Working on a Cruise Ship: Advantages and Disadvantages
Written by Comedy Magician Jean Boucher
Working on a cruise ship can have great advantages but it also has its load of disadvantages.
Most ships that were built during the last 10 years have modern showrooms with all the necessary technical equipment. You shouldn't be surprised however if most of the rooms have no back exit.
Many new ships have two showrooms. The main room is used for the big stage shows and for headline entertainers, whereas the lounge serves for stand-up comics (those rooms usually have low ceilings, which may turn out to be a problem, especially for illusionists).
These days, the trend is to allow passengers to choose what they want (free style cruising). They are free to have dinner in the dining room of their choice, at the time they choose, and they can take in the show they want whenever they please. Most of the time, there are two shows playing simultaneously, one in each room.
- You travel free of charge on the cruise ship.
- Most of the time, you have an adequate venue.
- You have a sound and lighting system featuring all the technical refinement required.
- You are guaranteed to give a certain number of shows and to have a public.
- You can travel a lot; I've been on cruises to Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy, Greece, England, Ireland, Spain, Hawaii, Alaska, most of the Caribbean Islands and many more.
- You put less mileage on your car and it needs less maintenance.
- If the cruise ship has two rooms and you're playing at the same time as a big production, chances are you'll have a small audience. (Cruise lines emphasize those Las Vegas or Broadway-style shows in their ads, which makes you the "second" show.)
- You often have to deal with indifferent or demotivated personnel. Technicians have missed my music cues countless times. So much that I now have a remote control system for my music.
- When you're giving your show in the lounge, you are normally introduced by a member of the cruise staff, since the cruise director is acting as emcee in the main room. Most of the staffers have no formal training as presenters… Many times, they have mispronounced my name… That is, when they didn't forget it right out!
- You must be willing to travel a lot, unless you live close to Miami, since the main ports are in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
- It happens often that you'll have to work on the day of your arrival. In fact, I'd say it happens 25% of the time.
- You must keep to the dress code although things are getting a little more relaxed in that area lately. During a 10-day cruise, you should have to attend 2 formal evenings (with tuxedo), and 1 or 2 semi-formal evenings. The other evenings are casual, which means docker-type pants with a polo shirt are fine. No T-shirts or sandals after 6 p.m.
- You sleep in a cabin 10 ft by 18 ft on average.
- If you're like me, you'll eat at the buffet three times a day. Personally, I find eating in the dining room takes too long (approximately two hours). What's more, you have to socialize with passengers sitting at your table in the dining room (I quickly got tired of answering the same questions over and over.)
- As long as you haven't done your act, you're incognito. But as soon as you've given a show, people recognize you, come to talk to you and ask you questions. I must admit I thought it fun at the beginning, but after a while...
- You might have to work while the sea is rough. If you have accessories on wheels, that might be a problem. Personally, I use volunteers for my act. Since passengers on cruise ships are 65 on average, I have to be very careful when the boat rocks because many of them find it hard to keep themselves from falling!
- Bring something to read. You'll need it while you wait in airports or during long flights.
- Bring some energy bars. Many airlines don't serve meals anymore on their flights.
- Make sure you have in your hand luggage a change of clothes and a toilet bag (toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.); airlines manage to lose my luggage two to three times a year! (Just last week, I arrived on time, but my suitcases didn't… One ended up in Pittsburgh and the other two in Charlotte.) You might have guessed it: I was on the program that night. I was replaced by another act and I received my luggage two days later!
- Have your intro on CD if it's important to you.
- Negotiate to have transportation expenses for your equipment covered in your contract. If possible, have a double of all your accessories and send them by freighter.
Source: Comedy Magician Jean Boucher - Homepage