Life as a cruise ship performer

Cruise ships are a daily sight against the George Town horizon. In the late afternoon, their rapidly receding shapes prelude a gorgeous setting sun. But just how much do local residents know about what goes on beyond the docks?  

It’s aboard these ships that professionals from nearly every industry and nationality see the world while perfecting their craft. From chefs, to technicians, engineers and performers, the variety of talent is wide, and the experiences are limitless.  

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to drop everything and travel for several months? What if you could pursue your passion while doing it? I sat down with music theater major and Broadway hopeful from New York City, Emily Rice. Here, she gives us her take on life onboard a cruise ship, where she worked for nine months as a performer.  


What is your background? 

I received my BFA in music theater from Elon University in North Carolina. I spent four years honing my skills in voice, dance and acting. My first year out of school, I toured nationally with A Chorus Line. Afterward I worked professionally in regional houses around the United States.  


What was your most remarkable destination? 

My favorite destination was San Juan, Puerto Rico. It stood out because of the architecture within the Old City. Walking up and down the old gray cobblestones, you felt as though you could have been in Spain. One of my favorite memories was of a field where locals came to fly kites. It was beautiful. San Juan also offered me the opportunity to visit the Yunque National Rainforest, a beautiful downhill hike ending in a glorious waterfall. 


What was the most surprising thing you learned over the nine months? 

Being surrounded by so many different cultures and working with people from across the globe really opened my eyes to a lot of things. I had no idea that working on a ship would be like moving to a different country! Along with adjusting to life at sea, I had to adjust to hearing different languages, working with people from different countries, and interacting with people who had accents and different ways of thinking. This was quite a test of adaptability, openness and flexibility.  


Your biggest challenge? 

Seasickness and the motion of the ship was honestly one of the greatest challenges for me. It took at least three weeks for my body to adapt to the motion without feeling tired or queasy. Because the ship is moving, your body is constantly trying to reach a state of equilibrium. This can be exhausting for your body at first as it tries to adjust. Dancing on a stage while it is moving was a different story. The theater was located at the front of the ship, where you feel the motion the most. The cast always prayed for smooth waters during show time. 


What’s your favorite memory from your time on the ship?  

During Disney’s Believe, I heard a little girl in the front row scream “Cinderella!” as I walked onstage, and I felt so incredibly blessed and honored. Blessed to be traveling the world, making little girls’ dreams come true every day! 

Working on a cruise ship has been the perfect mix of traveling and performing. I’ve gained both life and work experience. It’s taught me so much about myself and has helped me grow personally and professionally. I’ve gained knowledge about other countries and cultures, and I now have friends on every continent.  


What advice would you give young adults interested in performing/traveling? 

I would advise that they stay open to opportunity. Working on a cruise ship wasn’t even “on my radar” when a friend suggested going to the audition in New York City. In retrospect, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I grew as a person, and this is key for any artist in reaching his or her full potential. The relationships I made and the skills I learned are worth more than gold! So, to the young adult beginning their professional career, don’t dismiss any opportunity. It could lead you to uncover talents and abilities you may not have even known you had! 


Emily Rice