Performing on Cruise Ships

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Group performances are common on cruises.

When many prospective cruise crew members think of cruise ship jobs, they imagine performing on cruise ships as the most glamorous position. Before signing on and shipping out, however, it is important to understand just what such jobs require.

Types of Cruise Ship Performers

The headlining shows on cruises ship are the most noticeable, but the professional singers and dancers that perform in these signature revues are but a fraction of the entertainers cruise ships hire.

Cruise Line Cast Members

Many performers are actually cruise ship crew members as part of a specialized entertainment troupe. These singers and dancers perform the regular nightly shows and need to work well with different types of performances, from chorus work to solo numbers. Depending on the length of the cruise, the cast may be responsible for three or more full-length, hour-long shows, and performers may adopt radically different roles in each one. Between performances, the entertainers develop new routines, rehearse for upcoming shows, and fulfill other duties related to entertainment and the smooth operation of the cruise ship.

Solo Performers

Every cruise ship employs several solo entertainers, often for shorter contracts than standard crew members. They may be based on a particular ship for several weeks, or they may rotate between different ships in the cruise line's fleet to spread their entertainment skills to many different passengers visiting a wide variety of cruise destinations. Popular types of solo performers include:

  • Soloist singers who may perform independently or could augment existing shows.
  • Specialized musicians or bands such as jazz, bluegrass, and classical artists to perform lounge music or add sophistication to formal dining.
  • Magicians who can create family-friendly shows.
  • Jugglers or other active performers specializing in high energy shows.
  • Comedians or impressionists who may have both family-oriented and adult material.
  • DJs to keep nightclubs jumping until the wee hours.
  • Figure skaters for ice shows on ships equipped with performance rinks.

When performing on cruise ships, solo entertainers may be responsible for several shows, each lasting up to 45 minutes with unique material. Depending on their specialty, entertainers may be asked to provide both a family-friendly show as well as racier material for an adults only performance. Solo entertainers may also be required to participate in other entertainment related duties.

Guest Performers

Guest performers are headlining acts that are contracted for a single appearance on a special cruise - a country music themed cruise, for example, may feature several celebrity country musicians for that one voyage. Under certain circumstances, guest performers may be contracted for several appearances, perhaps on different ships, but their shows are generally quite limited. Popular singers, athletes, actors, comedians, musicians, or other famous personalities may all fall into this category.

Performers' Duties

Performers may assist with Bingo games.

In addition to their expected entertainment duties - appearing in shows, arranging choreography, etc. - most cruise ship performers are involved in other aspects of cruise activities and entertainment, such as:

  • Assisting in emergency procedures if necessary.
  • Offering dancing, singing, or instrumental lessons to guests.
  • Assisting with trivia or bingo games for crowd control or other minor duties.
  • Assisting with luggage delivery and pickup at the beginning and end of the cruise.
  • Participating in children's programs.
  • Posing for photos with guests, especially in costume.
  • Assisting the cruise director to get the crowd involved with different activities.

Because the actual performances may only take up a small fraction of the time a performer is on board, these additional duties fill in the time they are contracted to work between preparing for performances. Solo performers on a limited contract and guest performers may also be expected to appear at meet-and-greet events, though their additional duties are usually minimal.

Benefits of Performing on Cruise Ships

There are many perks to being a cruise line employment as a performer. While regular cast members are part of the ship's crew and do not have specialized benefits, they earn $1,500-4,000 per month depending on the cruise line, their experience, and the length of their contract. Solo and guest performers are offered passenger privileges when they are not fulfilling their duties, and they may be able to bring a spouse, significant other, for family members on the cruise at drastically discounted (and sometimes free) rates. Furthermore, performing on cruise ships is great exposure for talented artists, and at the same time they are able to travel the world and experience a wide variety of destinations - even crew members are often permitted to go ashore and enjoy new sites when their duties do not interfere.

Getting Hired as a Performer

The first key to being hired as a cruise ship entertainer is having great expertise, skill, and talent in whatever medium the artist represents. Because a cruise ship is a closed and limited environment, however, it is also critical for a performer to be versatile - a skilled dancer who can double as a solo guitarist or a comedian who can also create an impressionist routine will have an advantage over less flexible performers. Prospective performers should also be enthusiastic and outgoing, well able to work with many different personalities.

A well-rounded resume is a good step toward becoming a cruise entertainer, and venues such as other cruise lines, amusement or theme parks, nightclub engagements, or Las Vegas shows will help distinguish a performer's work experience as appropriate for a cruise ship. Other useful skills include travel experience, multiple languages, safety certification (CPR, first aid, etc.), or child development degrees depending on the specific type of entertainment position sought.


Performing on cruise ships is a fun and unique way to spread great entertainment beyond a single club or show. Cruise ships offer many opportunities for qualified entertainers, and being a cruise ship performer can be even more fun than being a passenger.

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Performing on Cruise Ships