The Cruise Life: Part 1
Life as a Cruise Ship Performer
25 year old Aussie dancer Sam Campbell has been performing professionally all over the world since 2010 and is currently working with The Walt Disney Company. With plenty of experience under his belt working on multiple cruise lines, we asked Sam to break down what life is like as an entertainer on the high seas.
Q: Can you explain what the the audition and hiring process is like to work on a cruise ship ?
For most cruise line auditions, you check in and get a number, get split into groups of about 50 for an across-the-floor combination which consists of technique and performance. From there, they will make a cut then proceed to the next round for another more stylistic combination. This is where they really want to see you shine! It’s less about how many turns you can do and more about how you perform and captivate the audience. From there they usually make another cut and continue into a third round and then make a final selection. After the audition they will talk to you about their company, what they offer and when to expect to hear something.
Q: What is the rehearsal process like ?
Rehearsals are typically 6 days a week from 9am-6pm. Usually your ship will have a repertoire of 2-4 shows, so the singers and dancers will split and then learn their separate material then combine them into production numbers.
Q: Can you tell us about pay, living quarters, food and what ship life is like ?
Pay and privileges differs for each company that you work for and depends exactly on what you’re doing. Pay starts at $500 a week but can go up to $800 a week (or more) depending on your role and duties. Most performers eat in the crew dining area and most companies let their performers eat in guest buffets and speciality restaurants at a small nominal fee. Living quarters are 2 to a room and you share with another dancer in your cast. The rooms have bunks beds, a shower/toilet, tvs, and storage. Some may say they can be small but I would say ‘cozy’. It’s amazing how everything fits!
Q: Can you highlight the differences between different cruise lines ?
Royal Caribbean and Norwegian now do musicals like Mamma Mia and Rock Of Ages. Celebrity, Princess and Carnival have full scale revue shows. There is so much opportunity and good things about every Line because cruise ships have become more and more competitive and the bar is continually being raised in the level of entertainment. You just have to know what your style is and find where that fits.
Q: What do you think are some of the key benefits of performing on ships?
Simple! You get to travel all over the world, experience many cultures and see so many amazing cities … all while getting paid for it! I have been lucky enough to visit over 58 cities and places I never dreamed I would go to. You will meet so many people that you will become friends with for life, and have so many positive experiences that will change you for forever.
Q: Are there any negatives?
Definitely missing family and friends is the biggest negative of working on a cruise ship for months at a time. It can be so hard being away from everyone for 6-10 months. Luckily now with technology you’re only a Skype call, iMessage or Facebook message away. Social media is such a big part of all of our lives so it makes it so easy to see what’s going on through Facebook and Instagram etc. Sometimes it can be hard living and working all together with your cast colleagues, but the easiest way to resolve anything is through communication because that is usually the main cause of any conflict. Your cast ends up being your family on the ship which is your home away from home.
Q: Do you have any advice for anyone who is wanting to pursue a contract on the high seas?
Go to every audition! If it doesn’t work out, go back again and don’t be discouraged. Do your research and check out online videos to see what kind of styles each particular cruise line offers. You won’t regret taking a contract with a cruise ship. I have so many incredible memories and friends from all over the world because of my work. It will challenge you and push you to new levels and help you grow so much – not only as a performer – but as a person. Check online through dance blogs, magazines and the cruise company’s websites for up to date information on auditions.