The Story Continues..............
During the latter years of our television work we had also been having another wonderful experience - working on Cruise Ships. This all started in 1976 when Chris was offered a cabaret spot on a small Greek Cruise Liner, The Daphne.
The ship sailed from Pireas, the port of Athens, calling at Crete and Santorini, Villefranche in the South of France, Barcelona, Lisbon and finishing at Venice. There was a two day turn-around as one group of passengers flew home to America and a second group joined for the same cruise but in the reverse direction. It was a truly wonderful few months with appreciative audiences, good pay and wonderful life enhancing experiences.
In 1998 Chris was offered another cruise season, this time aboard another Greek ship, The Calypso. Chris suggested that a slicker act was possible if they would agree to a two-man cabaret, and this the booker readily accepted.
Up to this time Chris and Eric, while working together at the Harlequin and on Television, had their own separate cabaret acts which they performed independantly. They now devised a very fast moving two-handed cabaret and one which would appeal to an international audience.
The passengers were to be, in more or less equal proportions, German, American and Italian. This proved an ideal mix for an audience to appreciate the puppet act: The Germans loved speciality acts which involved skill and ingenuity, the Italians were most appreciative of artistry and the Americans would generously and enthusiastically applaud anything which entertained them. The puppets were rewarded with a standing ovation at the end of every show.
This was another cruise with a wonderful itinerary, cruising from London, Tilbury, via Rotterdam, Bergen and then the Norwegian coast, in and out of many fiords to discover spectacular cliffs, wondrous waterfalls, and quaint townships, then to Hammerfest, the Northernmost city of Norway, and finally to North Cape and the magnificent midnight sun. On every other cruise we added a two day sail to Spitzbergen, the Northernmost landmass before the North Pole. These were alternating 10 and 14 day cruises.
Apart from the quite breathtaking scenery, the luxurious accomodation and facilities of the cruise liner, the incredible cuisine, the sociability of the passengers and the camaraderie of the crew and entertainment staff, there were many laughs and not a few adventures.
At Northcape the passengers where ferried to land on tenders and then taken by coach to the Midnight Sun viewing area. On one occasion this had been disappointing because of the cloud conditions and the passengers were a little disgruntled as they returned to the coaches. The passenger mixture on this particular cruise was made up of largely German and Americans. Now the Americans are similar to the British in that they are used to waiting in a queue (even if they do call it standing in line) while to the Germans this is a alien concept. Arriving at the coaches the Americans instinctively lined up to board the vehicles while the Germans just as instinctively surged forwards en masse. One large American male finding an equally weighty German pushing to the front punched the said German on the nose with the memorable explanation " I had enough of you lot in 1944!" This wasn't quite the start of World War 3 but it did take quite a lot of diplomacy to calm things down.
On another cruise Northcape was again the scene for drama, but this time of a more serious nature. When the tour was over, the passengers safely back on board, we prepared to set sail. There was a delay, which lengthened, and lengthened. Those of us in the know knew why - we couldn't lift the anchor. It was firmly stuck. And the problem was that we didn't know why, the fear being that the anchor chain might have fouled the ship's propellor, in which case to force it might cause severe damage. We were saved by a musician.
When we had joined the ship in addition to the cabaret artistes and dancing troupe girls there were also musicians, an eight piece orchestra and a four piece dance band making up the entertainment staff. We discovered that the ship also had its own musician, Colin, a lad from London who played piano accordian in one of the ship's bars. Colin was accepted by the Greeks as part of the crew and had been on the ship long before we joined. In fact Colin had been on so long he spoke Greek fairly fluently. He was also a keen diver. He had on board his diving gear and he volunteered to investigate the problem.
Now diving in Mediterranean waters is one thing, but to contemplate it in those arctic waters was a very brave, or foolhardy, matter. There were many theories of how few minutes one could remain alive in such icy temperatures. Reluctantly the Captain gave permission for the dive and Colin set off to investigate. He did survive, and his diagnosis of the situation resulted in our being able to sail, some four hours late, on our return voyage. Colin was thoroughly "warmed up" with very many rum and peps bought by grateful and admiring crew members. Very few of the passengers knew of this drama going on, being content with the explanation that our delay was due to adverse weather conditions.
Drama of a lighter kind occurred on the following cruise when we visited Bergen. Depending where we were the passengers either wandered around the port of arrival under their own steam, or took part in an organised tour arranged by the ship's Cruise Staff. One of these tours was to The Edvard Grieg Museum in Troldhaugen being Grieg's former home in Bergen, with a stop on the way to enjoy a Smorgasbord Lunch. The previous afternoon our Cruise Director had given a "port-of-call" talk explaining the following day's itinerary. As well as giving biographical information about the great musician he also explained that lunch would be in buffet form, with a magnicently layed out smorgasbord of Norwegian delicacies. He mentioned that this was a visual delight as well as a culinery experience and that it was considered a politeness to first pause and enjoy the decorative quality of the feast before tucking in.
Arriving at the restaurant the groups, Italian, American and German, alighted from their respective tour buses and made their way inside. As instructed the obedient Germans halted to appreciate the magnificent display of culinery artistry. The Americans and Italians had only interest in eating and surged forward, descended on the buffet heaping up their plates. The poor German passengers were left with the remnants, a greatly reduced selection.They were justifiably aggrieved.
TO BE CONTINUED