What It Takes To Be A Cruise Ship Performer


Aboard the world’s
largest cruise ship, 6,600 passengers
pay a premium to be entertained
every single day. That’s why Royal Caribbean
hires serious athletes to do eight shows a week. They get paid to perform in
productions around the world in front of millions
of cruise-goers. But the job isn’t
always easy. Performers work 11
months straight without a single
vacation day, and they do it all
on a moving stage in the middle of the ocean. Ariana Mazzagatti: That is the biggest thing
to get used to, is the rock of the ship. When you’re going
to do a jump and you expect the
floor to be here, but the floor is here
or the floor is here. Narrator: We went behind
the scenes with the principal
character of the aqua show to see what it’s really
like to be a performer on a cruise ship. Aboard Royal Caribbean’s
Symphony of the Seas, there are ice shows,
Broadway-style plays, and an aqua performance. Mazzagatti: Hi, I’m
Ariana Mazzagatti. I go by Mazz here in the
Royal Caribbean world. I am the aerialist
for the show “HiRO” on the Symphony
of the Seas, and I am also
the aqua captain. Narrator: Mazz is in charge
of 20 other performers in the cruise line’s
original show “HiRO.” It tells the story of
three warring clans, and Mazz’s character brings peace
between them. To bring her powerful
character to life, Mazz is strapped into a
3D flying apparatus that allows her to flip
and “run” above the crowd with only wires
holding her up. Mazz is American in a cast of performers
from all over the world. And they’re all
accomplished athletes: professional slackliners,
Olympic-level divers, and world-renowned
martial artists. Like many of her
fellow castmates, Mazz never planned
on being a cruise-ship performer. On a whim, she tried out for Royal Caribbean her
junior year of college and beat out thousands
of others for a spot. Mazzagatti: It’s as difficult
to get into a ship show as it is to get into a
Broadway or a West End or a Cirque du Soleil show. Narrator: And in 2015, Mazz got the call from
Royal Caribbean. She dropped out of college
and has been performing on cruise ships ever since. After getting
a role in “HiRO,” the show’s
performers head to Royal Caribbean’s
training facility in Florida. This is where they spend
two months learning and perfecting the routine. Then they’re off to sea. Their stage? The tricked-out
AquaTheater aboard the world’s
largest cruise ship. It’s made up of the
deepest pool at sea, with a transforming bottom,
30-foot diving towers, a trampoline, and tightropes
suspended above the crowd. The new digs take some
getting used to. Mazzagatti: You’re
brought from those plain, gray studios with
mirrors into this, and you’re relearning
everything, because it all changes. The water, the weight
of the costumes, the quick
changes backstage, the makeup changes,
the hair changes. It adds so many
new elements that you could not even
dream of during rehearsals. Narrator: Finally, they’re
performing live at the 600-person theater. Mazzagatti: It takes about
maybe two or three weeks to get into the zone
and to feel 1,000%, you’re not so
stressed anymore. Narrator: So far, this cast
is about a third of the way through its 11-month
contract. The performers don’t get
a single vacation day during their run. Trips home are only allowed
in the case of an emergency. They typically perform
eight shows a week. Before any performance, Mazz usually hits the
gym for about an hour. Then she comes
to the theater to run a safety test
on the 3D flyer. The flyer is made up
of a harness and four sets of wires
connected to the ship. The technology is
pretty complex and can move her
on four axes. But the tech is proprietary
to Royal Caribbean, so we couldn’t get too close. After Mazz is all
set on the wire, she stretches, then
heads downstairs to the secret 4.5
deck of the ship to put on her makeup
and get into costume. Mazz and her castmates
do all their own makeup. Once the show starts, Mazz stays hidden
through the opening. Then she quietly climbs
on a platform at the back of the audience while a crew member straps
her into the harness. Mazzagatti: The harness
is very tight so that I do not fall out. So the pain is necessary. I can’t necessarily
say you get used to it, because every day it
might in a different spot, so you’re just bruising
a new spot. Narrator: The flying
mechanism already has her routine
programmed into it. So once a crew member
hits a button in the production box, she soars above the crowd. While suspended,
Mazz uses her body to control her
flips and spins. Mazzagatti: If I get
too turned to the front or if my arm is out of place
or if my chin is forward, it’ll send me rocking
back and forth like this, and I’ll never be able
to control it back because it just sends you, and once you get a
pull in the wire, it’ll just keep going. Narrator: Throughout her
contract, Mazz and her castmates will do this same
routine 200 times, using the same
muscles every day. That’s why they’re
required to keep in shape. But that’s not
the only challenge. Remember, they’re
performing at sea. If it’s windy, she’s
blown around. Mazzagatti: If it’s
rocking, sometimes the wires will pull harder on one side. So I have to work
around and be able to preemptively move
my body in a way that if I know a
rock is coming, I have to put more on
one side than the other so that I can even out
myself with the rock. Narrator: All these
things affect other aqua performers, too. A bob in the ship
could affect the balance of a tightrope walker. If it’s rocky, where
a diver hits the water could be totally different
from where they intended to when they left the platform. If conditions are too bad,
say, high winds or a rainstorm
with lightning, they’ll postpone
the performance. Mazzagatti: Every day is
an absolute adventure. Whether that be a
difficult adventure, you’re tired. We work a lot. We have safety
duties that I don’t think a lot of people
necessarily even realize. We have so
many more duties than just coming
out and performing. Narrator: Now, Royal
Caribbean wouldn’t share how much performers
are paid. But the cruise line did say
they get health insurance while they’re employed
on the ship and free housing on board. Performers live in the crew
quarters on the lower decks. Mazzagatti: We have
roommates, so two live to a cabin. There are a few who
have their own cabin. And then, as aqua captain,
I get my own cabin. Narrator: We weren’t
allowed to see the crew quarters, but we were told that they
have their own mess hall, grocery store, and
even a dance club. Performers can use
the passenger gym, eat at the reservation-only
restaurants, and swim in the pools, all things no other crew
members are allowed to do. Plus, they get to travel. This contract with
Symphony of the Seas sails in the Caribbean,
docking in St. Martin, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas,
and the Bahamas. But Mazz has been to
tons of other places on her other five contracts, including Brazil, Asia,
and the Mediterranean. Mazzagatti: I will do this
until my body physically cannot move. We are paid to dance,
or sing, or dive, or ice skate, or
synchronized swim, and we are paid to
travel at the same time, and that’s the best
part about it.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. A simple google search shows average pay is 42k a year. Which is horribly underpaid when you count taxes, health benefits etc. should easily be no less than 80k per year for performers of this caliber.

  2. 1. They burn probably thousands and thousands of calories a week.
    2. They better be paid at least 6 figures for being at sea most of their entire year.
    3. I had no idea I needed to see this but thanks Youtube for the recommendation!

    Edit: After a quick Google Search as of January 2020, this is an excerpt from the search:

    "Pay varies tremendously. The standard salary for a performer on a cruise ship depends on the type of performance, your experience, the length of your contract, and cruise liner you will be working for. Generally speaking stage performers make anywhere from $1,600 to as much as $4,000 a month for feature performances. In a few cases, entertainers do not receive a salary at all but are instead given free passage in a deluxe stateroom in return for performing."

    So since this is the Royal Caribean, I expect that pay to be on the higher end of things. It truly is a damn shame they don't get paid bonuses because they surely do deserve it for dealing with the randomness of the sea and how 1 wrong step could end your career, permanently.

  3. My friend of a cruise ship performer and has been for 3 years. It’s annoying because he’s always posting pictures of himself in Antarctica or other cool country.

  4. sounds like exploitation to me… also what do they mean with "no day's off"… I am studying law and this does not seem right, at least in my country

  5. I can hardly imagine how hard it must be to do those flips at 2:58. Running through water is so hard AND they have a whole cape that looks like it's soaked. It must be pretty heavy.

  6. I can’t image having to work 11 months without a day off. I cruise with Disney and I haven’t talked to any performers but I have other safe and Disney does 6 month contracts. The cruise ship industry needs to be regulated these companies get away with too much

  7. Paid to travel? Yeah I heard that one before in my Marine Corps Recruiting office lol… They don't tell you you will have endless safety briefs, can only get off the ship on a blue moon when its light out with a fireteam of 3-6 wearing glow gear at all times at 3h intervals.

  8. I think all crew members whether or not should have the same benefits or share in having no benefits at all, you can't treat one person better then another because they are putting on a show. We all know the truth behind the scenes how hard they work, how little they get paid, how they are treated, how that a lot of the cruise ships are registered in another country so they don't have to follow the safety and labor laws of the US and if say a person goes missing from the ship the FBI doesn't have the authority to investigate fully because the ship is registered in another country and that country has the only right to investigate and can allow or not allow the FBI to help in the investigation.

  9. A friend of mine played in a band on a cruise ship. There was some sort of problem that started the flooding but the captian ran the ship aground and all the passengers were safely removed. He thought he'd evacuated with the passengers. NOPE! The performers on the ship are considered " crew " and were expected to assist in the evacuation. When it was determined that the ship had just settled on the bottom and was not in danger of sinking, they were sent below to help retrieve the passengers luggage and belongings. Obviously the passengers were robbed blind by the crew.

  10. I worked on Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Princess right through my 20s, 9.5 years in the end! One of the best decisions I ever made was to work on ships, my second best decision was to decide to no longer work on ships lol. A lot of people here are saying it's slave labor which definitely made me LOL. Working on ships is one of the most unique and life changing experiences any young person can do. The community is like nothing you can replicate on land, the friends you make are friends for life and you have to bear this in mind… Most people are in 9 to 5 office jobs and commute to the office for 60 minutes per day, have all the stresses of 'living on land.' Cruise ships sure you work crazy hours, but your 'office' is a 45 second walk away, everything from cleaning your cabin, cooking every meal is all taken care of by the ship. Equally, when they say 'work 7 days per week,' sure you do but… On port days that might be x 2 hours giving the rest of the day to go and explore a beautiful island. Pretty sure if I had my 20s again, I'd take cruise ship slave labour over the 9 to 5 version :).

  11. To those who are complaining about them not sharing salary details, did you ever consider that such information may be… confidential?

  12. Do not be fooled. These people are treated like slaves! Performers are generally hard workers so that is nothing new! They are cast and used just like the trash they compact and discard at each port! The contracts always serve only the corporations that couldn't care less about each and every single slave they own and if you step out of line, even accidentally, your helicopter is waiting, get lost!

  13. hold up.. that girl at 4:07, i saw her, during the performance i was watching and standing beside her, she goes upside down and stuff

  14. Everyone saying they don’t make very much or it’s basically slavery are idiots. Thousands of people try out for only 15-25 positions which doesn’t make sense if they aren’t getting good a good benefit from the job…

  15. wow, they get free housing on the cruise ship instead of being left to sleep on the deck or pay for a room. How generous of Royal Caribbean

  16. At first I thought that no vacation days was kinda cruel, but then again, you have to remember that people working on broadway also do 8 shows a week with no vacation days and you don’t hear anything about that. The pay is probably not good though

  17. Sexual interactions among performers and crew (and sometimes passengers, although that is a cause for termination) are rampant in cruise ships. They gotta bring in lots of condoms, lubricants, and creams to prevent/treat sexually transmitted infections.

  18. I strongly doubt that these jobs are as hard to get as Broadway or West End. Maybe there’s as many applicants, but the talent and budget on Broadway is about 100x greater. It’s laughable to consider this on par with broadway. Whatever you have to tell yourself to sleep at night while fighting off seasickness, I guess.

  19. Most cruise companies register their vessels in countries where the minimum wage is very low so they don't have to pay their staff much. For example their is only 1 cruise ship in the whole world that is registered in the USA 'Pride of the USA' and thats so legaly they can dock in Hawaii.

  20. I think for these guys performing is a life long passion and dream and to many of these people just the fact they get to do it sharing their art while being able to travel the world is enough for them. Pay is likely poor but at the same time when they don't have to pay for accommodation, food or drink it means their pay starts to add up nicely, not to mention the fact they will receive tips which on a lot of cruise ships (At least the ones I've been on) are charged automatically to the passengers.

  21. For everyone harping about the money not being mentioned, if you are smart with your paycheck you can stack tremendous cash doing these contracts. I would estimate 25k starting upward of 60k for seasoned vets and leaders. You essentially have zero expenses each year and by the time you "retire" after a few years or more you can easily buy your lifetime home in cash and pursue whatever career you want. It's actually a very smart way to spend a few years of your early 20's if you are interested in performing arts.

  22. @3:40, what does “the tech is proprietary to Royal Caribbean, so we couldn’t get too close” mean? Why can’t the get too close?

  23. No vacation in entire contract, 8 performances per week, living in cramped and below the deck quarters and a salary which the employer does not want the world to know

  24. I just went on this ship and the show is amazing, maz is amazing, everybody has so much talent and energy and I would definitely recommend

  25. CRUISE SHIPS TREATS EMPLOYEES LIKE SLAVES…THEY ARE PAID POORLY…CRUISE SHIPS HAVE A VERY HIGH TURN OVER OF EMPLOYEES……👎🤠

  26. Poor pay, poor safety and security records for cruise liners ….. The only people that really seems to make money are the owners!

  27. We have been on this cruise ship and have watched this in summer! I really loved the show! My kids for wet because they were on the front row!

  28. For those that are interested. This is a video of a cruise ship performers room on Symphony's sister ship Harmony. "Free room and board" LMFAO!!! https://youtu.be/RH0THy8Ux8U

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