Working as a cruise ship performer has never been more appealing. There are now ships sailing around the world, to itineraries from the Mediterranean, to Alaska, and Eastern Asia. Cruise lines are hiring the best of the best choreographers and directors to create their shows and cater them to please every generation and culture. Some shows have even been adapted from the Broadway stage. There is a lot of employment opportunity for both dancers and singers on cruise ships, but there is a lot to consider when it comes to committing to life at sea. Here are a few pros and cons to keep in mind before signing your first ship contract.
Obviously a large part of the appeal to cruise ship living is the travel and for good reason! There are ships that sail through the Mediterranean, the Baltics, South America, Caribbean, Australia, Eastern Asia, and Alaska.
Though you may not always get a say in where you set sail to, you can usually put in requests for certain itineraries after you have completed your first contract.
Life at sea can give you the ability to check many places off of your bucket list in a short period of time.
If you are lucky you can also get a chance to join in on certain excursions or tours if they are not booked up ahead of time, and some ships even offer crew tours once a month or so.
The actual amount of time you have to get off the boat and explore can be pretty limited. Most port stops are scheduled between 5-9 hours (though if you’re lucky your itinerary might consist of a few overnights).
It can sometimes take a while to travel from the port into the city or to the beach, and ship employees usually get off the ship after and come back earlier than passengers.
Some cruise lines also require a certain amount of crewmembers to stay on board to ‘man the ship’, so there can be days where you may be required to stay on board while your friends go off to explore.
Crew drill, extra work duties, or tech rehearsals can also keep you from getting off the ship.
Even though you will be travelling to a lot of really cool places, you can count on using a few port days every month, to find decent wifi service. Wifi service on the ship is extremely expensive and usually quite poor, so if your hoping to stay in touch with friends and family back home, cafes with wifi are a necessity.
There is no need for grocery shopping while living life at sea!
Food is free on board, and there is usually quite a selection for every person’s tastes with themed nights that rotate every day of the week.
There are also free restaurants serving three or four course meals, which performers can usually have access to as well.
Every new port you visit will have a lot of new food to offer. You can spend your time on shore eating seafood on the east coast, mofongo in Puerto Rico, or even hitting up McDonalds for that Big Mac you’ve been craving!
Crew members are not always entitled to the best food the ship has to offer. Depending on the cruise line and the ship there are usually rules limiting crew access to the passenger buffet or nicer restaurants.
Restaurant hosts can also have the power to turn any crewmember away should they see fit, whether it be because of high occupancy, or inappropriate attire.
In times when it is not possible to go to the upstairs buffet there is a crew kitchen that serves edible food on a good day, though they are not always guaranteed to be open. Depending on the ship, staff kitchens can have select times to be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and rarely do these times perfectly coordinate to a performers schedule.
ITS FOR FREE! Yes, one of the biggest advantages about living on a cruise ship is not having to pay rent.
Singers are usually guaranteed their own rooms, and depending on the size of the ship dancers can sometimes get lucky enough to end up with a room of their own or in a worst case scenario, you might have to share a room with one other person.
When living on a ship, nothing is more than a 5-10 minute walk away, so commuting to the theatre for those early morning rehearsals won’t be so bad, and a good cocktail is always within reach.
THEY ARE TINY! If you have a history of being claustrophobic ship life is probably not for you.
If you do share a room with someone you will most likely be sleeping in cot sized bunk beds. Walls are thin, bathrooms are cramped, and closet space is extremely limited!
There are also a lot of restrictions in terms of what you are allowed to keep in your room. For example most ships don’t allow any perishable items, candles, extension cords, and some don’t permit any hard liquor.
There are also scheduled cabin inspections, to not only ensure you don’t have anything your not suppose to, but to make sure you are keeping your room clean, and they almost always take place early in the morning.
Is there anything better than getting paid to do what you love? As a performing artist it’s not uncommon to question where your next pay check will come from, but a contract on a cruise ship can guarantee at least 5-8 months of employment!
The shows obviously vary depending on the ship, cruise line, and itinerary, but you will most likely be cast to perform in what suits your style. Shows can exhibit many styles of dance including ballroom, tap, hip-hop, and contemporary. Some ships even have Broadway musical theatre shows, and some require aerial skills.
You can pretty much count on being challenged and satisfied by the end of any performance day.
During the days you don’t have scheduled performances you can end up with a lot of free time on your hands, which can give you a chance to be productive or take advantage of all the ship has to offer.
When working on ships, performing on stage is almost never your only job. Most ships will also give performers side duties to perform throughout the cruise, that can be anything from teaching dance classes, to operating the ship library.
It’s also not uncommon for dancers to be given safety responsibilities during the passenger drill, in other words if the ship is going down you can be partially responsible for gathering people and helping them into lifeboats.
It’s also important to keep in mind that while living on a cruise ship you are always at work, so anything you do, say and wear has to reflect that at all times.
While working on ships you will be surrounded by people from around the world, which can give you the opportunity to learn a little bit about different culture’s, and traditions.
You will also be living and performing with the same people for 6-9 months, so your cast mates can become your family. It’s easy to develop strong and meaningful bonds, and there are so many benefits to having close friends all over the world, (including reasons to visit)!
If you happen to not get along with your cast mates, you can count on some rough times at sea. Any drama that happens on board feels ten times more important than it actually is because you have no way to escape it.
Even if you are lucky enough to make some amazing friendships, its never easy saying goodbye at the end of contract.
If you are interested in working as a performer on a cruise ship feel free to contact me with any questions. If you have previously worked on ships and have anything you would like to share leave a comment down below!
If you enjoyed this post check out my other posts about ‘Auditioning as a Dancer for Disney’, and ‘Performing in the Middle East’.