Today (Sunday, July 10) is the first day of the second RFamily Vacations cruise on the Norwegian Dawn. Before I get to the first day on board, however, let's backtrack a bit. I, of course, saved packing for midnight Saturday night, and the hardest decision of all was determining what CDs to bring with me. I've yet to invest in an iPOD, so I limited myself to the ten recordings that my CD holder accommodates. These are what I finally decided to enjoy for the week at sea: Betty Buckley's first (and still my favorite of her) solo recordings, which is simply titled "Betty Buckley" and is one of the finest vocal recordings there is; Bernadette Peters' newest recording, "Sondheim, Etc., Etc.—Bernadette Peters Live at Carnegie Hall (The Rest of It)," which hits stores in August and contains fabulous renditions of two of her early hits, "Other Lady" and "I Never Thought I'd Break," as well as a superb "Unexpected Song" from Song & Dance; the second CD of "Patti LuPone Live," which features most of La LuPone's signature theatre tunes; the new cast recording of The Light in the Piazza, which I seem to listen to every day ("The Beauty Is" and "Fable" are, perhaps, my favorite of the show's score); "Marcovicci Sings Movies," cabaret singer Andrea Marcovicci's debut solo recording; "Presenting Karen Akers," the first recording from the smoky-voiced performer; Evita, with Broadway belter Flo Lacey in the title role; "Elaine Paige Encore," which includes the London theatre star's renditions of her biggest theatre hits; "Nancy LaMott Live at Tavern on the Green," the most recent posthumous recording from the late, great cabaret performer; and Avenue Q, which always puts me in great spirits.
This year I'm traveling with my friend Zeke, and it's already been a lot more fun sharing the experience aboard this enormous ship with someone. Zeke arrived at my apartment around noon— where he depleted my Elaine Paige collection -- and then we left to board the ship around 1 PM. Once again, I was moved by the variety of families that were checking in for the week, which will take passengers to Halifax, Boston, Provincetown and Martha's Vineyard. Already today we've chatted with two men and their young son who live in San Diego, another gay couple and their son who came in from Toronto, two women and their three kids who reside in Philadelphia and another lesbian couple and their son who are New Yorkers.
After we made it through the various check-in lines, we boarded the ship and arrived at our room on the tenth floor. I was thrilled to see that this year's room also features a small balcony with two deck chairs, where I plan to listen to music and watch the waves roll by. A bag of goodies greeted our arrival as well as the schedule for the day's activities and a specially created Playbill that highlights some of the week's entertainment. A note from Rosie O'Donnell—who with partner Kelli O'Donnell and Gregg Kaminsky founded RFamily Vacations—was featured on the first page of the Playbill: "ok folks/ here we go again/ the best week of the summer—year—decade/ a bunch of amazing humans/ with huge hearts/ journey up the east coast/ in search of/ each other/ the shows this year—better than broadway/ the food fantastic - we added another chocolate buffet/ the ports—no protests/ the weather—no rogue waves. xxx rosie."
Zeke and I decided we would spend the afternoon exploring the various pools aboard the Norwegian Dawn. We first sampled the large outdoor pool on the top of the ship's deck, which is a salt-walter pool. I enjoyed watching all the young children having a field day jumping in and splashing all around the water. Then we found a hot tub—also on the top of the ship—and as we were relaxing, the Norwegian Dawn set sail. We decided to walk around the top deck, and as the ship passed the Statue of Liberty, Brooke Ellio—who is part of the national tour of Wicked, belted out a fierce version of "New York, New York." Then we headed back inside the ship and swam laps in the indoor pool, which we luckily had all to ourselves. Now, on to the evening's entertainment: The Kinsey Sicks, which bills themselves as "America's Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet," performed in the ship's large Startdust Theatre. Before they began, however, hosts Kelli O'Donnell and Gregg Kaminsky welcomed everyone aboard the ship. Kaminsky said, to a thunderous applause, "George Bush has no idea what family values are. These are the most beautiful families I've ever seen."
The Kinsey Sicks then took the stage and performed for three-quarters of an hour. The audience, which gave the foursome a standing ovation, enjoyed the a capella stylings of the group, which features Rachel, Trixie, Winnie and Trampolina. The real stars of the evening for me, however, were found in the more modest Spinnaker Lounge, on the ship's 12th floor. Three belters —Jennifer Krushkamp, Anne Steele and Stephanie Harwood—who call themselves Tipping the Velvet. Accompanied by one-man orchestra Bobby Peaco on piano, the threesome demonstrated a thrilling hour of all-girl vocal power, moving from one pop hit to the other. They were relaxed, dynamic and had the crowd in the palm of their respective hands. Among the songs they rendered skillfully were "Midnight Train to Georgia," "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia," "Fat Bottom Girls," "Holding Out for a Hero," "Dancing Queen," "Waterloo" and their toe-tapping finale, "It's Raining Men."
Well, it's nearly 1 AM. Tomorrow night is "Rosie's Variety Hour," which features musical direction by Seth Rudetsky, who I chatted with a bit today poolside. I also had the chance to say brief hellos to John Tartaglia, Orfeh and director Jamie McGonnigal. More to come tomorrow . . .
Happy sailing, and, of course, happy diva-watching!