Travel a high note for Bak teacher-turned-cruise singer

By SI LIBERMAN, Special to the Daily News
Saturday, August 30, 2008

It's a dream come true for Adriana Zabala, a Lake Worth voice teacher.
Performing and traveling have always been top priorities. And she's been doing just that since last spring when she left her job as an instructor at the Bak Middle School of the Arts in West Palm Beach to become an assistant cruise director on a Silversea cruise ship.

"It all happened so suddenly," she recalled after a brief rehearsal for a show aboard the 296-pasenger Silver Wind as it steamed through the Kiel Canal in Germany.

"After applying for a cruise entertainer job with a London agent, I got a call. 'If you can be ready to go in five days,' he said, 'you've got a job as a cruise director's assistant on the Silversea Silver Wind.'

" 'Impossible. Not in five days,' I said. But then my parents, friends and even my boyfriend convinced me it's an opportunity I might someday regret if passed up. Five days later, I picked up the ship in St. Lucia, becoming the only American among more than 100 crew members from a couple dozen countries.

"Can you believe it? So far, I've been to dozens of countries — most of the Caribbean islands, places in Africa like Senegal and Dakar and most of the countries in Europe. I keep a journal and every day, using the Internet, I talk to my parents and younger brother."

Zabala, a 2002 Florida State University alumna and a winner of the Palm Beach Post's Pathfinder Award for Choral Music, demonstrated she can effortlessly hit the high notes of an opera aria, then comfortably segue into a Broadway show tune.

The cruise director, a classical pianist from Scotland, almost immediately added her to his entertainer roster and serves as her accompianist.

She performs in seven or eight shows a month between routine daily chores ranging from library duty to presiding over passengers' table tennis, shuffleboard, Scrabble and trivia games.

"I usually start at 10 a.m. and finish 11 p.m. or so at the disco," she said. "It's seven days a week."

Her status does have some privileges. Instead of a standard inside 10-by-10-foot crew member cabin, she shares a passenger suite with a roommate with similar duties. If she wishes, she said, she's permitted to dine in the main dining rooms with passengers and can accompany them on tours, serving as an escort.

On the final night of a 10-day European cruise in May, Zabala won the hearts and raves of an enthusiastic audience. The emotional audience response came after announcing she was devoting her final number to the fighting men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then launched into an impassioned solo of Bring Him Home from Les Miserables.

This month, as her four-month contract with Silversea ends, Zabala said she'll return to Lake Worth, where she lives with her parents, Elena and Hector Zabala, resume privately teaching voice and go all out to pursue a career as an entertainer.

"I hope to get gigs as a singer with Silversea, other cruise lines and elsewhere," she said.

And as for her experiences on and off the ship since signing the Silversea contract last spring, one word describes it all, she says: "Awesome."