There are few words to describe how I feel after performing on a month-long cruise to the Caribbean countries of the Bahamas, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Jamaica, and Mexico, from October 12 to November 9. Of course, the scenery throughout the Atlantic and Caribbean is beautiful. We had few really bad days of weather. Most of the time the sun glistened on the water and the sunsets were breathtaking.
However, the underbelly of the trip was the hard-working crew that got NO days off during their months of contracts and worked 10-hour days. Often, I could feel the tiredness of people walking down the long halls. I even felt their fatigue in the food we ate. My own experience of stress stemmed from the tight quarters in which we were forced to live. The first week, I had to climb up into a top berth that set off alarms in my body that I certainly had not experienced in decades.
How people live like this for months on end, I will never comprehend. The upside is that I squeaked enough to get my own room for the remaining three weeks, with the bottom berth and no roommate. Still, bathing in the tiny shower was uncomfortable. Then, I learned that the lead singers in the Broadway productions had double beds in rooms with a porthole. I’m saying to myself, “How do I, at 66, end up on deck 1, in a jail cell, when I’m entertaining hundreds of people in the Jazz room on the largest cruise ship in the world?”
“They love you!” exclaimed my agent. “Well, they need to show it,” I replied. And that’s where I’ll stand from here on out. No agent or anyone else will get me to pack a bag and leave the comfort of my home without sufficient pay and accommodations ever again. Cruising may look glamorous but the adage, “All that glitters is not gold” certainly fits this experience.
During the first week, when my 26-year-old roommate from Macedonia slept in the bottom berth, while I climbed up on top, painfully and tearfully, several times, I awoke to go to the bathroom around 6:30 a.m. and just got dressed and removed myself to Deck 17, where I slept in the lounge, until breakfast around 10 a.m. Only when I told the young woman who arranged sleeping quarters this did she find a room for me. It’s funny how young people have no understanding of what being 60+ really means. When we speak of “the comforts of home,” space is definitely the place.
Also, how companies expect seasoned entertainers to perform for hordes of guests without the proper rest and hygiene, I’ll never understand. So, here’s what I learned – “No” applies to signing contracts that put me in uncomfortable circumstances. Period!
“No” is the best word in any language. It gives you leverage. It expresses disdain. It is a powerful statement that I intend to exercise every time I have the slightest indication that I might be put in a precarious situation. “NO!”