Sunny Santa Cruz

We’re enjoying a daytime off on La Palma today. Gorgeous sunny day with a nice breeze which is keeping it cool enough to bare!

We have a show tonight- “Tropical Fever”, which should be interesting. At least it should be suitable weather for it, and the current bunch of passengers seem a good sort. πŸ™‚

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Location:Av MarΓ­tima,Santa Cruz de La Palma,Spain

Complex Cobh

Cobh (Cove) is an interesting place. To be brutally honest- and no doubt I’ll be offending someone by saying this – but I think it seems to have more going for it in it’s past than in it’s present.

To be fair, today is a bit grey and damp, and nowhere benefits from that kind of backdrop. The town is a one-horse kinda place, with some pretty buildings and obviously situated on an impressive natural bay.

As it’s a Sunday, there is not much open other than the Churches and the convenience shops. So I am hunkered up in a local hotel to get my Wifi fix.

Although I had given up on the town, and heading back to the ship shortly I’ve just been accosted by Johnny, who was initially asking me about my iPad and turned out to be a very interesting guy. So we had a nice chat about computers, film stars and pulling pints. And as he’s a rare and antiquarian book seller, I have his email address in case I’m ever looking for anything!
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Location:Westbourne Pl,Cobh,Ireland

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen

I’ve just been sitting in the Rose garden next to the Rosenborg Palace, and it’s truly beautiful. The weather is stunning today – clear, blue skies; bright, warm sunshine. Something of a “Mary Poppins” moment, with the scent of the rose bushes wafting around, and little scurries of sparrows taking a wee dust bath in the gravel path at my feet. Just remove the tourist hordes, and it would be perfect! πŸ˜‰

Both times that we’ve visited Copenhagen we’ve had lovely weather, so my opinion of the city may be coloured by that somewhat… but it’s another great European city.

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Location:Kongens Nytorv,Copenhagen,Denmark

Hot in Helsinki

…well, actually I’m fairly cool at the moment! Sitting in the shade with an iced coffee, so I’m keeping out of the sun for a while.

We’re docked in Helsinki, Finland today and as we were unable to get off last time we visited, it’s great to have a chance to explore the city a little.

Having read the tourist blurb on the little guide book, it appears (and actuality confirms) that Helsinki is quite a ‘modern’ city – historically, the main available building material being wood, which has, on the whole, been lost to fires over the years – with the bulk of the architecture being constructed in the past century or so. No doubt there are notable exceptions, but I’ve sadly not got many hours to root them out!

Neil and I are doing our cabaret tonight, so we have a sound check with the band later this afternoon. Just time to finish coffee, and snap a few more photos before heading back. A day at sea tomorrow, so you can bet it’ll rain!!

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Location:Centralgatan, Helsinki, Finland

Easing round Estonia

We’re in Tallinn today – and it’s fab. Enjoying wandering around the old town and snapping happily away at all the mediaeval architecture and little squares, towers, minarets and so on- really pretty.

I’m currently sat in the gardens at the foot of St Nicholas’ Church (Niguliste) enjoying the sun and the free wifi provided by the local council (take note!) I’ve withdrawn 250EEK (Estonian Kroons) and have not really checked the exchange rate, so have little idea what it’s worth… So I think I need to grab some lunch in a cafe somewhere and find out!

Off to St Petersburg tomorrow, and it will be the 1st time I’ve managed to get ashore there, so I’m looking forward to it.

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Super Stockholm

Well, I’ve enjoyed it here- the last time I was in Stockholm was over 20 years ago on a visit with the Scouts (yes, I was a Scout!) and I don’t really remember much about the city.

It’s great though- lots going on, plenty of history, fab architecture, lots of parks and open spaces…love it πŸ™‚

Sadly we only have a few hours to enjoy it, but I think I’d like to come back and spend a bit more time.

Off to Estonia tomorrow and a stop in Tallinn…

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Location:Regeringsgatan,Stockholm urban area,Sweden

Morning in Kristiansand

We’re docked in Kristiansand, Norway this morning. Only for half-a-day, so I managed to force myself up this morning, and off the ship by 8:30… Quite impressive for me!

It’s a pretty town, and the weather today is stunning, so I wandered through the town, along the river, around the forest, by the Harbour -the works!

The town was empty this mooring, what with it being a Sunday I imagine, and it was beautifully peaceful. A little less peaceful now as about 3,000 cruise passengers have descended. Hey ho.

Heading back on board now… But maybe and ice cream first πŸ˜‰

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Location:Markens gate,Kristiansand,Norway

Azura A005 – Day 1 (26th May 2010)

Ummm, where did that month-and-a-half go?? I’m not sure… well, I do have an idea – it’ll have gone on doing shows and rehearsing quite a lot!!

We’re actually on our 4th cruise now (it’s named A0005, but our 1st ‘real’ cruise, the maiden voyage, was A002 – get it?) and the time is racing by. Although we manage to jump off the ship every now and then (not literally!) and run to an internet cafe (!) tt’s been pretty tough work at times, as there is such a lot of material to learn, and then get each show up and running in the theatre. We’re working on our 7th show this coming cruise, with 2 more still to do. It’s great to have the variety of material, but it does lead to some slight brain freezes at times!

“My Generation” is what will be keeping us busy for this next cruise, along with some pre-rehearsals on the vocals for “Reel To Reel” and “Tropical Fever”. I must admit, given some of the weather we have had on the 1st few cruises, I hope we wait a while for “Tropical Fever” as it’s our outdoor deck show. Brrrrr!

Although we won’t have much time to see them, this cruise is our 1st ‘Baltic’ cruise, which is one I’m really looking forward to, as it includes some cities and I’ve never visited, and ends up at St Petersburg, which is very exciting. Hopefully when we re-visit this cruise later in the year I’ll be able to spend some time ashore and get a feel for the places.

Neil & I managed to get our cabaret spot up and running on this last cruise, which was great fun. It was a little nerve-wracking at times, but we got through it. We were accompanied by the fabulous boys from Jet Set, which certainly helped as we knew we could rely on them (except perhaps for the odd ‘segue’!) The response and comments from the audience after the show were really encouraging, so we’ll look forward to doing it on some future cruises as well.

I am going to attempt to do some more blogging from now on (not sure how I’ll fit it in… I can but try!) so hopefully it’ll be a little more frequent than once ever month!!

Azura A001 – Day 5 (5th April 2010)

As I write I’m sat out on Deck 16 enjoying the last hour or so of sunshine on a very welcome (and rare!) evening off. 

Today started with a Crew safety drill at 9.30, so we donned our warm clothing, grabbed our head coverings and lifejackets and headed down to our muster station. The ship had been “moving” (!) somewhat during the night and continued to do so this morning, so by the time we got to rehearsals there were a few green faces amongst the cast. That even applied to some of the more sea-hardened travellers in our merry band, but once we got rehearsal underway and broke for lunch, things felt a bit calmer – phew!
We had a technical run-through with the band on stage in the afternoon, which went without any major hitches, so after a quick costume fitting for the show we were broken – in time to make our daily outing to the gym. Since leaving the shipyard (and because the Officers’ Mess is being remodelled) we’ve been lucky enough to be sampling the cuisine in some of the onboard restaurants, as they prepare for passengers to come aboard from next week. Lucky passengers too, I say! So I have just come up from another sumptuous dinner in the Peninsular Restaurant and am getting a late evening sun tan at Breakers Bar. It’s a tough life!!
BUT it hasn’t ALL been suntans and cocktails thus far – there’s been quite a lot of hard work too (honest!) As I’ve not had much time to keep up with the blog, I’ll try and do a few ‘catch up’ sessions with photographic evidence over the coming days, so you can get up to date with the story so far.
It all began 19 days ago……

Azura (Monfalcone) Day 1 – 18th March 2010

(Ready for the off at Heathrow)
As our rehearsal period in London came to a close, another started for us over at the Fincantieri Shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy – where Azura has been under construction. We arrived from London – via Munich, and via some minor baggage stresses… no names mentioned (Neil!) – and were bussed from Trieste airport round the coast to Monfalcone – about 20mins – and then onto the shipyard to get our first view of our new home!

(Our first view of our new home…)You could tell by everyone’s reactions that she certainly made an impression! Following a quick introduction meeting from the Cruise staff (Neil, Benne and Jack) we headed on board, and began the process of finding our way around the ship. The Headliners Theatre Company (us lot… HTC) had been assigned cabins on Deck 4 and Deck 7, so -with a little help from some crew who knew better than we! – we found our cabins. 
The next milestone, once we’d been issued with some “happy feet” (you might notice these in some of the pics… plastic shoe covers to protect the carpets around the ship – can you guess why they’ve become christened “happy feet”….??), was to be taken in to see the Playhouse Theatre for the 1st time. More general excitement all round and a fair amount of screaming from some.

(Welcome to the Playhouse Theatre)
It was great to finally see the place we’d be performing these shows that we have been working on for such a long time. The technical team and stage crew were hard at work as we arrived, and running a little bit of “Destination Dance”, so we got a little feel for things right away. The next task was to get escorted en-masse and head down to the Officers’ Mess to meet our next vital requirement – food. At every turn there were (and still are!) things to learn – rules to abide by, traditions to figure out, names to remembers, routes to forget and re-learn (!) – so for those of us who were not fully versed in life on a ship, the first few hours and days were quite an eye-opening experience. And tiring too – so, night all!

Azura (Monfalcone) Day 2 – 19th March 2010

(Sporting my fetching Hard Hat – you like???)
Following a breakfast that you could easily get far too used to, we were issued with perhaps not THE most attractive fashion accessory – our hard hats. Although we were lucky enough to join the ship fairly late on in the building process, there was still a fair amount of work going on around the ship, with lots of bangs and clatters from the Fincantieri staff building and finishing off various parts of the ship. What with the headgear and the happy feet, we looked terribly dapper.

We had a number of safety inductions during the morning, for both ship-wide things and also specifically for the theatre – lots to learn and remember again. Finally after lunch we got the chance to get on to “our” stage and start rehearsals proper for Destination Dance in the theatre. There’s always quite a lot to take on board in a new performing space, so we scrabbled our way through the day getting used to the space, and the pieces of set, and the routes backstage and so on.
(Neil & Sarah sampling the delights of Monfalcone)
And following a brief encounter with an Italian TV crew, we finished for the day and decided to make a brief trip into town (Monfalcone) to see what it had to offer.

Azura (Monfalcone) Day 3 – 20th March 2010
On the whole we had all figured out our preferred routes to the 3 most important places for us on the ship at the moment – our Cabins; the Theatre; and the Mess! I think we all had the odd geography malfunction and ended up somewhere that we didn’t recognise, hadn’t been to before, and had no idea how to get back from… how many times that happened I shall keep to myself!
(The girls sorting out the ‘Carnival Cloak’ bit!) We spent the day working on ‘Destination Dance’ technical rehearsals. There are quite a lot of technical “things” happening throughout the show – including things flying, things rolling, things going up and down … and that’s just the dancers! As it’s a new show and a new theatre there were a lot of things to be sorted as each new section was reached. As ever with technical rehearsals things can take a little time, but it certainly gives you a chance to get things back in your head that you learned back in January!

We worked through to the evening, but our day wasn’t over once we’d finished rehearsals as we had fitting sessions for the raft of costumes we will be wearing in the show. Although the show is only 45 minutes long, there are as many (if not more…) costumes as you’d find in a 3 hours show. Lots of quick changes – so a fair amount of Velcro needed too!  Ellie & Kate have their work cut out for them… forgive the pun πŸ˜‰

(Charles and I sporting out Lion King cossies….ooooh!)