(Or How Rob Cut Off His Finger and Casey’s First Solo Show)
By: Casey Martin
Cruise Ships! When Will we finally start working on Cruise Ships?
Long story short. We got a cruise ship agent because of our appearance on America’s Got Talent.
After months of waiting we finally got the email from our agent asking us if we would be available to perform on the Crown Princess over Thanksgiving and Christmas! We confirmed immediately! Our first cruise ship work! Of course we only got the gig because the dates were over the holidays when no other reasonable performer would want to work, but we thought, who cares! We are a couple and no matter where we are during the holidays we will at least be together.
We were both thrilled to be performing on a cruise ship but at the same time utterly terrified. Neither of us had ever set foot on a boat larger that a ferry. There were so many questions… SO MANY! We were nervous about bugging our agent. We didn’t want to come off like needy girlfriends.
How do we get from the airport to the ship? How much luggage can we bring? How many shows will we be doing a day? What if we get sick? What if the seas got too rocky to perform? Who tells us what to do when we get on the ship? What if we pig out on all the buffet food???
Our first destination was Puerto Vallarta. (Do we need to speak Spanish?) I had to look it up on a map because I’m an American. Turns out it’s in Mexico. How fun! I had only ever been to Tijuana before and that was for an underage drinking excursion that ended with my group of friends having to bribe the Mexican policia to get back into States (Public Urination Charge–and no, it wasn’t me).
Our good friend David Aiken informed us that we would NOT have to walk from the airport to the port. There would indeed be a person designated to pick us and drive us to
hotel. In fact, this designated person would be taking us to a hotel that the cruise line paid for!!!!
How is this a gig?
It sounded too good to be true. Tropical locations, free rides and hotels. What could go wrong? We were still nervous but also very excited to be going on what sounded like an all expenses covered, paid-vacation. David told us that we would likely perform every day we are on the ship (1-3 shows a day). Finally he also told us that he couldn’t help us with the pigging out situation.
Jump to a couple of months to Thanksgiving week. We fly in to Puerto Vallarta. We get past the gauntlet of taxi drivers trying to grab at our luggage and find our designated guy to pick us up. Hey! He speaks English! Everyone does down here.
Princess Cruise Lines puts us up in a resort hotel for the night and the next morning we are chauffeured to the ship. As the cab drives to port we see a massive ship looming above us in the crystalline Puerto Vallartan waters. Wow. This thing looks like a skyscraper lying on its side.
After a short wait the cruise director comes out and gives us our “crew cards.” These hook up with a credit card and allow you to buy stuff on the ship. And then we were just sort of left to wander the ship. So of course the first thing we did was hit the buffet. And then we learned about “Code Red.”
At this point I would like to talk about code levels on cruise ships. A typical ship hovers around green or yellow. Green means everyone is healthy. When a few people report symptoms of nausea, vomiting or diarrhea the ship moves up to yellow. It’s only when mass numbers of guests and crew are experiencing intense symptoms does the ship move up to the rare code red level.
Having never been on a ship before we walked onto the Crown Princess while in the midst of a full blown Code Red. A week earlier the Crown had an outbreak of Norovirus so virulent that it made national news. We knew none of this and walked onto the ship thinking fear and panic were the typical emotions of the guests and crew.
The crew was constantly cleaning and wiping down the elevators, the door handles, the floors, the counters and even the walls. No limes or fresh fruit could be served in the drinks at the
bar, hand sanitizer stations were set up at all eating areas and it was mandatory for the guests to use them before entering. All your buffet food was tonged on your plate for you. They had to quarter off and sanitize rooms that people recently vomited on. And the worst part of it was that the crew was kept completely isolated from the guest areas when off duty. They had to keep to the crew mess hall, the crew gym and the crew recreation areas and it deeply affected their morale.
Now here’s the really interesting part. Our job title on the Crown Princess is “Guest Entertainer,” meaning we have both guest and crew status. We are the only people in the entire ship to have this title. So we are allowed to go into the inner belly of the ship where they store the food, house the engines and even to that place like on the Titanic where Rose and Jack made love in the car. It also means that even during a Code Red we are the only people who can enter both the crew and guest areas. Needless to say were the luckiest people on the ship and also the riskiest.
Most of this code level stuff we learned about moment by moment on our first cruise. We could tell that many of the guests were anxious and upset and that many of the crew were frustrated by their lack of access to the ship luxuries. We took heed and tried to keep clean and focus on our first show.
Now you might have already heard about the big disaster that occurred on our first cruise if you follow us on social media. But I’ll sum it up again right here. We were very nervous about our first show. The waves were rocky and the CD (Cruise Director) had shown up to check us out. In a nutshell, the first show went perfectly! We had no reason to worry. The CD even told us that she “loved the show and had never seen anything like it on a cruise ship” He also said “You guys will be working a LOT for us”.
Right after our first show we triumphantly glided through the ship taking in the praise and chatting about what life on more cruise ships might be like. We were so happy that it went well and started thinking about the next show that was coming up in a short 45 minutes.
And this is when it happened. I suggested we step outside on deck 7 near ‘Club Fusion.’ As I opened the deck door I noticed how gusty the wind was. I slipped out quickly and Rob followed behind with the door slamming closed behind him. While leaning out to look at the water I heard Rob mutter my name. I will always remember the way he said it. It was calm, quiet and had a disturbing intensity. Given the circumstance it was the complete opposite of how a happy post-show Rob should sound.
I turned back around and saw Rob holding his hand tenderly. Again, he spoke in an extremely calm voice and said that he thinks this is really bad. The very heavy outside deck door had blown shut on his left middle finger. Blood was pumping out of his finger and dripping all over his hands and arms. We get back inside and look at his hand again and see that the tip of his middle finger is hanging on by a tiny thread of skin. Now even more blood is spilling out and getting all over his jacket and shirt. I knew I had to something, so I chose to panic.
The first crew member we encountered turned and ran when he saw all the blood. Maybe this was beyond his pay grade. The second crew member calmly escorted us down to the ship emergency room. Hey! They have emergency rooms on cruise ships! (I found out the hard way that they also have morgues.)
In my head I figured we had enough time to fix Rob and still pull off some version of the show together. It wasn’t until Rob was laying on a table with the doctors sewing his finger tip into his nail bed that I looked at the clock and saw that I had 10 minutes till show time.
With Rob going into shock I had to make a very hard decision. Do I leave him here and do the show alone or stay? I had never done a solo show in my life and the thought of it unnerved me. I was already thoroughly freaked out after watching my boyfriend get stitched up when I made one of the scarier decisions in my life. The show must go on. I ran up the steps to prep. As I raced to the Piazza I still found time to worry. A lot. This being our first cruise I didn’t want to screw up the show and jeopardize the entire contract for us. We both very much want to break into this new market. I couldn’t believe how unfortunate this all was.
With only minutes to spare, I threw together props for the show and hacked into the ship’s
speaker system to set up the sound cues. Luckily, I had watched the sound tech guy type in the 4-digit password from our earlier show and memorized it for emergency situations (so lucky).
I did an impromptu version of our show and it actually worked. It wasn’t perfect but the guests stayed and clapped and even cheered at the end. I had performed my very first solo show under the most dire of situations and somehow pulled it off.
I got back to the pale as a ghost and shaking Rob in the ER in time to see the doctor
showing him an X-ray of his finger. You can clearly see the top bone severed in two. Horrible looking. Of course we quickly took a picture of it and put it on Facebook.
And now the plot thickens. The Cruise Director heard about Rob’s injury and forbade us from performing for the rest of the cruise! Oh no! This is it! We will never work on another cruise ship again! But then she suggests…
“Unless Casey can do solo shows for the rest of the week.” My mental jaw dropped but somehow my mouth formed the words, “Well, yes, of course I can do that.”
We buckled down. On cruise ships you have to do a different show every night so every day was spent converting our duo show into a solo show.
It was an exhausting but ultimately rewarding week. It was bizarre circumstances that led to my very first solo shows but I’m happy that I finally had the courage to step up and take
the big plunge. To be completely alone and yet completely in control is truly a marvelous
experience. I wish Rob’s finger hadn’t been cut off and sewn back on during our first cruise, but if there is a bright side to dismemberment that is it.
Towards the end of the week we even convinced the CD to let Rob back in the show if we could conceal the injury. A good challenge I must say. At port we took a cab to a Rite Aid and bought the only gloves we could find… work gloves. We stuffed Rob’s bandaged, swollen hand into that thing. It looked ridiculous to us but no one mentioned it. And so in 3 short days Rob was back climbing atop a guy’s shoulders and juggling knives!
We were still quite worried that we would never book another cruise after all the trouble we caused. We completed our cruise over Christmas without any problems and thought that was it. All done. No one will want to book a juggling act that can’t keep their fingers attached to their hands.
Much to our surprise the bookings came rolling in after our Christmas cruise! Right away we booked 5 cruises to Alaska, 2 to Hawaii, 2 to the Bahamas and 2 to Mexico. In fact, I am currently on a cruise ship while I write this and they just promoted us from a Piazza act to a Princess Theater act! People say they would give up their right hand to make it in showbiz but really you only have to give them the finger.