"A prospect that faces many of us dancers in our careers is the ever constant presence of that most alluring and different of dance opportunities - the cruise ship.
We've all been there contemplating over the numerous audition advertisements every year wondering what the deal REALLY is, and more often than not we are convinced that this calibre of job is not right "I mean I don't want to be strutting around in a sequinned thong for six months right?!" even if you do, don't presume or knock this kind of contract until you've tried it.
Exotic Locations, free accommodation, food, salary - not too bad.
Once you have dragged yourself to that elusive audition you are given a number, taught a routine and then comes the first cut. Auditions for ships generally go on all day and more often than not you a taught a variety of styles and will probably perform all of these on board in the production shows.
A cruise ship can be a daunting and alien environment for a dancer at first. You are part of an enclave of people that more often than not have rehearsed & gotten to know each other prior to boarding... this is great but don't be afraid to branch out for your performing 'family', as it were.
Next you are bombarded with what seems like endless training and safety information. Trying to decipher this while jet-lagged early in the morning and for the first week learning your designated duties is a toughie - that and your cast 'changeover' ... this is the period during which two casts still reside on the ship one still performing the shows, the other rehearsing and watching, ready to replace at the end of the cruise.
This time can be loads of fun as we know what happens when you put a load of dancers together in a small space, one cast isolated from normality and the other over-excited at the prospect of this being their ship.
Safe to say there are always great stories to tell of cast change-overs.
The sooner you realise that everyone is a team on board the sooner you make your life easier.
One of my favourite aspects of living and working on a ship was the amount of cultures I got to experience, living side by side with people from half the countries of the planet really is an amazing thing... Sometimes it can take a while to accustoms yourself to peoples and their customs, confusing them for rudeness, or finding them strange, but once you learn, it really does open up your eyes.
Being a dancer on the ship is kinda like being a mini celebrity with the guests and the crew. No matter where you go people recognise you. People will strike up conversations with you at any chance. During dinner always with a mouth full of spaghetti seemed to be my preferred spot "So you guys do eat" , Yes we eat. ?!
Now is, in my opinion, an exciting time to be considering cruise ship contracts. Shows really are being updated what with full blown productions like 'Hairspray' and 'Chicago' on the seas it really has changed. Expect less Barry Manilow and more GaGa, of course it all depends on the production company, but I think in the 'step click' is in retirement.
Overall I would definitely recommend someone to experience this opportunity once in their career. It has taught me so much, I got to see some absolutely amazing places, made lifelong friends and had some of the best years of my life.
It gave me the confidence to take-on more situations career wise as I'd think to myself "you've been half way round the globe, you can do this" or "it can never be as bad as a hung-over boat-drill!"
That really is an experience.
So I'd say try it... if you hate it you'll still have some great stories.
"I remember the time I was sitting on a beach in Mexico with a one legged Spanish guitar player, an iguana and a bottle of tequila....""
Cassie Newby has also provided us with some more information about life on a ship:
"Unfortunately life on board is a bit like living in your very own soap opera. Most likely the entertainment team live on the same level and down the same corridor which means most people know your business. I found that as soon as someone's door opened, everyone else's did too to see what was happening. Dancers do have a bit of a bad reputation with 'getting' with other members of staff. So, finding time away from everyone is a good idea just once in a while especially if you have to share a cabin."