When this embarks on a new contract for any cruise liner there is a bit of process to be completed before you even Set foot on that deck!
You need to have signed a contract, passed your relevant medical and in some cases completed certain safety at sea certificates before getting those sea legs warmed up! The latter depends on the company. I’ve have worked for two different liners over the last 6 years and their policies and procedures differ incredibly. Carnival cruise Lines do all their safety training for crew onboard, where as Fred Olsen Cruise Lines require you to attend certain courses on land at special training centres before you embark the ship. Each are just as effective at making sure you are fully trained in the event of an emergency on a ship.
Just like the safety training, the location of rehearsals for the production shows also depend on the company or the particular ship. In fact most companies have specific purpose built studios on land where they put the performers up in accommodation for the allotted rehearsal period- a little bit like a ‘big brother’ house you are bundled together with near perfect strangers and HAVE to live together ( come what may!). This rehearsal time can span from 3 weeks- 8 weeks depending on the number of shows to learn. As a general rule when putting up a single, existing production show it takes around a week. Thats including learning songs, harmonies, dance routines, staging and working out quick costume changes too (its an art form which I shall demonstrate in the near future with a blog special- it deserves its own page, trust me).
However sometimes you also rehearse on board, which is the majority of the case for the company I have worked for, for the last few years. This has great advantages; including being able to rehearse on the stage you will performing on and getting to see the existing cast perform the shows you will be doing. But it also means dealing with all the safety training and procedures that all crew must go through when they embark a ship. We are all given a safety position in a drill scenario , which we have to go through with each set of passengers that travel with us. It is all part of International Maritime Law that guests experience this safety drill before the ship leaves port (or immediately after). Therefore the crew also go through weekly trainings incase of an emergency, and when new crew sign on a ship (however experienced they are) they have to recap all this information. This does tend to get very tedious at times especially when in the middle of rehearsals at the start of a contract- but is all very necessary for the safety of life at sea!
Once rehearsals are out the way, dress, tech and opening nights done with, thats when this starts to love, love, love this life style. I do find the start of a contract intense, meeting and working with new people and I always feel the pressure to be the best that I can be in the shows. Not only for myself but for the team that surround me. I have often been luckily enough to work along side and for people I hugely admire, talented singers, dancers and choreographers. These individuals all inspire me to never become complacent and always strive to be a better performer.
So, finally I get to the point of this page, to describe to you an average day at sea. As a performer and a person I’ve never been a morning person so this lifestyle suits me down to the ground! Staying up late and not getting up early! On a typical sea-day ( a day when we don’t stop at a port and remain at sea travelling) I will get up around 12 noon and go to the staff mess for breakfast. On Carnival ships the mess is open until around 1pm and you can order eggs and various breakfast things even at lunch time- so this is when you will find most performers in the mess eating their first meal of the day! As ‘staff’ members as apposed to ‘crew’ we also have the privilege of eating at certain less busy times up stairs on Lido deck with the guests. However this is usually only on port days as a lot of guests are off the ship.
After a little breakfast, I will usually head up to a tanning deck and get some sunshine. I am an absolute sucker for the sun and getting a (safe) tan. This is one thing I absolutely adore about working away at sea in hot climates, a nearly constant exposure to that gorgeous vitamin D! A suntan helps me feel more healthy, slimmer and definitely more attractive, of course the gym helps with the slim thing too! And thats exactly where I head to around 4/5pm depending on the show times. I ALWAYS work out before a show, as it helps my body and voice to warm up.
I have a sort of ritual I take part in before a show night, which as I’ve said, starts at the gym with either 45 mins-an hour of cardio and stretching or a workout video (You can see a time lapse snipit of one of these videos in Singer@sea Vlog 3 ). Then I get back to my cabin, shower and put on some sing-a-long tunes whilst I do my make up. My stage make up will vary depending on the show but usually takes me around 25-35 minutes (It has taken me years to perfect this!) I will then head on up to the backstage area of the theatre for a sound check and to set our costumes. Costumes need to be set in all different areas of the backstage depending on whether its a quick change or not and what side of the stage you need to enter next. After those are set, last minute hair, grooming and warm up’s are completed.
At the ‘places, call from the back stage manager (5 mins until curtain up), we head to the side of there stage or wherever our opening positions might be. Sometimes this is on stage, in the auditorium or up a ladder on a set piece! Then its SHOWTIME!
Two shows later and costumes packed away. Its nearly always crew bar time!!!! The crew on most ships have a separate (very cheap) bar for crew only. This is a great place to get away from the formality of guest areas where, as crew you are always ‘on duty’ in guest appropriate wear or uniform. In crew bar you can relax and wear what you want!
A port day is a little different. Depending on the kind of itinerary the ship is on. Many of my recent contracts with Carnival do repeated runs to the same ports, over and over. This is a great way to really get to know a place but can get a little monotonous after a while! Whereas, longer more varied itineraries are my favourite. Waking up in a different port every day is just idilic. As you can imagine, I don’t lie in until 12 noon on these days!! I’m straight off that ship (as long as I don’t have duties, rehearsals or IPM), exploring either by my self, with team mates or sometimes on an organised ship excursion. I have been lucky enough to travel to numerous parts of the world over the last 6 years on ships- and get paid to do it, a pretty awesome deal right? Now, you might begin to realise why this job, with all its draw backs is a hard one to give up.
That was a little overview of life embarking and living on a ship, I hope you found it interesting, if anyone has any questions or Blog ideas for when I get back on those waves please let me know, I’d love your input!
Until then, keep a floating…