There are only 5 days from the time I’m writing this until we embark on our journey across the Atlantic to the Wish’s home port in Florida. In just over a month, so much has happened! It has been quite the journey here in the Netherlands.
The entertainment cast flew from Toronto to Amsterdam in several different groups. My group departed from Toronto in the evening, taking a red-eye to London Heathrow before one more short flight to Amsterdam. Due to DCL’s visa agreement with the Netherlands, we knew we wouldn’t be able to return to Amsterdam after boarding the Wish. We wanted to make the most of our night despite our jet lag, so we took an Uber into the city and explored by foot for a few hours admiring the canals, snapping some photos, and grabbing some delicious dessert and drinks. An early wake-up call the following morning kicked my butt, but still didn’t make me regret our outing. We had breakfast at the hotel before boarding a bus to the shipyard. Seeing the Wish for the very first time was an emotional experience. Everyone on the bus was buzzing as we rounded the corner and the ship came into view along with a crowd of cast members cheering for our arrival.
That first day was exhausting. After a long bus ride, there were several steps we had to take to get through security and get our new ID’s before boarding the ship. Once we were on board, we received our safety gear: hard hats, high-visibility jackets, and steel-toed shoes. We were given a tour and then finally were able to retrieve our luggage and go to our cabins. Everyone we met was kind and helpful, but my tired brain was on information overload. I felt much better the next morning after resting, which was necessary for the week ahead. Working on a ship for the first time is confusing enough - imagine it also being a live construction site!
Our first week mostly consisted of meetings with our team leaders and training courses we didn’t already complete in Toronto. It was nice to start putting names to faces, and by the end of the week I felt like I could get around the ship a little easier. At the very least, I got a handle on the directional terminology. The most exciting parts of this week were a safety training/tour on the deck stage and my first costume fitting (!!!)
One of the best things about our time here has been getting to visit Groningen, the closest large city to the shipyard. Groningen is an amazing city full of great food, shopping, and culture. The University of Groningen makes it an international hub for young people, and I’ve heard many different languages being spoken near me as I’ve walked around. As an American, one of the most impressive things to me about Groningen is how bicycle friendly it is. If I were riding a bicycle in LA or Miami, I would never leave it outside for fear of it getting stolen - and I probably wouldn’t be relying on the bicycle for my primary mode of transportation in the first place. Here, it seems nearly everyone owns a bicycle. I see them more often than cars! Parked bicycles line every street. Our awesome crew engagement manager organized regular buses to take crew from the ship into town. This is especially appreciated as spaces for crew on board will be limited until we’re in regular operation. Sometimes I will go to Groningen alone and find a cafe with good wifi to get some work done or download some new TV episodes. Other times I’ll go with friends and we’ll go shopping, go to dinner, or get a few drinks together. A large group of us went and saw Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness when it came out, which was awesome! As you can imagine, the cast is full of Marvel nerds.
A slideshow of sights, food, and friends in Groningen
As for music making, we have been doing that too! It was slow to start at first, but we got into a rhythm with rehearsals. During our second and third weeks here, we were transported to a music studio close to Groningen to rehearse, mostly working on show music but also our cover band sets. When space became available to us and our instruments were brought on board, we began rehearsing on the ship. Unfortunately things didn’t work out with the guitarist who was cast, but between the four of us we’re definitely making things work. I’ve known my fellow musicians here were incredibly versatile since we started working together in Toronto, but the past few weeks have exemplified that.
Last week we set sail for sea trials, which is when the ship’s functionality is tested for all of the conditions it may face while in operation. When I stepped out on the deck on the first day of the sea trial and found myself surrounded by water rather than concrete and cranes, I felt a calm wash over me I hadn’t felt in a while. Many of us stayed out on the deck as the sun went down and celebrated our first sail together (and for some, like myself, our first sail ever on a cruise ship).
There were a few days during that week when my anxiety and overwhelm came to a head, mainly due to the distressing news coming out of the United States. The collective grief of the country enmeshed with my own personal grief and overstimulation from my environment led to some dark places. However, something about the vastness of the water was comforting. That, plus bonding with some truly great people, has helped me reach a place where I feel more grounded and content. The endless “what-if”s that can be triggered by unprecedented events (that seem to become more precedented by the day over the past few years) may be my brain’s way of trying to keep me safe, but in reality it can render me entirely unable to make any sort of positive change in my environment. Re-wiring those thought processes without losing the fire I feel about the trials the US faces is the challenge - and I’m taking it one step at a time.
Of course, being apart from my husband is always difficult, but my love and appreciation for him grows steadily each time we navigate long-distance together. We still have over a month before we see each other again, but we did have a fun full-circle moment when he flew to Jakarta, Indonesia to play at the Java Jazz Festival. His time zone was actually closer to mine while he was in Jakarta than when he was at home, so we were able to communicate more often. We both realized that we were living our teen selves’ dreams - married to each other, traveling the world making music. Ultimately we’d love to be doing the traveling together, but I know we’ll get there.
Since returning from the sea trial we’ve enjoyed some fun nights in Groningen as well as some hangs in my cabin playing Mario Party (in which Michael destroyed us all both times). I’ve also been able to reconnect with some family and friends this week on the phone which has been rejuvenating. I downloaded the newest episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Stranger Things, which I’ve been devouring in my down time. I’ve also been working on adding a few more charts to my solo material for the piano bar and organizing my set lists. Best of all, yesterday we had our first rehearsal with our instruments out on the deck stage. It was INCREDIBLE. The main purpose of the rehearsal was to sound check so the engineers could get a good mix, but we had a blast performing together on the stage where we’ll be performing for guests. The energy was amazing, and everyone who was listening was thoroughly enjoying it. I cannot wait to see the entire production come together with the rest of the cast, costumes, lighting, effects, the whole nine yards.
That brings us to today! We have a few days of crew drills, rehearsals, and a Groningen visit or two until we depart. Next time you hear from me, I’ll be writing from Florida. Until next time!