Saturday, January 31, 2009

Miami...

It's freezing in Miami today.

As I sit here shivering in this little outdoor cafe, it's 52 degrees. I know that's a bit warmer than it is in Chicago, but it's downright blizzard-like here in Miami. Everyone has on winter coats.

Anne and Jeannie are headed to South Beach while I download Lost, 24, Top Chef and Hell's Kitchen for everyone in the cast. I have once again become the conduit for everyone on the ship for all of these TV shows.

Today we say goodbye to Anne and hello to Jeannie's friend Ella. Ella will be sailing with us this week. That will be 3 weeks in a row that we've had visitors.

I think Jeannie and Anne had a good time this week. They went to Cayo on Monday, Meagan's Bay in St. Thomas on Tuesday, Cane Garden Bay in Tortola on Wednesday and the private beach on Great Stirrup Cay.

Jeannie taught Anne how to snorkel, but I don't think they were too adventurous in the water because up until yesterday they had only seen a total of 2 fish in the water. It was my job yesterday to take them a little deeper into the water so that Anne could see some tropical fish. Unfortunately, we got a little too adventurous and Anne got swam out a little too far and a very strong current swept her out a little further than she wanted to go. I swam out and collected her, but she got a little scared and took off her snorkel. I held her up out of the water as she tried to put the snorkel back on, but the entire situation was freaking her out too much. She would only keep the snorkel on for a few seconds before taking it right back off again.

Meanwhile, the current was pushing us further away from the island. We were perfectly fine and weren't in any danger, but I thought it might be easier and wiser to have the life guard help get Anne back to the shallow water. He dove in and handed Anne a "Baywatch floaty" and guided her back to the shore.

I started to turn around to go back out to snorkel through the current, but realized that if Jeannie so Anne being towed back to land without me, she might get worried. So, I swam back to shore.

I was correct, Jeannie saw Anne being pulled back without me and thought I'd been swept out to sea.

We got back to land and laid down in the beach chairs. I was trying to be cool around the girls, but my legs were a little wobbly. We were fine out in that water and weren't in any danger of drowning or anything, but the whole experience was a bit of an adrenaline and anxiety rush. I was kicking my legs pretty hard to keep Anne and I above the water.

To Anne's credit she handled it very once we got back to land. I was afraid she was going to be upset or freaked out, but she was in very good spirits after it was all over. We even laughed about it once we had all settled in.

For the rest of the day we played it easy and sat on the beach. In the evening we went to the steakhouse on the ship and had a delicious meal. Afterward we met up with our Second City cast and a few of the dancers and played Celebrity.

This morning we woke up to the realization that Jeannie and I only have 14 days left on the ship.

After 8 months, we're almost done.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Passengers...

I try to not complain about the passengers who come on the cruise ships, but...sometimes...they're just too much too handle.

Today...oh brother....

I got stuck in a hallway with 8 of them and I wanted to toss them over the side.

Once a week the ship is required to go through safety testing and drills. All crew members (excluding entertainers) run through fire drills and abandon ship drills to make sure that they are adequately prepared in case there is an emergency. They also test all the safety equipment as well as the fire screen doors and the water tight doors.

These safety drills are done on Wednesday 2 1/2 hours after the ship docks in Tortola. This gives the passengers plenty of time to get off the ship so they aren't inconvenienced by the drill.

And, let me say, it really is a pretty minor inconvenience. The alarms are loud and they go off a couple times, but aside from that the only inconvenience is the water tight and fire screen doors. Once they close they can not be opened for 5 to 10 minutes.

Once agains, that's pretty minor. But, it's also extremely important. If there's something that I want to have checked every week it's the water tight and fire screen doors! Check 'em twice if you have to.

However, as I was exiting the ship, I got stuck in a hallwell as the doors closed. I leaned against the wall and waited patiently for the doors to reopen. The passengers behind me FREAKED OUT.

Not because the door shutting startled them or concerned them, but because they wanted off the ship.

The crew member assigned to the door calmly explained to them that the doors could not be opened until all doors on the ship had been properly tested.

"How long will that take?" wailed one woman.

"5 to 10 minutes," the crew member responded.

"That's it!" screamed one main wearing a flowered shirt and cheap panama hat. "I'm never going on another NCL ship again. That was the last straw."

A woman with 4 chins pointed her finger at the crew member and wailed, "We are passengers on this ship. You can not treat us like this. Open that G**Da** door right now!"

The little Filipino crew shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. "It was shut by a remote control by the Captain in the bridge. I cannot open it until he releases it."

"Bu**Sh**," screamed another man wearing a West Virginia University hat and denim shorts. "I demand you open that door. You can not trap us here. I paid too much money for this cruise to be trapped here like a prisoner."

"You are not trapped here," the crew member politely replied. "You can go back to your room or you can go to the pool or the garden cafe..."

"Don't be a smartass," the denim shorts man snapped. "I don't want to go to those places. I want to get off this f****** ship."

A woman wearing the identical West Virgina hat and denim shorts walked up to the crew member and leaned down to look at his name badge. "What's your name? I am reporting you to your superioirs unless you open that door and apologize to my husband for the way you spoke to him."

"My superior is on the other side of this door," the crew member replied.

"This is outrageous," screamed a woman from the back of the line. "We are passengers! Let us off the ship! Does he not speak any English?"

An old man with his tube socks pulled up to his knees let out a whle strew of obsenities. "This is the dumbest thing I've ever heard of. Why would they do a drill in the middle of the day? Why don't they do it at night when it wouldn't inconvience us?"

I started to point out that they would scream bloody murder if the alarms went off in the middle of the night and disturbed their precious sleep time. I also started to explain to them that the drill needed to be done during the day when the ship was docked...but then thought better of it. These idiots didn't deserve a rational explanation.

A 275 pound woman in a string bikini stepped forward with her hands on her hips. "I saw the Assistant Cruise Director up on the 6th floor by the theater. If you don't open that f****** door right now I'm going up there and having him come down here and open it."

The Filipino crew member stared at her dumbfounded. I wasn't sure if he was dumbfounded by what she was saying or by what she was wearing.

When he didn't answer her, she pointed her finger at him and said, "You just signed your death wish mister." She spun around and marched down the hallway toward the elevators. The rest of the group followed along behind her.

As soon as the elevator doors closed behind them, the bell rang and the water tight doors eased open. I looked down at the clock on my phone. The doors had only been shut for four 1/2 minutes.

"Those people were a bunch of jerks, weren't they?" I said to the crew member as I passed through the door.

He smiled sweetly and pleasently said, "Oh, they were just excited to get off the ship. Tortola is so nice today."

I was amazed at his patience. I'm a pretty patient person, but I would have punched each and every one of them right in their faces. They were jerks.

St. Thomas...

I'm on my own today.

Jeannie's friend Anne is visting this week and they go off everyday and do girl things. So, all week I've been on my own.

It's kind of strange.

Jeannie and I have been with each other 24/7 for the past 8 months. It's odd having time by myself. It kind of feels like I'm back in Chicago ago...minus the snow...and movie theaters...and any sort of quality electronic entertainment.

It's just me and nature.

I did find a cool walkway downtown.
****

I'm the envy of everryone on the ship.

I got a new ID holder.
We norally keep are required to keep our ID's in flimsly plastic sleeves that fall apart after 3 weeks.

This new one is made of hard plastic and is very cool.

I just happened to be in the Personnel Office when they were delivered. I asked if I could have one and they gave it to me.

After I left they realized that the new holders were just for the ship's officers. So, no one else has been able to get one.

People are so jealous.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Family visit update...

Thursday was a sea day so it wasn't exceptionally momentous. Oh wait...there was something...ugh...I caught GI. I have avoided it the entire 7 months we've been on the ship, but somehow, somewhere, I got infected. Don't know what GI is? Well, here's a nice little explanation.

It was not fun. I managed to keep it under control long enough to do my show Thursday night, but I was in a lot of pain. It was though, a fantastic show. Jacob even got up and was an audience volunteer during one of our scenes. He was very, very funny.

Friday we went to the private island. While my parents walked to the lighthouse on the island, Jacob and I went snorkeling. He was able to see hundreds of tropical fish that he'd never seen before. It was great. The water was a little chilly, but not too bad.

Friday night we went to Cagney's Steakhouse and had some delicious Filet Mignon.

Since Jeannie and I only have 3 weeks on the ship, I took advantage of the fact that my parents had driven down to Miami and packed up half of my belongings and put it in a suitcase so it could be offloaded with all of their stuff.

This morning I woke up early and helped them load everything into their borrowed car. I then said goodbye and pointed them in the right direction toward Illinois. I hope they get there.

I think they had a good time. I know I did.

They ate at some great restaurants (Jacob ate sushi!), they toured several exotic Caribbean Islands, they saw 3 of our shows and they got to spend the week in 85 degree temperatures.

This week Jeannie's friend Anne is coming on the ship.


***

Since I'm going to be in Chicago for 5 weeks, I've decided I'd like to teach an improv workshop. I've thought long and hard about what I wanted teach and finally decided on this:

Coaching and Teaching Improv Workshop with Jeff Griggs

Mondays from 7pm to 10pm, March 2nd through the 30th.

Cost $250.00 for 5 weeks.


This is a workshop designed for new coaches, old coaches and those improvisors who want to be coaches.

Too often it is thought that "if you can improvise, you can teach or coach improv". That's not really the case. There are skill sets that need to be learned so that you can confidently present a proper learning environment for those people who are paying you for your improvisational wisdom.

We will be spending 5 weeks improving and honing your improv coaching and teaching techniques and skills.

Among other things we will dedicate time to:
  • Rehearsal and class preparation.
  • Side coaching.
  • Building a strong group dynamic.
  • Giving notes.
  • The difference between coaching individuals and coaching "teams".
  • Sharing your improv perspective to others.
If you are interested in taking this 5 week workshop, please e-mail me at jeffgriggs@gmail.com.


Jeff Griggs is the author of Guru;My Days with Del Close. He has performed and taught improv all around the country (and Caribbean). He is a longstanding member of the IO team Deep Schwa (11 years) and is a member of the 3 person traveling team, Aphasia. Currently he performs for Second City on the Norwegian Dawn and in April he will be performing for them on Norwegian's Pride of America.

He has taught at IO, The Chicago Improv Festival, The Seattle Improv Festival, The Toronto Improv Festival, The Orlando Comedy Festival, Millikin University, Columbia College, The Dirty South Improv Festival and the Illinois Theater Teachers Association Convention.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A wrench...

In the middle of all of the drama with my parents missing their flights and driving down to Miami we received some disappointing news. We're not going to Europe in April after all.

We had been told back in October that we would be going on the Jewel to travel through Europe. We didn't tell anyone until we were certain it was going to happen. Wouldn't you know it, the day after I mention it in my blog it gets taken away.

Apparently, NCL has decided they would like to have Second City change ships. So, we're going on The Pride of America instead.Don't cry too much for us. Here's where the Pride of America is traveling:
We're going to spend the entire summer sailing to all the Hawaiian Islands. We will have no sea days and will also have a 2 overnight stays every week.

It's a very cool itinerary. Jeannie, Brett, our still as yet unnamed new castmembers and I will have a very nice time.

So, who knows, maybe we'll go to Europe in the fall or next year.

Hawaii will be great.

Our first mission is to find "Lost".

After that, we're looking for Obama. That guy's in Hawaii all the time.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Family visit...

After a stressful, hectic Saturday, Sunday was much more relaxing. My parents hung around and got used to the ship during the day.
In the evening we went to dinner at the Venetian and then went to see “Band On the Run”. Afterward, my parents went to see another show while Jeannie, Jacob and I went to the Atrium to watch the Steelers/Ravens game.
Our castmate, James is from Pittsburgh. Needless to say he was very happy. He spent a great deal of time dancing for joy on deck 7.
Monday we were in Samana.

I worked it out so we could go on a shore excursion to our favorite secret, private island, Cayo Levantado.Unfortunately, it was neither secret or private. Another cruise ship had pulled up next to us and sent all their passengers to the secluded island.

It was veeeeeeerrrry disappointing. Instead of a nice, serene, peaceful trip to a deserted island we were accosted from all angles by 2,000 Italian tourist in various stages of nudity.

Now, they weren’t actually nude, but some were pretty close.

By 2:00pm they left the island and it returned to normal. We had a nice quiet time on the beach for awhile and we got them some pineapple and coconut drinks.On Tuesday we took a skyride to the top of paradise point in St. Thomas. It was a great way to see the island.
We stayed up there for quite awhile and had lunch. After lunch there was a cool parrot show.

The parrots... ...roller skated and.... ...rode bikes and... ...stood on their heads. It was fun.

This morning we arrived early in Tortola.

I let my parents sleep in while Jeannie, Tim and I got off early to meet up with our friends from the Gem!

We were so excited to see Brett, Rance, Deanna, Jen and Larrance.
Everybody looks great in these pictures, don't you think?
We ventured over to the Midtown Café and some fantastic coconut pancakes and banana pancakes.

It was great to see some familiar faces from Chicago.

We sat around for a couple of hours and swapped ship stories.

It was great.

They were only Tortola for a few hours so we said goodbye to them and I headed back to the ship to meet up with my parents.

Meanwhile, Jeannie was able to take a tour of the Gem with Brett. Our ship is several years older than theirs and their's the Gem) is quite honestly, a much nicer, and fancier ship.

I took my parents on a 2 hour tour of Tortola. In the months that we’ve come here, I haven’t seen much of the island so the tour was a great treat for all of us. We drove across all the mountain tops and visited several of the beaches. It was really nice.

Tonight we have our show.

We’re all very tired.

I’d like for the show to be good.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Update #2...

They made it.

Literally with minutes to spare.

They got on the ship at 3:25.

They were saved by doing a trick I learned from "The Amazing Race". I had them flag down a taxi cab and tell the cab they would pay them for a full fare if the cab would drive to the cruise ship pier and let my parents follow him.

They made it.

At this point, we all need a vacation.

Update...

It's 3:00 and my parents are still not on the ship.

They are lost somewhere in Miami and can't find the cruise port.

They've been driving around Miami since 11:30.

They have to on the ship by 3:30.

I am now thinking they are not going to make it in time.

Yikes.

Miami...

Oh boy.

Drama.

My parents and my little brother are visiting this week.

Getting down here to Miami from Decatur was not smooth.

Because of the freezing temperatures and -30 degree wind chill they woke up Friday morning at 3am to go to the airport and their car wouldn't start.

After finally getting their transportation situation worked out they missed their flight from Indianapolis to Miami.

The only flight they could have gotten to Miami was on Sunday. That would mean they would miss the cruise.

They decided their only option was to drive to Miami.

So, at 7am they set off on the 27 hour drive from Decatur, Illinois to Miami, Florida.

Along the way the realized they left my mom's cell phone back in Decatur...stepped on my father's phone and broke it...got a little lost...let my father drive and he fell asleep...found out that the hotel they were supposed to stay in last night wouldn't refund their money because they didn't give 24 hour notice that they had to cancel.

My mom drove the entire 27 hours. It's 11:20am and they just arrived in Miami.

You want to talk about 3 people in desperate need for a vacation, that would be my mom, my day and my brother.

I imagine they're going to get on the ship, lay down in their tiny cabin and fall asleep and not wake up for 3 days.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Nassau...

To our utter delight, the waves were too choppy for us to get off at NCL's private island so we were diverted to Nassau.

I've wanted to go there for some time. Jeannie's wanted to go there ever since she got on the ship and saw the commercial for Atlantis on CNN. That commercial seems to play every half hour and Jeannie thought the place looked like a Disney World for grown ups.

We landed in Nassau and got up early to catch a cab to Atlantis.

It was a little chilly in Atlantis. It was only about 73 degrees so we were a little cold, but that didn't dampen our spirits.
Jeannie was extremely excited and went off on a photo taking spree like I've never seen. She took over 80 photos. Crazy.
We walked around the resort for awhile taking everything in. Our first stop was at Jamba Juice.
Sooo good.

After that we headed to the aquarium. There's a free portion to the aquarium that was pretty cool, but we got a hefty "crew discount" off admission so we went into the rest of the aquarium.

It was great. There were several things in there that I'd never seen before.I've never seen a Moray Eel before.
Holy crap. They are scary looking.
When bad people die I imagine these are the creatures that are waiting for them at the gates of hell. These little buggars look like evil personified.
The rest of the aquarium was much more enjoyable.Afterward we walked around the rest of the resort.

The highlight for Jeannie was the water slide off the mock Mayan temple.
She saw that water slide in the commercial and it was her primary attraction to Atlantis.
You slide down the temple and through a tube......that is surrounded by sharks.Pretty hilarious.

If we ever come back here, we're definitely paying a little extra to go through the slide.

While we were at the slide we met up with the rest of our cast. The only one missing was James.After five hours of walking around we headed back to the ship.

It was a very fun day.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tortola...

Holy smokes Chicago!

Are you doing okay?
Watching the news and reading the papers, it looks like the city is being bombarded with snow and cold weather.

I read today that the commute on the Kennedy took people 4 to 5 hours to get to work today.
Yikes.

Now, don't take this wrong because I love, love, love, love Chicago and miss it desperately, but...this weather is the reason I'm sitting in a cafe on a tropical island right now. I spent 36 years in Illinois' winters. I needed to have one off.
And yet...looking at the snowy city...there's a huge part of me that wishes I was there. Right in the middle of all of it.

***

Today is the 213th day we have been working on the Norwegian Dawn.

That's 7 full months.

It also means that we only have 1 month left.

30 days and we're off the ship.

Crazy.

These 30 days will go by really fast. We have guests coming to visit for the next 3 cruises. It's wild. In the past 7 months we've only had one visitor, my sister Melissa.
That's Melissa, Jeannie and some drunk 15 year old kid who kept asking Melissa and Jeannie for hugs.

Now we have 5 people coming in 3 weeks starting with my parents and my brother Jacob. They'lll be traveling with us for a week on the 17th.
Jeannie's friend Anne will be with us the following week on the 24th.
And then, Jeannie's friend Ella Gwynn will be cruising with us beginning the 31st.
Once Ella leaves, we'll only have 1 week left!

From there, Jeannie and I will be going to her parents in San Antonio for a week. The following week I'll be traveling to Chapel Hill to teach improv at the North Carolina Comedy Festival.

On February 23rd, I will finally be back in Chicago.

...but....

I'll only be there for five weeks.

On April 3rd ( a day before my birthday), Jeannie, Brett Lyons and 3 as yet unnamed fellow castmembers will be flying back to Miami to board the Norwegian Jewel.

We're going back on another 4 month cruise for Second City.

The cruise for the first 2 weeks will be traveling through the Caribbean and stopping off in Mexico and the Cayman Islands.

After that, we're doing a transatlantic crossing and the ship will be repositioned and based out of Dover, England.

From there, the ship will be doing 12 day tours from Dover to Copenhagen, Denmark to Berlin (Warnemuende) to Tallinn, Estonia to St. Petersburg, Russia (overnight) to Helsinki, Finland to Stockholm, Switzerland and back to Dover.
I've never been to Europe. I'm very excited.