Wow, it's been a long time since I've written a blog post. I promise, I'm going to start posting more stuff: music, travels, food, career updates, etc. My absence online, however, is not due to a lack of things to post about---quite the opposite actually. I've been spending significantly less time on my computer and social media this summer, which is an awesome thing for your mental health and productivity. However, there's also a fine line when as an entertainer today, you're practically required to promote yourself, interact with fans, network and build your audience online.
If I've seen you within the last few weeks and/or you follow me on Instagram, you probably know that I spent a good chunk of August in Alaska.
"ALASKA?! What? Why? How? Was it cold?"
Well, I'm glad you asked.
What the heck was I doing in Alaska?
Performing! Only a few days before I actually left, I was asked to come aboard and fill in for a few weeks in the Billboard Onboard piano show, an entertainment staple on many of Holland America's luxury cruise ships. This contract was particularly special because it was for the Oprah Adventure Of Your Life Cruise, a partnership between O, The Oprah Magazine and Holland America. The Billboard Onboard show isn't quite a piano bar. It's not quite dueling pianos either. Instead, it is an interactive two-piano show, part concert and part sing-along, that incorporates fun musical trivia and different genre themes in every show.
What is it like living on the ship?
Aside from the occasional sea sickness, it is a lot of fun! It was truly a blessing to wake up each day to these incredible views. Of course, the amenities and food are awesome and it was really great getting to know the people I was performing for each week. Unsurprisingly, here were some of my favorite places to hang out on the ship: the gym (with the best view of any gym I've ever been to!), a crew-only lounge that doubled as my practice room during the day and the cafe on the top deck! #ViewsOnViews
Where did this thang start?
I flew into Seattle the day before the ship set sail for Alaska. Seattle is an interesting city and I was glad I was able to check out Pike Place Market, which not only boasts the biggest tub of liquid cheese I've ever seen, but is also where my favorite coffee roast got it's name. A few blocks away, the Starbucks Reserve Roastery did not fail to impress the caffeine-addict in me either. For the record, Starbucks is like the PNW equivalent of New England's obsession with Dunkin Donuts; it's not just a chain coffee-shop with a location on every corner.
It is a way of life.
What did you do in Alaska?
Because my performances were in the evening, I was pretty fortunate to get off the ship most days and check out what each port had to offer.
Here are some of the places I got to explore.
AJ Mine Gastineau Mill: at one point, this was the world's largest gold producing mill! After watching the tools and techniques in the mine and learning a little bit about Alaska's Gold Rush history, we were able to pan for gold ourselves.
St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, established in 1894. Since the 1700s, when Russia first established colonies in Alaska, Russian culture has had a huge influence in Alaska. Interestingly enough though, the Orthodox church's strong presence in Juneau was strengthened by the native Tlingit population and leaders.
And yes. I ate salmon and/or crab every day.
Taking a Jet-Cat off to a remote island where we were able to see whales, eagles, sea otters and more from the beach.
St. Michael's Orthodox Cathedral. In 1966, an accidental fire destroyed the cathedral. Still, 90% of the icons and artwork were saved.
The cathedral houses one of the most revered Icons in North America: Our Lady of Sitka, Mother of God. She is called upon to particularly help those struggling with addiction, an epidemic that has long plagued Native American populations.
Made some v tall friends at the Sitka National Historical Park.
Whale watching from a zodiac raft after enjoying a king crab lunch at a log cabin on a private island. No bears were spotted, but apparently they like to hang out around the neighborhood quite a bit. Most of the trash cans are designed to be bear-proof.
On the raft, I remember looking around and thinking, "wow, pictures don't this justice." Not even close.
My days in Ketchikan were pretty relaxed. Still, in comparison to my typical Mass Ave. route, it wasn't a bad view for a morning run.
And now for the #1 question I've been getting about Alaska...
Was it cold?
Nope. It wasn't 90 degrees and humid Boston-esque weather, but it was definitely not cold. There were a few cloudy days. There were a few rainy days. However, for the most part it stayed around the low-mid 70s with a few warmer afternoons. Even more surprising though, the winters are apparently pretty mild, averaging around 40 and only occasionally dropping below freezing.
Any close calls or crazy stories to share?
Of course. But what happens in Alaska is supposed to STAY in Alaska, right??
To my delight, there were plenty of "small world" moments. I met quite a few folks visiting from Boston and one of the ship's cast members, Leslie (on the right) was not only from Rhode Island, but also competed in Miss Rhode Island! I met some great new friends, some very talented fellow musicians (my Billboard Onboard partner, Rachel, is in the middle) and some very interesting and appreciative guests.
Now that you're home, what is next?
This weekend, I'll be heading to Atlantic City to support our Miss Massachusetts and my very dear friend, Gabby Taveras, as she competes for the title of Miss America! However, I'm excited to get back into "work mode" when I return next week; finishing up some of the new music I started writing while on the ship, partnering with some awesome new brands, actively contributing to my blog and performing A LOT of shows.