Last week I spent five days aboard the Saga Sapphire in Southampton:
While docked, it acted as a hotel, allowing passengers to experience what Saga have to offer. I was booked to play for them, but I had no idea what would be expected when I got down there.
I gave a lift to the trombone player in the band – Matt – and we set off from Manchester at just after 5am on Wednesday. We arrived pretty much bang on time but had to wait a while before boarding. I got numerous comments of ‘don’t you wish you’d played the violin?’. One day I swear, someone will say that and I will respond ‘wow, YES! Why did I not think of that before, here, take my harp, I’m leaving to find a better life!’
Basically, I had no idea what was going on, how long I would be playing each day, where I’d be staying (i.e. in a ‘crew’ room or a ‘guest’ room) or where I’d be eating. Once on board I was told the lifts weren’t working and I was to take my harp to the 8th deck (are you KIDDING?!) they sent me down to 4th deck to find my cabin, only there was a man in there watching telly, so I trundled back up to reception and asked for another room. They gave me this lovely room on 8th deck:
Not sure why I got a twin room but at least my bags had somewhere to sleep. The weird thing about it was, as it was an inside room (no windows) you can turn off the lights at any point during the day and it feels like night time! Ideal napping territory.
I was told that I was to eat in the restaurant, with the guests, and oh my, the food was divine. Wine was included with dinner (dangerous):
The steak was also to die for, I had chocolate cake, lots of chocolate cake every day and it was amazing. And yes, I may have gained a little weight while I was there but I was having such a lovely time it didn’t matter!
So my job on the ship was to play background music while the guests were having afternoon tea. Every day we had different guests and every day they were really receptive and I got lots of applause (rare for background music) and I was also thanked by the Cruise Director several times, which was lovely. So I would play for an hour, have some coffee and pastries, then play for another hour, have some cakes, then play for the last 45 minutes or so. Dream job? Yes. Here’s my harp on stage:
In the evenings, from around 6.30, there was a cocktail party in the lounge where champagne was on tap – uh oh – and the guests were welcomed by the Captain and the Cruise Director. Dinner was after that (did I mention the amazing steak?) Then at 9.30pm Steve Terry would sing his Cabaret set, Bobby Darin, Michael Buble, things like that, I loved it! At around 10.30pm the dance troupe would start their Mo-town show, all singing, all dancing – I saw this maybe twice or three times while I was there and really enjoyed it, then at 11pm the UpBeat Beatles started playing and everyone danced. They finished around midnight, when I would go up and listen to the cocktail pianist/piano entertainer Martin Orbidans play until around 1.30am. Any song you can think of, he knows – he even managed to get me behind the microphone singing Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man – I was having a great time and no one walked out, amazing! On the last night I managed to get a photo with Steve and Martin so here we are:
So the evenings were pretty full, in the mornings I was either sleeping, or having a swim in the spa on the second deck, which I pretty much had to myself…
So yea, had a lovely few days and didn’t want to return to normal life really – I wanted to stay on the Sapphire and sail to the Med! Never mind, I would jump at the chance to do some more work for them. It’s also got me thinking how much I’d love to travel and play – I’m discussing the possibility of going out to somewhere in the Middle East/Asia to play in a luxury hotel for 3-6 months. I mean, it sounds too good to be true, all food/accommodation/flights/visas paid, I would get to stay in a swanky hotel and play every day – and I would earn good money doing it – more than I make now, working every day either in the shop or teaching or gigs. I’m seriously thinking about it. I turned it down last year, don’t think I’m going to be turning it down this time. Watch this space!