Friday, May 22, 2009

Cruising

URANUS IN THE NINTH HOUSE
Wait a sec, you say. Jared, you just blogged about Uranus! You're right, my attentive reader, but today, though Uranus is still influencing Pisces, it's in the 9th House, the house of travel and exploration. We will still see a lot of originality and illusion, but within the realm of discovering new territories. Perhaps those territories aren't areas we'd normally feel comfortable in or perhaps we're superimposing an idealized version on the reality, but the foray into the unknown is there. It's an adventure. Just make sure your eyes are open.

Speaking of unusual adventures, let's take to the high seas (Pisces is a water sign, after all). How many of you have been on a cruise? Huh. I thought it would have been more. Well, two years ago, I went on a cruise ship for the first time. I embarked on March 18, 2007 and disembarked on September 22nd of that same year. That's right; 6 months on a cruise ship. How did I get so lucky? I worked for them as a dancer.

I know, I know. It sounds awfully glamorous, doesn't it? I'll admit; it's not the hardest way to earn a living. A cruise ship is very like a floating city with everything at your fingertips (well, almost everything). And you get to visit beautiful places (if the itinerary is right). There are so many wonderful aspects to it.

Still, as I always say, a week on a cruise ship is a vacation; six months is a sentence.

When you "install" a new cast on a cruise ship, you overlap the previous cast by a week so you can see them perform their shows and make a smooth transition from one to the next. When I got on, a member of the last cast told me, "You'll know within two weeks if you're a ship person or not." I knew within a week. I am not a ship person. So keep in mind that this is colored through the eyes of one person's experience. I have friends who have been on ships for 4-5 years and are yet considering further contracts.

However, my experience was slightly different. The hardest thing for me was to leave my life behind. I had just begun dating someone, just started a job, had a social base, etc. When you leave on a theatrical gig, you're still connected to everyone via internet and phone. When you take a cruise ship job, internet costs money and your phone service is null and void (thanks, Verizon). You no longer exist in the real world. You travel to "ship-world" and there are a whole new set of rules. It's like witness protection, but the Tiny Toons Adventures version.

One of the interesting rules of theatrical ship-world is the dichotomy between dancers and singers. Dancers are considered "chorus" while singers are "leads." Therefore, singers get their own cabins, a higher pay scale, access to passenger restaurants, and the freedom to wear what they choose. Dancers double as "crew members," and thus must go through safety training, perform crew duties, share cabins (which are smaller than the singers' cabins, btw), are paid less, have limited access to restaurants, and must wear crew uniforms when in passenger areas. Okay, I get the whole chorus/lead thing. The argument is that if the ship is really rocky, the singers would still have to perform, but the dancers wouldn't for safety reasons. But if the ship is REALLY rocky, the show will more likely be canceled than put on with just the singers, so the argument is somewhat specious. And beyond that, is it really necessary to put such a wide divide between members of the same cast? I mean, you're automatically building resentment and for no good reason. I was flabbergasted to learn how much more valued the singers were. And that's nothing against their talents or them as people. It just creates a rift when there need not be.

That being said, I actually didn't mind some of the cruise duties because it enabled me to meet passengers, which was the best part of the cruise. I love meeting new people and every week, a fresh batch of folks came on. I was, however, annoyed at how people check their brains at the door once getting on a cruise ship. I realize that you're there to relax and enjoy a vacation. The ship's crew is not your personal serving staff. We're there to maximize your enjoyment; not wait on you hand and foot. For example, when in the buffet restaurant, don't turn to me and ask me to get you a fork just because I'm wearing a uniform. It's a buffet. You get your own utensils when you get your food.

Another example is the gentleman who approached me at the elevator bank/stairwell on the 11th floor. "Do you work here?" he asked me (I'm clearly in uniform). Biting back my natural sarcasm (I'd gotten good at that by this point), I nodded. "Well, I've been waiting 10 minutes for this elevator and it hasn't come." I smiled and responded calmly, "I understand, sir. All elevators are currently express up to the 12th floor and they will stop on the 11th floor on the way down. Please be patient." His expression darkened and he protested, "But I'm only going down one floor!" Seriously, how lazy can you be!? From what I saw of this man, he had no physical impediment, nor was he having any trouble walking. Stairs, sir. Try them.

Final example are the number of people who forget their key card when they go to leave the ship. Every time there is a port, announcements ring through the ship (and they're actually intelligible unlike the NY subway) that say you need photo ID and your key card to get back on the ship. At least a quarter of the people show up for the third port debark without one or the other. It's the third port, people! I understand if you forgot it for the first one, or maybe the second, but by port three, you should know.

It's just a time-warp (jump to the left, step to the right) to be on a cruise ship for 6 months. Still, you think, sun, beach, what more could you ask for? Believe me, unless you are a beacher (and I am not), it gets very wearing to be at the Bahamas every other week. I know, I sound like I'm complaining that all of my fifties don't fit in my wallet and my diamond shoes are too tight, but its' true. Going to the same place over and over can get extremely boring. It's not like I'm visiting friends there. If I had been on a cruise that traveled around the world, then maybe I'd have enjoyed it more, but the same places every other week gets to be a little much.

Needless to say, the cruise ship life was not for me. However, I think I would enjoy a week-long cruise. There some beautiful moments being on a ship. Especially at night when all around you is quiet, except for the sound of the ocean waves. I highly suggest everyone take a cruise at least once in life. I just don't recommend working for one unless you know you're a ship person. And believe me, you'll find out within the first two weeks.

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