NEWS

June 2018

I have worked for Celebrity for many years now and although I have travelled on several of their ships I loved the Eclipse. I was lucky enough to be asked to do the British season a few years ago from April-October and when you are away that long the ship becomes your home away from home. Although she has a capacity of 2800 passengers you would never know the ship was that large simply because the layout is ideal. On Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas and Independence I was constantly walking the length of the ship to get from A to B. I worked the Pyramid Lounge and for some bizarre reason I was always given a cabin at the other end of the vessel, in fact you couldn’t have got much further apart if you’d tried and the experience put me off the mega-liners completely. That changed when I got on Eclipse. The ship is a beauty with countless bars and dinner options. Live entertainment is in abundance but you seem to wander from one entertainment space to another instead of zigzagging back and forth all the time.

When I finished my contract last year at the end of October it was with a heavy heart as the Eclipse had been taken off the British itinerary and replaced with Silhouette. I never complain about getting work offers, I consider myself extremely lucky that Celebrity have faith in what I do and are happy to have me on their ships so I signed a contract for Silhouette. Imagine my surprise when I found it to be the twin of Eclipse. It is identical in nearly every way except the Eclipse has the glass blowing on Deck 15. Even Celebrity Central, the smaller theatre that I work in is a carbon copy. I was delighted when I got on the ship on 7 May and found that even my cabin was the same number as last year and in the same position. It is quite eerie; as you would lay money on the fact you were on Eclipse. A similar thing happened when I worked Oceana for P&O. I had never worked it before yet on embarking I sat there and was totally convinced I had been on the ship before. I subsequently found out, it was the twin of Sea Princess, which I had worked previously, and that P&O had recently bought.

When I signed the contract I didn’t twig I was leaving on the holiday Monday of a Bank Holiday and counted myself lucky that the traffic didn’t cause a major headache before I’d even begun. The madness of the British weather meant that weekend Britain was subjected to a heat wave and the clothes I had planned to wear onto the ship had to be set aside in favour of something cooler and lighter, and what did I do? Yes you guessed it, I didn’t take a coat, something I instantly regretted after we set sail, the sun had set and the winds whipped up. I could have kicked myself.

I’d actually boarded the ship in a wheelchair otherwise I seriously doubt I could have got on the ship. I drove into the City Terminal and dumped my luggage with no problem at all and then drove my car to the short-term car park where EzyParking has their base.  They know me very well and the guy offered to drive me back to the terminal to save me walking in what had to be 81 degrees. The problem was the no parking bay was policed and they were hurrying me to get out of the car. My hand luggage was so heavy as all my stage equipment was in there and my camera case was slotted on the top. As I shut the back door of the car the driver drove off despite me shouting and waving to grab his attention but he didn’t notice. There I was, stood on the side of the pavement, laden with overweight luggage and no stick, which was still in the car. There was no way that I could have gone without it. I bribed a Port Authority official to watch my hand luggage while I grabbed a taxi to drive me back to the car park but even though no more than eight or nine minutes had passed there was no sign of the driver or my car! The company only use the short term compound for pick ups and drop offs and the vehicle is then taken to another off-site compound while you are away, and the driver in his wisdom, had decided to take my car there. Once he had dropped it off he walked back and there I was waiting, in a terrible state trying to garble an explanation. Off the poor sod trotted in his quest to retrieve my stick. The problem was he was now on foot so there was no vehicle in which to drive me back to the terminal and the taxi driver I’d taken couldn’t wait. I had no option but to walk back to City Terminal and en-route I stumbled on a raised paving slab and fell hurting my leg in the process. I retrieved my hand luggage and realized there was no way I was going to be able to walk the length of the ship and then mount two inclined walkways. It was probably the best part of a ¼ of a mile and having spotted an empty wheelchair I talked nicely to the skycap and I finally embarked my home for the next few months, albeit £20.00 out of pocket.

Now here’s the thing. My contract stipulates that I am in breech of contract if I cannot perform because my luggage has got lost so I have to take the two laptops, all wires, plugs, leads, adaptors and scripts as well as all my medication in hand luggage!!! Well I have to tell you it just isn’t possible to put 4 months supply of all my medication into one tiny cabin bag so I settled on enough to get me through a couple of weeks figuring if that particular case disappeared I’d have enough time to sort out more supplies before I ran out.

My very dear friend Sue Denning is on as Cruise Director so that is a bonus and once I’d signed in Crystal, Sue’s number two, asked if I’d mind doing extra shows as we had three ports that we were sailing early from. I agreed to one extra show, as I didn’t want the added ones to detract from the shows on dad. This cruise is slightly different in that we are going to Kristiansand in Norway and then an unusual port stop, Skagen in Denmark, somewhere we have never been before and not many ships have visited. I thought it would be a waste of time and that we were going because it was a cheaper option than some of the alternatives. I don’t now why the itinerary included two stops in Denmark but I’m glad we went because it was a real treat.  The port authority laid on a shuttle and it was only a matter of 5 minutes before we were dropped in front of the main high street. It was delightful, helped by the fact the sun was out in full force. All the shop fronts were pastel shades and the whole area I would describe as quaint. Within an hour of docking this sleepy little Danish hamlet was invaded by more than 2000 tourists ready to search out every nook and cranny.

Just when I thought I had finished the research for my new books up pops another port stop, typical, so I spent the day snooping out accessible shops and restaurants and popping into the toilets so I could check out their disabled facilities. I did get a few strange looks, lol. I’ve had a great response from passengers who are eager for a book like mine to come out, in fact one woman was so excited that she asked if she could pre-pay me so she got one of the first copies. As everyone has said, they cannot believe there is nothing to cover this side of cruising and you have to be so careful on Internet searches as a lot of articles are out-of-date. For instance one site I read from said you could use the bridge lifts in Venice but they have been closed now for several years! Old news stays on the Internet unless the author removes it so you have to ensure it was uploaded in the last year.  Any book is out-of-date the minute it is published whether with attractions closing, prices being hiked or facilities changing but you have to make the decision when enough is enough. Now 26 months into this venture I am on the last stages of tying up the Norway guide, which should come out this year. I had wanted to bring it out last September but having pnumonia for five months at the start of last year didn’t help speed the process up.

The first of my season’s cruises saw stops in Copenhagen, Tallinn, Helsinki, and St Petersburg as well as those already mentioned. I love Copenhagen and a few years ago I found an amazing shop that the designer has had for the lat 50 years. Her items are mainly one-offs and come in one size and I bought two fabulous coats that I wear on stage so I was eager to see what she had in this year. Can you imagine my disappointment to find it was a Public Holiday and everything was closed. Of course I didn’t find that out until after I had paid the $20 for the shuttle bus and actually gone into town. What I found instead was 10,000 football supporters wearing yellow shirts that were apparently on a pub-crawl, letting off firecrackers and stink bombs. The match was actually in another part of the city but Copenhagen was the starting point. There was a sea of yellow everywhere so much so that Tivoli Gardens and other attractions shut its doors. It was a World Cup between two Danish teams and I was only grateful that the opposition was not in the same area as well. Police were out in force and I decided it might be wiser to go back to the ship.

The rest of the 12- night cruise sped by and my shows were a tremendous success. The people who attended were so warm and seemed genuinely interested in dad’s life and music. A good start to the season.

May 19th saw a different type of passenger embark the Silhouette. This being a charter by the same people who staged ‘Rock the Boat’ last year. Mick Manov is an Australian promoter who runs specialized cruises in his homeland and has done so for the last ten years. Last year saw him break into the British cruising market but this time something different. In fact last week he ran an 80s cruise with Tony Hadley fronting an all star cast on Royal Caribbean and he has come straight off that ship onto Silhouette to host BRAVO, a cruise of Performing Arts headlined by Alfie Boe and Katherine Jenkins backed by the Royal Symphony Orchestra conducted by Anthony Inglis. The cast list was endless with a mixture of Australian and British artists. As with Rock the Boat someone was performing in every venue of the ship at all times from about midday. The first person I thought I saw was Andrew Lloyd Webber until I realised it was his brother, my god they look alike. He was on with his wife who plays cello and rather well at that.

I was officially off work for the week but Mick asked if I would do a show. I agreed but only if my merchandise was put in the shops and was sold after my show. Agreed. I’m delighted to report I outsold several of the artists onboard. Most of the people on this ship were first-time cruisers, on here because of the line-up, and they were dedicated music lovers. The audience was probably the best I’ve ever had, not in numbers, because you can’t physically get any more into Celebrity Central if you’d tried. The stewards had to bring 50 extra chairs in and it was still not enough. People were standing at the back and sitting in the aisles but that has happened before. The difference was in the reaction, the applause was immense and seemed to go on forever, and I loved every minute. The promoter didn’t really know what I did or who I was and so he was shocked at the turn out but Sue told him “I told you she would pack it”. He sat with me the next day and asked why he wasn’t using me more? I told him because he hadn’t asked and that it was too late now. I’d already made up my mind I was only doing the one show. Leave them wanting more!

The whole thing could have backfired. When Mick had asked he said he would put me on one of the next two sea days. When I went to bed, Celebrity Today, the ship’s entertainment schedule, was sat on the bed and I noticed I wasn’t advertised for the following day. Mick later told me they had left it too late to get it in the paper and told me it would be the next sea day. I wasn’t best pleased to see it advertised that night for the next day when we were in port. The show was scheduled for 5.00pm, the same time we were sailing, ½ an hour before first sitting for dinner, and Ruthie Henshaw was in the main theatre at 6.00pm. Not amused. The weather had been terrific every day, the heat wave of England had followed us across and I knew a lot of people would want to watch the sail out. As it was, I cut the show by 7 minutes, and people still left during dad’s last song, something that has never happened before. It wasn’t that they didn’t like my talk, it was simply because they wanted good seats in the theatre for Ruthie’s show. When I made my comments to the promoter earlier that morning he had said that the show didn’t start until 6.00pm and that the passengers had 10 minutes to get from me to the theatre but he didn’t get the fact that no one wants to sit at the back. For Alfie Boe and Katherine Jenkins people were queuing for more than an hour beforehand.

I had only seen Alfie Boe once before on television when he did a guest spot with Michael Ball on Strictly Come Dancing. To be honest I hadn’t liked the arrangement and didn’t think the pairing worked so I wasn’t sure whether I’d go to the show or not but Sue arranged for us to go together. OMG am I glad I went to the first show because I subsequently went to all three. The man was amazing and I thought the repertoire genius although there was quite a few upset he hadn’t sung any Italian or Opera classics. I couldn’t have been happier, I haven’t enjoyed someone that much since dad, and that’s saying something.

The schedule was tight, all the roadies, crew and artists boarded the ship at 10.00am and rehearsals started the minute the equipment was set up. The first headline show was at 9.00pm that night with two performances the following evening. Alfie then got off in Bilbao and two days later Katherine Jenkins got on in Vigo, did one show the first night, two the next and got off in Cherbourg. All the other guest acts were on for the duration save Wynne Evans (Go Compare). He was a great talent and not just in the singing, the man is a natural comic and had me falling about the floor in laughter. I was fortunate enough to meet him and we spent quite some time talking shop. Wynne has a radio show on Radio Wales every day and has kindly asked me onto the program when I get back. He left in Vigo on the Wednesday and was due back on air the following day. I gave him a copy of dad’s new album so he had something decent to play, lol

I also spent a lot of time with Vladimir & Anton, two violin virtuosos who wanted my help in writing a new biog and creating a new image for themselves. By the time they left their new name was Stringphonik, their biography was rewritten and I’d taken new pictures for their website. Watch out for them, as they are incredible, merging old classical standards with a new contemporary edge.

On the second day of the cruise, mid-afternoon, I was sitting out on deck writing when Crystal came up and said “Mr Alfie Boe would like the pleasure of my company for drinks after the show”. I told he to behave herself but she insisted it wasn’t a wind up and I was to meet Sue before the second show. I have never got ready so fast in my life and I met up with Sue ½ hour before curtain up. She had spoken to Alfie earlier in the day and told him I was onboard. It seems that he is a big fan of dads and he asked to meet me. Sue decided we would go backstage before curtain up as we might all miss each other later. I didn’t need persuading. What a nice guy, down-to-earth, totally unaffected and an amazing talent. He told me he was a massive fan and anyone that is, is okay in my book. He invited Sue and I to a show he is doing at a football club near Blackpool in a month or so but we explained we would both be working. I didn’t realize he lived in the States and is coming back to England next year for a re-pairing with Michael Ball in a series of shows and he insisted I come to that. I don’t even know who is management is!!


Whatever, it was a great night and I had to have the picture to prove it. I enjoyed his last show even more, he put everything into it and finished on a fantastic number from Quadraphonia called Love Reigns. Go to ITunes and download it now.

I wasn’t going to see Katherine Jenkins and she has never done anything for me but I thought I’d be stupid to miss an opportunity such as this. Sue and I caught her second show and although she is a good singer my opinion hasn’t changed. She has no personality at all, no oomph during the show. She has her own personalized rhinestone microphone, which was totally over the top and changed outfits three times in the space of 40 minutes. Her closing number was “Time to Say Goodbye” and I did. I had to leave, as ever since playing it at mum’s funeral I can’t listen to it anymore.

 

It annoyed me that she had pre-signed CDs and glossy colour 10x8s, which were on sale after the show on a table looked after by one of Bravo’s team but she didn’t make an appearance. In fact she announced at all three of her shows that if we saw her when walking about the ship to please come up for a picture or an autograph but she never left her room all the time she was on the ship whereas Alfie, after finishing all three shows, wanted to see the ship and ended up at the Silent Disco and joined in. What a trooper.

I’ve heard stories about Katherine Jenkins’s contract rider being longer than the sequel to Gone With the Wind and that she is a difficult diva but those stories can’t be written about but suffice to say the sources are totally reliable.

I’d intended to see several other acts but I was far to busy talking. I’ve given the promoter an idea for another themed cruise and he is looking into it. If it comes off it will be awesome. Away from the business side he and his wife Elaine and her sister Rose were lovely people and it would be nice to think I might meet up with them in the near future. It’s funny he reminded me of someone for days and then I twigged, he looks like Jack Nicholson.

So we’ve just begun the third cruise of the British run and I have to say it is a very different crowd, a lot of foreigners and a lot of families with children so I was bowled over when my first two shows were filled to capacity. Considering my show is at 3.00pm and the weather is in the high 70s, I was surprised that so many left their sun beds but I’m glad they did.

The Matt Monro Story is touring for the last time this year before my brother retires. After thirty years in the business, the dates in September, October and November will see him hang up his show business hat. Having just got married to a wonderful lady he doesn’t want to spend months on the road anymore, he figures it’s time to try something new…. but he hasn’t made his mind up yet on what that will be.

 

 

Don’t forget it’s not too late to let me have any recommendations of shops, eateries, tours and the places that have impressed you in Europe. Even if you have a valuable tip I want to hear it, you might know the best places for duty free and if anyone has issues with their mobility please share your stories with me. It could be that you need to tell me a place to avoid and that is equally valid. This project is important so if you have any suggestions of things to include please email me at michele@mattmonro.com. Maybe you have a great title for the book then please don’t be shy, everything is valuable and you’ll be helping future travelers.

 

Cruise Dates 2018

26 May 9 June – Celebrity Silhouette
9 June 23 June – Celebrity Silhouette
23 June 7 July – Home for Max’s Graduation
7 July – 21 July – Celebrity Silhouette
21 July – 4 August – Celebrity Silhouette
4 August – 18 August – Celebrity Silhouette

Each time I’ve been away I’ve been posting a travel blog with pictures and video onto my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/michelemonro every time I’m in port with an Internet connection.

Don’t forget to check out our Spotlight feature this month, I know so many of you enjoy them. This month we look in on the ever-popular

Check out the ‘Rough Guide to mattmonro.com’, which is available towards the bottom of the Homepage. If you don’t know how to access certain areas of the site or in fact are unaware of new areas, this guide will explain how easy this website is to get around, once you know how.

There is also another information box “How to Use the Forum’. I know a lot of people have been tempted to join in on some of our conversations but are slightly nervous of doing so. For that reason I have printed step-by-step instructions of how to access it. It really does only take a few minutes.

Whatever the coming year holds, suffice to say that I shall be plugging Matt Monro’s music at every opportunity.  That is the wonderful thing about working the ships, it gives me a brand new audience each time and if then, a small percentage go home a fan, then it is worth all the blood, sweat and tears, not to mention the Bay of Biscay!!!!

Until next month take care of yourselves and here’s wishing everyone good health, happiness and a lot of sunshine.
See you in June.

Warmest to you and yours

Michele

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