Update August 2, 2002
June of '98 we finally realized one of our biggest collective dreams,
and began working full time as musicians. We walked away from our
"real" jobs and boarded the M/S
to spend the summer (June to September) cruising from Manhattan to
Bermuda. On September 12 the Crown itinerary changed from Bermuda to
Canada, with stops in Boston, Portland, Sydney and Halifax (Nova
Scotia), Quebec City, and Montreal. What a change in climate from
Bermudan summer to Nova Scotian autumn!
October, our first ship contract complete, we headed for home, and
after a short respite, hopped a plane for Honolulu and the M/S
We spent the holidays cruising the ports of Kona (Hawai'i), Fanning
Island, Hilo (Hawai'i), Lahaina (Maui), and Nawiliwili (Kaua'i). Sure
was tough spending New Year's Day on a beach on Maui! In January, after
a repositioning which included San Diego, the itinerary changed to the
Panama Canal Run, including stops in Acapulco, Mexico; Puerto Quetzal,
Guatemala; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; Cartegena, Columbia; Oranjestadt,
Aruba; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. No snow to shovel this year!
Contract Three/Four; Ship
a short vacation in April, we returned to the Crown and the Bermuda run
for three too-short weeks. Then we flew to Europe to board the S/S
This ship, originally named the S/S
was comissioned as a cruise ship in 1960. She was considered the Grand
Dame of the Norwegian Fleet until 1999. During our 8 1/2 weeks we
managed to get three weeks off in Barcelona, Spain, while the crew
repaired the damage from the May 29 fire. Well,
hey, ship happens!)
did we know that our next move would be a more permanent one! In July
of '99 we got off the S/S
in France and flew (via Mom & Pop International!) to
Bremerhaven, Germany, to get aboard the brand spankin' new M/S
The ship first sailed on August 9. We did a few European cruises, then
set sail (Labor Day weekend) for the Colonies. The cruise was five days
of smooth sailing! But on our first Boston - Quebec City trip, they ran
the brand spankin' new Sky
hey, ship happens! After
six weeks of cooling our heels (and hands, and ears, etc.) in Quebec
City, we managed to get in a couple Caribbean cruises to the ports of
Nassau, Bahamas; San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, USVI; Georgetown,
Grand Cayman; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; and of course the NCL Private Island.
A short vacation notwithstanding, we were there, on the Sky, in the
Caribbean, until April 16, 2000.
another break we rejoined the Sky, this time in Seattle, Washington, to
go to Alaska for the first time. The Sky had never been there, and
neither had we. Although Alaska was beautiful to be sure, we took a
vote and decided that visiting snow-covered mountains was NOT
the reason Off Center left Pennsylvania to get a job on a cruise ship!
November 8, 2000, we flew to San Diego, CA, to board the M/S
After a Mexican Riviera cruise, and a long "reposition" cruise through
the Panama Ditch to Miami, we returned to the Caribbean, visiting
George Town, Grand Cayman; Roatan, Honduras; Belize City, Belize; and
Cozumel, Mexico, until March 24, 2001. Our first contract
aboard the Wind had us playing in Lucky's, the Observatory, and even
out by the pool for New Year's Eve.
eagerly accepted an offer to return to Europe when Holland America
offered us a contract on the new M/S
Built in 2000, the Amsterdam is truly a beautiful ship. The
25-week contract, which was our longest to date, included an exhaustive
(if exhausting!) tour of Europe. Starting in Rome, we visited Tunisia
(our first trip to Africa!), Malta, France, Morocco (Casablanca, but we
didn't see Bogey!), Portugal, Gibraltar, Monaco, Spain, Belgium,
England, Holland, Scotland, Ireland (North and South), Norway, Denmark,
Sweden, Germany, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Guernsey, The Faröe
Islands, Iceland, and Greenland. Then we headed across the
Pond for 40 days and 40 nights in New England and Canada. This trip was
supposed to have been between New York and Montreal, but because of the
events of 9/11/01, our New York plans were changed to Boston.
Although we made a lot of new friends working for Holland
America, we were happy to finally take a break in October to spend the
holidays with our land families, as opposed to our ship families.
this writing we are about to embark on a new experience: a masted ship.
Windstar Cruises runs a fleet of ships that are a fraction of the size
of the other ships we have worked on. The Wind
is the largest of the fleet, with 154 staterooms and 165 crew, which is
over three times the size of the other Windstar ships.
However, it tows in at a mere 14,745 tons. And compared to
the 77,100 of the Norwegian Sky or 61,000 of the Amsterdam, it's less
than a quarter of their weight. Should prove for some real
rocking and rolling! The beam (width) is slightly over half
of the other two, and the length is 615 feet, compared to the 853' Sky
and the 780' Amsterdam. Speed is another big difference.
While the Sky can do 23 knots in a hurry and the Amsterdam is listed at
24.5, the Wind Surf is listed at 10-12 knots by engine, or 15 with a
fact, our first cruise will take us six days of sea travel to get from
Bridgetown, Barbados, to Fort Lauderdale. After that, we make
regular 7-day runs to the Bahamas to Salt Cay (Nassau), Green Turtle
Cay, Half Moon Cay, and Bimini, and then hit Key West (FL) on our way
back to Ft. Lauderdale. Beats shoveling snow.
to the future: Unfortunately,
our Wind Surf contract was cut short due to a family emergency. The
Wind Surf was great. But as of this update (Aug '02), we are
still cooling our heels in Pennsylvania for an undetermined time. We
hope to get back on tour soon. You can make sure you're up-to-date by
getting on our mailing list. Stay
voice of 2008: Although Off Center still performs
occasionally as a trio, Don is living in Pennsylvania while Melissa and
Larry tour the US as a duo, One More Time. Will Off Center
get back on cruise ships? Hoo nose?
aboard a cruise ship:
OK, so it's
not exactly like a permanent vacation. We have to work every day, and
that can be up to six or seven shows. But we're free during the day
till at least 4pm—usually.
All three of us have had to get
"certified" for Basic Safety, First Aid, and Fire Fighting. It's about
eight hours of classes, and some pretty serious hands-on fire fighting.
We also have weekly crew boat drills, and quarterly Coast Guard drills.
And of course they throw in the occasional cabin inspection, to make
sure we're not trashing the place with our wild nightly parties.
(Anybody remember those?)
The food varies from ship to
ship, the cabins are adequate (if you're not too claustrophobic), and
the scenery is terrific. And we don't have to drive to the office every
day. Knock wood, we haven't had to deal with any seasickness, although we
do get the occasional roller coaster ride. And Hurricane
Bonnie (Crown, 1998) was no picnic! Of course, as Larry is fond of
pointing out, we all had jobs
that made us sick before we came here! (Apologies to our old