On a cold frosty February morning I enjoyed my breakfast with my wife and son knowing that I wouldn’t be seeing them again until the end of March. This is the down side of being in the business they call show, but I have to accept that if I want to stay busy and earn a good living this is all part of the job. My son leaves for school and I get a hug which makes me slightly emotional even though he is now seventeen and taller than his old man, how I coped when he was a lot younger I really don’t know. My wife Jane is amazing and like me accepts that the time away is unavoidable and we just have to get on with it. My taxi arrives on time and I kiss my wife , I take a look back at the house thinking that the next time I am home it will be spring time. I travel light with just one carry on case and a lap top bag, this is something that only comics or singers can do as I don’t have props or a musical instrument to carry about. This makes travelling through the airport a breeze. However, this time I really have not thought this through. I get stopped at the baggage check and told that I have too many toiletries and so they take away my mosquito repellant and sun cream. Unbelievable really as I can buy the same products from the shops air side and take them on the plane. I often wonder how many of the staff on the baggage check actually take the stuff home that gets confiscated, especially if it’s new.
My flight to LA on British Airways is pretty uneventful, I sleep , watch a few movies and we land in LA on time. I’ve always loved LA unlike a lot of people I know. I think the reason I love LA is because when I was in my mid twenties in 1986 I decided to go off to LA on my own for a three week holiday. This started me off on my love affair with the US that despite a certain president being in the hot seat, is still going strong today. There is an energy in the US that I love , it seems everyone is working hard to achieve something whether they are in show business, selling or serving in McDonalds. I may have mentioned this story a few times before but in 86 I managed to get myself an open spot at The Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard. The LA store is the original comedy store and it’s the place that inspired Peter Rosengard and Don Ward to open a club in London under the same name but it was not linked in any way to the US store. I performed a ten minute spot in the smallest of the three rooms and I did really well. When I left the stage, a strange woman called Mitzy Shore who turned out to be the owner came up to me and told me I was funny and she’d like me to go and perform in the room next door which was the original room. I followed her and she introduced me to the MC with the words ‘ Get this guy on next, he’s funny, he’s from England and I want the TV people to see him .’ The MC looked at me in amazement as Mitzy walked away, he said ‘ Well done sir, if Mitzy likes you , anything can happen.’ So then I was told I was going to be on next, imagine how I felt, my first time in LA and now I am going on in front of some big TV producers in Hollywood. Just as I was about to be introduced on stage there was a bit of chat going on amongst the audience and there at the side of the stage was the late and great Robin Williams. The MC then introduced the great man and he then performed an hour of comedy gold. My night had gone from being right up there to being a bit of a disaster. As soon as Robin left the stage so did most of the audience including the TV people. I still went on but none of us comedians that went on after Robin got much reaction from the remaining few people in the audience, I got a few polite laughs but I knew that it was best to cut my losses and get off. I know there’s many comics with a similar story but at least I got to see Robin Williams work when he was at his best. As for my possible spot on The Tonight show, it was never meant to happen and I got over it and at least I have an ‘ I could have been a contender’ story to bore my friends and relatives with and now you dear reader.
A few hours spent negotiating US immigration, customs check and I make my way to another terminal to board my United Airlines flight to Honolulu. I travel nearly every week but there are certain places in the world that just jump out from the diary telling you that this is going to be a great trip. This time it’s Hawaii, I’ve only been to Honolulu a few times but nearly always on a late flight in and an early flight out next morning. After a sleep filled six hour flight I land in Honolulu and as I leave the plane the warm tropical air hits me and I am greeted with ‘Aloha’ by the driver that’s been sent to meet me. All the tension from the day’s flying seems to be easing rapidly and I am looking forward to exploring Waikiki even at this late hour. I am checked in greeted with some more Aloha’s to the very acceptable Double Tree By Hilton, my room is comfortable with two king size double beds. I waste no time in showering and getting out to stretch my legs on the streets of Waikiki. I am very impressed how clean and modern Waikiki is, it’s 10pm and there are still lots of tourists walking about. I walk past the Hard rock Cafe and then I see a restaurant called The Yard House and I decide to eat there . I am so glad I did as the spicy tuna roll they served me is the best dish I have tasted in ages followed by a Caesar Salad and a glass of Kendal Jackson Chardonnay, I am a very happy traveller. I make my way back to the hotel thinking that this is going to be a great trip.
As always after a long journey I awake early and decide to get out just before sunrise for my morning walk. I have decided that this trip I am going to try to shift a few pounds of weight and try to get my blood pressure down as it was higher than it should be on a recent medical. I have always battled with my weight and tend to yoyo between thirteen and a half stone and fifteen and a half stone. This has been a life time problem for me and the older I get the worse it is. Most ‘ship acts’ say that they put on weight on the ship’s and lose it when they are at home. For me it’s the complete opposite, if I am away I seem to be more disciplined and I use the hours spent walking in the morning and the evening to help fill the day with something to do. I can also stick to a diet on the ship but at home my wife is such a fantastic cook and we both love our wine so it’s more difficult. I have however decided that I am going to try to cut sugar out of my diet meaning no chocolate, no ice cream and no soft drinks. I am going to drink the odd glass of wine but even that I will cut down. I am also going to cut back on carbs.
The early morning walkers are out in great numbers and the sky is blue, it’s going to be a lovely day. I am not getting picked up until 11 am so I can go for it this morning. I walk for 90 minutes taking in the sun rise and Waikiki Beach which if I am totally honest slightly disappoints me. I quote on my Facebook page that it’s Tenerife without the football shirts. This is not a snobby remark it’s an accurate observation but it get’s a little misunderstood by a few people and I receive a little bit of friendly stick because of this. Walk over, back to the hotel, I take a shower and shave and still have time to go out and grab a bit of breakfast. I eat a very healthy omelette while watching Americans eating pancakes and waffles with maple syrup around me. I could never eat anything like this first thing in the morning but having said that, I have eaten curry for breakfast in India and noodles in South East Asia for breakfast so who am I to talk.
Meet up at 11 o’clock downstairs in reception and I am greeted by my fellow turn Clare Langan. We seem to work together on the same ships a lot, she is one of the nicest and most positive people I know and also a very talented musician and entertainer. We also meet the male dance host’s, always a very interesting group of gentleman. They all introduce them selves to us and it’s a little like a school staffroom at the beginning of term. On our way to the ship having disembarked the bus we bump in to Paul O’Loughlin the entertainment director who is an old mate from when we worked on Princess Cruises. This is going to be a lovely week that’s actually going to be a day short as we go over the International Date Line where we lose a day. More about this in my next blog, thanks for reading and I am sorry for any grammar mistakes or typo’s I’m a comic not a writer.
Off To Samoa
The Queen Elizabeth is a delight to be on as always, the audiences are mostly Australians , Brits and Americans and they are a delight to play to. I don’t know if it’s the climate but the Australian guests just seem so up for it. They are different to us, they don’t sit out in the sun like us Brits do and they love to go and watch a matinee film or a show. The guest lecturers are always very interesting on Carnival UK ships (Cunard and P&O and this week we have a retired member of the British CID who delivers wonderfully dark yet sometimes humorous lectures about various murder investigations and Clare Balding who I sadly only got to see once when she gave a talk about The London Olympics and her experience presenting for the BBC, it was truly magnificent and wonderful to watch a pro at work. I have watched so many great lecturers over the years on the ships and I have also learnt a lot from attending these lectures. I could not have wished for a better ship to start my six ship tour on as I know so many of the musicians, the entertainment staff and members of the crew. When you work on these ships as an entertainer you realise how hard the crew work to make the ship run well, it really is a team effort. As for the guest entertainers, as well as Clare Langan there’s also X Factor finalist Ben Mills. He’s a great guy and a lot of fun. As well as two fantastic shows in the theatre he also performs a late night more intimate show in The Commodore Club. He packs the room out and was absolutely superb. Clare as always had a storming show. All in all, Clare, Ben and myself have had a great week and Entertainment director Paul O’Loughlin is a very happy man. We arrive in Apia, Samoa which has to be one of the most laid back countries in the world. The locals are mostly strangers to a salad and they are so quiet but very friendly. It’s not my first time in Apia and I am pleased to be back. The good thing is that today I am going to see the countryside on the trip to the airport as it’s daylight unlike last time I was here. Samoa really is a lovely place and I am told by a good friend of mine that the island really is worth spending a few days on. He recommended me to the Sheraton resort, I make a note that if ever I join a ship here again I will use up my Starwood points for a few days here. The drive to the airport with my fellow turns really is beautiful, deserted beaches, villages that seem empty and lots of green tropical plants and tree’s. We get to the airport and we are expecting an old terminal and dreading it.as we have a four hour wait. However, the terminal building is extremely impressive and just a few weeks old. It turns out that Samoa sold it’s fishing rights to pay for the building. I am sure this was very controversial locally but it’s certainly a lot better than the old terminal. All three of us are on the same flight to Aukland, I am sat next to a young guy and his girl friend and I don’t think I have ever seen anyone on a flight drink so much. He must have drunk nine large whiskey’s. He then tells me he is from Christchurch. After all the tragedy that wonderful city has experienced with all the earthquakes I wonder if that’s the reason why he drinks so much. It turns out he’s a construction worker, I hope he doesn’t drink too much the night before a big job. We land in Aukland, I say my good byes to Clare and Ben and I rush to make my next flight to Sydney.
I had to check my bag in as Air New Zealand said my one carry on bag was over weight. This is not good news for me as I love breezing through the airport at the other end. We have landed late and I have fifteen minutes to make the flight to Sydney. I run to the baggage check, I get to the gate thinking I am late and there are passengers sitting there so I know I am OK. I ask at the desk if they can track my bag just to make sure it’s made it to the Aeroplane. Not for the first time on my travels I am told that it’s the same plane that I just got off and it wont be a problem. The flight is delayed due to the late incoming flight which I was on, Oh the joys of travelling!!
I land in Sydney just as the sun has gone down. Now there are a handful of city’s that really excite me and this one is is way up there at the top of the list. Alongside New York, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore, Miami and Vegas. I have been a regular visitor to Sydney for many years ever since I visited Australia on holiday with my old mate and fellow comic Larry Larkin back in the mid 80’s. It’s a very modern city that still has that new just out the wrapper feel about it and it’s constantly expanding. One thing that hasn’t changed is the rudeness of the hotel transfer bus drivers. I ask where the bus is that would take me to The Ibis Sydney Airport. I get told to wait and a bus will be along in five minutes. The bus arrives and the driver says to me ‘Which Ibis you want to go to?’ I said ‘ The Airport one.’ he replies ‘ There are two, The Budget Ibis and The Airport Ibis.’ Now to be honest I am not that delighted that I am staying in an Ibis but I am hoping that the port agent has at least booked me in to the Airport one rather than the Budget. I ask the driver to take me to the Airport Ibis as I am sure that will be the one. He then raises his voice ‘Every day people tell me to take them to the Airport Ibis and then they get there and it’s the Budget Ibis, I don’t get paid to go to two hotels, just the one.’ Now I am ready to bark back!! ‘ Look mate, I have just spent all day travelling and I am told it’s the Airport Ibis so that’s where I want to go, give me your name and I will make a note and tell The Airport Ibis you would not take me, I will get a taxi.’ Now he changes his attitude, he reluctantly takes me to The Airport Ibis. I try to make polite conversation and I ask the driver where he’s from, he then tells me he is from Baghdad, Iraq. The conversation comes to an end and we pull up at the Airport Ibis where I am pleased to say I was confirmed and booked in. The joke is that the Budget Ibis was just a few hundred yards away from this hotel next door and I could have walked it, I think he just wanted an argument. Despite my unusually hostile welcome to Sydney it’s great to be back and I look forward to re-exploring the city again tomorrow as I have three days here before I leave on The Arcadia. More next time.
THANK YOU SYDNEY
I don’t ever remember not enjoying a day or night in Sydney. No matter what time of year and what ever the weather it’s just one of those city’s that seems to smile at you. I stayed at The Ibis in a part of the city called Mascot. Now, the truth is it’s not one of the most attractive parts of Sydney but I cant ever recall a town near a big international airport being that appealing, I am thinking of Southall, Hayes or Slough. I still managed to get up before sunrise and get out and do my five mile power walk. This has become a bit of an obsession on this trip as I am really trying to get my weight, my blood pressure and BMI down through diet, less drinking and more exercise. So far it’s been going well and I am starting to see the results. I estimate that I have lost at least 7lbs since I left home two weeks ago. I am addicted to my ‘Myfitnesspal’ app, entering every walk and meal and staying within the limit for a man of my age and weight. I am also loosely following the 5:2 diet where I have two days each week where I fast and keep the calorific intake under 600 calories. I found this hard at first but now I don’t seem to be that affected on the fast days. To top this I have cut sugar from my diet, well as much as possible. This has definitely made me feel a lot better. The one thing I am just cutting down on rather than cutting out is drinking wine, I love my wine but I will just have to try and drink less, and just a few nights a week.
On my first morning in Sydney I walked for five miles and then after breakfast in the hotel I decided to walk in to the city which took me nearly two hours. Maybe this was a mistake as I had to stop a few times due to feeling dehydrated as the temperature was up in the low 30’s. I walked round Kings Cross remembering the first time I came to this city when this was an area that was like Soho in London with strip clubs, hookers and adult cinema’s. Now it’s a completely different area and in my opinion has lost it’s character. Most of the buildings have been turned in to extremely expensive apartment blocks and and there’s a lot of trendy restaurants as well as back packers stores. I hope this never happens to London’s Soho even though that area of London has also changed as well. I am starting to feel the affects of travelling over the last week or so, and I headlock to the Ibis for a much needed siesta. That night I went back to Kings Cross to watch an Australian comic and mate Trevor Crook perform as he is back in Sydney from London for a few months. I really enjoyed watching the show and especially watching Trevor perform his headline spot to his fellow Australians. So much material I have never seen him perform as I have only ever worked with him back home in the UK. It was also nice to see him and catch up.
On the Saturday, after walking again I make my way this time on the train /metro to Sydney CBD ( Central Business District) where I have a walk round the market and then make my way to Sydney Harbour where I have arranged to meet another comic from home who’s now hosting his own radio show in Sydney five mornings a week on Nova Radio. His name is Greg Burns and he is one of the really nice guys in the tough business of comedy and radio and I am looking forward to catching up with him. Greg texts me to tell me is on the fast ferry from Manley where he is residing and it’s great to see him. We walk round the Harbour towards the Opera House and decide to have a drink in a bar. We sit there all afternoon talking about the circuit back home, warm up’s ( we both did studio warm up’s) and after a few bottles of wine ( Yeh I know, got to have a day off the diet) we then relocate to a very nice Indian Restaurant. Now I am used to going for a curry after a night out drinking but at 6pm this seems a little weird. If I am honest my memory of the meal is a little hazy due to the wine consumed but my American Express bill tells me it was very nice! I made my way back to my hotel or should I say I stumbled my way back and I am tucked up in bed on a Saturday night at 9pm. My head ache the following morning is a big wake up call and I make the decision to think really seriously about cutting my wine intake down. I really don’t have a serious problem but it needs to be addressed and I am going to give it my best effort.
It’s Sunday morning and today I am embarking P&O’s Arcadia. I still get another night in Sydney as she doesn’t leave till the following evening. I get to the ship early but I cant embark till after mid day. This presents me with a problem as I am meeting my former BBC colleague Adrian Pegg and his wife Felicity for lunch. I decide to check in my luggage and make arrangements to embark later. My hangover beginning to subside and I meet up with Adrian and Felicity and we make our way on the ferry out to Watson’s Bay to the famous seafood restaurant Doyle’s. I have been trying to get to this restaurant for many years but for various reasons it has just never worked out. Well, I am glad I waited as this place just blew me off my feet. I loved it and it was so nice to catch up with Adrian who is working in Sydney and The South Pacific Islands on a series. We first worked together on Only Fools And Horses many years ago when he was the floor manager and it’s great to see that his career like mine brings him to these wonderful locations. If ever you are in Sydney I urge you to book a table at Doyle’s , outside preferably and go for The fish and chips, you know it makes sense.
Having embarked Arcadia I make my way back to Kings Cross where I catch up with another old mate who I haven’t seen for over 30 years. I see that there’s a comic working the clubs called JJ Mullard. I check Youtube to see if this is who I think it is and my suspicions are confirmed. It’s Johnny Mullard, a comic who I used to work with on the London stag show circuit back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Johnny and I have something in common even now as we both ventured from the old school mainstream circuit on to the comedy club’s. It’s great to see Johnny , he’s hardly changed and I remind him of show’s and venues where we worked together back in the day. The club he’s working that night is very quiet and having introduced me to the show manager, they ask me if I would like to do a short spot. I never say no and so all of a sudden I am now pacing up and down, watching the other comics and thinking I should not have agreed to this. The second half comes along and the audience are very quiet but polite. They are running late and ask me to keep it tight, this is music to my ears. I go on and try some new lines about how Kings cross has changed, they are met with stony silence. I then do an established bit from my act that gets me out of trouble but we all know the audience peaked before the interval. It was great to watch Johnny who dealt with the tough audience in only the way us old hands can. After the show he say’s ‘ Golden rule, invite a mate along and it’s always a crap night.’ I disagree, it was a typical Sunday just like we get at some clubs in London, no difference. Great to see you Johnny, I know you will be reading this.
Monday morning, the ship has moved and we are now in the middle of the harbour. I make my way ashore to buy another suitcase and when I get back to the ship I look back at Sydney and feel a little sorry that I am leaving again. I hope that I will be back next year, in fact I hope I come back here every year. As Sydney disappears in to the distance, the sunset is the best one of this trip so far.
It’s nice to get back on Arcadia and it’s a little like being home as I can watch Sky News, Sky Sports and it’s good to be back in familiar surroundings. I have a lovely balcony cabin so it’s going to be a nice week. As with most of the ships I work on these days, there are a few guests on board who I know from previous ships. It’s amazing now, cruising holidays are so popular and there are so many guests who cruise three, maybe four times a year. These people are not millionaires, they have just worked hard and constantly look for good deals and I think that’s great. Of course I do, it not only pay’s my mortgage but I have enough air miles to fly around the world ten times but there again, why would I when I can work on a cruise ship. I now feel like I am trying a new bit on you that’s not fully formed. Tough room!
The first day at sea between Sydney and Brisbane is nice and quiet. I perform my shows than night and both go well, once again the Australians prove they are up for a good night but it’s also great to also work to The Brits on board and get laughs out of Brexit, Corbin and co.
Our first port of call is Brisbane, I decide to book a coach transfer up to Surfers Paradise on The Gold Coast. On the journey to the coast my mind drifts back to 1984 when I was here on that trip with my old friend the comedian Larry Larkin. We were being shown round the coast by my uncles mate John. He was bragging about all the wonderful places and how much better than the UK it was and this was beginning to give me the severe hump. As we drove past this RSL Club called Twin Towns, I noticed that The Shadows were appearing there and that they were opening this very night. I asked John , who Larry and I were now calling The Maltese Falcon if he we could pop in and have a look. As we got out the car he started telling me how this was one of the biggest clubs in Australia and there was no clubs like this back in the UK. I went to the desk, introduced my self and asked if The Shadows were in the building explaining that I was a friend of the band from the UK. I then asked if Brian Goode their manager was around. Within minutes Brian appeared and greeted me like a long lost friend even though it was only a few months previously I had opened for The Shadows in the UK. Brian asked me what I was doing in Australia. I explained we were on holiday and introduced my mate Larry and John who looked totally confused. Brian then asked me if I would be interested in opening for them tonight as there was a power problem every other hour and they could not perform their full show. I ended up borrowing one of the backing band member’s suits and went on that night and for the rest of the week. This was what started my love affair with Australia. The fee I got paid covered the holiday and I have been coming back regularly ever since.
It was very interesting to see how Surfers Paradise has grown and it’s a wonderful clean modern resort. For me though, I prefer the city’s like Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide. Maybe that’s the Londoner in me coming out. None the less I have a very pleasant day and also got to meet up with my cousin’s husband Brenton for a drink and a quick catch up. It would have been nice to catch up with the family but they were all out of town.
On returning to the ship I see that we have had a new intake of guest entertainers and a celebrity lecturer. It’s always nice when you see other acts that you know by name. Vernon Lewis is a great singer and I immediately warm to him as he is an ex pro footballer and has lot’s of stories that I love hearing, especially as some of them involve one of my favourite characters in football, Neil Warnock. The celebrity lecturer is one of the famous McGann brothers, Joe. I last worked with Joe many years ago when I was the warm up man for a show that he starred in. I am not sure if he will remember me but he does and we also have lots of stories to tell each other over a soft drink ( a very healthy week). I watch both the guys put on great shows, Vernon is an old hand but it’s Joe’s first time doing his speech on a ship. You would never have known it, no script and he performs it like a one man show he has been delivering for many years. There was also very clever pick pocket Mark Freeman who I have never worked with before but I am sure we will now work together a lot as always seems to be the case. At the end of the week we get to Yorky’s Knob, this is a real place name and you can imagine the gags I try to write just so that I can get some ‘knob gags’ in to my ‘ship act’. Apparently its named Yorky’s Knob as the local land owner was from Yorkshire and so they called it Yorky’s knob. I said its a good job he wasn’t from Biggleswade. ( Big Knob !!!)……..They didn’t get it either !!
So that’s it, two ships done, four to go but if I am honest I am not counting the days as I am really having fun on this trip and most of that is because I am getting fitter every day and continue to feel the weight coming off. It’s a never ending battle for me but this time it feels like one I can fight head on. I wait at Cairns Airport for six hours , it’s not the worse airport in the world in fact it’s very comfortable. I manage to get some writing time in and I look forward to my next adventure on Sun Princess in Brisbane, where I embark in the morning.
BRISBANE AND SUN PRINCESS
After a very pleasant flight on Virgin Australia I land at Brisbane Airport where I am transferred to the Mantra Hotel on the South Bank. It’s Saturday night and the area is buzzing with restaurants, bars and cafe’s full to the brim. The hotel is very nice but I get out and have a walk around taking in the atmosphere. it reminds me off when I used to appear at Jongleurs Comedy Club’s in city centre’s up and down the UK. It makes me feel old I have to say as the bar’s are full of trendy young people less than half my age. I find a Japanese restaurant where I dine on Spicy Tuna Roll, Noodles and a few well deserved glasses of Chardonnay, sod the diet it’s a Saturday.
I lay awake late watching football from the UK on my laptop, I learn that my team QPR has lost away at Preston and I drift off for a few hours sleep regretting I stayed up late. I wake just before 6 am and I join the Princess Cruises Crew bus to the ship. We all have to join early for operational reasons which I will not be going in to on here. Lets just say, it makes for a very long day for the entire crew on the ship and they cope admirably.
I only work for Princess a few weeks of the year and I am pleased to say that this cruise only came in a few weeks ago and filled a week that would have been empty. My good friend Kelvin Joy one of the company’s most experienced cruise director’s mentioned to the Princess head of entertainment that I was in the area and free so they very kindly stepped in and booked me for this cruise. Now, I have just got off a couple of ships where they were on their world cruises, this ship however is on a one week cruise out of Brisbane and back. In Europe we would call this a party cruise and that’s exactly what it is. The people who come on are ready to have fun in the terminal before they get on. The ship is a new one to me but I am lucky that a fellow act and all round good egg Tony Lewis the Robbie Williams tribute is on who I have worked with on other ships. Tony guides me through the process on this ship and shows me where to go and where not to go. We have a great week and even got to spend my 56th birthday at Curtis Stone’s Restaurant on board. The week for me was almost like a holiday as I was finished on the Monday and waited on board till the Sunday to get off.
One very weird conversation that really proves what a small world we are living in was when I bumped in to the resident singer in the cast, Laura Parke. We had a very pleasant chat about agents, the business, cruising and as I walked back to my cabin she asked me if I ever worked with any Jazz musicians. I said I had worked with all sorts of musicians and big bands over the years. She said her father was a musician and his name was Peter Parke, well it just turned out that I remembered touring with Peter and I told Laura I did a Howard Keel tour with him and many more back in the 80’s. She couldn’t believe it, she was four years of age and remembered this tour and the tours that followed with Johnny Mathis, Jack Jones and Shirley Bassey. She walked away thinking how lovely it was that here we were in Australia talking about her late father, I walked away thinking ‘ Laura was four………four!!!!! God, I feel old!! I watched Laura perform with the cast the next night and couldn’t help thinking how her dad would be so proud of her as she has such a lovey voice and presence on stage. I hope Arthur Daikin is looking after all the musicians up there in Heaven. Only musicians of a certain age will get that remark. Laura, good luck with your future career and I am sure we will work together again.
Another very pleasant flight to Cairns from Brisbane, this time I get to the airport and the port agent hasn’t turned up. This happens a lot and it can be a nightmare if you are on a tight schedule and need to get to the ship but today there’s no rush as I have two days before I join QM2 A quick phone call resolves this situation and I get transferred to yet another Mantra Hotel, this time The Mantra Trilogy in Cairns. I have stayed here before so I know what to expect, it’s more of an apartment block than a hotel but it’s very clean, modern and does the job. I am here for two nights and I know the town well so I just chill out and get plenty of miles under my belt with the power walking at sun rise and sun set. Cairns has a unique atmosphere and I really like it. It’s very laid back and most tourists and backpackers are here just to treat the city as a base to explore The Barrier Reef. I am yet to do this as I am not that keen on swimming with the Jelly fish, Sharks and Sting Rays. I will do it one day but preferably when my family are with me.
On my first night I dine out at an Indian restaurant called Indian Brothers, it’s basic and cheap but it serves the best Chicken Vindaloo I will probably eat in this part of the world. Monday morning I am out walking just before sunrise and The Esplanade is full of joggers, walkers and cyclists. On my walk I see an old friend, Fred Olsen’s shipThe Black Watch. It’s a long time since I last performed on that ship and it has many happy memories for me. I walk around the town that day and I know straight away if I pass any passengers from the ship. I have learnt how to spot passengers ashore and I can usually work out which ship they are from by the way they are dressed or acting. I decide to go to the shopping mall in search of a weighing machine as I want an update on my weight. I ask in a chemist if there is one in the mall and the very friendly assistant tells me they will weigh me and take my blood pressure. My weight was 14 stone which means I have now lost 24 pounds since Christmas and my blood pressure shocks me as it was way above what it was just after Christmas. They explain that this could be because it’s middle of the day and I have been walking. They tell me it’s best to check first thing in the morning. I decide to buy a blood pressure monitor, I check myself that evening and my blood pressure is almost back to normal, for an hypochondriac like me this is a great relief. That evening I dine at a Greek restaurant, The Hellenic Kitchen. I order a Greek Salad served with Barley, it’s delicious. I then have a Seafood Casserole dish and it’s superb, even better washed down with a few glasses of wine to celebrate my last night in Australia.
I get back to the hotel and bump in to Kevin Farrell from Warbey and Farrell who will be joining QM2 with me in the morning. It’s been a while since we worked together and I am so pleased to see them both as they great company as well as being a wonderful act. Next morning, up bright and early, walk completed, eat breakfast with Steven and Kevin catching up we make our way to Yorky’s Knob. I was so surprised when we got there to find that the ship was in actual fact not stopping at Yorky’s Knob for the day. QM was at anchor and the only reason she called by was to clear Australia and to pick up us entertainers. Bruce Morrison, Warby and Farrell, an Australian country singer called Joanne and my self. We wait, a tender boat arrives picks us up and we get taken to to the wonderful QM2. The guests are all watching over the side and I have to say this is one of my best entrances to an audience ever.
Queen Mary 2 is a bit like a second home to me, it’s probably the ship where I know most people. It’s always great to come on and catch up with lots of mates and as we always seem to have lots of days at sea there’s always time to chat. I have only been on the ship ten minutes and I bump in to guests who seem to be on the ship every time I get on .Linda and Andrew Haslam, two regular cruisers who have now become good friends. I can’t remember the last time I got on a ship where there was no one I knew. This is the up side of my job and having been doing it for a long time. QM2 is a unique ship as she’s the world’s only ocean going cruise liner. She may not be the biggest ship in the world now but she really feels like a liner with her bars, ballroom and a theatre that is like no other at sea. I have been working on this ship since the maiden voyage back in 2004.
The week passes by on QM2 so quickly, the weather was superb and once again the Australian audiences manage to make me feel I am a better comic than I think I am. After a few days at sea I leave the ship in Kota Kinabalu on the island of Borneo but part of Malaysia. I then spend the day travelling to Danang, Vietnam via Singapore and Saigon (HCMC). I arrive in Danang, I make my way to the Novotel Danang Premier Han River and I have to say, it was superb. If there was one hotel this trip so far where I would have loved to spent a few days in, it’s this one. The bed, the room and the food all first class.
Next morning I embark the lovely Seabourn Sojourn. Seabourn is another company I work for probably only three or four times a year. The ships are extremely luxurious and compared to the other ships I work for the ships are a lot smaller. It’s always a welcome change of pace for me and I always look forward to the wonderful food and service and of course a little wine. I perform my show on two different evenings and the audiences are very receptive apart from one American guest who is offended that I mention and tell a few jokes about President Trump. I was actually quite surprised but I dealt with the complaint by apologising in my second show, the weird thing is that the apology got even bigger laughs. I must admit I have been doing quite a bit of material about the US election and President Trump and it’s mostly been met with lots of laughs even from the Trump supporters. A great comic once said to me if you don’t get the odd complaint you are not doing your job and I think he was right. God know’s what the lady must have thought when she watched The Oscars, Saturday Night Live or the late night talk shows I don’t know. Once again I am blessed with wonderful company of other guest entertainers, this time from Australia. Deborah Krizak and Elton Jack or should I say Lance Strauss. It really does make the week fly by when you are on with sociable people. Also on Seabourn we get to host dinner once or twice a week, I really enjoy this as I have got to meet so many interesting people over the last few years.
I disembark the Sojourn in Hong Kong and meet up with the wonderful singer Lindsay Hamilton, we grab a half hour meet up in the terminal and it’s good to catch up. I then fly to Seoul, South Korea and then on to Honolulu to join my last ship of this tour , P&o’s Aurora. However, I have four days in Honolulu to fill before I embark the ship. You can imagine by now I am well ready for home as I have been away now for six weeks and I am really missing my wife and son. However, if I am going to make this week or so go quick I decide that if I really focus on upping the fitness and health regime I am going to go home feeling that I have really achieved something from this trip. So over the next four days I manage to get in some really long power walks that I am pleased to say included some running. I am also fairly disciplined with the eating and I drink two glasses of wine in four days. I can feel the weight continuing to fall off yet I am not starving myself. I absolutely adored Waikiki, loved the beach, the area and the weather but after four days I am ready for the ship.
The Aurora is a very friendly ship and once again there are crew, entertainment officers and passengers who I have known for a number of years. Some go back to the Canberra when I started cruising in the 80’s. I am made welcome as always and I have a great week cruising across the Pacific to San Francisco. I am still pushing myself every morning at 6 am out walking round the top deck, then I am walking again and running in the evening. My shows go very well and I could not have wished for a better week to finish the tour on. It also came as a big surprise to me that we were going to be in San Francisco overnight, which meant I would get two days in the city by the bay before I fly home. The morning we get in to San Francisco I make my way to the gym where I am going for a final weigh in before home. This is because you cant weigh yourself accurately at sea as it affects the scales. I weigh myself and I am 189 lbs That’s thirteen and a half stone, I am shocked but pleased. I have lost 30 lbs since Christmas, that’s 60 sirloin steaks to me!! I am feeling better but I know there is still a way to go. The only down side is that I have to go on Facebook and mention it as one or two people having seen recent photo’s have asked me if I am ill. Well, knowing what this game is like for gossip I am straight on to it as rumours like that would not be good.
Two wonderful days in San Francisco, doing all the touristy things on my own means this is the perfect finish to a great seven weeks away on this tour. I really enjoyed my two days in the city, riding the cable cars, lunch in China Town, dinner at Fishermans Wharf with my fellow turn Julie A Scott then a morning over at Sausalito where the Ferry ride gave me some wonderful views of the city as well as Alcatraz. to be honest, I don’t get the attraction of Alcatraz, it’s a prison on an island…so what. I was born next to Wormwood Scrubs, I don’t see tours going there!!
To all the fellow turns, the crew members, the cruise and entertainment directors ,the bookers and of course my agents Blackburn International ….Thank you for making the last seven weeks such a pleasure. Now if you don’t mind I’m off home for three days rest. More in a few weeks time.