Funny how nobody wants to hear my wisdom gained from years working at sea. No, the biggest response I’ve gotten was from my most embarrassing moment! Being blackmailed into performing a strip-tease was indeed embarrassing, though assuaged by a kiss from a pretty lady. The following moment, however, was embarrassing front-to-back. It involved singing.
I had only been aboard as a manager-in-training a very short time when Legend scored a mighty 98 out of 100 on its USPH health inspection. This was nearly impossible for a ship several years old for, just like driving a new car off the lot slashes value, smashing a champagne bottle on the bow loses an entire, crucial USPH point. Carnival was justifiably proud with the rating and spared no expense on a party rewarding the hard-working crew. Because this was a repositioning cruise with no guests aboard, the party was extra special. Most of the crew attended.
I knew almost nobody of the hundreds in attendance in the dining room. I sat at a table near the front with mostly managers and a waitress-friend named Juci. The biggest man in the room sat across from me: Kevin, the Food & Beverage Manager. The ship’s maitre D’, an Englishman named Ian, took up the wireless microphone to open the party. He spoke a few words into the mic, but it wasn’t working. He tried again, rapping it lightly against the table.
“Duman!” he snapped to his assistant maitre D’. “Your incessant babbling burnt out the batteries!”
Duman grinned mischievously, and laughter filled the dining room. His babbling was legendary. Ian threw him the mic and demanded sarcastically, “You got any double D’s?”
“No, more like Cs, eh Juicy?” Duman answered playfully, giving the petite Juci a squeeze.
“No tit jokes, please,” Ian chided with a strained look.
“I have some batteries in my cabin,” I offered, then rushed off to complete the errand, happy to be of service.
When I returned to the party, people were already drunk. The habit of getting as drunk as possible in as little time as possible at crew parties took its toll. Kevin, to everyone’s astonishment, had brought out a guitar and played a virtuoso Spanish guitar song. Then Ian again tried to address the crowd. Unlike Duman, Ian was a man of few words. With great fanfare he cut his speech short in favor of music. There was an awkward moment, however, when no music followed.
“Duman! You blew out the goddamn speakers, too?” he demanded. “All right, Brian. In for a penny, in for a pound.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“You want to be management? How will you handle this situation? There’s no music and this crew deserves some entertainment!”
“What do you want me to do?” I protested. “Recite Shakespearean sonnet?”
“You do that and I guarantee you a full-stripe promotion.”
Fancying myself a well-read lad, I hastily rose to call his bluff. Ian laughed, then clarified, “Kevin played guitar. I gave a speech. Lutfi is charming as a toad, and Duman isn’t touching the mic ever again. That leaves you.”
Reluctantly I took the microphone, not really knowing what to do. I stood up and looked over the crowd of hundreds of strangers.
“Um, all right,” I said. “I want all the Filipinos to stand up.”
There was a pause while everyone tried to figure out if I was serious or not. Finally about two dozen men stood up. “This is your moment of glory! Who wants to prove he is the king of karaoke by singing a capella—that is without music—in front of half the ship?”
“After you!” the crowd howled.
“Just a Gigolo!” Juci shrieked, receiving many cheers. This was not good.
I looked to Ian pleadingly, but he just shrugged.
With great ceremony I downed a beer, then reached over and downed Ian’s to the roaring approval of the audience. With as much over-the-top showmanship as I could muster, I sang my best David Lee Roth. Badly. I strutted during the opening, I pleaded during the refrain, and nearly even ripped my shirt off. The problem was that halfway through the song, I forgot the words. I stopped abruptly, panting, stupid. No music. Only a quiet, waiting crowd. I swear I heard crickets chirp from somewhere.
“Indeed!” Ian said approvingly, slapping me on the back. “If the crew didn’t know you before, they sure as Hell do now!”
Go on, tell us your most embarrassing cruise moments. I dare you!
By Brian David Bruns, author of national best-seller Cruise Confidential.
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