Cruise ship entertainment jobs are very competitive. There are a number of high-quality performers looking for work on board ships around the world. Each cruise company has an entertainment coordinator that hires acts of all kinds for their fleet. These individuals are savvy buyers of entertainment and they can size up a performer’s potential pretty fast.
Therefore, entertainers looking to break into the cruise industry need to prepare carefully before approaching bookers. You’ll find that my overwhelming piece of advice is that “you only get one chance to make a first impression.” You’ll see me repeat that over and over to all that seek my advice in the cruise industry. This is based on the knowledge that the very busy buyers and entertainment agents of cruise entertainment will look at you only once. If they judge your act not to be a good candidate for shipboard entertainment, they will likely ignore all other petitions from you in the future.
There is very much to know about being prepared for the cruise market. It will be unlike any other you’ve likely had experience with. That is why we made a nine-week course (plus hours of bonus material) to give serious candidates the proper training. As you read this you may or may not be a candidate for such a course. How would you know if cruising is for you? Sign in with Gig On Ships, read our articles and watch our tutorial videos; you’ll know whether I’m talking to you or not.
In the meantime, what first step can you take right now?
Make sure you operate as a professional. Although this is good advice for most markets you may enter as an entertainer, it is particularly true of the cruise industry. Each passenger watching your show will receive a “comment card” at the end of the cruise. The audience will, in effect, grade the professionalism of your show after each cruise you work. It is sink or swim out there, so learn your craft well before attempting a job at sea.
Be certain that you not only perform your talent well, but that you also entertain people. Perhaps you are a vocalist and can hit notes that no one else can. Fantastic, but that’s not enough, you must also make your audience care about your entire show. Maybe you’re a juggler with world record holding skill. That is truly commendable, but a dazzling display of skill can only engage an audience so long… What will you do the other 40 minutes of your program?
It really comes down to whether you are an “act” or a “show.” Here’s what I mean; in many show business outlets it pays to have an act: 5-12 minutes of very hard-hitting material. An “act” can easily be part of a variety show, a production show, an opening act or a television spot. It is great to have “an act.”
But on cruise ships they need “shows.” Typically, this means a minimum of 45 solid minutes. You need an opening routine, a closing routine and plenty of material in between. In other words, you will be the star attraction for the evening. Your performance will take place in a theatre on a proper stage with all the trappings. It isn’t a lounge where people come and go, you’ve got to hit the stage and command it for 45 solid minutes and win those people over.
You should absolutely know how long your sets run. The Cruise Director might tell you to do twenty minutes on one show and forty-five on the next. He is depending on you to cover exactly those times. There is a schedule on ships. Some are tighter than others, but typically they may need to entertain one group while another is eating, then they shift. The timing must be right; you don’t want to hold up the kitchen!
Furthermore, a cruise ship job is not a place to “wing it.” There is too much at stake. Your show should be well rehearsed, and audience tested. It is paramount that you control the room when you are onstage. There are plenty of distractions on a cruise ship. If a number of people decide they’d rather be at the casino and walk out during your show, that will go into the cruise director’s report. It won’t take long before you are replaced and someone else has the gig.
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