

Of course, the big port that everyone was excited for was our late night in Dublin, Ireland. And Dublin did not let down. I started my day with a ‘Fabulous Food Trail’ tour, and was lucky enough to taste cheese, breads, smoked salmon, whiskey, chocolate, pastrami and wine… though not necessarily in that order. It so interested to meet all the local purveyors of these fine Irish foods, right in town!

A Guinness in Dublin!
A Guinness in Dublin!

Truly, this trip to Dublin far exceeded my experience last year. It’s a fantastic town with a lot to see and do. And no trip to Dublin is complete without a trip to the Temple Bar Pub, right? We enjoyed one or three Guinness while listening to some great bar music. Chaz punked my video in the middle of Mumford and Sons (check my Facebook for that gem).

The next adventure was the Titanic musuem in Belfast, which was honestly one of the best museums I’ve ever visited. The interesting thing about this tour is we hit up almost all the points of significance for the Titanitic, so it’s a great time to reflect on the past and spend some time exploring the history of the Titanic. And obviously, this happened:

Marcus and Ashley as Jack and Rose
Marcus and Ashley as Jack and Rose

I was really nervous for the next stretch of sailing, as this was the point  last year where we experienced 30 foot waves and worse pitching than any auto-tune technician has had to deal with. (See what I did there?)

Blue Lagoon!
Blue Lagoon!

But yeah, we made it to Iceland with relatively little rocking and rolling. A visit to the Blue Lagoon was essential, and I felt positively “fetal,” in the words of our HR Manager, after a series of mud and algae masks. Heaven! Only downside was that the local beer, “Gull,” tasted like Budweiser to me. I think I’ve seen the best beer days on this trip behind me, though there’s still Maine… And later than night I debuted my new cabaret show, “Maybe This Time.” It went wonderfully and I can’t wait to piece together some of the footage!

Prince Christian Sund
Prince Christian Sund

Next up we continued West to Greenland, and entered the glorious Prince Christinan Sund. Absolutely gorgeous and I finally saw my very first whale! Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the whale, but someone told us it must have been a small fin whale. Whatever, I saw it! I’m so thrilled I finally had that experience, after seeing countless spurts of water in the distance, I finally saw something up close! The sound was much eerier than our passage last year, this time marked by creepy fog and looming sleet. But it was fantastic and beautiful!

Did I mention that the sailing was calm? Yeah, that stopped the day we left from our next port in Greenland. I think that statistically, this storm was worse than ours last year. As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, the hurricane conditions didn’t exactly make our transit comfortable, but damn! – it was fun! I couldn’t get enough of staring out the window and watching 30 waves rising far above me and then soak the window (on deck 5). It was so cool! But I won’t lie – I was relieved when the storm subsided and we made it to land today.

Now, I am ready to make it into the Saint Lawrence Riverway and experience some smooth sailing already! We shall see what happens later this afternoon as we leave Newfoundland, because these torrential winds and rains seem to be following us around! Hopefully we’ll be clear by the time we arrive in Quebec City in a few days, because I’m thrilled to have a free day and take in one of my favorite cities!

North America, it’s great to be back, but wow, Europe:  I love you so dearly. Until next time.

Ashley takes Dublin
Ashley takes Dublin

Norwegian and Baltic Adventures!

Hello from the Baltic on a rainy Estonian morning!

My first few weeks back on board the beautiful Silver Whisper have been a real treat so far. Ports of call in Norway, Denmark, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Finland, Russia and Estonia have made my life an adventure.

The shows have been going so well, this cast is really fantastic. Last night we premiered the girl’s cabaret show, “Diva Show,” which was a huge hit! I was so excited to perform with these two gorgeous ladies, Kathleen (who I worked with previously on the Wind) and the beautiful and talented Jalin. And I even tested my piano skills by playing and singing ‘Titanium’ with Jalin. It sounded SO good!

Well, old town Estonia is begging me to explore it, but I will leave you with some pictures of my adventures to date:

Flam, Norway
Flam, Norway
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Hiking in Norway
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Looking down on the Geiranger Fjord in Norway
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Marcus and I in Bergen, Norway
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The Mermaid Statue in Copenhagen, Denmark
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Improptu selfie in Gedansk, Poland – when Chaz’s tour group crossed paths with mine!
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Whispering my secrets to the Magic Mouse in Klaipeda, Lithuania
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Market in Riga, Latvia
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Flower Market in Riga, Latvia
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The best statue EVER in Helsinki, Finland.
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Swan Lake at the Mikhailovsky Theatre in St. Petersburg

 

Kathleen, Marcus and I outside the Mikhailovsky Theatre
Kathleen, Marcus and I outside the Mikhailovsky Theatre
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St. Petersburg, Russia
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The Hermitage Exterior

 

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IMG_0219 My opulent day at the Hermitage
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Gorgeous!
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This painting “Départ pour le Marché (Le matin d’Automne)” by Constant Troyon took my breath away!
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I’m in love with The Hermitage!

This is going to be a great contract – I can tell!

Next up is Stockholm, Sweden, with one more loop around the Baltic before heading into the North Sea and over to the United Kingdom.  Feeling very blessed!

Here we go again…

Every time I sing that last time through of “Con Te Partiro” in the opera show, High C’s, I think it’s really the last time and get a little misty-eyed. And then I just keep coming back!

That’s right folks – this diva is hitting the high seas, and the high C’s again, starting August 13th on the Silver Whisper!

I am thrilled to be returning to my favorite ship for a three month contract which will take me from Copenhagen to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and everywhere in between. Some new countries to add to my list include Denmark, Norway, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Belgium. And I can’t complain about overnights in Finland, Russia, Belgium, Quebec, Bermuda and St. Barts!

I can’t wait to reconnect with old friends – both crew members and guests on board. I’m sure this will be a fantastic way to truly finish my nautical career. (Seriously, this is the last one.)

Best of all, I am working on a brand new cabaret show for this cruise, a compilation of some of my ultimate Broadway dream roles. I can’t wait to share with Silversea what I would bring to the Great White Way, and then take back some juicy video footage of the cabaret in time for the January audition season in New York City.

Where’s your favorite place in the world to travel? Any tips for a lady who’s sailing the Norwegian Fjords for the first time? I’m getting so excited I can hardly stand it!

Last year on the Silver Whisper, singing “Fernando” by ABBA in the show “Fabbalicious.” Photo courtesy of Hotel Director, Norman Rafelson
Running off stage after my cabaret show and giving Norman the 'thumbs up!' Photo courtesy of Norman Rafelson.
Running off stage after my cabaret show and giving Norman the ‘thumbs up!’ Photo courtesy of Norman Rafelson.

Another Life Crisis

A huge day is looming on the horizon for me… as if preparing for a massive asteroid to narrowly avoid striking earth’s surface, I am doing my best to harness the anxiety associated with the big three-oh.

Why exactly do we place so much pressure on another birthday? When you’re thirty, you’re supposed to have your shit figured out, right? I mean, everyone on my Facebook feed seems to have life wrapped together in a neat little package. Marriages, babies, marathons… yes, I suppose that I’m conveniently ignoring the posts by other friends of drunken smiles, Buzzfeed quizzes, Farmville accomplishments (wait, do people still play that game?)

I know that this is completely self-inflicted anxiety. When I was a little girl, I knew that my parents had fallen in love in high school and gotten married in their early twenties, and my grandparents before them had done the same thing. So – I thought you got married around age 21. (Still single, by the way.) Don’t get me started on the offspring topic. When I decided that focusing on myself and moving to New York to pursue my artistic career was the best decision – I focused on ‘making it on Broadway’ as the true definition of success and I vowed to book a Broadway show by my thirtieth birthday. Why would I do that to myself? Is it the pressures of society, friends or family? Maybe the stream of other peoples’ lives on my computer screen? The idealistic worlds of any show featuring charismatic, beautiful and successful people living in New York City?

I hate to immediately jump to pointing out my astrological definition as a Gemini – but my major problem is the huge dichotomy of self. When I recently disembarked from a short cruise contract in which I visited five countries in nine days, I was overcome with emotion at the fact I didn’t know when I’d be traveling the world again. A huge part of my identity comes from my love of travel and exploration. And yet, diametrically opposed to that, I long for a stable life in one place with one person and one purpose. Is there a way to embrace this conflict and live comfortably?

I hate to say that I’m not successful. I am very proud of the life I have built for myself. I am self-sufficient, I have amazing friends and family, I have the cutest apartment in New York City, I make my own music and still live with a daily sense of adventure in my own city. I have visited 34 countries in the last year alone. And honestly, I tremble when I think about how many more places I ache to visit.

For me, the biggest challenge as I turn thirty is going to be allowing myself to be comfortable. No, I haven’t gotten married, had kids, set up a 401K or investments. But I have created so many fantastic experiences all over the world, have made myriad friends from near and wide… and I find that my artistic self has grown so much in the seven years I have lived in NYC. I believe that the best thirtieth birthday present I could give to myself would be freedom (though the new vacuum cleaner I just bought from Amazon is a very close second). Freedom to self-express, freedom to love myself for what I’ve accomplished – even though it’s outside the normal definitions of success.

After all, Oprah Winfrey didn’t start her show until she was 32, JK Rowling published Harry Potter when she was 32, Julia Child didn’t learn how to cook until she was in her thirties, and Lucille Ball didn’t find her fame on I Love Lucy until age 40. I think there’s still hope for me.

I often laugh when my friends tell me that turning thirty was the best thing that ever happened to them. When they say that the best years are in the thirties. God, I hope that’s true. Because the twenties have been pretty damn fun.

Here’s to thirty.

Greetings from Greece

Just a quick little post from Paradise, aka Greece. I’ve been having a great time reconnecting with my cruise ship roots, back on board the Silver Wind. I’m here filling in for one voyage and have been having an absolute ball cruising the Mediterranean. Today we are outside of Olympia and I’m taking advantage of free wifi and local ouzo.

There’s not a tremendous lot to report but I am so pleased to be back at sea and singing this fun music again. The cast is so much fun and it’s been wonderful to be traveling from port to port experiencing the radiance of Greece and Turkey. In two days we’ll be arriving to my favorite port: Kotor, Montenegro. I am so looking forward to hiking up the ancient fortress walls and reliving my best memories from my voyage two years ago.

Greetings from Greece and drink ouzo every day!

Ouzo!

Back in New York!

“Give me such shows — give me the streets of Manhattan!” Walt Whitman

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Sailing out of Manhattan, October 2013

After another healthy dose of sailing around the world, this chick has decided to put away the luggage [for now] and settle back into New York City living.  I just got back to Astoria early yesterday morning, and after a decent nap, I reentered society via a soft-opening for a friend’s new shuffleboard club in Brooklyn. Seriously, GET THYSELF to this amazing place now. The Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club was the ultimate “welcome home to New York City after cruising.” It was a great night catching up with friends, pushing biscuits around (don’t worry, you’ll learn what that means after your first shuffleboard lesson), having some fun cocktails and eating delicious Crif dog. By the way, the cool thing about this venue is they have a garage on the side that connects to the venue, so they will have different food truck providing a multitude of NYC options every single night.  Last night I went for Crif Dog’s famous “Spicy Redneck” – dear lord, so good, and so outside of my January 2014 calorie window.  Screw that.  So worth it.

So yeah, I’m back.  I was laughing as I looked back on my last post, which was soy long ago.  Yes, I’m talking like Ja’ime from Ja’mie: Private School Girl, my newest television obsession. So I tried to write a blog post while at sea, and yeah yeah yeah blah blah blah it’s hard to get internet wah wah wah.  And I never finished that blog post.  I kept putting it off longer and longer, blaming my computer that couldn’t upload my photos, etc etc.  But I thought I might post what I at least started to write, right?  With commentary of 2013 Ashley, by 2014 Ashley.

Have I seriously not updated this blog since August?  Oh that’s embarrassing.  Yes, Ashley, yes it is. One of my fellow singers on the ship reminded me, “You have to update your blog at least every three days or it’s just unprofessional.”  Yikes.  It’s not like I’ve visited a dozen different countries since then or anything. And now that total is up to 27, 20 of which you had never been to before this contract.

I am so blessed to be back at sea on the Silver Whisper.  I embarked the ship on September 2nd in Stockholm, Sweden, nearly missing the ship after an absent captain on Delta Airlines. Thankfully I made it in time and was greeted by a very excited cast of singers eager to bring me on board and show me around the Baltic on their last cruise. How lucky am I that when I wasn’t training to be the company manager I was visiting Estonia, Russia, Finland, Germany and Holland! I had a great time eating out in the restaurants and attending all the shows like a guest as I wasn’t starting my performance contract until September 12th with the rest of the new cast in Southampton, England. It was spectacular to actually watch the shows for the first time and see what all the fuss was about. They were great! Soy true, this company is a talented bunch.

And in terms of travel on this cruise I got to see some great places. My first day we came to Tallinn, Estonia, and myself and two other singers went for an amazing home-style lunch at a restaurant charmingly called “Mama’s Kitchen.” Krystle and Vince, two of my faves in the company. The food was great! Next we were off to St. Petersburg, Russia, where we overnighted and I was able to visit Saint Catherine’s Palace with its famous “Amber Room.” Helsinki, Finland was our next port of call – a gorgeous place with beautiful people and delicious strawberries! Then we went on to mein Heimat, Deutschland! The end.

Oh Ash, if only you could commit to one thing long enough to fini-

Just kidding.

But seriously, folks.  I went on to experience such a great four months of cruising and singing. We had unbelievably rough seas as we crossed the Atlantic to Iceland, saw glorious icebergs and scenery in the fjords of Greenland, sailing through the most spectacular autumn colors in Canada, ate more lobster than you can imagine in New England, sailing in and out of New York City (SOOOO INCREDIBLE), celebrated Halloween with an overnight in Bermuda, swam/snorkeled/tanned/relaxed our way through the Caribbean, and finished with a beautiful Panama Canal transit from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles.  All in all, it was a great experience with talented people. I made so many new friends – cast, crew and guests alike, and can’t wait to reconnect with everyone now that I’m back on terra firma. I also enjoyed pushing myself more creatively by writing new music and even performing a new song with the band during my cabaret show. I actually recorded one of the performances with Vince’s camera and extracted the audio here.  So for all you friends who kept asking me to record it, this is the best I could do for now!

I hope you liked that.  Oy vey I get so nervous about posting things like this!

Anyhoo, it’s great to be back.  I’ve got my wrap dresses and character shoes out.  I’ve renewed my subscription to Backstage and taken the dust cover off the keyboard. I’ve printed out new resumes and ordered new marketing materials from Vista Print.  So yeah, I’m available and I want to WORK. Let’s do this, 2014.