Many of the passengers on this ship seem to be here for the dancing. They start in the morning with line-dancing classes, then in the afternoon take ballroom-dancing lessons.
The ship features a live ballroom-dance band, Trevor Newby and the Queens Room Band, including a male singer named Jean something or other. Each evening the floor is cleared for 15 minutes or so to let “International Dance couple Eugene and Daria” glide and leap around, demonstrating the samba, the tango, the rhumba etc. Daria is impossibly thin with long skinny legs and she wears filmy outfits with skimpy tops that must be held on by tape. Both of them have permanent smiles that give no hint of whether they really are having fun or not.
On previous nights I have looked down on the dancers from the balcony above, watching them glide and twirl and seeing the action as great wonderful swirling pattern. Tonight we watched from the floor-level sidelines, seeing more of individual dancers and less of the whole.
Behind us, a Korean couple who now live in Seattle, also watched the action. They had come on the boat to dance and had taken a private lesson from Eugene and Daria earlier in the afternoon. “One hour with the two of them for only $50. A very good deal,” the woman said. But she had hurt her knee in the class and was forced to sit out the dancing tonight. Too bad, because this was the night of the Cunard Ballroom Dancing Competition, complete with three celebrity judges — entertainers from the previous nights: the violin player, the Irish tenor and the comedian.
Ten couples signed up and performed three dances, a foxtrot, a waltz and a jive.
Between each dance the judges made comments, such as I liked his shoes, or she completed me on my playing so I like her dancing. But in the end the audience chose the winners, picking a young couple were from Dublin. He wore shiny black and white oxford shoes and a black tuxedo. She wore a puffy short black skirt. The second-place couple were Japanese and said they lived in San Francisco. When asked how much they like dancing, the wife proudly told us that they dance 9 hours a week at home.
Dancing brings out the characters. Every night we have watched an older woman with long blond hair who always wears a Hawaiian-looking pink headband. She makes me think of Miss Havisham– an old woman dressed in fancy cloths more suited for a young one. Tonight she wore a silk tartan jacket and skirt. Getting hot with dancing, she removed her jacket to reveal a strapless top. Her wrinkled skin oozed over a bit in the back. Not a good look. There are quite a few single women like her one this boat. But Cunard has that covered with so-called “Gentleman Dancing Escorts.” Six men, mostly older, wearing white jackets and name tags prowl the dance floor and the tables around it, looking for women who want to dance. Some women, like the older tartan-wearing one, end up dancing every number this way. Many of the contestants in the dance competition included ‘dancing men’ as the spectators call them.
During the competition, an older Scottish lady in front of me asked me to photograph her and the older ‘dancing man’ who was her partner. “Be sure to get him when he goes wild during the Jive,” she said. It felt good to have a job!
One of the dancing men, Andrew Doukas, is from Portland, Maine. He says he has been doing this for 8 or 9 years. Cunard pays for his trip and travel costs but does not give him a salary.
“It’s a great way to get a free vacation,” he says, although he concedes that sometimes it’s not easy. Many of the single women waiting expectantly for dance partners are not young and beautiful — to put it politely.
He’s been on this boat since Los Angeles and does one or two of these trips a year. Tonight he stands out in the dance competition for his practiced swings and twirls, but it turns out his partner is a British woman who is now his girlfriend. He met her on a cruise a year ago.
When not tripping the light fantastic on cruise ships, Andrew works for himself as an attorney in Portland. He’s been ballroom dancing for 25 years and found about the “Dancing escort” gig from a scout at a dance class.
“They were looking for single men who were willing to go on cruises,” he said.
Mom and I cringed when one by one the dancing men came by and asked us to dance because the people out there twirling around know what they are doing and we do not. But on the way up to our stateroom, we both decided we’d like to learn.
Andrew Doukas- a Dancing Escort from Portland
Many of the men and their partners wear kilts
Mom and me enjoying the sunny weather on deck