Interview with a Cruise Ship Dancer

Name: Liz Webb
Nationality: Canadian
Cruise Line worked for: Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean
Cruise ships worked on: Norwegian Star, Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas, and Allure of the Seas
Length of service: 3 years
Position Title: Show Dancer
Pre-Cruise Ship Background: I am a trained dancer in ballet, modern, hip hop, jazz and tap, having danced since I was 3 years old.
See: Part II of this interview.

Personal Background

Tell me a little bit about yourself?

I have been dancing since I was a kid and always wanted to be in professional shows. I have done various exams in my dance disciplines.

What made you want to work in the cruise industry?

The cruise shows always look like so much fun, and I figured that traveling the world while getting paid to do what I absolutely love, is the best kind of job. I talked to a friend of mine from the one dance class I attend who had done it before and she gave me some tips and told me how much she enjoyed it.

What related experience did you have prior to being hired?

Working as a dancer on the cruise lines, means that you have to be a very good dancer. My dance experience is in various dance forms, and I have been dancing for many years for studios and have appeared in various dance shows and musicals at my local theater.

Your Job

Which cruise line do you work for and which ship do you work on?

I work for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines on the Allure of the Seas

What’s your job title?

Show Dancer

Where did you first hear about this job?

A friend of mine told me about it at our dance company. She had done it before and thought that I would love to audition.

Did you apply for this job specifically or for several different opportunities all at once?

I took part in the auditions that the cruise lines had in Vancouver. They come to Harbour Dance and Scotia Dance quite regularly. There are normally 300 dancers or so in an audition and you will dance live for the cruise line representatives, but it is also good to make a video. Lots of other dancers I spoke to on board were also sent to the auditions through production / talent agencies like Rising Star and Jean and Ryan Productions.

What were the job requirements set forth by the employer?

As a dancer on board the ships, you will need to learn about 3 full length productions, including musicals, Vegas like reviews, or Broadway style shows, as well as the welcome dance. Sometimes you are also required to work in the library and you might have gangway duties. Although you work mainly in the evening, you will have to be rehearsing and preparing during the day. You need to be at least 18 years old.

Did you receive any special training or preparation for this job? If so, how long did it take and what specifically did that involve?

The training is not really training, but more rehearsing. If you are not fully dance trained you will not get the job in the first place. You get about 1 month rehearsal before the ship departs so that we can learn the choreography.

What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

It is hard to stay energized to dance every single night, but I totally love it. You just need to make sure that you get enough rest in the day and take precautions when it comes to taking care of your body. With all there is to do and experience, you sometimes have to give these up so that you protect yourself from injury. At the beginning it is difficult to dance on a ship with the movement, but you get used to it pretty quickly. There was this one time when the sea was particularly rough that it felt like my knees were going to give out!

Describe your work schedule?

My work schedule involves relaxing and doing nothing in the mornings, but I start getting ready for the shows in the afternoon. We usually have two shows a night with an hour break in between.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

I had to prepare for the shows, work in the library and sometimes assist with getting the stage and theater ready. You should make sure that you are getting paid for any off stage duties.

What are the terms of your employment?

I usually work 6 months at a time, but work a few days on and then one or two off. For example on a 10 day cruise you might work anywhere from 4 to 9 night. This all depends on the types of dance shows they have and what position you have in the dance crew.

When your contract is up how do you line up more work?

I am given the opportunity to extend my contract or move onto a new cruise ship at the end of my term.

Do you have a career path that can be followed?

Yes, you can start out as a simple member of the crew, and then after you have worked for a few years you can get promoted to being a lead dancer, and eventually become the dance captain. There are also shows where you perform duets which give you more exposure.

Would you mind giving us a good idea of the typical pay you can expect to earn in this position? Is it a basic salary plus commission/tips?

Starting out you are looking at around $1500, but you can then work up to getting paid up to $3000. Currently I earn $2500 per month.

Is it possible to land this type of job without any direct experience?

No, you have to have an advanced dance background and should be very skilled at lots of different dance disciplines.

Besides actual ‘on the job’ experience, are there any personal qualities you would need in order to get into this department?

You must have a good stage presence and not be shy to perform in public. You should be friendly and professional, as well as be on your toes – literally! Be ready for anything and be able to learn choreography quickly.

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Hospitalio Cruise Recruitment Advice – Part 2