Tales of the Rhapsody 2004
Chapter Five: Dancing Aboard the Rhapsody!
Written by Rick Archer
Rick's Note: I had quite a bit of help
writing this particular story from Stefani Callihan, Don Schmidt,
and Stephanie Barrow.
Several other people who were kind enough to contribute
their thoughts included Gary Richardson, Maureen Brunetti, Leroy Ginzel,
John Frierson, Stella Moore, Lorraine Cull, Ken Proctor, Gareld and
Virginia McEathron, plus Pat and Jess Carnes. Thank you very much for
And thank you Gary Richardson for all the great pictures!
As most of you can figure out without
much help on my part, Dancing is always a big part of every SSQQ cruise.
Dancing is, after
all, the bond that unites us.
The Rhapsody 2004 trip was certainly no different. There was dancing
everywhere and we have lots of pictures to prove it!!
Dance Dance Dance!
There was dancing by the pool, there was dancing during the day in
dance workshops and there was more dancing during the evening
in the Shall We Dance
There was Disco dancing during the evening at the Viking Crown
Disco and Ballroom dancing in the Centrum.
that wasn't enough, there was dancing in the Shall We Dance Lounge with Gary
Richardson as the deejay into the wee hours of the morning. And when
we say the "wee hours", that means 2 am, 3 am, 4 am!
And we exported our dancing as well. We danced in the bars of Key West, we
the sounds of "Tequila" at a bar in Costa Maya, and I think
there was even some pole dancing at Senor Frog's in
And let's not forget all the fun we had dancing at the Wedding Reception,
the Captain's Reception, and the Crown and Anchor Reception.
Everywhere we went, it was Dance Dance Dance.
In the first picture at right, we have three of the Usual Suspects dancing
in Key West. The Great Gabino and Maureen Brunetti are dancing the Whip at
Sloppy Joes. Sloppy Joes had a sign on
the wall that said it was Ernest Hemingway's old
drinking hole in Key West. At first we were impressed until we
discovered that EVERY BAR IN KEY WEST has a similar sign.
After much debate, once we learned that Hemingway drank a
lot, we decided that every bar was probably telling the
Maureen has been on every
SSQQ cruise except the Mardi Gras trip earlier in
2004. Normally Maureen would be a prime candidate for our Usual
Suspect list. After all, Maureen has misbehaved many times in the past.
However, if Maureen was up to no
good on this trip, she definitely did it under my radar.
Maureen was able to maintain her status as the best dancer on the
trip with her victory in both the Twist Contest and the Hula Hoop contest,
an amazing double triumph. Maureen and Paul Foltyn
also made us laugh - right in the middle of a song, Paul and Maureen
shocked the band so much with an amazing acrobatic trick
that they lost their place in the middle of a song.
Maureen had some competition. I thought Joanie Grossman appeared to be ready
to step up and give Maureen a challenge for 'best dancer'. Joanie definitely held her
own out on the dance floor. Seen at right dancing with Gary Richardson,
Joanie moves very gracefully on any dance floor, even outside by the pool.
I might add that Gary seemed to have a lot of fun dancing. He is a
marathon dancer these days. Gary likes to needle me that he dances to
practically every song while I dance to one or two songs a night. Unfortunately
I have to admit he is right on that score. Although I did my fair share of
dancing, when you count all the trips he made around the dance floor, I
would guess that Gary out-lapped me by several miles on this trip.
The difference of course is that Gary does computers for a living and
dancing is his beloved hobby. I play basketball for my hobby. Did I
mention our Alaska ship in 2005 has a B-Ball court? Can't wait!
Ballroom Dancing is pretty quiet on land back in Houston, but you wouldn't
know it after watching the SSQQ Gang down in the Centrum. Ballroom
Dancing comes alive on cruise trips.
Dating back to
the earliest days of the cruise industry, Ballroom Dancing
has always played a prominent role on cruise ships.
Every ship has an excellent band... who can forget the band
played on as the Titanic slowly sank?
Our cruise trip
was no exception. Every night the Centrum was a
beehive of dance activity.
Practically every night anywhere from one couple to ten couples filled the
marble dance floor to dance Foxtrot, Waltz, Swing, and Cha Cha. And guess
who their biggest fans were? You guessed it - The Band.
Normally this floor stays pretty empty, but thanks to our group, this week
it was busy.
The Band was very pleased to see their music appreciated so much.
One humorous quip came from the singer named Tammy who exclaimed, ""You
guys can dance to anything!"
That's true, we really can dance to anything, but we probably could have passed
on "Achy Breaky Heart" which we heard practically every night. Ouch.
We forgave them for "Achy Breaky" when they followed up with a Tango.
That made the crowd happy. Then they surprised us
again with "The Girl From Ipanema" which worked nicely as a Rumba.
I am not quite sure why, but I am starting to enjoy Ballroom Dancing more
than at any other time in my dance career. I definitely appreciate
the variety of the different dances. I also enjoy dancing all
dressed up to a live band! The elegance appeals to me.
Our group loves Halloween parties. I pretend that dressing
up is the same thing as wearing a costume at Halloween.
It is fun to put on a coat and tie, suck in the tummy, square up the shoulders, put on the smile,
then move around the floor to lovely music. I try to
be as graceful as possible and look classy out there. It is definitely a fun
Am I the only one who thinks this way? Definitely not. The ladies
love to get all dressed up and show off. It is the height of
sophistication to be seen dancing gracefully in a beautiful gown with high
heels and a bemused look.
It is fun to see the ladies smile while they dance. In the picture
at right, the beautiful Wendy Chuang clearly enjoys Swing Dancing with Don
Let me add that Don was VERY popular on the dance floor throughout the
trip. Not only is he a versatile dancer, he is gentle and very
smooth. Best of all, I never see him leading moves that might be
considered over his partner's head.
Another male dancer with the same reputation for combining smooth dancing
with gentle dancing is the sophisticated Iqbal Nagji. Pictured at right
dancing with Leslie Goldsmith, Iqbal is a source of great fascination to
everyone. He is a perfect dancer and a complete gentleman at all times.
One thing I have always found interesting about Iqbal is that he is
capable of talking with great intelligence on any topic imaginable. One
night I brought up a story about a cruise liner that sank in its own
shipyard. To my surprise, Iqbal knew more about this obscure story than I
Born in Tanzania, Iqbal has probably seen more of the world than all the
rest of us combined. He loves to travel and he has been on many cruises in
addition to the ones he has shared with our group. However despite his obvious worldliness, Iqbal is extremely
down-to-earth and quite approachable. Everyone respects him so much.
Iqbal was also quite the leader. He organized the bar hopping at Key West
that led to many great dance scenes in unexpected places! (See James
Bowling and Sherry Thornton dancing at right)
Another man in demand was my friend Paul Foltyn. Paul of course was the
Hero of my Wedding when he loaned me his shoes after I forgot my own.
But Paul didn't need the notoriety to be popular on the dance floor - he
is a great Swing dancer! Paul teaches Acrobatics for us at the
studio. As I mentioned earlier, he and Maureen Brunetti shocked the Band
when he flipped Maureen over his back in the middle of a song. The band
was so surprised they lost their place in their song! I wish I had
been there to see that one! Afterwards, no one dared take their eyes
of off Maureen and Paul just in case they tried another trick like that!
All week long our dancers were treated as celebrities. As I said in
another story, back home all of our dancers pretty much think they are
maybe beginning/intermediate dancers or perhaps slightly above average.
They can quickly point to a dozen people they know who are "So Much Better
Than I am!!"
But aboard this ship, even the complete beginners still know so much more
about dancing than the other guests that they receive tremendous amounts
of attention whenever they dance.
Any time there is music, SSQQ dancers become the "Entertainment".
Even the Rhapsody Staff sits up and takes notice. Here is a quote
from a letter that Stefani Callihan shared with me (Stefani is pictured at
right dancing with Ramon Banea.)
"I received a compliment I will treasure from one of the ship's main
song and dance performers. She stopped me on the last night after I had been
dancing with Don Schmidt in the Centrum.
Just before we left to head over to the Shall we Dance
Loungem she leaned over and said, "You are an excellent dancer."
we know my dancing ability is directly related to the great lead Don is!)
Her compliment put me over the top!"
Stefani's cute story was repeated time and time again by many dancers in
our group. We took over the trip and captured the imagination of so many
people who had never seen dancing like this before in their lives.
The passengers loved watching us. The players in the bands loved watching
us. The Rhapsody staff loved watching us. We added so much energy
throughout the ship every day and night of the trip. And we of
course appreciated the attention very much.
The only sad note of course is that I wish we could add this sort of
energy on every trip. For example, we could DEFINITELY help the Rhapsody
improve their Sock Hop Night. Instead of a Hula Hoop Contest or a Twist
Contest that barely involves a few passengers, we could have the entire
room dancing to SSQQ-flavored Line Dances. Maureen Brunetti made this
exact same point in her letter:
"I talked to
cruise director Julie who seemed very receptive to more involvement from
us on future Rhapsody trips. Especially on "Sock Hop" night!!
Nobody knows how to Sock Hop like SSQQ. We could do all kinds of fun line
dances. The Stroll, Raisin Dance, Cha Cha Hustle, Twistin the Night Away,
etc. The Rhapsody passengers would have a ball! I just know they
I imagine the
Rhapsody Staff had to feel something of a
let-down the week after we left. Usually they have to beg to get
people to dance. Not our group.
Oh well. Maybe someday the
Rhapsody executives will arrange a way that we can export the same dance
magic on every trip. I will cross my fingers and hope!
Of course many of us fussed about the sticky floors and music that was
played way too fast or way too slow. When it comes to complaining about
the dancing, maybe we should realize it isn't completely fair to compare
dancing on the ship to dancing at SSQQ.
Truth be said,
of all the ships we have been on to date, the Rhapsody is by
far the best dance ship ever. The Rhapsody is a huge
improvement over the other ships.
Steve Gabino and Maureen
Gary and Joanie poolside
Ballroom dancing in the Centrum
Another Centrum picture
Wendy and Don
Lesley G and Iqbal
Sherry and James Go Wild in Key West
Stefani and Ramon
The Great Gabino and Gina Lollobridgida
This picture of Fred and Ginger is just one of many
Ballroom Dance paintings that line the walls.
Shall We Dance Lounge
I have been a passenger on three different
cruise lines. Thanks to the remarkable Shall We
Dance Lounge, the
Rhapsody is clearly superior to the other. In addition to its
wonderful circular dance floor, the unique Ballroom murals
that line the walls are an inspiration indeed.
Any time I
wasn't dancing, I would sit and admire the beautiful scenes
of a bygone era and wistfully dream that maybe that Era of
Dance Elegance could return someday.
Nor am I the only one who
feels this way. Here is an excerpt from a letter by Gareld and
"Of the three different cruise lines that Virginia and I have been
on, the size of the floors, the beauty of the Ballroom
paintings, the quality of the music,
the variety of dance
venues we experienced on the Rhapsody would make it improbable that we
would be interested in returning to the other lines."
I completely agree. I am sold on Royal Caribbean. We had a
marvelous time aboard their ship. Take a look at some of the smiles
in the pictures below if there is any doubt in your mind.
And maybe... just maybe... someday SSQQ will be allowed to share some its
own special magic with ALL of the Rhapsody passengers. Wouldn't that be
the Rhapsody Letter One
Written by Don Schmidt
The line dances the ship taught were ok, but only a very small number of
people participated- mostly ladies. The SSQQ classes were so much better
because they were partner dances. The ship should seriously consider
offering a number of dance classes for their guests, preferably using the
SSQQ model for social dancing. If you want to get most any man out to learn
even a few simple steps, it has to be a dance that he gets to hold the lady
in his arms for at least part of the time. With this incentive, it will be
easier for the lady to cajole, encourage, and/or beg her gentleman to try
learning a little, then she can cajole, encourage, and/or beg him to dance a
little to an actual band after the class.
With a little humor tossed in with the instruction, all that is needed is to
introduce the basics and a couple of simple moves and a surprisingly good
time can be enjoyed. Using the SSQQ model of rotating partners is also a
good idea because if you don't have a partner, it is easier to ask someone
to dance if you have seen them dancing. Plus the ladies can be encouraged to
ask the men to dance, which I personally find very flattering. I saw a
number of ladies in the Champagne Bar who looked like they wanted to dance.
I did not ask any of them, because the lovely ladies from SSQQ kept me
dancing to most whatever the band played (I even learned a little basic
Tango from one lady who wanted to keep dancing).
I know the bands really liked to have people on the floor dancing to their
music. Even when the arrangements were played a little too slow and the
phrasing breaks were muddy or non-existent, it was fun to dance.
The ship has gambling, spas, nightly production shows, bars, and shopping to
entertain, occupy, and separate guests from their money in a relaxing
environment. While dancing is not a direct and immediate moneymaking
activity for the cruise line, I believe promoting dancing will result in
more smiles and greater satisfaction with the overall cruise experience.
This will result in a long term financial benefit to Royal Caribbean as
returning cruisers encourage first timers with talk about all of the
activities "including dancing and lessons". The line will also see financial
benefit from guests who become repeat guests because good memories of a
previous cruise include dancing.
Dancing on the Rhapsody Letter Two
Written by Stefani Callihan
I'm grateful for the opportunity
to share my thoughts about the dance issue on the cruise. As one of those
who searched for dance venues on this trip quite often, I feel qualified to
offer my point of view on this subject.
I looked for places to dance on the ship from early afternoon until the wee
hours of the morning. It was more of a challenge than I expected on an SSQQ
cruise. During the times that a band/music was available, there was a core
group of us who danced as much as was possible. And when those places closed
down, we hunted as one would for food if one was starving, and we remained
When Gary was finally able to DJ for us in the Shall We Dance Lounge, it was
as if yet another banquet was laid out for us. And we feasted.
I am not one to lay around and vegetate, and I would have welcomed more
dance opportunities during the daytime hours while we were at sea, and much
more dancing opportunity every night than was available.
The Shall We Dance Lounge was lovely and very comfortable for resting and
viewing the dancers, but the floor was somewhat sticky. The Centrum area was
beautiful as well and had a better floor, but the dance area was rather
small. The Viking room at the top of the ship was great, but the cigarette
smoke was lethal and the music was too loud. I danced two dances in there
and left, never to return.
I thoroughly enjoyed every moment on the Rhapsody. It is an incredibly
beautiful ship with a nice layout. The bands and the music were really
great. I enjoyed the amenities on board and I truly enjoyed the dance
opportunities we had, AND I would have welcomed more.
As far as the idea of more involvement with the studio goes, my imagination
wants to go wild with that idea, as I envision dance taking a much greater
role in my life than it does presently. I'll be quite interested to know how
this possibility plays out.
I had so much fun on the cruise, I still find it
hard to believe. And although there seemed to be issues around available
dance venues for us, I still danced every night to my heart's content.
Little did I know how valuable the lessons I have taken would be, or the joy
I would experience on a daily basis out there on all those lovely dance
floors on the Rhapsody. And the third article written by
Rick about Rhapsody 2004 captures
the essence so well...it was a spectacular feeling to dance and enjoy myself
AND offer spectators their own form of enjoyment at the same time.
also surprising to me how much the different bands enjoyed our
"performances". I lost track of how many times I heard one of the performers
say "You guys can dance to anything!" And the group that played most often
in the Centrum seemed to absolutely light up when a group of us showed up to
I also received a compliment I will treasure from one of the ship's main
song and dance performers. She stopped me on the last night after I had been
dancing with Don in the Centrum, as we were headed to the Shall we Dance
Lounge. She leaned over and said, "You are an excellent dancer." (Of course,
we know my dancing ability is directly related to the great lead Don is!)
Her comment put me over the top!
How can I not follow this great cruise with another one! I have no doubt
that it will be at least as great and most likely even better because I will
have had another year of fabulous classes and will have built upon the many
new friendships created on this first cruise, and so will be sailing with
good friends I didn't have before.
Thank you both for putting together a spectacular vacation opportunity for
me, and everyone else who chose to take advantage of it. My first cruise
ever could not have been better.
Dancing on the Rhapsody Letter Three
Written by Stephanie Barrow
I wanted give some feedback about
dancing aboard the Rhapsody. This was my first time on a cruise, so I do
not know how dancing accommodations compared to other trips, but I do have a
few thoughts I'd like to share.
First of all, there was too much emphasis on line dancing. I understand
they are supposed to be an ice-breaker for people without partners or prior
dance experience, but I haven't met anyone yet who did not feel silly doing
them (and not in a healthy YMCA/Macarena way). Maybe they should have
reserved the line dancing for a children’s activity.
I noticed in the Daily Compass that several attempts were made to
unite the singles onboard. They could have used one of those activities as
an opportunity to teach some basic dance steps (foxtrot and waltz for formal
night, two-step and polka for the Texas night, etc). Then, they could have
maintained the dinner theme well into the night by coordinating a dance
theme as well. If they taught the dance classes with the same format of
switching partners, like you have done, then the singles would all
eventually meet and maybe get the courage to dance together later.
Ok, one more criticism before I get to the positive . . . The DJ in
the Viking Crown Lounge should try and play a wider variety of music from
night to night. I heard the same songs every night, and it got to the point
where I asked on Friday "Didn't they just finish playing this song?" I
wasn't trying to be clever; I actually thought they played the song twice.
Despite the musical deja vu, I did enjoy the Viking Crown Lounge as a place
to show off my freestyle lessons. And the Shall We Dance Lounge was
beautiful. My only concern was that I wanted to be in both places at once
for one event or another. So, perhaps they could stagger or even extend the
times of the dance opportunities? You know how it can be, when you have a
great dancing experience, you don't want it to end.
I really enjoyed the music by the pool. If the Captain feels that there is
not enough dancing going on, perhaps crew members can be planted on the
dance floor to boost confidence. Shy folks like me don't like being the
first one out there. The crew could even ask passengers to join them (one
on one rather than shouting it over the microphone).
I'm curious about how occupied the dance floors normally are without our
stunning talent gracing the ship.
On a side note, wouldn't it be great
publicity if the dance crew aboard the Rhapsody were trained by SSQQ? There
are pros and cons to that, of course, I'm just thinking "out loud".
Well, that's all my input for now (ha ha
sorry for being long-winded). I'll let you know if I think of anything
Thanks for the lovely experience, and I
look forward to the party on the 15th. I e-mailed you and Marla some
pictures that I thought you'd enjoy, but my e-mail server failed to deliver
them. I'll try again tonight (it's just some wedding shots and the pic I
took of you and George shaking hands before the "Smack Down"). Have a great
Archer's Note from the Future:
Looking back on 2004 from a 2010
perspective, the one thing that made the 2004 trip a little
more special than all the others was watching our guests
become a Unit.
SSQQ had taken five previous trips -
1998, 2001, 2002, 2003, and a trip to Mardi Gras earlier in
This was the first trip where everyone
started to let down their hair and act crazy. If you
think the dancing looks like fun, wait till you see Phyllis
and the insanity of her hot-tub stuffing!
You could see friendships being made
right and left that would surely carry over on to land after
the trip. I am not even referring to romance here.
I mean "friendships", the kind of bonds that would make
people conscious of SSQQ in a way that far transcended
dancing and finding a girlfriend or boyfriend.
This trip was not necessarily the
birth of the SSQQ Community, but it was definitely a
I have spoken many times of SSQQ
Generations - people that come to the studio as individuals
and integrate themselves in a circle of friends that stay
together for many years.
Over the years, the Cruise Trips have
played such an integral role in creating a group
consciousness that I often refer to the people on this trip
as the SSQQ Love Boat Generation.
Marla organizes the cruises which serve as the meeting place
and I write the stories which remind everyone of what a
great time we all had. However, the Magic of our Group
is something that can't be forced.
Marla and I do our part, but let's
give just as much credit for the success of these trips to
the Usual Suspects. It takes the antics leaders like
Phyllis, Gabino, Mr. Hat (Gary Schweinle), Gary Windjammer
and even goofy Mr. Handsome to help people loosen up and
start to act crazy.
People come on these cruises as strangers and leave as
members of a tight-knit pack of friends. This trip was
definitely the places where many of the SSQQ Cruise
Center of Attention and Don. Look up in the sky,
bird, it's a plane, no, it's a Disco Ball!
Maureen and Iqbal
Mara and Mr. Handsome
Gary and Joanie Struttin' their Stuff.
Reminds me of a scene from "Shag"
where they dance in shorts and swimsuits along
the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk!!
Stephanie Barrow and the Great Gabino
Rick and Marla's