Thanks to Cast Member Mara Jill Herman for this fun post. Enjoy!
Two weeks ago was particularly exciting because three best girlfriends from New York came on board ms Veendam for the week. It was wonderful to have all of our catch-up–on-life chats and also play tour guide while in Bermuda. The week started off beautifully with lots of beach time, good drinks and great laughs.
Wednesday and Thursday involved lots of fun at the Crystal and Fantasy Caves, a cove of stalactites and stalagmites that are formations that resemble a frozen waterfall. Fantasy Cave was even the location for a Beyonce photo shoot in 2008! Other highlights included Elbow Beach, Latin Rumbar and Snorkel Park. We were however mentally prepared for the chance of leaving Bermuda one day early, due to Hurricane Irene, so we all made the most of every moment.
As predicted, we left Bermuda on Thursday at 6 pm, with an estimated New York Harbor arrival on Saturday at 9 am.
The amazing part about heading back was the smoothness of the sea. That tranquility was juxtaposed with the bleak reports as we became glued to CNN and Fox watching the breaking news unfold. As Mayor Bloomberg said over and over again, it truly felt like the calm before the storm.
With reports of possible 70mph winds and 6-12 inches of rain, flooding and wind damage was a true threat. We watched the news as the MTA shut down citywide for the first time in New York history due to weather! (The last time the transit system shut down in my lifetime was during 9/11, an eerie but similar feeling of an unknown). I knew Broadway shows would follow shortly, and sure enough, on Friday afternoon it was announced that shows would perform that evening but would be dark for the entire weekend! Another first in my lifetime … so much for “The show must go on!”
The Hurricane did impose some added fear, especially because my ground floor apartment is close in proximity to the Hudson River. According to the zonings, however, I wasn’t in terrible danger and my neighborhood wasn’t evacuated like many other sections of the city and five boroughs.
Without incident, albeit not much sleep, we arrived Saturday morning to Pier 90 where we always dock at 50th and the Hudson River. Then we basically just waited and waited and waited for whatever was to come. Over 1,000 passengers disembarked that day while about 400 stayed on. Most of the remaining passengers were from other parts of the region and had nowhere else to go and no transportation so they tried as best they could to enjoy their last day on the ship.
As an entertainer, this was a crucial moment for me. People often go to the theater, movies or see concerts to escape their woes. In this instance, we knew New York might look like a ghost town, a storm was brewing, there was overwhelming media hype, yet my cast had a job to do.
We performed our show, Stardust Lounge on Saturday evening, merely a few hours before the main attraction, Hurricane Irene. In our little self-contained floating hotel, the remaining passengers were our appreciative audience. Our show went on without a hitch: The Veendam never lost power or had any outside interference. My only observation about the weather that evening was some light drizzle and wind and some fog. Nothing I hadn’t seen before. However, the West Side Highway was pretty dead for a Saturday.
We only performed one show that evening instead of two and when I returned to my cabin, I was once again glued to the news. I stayed up until 3 am, anticipating a glimpse of the storm from a ship’s vantage point. I ended up passing out from sheer exhaustion and didn’t wake up until noon the next day! After all that, my sleep was uninterrupted and I didn’t feel a thing!
When I woke up the next day and saw the bright blue sky I actually laughed! I couldn’t believe it. I was expecting a black sky and for it to be raining cats and dogs. Regardless, I’m happy that our city erred on the side of caution and that the storm was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it hit New York. I know that my parent’s house on Long Island lost power but there was no physical damage.
Due to the abnormal scheduling, I helped with embarkation and it was actually very exciting because I got to learn a new skill. In the middle of the shift, I heard from the event manager that crew was permitted to leave and “All Aboard” was at 1 pm Monday! An overnight in NYC was a dream come true!
Although the ship is docked in NYC and I disembark for about 6 hours every Sunday, its not quite the same as having an overnight. My friends and I were thrilled to go to dinner together so I picked a local favorite in midtown (Vynl) and lucky for us the Video Music Awards were projected onto a screen in the restaurant. The simple little pleasures you get with a change of environment, different food, great serendipity of watching a televised music awards show gave us all a “high on life” feeling.
Even though we left New York a day late, the staff had to operate in a state of normalcy. The cruise ship industry strives for customer service, so even though performing at sea is my job, the majority of people I am in contact with are on vacation. This is a special balance I always have to remember to maintain. Hence why on Saturday when Broadway was down, our show did go on both off and on the stage!