Cascading down through the decks is a crystal chandelier. It shimmers, appearing to change colors in tune to the dynamic sound of Norwegian Cruise Line’s “Legendary Piano Man,” Bernie Martini.
Strolling past Shaker’s Martini Bar you are immediately greeted by Bernie’s huge smile welcoming you to his venue. There is no choice but to feel compelled to join those already seated and be captivated by his wonderful voice, accomplished piano skills, and engaging personality. My husband and I first discovered our treasure four cruises ago on the NCL Dawn.
We were now spending two weeks in this lounge during his four hour sets on the Epic and recognizing other guests who had also returned for another Bernie Martini experience.
One previous cruiser from the NCL Dawn wrote in a Cruise Critic Review, “We were passing by Gatsby’s Lounge and seeing Bernie Martini perform got us hooked. We ended up glued to that venue and anywhere else he performed even circumventing our activities around his performance times. Each song came from his heart and touched my spirit. We are going to take the Epic for our next cruise in order to see Mr. Golden Voice Bernie perform again.”
The young and handsome Bernie takes you on a musical tour through all styles of music performing a repertoire of over 200 songs. Rather than mimic other artists, he employs his own style referred to as his “Martini twist.” There are special tributes to Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble and Elton John. “My passion is doing live performances and entertaining to all ages with songs such as Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”
“Wow. What style. What a voice. What glamour (can a man have glamour? I think so…). Really one of the most enjoyable parts of the first transatlantic crossing on the Epic,” commented one passenger on Bernie Martini’s website.
Requests and participation are always encouraged. One night I observed a young man dragging his heavy chair right up to the piano. Others floated out of comfortable seats dancing to the rhythm. The Piano Man’s dark brown eyes sparkled reflecting the lights of the chandelier delighted with the connection to his “passion for music.” His devotion to the audience is evident when he asks, “Is everyone having a great time?”
Bernie’s performance in the 600 seat Manhattan Dining Room with the Show Band is a special treat. Food remains untouched when Bernie becomes the main course! You find yourself hand clapping and finger snapping as he sings and works his way around the massive floor he claims to have polished himself for your dancing enjoyment.
We were privileged to be aboard the NCL Dawn in May for Bernie’s last week before transferring to the Epic in June. While enjoying a late night desert with veteran comedian Dave Heenan, he remarked, “Bernie has everything it takes to be a big star.” Having worked closely with Bernie for two years on the Dawn, Dave spoke highly of him to the audience during their last show called the “Martini Hour.” “ I am very, very unhappy that Bernie is leaving, but wish him an incredible career. Bernie has that magic! Bernie has that fire!”
Bernie feels lucky that he has had many people help him get to this point in his career. “Dave Heenan is one of them. He has been a big inspiration and also the first person to really try to get me to stardom. Larry Lockwood, Music Director of the Dawn Show Band, is another person who saw my potential and helped by encouraging and inviting me to sing on stage with the band. He even re-arranged the instrumental music for our performances together.”
Bernie’s legendary journey began 10 years ago at the age of twenty-five.
“I AM LEAVING FOR JAPAN!” These words marked the beginning of a path that would change Bernie’s life bringing him to his present position on the Epic. From an early age he had wanted to leave Salem, Oregon and travel the world.
Renting an apartment and teaching English in Japan, his savings were quickly depleted. Existing on only a huge bag of rice, Bernie had to explore another source of income.
“At the age of ten the musical passion ignited within me.” Both of Bernie’s parents were musically inclined with his father being professionally trained in vocals and music. Bernie would watch him practice and pick up on his skills.
He taught himself to play the bass guitar eventually taking part in the local church band that was led by his father. At seventeen, they built a home recording studio necessitating Bernie’s need to learn many other instruments including synthesizers. He also became proficient in sequencing and producing music for song writers and arranging melodies and music for lyrics including Latin and Hip Hop.
“Now practically starving in Japan, I needed to tap into my musical talents.”
He realized the importance of learning to play a piano, especially if he wanted to perform in a classy lounge. Purchasing a keyboard with 88 key weighted action that simulated a real piano, he began self-teaching and practicing long hours every day.
“After a few months of trying to crack the music scene in Nagoya, there was a breakthrough!” A sports bar named Shooters was holding an open mic night. It was here after a string of events with the rockabilly band “The Fats” that Bernie’s life was about to take an interesting turn. He was approached by a well-known singing artist named Prisca Molotsi who immediately noticed Bernie’s raw talent. She brought him into the music scene by having him sing at popular jazz venues where he was heard by many.
He now continued down the brightening path. One night he was approached by a man managing an entertainment agency. Bernie was offered a contract at The Ritz Carlton Osaka! At the end of this contract, he accepted a gig at the Grand Hyatt in Seoul, South Korea. His career took off working in both Japan and South Korea from 2005-2007.
Chatting with a couple during a lounge break at the Hyatt, they suggested that Bernie explore the idea of working on cruise ships. “I went online and found my current agent Michael Suman by sending him a promo pack in Miami, Florida three years ago. He gave me a shot! I owe my ship experience to him!” Bernie has delighted guests on Disney’s Wonder, Royal Caribbean’s Liberty, and NCL’s Majesty, Dawn and Epic.
Bernie’s dreams of traveling and entertaining have been realized!
Fans eagerly wanting to take him home have to settle for his two CD’s. Bernie promotes these as he purrs to the audience, “Gr-r-r-r-r…if you wish you can take me to your cabin. All I need is your room number.” Then with a chuckle he says, “You can charge it to your bill.”
The first CD, “Shaken Not Stirred,” was recorded live with an audience one evening on the NCL Dawn and released in 2009. Bernie remarked, “It was easy to select the most commonly requested songs including standards, classic pop, and Spanish standards.”
“Unforgettable,” the second CD, was recorded in a New York studio in early 2010. “This time I chose songs which I personally liked and stuck with the standards.” Also included were two originals written by Bernie.
Cruisers already possessing these CD’s beg Bernie to produce more for them to purchase and enjoy.
“Where is Bernie?” People are always checking to see where he is performing and connect with him through Facebook, Myspace, YouTube, music downloads, Twitter and there is always his detailed website at berniemartini.com.
“…… and you know it’s me you’ll be coming to see to forget about life for a while,” sings Bernie Martini setting off the crowd with cheering and applause during his rendition of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.”
Piano Man Bernie Martini is indeed a treasure to be discovered on the Epic!!! 2010
Cruisers Discover A Treasure On The NCL Epic 2010
By Arlene Pont