Wednesday 24th Sept 14Before I left home to venture on my first ever cruise gig, I used an i-phone app to check in and subsequently display my boarding pass at the airport. When I got to the departures gate at Heathrow the machine asked me to swipe my boarding pass (phone), and the barriers opened, my hand baggage went through security and I was “air-side” it was then I realised that nobody had asked to see my passport, good security huh?
My Heathrow highlight was that, at the boarding gate amongst the complimentary newspapers was a selection of complimentary magazines that included a copy of “Guitar Aficionado” (this months addition and usually sold for 8 quid). I took it then picked out all the good bits to read, which took me the 2 hours and twenty minutes (the flight time to Helsinki).
On the plane there was a priced menu and I thought everything was chargeable however I was given a complimentary breakfast so things were looking up. At Helsinki airport I was met by a Mercedes uniformed chauffeur he took my bag to a brand new Mercedes saloon with blacked out windows, the interior smelt of new leather and was lovely. Sadly he spoke no English, so we had a 20 minute drive to the port in silence.
Three boats were docked and I was dropped at the Silja Serenade (my home for the next fortnight). The dockside Information directed me to a nonpublic area, a guard asked to see my passport and I boarded. Once aboard there were no passengers but lots of crew buzzing about, there were no visible signs as to where I was supposed to go, I asked an officer if he could help and he directed me to a lift that took me to the 12th floor where there was another information desk, the clerk there contacted the Cruise Manger who took me to the security office where my bags were left and then he took me on a tour of the ship wearing my newly issued “entertainers security pass”.
After a long wander, we went back to the security team who directed me to my cabin, although I was supposed to have an outside cabin I had been given an inside one, but never mind.
Off to find food. I found the crew mess, it’s available 23 hours a day, self service and good, with a salad bar, fruits counter, sweets/cakes, and a limited choice of hot food (meat, fish, vegetarian or a selection of all 3). After my meal I left the mess to return to my cabin and spent nearly 40 minutes looking for it, I knew it was on floor 5 and numbered 577 but for the life of me I couldn’t I find it. I found cabins numbered from 500 up to 560 then they started again at 590. Eventually I found what looked like a locked cupboard door, my key fitted and behind it was another 30 cabins (including mine).
My performance started at 9pm and the manager was very relaxed telling me that, within reason I could start and finish as I liked. The punters are a mix of Swedish, Norwegian, Asian and Estonian and all speak English to a much better level than I could speak to them in their languages.
I played a mixed set of Crowded House, Beatles, Stones, Kinks etc and the punters responding requesting more of the same. With each request some coins were thrown in a “tips” ice bucket on the edge of the stage. After the first set the manager told me he was very happy because usually all the singers perform the same songs and it was a buzz for him hearing something different.
The bar was quite empty and the manager told me it will continue to be so until Friday when it goes nutty for the week-end. After my performance I emptied my ice bucket into my man bag and wandered around the ship to listen to the other musicians. There is quite a good jazz pianist, but not sure of the rest yet. I think I am the only English musician on the boat and it seems some of the other guys have to work during the day.
So to bed.
I awoke this morning after a good nights sleep, after about 4 hours we docked in Stockholm. At breakfast I was asked if I would be prepared to help with an “emergency drill” there are regular life boat drills however once every 6 months the ships safety team organise for the top deck chutes to be inflated then, non-saftey crew and entertainers are asked to act as passengers, we will be guided to the top deck, given life jackets and then decend on the chutes down 12 floors to a pontoon in the dock.
Slip sliding away!