Returning to the Real World

I’ve now been home for about a week and a half.  In that time, I’ve reflected a lot on my experiences the past 8 months.  Overall I had an excellent first contract.  I was challenged in many ways, but also liberated.  I saw many new places and met some wonderful people.  Returning to “the real word”, normal life, has proven to be a bit of a challenge.  Right now, I don’t want to be in the real world.  I want to continue the adventures.  I want to seize the day, take chances, make mistakes, and live my life.  But more on that later…

Voyager of the Seas

Voyager of the Seas

First, I want to share a few of the highlights from my contract on the Voyager of the Seas.

Best Tours

Dancing on the Great Wall

Dancing on the Great Wall

Riding elephants in the rain

Riding elephants in the rain

I cuddled a koala!

I cuddled a koala!

Best Beaches

Bondi, famous for a reason!

Bondi, famous for a reason!

Relaxing, sunny spot!

Relaxing, sunny spot

Small and beautiful

Small and beautiful

Best Nightlife

Everybody in da club!

Everybody in da club!

Overnight = endless fun

Overnight = endless fun

Most Beautiful Countries

Milford Sound. No filter needed.

Milford Sound. No filter needed.

A little bit of everything. A lot of beauty!

A little bit of everything. A lot of beauty!

Favorite Overall Ports

Full of possibilities

Full of possibilities

Nagasaki Bridge

Nagasaki Bridge

Obviously, I had a pretty incredible time.

While working on the ship, many things were taken care of for me.  I felt more relaxed than usual, and loosening the reigns a bit allowed me to grow.  I was less stressed, more carefree.  I felt like a person, rather than a walking calendar.  I was less focused on budgeting, and more focused on experiencing.  It was wonderful.

San Francisco, my home sweet home

San Francisco, my home sweet home

When I returned to San Francisco, I felt like I never left.  While it was comforting to return to such a familiar environment, I expected to feel different.  I’ve changed, so why hasn’t the city?  Shouldn’t I be seeing things differently?  The longer I spend there, the more I feel myself slipping into my old skin.  I’m acting like the person my friends remember, rather than the person I’ve become.  The main challenge of this vacation will be learning how to blend the two versions of me.  I must learn to face reality without losing my sense of freedom.

Leaving the ship

Leaving the ship

Over the next few months, I’ll be traveling around the country to visit family and friends.  I was very isolated on the ship, so now there are a lot of people I want to reconnect with!  During this time, I will not be posting.  The blog will be up and running again at the end of April when I return to Florida to start rehearsing for my second contract.  Then, I’ll be embarking on a European tour on the Adventure of the Seas.

All smiles :-)

All smiles 🙂

Thank you for reading, and stay tuned!

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Bathing Beauties

Making our mark

Making our mark

Sadly, last week we stopped in Jeju for the last time.  The island is very quirky, but I enjoyed each day I spent there.  Instead of trekking out to see lava tubes, some girlfriends and I decided to have a relaxing day on the beach.  It was the first beach day we’ve had since leaving Florida!

In need of some sun!

In need of some sun!

Shortly after arriving at the beach, we bumped into one of the new ice skaters.  He had to go back early for training, but left us his Frisbee to play with.  I must admit, I am terrible at Frisbee!  I had fun trying though.

Frisbee fun

Frisbee fun

While we were playing, we befriended a group of American and Canadian guys that were also spending the day at the beach.  They were part of an overnight ferry tour from Seoul, where they’ve been teaching English classes for the past year.  After spending so much time with Chinese guests and crew, it was nice to meet some other Americans!

Such a lovely beach

Such a lovely beach

We grabbed lunch on the patio of a small restaurant on the beach.  They had delicious smoothies and sandwiches.  I’ve gotten a little sick of the food in the mess, so I thoroughly enjoyed having a good meal!

Our lunch spot

Our lunch spot

After lunch, we took a little walk and ran into some other friends from the ship.  We spent another hour or so on the beach with one of our singers and some of the shop workers.  It was great to have time to talk about things other than work.

Relaxing with friends

Relaxing with friends

I made it through home with a little sunburn and a big smile.  It was a perfect day!

Perfection

Perfection

Lost in Loveland

WARNING: Some of the photos in this post are very inappropriate.

I found love!

I found love!

Before I entertain (and possibly disgust) you all with photos from my trip to Loveland, I’d like to apologize for my absence.  We’ve been visiting new ports, so I’ve been out exploring rather than writing!  The good news is, I now have lots to share.

On a recent stop in Jeju, I accompanied two of my cast mates on a trip to Loveland.  What, you may ask, is Loveland?  Wikipedia describes it as “an outdoor sculpture park… featuring 140 sculptures representing humans in various sexual positions.”  The park website describes it as “a place where love oriented art and eroticism meet”.

Words cannot adequately describe the park, so here are a few of my photos.  I hope they don’t make you too uncomfortable!

Yes, those are breasts

Yes, those are breasts

Keeping it classy with marble

Keeping it classy with marble

A mother photographed her baby on one of these benches...

A mother photographed her baby on one of these benches…

"A Dog Always Follows His Master"

“A Dog Always Follows His Master”

Awkward...

Awkward…

Interesting

Interesting

"Arrows" found throughout the park

“Arrows” found throughout the park

This was different...

This was different…

"Take Your Pick". Yes, the faucets work.

“Take Your Pick”. Yes, the faucets work.

Check back soon for details from Toyoma and Sapporo!

Seoul Man

Last week, I was finally able to go to Seoul!  We frequently port in Incheon, but taking the train from there to Seoul takes more time than I usually have available.  Since we had an overnight in Incheon last cruise, I decided to make the trek.

Seoul skyline

Seoul skyline

I set out with a large group of friends, unsure of what exactly we wanted to do.  We got directions at a tourist information booth in Incheon, then hopped on the train.  Compared to Bart in San Francisco and the subway in New York, the trains in Korea are impeccable!

Palace #1

Palace #1

We got off the train downtown and quickly found a palace.  We weren’t able to go inside, but the exterior of the building and the ceiling of the bridge it sat on were beautiful.  Next, we wandered through a market before stopping at a café to refuel.

Bridge ceiling

Bridge ceiling

When we hit the street again, we came across a lovely fountain.  We then set out to find another palace.  On the way, we had to go underground to cross the street.  We had an unfortunate encounter with a screaming Korean woman.  I am still not sure why, but the woman was shouting, at no one in particular at first, then she started directing her anger towards us.  She came dangerously close to slapping me, but luckily my dance captain came to my rescue.  We quickly went upstairs, and luckily were not followed.  My heart was beating so fast!

Market

Market

Fountain

Fountain

We saw a very tranquil looking area nearby, and decided that would be a great place to calm our nerves.  The area was actually a palace built in the Joseon Dynasty called Deoksugong.  The grounds have temples and beautiful gardens, as well as Western style building that is now an art museum.  The sun was setting while we were walking around, and the soft light and gentle breeze were wonderfully refreshing!

Temple at

Temple at Deoksugong

East meets West

East meets West

Upon leaving, we heard music.  Following the sound, we came across an outdoor children’s concert.  We watched a little boy play the harmonica and heard a group sing a folk song before we moved on.

Open Night

Open Night

Our final stop was dinner!  We found a delicious Italian restaurant near a shopping mall.  I’ve been surprised how good Italian food is in Korea!  I was grateful for the walk back to the train station, after stuffing my face with pasta and bread.  The train ride home seemed extra long, but wasn’t too difficult.  We got a shuttle back to the ship when we got to Incheon, and were “home” shortly after midnight.

I don’t know if I will have another opportunity to go to Seoul this contract, but I enjoyed my day there, and would love to see more!

Lots to do in Jeju

We have stopped in Jeju many times now.  Unfortunately, this port always has fallen on a show day, so instead of sightseeing, we have just gotten coffee and good internet.  Due to a storm last cruise, we ended up in Jeju a day early, meaning we could actually explore!

Waterfall #1

Waterfall #1

Some friends and I rounded up 3 cabs to take us around the island.  We drove for nearly an hour to get to the first destination: a beautiful waterfall.  After wandering around and taking mass amounts of photos, we got back in the cabs and went to see the volcanic rocks along the coast.  There was information about the different kinds of rocks, a statue filled promenade, and random figurines.

Volcanic rock

Volcanic rock

Dolphin!

Dolphin!

Our third stop was Chocolate Land!  It’s a chocolate café, museum, and school all in one!  A few of us decided to take the chocolate class, and were able to melt chocolate, pour it into molds, and take home our homemade confections.  In case you haven’t noticed, I am a chocoholic, so this was heaven for me.

Chocolate school

Chocolate school

We ended the day at another waterfall.  We weren’t able to get as close to the fall at this location, but there were other beautiful sights to see, including a large bridge and 2 smaller waterfalls.

Waterfall #2

Waterfall #2

Driving back to the ship, we laughed at the plethora of other activities in Jeju.  There is a Safari Museum, a Women Diver’s Museum, a Dinosaur Museum, which confused a friend of mine (“I thought dinosaurs were extinct?”), and an erotic park called Loveland.  There is also an art museum and planetarium, in case we decide to go somewhere “normal” next time!

Beautiful bridge

Beautiful bridge

Back to Busan

Occasionally the ship ports in the same place for 2 days, giving us the option to stay on land overnight.  My first “overnight” experience was last week in Busan.

I hadn’t been to Busan since joining the ship in early July.  It felt strange being there again.  I feel like so much has happened in the past month and a half, but being back at the port, I felt like no time had passed.  My perception of time is very skewed!

At the port

At the port

I got off the ship mid-afternoon on the first day in Busan.  My roommate and I shared a cab with some members of the sports staff and had an amusing conversation with the driver.  In broken English, he asked if I was from Singapore.  As a fair-skinned ginger, I was quite surprised by this question!  When we got downtown, I took advantage of free, fast internet at a cafe.  On port days, everyone uploads photos on Facebook, so I was flooded with notifications all afternoon!

We returned to the ship for dinner and a short rest, and then took cabs out to Hayundae Beach.  A few of my cast mates, some ice skaters, stage staff members, musicians, and a few officers all met up at a bar called Thursday Party.  Our cab driver wasn’t sure where we needed to go, so he dropped us off in the neighborhood, and I ended up asking the concierge at a hotel and a few people on the street for directions.  Luckily, my nonverbal communication skills are pretty good these days, and we found the spot without too much trouble.

Finally at Thursday Bar!

Finally at Thursday Bar!

We split into smaller groups, wandered into a hookah bar, and ended the night (or, more accurately, the morning) at Burger King.  Upon returning to the ship, I climbed straight into bed.  A few hours later, we went out again for coffee, internet, and shopping!  I have to say, cinnamon mochas are incredible!

Good ol' BK

Good ol’ BK

While I didn’t really have a cultural experience in Busan, I feel like I was able to see a different side of the city than I would with normal sightseeing.  All in all, I had a great first overnight!

We’ll be returning to Busan next month, and I intend to go to the aquarium, some temples, and a famous tower.  I hope the next stop there is just as fun!

Golden Birthday

On August 25th, I hit a different kind of landmark… a landmark on the road of life.  I have now lived for a quarter of a century.  I was a little stressed out in the days (actually, months) leading up to my birthday, because I started thinking about how drastically different my life actually is compared to what I thought it would be.  As a child, I imagined that I would go to college, get married shortly after graduating, have babies around 26, and live out my days in marital bliss.  Instead, I deferred college, joined a ballet company, moved to San Francisco alone, and am now on a ship.  While I’ve had significant relationships, I’m nowhere near walking down the aisle.  I started fretting about how quickly time passes, and how much more I want to do while I’m still young.

Ice Skating!

Ice Skating!

When the clock struck 12 on the eve of my birth, I was skating on the ice rink on board.  I don’t remember the last time I went ice-skating, and I had certainly never skated in the middle of the ocean!  I am shockingly clumsy for a dancer, and while I felt like Bambi on ice, I managed to stay on my feet the whole night!  I was so proud!

We all scream for ice cream!

We all scream for ice cream!

The morning of the 25th I had a tech run, then promptly got off the ship.  We were ported in Jeju, South Korea.  I went with some friends to a café, where I enjoyed another cinnamon mocha and was able to Skype with my family and a few friends.  After that, some cast mates and I wandered to find lunch.  While we were searching, we came across a carnival, and ended up going to ride the Viking Ship.  I laughed so hard I cried as we rocked back and forth on the ship, just the 3 of us.  We then found a delicious Korean barbecue joint, ate ice cream cones, and got back on board in time to nap.

My goodies

My goodies

That evening, we performed Music in Pictures.  I loved having the chance to be on stage on my special day.  Since our show times fall in the middle of dinner, we always get food in the theater after our performances.  My cast surprised me with a delicious chocolate cake along with our show food, and also gave me some really nice gifts.  I got a hand-drawn “Ginger Ninja” card, a stuffed koala bear, and a bottle of bourbon.  They know me so well!  I also got 2 bars of dark chocolate from my roommate, and a box of Ferrero Roche chocolates from one of the singers.  Yum!

With some of my dancer girls

With some of my dancer girls

I ended the night with a drink with friends in the staff bar.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that my beverage of choice had finally been restocked!  The timing could not have been better.

My birthday buddy

My birthday buddy

The next day, I was able to sleep in, and after 2 Farewell performances and a parade, got dressed up for my party!  One of my cast-mates was celebrating his half birthday on the 24th, so the 2 of us had a joint celebration.  We had a white party, complete with black lights loaned to us by one of the light techs.  Our clothes glowed, as did our smiles.  It was a fun night, full of shenanigans.

The cast in WHITE

The cast in WHITE

Now that I have passed this landmark, I see that I was worrying for nothing.  Although my life is different than I thought it would be, it is full of love.  Instead of spiraling into a deeper state of panic, I have become more aware of what I have already accomplished and experienced.  I am excited to see what the future will hold!

Inching through Incheon

Land, Ho!

Land, Ho!

Even though the Voyager is a large ship, I’ve felt like a caged bird for the past week or so.  Getting off the ship and setting foot on land was just what I needed to settle my anxious spirit.  Luckily, my first opportunity to disembark was at an overnight port, so I had plenty of time to wander.  I was able to get off Saturday evening and again Sunday morning to take in the sights of Incheon, South Korea.

Chinatown in Incheon

Chinatown in Incheon

Originally, I had planned to take the train into Seoul, but I ended up staying closer to the port and exploring the smaller city with some friends.  Saturday afternoon, we wandered through Chinatown, and found a lovely wall of murals.

Mural wall

Mural wall

We proceeded into Jayu Park, where we found a multitude of diversions.  The first point of interest (for me at least) was a tasty little coffee shop on the outskirts of the park.  The coffee on the ship leaves much to be desired, so I thoroughly enjoyed my latte.  Outside the café, there was a giant teddy bear and random sculptures.  I couldn’t resist jumping on the unicorn statue!

Unicorn!

Unicorn!

Walking deeper into the park, we came across what appeared to be a Jazzercise class working out to “Gangnam Style”.  The class was thoroughly amusing, as was the crowd.  There was an adorable little boy driving around in a toy Mercedes, an old woman secretly participating in the class while hiding in some bushes, and kids of all ages chasing giant dragonflies.

Gangnam Style Jazzercise

Gangnam Style Jazzercise

Baby Boi

Baby Boi

Near the stage, we came across the statue of General MaxArthur and an outdoor gym.  Why there were weight machines in the park is beyond me, but there were a few women that were very thankful for their existence.  I briefly hopped on a weight machine for a minute of my required daily workout.

General MacArthur

General MacArthur

I'm a beast!

I’m a beast!

We continued wandering, and ended up running into more of our cast mates near some of the shops.  The 9 of us found a Korean barbecue restaurant to stop at for dinner.  We sat on the floor in a private room and enjoyed a massive feast for just $16 each!  I have no idea what some of the condiments were, but it was very tasty!

Dinner time!

Dinner time!

After dinner, we stopped in another the many cafes for gelato and wifi!  Once we had all reconnected with the outside world, we took the bus back to the ship.

Hitting the streets

Hitting the streets

It is now late Sunday morning, and I am enjoying another latte in Incheon.  Next on the agenda is a walk through Sinpo Market and a bit of shopping!  We have to be back on board around 2pm for a tech run, and tonight are performing the Broadway show again.

Rhythm and Rhyme

Rhythm and Rhyme

Check back soon for details about my trip to the Great Wall of China.  It’s just 2 days away!

Set the Stage

Since we signed on, we’ve been in “install”, meaning we are installing the productions in the theater.  Transferring the shows we learned in Florida to the stage is quite a process!  Due to long tech rehearsals, performances, and trainings, we’ve been unable to exit the ship for over two weeks.  Today our rehearsal director is signing off, officially marking the end of our install period.  Trainings and rehearsals will continue, though with less intensity.

La Scala Theater on the Voyager of the Seas.  My home theater!

La Scala Theater on the Voyager of the Seas. My home theater!

The evening of the 19th we opened our second show, “Music in Pictures”.  In terms of stamina, this show is much easier for me!  I was less nervous than I was for the opening of the Broadway show, so I was able to really enjoy my time on the stage.

The "talls" and our leading lady

The “talls” and our leading lady

After the second show of the night, we celebrated the opening with a champagne toast and snacks.  It was nice to be able to chat more with the band and production team.  It turns out my Production Manager sometimes works with Texas Ballet Theater!  We have a number of mutual friends/acquaintances in Fort Worth.  What a small world!

Champagne toast

Champagne toast

The following morning, we had to set the Welcome and Farewell numbers on the stage.  Waking up was rather challenging, so I appreciated that the rehearsal wasn’t too long.  In the afternoon, I completed my Safety Training.  I learned how to properly jump into the water in case of an emergency, how to climb into a life raft from the water, and how to flip a life raft.  After that, I was finally able to get off the ship!

Private tour of the bridge

Private tour of the bridge

Check back tomorrow for tales of my escapades in Incheon!

Happy thoughts!

Happy thoughts!

Let’s Get Down to Business

Written 7/13/13

Time has flown by since I joined the ship last Friday!  After signing on, we went straight into orientation.  Various safety and policy trainings have been spread throughout the week, in addition to rehearsals, costume fittings, parade rehearsals, and practice safety drills.

En route to the ship

En route to the ship

Days have started blending together in my mind, and my sleep patterns have been more than a little unusual.  The only constants have been meal times, though today I was unable to even make it to lunch.  We had our first full dress rehearsal of the Broadway show this afternoon, and have just one more run in costumes before we open the show!  I’m struggling with some of the quick changes, so I hope I can move faster tomorrow.

The water has luckily been pretty smooth during rehearsals, but simply being on a ship while dancing has added a whole new challenge. There are also a lot of intricate costumes and large prop and set pieces in all of the productions, so they have dramatically escalated in difficulty.  I was teased quite a bit during our parade tonight (first one!) because I looked somewhat panicked every time I left the parade route to change props.  I spent most of the day essentially paralyzed by anxiety.

The ship has stopped in Tianjin and Jeju, but I’ve been unable to go on land because of rehearsals.  I’m looking forward to getting off the ship and exploring soon!  I’m especially excited to go to Jeju.  From what I can see, it’s beautiful.

Home sweet home

Home sweet home

I’ve made the most of the little free time I’ve had on the ship.  I’ve met some people from other departments, went to a crew skate night, attended a “strum session” at the staff bar, and went to a beach themed crew party.   I was also able to see the previous production cast perform our Movies show and watch the ice show!  I’ll start helping with lights for the ice show soon, so it was nice to see what I’ll be dealing with.

This week has been a roller coaster.  I’ve had emotional highs and lows, feeling joy, anger, and everything in between, but overall, I’m still optimistic.  Once I get into the swing of things (and stop getting lost), I think I’ll have a great time.

Port updates coming soon!