Buzz Buzz Beez

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Christmas Elves

The new Ballroom Couple are a two person Social Committee, and organized a hall party on our hall for Christmas Eve. This despite the fact that they do not live on our hall, but no matter, it was great to have a party. Each of the rooms was open to all, with snacks and drinks inside. There was kind of a sad moment when the new Ventriloquist who no one had met came back to his room, took a look at the gathering of semi-drunk people farther down the hall, sneered, and went into his room. I was told about this second-hand, and like to think if I had been a witness I would have invited him to come join the party. However, I was never sure which was his name and which was his dummy’s, and also he is perhaps the worst ventriloquist I have seen on the ship, which is not an easy title to win. He not only uses his own voice for his dummy’s voice, but he also moves his lips when his dummy talks. Beth closed her eyes during his show and wasn’t able to discern who was talking to who.

Maybe it was because the egg nog was flowing, but I treated the party as a chance to come clean with a lot of the people who I hadn’t really met. For example, I confessed to the new costume designer that when I had walked into the dressing room earlier in the week and she was steaming the costumes and I had said that I was looking for a magazine that I had left in there, I was lying. I was in fact hoping to borrow one of the costume coats for a video bit Sue was doing. She said that she knew I had been lying, and we both agreed that I should have told the truth.

I spent a lot of time talking to the Former NFL Cheerleader and her husband, the Gymnast, about their wedding and acquiring a green card. The Gymnast is now a U.S. citizen but he was born in Russia (he was the 1990 Russian Gymnastics Champion but blew out his knee before the 1992 Olympics, so was unable to compete!). Much as I had suspected, the movie “Green Card” has done nothing but create a false impression of what a couple has to go through to get one. The Former NFL Cheerleader even said that everyone kept telling her that her husband would have to know what kind of face cream she uses (the crucial question that Gerard Depardieu messes up in the movie). Most of the questions, however, ended up being about living on the ship, so all of their studying was for naught.

The Former NFL Cheerleader is best friends with the female half of the Ballroom Dance Couple, and the Ballroom Dance couple were Maid of Honor and Best Man at the wedding. The thought of a wedding between a Cheerleader and Gymnast Champion, attended by Canadian Ballroom Dance champions, was just too much for me to process. I imagined that the reception was like the end of “You Got Served” (playing on the crew channel today, worth watching if only for Jackee’s reaction shots at the end), with groups of dancers constantly one-upping each other. I asked them all about this later and the Ballroom Dancers said that whenever they go to a wedding they are asked to “do a little something” by somebody, usually one of the couple’s mothers. This request puts them in an uncomfortable situation, because they don’t have the right shoes etc. and it’s difficult to graciously decline. The Former NFL Cheerleader said things weren’t all that different from a normal reception at her own, thus dashing my images of Battle Dancing, except that at one point she looked over and realized a group of her family was watching her new husband drunkenly try to do a handstand on a chair. This story made me resolve to get invited to a former gymnastics champion’s wedding immediately.

New Acts!

We had waited for it for seven and a half months and were finally rewarded with it in the last cruise’s passenger talent show: the dramatic monologue. The actor was a thin-faced college student with shaggy brown hair. We had noticed him earlier in the cruise because he wore a tight-fitting vest to formal night. His slot in the talent show’s running order came about midway through; the tech crew had outfitted him with a lavaliere mic and placed a chair center stage to set the scene. His monologue was from a play called “The Owl and the Pussycat.” At first I thought he was going to recite the poem from “Alice and Wonderland,” because the cruise director had announced he was “performing a monologue, ‘The Owl and the Pussycat.’” I thought that was kind of endearing, that a twenty year-old would recite a poem more commonly associated with childhood, and I imagined all of us in the audience being gently reminded of the need to connect with memories of our childhood. This version of “The Owl and the Pussycat,” however, was a mentally unhinged man’s consideration of the best method to commit suicide. It’s what we in the biz refer to as “dark.” If you were ever wondering whether a theater full of one thousand cruise ship passengers, most of them elderly and a healthy minority non-English speaking, is the ideal audience for an edgy and intense monologue about offing oneself, it isn’t. To their credit, people in the audience were respectfully quiet. One grandmother did escort her four year-old granddaughter out of the theater, and as she walked by me I could hear the little girl ask, “But why are we leaving? Why?” The actor must have sensed he was losing his audience, but his energy never flagged. He determinedly used the stage, perching on the chair and then dramatically crossing stage left, arms gesticulating expressively the entire time. The monologue ended with him running off stage (dramatically) and then saying in a meek voice, “That’s it.”

Other acts included a man in a leather jacket singing “Hoochie Coochie Man,” the Martial Arts Instructor from our improv show singing “Blue Suede Shoes” with a tribute/history lesson about Carl Perkins before the song, a college age girl singing “Astonishing” from the new “Little Women” musical (consensus was that she could have won if she had sung a more recognizable song), and the winner, a man who did a number of very intricate yo-yo tricks. The last act was an elderly German woman who sang “Que Sera” and demanded that everyone sing along with her during the chorus. This was complicated by the fact that she sang pretty far away from the meter of the song and had changed the lyrics to the chorus. She was pretty frail so did not get back to her seat when the cruise director came back onstage to wrap up the show. The cruise director kibitzed with her a little bit, and the old woman took this as an imprecation to perform an encore. She sang an a cappella version of “Shalom” as the cruise director and audience looked uncomfortably on.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


We do a half hour improv show on one of the last nights of the cruise. We perform on the dance floor of the disco, so the show has a much more relaxed and informal feel. Usually this is a really fun experience for us, but this week proved to be a little more trying. The trouble started during our second game, which is called Pillars. We get two audience volunteers, and the two actors improvise a scene. Periodically the actors don’t finish their sentence but tap the audience volunteer, who provides the rest of the sentence. (Example: I went to the store to buy some (touch) groceries! Hilarity ensues.)

The audience volunteer who was matched up with me was a bleach blond haired woman in her early forties. She was very tan and wore a loose fitting top, white Capri pants, and high-heeled shoes with red flashing lights. I thought she might be trouble because she didn’t really pay attention when I explained the game to her and she appeared drunk. When I went through the example with her, she finished the sentence by shouting “Tampons!” I hissed that this was a family show and menses had no part in it.*

The game ended up lasting approximately a minute and forty seconds. Its brevity was due in part because the woman basically talked nonstop, regardless of whether I had tapped her or not. Paul wisely called it short at the woman’s last line, when I tapped the woman and she slurred, “I wasn’t paying attention. I was too busy looking at your ass.”

Drunky (as I now privately referred to her) made a second appearance in our next game, Stage Directions. In this game two actors go out of the room and the audience gives us stage directions for them to perform throughout the scene. Paul had picked up the stage direction “Do a Split” and was attempting to do so when Drunky shouted, “No, no! Like this!” She then ran on the dance floor and dropped into a split, having earlier removed her flashing high heels to do so. Everyone looked at her awkwardly for a second and then the scene resumed and she returned to her seat unfazed.

Our final game was Party Quirks, where the host of a party tries to guess the unusual characteristics of his or her guests. Sue had had a good idea of getting an audience volunteer to play a Christmas present, with the idea that one of the actors could then provide the clues about what the volunteer’s identity was. We were thrown for a loop when the audience said the volunteer should be a martial arts instructor, which required the volunteer to play a more active role in the scene. We were thrown for a bigger loop when the audience volunteer walked on stage and shouted excitedly, “I’m a Martial Arts Instructor! Hi-ya! I’m a Martial Arts Instructor! I’m a Martial Arts Instructor!” That game ended much quicker than anticipated as well.

Our night was capped by returning to the disco around midnight, when the new Singing Duo took over and the dance floor reverted to its original purpose. The Duo was setting up on the stage while Drunky danced by herself to the music playing on the overheard speakers. She then sat down on the stage and started braying, “Dance! C’mon everybody, have a good time and dance!” While this was going on, one of the members of the duo was trying to hook up his guitar to the amp using the cable that Drunky was sitting on. She remained unfazed.

Eventually the Duo was ready and began their set. Unfortunately they kicked it off by playing the anthem for Loud Drunk Women, “I Will Survive.” Drunky lit up and started marching around the dance floor, pumping her fists, and loudly singing along. People were obviously intimidated by her bravado and a little entranced by her performance, so they steered clear of the dance floor. Eventually one of the Dance Hosts bravely brought a partner to the floor, and they tentatively danced alongside Drunky. Slowly, more couples made their way, and Drunky tried to interact with each of them. She briefly found a partner with a heavy guy wearing a “I Heart to Fart” t-shirt, but he abandoned her for a younger woman in a more revealing top. We could only watch so much before we too had to abandon Drunky and we all went to bed.

* I didn’t, but now I wish I kind of did.


Beth, Jordan and I went to Playa Mia in Cozumel again. Jordan and I both climbed up the iceberg (fun for me, practice for Kilimanjaro for Jordan), and then the three of us made our way over to one of the seemingly deserted Aqua Jumps in the water. An Aqua Jump is basically a floating trampoline. We hadn’t been able to go on one before, so we were looking forward to trying it out on this day. When we swam over, however, we realized that there was a middle-aged French couple trying to get on. He was wearing what I can only describe as a baggy Speedo and she was wearing a bikini. She had managed to get a foot on the bottom rung of the ladder, but was unable to muster the upper arm strength to pull herself up. He was trying to push her haunches up, but to little effect. Looking back, she might have been Frank Oz in a bikini, because she only communicated by a series of high-pitched squeaks, a la Beaker from The Muppet Show. He continued pushing, she continued squeaking, and Beth, Jordan and I continued looking on in uncomfortable silence. He finally got her up, but not before a prolonged period in which one of her breasts popped out of her top. This was a huge coup for Jordan, because normally the only middle-aged nudity we see is during the ten day cruises in St. Maarten. We tried to let Jordan know how lucky he was as we waited for the couple to finish up on the Jump, but I guess some gifts are best appreciated in hindsight. They soon squeaked and splashed away, and we took our turn.

The River Jordan

Randall left the ship at the end of the last cruise because he has another job with the theater company we work for, and that was going to start before our current contract ends. So we got a new cast member this cruise, Jordan. It’s been fun having someone new on the ship to show around and see his reactions to things we have grown used to. While I did not know Jordan very well before he got on the ship, it has been fun getting to know him on the high seas. He enjoys American History, Minneapolis hip-hop, and will be hiking Mount Kilimanjaro in March. I feel this gives a complete picture of what Jordan is about so I will move on.

Unfortunately for Jordan- and I try not to dwell on this- two of the three cruises he will be on are the eleven day ones, which are filled with the animals as I described in the previous entry. I felt that I might have been too hard on them before, but seeing them up close once again confirmed my belief that they are primarily gross and ugly (on the inside) people. Jordan has been resilient, choosing instead to see their inherent goodness. But I think the rest of us are looking forward to resuming the ten day cruises on January 2nd.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Portrait of an Eleven-Day Passenger

We have noticed that while the ten day cruises are full of fun-loving respectful people, the eleven day cruises tend to be comprised of hateful whiny babies. On our last eleven day cruise, I was in the steam room/water-born virus center when several middle-aged men entered and soon began a conversation. One of them asked the other if he and his partner had resolved some problem they had had the day before. “Oh, God no,” sighed the other man, “That was yesterday’s issue. Roger and I had gone down to get some stamps for our postcards yesterday, and they did this whole song and dance about how it would be “no problem” to mail them from here and how they would “absolutely” go out blablabla. Well, come to find out today that they won’t go out until we get back to f---ing* New York. I mean, Roger was livid. He had spent all afternoon writing nine postcards and now they won’t be able to be mailed until we get home? He was furious.” I tell this story not only because it is going to have bearing on later events, but also because this kind of response is typical of the eleven-day cruise passengers, where their vacation is ruined because their postcards won’t have a postmark from a foreign country. Anyway, I left soon after that because I had to get ready for the show that night, little thinking how soon I would see them again.

The men from the steam room, plus their partners, ended up sitting in the front row of our show that night. They were wasted. I should also mention that the man who had relayed the postcard story was wearing a see-through shirt. At first, I thought they loved the show. Lines in scenes that never got laughs were getting raucous responses, and I thought we were in for a good time. Their slightly buzzed reverie, however, soon gave way to drunken belligerence. We play an improv game called Scene Tag in our show, and I have to get a bunch of suggestions for it, including a line of dialogue that you have said that day. When I asked for this, Mesh Shirt’s boyfriend said, “(Name of Cruise Line I work on) sucks.”* I was momentarily taken aback that I knew exactly why he thought the cruise line sucked and I debated bringing up the whole postcard fiasco, but better judgment prevailed. While I usually take the first suggestion I hear (provided it’s appropriate for an all ages show), I’m enough of a scaredy cat that I thought the higher ups would somehow get upset if they ever heard about it, so I weakly laughed and said, “How about something that won’t get me fired”* and moved on.

Our problems with the front row resurfaced during our next game. Randall, Beth and I were all playing it and it was going fine when all of a sudden Postcard Guy started yelling out the name of the Cruise Director (whom we’ll call Sammy for the sake of this entry). Since he was so far gone, it sounded like, “Saaammy! Sam-MEEE! Sammy sucks! Sammy sucks!” At this point I began to think that this guy had an unreasonable expectation about how the U.S. Postal Service works off a ship in the middle of the ocean. Luckily they left soon afterwards and our show was able to continue undisturbed. And while I never saw him again, I knew two things about Postcard Guy: he loves his postcards and he loves the word “sucks.”

*He said the real swear word. I am editing for content because I think sometimes my grandmother reads this.

*He said the actual cruise line. I’m just trying to keep this as generic as possible to avoid hurt feelings.

*Probably a sign that I’ve been working on the cruise ship for too long. Singleton acts like jugglers, stand-up comedians, and ventriloquists say something to this effect whenever they say something remotely controversial, and when I say “remotely” I mean “not at all.” It’s a hack line and I apologize to everyone in the audience for saying it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


On Monday it was my birthday, and the ship decided to dock in Cozumel so everyone could celebrate. We got off the ship early and made our way through the stores in the downtown area. After this, we enjoyed a delicious lunch at a local, authentic, Mexican restaurant.

Following lunch, Paul, Sue, Beth, and I got in a cab to go to Playa Mia, a beach resort that one of the Shore Excursion guys recommended to us. This place was perfect. It had a floating “iceberg,” a large inflatable toy with rungs on its side, in the water and we quickly swam over to conquer it. But it proved to be a lot harder to climb than it had looked from shore. After a few minutes of floundering, Sue and I managed to get up, but then we found ourselves in the awkward position of helping two middle-aged British men up as well. These men were pretty forthright about demanding our help. I was sitting on one of the ledges of the iceberg, contemplating my past twenty-nine years on the planet, when one of the man’s arms shot into my view.

“Here,” he cried. “Grab my arm!”

I leaned over and pulled him up, pretending I was in the first scene of “Cliffhanger” and trying to save my best friend’s girlfriend from plummeting to her death. I expected that as soon as he got up to the ledge, he would try to climb to the top. Instead, he sat next to me and we awkwardly looked out at the ocean for the next few minutes. Then Sue made her way up, and we both helped her onto the ledge. This new addition spurred the man to make his way to the top, a process in which Sue almost took an aqua sock-clad foot to the temple.

After he left, Sue and I realized that we had to get off the iceberg quickly, since the man’s friend was fast scaling the side. Sue slid off, and then I followed, shouting, “You won’t beat me, Forty!” (Side note: I have two favorite bits right now. One is to pretend that I’m turning forty, in the hopes of people saying, “You look great for your age!” The other is whenever a sentimental song is playing on the radio, to say, “I sang that at my high school graduation.” Both bits are met with polite indifference by the public at large.)

After the iceberg all that was left to conquer was the trampoline bungee jump. I paid my eight dollars and then quickly got set up. The man running the whole operation was setting me up in the harness and making what I thought was polite conversation. He asked me where I was from, and I said Chicago, and then he asked me where my family was, and I said Massachusetts. I was somewhat taken aback that he was so interested in why my family wasn’t with me, but I figured that it was part of the Cozumel Customer Service that we’ve heard so much about. But he shook his head at my answer. “No,” he said, grabbing his crotch, “Your family.” Thus proceeded an awkward tightening of straps with which I’ll spare you the details.

The trampoline was much harder than I had anticipated, quickly turning my arms and legs to jelly. The kindly attendant quickly transformed into Bela Karyoli, demanding that I stick my landings, push off harder with my legs, and then perform a never-ending series of single, double, and triple flips (I never really mastered the triple flip – Bela kept shouting, “Flip faster!” – but there’s always next time). Even when I said that I had had enough, he made me do one more double flip before he let me down.

Sue got on next, and jumped for a couple of minutes, but the harness cutting into her thighs proved to be too painful to withstand. There was an awkward two seconds where we were all nervous that Bela wouldn’t let her down before she did her final demanded double flip, but he politely backed off and let her down.

That night we all ate at the Mexican restaurant on the ship, in keeping with the day’s theme. The waitstaff gave me a cake and sang “Happy Birthday,” which made me feel special. In all, it was a great day.

Me conquering 29

Sue doing her Ya-Ya Sisterhood Impression

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Halloween (a little late)

Here are some photos from Halloween. We all tried to have a ship theme for our costumes. I went as a Bingo Card, Beth went as a Krack-it (the ship’s scratch lottery ticket), Paul and Sue went as crew ID cards, and Jason went as The Typical Passenger. This pandering had its rewards, as Paul and Sue won third place in the costume competition. Randall had about a million brilliant costume ideas but ultimately decided not to dress up, which was everyone's loss. Our group was in the distinct minority of not dressing in "sexy" costumes: there was a Sexy Devil, a Sexy Angel, a Sexy Little Miss Muffett, a Sexy Cruella DeVill, and a Sexy Cat. There was also a terrifying Mummy Costume comprised of dough and toilet paper that I did not take a picture of, but you would have had nightmares if you had seen it. I have also put up some photos from our Disney trip in the “Bum-Bum’s Birthday” entry and hope to have pictures from my birthday celebration tomorrow. Enjoy.

Paul and Sue

Beth with Harry Potter

Me and Beth; I grew a goatee for ten weeks in late October/early November. It has since gone.

Jason, posed shot

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


I've taken to mentally handing out awards to passengers who I think have done something particularly noteworthy or kind. This can be for anything as simple as holding a door open for an elderly person to dressing up their infant in a captain's costume (which I think everyone with an infant on a cruise ship should do). I refer to these as Brennies, and in my mind, the award ceremony is simple and tasteful with the winners allowed ample time to give their acceptance speeches. Last week I only gave out one Brennie, although I suspect there was a lot of shameless campaigning. We had just gotten back from St. Maarten and were eating ice cream by the gangway when we witnessed a nine year-old girl crying by the bathrooms. An older woman in a black tank top and thick New York accent swooped in and quickly took charge. She comforted the girl, found out which ship she was on, determined the last sighting of the girl's parents, marshaled someone over to said location of last sighting, and then distracted the girl by complimenting her on her braids. The whole thing was handled efficiently and positively and I quickly nominated and awarded her a Brennie. The girl's family turned out to be in the rest rooms and were soon retrieved. When they were all reunited the Brennie winner didn't make any value statements about leaving your emotionally fragile daughter unattended in a foreign country, but simply made sure everything was okay and discreetly walked away.

Beth and I watched the reunion for a few minutes (we still had to finish our ice cream so it wasn't like we were stalking them or anything), but it rapidly became uncomfortable. The mother (who kind of looked like a 1985 version of my Aunt Kathy if that helps you) clasped the daughter to her bosom and they locked in together for a few minutes. The daughter was still crying and the mother was dramatically stroking her hair, her eyes closed as if your daughter forgetting that you had told her to wait outside the bathroom was too intense a human tragedy to witness. The rest of the family stood around looking at them awkwardly, all of them clearly viewing this as a well-worn routine on the little girl's part. The older sister was around twelve, wore a lot of bright blue eye shadow, and had the hardened look of someone whose busy schedule of sneaking cigarettes with members of the reggae band was being interrupted. The older brother just looked sad that he was missing a week of lacrosse practice. But like last week's winner, the Brennies don't make value judgments about who gets helped, they just recognize good deeds done out of a good heart.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Freedom of Talent

The Talent Shows have been especially rich the past few cruises. I don’t know if it’s because the cruises are slightly more expensive so they cater to a higher class of customer, but whatever the reason, we have been the beneficiary. Last cruise a seventy year-old Ruth Gordon lookalike danced to “Roxie” from “Chicago.” She didn't do more than wave her arms, cross the stage a few times, and wink suggestively at the audience, but then she really didn't need to. She wore her hair in a bob and had a possibly authentic flapper girl costume. She was a big hit.

We knew we were in for something special this week because we had run into the Show Band after they had had rehearsal. They were all laughing and wiping away tears and implored us to come. We were hooked. The show began inauspiciously enough with a man in a U.S. Flag tie and what possibly could have been a toupee singing “New York, New York.” A Canadian Woman (and the eventual winner) who was celebrating her birthday delivered a soulful rendition of “Something to Talk About” and then a young man played “The Greatest Love of All” on the piano (you’ll be relieved to know they’ve moved the piano further out on stage so know the piano playing contestants are visible to the audience. I don’t know if this improves their chances or not as none has yet to win).

And then the bombshell. A middle-aged man from New York who kind of looked like he might teach seventh grade science (based solely on the short sleeve dress shirt and thick glasses; I apologize for stereotyping) sat at the piano bench. He fumbled with some sheet music and then announced that he had written an original tune “criticizing President Bush and his war in Iraq” to the showtune “Razzle Dazzle” (from “Chicago”). This information was quickly met with scattered applause and more resounding boos. I am sorry to report that as a piece of satire it wasn’t very strong, and as a piece of piano playing it was even worse. The lyrics were along the lines of “George Bush isn’t very sma-art/ Razzle Dazzle them” and then he would fumble through the hook for an excruciating five seconds. Perhaps spurred on by the sight of an (extremely) easy target, those who did not agree with his viewpoints began booing and catcalling him. They began pretty generically, along the lines of “Boo! Get off the stage!” and then evolved into the angrier (and more retroactive) “You commie pinko!” One person shouted, “Immigrate” but since it’s a homonym, I couldn’t tell if they meant to immigrate to a different country or to emigrate from the United States. He finally ended and walked off stage and we all nervously wondered what would bring the night back on its tracks.

But in a masterful stroke of running order composition, an elderly woman was the next to take the stage. She sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in a high soprano and had the peaceful look of someone who had spent the last forty years leading her church choir. After the last performance I could sense how satisfying and thrilling it had been for people to boo a performer and I was tempted to shout out, “Take it back to Russia, you Nazi bitch!” Fortunately, better sense prevailed.

The audience’s healing was completed with the next performer. He was an eighty-one year old man who danced to “Staying Alive.” I hate to throw around words like “exuberant” and "rapturous” but that’s exactly what his performance was. He just bobbed and shuffled around stage for five minutes and it was delightful. The rest of the performers were the usual: an old woman singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and two little girls dancing to “Hollaback Girl (Radio Version).”

I would have thought it would be impossible for someone to still be angry after the elderly dance recital. Yet apparently at the show’s end, when all the performers gathered on stage, an old man in the audience held up his index and middle fingers (ironically the peace sign) and shouted at the Razzle Dazzle man, “This is how many wars I fought in! And I didn’t fight in them so that you could get on stage and denigrate our President!” This is all a paraphrase as we had zoomed out as soon as the winner had been announced, but it was all the other performers were talking about the next day.