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As I write I’m sat out on Deck 16 enjoying the last hour or so of sunshine on a very welcome (and rare!) evening off. 

Today started with a Crew safety drill at 9.30, so we donned our warm clothing, grabbed our head coverings and lifejackets and headed down to our muster station. The ship had been “moving” (!) somewhat during the night and continued to do so this morning, so by the time we got to rehearsals there were a few green faces amongst the cast. That even applied to some of the more sea-hardened travellers in our merry band, but once we got rehearsal underway and broke for lunch, things felt a bit calmer – phew!
We had a technical run-through with the band on stage in the afternoon, which went without any major hitches, so after a quick costume fitting for the show we were broken – in time to make our daily outing to the gym. Since leaving the shipyard (and because the Officers’ Mess is being remodelled) we’ve been lucky enough to be sampling the cuisine in some of the onboard restaurants, as they prepare for passengers to come aboard from next week. Lucky passengers too, I say! So I have just come up from another sumptuous dinner in the Peninsular Restaurant and am getting a late evening sun tan at Breakers Bar. It’s a tough life!!
BUT it hasn’t ALL been suntans and cocktails thus far – there’s been quite a lot of hard work too (honest!) As I’ve not had much time to keep up with the blog, I’ll try and do a few ‘catch up’ sessions with photographic evidence over the coming days, so you can get up to date with the story so far.
It all began 19 days ago……

Azura (Monfalcone) Day 1 – 18th March 2010

(Ready for the off at Heathrow)
As our rehearsal period in London came to a close, another started for us over at the Fincantieri Shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy – where Azura has been under construction. We arrived from London – via Munich, and via some minor baggage stresses… no names mentioned (Neil!) – and were bussed from Trieste airport round the coast to Monfalcone – about 20mins – and then onto the shipyard to get our first view of our new home!

(Our first view of our new home…)You could tell by everyone’s reactions that she certainly made an impression! Following a quick introduction meeting from the Cruise staff (Neil, Benne and Jack) we headed on board, and began the process of finding our way around the ship. The Headliners Theatre Company (us lot… HTC) had been assigned cabins on Deck 4 and Deck 7, so -with a little help from some crew who knew better than we! – we found our cabins. 
The next milestone, once we’d been issued with some “happy feet” (you might notice these in some of the pics… plastic shoe covers to protect the carpets around the ship – can you guess why they’ve become christened “happy feet”….??), was to be taken in to see the Playhouse Theatre for the 1st time. More general excitement all round and a fair amount of screaming from some.

(Welcome to the Playhouse Theatre)
It was great to finally see the place we’d be performing these shows that we have been working on for such a long time. The technical team and stage crew were hard at work as we arrived, and running a little bit of “Destination Dance”, so we got a little feel for things right away. The next task was to get escorted en-masse and head down to the Officers’ Mess to meet our next vital requirement – food. At every turn there were (and still are!) things to learn – rules to abide by, traditions to figure out, names to remembers, routes to forget and re-learn (!) – so for those of us who were not fully versed in life on a ship, the first few hours and days were quite an eye-opening experience. And tiring too – so, night all!


Azura (Monfalcone) Day 2 – 19th March 2010

(Sporting my fetching Hard Hat – you like???)
Following a breakfast that you could easily get far too used to, we were issued with perhaps not THE most attractive fashion accessory – our hard hats. Although we were lucky enough to join the ship fairly late on in the building process, there was still a fair amount of work going on around the ship, with lots of bangs and clatters from the Fincantieri staff building and finishing off various parts of the ship. What with the headgear and the happy feet, we looked terribly dapper.

We had a number of safety inductions during the morning, for both ship-wide things and also specifically for the theatre – lots to learn and remember again. Finally after lunch we got the chance to get on to “our” stage and start rehearsals proper for Destination Dance in the theatre. There’s always quite a lot to take on board in a new performing space, so we scrabbled our way through the day getting used to the space, and the pieces of set, and the routes backstage and so on.
(Neil & Sarah sampling the delights of Monfalcone)
And following a brief encounter with an Italian TV crew, we finished for the day and decided to make a brief trip into town (Monfalcone) to see what it had to offer.


Azura (Monfalcone) Day 3 – 20th March 2010
On the whole we had all figured out our preferred routes to the 3 most important places for us on the ship at the moment – our Cabins; the Theatre; and the Mess! I think we all had the odd geography malfunction and ended up somewhere that we didn’t recognise, hadn’t been to before, and had no idea how to get back from… how many times that happened I shall keep to myself!
(The girls sorting out the ‘Carnival Cloak’ bit!) We spent the day working on ‘Destination Dance’ technical rehearsals. There are quite a lot of technical “things” happening throughout the show – including things flying, things rolling, things going up and down … and that’s just the dancers! As it’s a new show and a new theatre there were a lot of things to be sorted as each new section was reached. As ever with technical rehearsals things can take a little time, but it certainly gives you a chance to get things back in your head that you learned back in January!

We worked through to the evening, but our day wasn’t over once we’d finished rehearsals as we had fitting sessions for the raft of costumes we will be wearing in the show. Although the show is only 45 minutes long, there are as many (if not more…) costumes as you’d find in a 3 hours show. Lots of quick changes – so a fair amount of Velcro needed too!  Ellie & Kate have their work cut out for them… forgive the pun 😉

(Charles and I sporting out Lion King cossies….ooooh!)

Stephen Weller

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