‘Floating Piano’ Author Shares Stories as Cruise Musician

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(left) Balboa Island resident and “The Floating Piano” author, Justin Abrams, onboard the Carnival Conquest in New Orleans in July 2011; and the cover of his book.
— Photo by Matt Abrams ©

A local artist has created a “trilogy” of stories, photos, and music in an effort to share his journey as a musician on numerous cruise ships traveling the world over the last eight years.

Balboa Island resident Justin Abrams authored “The Floating Piano” book, along with a double musical album, and a collection of photos documenting his experience. All three will debut at an event at the Back Bay Bistro on Nov. 8.

It was a very ambitious project, Abrams said during a recent interview, which took several years to complete.

“It’s been a wild ride,” Abrams writes in the book. “The process of writing this book and revisiting and sharing all these memories has left my heart feeling full.”

“The Floating Piano” author Justin Abrams onboard the Carnival Victory in San Juan Puerto Rico in October 2010.
— Photo by Karl Bird ©

In June, he made a promotional video by pushing his piano down the street, renting out the Balboa Island Ferry for 30 minutes, and playing some original tunes. Passersby listened and clapped, he recalled.

He released the title track, “The Floating Piano,” a few weeks ago. It was written with a very specific intention: Sum up the whole entire experience into one song.

“It was not easy to do,” he joked. “The simple concept of the song was that no matter what was going on it would only take one person to come in and change the entire atmosphere of the room.”

Now Abrams is gearing up for the Nov. 8 event at the Bistro. He will play alongside his indie rock band, Beyond Conception, and sign copies of his book. The event is the album and book release of “The Floating Piano.” Show features special guests Steve Maggiora and Jackie Pember. Doors open at 6 p.m., program 7:30–10 p.m. Tickets are $10.

The book is an easy, enjoyable read. Several photos on each page help Abrams’ story pop off the paper, while the accompanying music helps the reader imagine themselves at the piano bar while aboard a cruise ship.

Justin Abrams plays the piano on the Balboa Island Ferry in June as part of a promo video shoot.
— Photo by Seth Willingham ©

“I wanted to keep it a light, fun coffee table-type book that was an easy read, but I also touched on a few controversial subjects,” like people going overboard, Abrams explained, but overall he wanted the book to be “uplifting and inspiring and, in general, positive.”

Experienced cruisers, music lovers, photography buffs, or anyone with the travel bug, will all enjoy the book.

The project was initially created out of the pursuit of love for a woman, but it grew into something much more, he explained.

“It was my attempt to get her back and reconnect us,” he said during a recent interview,

Although, ultimately, they didn’t rekindle their romance, she did inspire the music and stories.

Abrams writes about his “pre-cruising” days, the call that changed his life, his experience on numerous cruises over the years, balancing ship life and the “real world” on land, his relationships with various friends, co-workers, and passengers, and more.

He wanted to connect with people through the book, he commented, inspire readers to travel and share stories of cruising.

Abrams would be cruising for anywhere between one week to several months. He visited ports all around the world, but his favorite cruise was to Alaska.

The view during an Alaskan cruise that featured musician and Balboa Island resident Justin Abrams.
— Photo courtesy Justin Abrams ©

He got to know the crew, ports and local people really well over the years, Abrams said. Not a lot of positions working on a cruise ship allow for that, he pointed out. He had a unique experience compared with other cruise staff, Abrams noted.

“I became really familiar with all aspects,” of the industry, Abrams said.

His last cruise ended earlier this year, although he may continue cruising in a different capacity, specifically he hopes to be able to charter his own cruise someday.

The first album is an upbeat, dance rhythm production with the band, Beyond Conception, also titled “The Floating Piano.” The second album, “The Floating Piano Pt. II,” is an easy-listening, instrumental, solo piano experience, designed to help listeners relax and imagine the gentle feeling of being on a cruise ship during a calm day at sea.

A part of the proceeds from all book sales will go to Operation Once in a Lifetime, a nonprofit that provides help and financial relief to veterans and their families in need. He discovered the organization after meeting veteran Kenny Griffith on a cruise. Griffith’s story impacted him deeply and the two have become friends, Abrams noted.

“Although I still aspire to see and do so much more, I know how fortunate I’ve been to experience various cultures and parts of the world through this unique opportunity,” Abrams concludes in the book.

For more information, visit newportdunes.com and justinabrams.com.

One of the cruise ships Balboa Island resident and “The Floating Piano” author, Justin Abrams, performed on, as seen from an island port.
— Photo courtesy Justin Abrams ©
The view from a room on the cruise ship.
— Photo courtesy Justin Abrams ©
On board one of the cruise ships Abrams performed on.
— Photo courtesy Justin Abrams ©
Balboa Island resident and author Justin Abrams during a helicopter excursion landing on glaciers in Juno, Alaska, in June 2014.
— Photo courtesy Justin Abrams ©
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