Travel-ogue: How To Get Fired From A Cruise Ship
by Cameron Brtnik
The year was 2009, and I was freshly back from Hollywood. I didn’t make it of course – I didn’t have the drive; to sleep in a car, to live off macaroni and cheese for two years, to go to five auditions a week only to get a call back to a tooth paste commercial – I didn’t get that either. I had been working on my magic – practicing daily, I even enrolled in the world famous Magic Castle Hollywood and partook in a master class with my childhood magical hero Mark Wilson (The Complete Course In Magic was the first magic book I studied). And I wanted to do something with it. I filmed a demo video, sent it off to Carnival Cruise Lines – the world’s foremost pleasure vessel and self-acclaimed party boat – and whadaya know, I was hired!
It was a 200,000 ton (fifty times bigger than the Titanic), 2000 passenger occupancy vessel. Simply put, it was a huge. She was a magnificent beast. And it was all mine: The Carnival Glory.
But let me backtrack a bit here….
That summer I was at Sorcerer’s Safari Magic Camp (I know what you’re thinking, and yes they do manufacture real life Harry Potters there) and one of the special guests – a world famous magician cruise ship by the name of Sean Farquhar – regaled us with stories of magic on the big seas…I was hooked. I approached him later that day to ask him more details. He told us the story of a a cruise that involved certain Playboy Bunny guests, and an onboard magician who woke up one day at the ungodly hour of five o’clock a.m. to a knock at the door to find one of the ship’s officers just stopping by to say hello. He admired the photos taped on his wall, mainly noticing the X-rated material of said rabbit ear-wearing guests. He also recognized who they accompanied, and more specifically, the location of where the photos were taken: in that very bedroom.
Now this all seems fine and well, even a good story perhaps if it weren’t for one G-darned rule: There’s NO frolicking with the guests – even if they are Playboy Bunnies. So this lucky, damned SOB was fired on the spot. No one heard from him again…or so I say. Foreshadowing anyone???…..
I excelled at my job. it was a perfect fit; magic, entertainment, customer experience, and….women. No shortage of them. It was like a haven, a floating forbidden island, an open buffet, a melting pot of American, Asian, African, Mexican, you name it you got it, it was….Paradise. And I? Zero willpower. I met a smart man early on – the wisest of men and the absolute manslut of the cruise: The Pianist. He knew things no other man did – or should – and more importantly, he knew how to manipulate the rules of a pleasure boat. He gave me one simple piece of advice: If you don’t want to get caught, meet the female guests off board the ship. Book a hotel for a few hours, meet the single, university frat girl, divorce or married woman off the premises, have your fun, and return onboard as if nothing ever happened. Because in the eyes of everyone aboard (including the ignorant) husband, nothing out of the ordinary happened; just another drunk guest enjoying her time on land, probably shopping or getting drunk off three dollar martinis at some cheap local beach bar somewhere in Belize.
Good advice – advice I should’ve taken to heart, considering that was the second unofficial warning. But me being me, never heading the advice of others, never listening to the warnings of previous perpetrators, always wanting to learn the hard way, me -stubborn, selfish, self-absorbed, egocentric, narcissistic – had to learn the hard way….
It was a warm evening – I know because I was getting a BJ on the balcony of th—wait, I’m getting “ahead” of myself now…. It was a regular night. I was working the martini bar, performing close-up magic for Carnivals guests – couples, newlyweds, singles and some curious staff – and this spicy Mexican broad was making eyes. I’d seen the look before: sultry, exotic, flirty, curious, all come-ons, and I knew i could have her that night. It was all part of the process: Girl goes on cruise for first time with friends, girl gets drunk, girl hunts for boys, girl finds no boys, girl goes in search of something more attractive, more charming, more dangerous: the staff. Not just any staff – no, sadly the housekeepers, chefs and servers are not allowed in the guest area – for entertainers. And if the piano man got laid the most, the magicians (and even comedians believe it or not) were a close second. I just happened to be on her radar, or more fittingly, menu that night.
Here was my problem: I thought I had out-smarted security – I had not. To rub this obvious truth in even more, a friend co-worker who sold paintings at a gallery onboard warned me not a week earlier: “Be careful: they have their eyes on you.” I scoffed at the thought. Around midnight, the time I usually wrapped up my show, I met her at the ship’s nightclub. We drank. We danced. We left about 2am and hurried back to her door. I had been here many times before; “Should I or shouldn’t I?” were always the thoughts that repeated through my mind. On one hand, I’m sacrificing my job and career (and an exciting one full of future possibilities at that!) On the other hand, this chick is hot and horny and that’s also, in it’s own way, full of future possibilities. Many times in the previous few months I had turned this enticing offer down; this time I overruled my silly worries, and discreetly stepped into her room…
Fast forward to getting a glorious BJ on the deck off her room, under a full moon, the night sea breeze filling my nostrils full of optimism…then a loud knock at the door. Security: “We know you’re in there and we’re coming in.” Me: (Thinking) “I could totally Spiderman down the side of the ship onto the balcony below and not get caught…” The gig was up – I was caught. Now, the thing is I was friends with these security guys – really nice dudes from India who I said hi to and conversed with daily – so it felt surreal as they handcuffed me and led me into a small, windowless room to interrogate me. I was forced into admitting my actions (and a couple others) and writing an apology, promising that I would never commit such an unspeakable atrocity again. (The rules are in place to prevent the cruise line from being sued by guests. Think “unwanted pregnancy” or “mysterious std”.) I was then freed to go with the ominous warning: “One day you may hear a knock at five o’clock in the morning.” So it was true….
Four days past without incident; I thought I was in the clear! Day 5: Port stop, Miami. 5am: Knock at the door. I thought I was dreaming. An officer standing at the door; it was told to pack my bags. I was escorted off the ship by the sympathetic officer. It was like doing the ultimate “walk of shame” in front of my fellow shipmates whom I had become close with over the six months I had been aboard. I was met by a local Miami officer – a pleasant, religious woman who gave me sound advice on the way to the airport (something about not drinking too much) and waited with me until my plane home arrived. I learned an important lesson that day: The “Five O’clock Knock” is a real thing.
-Written by Cameron Brtnik