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Bermuda

Published on February 22nd, 2016 | by The Royal Gazette

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Steel pan man is all at sea

Working on a cruise ship isn’t for everyone. The travel is constant and the work can be intense. Steel pan player Robert Symons got hooked in 1989 and hasn’t looked back. His latest gig was on Oceania Cruises. “I was staff and crew in the entertainment department, which has more privileges than other departments,” he said. “I could go just about anywhere. The one place I wasn’t allowed was the casino as staff are not allowed to gamble. “It can be fun. You can eat in all passenger venues and you’re paid very well. “You get to visit many different ports and on a ship you can get 64 different nationalities with many different languages. So it can be intense and it’s not for everyone.”

Mr Symons cut his teeth on Carnival’s Horizon. He was then a bass player with an Italian band, the Dorino International Orchestra. He started dreaming of a solo gig in the 1990s, after he began playing the steel pans. Because he wasn’t known for that type of music, it took him two years before he got a job. The 1998 offer only came because another steel pan player unexpectedly backed out of a job. He spent three months on Princess’s Crown Princess, travelling through Mexico, Hawaii and the South Pacific. “I wanted to take my steel pan music global,” he said.

The musician has worked for several cruise lines since and the work is not easy. The Oceania Cruises gig required him to perform a handful of 45-minute sets, staggered throughout each day. It meant he had to be switched on constantly. “When you’re playing music, you build yourself up,” he said. “You have to concentrate. If you are on that level, and then come down a bit, then have to get back up again, it can take a lot out of you. Your day could start at noon and finish at midnight.”

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