Merengue-ing off the plank

For two contracts I’ve been asking my supervisors if I could learn to teach some of the dance classes we offer on board. Most Cruise Staff teams are made up of people who were once (or are still) trying to be actors, singers or dancers, so outside of Gangnam style (party line dancing) and the country line dancing classes, it is often the skilled dancers who teach the more specialised Salsa, Cha cha and Bachata dance classes (like Jesy who used to dance with the Wiggles). A few weeks ago I finally got my turn. 

Unfortunately, since we were understaffed I had to learn not from actually attending a class, but rather from watching a video that Jesy shot on his cellphone the last time he taught it, which is not quite the same thing. 

On the Sky we had a “Fiesta Caliente” every week and these parties were attended mostly by Latinos and I learnt Merengue from dancing with a lot of older ladies (okay, and occasionally some younger guys as well, thanks) and I was hoping to do them proud …but yeah… dancing and teaching dancing are two very different things. 

In the video there was one particularly tricky turn which I tried to learn from Jesy on the gangway while we were doing our other duties. (In this line of work turning anything into a dance party is actually encouraged.) I couldn’t quite get it right though, so I swapped it for something more simple. 

When the class started I was relieved that it was filled with only white Americans and Asian people so I was hopeful that they would all have two left feet and would struggle to grasp the basic step. Unfortunately, in Merengue the basic step is walking on the spot with a little extra hip action and so no one over the age of two really seems to struggle. 

Just 10 minutes into the class I had taught them everything I knew - Yes, that’s how great a teacher I am! …And by then the Latinos had arrived (I’d make a joke about that but I’m not Latina). That’s when I thought I would mix it up by playing a different song and let them “freestyle” with “all” the different steps I had taught them. Most of the music I had stolen sounded all like Salsa to me with the exemption of the one I was using to teach, but I have no rhythm (even my heartbeat is abnormal) so what do I know? I played a song titled “Merengue” and a very nice Latina ran over to me and told me it was also a Salsa. Who the eff names a Salsa “Merengue”? What a way to confuse ignorant white people!  So I put Sauvemente back on. 

When the class ended, one of the older Latino men commented that it was a short class. So I said that I was surprised too, it was just a really good group of people and they picked it up “faster than usual” (as if I do this every week). He then started telling me that he didn’t know how to dance until he became the frontman of a band back in the day and he now works in Miami as a producer, songwriter and Enrique-frikkin-Iglesias’s vocal coach. I’m guessing he probably also knew that the “Merengue” song was not one. (Sorry mom, I didn’t ask him if he knew Julio.) 

To make the whole situation one step worse, there are other dance classes offered on the ship like the Tango and the Samba, that are taught not by Cruise Staff, but by cast members from Burn the Floor. Most of them have toured internationally with different versions in the show and most of them are world champion fikkin Latin dancers. Some of them have even been in their nation’s versions of Strictly Come Dancing or Dancing with the Stars. So yeah, at least the guests didn’t seem disappointed that instead of getting one of the pros they ended up with some rhythmless Cruise Staff who can’t tell between a Salsa and a Merengue. Coincidentally, I have not been scheduled to do that since.

In other news:


I finally did the ropes course! 
We have a ropes course on our ship, it’s like an obstacle course. I remember doing those on camps when I was at school. I can’t really imagine people wanting to do that for fun on a $850 million cruise ship floating around in the Caribbean, but some people choose the Getaway for this feature, so I decided to see what all the fuss was about. It wasn’t really as physically demanding as an obstacle course and you’re harnessed to a cable so if you slip you kinda just hang there in your harness instead of landing in a net and potentially injuring your spine or spleen forever. (I don’t know why those are the only things I worry about injuring. I also don’t know what my spleen does?) I suppose it’s less like an obstacle course and more like a Jungle Gym for grownups. (Someone should really start a gym franchise where people can go workout with giant slides and ball pools alongside the Olympic swimming ones and call it “The Jungle Gym”. …Why am I giving away my best ideas on my blog?)

Anyway, there’s one section of the ropes course where you can walk off the side of the ship on this beam extending over the water. It’s called “walking the plank”. I should probably mention that this is 18 decks up. It’s quite high. When you get to the end there’s a string that you can pull to have your picture taken so they can sell it to you later. Like this:



Just reaching for it when you’re that high up is pretty scary. And when the wind blows it’s really fun!

In another section you can zip-line or foh-fee slide (say it with me non-South Africans: “foh-fee”) across the back of the ship. It’s pretty level so you if you don’t give enough of a running start  or if the wind is going the wrong way, you could get stuck in the middle, but my recreation staff friends will rescue you. They’re nice like that and it’s their jobs. 




I hosted the #bestsolosgroupever
Every week a different Cruise Staff is responsible for the solos group. Solo cruisers are basically anyone who’s cruising alone (who may have spouses or partners back home) or anyone who is single and wants to meet new people. The Solos Host is responsible for organising a schedule of activities for them so they can hang out as a group and have fun together. This is one of the few cruise lines that have studio cabins - which basically means cabins for individual people who don’t have to pay for double berthing (“two people sharing”). Having done a lot of adventuring alone, I realise that not everyone has someone to go on vacation with and so it’s no surprise that the studio cabins and the solo program are things that people can’t stop raving about. 

Usually the Solos Host wracks up a few extra hours on their schedules during their week, but it’s nice that you get to spend time with the same group of guests repeatedly throughout the cruise. I’ve had some interesting experiences as a Solos Host (like the time I had an entire family of four come to one of our solos socials), but two weeks ago I had the best. Usually you will meet one or two people who you really connect with, but this whole group was the #bestsolosgroupever made up of some of the nicest people - and interesting too (there was a stuntman and a roller-derby skater in there). One guy, Andre, assumed the role of Assistant Solos Host and organised a Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament. It was awesome!
If any of you are reading: Hi! And thanks for being amazing! 


I visited (/trespassed at) my favourite bathroom
I recently went back to Cabbage beach and the waves were once again a little too rough to make use of the ‘complimentary facilities’, so when I needed the bathroom I ventured down the coast to my all-time favourite hotel to trespass at, the One & Only hotel. (You can read about it in a previous blog here.) That side of the beach was quite quiet and the hotel has now kitted out their beachfront with fancy beach chairs and complimentary iced bottled water so it was a little more daunting to venture past security this time, but I did. At least I already knew where I was going so I didn’t have to try so hard to pretend like I belonged. It was exactly as I remembered it except the music playing by the pool area was classy jazzy christmas music. It was lovely. It was just a number one (for the “one” in “One & only”) but I took my time to really enjoy the experience. One day I would really like to stay at a hotel that fancy but for now just going to the bathroom there is like a mini-vacation. 


Somebody recognised me as “The Flamingo Girl”
I was approached by some guests at a dance party this cruise and they asked me if I was “The Flamingo Girl”. It was quite surprising because Rodrigo hadn’t left my cabin at all that cruise. His fame is obviously growing. So then I took him to his first ever crew party to celebrate (pictures to follow.) If you’d like to check him out on Facebook you can find him here




29 Cruises down, 2 more to go
Flight connections on my ticket home: 3


               
               



            

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Sharon Waugh

Sharon is a writer, cruise ship entertainment host and freelance unicorn wrangler, living it up on the high seas. She also likes to photograph a plastic lawn flamingo in exotic locations because it seemed like a good idea 10 years ago and 53 countries later, it’s probably too late to turn back now.

 Sharon greatly dislikes reading “travel blogs” by people who are just rephrasing press releases or composing lists like “15 ways to travel the world for cheap”, specifically formulated for SEO, with absolutely no evidence that the writer has ever left their bedroom. (This is not one of those blogs.) Sharon also dislikes bigotry and referring to herself in first person, apparently.

To find out more about Sharon and Rodrigo’s travel aspirations read this.