Here it is… the final installment of my Wish blog! I’ve been home in Los Angeles for about two months now. I initially meant to share this blog in my first week home, but I think I’ll be able to reflect on my experience in a different way now that I’ve had more time away from the ship. In this last entry about the opening of the Wish, I’ll cover the second week of August through the end of my contract in mid-October.
The beginning of August came with a new guitarist, Ryan. Our first priority was working him into Victrophonics, as it had been running with no guitar. Then, we started working him into a few of our trio sets in the Bayou. Aside from that, Ryan also played solo in the Bayou. While it wasn’t the originally intended framework for the Wish musicians, it was nice to finally have five musicians on board!
It was around this time that I finally started to get comfortable with my job and the expectations on board. My performance anxiety was much lower in Nightingales than it had been at the beginning of July. I was better at reading all-new crowds and engaging audiences of different sizes at different times of the evening. Of course, I was having a blast performing with my friends both in the Bayou and in Pirate’s Rockin’ Parlay Party. I played my first wedding on board, which was so exciting to take part in. Can you imagine getting married on a Disney cruise?
Some trips to the parks in Orlando were essential. My friends Carl and Danica took me to Hollywood Studios, which was the only Walt Disney World park I had yet to visit, and we managed to get to a lot in just a few hours! Galaxy’s Edge was not on my priority list since I’ve seen it plenty of times at Disneyland. We did all of the attractions I was hoping to do, including Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster, Slinky Dog Dash, and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. I also got to go to Animal Kingdom with Alonso and two of our other friends from the main stage cast, Sondrine and Jenay. Similar to my DHS trip, we packed a lot into our short morning there, and even managed to stop for our favorite Dole Whip before heading back to the ship.
At the end of August, Michael ended up unexpectedly going home from the contract early. Myself and the rest of the musicians missed him while he was gone as he’s an integral part of our band of friends. In terms of our jobs, we needed to rework a few of our sets in his absence. This also meant that I went in as the pianist for Victrophonics, which was an experience I’m extremely grateful for. Victrophonics is a special show, and it gave me the chance to perform with some incredible people I wouldn't have shared the stage with otherwise.
September brought the arrival of Halloween on the High Seas. Slowly but surely the Halloween decor, including Boo the Pumpkin Tree, was brought on board. The characters had their best spooky outfits, and new shows and programs were put in place to celebrate the holiday. I was excited to see the debut of Minnie, Daisy and Clarabelle’s Sanderson Sisters outfits. September was also the month of visits from my friends. First my friend Mollie came on board for a weekend. It was so nice to spend a few days of quality time with her, especially considering she tested positive for Covid-19 a few days before my wedding back in January and couldn’t participate in anything. We got to dine in Arendelle, visit Castaway Cay, and of course she hung out in the spaces I was performing in. She got to hang out with my friends and play some games, and they hit it off very quickly. After Mollie went home, Carl and Danica came for four days. They’re both former Disney cast members and current Disney nerds, so I had a great time taking them behind the scenes and introducing them to the entertainment cast. We had a great time together, too! Of course I got some character photos with all of my friends.
Outside of work, my husband and I started our search for an apartment in LA. This turned out to be challenging considering our time difference and my lack of consistent WiFi/cell service, but we ended up finding a place that we really liked. It was a little spooky for me to sign off on it without seeing it, but I trusted Steven’s judgement and it has turned out wonderfully for us so far. He did a great job handling all of the in-person searching!
The first 3-day cruise of October ended up being cancelled due to Hurricane Ian. The guests on that week’s 4-day cruise were on board with us for a few extra days as we sailed away from the storm, so we needed to come up with some additional entertainment offerings for them. We got to perform some live music in the Grand Hall with the characters which was SO much fun. It wasn’t often that we had lots of children dancing to our music in the Bayou, so that was a treat. We also put together a feature-length version of Victrophonics to perform in the Walt Disney Theater. That was the musicians’ first and only time getting to play on that stage, and it was wonderful. We had a great time together and the audience loved it!
October was the home stretch of the contract. So much happened in those three short weeks! Michael came back for a cruise and it was so good to see him again. We went to Hollywood Studios the day before he boarded the ship, because we had one more unexpected dark day (a full day on board with no guests) after the elongated hurricane cruise. We also went to the pirate museum and the beach in Nassau.
The day Michael was leaving happened to be the day Steven was arriving, so Steven met us at Animal Kingdom and came back to the ship with us. I was so happy to have my husband with me, especially because he had yet to see me play in Victrophonics! We got to celebrate our new apartment together and share a much more joyful goodbye knowing it was only a week until I’d be going home.
Our last week was when all of the big emotions started to hit. Some of my favorite people who had left the ship for their vacation came back right before we left. We were also in the middle of what’s called “crossover,” which is when the new entertainment cast arrives and rehearses while we are finishing our runs. We got to spend some time with some of the new musicians during the crossover, and they observed some of our sets. I made a point to go and see as many of the other shows as I could on those last two cruises since it was my last opportunity to watch my friends do their thing. When it came time for the sail away party on our very last cruise, I was already losing it. I knew it wouldn’t truly hit me that it was over until I was home, so I tried my best to savor the moments as I was in them. We closed Victrophonics on the first night of our last cruise, although we had already “closed” it a few times as the show has multiple singers and some had performed their last show already. Our final show hit hard all the same - there were plenty of tears to go around. The rest of the weekend continued much the same way. We had our final set in The Bayou, then our final Pirate’s Rockin’ Parlay Party. For me, Parlay was the most emotional closing show. It was the very first thing we rehearsed together when we arrived in Toronto in March, and the biggest production the musicians were involved in. We had looked forward to it for so long. The process of being on the ship during construction to opening the ship to working in full operation felt like forever, and yet it went by in the blink of an eye. The energy on stage and in the audience that night was electric. I started crying as soon as we said our last “yo ho!” The full show from that night is on YouTube, thanks to Alonso. After we finished the show, we had an entertainment team celebration in the theater where we reflected on our experience throughout the past year.
We received a special surprise on our last full day on board. Our Senior Entertainment Manager Sheikha heard that we never received our ears from our Traditions class, since we did it by ourselves online while we were in Toronto. While we were in a team meeting, she called in a surprise guest to present us with our ears. Captain Minnie came in and gave us hugs of congratulations. It was such a joyful morning! I was glad to see my team in that meeting, because I spent the rest of my day performing alone in Nightingale’s. It was an easy night as I played some of my favorite sets for guests. Suddenly it was time to finish packing, squeeze in a visit to my friends in the crew bar, and try to get some sleep before the craziness of the following day.
Debarkation day consisted of a lot of back and forth - finishing packing, loading luggage, discarding dirty linens, retrieving new ones for the next occupant of my cabin, and a cabin inspection. Somehow I managed to remember breakfast amidst all of that! Once I had completed everything on my checklist, I met the rest of the disembarking crew in Luna and waited to be called up for our passports. As we waited we started to say goodbye to each other, most of us saved our closest friends for last because we wanted to stave off the waterworks as long as we could. Once we finally gave in to the inevitable and said our emotional goodbyes, we were off to the airport. I couldn’t believe that this experience that felt like a lifetime was over so quickly. After waiting around at the airport, I was off to LAX. I arrived home to my husband, some much needed In-N-Out, and our new apartment still full of boxes.
I’ve thought a lot about what this experience means to me since returning home. For starters, I’ve become a much stronger performer than I was before. I’m much more comfortable interacting with audiences and trying new things without having perfected them first. My personality has started to really shine through in my performance. I’ve struggled with this in the past, and it was something I knew I would work on during this contract, so I’m proud of the immense progress I made in that department!
I've touched on health anxiety in several of my previous blog posts. Losing your grandmother suddenly right before living alone in a new country is not for the faint of heart, I can tell you that. I grappled with newfound health anxiety throughout my contract, from Toronto to Eemshaven to Port Canaveral. I tend to assume medical professionals always have my best interests at heart, and while many of them do, I usually don’t push further when my questions are left unanswered. This is something I improved on during my contract. I asked follow-up questions when I needed to and felt less anxious about taking up space. This is huge for me! This carried over into my job as well. Opening a brand new ship with all new shows comes with plenty of issues and miscommunication. My friends and I advocated for what we needed well while remaining respectful and working to solve problems as a team. This was one of my favorite things about them - everyone had initiative and integrity.
Speaking of my friends, they were the best part of the whole experience for me. Getting to make music with them daily was an absolute joy. I’m lucky they turned out to be great people in addition to being great musicians. We were there for each other through thick and thin, from dropping off snacks to each others’ Covid-isolation rooms to late night talks to hugs when we needed them most. Oh, and jokes… lots and lots of stupid inside jokes. The best kind.
Opening the Wish was an absolute honor. I am glad to have played a small part in Disney history by being a part of some incredible entertainment. Thank you all for following along with me throughout this journey!