On the Carnival Fantasy, I heard some passengers talking about how awesome it must be to be part of the stage shows. They thought it would be great to work one or two hours a day and cruise the world. Sounds exotic, right?
That got me thinking. My son is studying piano performance in college. He practices hours each day, even during school breaks. I know first-hand how much time and effort a performer puts in to make it look easy. I decided to find out how a cruise ship stage show compares.
“Shorty,” the cruise director, and Dermot, the dance team captain, met with me late one afternoon to answer all my questions. Dermot’s been at this for almost seven years, so he knows his stuff!
Becoming a stage show entertainer
Dancers, singers, and musicians who long to see the world might consider a career as cruise ship entertainer. Each cruise line has its own application process. The Carnival Cruise Lines process begins with an application at their entertainment page. (Click the link to find out what’s expected!) Those who meet online application requirements get invited to audition live at one of their training locations.
Performers selected for playlist productions (featured stage performers for the Broadway style shows in the main theater) sign a contract for a specific length of time. The entire cast joins at the same time and stays for the same duration, unlike other crew and cast members who have staggered individual contracts.
How a stage show comes to life
Step one: Before a stage show ever reaches a cruise ship, the inaugural cast trains at one of the Carnival Cruise Lines facilities (Carnival Fantasy performers rehearse in Miami). Each show takes about a month to perfect, so if a ship offers two shows, the cast trains for two months. They work six days a week, often relearning parts as the director makes changes.
Dermot explained that the workdays often run twelve hours or more. The cast needs to be flexible and able to adapt from day to day as the director brings the show to life. (What looks good on paper, might not translate well to the actual stage).
The stage, costumes and props are developed at headquarters as well and added to the ship during dry dock. Ships tend to run the same shows for 2-3 years until the ship returns to dry dock for updates and changes.
Step two: Once backdrops and props are fitted on the ship, the cast practices on that stage. Lights and visual effects, sound and special effects are coordinated to enhance the show experience. By the time the ship hits the waters, the entire entertainment team, both performers and the supporting technical team, is ready to perform.
Step Three: Once a show is up and running and the cast is prepared, they spend countless hours each week practicing, particularly on sailing days. The dance team captain is responsible to ensure that the show’s quality is consistent from day to day and week to week. On shore days, the cast usually gets a few hours to enjoy the port.
Step Four: Enjoy the show! Sit back, relax and be amazed at the high energy, quality execution of each Broadway style show. Current offerings (2014) on the Carnival Fantasy are Motor City, celebrating the R&B sounds of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, and The Brits, a tribute to the British invasion.
Members of the performance team also offer dance classes for adults and in Camp Carnival. The cast assists on embarkation and disembarkation days.
Does it still sound easy?
The key to a great stage show is making the performance look effortless. I hope this little glimpse into how a stage show comes to life helps us all appreciate the effort just a little bit more! Cheer loud when you attend a performance — you’re cheering not just for the show but in appreciation for all the hard work that makes it happen.Join the conversation! Do you like cruise ship stage shows? Are you surprised at how much work goes into a production?