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Dancing with Dolly

John Martin rubs shoulders with Dolly - At least that's what I think he said.

Premier Cruise Lines, the Official Cruise Line of Walt Disney World, sailed two of their ‘Big Red Boats’ from Port Canaveral to Nassau on three- and four-day cruises on Friday’s and Monday’s. Both Starships ‘Oceanic’ and ‘Atlantic’, ex Home Lines ships, sailed at the same time and berthed in Nassau usually one behind the other. They both could carry 1250 passengers each. It was popular for American families to mix n’ match a holiday at Orlando theme parks and a cruise. It was not evident which ship was chosen to cruise on but ‘Atlantic’ tended to host group bookings and seminars.

As nights at sea were limited there was no need for a full staff of entertainers as usually found on one-week cruises or more. Just a Cruise Director and a Hostess. Premier had contracted ‘Legends in Concert’ to provide a show of tribute acts on one of the nights each cruise. Acts would stay for several cruises and they would occasionally change. We had Cher, Elton John, The Blues Brothers, Bette Midler, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, and Dolly Parton amongst others. There would be three acts entertaining on any one cruise. They would travel out on one ship, change ship in Nassau and return on the other, staying on for the return cruise, and then change ship in Nassau again!

The ‘Before Dinner’ event, Captain’s Cocktail Party and meet ‘the team’.

Cruise Director on the left, Hostess on the right.

The signage for the ‘After Dinner’ show.

John Martin is fourth from left.

It may seem strange, but the Captain’s Cocktail Party and outward show for each sitting was always the second evening, after arrival in Nassau where we overnighted. Some hardy folks would make their way to the Atlantis Casino after dinner and the show, coming back to an omelette supper on deck in the early hours.

After one show on ‘Atlantic’,

Sandy (Dolly Parton), decided to join me in visiting ‘Oceanic’ as they were having their pre-Christmas Crew Party. She did not bother changing out of her act costume and I was still in uniform. Making our way past one of the lounges where one of the bands was playing there was a shout on the microphone “Hello Dolly and Sir John, welcome, come and dance”. (The band had been inducted by me when I worked on ‘Oceanic’ before transferring to ‘Atlantic’ – and they were never quite sure how to address me). Neither of us needed a second invitation.

The look of amazement from the ‘Oceanic passengers who did not realise that Sandy was actually a tribute performer rather than the real thing. We were happy not to disabuse them. They would find out on their return to Canaveral.

During our stay in Nassau all the passengers were invited to spend the day on Salt Quay. An island that was about 50 minutes from the harbour by tender. Each ship had a dedicated part of the island for their passengers with their own jetty, bar and BBQ area. Each ship bringing all their bar stock and food beforehand. I would take it in turns with the Assistant Hotel Manager of the other ship to be the company’s ‘eyes’ on the hotel contractors. While passengers sunned themselves in hammocks, spent time with water sports equipment in the lagoon, snorkeling with the dive franchise, having the children being entertained by the ‘Youth Counsellors’ as pirates, we would be undertaking risk assessments and other possible deficiencies to report back to the island’s managers. My Salt Cay ‘uniform’

The tenders were quite large passenger-carrying boats with the ubiquitous steel band to entertain. I would encourage passengers to join in with ‘The Electric Slide’, a line dance that was popular at the time.

Part of the island was reserved for the crew with a ‘Crew Only Beyond This Point’ sign. Here they could relax without the eyes of the passengers on them. I would go to check that part of the island as well. It was mainly crew who were there for the ‘bronzy’. On a visit, there was a “Hi John” as I passed the scattered sun worshippers. “Good Heaven’s Sandy” I exclaimed in my confusion, “I didn’t recognise you without your clothes on, and it REALLY IS all you.

Sandy Vee Anderson as

Dolly Parton

”Amazingly, although it was thirty years ago, Sandy is still belting out ‘Nine to Five’, ‘Joline’, ‘Here You Come Again’ on the tribute circuit, much as her real-life persona is still doing.

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