13 Months Living on a Cruise Ship
FLOAT/THERE is a female-founded company with the mission of helping women look and feel their best while they explore. We're excited to feature the stories of inspiring women with amazing travel stories.
Our first story comes from, Jinty McTavish, a classically-trained professional violinist based in Chicago, who started her career representing the world-renowned arts center Lincoln Center in a collaboration with cruise line Holland America. Read on for Jinty's story of what it's like to spend more than a year on a cruise ship and see her Travel Recap in pictures here!
I’ve spent roughly thirteen months of my life on a cruise ship. Yep, you read that right! A few years ago, my string quartet, ATLYS, and I auditioned and won an artist position representing New York City’s musical mecca, Lincoln Center, on Holland America Line. Prior to that, I had never set foot on a cruise ship. My parents had always preferred land travel, but I had always been curious. What would it be like to wake up magically in a different city everyday and wander around countries I had never even dreamed of exploring? And to do that for months at a time? Well let me tell you, it was quite the trip!
As an artist on board we were categorized in a very interesting way. We were considered part of the crew, but at the same time we were also incredibly lucky to have a guest status, which meant that we could eat everywhere the guests ate and weren’t expected to participate in crew drills. Excepting our concerts, we were able to live on our own schedule. We had our own rooms on the hidden, secret interior of the ship and had access to almost every corner of the ship….like the crew bars, the crew only bow, and, if you timed it right, the bakery and fruit rooms (you’ve never seen so much beautiful, ripe fruit in your life).
There was so much to absorb and delve into on board, but the ports of course held the most wonder. On our voyages, we journeyed to cities around France, Greece, Italy, Albania, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Monaco, Montenegro, the Caribbean, Mexico, Guatemala, Hawaii, Alaska…just to name a few. I got to eat fresh fish in Greece, and the next day a croissant in France, maybe the next day a pizza in Italy. Perhaps one of the most quiet and other-worldly voyages we made was across the Pacific Ocean. A journey of 8 days, all you could see was water for miles and of course the incredible sunrises, sunsets, and the brightest stars you’ve ever seen—though we had to venture out of our cabins to see those, since we didn’t have any windows! There’s nothing like seeing land and having cell phone service after 8 or 9 days at sea.
Before we would leave the ship to explore, our days started with rehearsal. On board we were a piano quintet, joined by the lovely Fionnuala Ward. Each morning, we would creep around to each of the hidden pianos on the ship to see which was available, and slowly developed a schedule as we learned it. We’d touch up our upcoming programs, and work on some of our own ATLYS music to prepare to film it in the ports. We hosted friends of ours in patches throughout our contracts—videographers and collaborative artists. They would stay with us in our cabins, and we worked to create videos to immerse our audience in the sights we were seeing and also create a time capsule for ourselves of our travels. You can see all of those on our YouTube channel.We did work, I assure you! Each night, 6 days a week, we performed three concerts for hundreds of people across the ship. We built friendships with our audience members, many of whom we still keep in touch with today! The performance nerves that we had spent our lives trying to get rid of slowly started to dissolve, as we started to play with love, knowing that even if it wasn’t completely perfect, the emotion that we put into our playing would show and we would practice and get it right in the weeks ahead.
Thirteen months at sea. One contract for four and a half months, one for six months, and one for three months. Each contract brought new sights, new challenges, and so many new acquaintances and friends. The most precious part for me though, was getting to build the strong sisterhood that now exists between my ATLYS sisters and myself. As you can imagine, living in the same hallway and spending an extreme amount of time together can be difficult, but by the time our time at sea concluded, we knew that there were no other people on earth that we’d rather travel the world and make music with.