Intro: Welcome to Crew Life at sea podcast. Here we will share the skills you need to make your experience and adventure out at sea a success, hear inspiring stories from the experienced crew, from all diversities, gain knowledge and know your rights. Be Part of the crew life at sea, and let’s welcome your host, Raymond Crystal.
Ray: Welcome to crew life at sea, the only place where you can find useful information, advice, insights and resources to help inspire you to take that next step in working on a cruise ship. It’s showtime, I always wanted to do that. It’s showtime, yes ladies and gentlemen it’s showtime. With me today I have the one and only Martin Calvert, is that correct?
Martin: That’s right.
Ray: Can you tell me, Martin, how many years have you been at sea?
Martin: I’ve been at sea, on and off, about 14 years, every time you have a contract, it’s generally between 4 to 6 to 9 months, depending on what you agree to do, you might agree to go back to back contracts, something like that. So it’s seen me through a lot of places all over the world, and that’s why I really enjoy to do it.
Ray: Excellent. But you guys are normally 6 months.
Martin: Yes, generally it’s a 6-month contract so there will be 2 changeovers in a 1-year period.
Ray: Can you tell me a little bit of how you got into entertainment? and how long have you been involved?
Martin: Sure, yeah. I was at college, I studied a diploma in performance art, I majored in drama, and also dance, and private lessons in singing. I graduated, after that I worked in a bank, and then after about a year and a half, I decided it was time to fulfil my dreams. I actually started my first job aboard, in a hotel. I was a member of the animation team, which was a great way to gain confidence and was great to try new things in performance, it was more experience from that than college really, because it was a real-life situation, you were doing other games and activities as well, interacting with the guests, finding out what they enjoyed, finding out what you as a performer enjoyed to do. It was very tiring, but I don’t regret to do it, I think it was a brilliant start. And it would just give you confidence for those all-important auditions.
Ray: When you say animation, what do you mean by animation?
Martin: The animation team is the entertainment team that do all the games and entertainment, also the shows, you might just do a show to playback, it might just be visual aspects, you might be singing live, there might be a simple or more integrate dance routine. You might be alone; you might be performing with others.
Ray: What is your main job onboard?
Martin: Well I’m co-production manager so I look after the company production on board. We’re a team of 6 singers. Our London based agent called Luna Rossa, get in touch with them if you’re interested to join a team of 6. We’re predominantly, you’ll be singing in the evening entertainment onboard. We have just one show per evening. Generally, on other cruise lines, you’d perform twice, so I enjoy to perform once our shows on this cruise at 21:45. And they vary from, tonight we have a jazz show, we have a blues brothers soul sister show like Mo-town hits. Then we do a classical cross over the show and then we have a musical theatre show.
Oh, that’s nice, because on some ships you do 2 shows like a pre-dinner and after-dinner.
That’s right, they totally vary, they could be almost every evening, it could be every other evening. It could just be twice a cruise, they would vary between which vessel, which agency you work for. It’s worth doing the research finding out what you would like from yourself. Some people straight out of college really prefer to do, have as much experience as they can, and they enjoy to be working almost every night, others prefer to be working every other night, or 2 or 3 performances in a week.
Ray: Talking about the performances, what happens when you guys decide to, you get this gig on a ship and everything, how does the training work before you get on the ship?
Martin: Well you’re all invited to gather, for us we’re obliged 2 months before, or even more than 2 to 3 months before. You have all of your musical scores look over, if you can read music, that’s really helpful. You can practice with a piano for your part, you also have a vocal guide that’s been recorded for you. So you practice your vocal guide along with your sheet music, so you know exactly what your part is. Then you have to memorize it by heart, because when you arrive in the studio, you’re expected to know exactly your part without making an error, because there are 5 other singers singing a different part so it’s not so easy in the first instance to know exactly, to be confident with your harmonies. You could have the melody, the 3rd the 5th harmony or the cluster, so you have to remember all the way through what your part is.
Ray: Just to clarify, we’re talking about the singer description, but on board you get singers, you get dancers, and on some ships some of them actually do both. On these smaller ships you do both of them right?
Martin: We do singing with movement.
Ray: Working with other people in your shows, how does it work when you have to assign people for certain parts and positions, do they do this ashore?
Martin: Yes, that’s assigned by the director, so the musical director has an idea of what your capabilities are. So for example, for the boys, I’m tenor, there’s a classical baritone, and then there’s a pop baritone. So from there, we decided what parts are assigned to us. And if there should be any changes, we try to as minimal changes as possible. We just make a couple of changes on board if the parts are not right, if the sound isn’t right for the one vocalist and it suits the other one better, then that would be ideal to switch it around, but not too much because the format should be kept as it’s scripted. We have a lot of rehearsals to make sure it’s the same as the rehearsals.
Ray: Talking about rehearsals, and rehearsals, and rehearsals, tell me the struggles and the hours and the rewards?
Martin: Okay, so we started, it took us 3 weeks to put the brand new shows together. We had 4 shows to learn. Our greatest achievement was that we learned a show in a day, and then we performed it the next day for our director, and the director really enjoyed it. So we felt like we were at a place where we felt more confident, where we could learn and perform a show the next day. The pace of the rehearsal that day was really fast, it wasn’t with our regular choreographer, it was with our director and choreographer so it felt like the energy and the pace was really picked up, we were really doing our best for that. And our choreographer did a great job with us too, it took generally about 2 to 3 days to learn each show.
Ray: So the choreographer will come on board for just a week or two and just teach?
Martin: No, the choreographer was with us in London for 3 weeks and when we arrived on set we had 1 week to put all the shows together on board, it was really challenging, but we managed to do it. Then the following week, we were just tidying up what needed to be tidied up. And it’s just ongoing, it’s an ongoing process.
Ray: How do you prepare yourself before a show?
Martin: Well you do a vocal warm-up, you need to prepare all of your costumes, you could do vocal exercises, you can squeeze your cheeks together and make brrrrr sound, hum low notes and then start with some scales.
Ray: The cabin you’re in, I used to be in before and every day I used to hear the guy next to me going lalalala.
Martin: yes, you’re not supposed to sing in your cabin, you can sing backstage where nobody hears you. It’s not really kind to sing in your cabin. You should try to practice a little bit every day, keep your throat warm, practice your studies. It’s helpful to do it, also you can take a rest but you should be doing some vocal exercises every day.
Ray: Do you guys drink or do anything special to help the throat?
Martin: It does help but also hot honey and lemon, sometimes a hot cup of tea helps.
Ray: So you’re the leader of the group?
Martin: Yeah, I’ve got a lot of experience, it’s something I really like to do, I like to do the admin as well. I’ve got business administration diplomas. So it’s fun to do the programming and the scheduling, piecing things together, putting things together. I like to do that.
Ray: That’s a great man. During the shows I see some miraculous costume changes and visuals, can you tell me how this happens?
Martin: Well we have to practice if you’re away and have a quick change. You have to set your costume; it has to be ready to put on quickly. If you need help, the person who has to help you, needs to know exactly when to help you and it’s timed so you make the next change, so you know exactly how much time you have to change your next costume. If anything goes wrong, then you need a backup plan, you need to know what you could do if you didn’t make a change, what’s going to happen next, if you come on late, exactly where you should come on if you didn’t make it.
Ray: Have you been on bigger ships?
Martin: Yes, I have, but I’ve never had a dresser, we just do it ourselves.
Ray: So entertainment has quite a few upsets during shows, on and off stage obviously, can you tell me something that you’ve actually been through or experienced all these years?
Martin: Yes, sometimes if you have a run-in with somebody, it could affect your show but it shouldn’t and you should both rise above it. And I’ve worked with performers who haven’t managed to rise above it and others that have, and at the end of the day you have to do the performance, as usual, you can’t let any upsets alter a performance in any way, so if you don’t like a person you’re performing with or you don’t agree with an opinion that they’ve had recently, you’re still obliged to perform on stage as if nothing has happened, you still need to have the eye contact because the audience can see if something is not right.
Ray: Of course, it’s not so easy. Lights, action, camera, you’re live, the show is going great, people are all involved, someone falls.
Martin: Yeah, I’ve fallen before loads of times. I’ve slipped on dry ice, I’ve fallen on my face, sometimes you have to get up. One time, the last contract I fell down on my face and I just felt like I had to get up and apologize to the audience and say sorry about that, I’m back on my feet now, I’m okay. And it breaks the ice a little, they don’t mind that I fell down, so you have to just say what’s happened and carry on.
Ray: It’s kind of cool hey, these incidents that happen. I’ve had a few in my days. I’ve seen a dancer dance in the thing that goes down, there’s a name for it, I forgot, it didn’t go down in time or it got stuck, and you just see this girl who falls into this pit, and everyone and the whole stage “ooooh”.
Martin: As long as you know as a performer that you’re in a safe place and what you can do to get off the stage is safe, otherwise you shouldn’t take any risks at all. I have had colleagues that have had accidents, that were their fault or weren’t their fault. It should be an environment where you know exactly how to be in a situation if somethings not quite right.
Ray: So going back to if somebody does get hurt, and they can’t perform in the next couple of shows, I hear there’s a thing called blocking that you guys call it?
Martin: That’s right. Blocking is your placement, so at the moment our show is blocked for 6, I’ve never done a show with 5. I would have just postponed the show because really we need all 6 performers on stage. In the past, I have done blocking but it doesn’t really work because of costume changes and there’s supposed to be 6 voices, it’s better to just postpone the show.
Ray: Okay but in a normal instance, on a normal ship, with let’s say 12 of you as a proper full cast, what is that actually blocking? Could you explain?
Martin: Yeah, blocking is just placement. So you choreograph placements throughout the performance, so even where you put your microphone stand down and which one you pick back up, which entrance and exit you take, which number, we have numbers from 1 to 5 on each side of the stage, left and right, and you have to be on your number at a certain time otherwise you could crash with another performer or you might not be seen properly or it might not look as aesthetically correct. So it is important, the little things to remember exactly what number you are, and if you’re upstage or downstage.
Ray: Okay interesting. So working on the cruise ship compared to land, what’s the difference? Is there a big difference?
Martin: Well yes, I’ve done, I was a flier at a hotel which I enjoyed when I arrived, but I was very tiring. You have to take an early flight; you have to be at the airport very early in the mornings at 4 o’clock to be ready for the 05:30 flight or a 06:30 flight. Then you might even have a show that night, so by the time you arrive, for example in Cyprus by the time you arrive you have to pick up the car, drive to the hotel, drive to the venue for a soundcheck and you don’t really have to voice to sing. So yeah that’s not ideal, so there’s a lot of driving involved, driving from one venue to the next, sometimes it can be 2 and a half hours if you’re driving from one side of the island to the other.
So I didn’t love it and I found it quite tiring to
fly in those conditions, and then perform. I mean it was fun, I didn’t regret to do it, it was something different but I much prefer to perform onboard a cruise because you always have your audience regardless of how many are there, you still have your audience whether they’ve turned up or not. And there’s no commute to work, you’ve already arrived, so that takes out the pressures of the idea to commute anywhere.
Especially for work, that’s something I didn’t enjoy when I was home when I was temping something like that. So I much prefer to just wake up and you’re ready for work, and you have your environment where you’re at work and where you aren’t. that’s why we are here for so long, and sometimes have a program where you have free time, and sometimes I organize my schedule myself and decide absolutely where I have to be, if I’m ready or if I can take some time and come back, you can manage your time very well if you’re proactive. You can have more free time if you’re proactive. If you’re not proactive, it’s not really good for you to not turn up to things that you need to be around.
Ray: Your most challenging part of your job?
Martin: Keeping a balance, it depends how good the rest of my team are, they’re all really good on this cruise on this contract, generally I’m very happy to work with teams, I have had just one or two teams in the past in the 14 years that I’ve been at sea who have been so tricky. Generally, the larger groups tend to go off in groups of 2 or 3 because there are just too many people. A team of 6 you can all manage to get on. But a larger team, like a team of 15 or more, that’s tough because you just go off in groups, you’re not really one team unless you’re on stage so that’s not so easy to manage because people have various changes and opinion. That’s why I quite like the small group, there’s no drama.
Ray: So let’s go to something funny, your funniest moment on stage?
Martin: All kinds of things, any little detail could throw you, sometimes, but anything could happen if it’s not exactly right. You could have a wardrobe malfunction, you could have, maybe you didn’t get the right costume on in time, or you didn’t get the right costume on altogether, falling down, tripping over, there are so many things that could happen, then you have to try to disguise it or glaze over what’s happened. Sometimes they don’t even notice. I’ve had where I’ve actually fallen a few times and then you have to try to laugh it off. You have to keep your composure and carry on.
Martin: Yeah, I’d say go for it, be prepared to work. You’ll have time eventually to go out and explore, you’ll have time to volunteer for excursions if you’d like, you do that free of charge, so you can volunteer and go on an excursion for the day which I thoroughly recommend.
But really if you’re proactive and if you’re studious then you’ll certainly have more rewards, if you just turn up for something and your heart is not really in it for you. You have to really be focused on what your goals are, what you’d like to do and if you’re motivated, even just 80% motivated you’re going to have a really good time. If you’re not and if you want to be somewhere else, it’s not for you. It’s really not for you, you need to be focused during the time that you’re here.
Ray: Okay, the big question that I ask everybody, and I’ve had some crazy stories, can you tell me the most shocking thing that you’ve ever encountered or seen at sea? Something that you’ve never forgotten and that you’ll never forget.
Martin: Well I heard about a crew member that had 14 boyfriends while she was on board at sea, and those were the ones that we knew about in a 5-month period and nobody seemed to mind. So it is a place where you can as you please. And nobody got hurt because it was cleverly choreographed.
These were just very short relationships, but not at the same time. So here’s one thing you might not know about, if you consider yourself mildly attractive at home, you are hot onboard. I’m not so bad looking, I’m not so confident with the girls, if you get on board, you’ll get the first night because there’s a lot of people on the hunt. You don’t really know for sure but they are. They’re going to want to come to talk to you. But you’ll definitely feel you’ve had a confidence boost working on a cruise line.
Ray: That’s so true Martin. Let me ask you, do you have your own show?
Martin: I do, I performed it last night. And that gives me a great opportunity to perform the things I’d like to do, but in time you have to choose a genre, you have to choose the music that you know the audience would recognize at least. So you should really do something that they would recognize and they can join in with. You kind of throw in one or two that they don’t know so well, but you’re performing for others, you’re not performing for yourself. So choose a show, choose music that you know on paper.
Ray: And do you by any chance have a website or any videos online that you’d like?
Martin: Not really up to date, I’ve kind of enjoyed just making a living singing and that seems enough for me, I don’t really have any publicity, I’ve had it in the past, I’ve tried different things but I suppose if I did have any publicity it would be dated now. So it’s probably time for an update.
Ray: Yeah, I’ll give you a hand with that. Well thank you so much for being on the show, it was great, you really taught us a few things even me and I think it’s time to think about this gigolo business ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much and have a great day. Cheers Martin.
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