My "Goodtime Gamble" On the Star Princess

By Marie Augustine

On December 4, 1990, at 11:00 a.m., my phone rang. "Marie, my name is John Paine. Vikki Myers heard you sing at Jim Porter's and referred you to me. I've got a proposition for you!" So the conversation went. "Would you like to sing on a cruise ship?"

"How long would I have to decide?" I asked him. "Until 2:00 p.m. today," was his reply. I hung up the phone and my daughter>Michelle says, "Do it! Do it!" Being the "Goodtime Gambler" that I am, I said yes.>(Marie is the writer of a song called "Goodtime Gambler." -- Editor.)

We had only one week to make all the arrangements. Talk about the last minute! So on Friday, December 14, at 11:00 p.m. we embarked on our cruise adventure.

We boarded the Star Princess Cruise Liner at about 11:00 a.m. December 16. It was quite chaotic all Sunday afternoon getting all the details worked out. Our first performance was at 5:30 that evening. After traveling 22 hours in John's car, and getting only six hours of sleep the night before, plus the chaos of the day, I was very disoriented. I forgot some lyrics to my songs that night.

Everyone had told me stories of seasickness and getting "sea legs." Fortunately I didn't get sick, but I was dizzy and had trouble thinking clearly. That was over in about three days, though.

Other than a few ship drills and musician meetings, the schedule was not difficult. Our playing schedule varied, but it was something like this: first set, 5:30 to 6:15; second set 9:30 to 10:30, third set 11:15 to 12:00 midnight, and finally from 12:30 to 1:00 a.m. We never worked over four hours a night. The rest of the time was ours. We worked every night for each ten-day cruise, with one day off between cruises.

The weather was great. We did not have a day below 80 degrees, and only three overcast days the whole trip. We departed from Port Everglades at 8:00 p.m. on December 16. From there we went to St. Martin, Mayreau, Barbados, Martinique, St. Thomas and back to Port Everglades. The second cruise, we went to St. Croix, St. Thomas, Montego Bay (Jamaica), the Grand Caymans, Cozumel (Mexico) and then back to Ft. Lauderdale.

Being aboard the ship was a cultural experience. The Italians ran the ship. The crew was mostly Portuguese. The laundry people were Chinese, and the personnel dealing with the passengers were mostly British. The casino employees were American.

Some of my best times were behind the scenes. The crew bar reminded me of the bar scene from>Star Wars, with the mingling of all the different cultures. Drinks were 50 cents and all the slot machines were always occupied with long waiting lines. The camaraderie among the musicians was great.

There were at least thirty musicians aboard the ship. On the fourteenth floor there was a circular nightclub called Windows of the World. The British group>Images alternated with the Mammalian group>Tropical Song. Tropical Song also played on the twelfth deck outside. The orchestra played on the seventh floor in the auditorium.

On the seventh level, which was called the promenade deck, there were stores, a casino and the grand buffet room.>Paine and Pleasure (the name of our duo) played in the center Entrenous lounge. We alternated with a soloist pianist Perry Grant.

The atrium, which was located on the fifth level in the center of the shop, took up three levels. A stainless steel staircase split around a white grand piano and curved around and up the sixth level. The Melodic Trio from the Philippines entertained the guests intermittently throughout the evening and day. Deo, Dave and Nelson (the Melodic Trio) were my favorite group. All the performances were acoustic, ranging from American standards to Spanish folk songs. Nelson, the lead singer, said he did not understand what he was singing because the folk songs were in Spanish and he didn't know Spanish.

As I said before, there was great fellowship among the musicians. Some of my favorite times were the sharing of jokes and the storytelling sessions that went on when we were all finished for the evening.

One of the first questions my friends asked me upon my return was, "Did you have a shipboard romance?" Everyone knows that cruise ships are notorious for romances and I was not exempt. One evening, while viewing a gory film, I was startled by one of the scenes and I jumped. The next thing I knew I was handed a Snicker bar by a handsome Portuguese man.

The next day John and I were in the crew bar and there was my Portuguese friend sitting at the other end of the sofa. I told John that that was the fellow I liked. He said, "Well don't just sit there. Go talk to him. That's what cruises are for -- romances."

For the rest of the cruise, Carlos (my Portuguese friend) and I spent most of our spare time together. Although Carlos didn't speak much English, we managed to communicate with each other through gestures and fractured English.

Our most special evening was New Year's Eve. I had a half-hour break, so I told him to meet me in my cabin at midnight. I wore a beautiful royal blue gown that my daughter>Dana had lent me, and a glittery tiara, and I had paper streamers flowing from around my neck. When I reached my cabin at midnight, Carlos stood up wide-eyed and proclaimed in his broken English, "You Cinderella!" He was waiting with a bottle of champagne and a plate full of cookies.

After I finished my last set, we met again and walked the decks long after the passengers had retired. We drank more champagne and watched the ocean roll off the sides of the ship into foamy waves.

From singing in the swing at Jim Porter's to swinging for three weeks aboard the Star Princess, I would recommend this to other performers: If you have an opportunity to venture afar --GO FOR IT!