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.

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.

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!