The art of Bad Dancing

How I can help you become that guy on the dance floor

After two years of being Cruise Staff, I think I may have reached the epitome of my career.

Deep down in my heart, I believe that part of the reason God put me on this earth was to teach (or attempt to teach) Gangnam Style to rhythmless older people while somehow maintaining a straight face. (I have a gift.) Up until this point, this has been the highlight of my career. - Along with the fact that the next day, as my reward, I get to go swimming in Mexico or something awesome somewhere exotic. - Yes, I have the best job in the world! The best. Well, it just got even better. During one of my last cruises, my supervisor allowed me to do something distinctly Sharon: I got to pack all of my best bad wedding reception moves into one probably life-changing 30-minute dance session. That’s right, they let me teach a class in ‘Bad Dancing’. Technically in the schedule of the day’s activities, it is referred to as “cheesy dancing” (‘bad’ has negative connotations), but let’s face it: This is a cruise ship and all line dancing is cheesy.

Now, unfortunately, I don’t have time to create a bad youtube tutorial, so the joy of bad dancing is tragically limited to people who can afford to cruise (and, well… the naturally uncoordinated and rhythmless), but my basic bad moves include: 
  1. The running man (obviously) 
  2. The sprinkler (obviously) 
  3. The side head nod (as seen in The Other Guys - And thank you, Will Farrell) 
  4. ‘The interlocking knee thing’ (- At least that’s what we professionals call it) 
  5. The ‘riding an invisible pony’ 
  6. The ‘stir the pot’ (You know, the one where you use both your hands to stir an invisible vat of butter. - Sometimes using the implied resistance to turn you in a circle). My friend Andrew calls it ‘the Cabbage Patch’ - I don’t see the connection. 
  7. The ‘Wavey clasped hands’ 
  8. The ‘Pump it out’ (or in the ‘hump the air’ if you don’t have to be guest area appropriate) 
  9. The jump spin (As seen in MC Hammer videos and the movie Hitch)
  10. And the ‘Two Fingers’ (My signature move) 

Once I’ve taught the basics, we put some of them together in an awesome bad line dance set to the music of the most appropriate era: the 90s. 

After finishing the Baltic run, we did one British Isles cruise, followed by a Transatlantic before the ship began it’s winter Caribbean itinerary. With so many different itineraries we knew we could expect a lot of back-to-back cruisers (some people stayed with us for more than 40 days) so, not only did we all have to run around trying to find fresh trivia questions, but we were all encouraged to come up with our own dance classes. Mine tragically fell on a port day when we were docked in Invergordon in Scotland and we had a troupe of Scottish Dancers on board performing the Highland Fling in a one-time-only folkloric show that sadly coincided with my awesome dance class. That, together with the fact that the subject matter was not all that appealing to the older and classier than usual (these cruises are not cheap) clientele on board, meant that a grand total of only two people enriched their lives by learning how to do the sprinkler to the sounds of 2 Unlimited’s ‘No limits’.  I know on a different itinerary it would work. Lives would be changed. I’m not saying I could revolutionise the world of dancing, I’m just saying… -actually, that is what I’m saying. But perhaps we’ll never know… 

I also have some other ideas for advanced bad dance classes. For example, I’m working on a couple’s bad dance class, which so far consists of that move where the guy catches the girl like she’s a fish and this other box step where you move around each other that I learnt while watching a Bollywood movie. I just know it could be incredibly lame in the right context! Then I would like to use my experience as a thirty-something who is always dating someone in the band when she takes a rare and often short-lived break from being single, to teach a “How to be that awkward single person on the dance floor” class, which would include:
  • Attaching yourself to an unsuspecting couple already on the floor (ideally honeymooners) to make an awkward dance sandwich. 
  • Creating a ring-a-rosy circle with other singles during romantic slow dances (which I have done on more than one occasion, I might add, and it’s awesome).
  • Rodrigo at Inverness while I was changing lives
  • And my favourite: Slow-dancing with an invisible person and/or pillar (if there’s one near the dance floor.)  

In other news:

Here are some highlights from the last four cruises:

The Baltics: 
I survived a blood extraction
After being with the company for two years it recently became time for me to renew my medical. There’s only one problem with that: I hate needles …and doctors. In fact I pretty much hate the whole of the medical profession. That’s all. I really love that they save other peoples lives - that’s fantastic! Thank you for that. I guess my life has never really been threatened and most of the experiences I have had with doctors involve paying through my nose (in the real world anyway) to see some sadistic jerk with a God complex who treats me not like a person but a specimen and then prescribes me the same anti-biotic he gives to everyone even though most of us have something viral that can’t be fixed with an anti-biotic in the first place. 

It’s worse when you’re on ships because if you have a bad or awkward experience you can’t get away from the medical staff. They live in your building, you pass them in the hallways, you see them across the breakfast table. They know who has what rash where and how they ever make eye contact with those who have embarrassing problems is beyond me. 

There was one nurse in particular with a bad rep for (among other things) not being able to find people’s veins. I have heard many a horror story about him and I was somewhat mortified when he opened the door of the medical centre for me. I was one of the first people in line (trying to get it over and done with) but when I saw him I let a few people go before me. There was another female nurse who had a reputation for being nice and human, and good with needles. She was there too but she was helping guests. I hoped that if I waited long enough I could have her, but eventually I decided to bite the bullet. I sat down and he wrapped the thing around my arm to restrict the blood flow. I told him how nervous I was in the hopes that he would try to comfort me with those lies that medical professionals tell patients to comfort them like “It’ll be over in a minute” or “this won't hurt a bit”. I got nothing. 

I asked if the other lady would be doing blood extractions. He said she would be, but later. I told him I’d wait. He said, “Let me just try first”. That’s like saying “when I fail, as you know I will, she can have a go at our fun game of traumatic human-dartboard darts”. I couldn’t get out of the room fast enough. I waited an hour in that waiting room. One guy kept belching audibly. Someone else had really bad breath. I watched people come out of the room holding cotton swabs in strange places, usually bandaged in multiple places on one or both arms. I heard one guy pass out and I heard the same nurse utter the words “No, we’re all out of the small needles, we only have big ones left”. Eventually, the nice lady nurse asked me if I was next. I said “yes” like I had just won something. As my friend who had been through the same thing a week before had said, she was good. It hurt a bit but not as much as the experience of spending an hour in that waiting room. And afterwards, I put a unicorn plaster on it, because unicorns are magical and they fix everything - even shattered nerves. 

The Transatlantic:
More terrifying encounters
The last time we did a transatlantic, I explained that instead of rough seas or Bermuda triangles, the real dangers of this type of cruise are the guests. (You can read that blog here.) This time, we again had the difficult Bridge players, the Trivia Nazi’s and the Obscure Special Interest enthusiasts. To add to our list of transatlantic cruiser characters, this time we also had:
  • A Post apocalyptic cruise ship-based novel author (of the self-published variety) who very kindly donated to our onboard library two (autographed) copies of his book entitled something to the effect of (not to give away the actual title) ‘the cruise of death’ with a cruise ship on the cover and blood splatters all over it. He then asked us to ‘return the favour’ by advertising his new book, this one again with a cruise ship on the cover, but this time a flaming meteor headed towards it. The blurb on the back describes it as "Deep Impact meets Poseidon". As much as that actually does sound like a movie I would watch, the thing about transatlantic cruises is, a lot of people are on them because they’re trying to get to the USA but they’re too afraid to fly. Would you also like our big screen movie today to be Titanic? 
  • Then there was the “more reverb” karaoke singer and her rage. Firstly, it’s karaoke. You’re not supposed to sound good! Any reverb at all is a bonus. Secondly, there was more reverb than I’ve ever heard on that mic that night. I even made a joke earlier in the evening about how that would be the best time to sing karaoke because the audience was not intimidating (it was small) and there was so much reverb that it felt like you were singing in your bathroom. Thirdly, it’s karaoke! ...I think I can still hear her echo.
  • And finally the Arts and Crafts expert who comes to origami and distracts everyone at his table from making the box I was teaching them to fold, to teach them how to fold the same (but less interesting) origami box I taught them three days earlier and then comes to me afterwards, as I was ready to leave for one of my few small sea day breaks, to ask me to teach him how to make the origami box I just taught everyone who was paying attention to make. (I suppose for the next origami session?) The same guy the comes to card-making the next day, with his origami box filled with cards his wife had made throughout the cruise (she didn’t even bother to come), sets up a whole display of her cards to show everyone (and confuse them into thinking that’s what we’re about to do), and then sits there and reads a book while everyone else makes cards that look nothing like the ones now on display.

Other than that there were a lot of really really nice guests, it was actually a pleasant crossing and we again managed to avoid any giant squid attacks. Thanks for your concern though.

The British Isles:
We returned to the motherland and we did not leave empty handed
What country in the UK acknowledges the unicorn as their national animal? That is one of my favourite trivia bonus questions. The answer is Scotland by the way, and also the land of my ancestry. With that in mind, I had three main goals for the British Isles cruise: I needed to find tea (my Five Roses had run out), a leprechaun and a unicorn (obviously).

Our first port was Portland in England where my friends and I hired someone to take us up the Jurassic coast in their boat. First, though, we went to Weymouth where we bought a picnic lunch and I found me some more of the next-best-thing to Five Roses: Yorkshire Tea. Yay!

Rodrigo on the Jurassic Coast
 Our leprechaun
(*Taxi driver kneeling in his shoes - not a person with dwarfism.
Location of pot of gold: still undetermined)

Next, we went to Cobh and Dublin in Ireland. I do not drink and so even though the Guinness was flowing, I sadly saw no leprechauns. It was only in Northern Ireland, on another one of Hannah’s amazing privately arranged tours to see the Giant’s Causeway, that we found one. On the way, our taxi driver took us to some of the location sites where they shot Game of Thrones (some of my friends were more excited about this than anything else). When we got to a place called “The Kings Road” (I’m not sure if that’s its name on the show or in real life), our taxi driver told us we could expect to see a leprechaun. Moments later, we realised he was referring to the taxi driver from the car in front of us. 

Rodrigo at the Giant's Causeway
Unicorn on a stick

In Edinburgh, Scotland, apart from the one unicorn I found on a pole, the rainbow-pooping creatures were quite scarce. When we were docked in Invergorden I was stuck onboard (teaching bad dancing to two people) and was not able to go searching for magical creatures. Rodrigo, however, went off with his hot Chilean plastic compactor rescuer and together they found the Loch Ness Monster. Not only did they come back with this indisputable photographic evidence, but they also brought back our new friend who has been named: Duncan McBenevidesVillalobos (the first part because he’s Scottish, the second part after the Chilean).

Duncan McBenevidesVillalobos

Rodrigo and Nessie 

The Caribbean:
I left my name on the place
After six months of floating around the Baltics and Norway, I found myself back in Tampa doing the same Caribbean run that I did at the beginning of my contract before I transferred ships. I was not able to get off the ship in my favourite port Cozumel, but I made an arrangement to have my name badge put up at the No Name Bar. Anyone who’s ever been a crew member on any ship that goes to Cozumel will know this place. I first went there in 2009 and it seems fitting that after leaving a piece of my heart there, I should leave my name badge there too. I think crew members everywhere should consider this ritual to be equivalent to throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain: It ensures our return. I hope so anyway. Any other crew members agree?  

The No Name Bar - Hotel Barracuda 

And now I am sitting in Orlando recovering from eight months at sea without a day off and three days of Disney World. I’m also getting the full American experience in the form of Netflix, pasta shaped like SpongeBob and raw cookie dough. More on that later...

Remaining cruises: 0
Episodes of New Girl watched: 9 and 3 quarters


Welcome to the Sharonicles

The Sharonicles is a travel humour blog by a South African travel writer. With six years of experience as a cruise ship crew member, her travels on ships and on land have taken her to 57 countries on five different continents.  She photographs a plastic flamingo called 'Rodrigo' on her adventures because it seemed like a good idea ten years ago and it’s probably too late to turn back now. She also likes unicorns, carbs and referring to herself in third-person.

Here she shares advice, opinions and anecdotes revealing the funny side of travel from her experiences. 


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