Cruise ship performer sees the world
It was the trip of a lifetime that Wayne Davis almost didn’t make.
He’d been invited to play the piano and sing on the luxury cruise liner Seabourn Sojourn, but failed the required medical exam.
According to the doctor’s report, the 57-year-old’s blood pressure was “seriously high”.
At risk was an all-expenses-paid, three-month gig through Asia and the Mediterranean.
“My doctor put me on a strict diet and in two weeks my blood pressure went down drastically,” he said.
“It was a blessing in disguise but I didn’t know for sure that I was getting on until the week before I got on the boat.”
He was in Singapore for the cruise ship’s February 2 departure. Mr Davis visited ports in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, India, Jordan, Israel, Greece, Turkey, Italy and France before he disembarked for the final time, in Monaco on April 25.
“The trip was amazing,” he said.
“I’ve done a lot of travelling through Asia but there were several places I hadn’t been.”
He first performed as a teenager with family members in a band called Electric Love.
“My first gig was Valentine’s Day in high school, at a party at Sandys Secondary,” he said. “I was 14. I was nervous. I was a bit of a class nerd and so people were surprised to see me perform.”
Once he was older, he performed with local bands Soul Symphony and Family BDA.
He was part of a duo, Twice, that played at Front Street pub Cock & Feather for years. He left Hamilton for Elbow Beach Hotel, where he stayed for more than 20 years. Jobs at the Reefs, Country Squire and Coral Beach followed.
He spends every summer here but since 1999, come winter, you can find Mr Davis performing in Europe and Asia.
“I get work through an agency based in Massachusetts and then I go there and just do my thing,” he said. “One month I might be in a five-star hotel playing Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra, the next I could be in a crazy piano bar playing Elton John and Bob Marley. I try and stay versatile to keep myself marketable.”
Although his agent had offered jobs on cruise ships before, the timing was never right for the popular entertainer.
“I don’t like leaving home in the summer and messing with my home contracts,” he said. “Finally, this one came along and it was the perfect time of year for me. I had performed on the Color Line out of Norway — one of the large ferries that run between Norway and Denmark and Norway and Germany. The Seaboard Sojourn was quite a bit different. There were only 400 guests and 350 crew.”
Mr Davis had to leave his Filipina wife Psyche in Bermuda while he travelled the world.
He’d always intended to leave the Island on New Year’s Day for a month-long post at a piano bar in Waldshut, Germany.
Shortly before he departed his wife gave him the good news that her visa had come through and she’d be able to join him.
“It was a bittersweet thing,” he said. “I said, ‘Guess what, the cruise came through today’. She gave me the OK but I will have to take her if I go again.”
There wasn’t enough time to arrange the necessary visas for her to accompany him around the world.
Mr Davis performed each day: over afternoon tea, from 4pm until 5pm; for the guests’ cocktail hour at 6.30pm and from 9.30pm until midnight.
He met one couple from Bermuda during his three months with the ship.
“They heard me talking to guests and asked if I was from Bermuda, but the majority of the guests were Australian.”
There were tours specifically for crew and they could “chaperone” the guests if they wanted. Mr Davis got off at every port.
“We visited 17 countries, made 42 stops. We changed passengers five times,” he said of his big adventure. “To do that sort of thing for three months took a lot of energy but it was a good way to see the world.”
The Asian ports were his favourite “because they were so cultural”.
“I even liked Manila. I liked everywhere except Hong Kong. Hong felt like New York. It was just a big city. I got off the ship and there was this massive mall. Manila still felt like I was a million miles from home. Of all the places we visited, even Singapore has more culture to me than Hong Kong.
“All of the Mediterranean was very romantic. We went to some really beautiful spots, but it’s not a place to be by yourself. I’m not religious but one of the crew tours of Jerusalem was amazing from an historical point of view.”
He’s now back in Bermuda, performing at the Frog & Onion in Dockyard. He’s performed there every summer for the past five years. Whether he’ll return to the cruise ship next year remains to be seen.
“I haven’t made any plans yet,” he said. “It really depends on if they call me. My agent might come up with something else — he usually calls if there’s something amazing — but it will probably be August before I decide what’s to happen. If nothing comes that seems amazing I usually go to Germany.”
Asked how he managed to stay on top of his game for so many years, Mr Davis said: “It’s not that easy but I’ve been very fortunate. I do have to stay on top of my job.”
It helps that the staff at the Frog & Onion are “way younger” than he is, he said.
“I’m playing to an average age of 25 one night and the next an average age of 65. The staff at Frog and Onion are fun. I know what songs make them jump and if I get them jumping and moving it keeps me in tune with what’s going on. A lot of performers don’t stop and think that the staff is there every night and if they’re enjoying it it’s likely the customers are too.”