So you may have noticed that I stopped writing journal entries a short while ago - okay, maybe it was a year and a half ago. But I’m not going to try and make excuses. When you’re travelling around the world, sometimes you just have to stop and enjoy the scenery. Which I did. To see just how things ended up, take a look at my map. It’s quite an achievement – travelling 91,212 miles, I stopped 180 times aboard the ship, bringing the total number of countries I’ve visited to 64, a whopping 29% of the entire world! Go ahead and look at all the brand new photos I’ve just uploaded. I’m smiling as I peruse them because I can’t believe how much my life has changed since then, how much it has grown and evolved. I’ve worked with two new companies for the better part of the last year and a half, one of them within a week of disembarking the ship. I’ve performed five, particularly unique shows with those companies as a singer, a dancer, and a full-time swing. I’ve met a wonderful guy who has put up with my crazy schedule, and with me, for over a year now, and all of this while continuing my travels! So though this may be my final journal entry about the cruise, it’s clear I still have many more adventures to come...
So let’s get started! Where did I leave you last? Oh right, Berlin! As I look at my itinerary now, I recall why I stopped writing altogether. It was because after Berlin, I didn’t really visit a new port for about a month and a half. It was nice enough in the Baltic, what I sort of consider the Caribbean of Europe, but too much of anything gets old, and by the beginning of September, we were all ready to leave.
We made our way down the coast of Europe, stopping in memorable places like Amsterdam, Paris, and Portugal until eventually we travelled into the Mediterranean. From this point on, I’m sure I couldn’t have kept a journal because one thing I quickly learned about the Med is that all the ports are very close together. No more stretches of sea days or repeated ports to write journal entries during. No, this was serious touring all over again. We visited some of the highlights that I had been looking forward to for the entire eight months we had been on board. That’s right. Eight. Months. Keep that number in mind later. We visited Spain, Monte Carlo, Italy, Greece, and the southern coast of France – all extremely memorable ports. But as we boarded passengers in Athens for the last leg of our journey, a serious problem arose.
Apparently this next cruise, featuring ports like Israel, Egypt, and Venice, had experienced trouble before. In fact many of the passengers boarding that day were returning for their second attempt at the cruise after its cancellation exactly a year prior. They were about to find out that they weren’t going to be taking the cruise this year either. It was times like that I was glad I wasn’t in charge. All of us were obliged to stay below deck for the seemingly endless few days it took to schedule every furious passenger a flight home. It turned out that the ship had a major problem with the propulsion unit that left her completely incapable of making it to any of her ports-of-call. Therefore, the company decided that it was best to cancel the segment and send her in for repairs. The ship was already supposed to go in for a month-long dry dock at the end of the cruise, so when it had to be cancelled, they chose to terminate our contracts early and send her in ahead of schedule. We were initially a little bummed to be missing a few of our highlights – Israel, Venice, pre-revolutionary Egypt – but what choice did we have? The decision had been made. We would be disembarking as soon as they could get us off the vessel.
Now, remember how long we’d been on board at this point. That’s right. Eight months. Now add the month that had passed since then and you’ll understand why, as excited as we were to see those unforgettable new places, we were ready to leave. And personally at that point, I needed to get off that bloody ship! I wanted to be back home, where I had a car, a cell phone, and a bedroom that didn’t float. I wanted off. So for the most part, we were happy to hear the news that we would be leaving early. The day couldn’t come soon enough that we would be disembarked in Monte Carlo. We spent one night in a hotel and then flew home the very next morning - October 11th, 2010.
What happened next I can only describe as serendipity. About a week before disembarking, I was put in touch with Spirit Productions, a new company I had never worked for before. They were hiring for a Christmas show in Myrtle Beach, and exactly one week after arriving back in the States, I was to begin rehearsals for Christmas on Ice, an all-new show they were producing. But first, I got to enjoy a little time in Alabama with my Dad and the rest of my family. Oh, and the Civic, which my little brother had been taking care of for me since I left the country. I was admittedly more excited to see the Civ than most would consider normal, but let’s face it, I drove that thing off the lot. She’s really the closest thing I have to a child. Anywho! After a nice visit with everyone, I packed up the Civ and hit the road.
As I drove to South Carolina to begin my next big adventure, I was ecstatic to find out that one of my best friends, Cory Moreno, would be doing the show with me, and that he would be my new roommate! The company manager called me halfway through my transit to South Carolina and just happened to mention, “…oh and I think you might know your roommate. His name’s Cory Moreno?” I practically did somersaults out of the moving car. Because after all, this was the first contract I was starting without knowing a single person. In fact, I had just been lamenting this detail to my Mom when the company manager called. All of that changed when I heard those words. Christmas on Ice turned out to be a rousing success at the Palace Theatre, and Myrtle Beach was never the same after ChiChi Moreno and I reunited for a few glorious months!
Once the show opened, I went out one unremarkable Friday night to an unremarkable local bar. However, that evening I met the most singular individual I’ve ever met in my life. Kevin Pope is six feet tall, has light brown hair, and stunning blue eyes. He’s twenty-five, actually just a day older than me, and he is the most shockingly honest and brutally opinionated person I know, which isn’t always a good thing! He’s smart, he’s confident, and he’s charmingly blunt, and we have spent the last year together travelling, laughing, and dining on some amazing cuisine. Kevin’s an AMAZING cook! Check out some of the pictures below. He’s very fun to be around and made the rest of the Christmas contract, and every moment since, quite entertaining.
After the show closed, my next contract with Spirit Productions took me to Niagara Falls, Ontario for a show called Celebration of the 60s. Kevin joined me in Canada for a while before we both returned to Myrtle Beach for my last two contracts with Spirit, Hooray For Hollywood and The Magical Spirit of Ireland. It was a great group of people to work with, and I wish it could have lasted longer. Unfortunately, both shows closed around the middle of May.
So Kevin and I spent the better part of June, July, and August travelling, visiting some places we had wanted to go – New York, Charlotte, Indianapolis. Kevin surprised me with Britney Spears tickets, King’s Dominion tickets, and a day on the lake. We had some really amazing dinner parties along the way too. (As I mentioned already, cooking is something Kevin does unusually well.) We even made it to Pride in August. It didn’t take long though before my next gig came along last fall in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
What can I say about working for Fee/Hedrick Entertainment in Pigeon Forge? The people I met at the Smoky Mountain Opry were great. Honest, talented, funny and most importantly, loyal. They really took care of each other, and The Smoky Mountain Opry Christmas Spectacular, as it was called, was a success purely because of their virtues. Chad, Scott, Stacy, Jeremy, TC, Kris, Kat, Candice, Elise, Alyssa, Andrea, Claire, and Jessie – they were simply one of the greatest casts I’ve ever worked with. I miss all you guys like crazy! And to top it all off, my Mom, Dad, and Kevin were all able to make it to Pigeon Forge for the holiday season.
That brings me to where I sit now, back in Myrtle Beach, waiting to start my next big adventure – this February, I’ll be making my debut as a dance captain for the premiere performance of The Smoky Mountain Opry Show! That’s right people, I have another contract and a new job title coming! I am moving on up! Only bigger and better things for me from this point on! To keep up with all my still-to-come exploits, visit my professional blog to see where I’ll be performing next!
Thank you so much for coming along with me on this amazing journey. It certainly hasn’t been without its ups and downs, but after all, the best journeys aren’t in straight lines…