Did you just book a contract as a dancer on a cruise ship? Woo! Victory boogie ensues. You’re about to travel to countries you’ve never imagined seeing and meet beautiful people and learn so much about yourself. How exciting!
Five seconds later... They just sent you an email with 37 attachments. What? You have to do a full medical and it costs $385? Good. Oh, I have to learn five different styles of ballroom dance when I get there? Breathe. On top of that, you’ll be gone for eight and a half months. We got this. Right?
Well these were my initial emotions and luckily I had friends who danced on cruise ships in the past. But when I turned to the internet for resources, the information on what things are really like here came down to a few half page articles in Dance Spirit Magazine.
Valuable content for a dancer who just booked their first cruise ship contract just doesn’t exist. And if I’ve learned anything, it’s that if something doesn’t exist, create it yourself. So here I am, ready to share a little of what it’s like to be a dancer on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. Maybe it’ll be helpful to someone…
I’ll break it down since all the ins and outs would be far too much for a single post. So, let’s start with how it goes on a typical show day.
Show Day for a Dancer on the Adventure of the Seas
9:00 a.m. Wake up
I don’t usually have breakfast but I walk down the I-95 (our huge Deck 1 corridor that spans the length of the ship) to the crew café for a double shot latte. I’ll probably see Missy or Jeff back there.
9:30 a.m. Notes with our dance captain, Danielle
So rarely do you get the opportunity to be critiqued on your work so often. I love it! Our shows have improved immensely (I recently watched some our first shows and comparing them to now, wow we have grown so much as a cast) and I know it’s because we do notes every show morning.
10:00 a.m. Tech Run
We do a full run of the show with all the technical aspects. We go over any issues that need to be worked out and we perform the show about 80% full out. Or 50%. Or we do the arms full out.
11:00 a.m. Get off in port
On show days, we’re usually in port and a lot of us like to grab lunch or take a dip in the sea (watch out for those tan lines though).
4:30 p.m. All Aboard
Once back on the ship, I usually play it by ear. Sometimes a nap is in order. Sometimes I go to the gym. I try to listen to my body and give it what it’s craving.
5:30 p.m. Start getting ready
I like to do my makeup in my room but some girls like to go up to the theatre dressing room to use the mirrors. We’re free to do it however we’re comfortable. It usually doesn’t take me the full hour to do my makeup but I always give myself time in case I screw it up (we’ve all been there). I do everything but my lipstick and gather all the stuff I need: hair pins, wig caps, water, iPhone with headphones for my music, and a granola bar or stolen peanut butter from the mess for in between shows. Then I head up to the theatre.
6:30 p.m. Call time
When I arrive at the theatre I go upstairs to where we keep all our costumes and bring down the ones I need for that show. This is a dangerous feat because the stairs leading up are so steep that its practically a ladder. Imagine me, carrying ten costumes on hangers, down a ladder. If you know me and how uncoordinated I am, you’ll understand that this is quite a process.
6:35 p.m. Preset
We have a different costume for every number in the shows and that means when we’re not on stage, we’re changing. Sometimes very quickly, in the wings, with only a few eight counts before we need to be back out there. So, we preset. We have costumes and wigs waiting in the wings or in the side-stage stairwells. But even if we have a little more time to change, we preset our costumes on chairs backstage. No use fuddling with hangers mid-show. That’s precious time you’re losing!
6:45 p.m. Warm up
My warm up consists of the pretty standard dancer go-to. Jumping jacks to get going and neck and shoulder isolations to start. Then a reach to the side, flat back, stretch over the leg. You know how it goes. I’ll do a lunge sequence with some twists and quad stretches. Splits, straddle, butterfly. I’ll do a downward dog for the calves and finish it off with some push-ups and crunches. All of this takes around 30 minutes.
7:15 p.m. Fifteen minutes! Thank you, fifteen.
At our fifteen-minute call I put on my lipstick and pull my hair up into my wig cap. This is when the ice skaters arrive (they help us as dressers) and I put on my first costume. This is also the point when Jeff comes singing into the room in his tiny undies blasting the best pre-show playlist to pump us all up. Like he always says, he’s good for morale. And it’s true.
7:30 p.m. Show Time
Places! We go to our opening positions and wait for the cruise director to make his announcement. He or she will talk for a while introducing the show and whatever else is going on around the ship that night and then… we begin!
8:30 p.m. In Between Shows
I strip off my last costume and usually stand there naked by the fan (her name is Big Bertha) for a while. I just need to cool off. “Can’t Stop The Rock” is a LOT. I re-preset all my costumes for the next show and usually log into wifi and eat my snack. I’ll also usually be shooting the shit with Jarvis and reminding him that he needs to wear his peace bracelet. Pray for us.
9:15 p.m. Show Time #2
Repeat what we just did at 7 o’clock.
10:15 p.m. Strike
After my naked cool down, I start hanging all my costumes and brushing all my wigs and putting them away. The way we get costumes washed is on a rotation so usually only about two or three of your costumes will be getting washed that week. We spray the rest of them down (heavily) with vodka water and let them air out.
10:30 p.m. Show Food
This is my weakness. Since the mess is only open from 5:30 to 9 for dinner, the cast can’t make it for food. So, they send us food from the Promenade. Most often including pizza, spring rolls, fruit, cheese, hard boiled eggs, grilled chicken, a vegetable plate, and cookies. I could be a good girl and eat the grilled chicken with some eggs and veggies. And I do that sometimes. But what do I do most of the time? I eat pizza. And spring rolls. And cookies. I do eat the fruit every night though… that’s good, right? Oh well.
11:00 p.m. Unwind
I’m always wound up after shows so I’m usually up for a while afterward. I take a long shower and I typically do a Kiehl’s or Origins face mask (with Isaac when he was here… now I do it alone… touchy subject). Then I’ll watch a movie or read or listen to music or have chats with Mel. Then I go to sleep.
Here's where I'm about to go off about how much I love my job.
I love doing shows. I seriously sometimes almost cry when I’m up there if I think about it too hard. Being in the huge theatre, seeing people in the audience light up when they see something they like or hear a song they know. Feeling the live music. It’s such a magical place. Shows are all the best things about life. Music and dancing and people smiling and being together, not thinking about anything else. They’re reminders of how people love to feel and I love being able to help people find happiness, even for just an hour.
Up next on the cruise ship dancer chronicles, I'll let you know all about our other duties on the ship.