8 Sunday had an act in the theatre, which once again put us in Deck 7’s Carinthia Lounge, this time playing two 45-minute jazz sets from the Real Books. Saw a lovely ocean sunset – the lounge has many large windows and opens onto the passenger deck for sunbathing (sun-baking in constant 90+ degree days), which wraps around the ship. Relaxed, fun gig. I passed on disembarking at Langkwai, our third Malaysian port in as many days, opting instead for air conditioning, practicing, and napping.
9 Monday put the ship in Phuket (Poo-ket), Thailand. I was the crew’s third in line to disembark. Where ports of call are not deep enough to accommodate the ship, we are transported to them by tender – lifeboats and local ships that ferry us from one of the four Deck 1 tender lounges (my berth is also on the aft of Deck 1, sitting at sea level). I had a lovely 8am swim (pictures on my Facebook page) and walked and dined with our music director. For me, breakfast was an espresso, a strawberry smoothie, spring rolls, and a Coke (my first soda at sea). From this open-air restaurant, we crossed to a 7-11 (yes, a Thai 7-11, but still the same) and I picked up toiletries. I had first stopped at an HSBC ATM and withdrawn the second smallest amount offered, 5,000 baht. Without the benefit of stable Internet, I did not know that the exchange rate was better than 1:31 – so I had 160 bucks of baht. I was left with 4,100 baht that I could not exchange. Fortunately, our entertainment director needed baht for his upcoming vacation, had IPM (in-port management) duty (not fortunate for him), and bought mine. Lesson: check the exchange rate and prices early. Also, most of the crew were denied shore leave after 9:45am due to windy conditions (guests could still go) – the early bird gets the worm. (Unhappy crew.)
The evening sets were to again accompany the featured trumpeter-vocalist from 5 Thursday. I was still playing tentatively, trying to fit in and follow. The artist did not seem to have a fondness for me. I was playing like a new guy on both dates. Perhaps, I looked like an old boyfriend. Whatever the case, the situation did not make me feel cause to excel.
10 Tuesday was a sea day. The tender lounge with a piano was occupied by an all-day security training session – no practice for me. I looked at the day’s charts after the previous night’s sets – well-arranged Broadway charts. The featured artist was Shona White, who is a top-flight West End thespian. Since I knew what to expect from a Broadway set, I played well, hitting my stride. Had a brief but lovely conversation with her (and a selfie, which I will post on Facebook). A gem.
11 Wednesday was another sea day and yet another day of security training – again, no practice. The evening’s show, Broadway Rocks, was a non-stop package of show tunes arranged with a rock feel. Performed by our troupe of singers and dancers, we played live to a click track. Knowing what to expect from the experience, my monitor was set well (once I increased the keyboard’s gain, which had been turned down) and was comfortable with playing to the track. I had studied the music and played it down in rehearsal and both shows. I laid out in a couple of spots (better safe than sorry), but solos, fills, most everything was spot on.
I discovered the crew’s juice bar, below sea level, lots of space, USB charging stations, and almost empty. (The staff bar is rather quiet, the crew bar much too loud and young for me.) It was a great place to hang out during the day.
12 Thursday the ship docked in Colombo, Sri Lanka (which you may remember as Ceylon). There was a gauntlet of vendors on the dock. The city appeared colorful, yet dingy. Given the heat – and the open piano – I practiced for over three hours, time well spent. The evening’s featured artist was a winner of Britain’s Got Talent, who left his group to become a jazz vocalist. His charts had never been played before, the ink barely dry. Our band worked to give them a top-flight treatment. I’m sure the charts will go back to the arranger – it would be unlikely that many groups would divine them in 90 minutes time.
We continue to sail toward Cochin, India. I cannot disembark, as my seaman’s book is yet to arrive (it often takes months). Tonight’s show is a duo that sings opera selections. There will be stories to tell.