Entertaining on cruise ships fact and fiction…

The Truth Versus Perception

I am not sure why, but it seems to me that for a long time people looked down on cruise ship performers.  Somehow if you hadn’t headlined in Vegas, you hadn’t really hit the big time. 

The same was true for Bobbie as a Singer.  Simon Cowell from American Idol made the term “cruise ship singer” one of a derogatory nature by telling people without talent who auditioned that they reminded him of a cruise ship singer.  People often asked Bobbie if she had been on Broadway after hearing her sing on the ship. That question always bothered her.

They meant it as a compliment, but they also were asking her if she had made it to the “true” big time.  She felt she had accomplished an incredible level of achievement, being one of only about 200 in the world doing what she was doing.

The job doesn’t always seem to get recognition that it deserves; despite ships having far better theatres to work in than most other venues in the world. Cruise Entertainers can still suffer from the perception that the ship isn’t a “legitimate” venue. Therefore, we list that as another “truth” of the cruise industry; it is a brutal reality that if fame matters to you, cruises may not be the vehicle for you. On cruise ships, you are a celebrity for only one cruise at a time.  Once that cruise ends, there is an entire new crowd of people you must win over from scratch.  You don’t have people coming to the ship to see your act the same way they are going to Vegas to see celebrities or an American’s Got Talent winner.  The cruise entertainer’s theatre is in its own isolated, yet always shifting environment.

However, that “truth” has begun to shift and changed in recent years.  Many big name acts are working cruises. Ships are connected to the outside world by ever faster satellite internet. They have become very aware of how social media can promote their brands, and that includes the passengers’ interaction with the shipboard entertainment.

Cruise lines are now looking for talent who have strong social media followings and television credits. They have gotten wise to the fact that people want be able to be connected to famous or newsworthy people. Acts with these credentials are hot properties in the cruise world, because the entertainment director knows that it can create a viral buzz about the cruise line in general.

It is my view that this is a very good development. There is a potential for there to become real cruise ship “star” entertainers. Those stars will help drive up our prices and importance in the industry. I predict this is on our horizon, will it be you?

Fred worked for years in amusement parks, and it was a great training ground. One Park had him doing five shows daily and every show was completely different, six days a week. He could polish material really fast. It was very obvious if something wasn’t good enough. If after three weeks it wasn’t getting a great reaction, it was cut from the show. He also cut his teeth in show business in an area of the country that was heavily populated with coal miners and railroad workers. They are a rough crowd and will call you out if you suck. It was trial by fire. Yet it prepared Fred in a great way. A cruise ship audience is much easier to win over than a group of steel workers.

Bobbie first worked in the production show on cruises. There is a director, choreographer, and a cast of other singers and dancers to work with her. It was that support infrastructure that helped her gain experience and her sea legs.

The current cruise ship entertainment field has some very heavy hitters in it. You will be judged by the same scale. If you aren’t ready to play in that sandbox, get ready before you try to crack this market. Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Therefore, find venues in your area where you can build your act if it isn’t quite ready to go. To be blunt, if your act isn’t appealing to a cruise audience, you will fail. It’s an immutable truth. Take a long look in the mirror. Try to be as objective as possible. Be honest with yourself and determine if you are ready to proceed.    In our next article, we will discuss the easiest path to getting the gig.