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.

100 thoughts on “What It Takes To Be A Cruise Ship Performer

  1. when you think of all of the jobs that you could have, this one wouldn’t come to mind, but it definitely seems like a pretty cool one!

  2. I was just on this exact cruise ship last week I just got off of it on the 21st & I watched the water show. The fact that this was on my recommended is kinda creepy

  3. When I worked as a performer on a cruise ship we were paid really well. In fact the minimum for a dancer on Royal is advertised at 700/week… not bad

  4. they say they “get paid to travel” but not having a day off means you don’t actually get to travel and explore the places…

  5. Having people work for 11 straight months is wildly unethical. They are paid poorly and it's not hard to find information on what crew quarters on these ships are like — tiny, crowded, and cramped. The skills of these performers are wonderful, but let's not glamorize this kind of extortion.

  6. This is a morbid thought but if the ship were to crash/sink/malfunction… she is strapped up and stuff so she might be going down with it..

  7. I honestly find this sorta funny because I was on the symphony as they posted this and and when me and my family went to watch this we were so lost so thanks for the clarification

  8. 8 SHOWS A WEEK??!?!?!? I can't even go to the gym twice a week… This level of physical and mental demand is insane, they better get paid generously

  9. All of that money poured into this cruise line and the higher-ups can't even afford these people a makeup artist? smh

  10. I went on this ship dec 7-14 the show hiro was amazing. I also saw flight which was like a broadway show and it was also incredible

  11. Everyone’s talking about work conditions but I find the girl walking on her bare toes most disturbing 😂😂😂

  12. Guys cruise ships are very nice. They do in fact get paid quite a bit and even thought hey do a lot of shows they also get to travel the world and live in luxury. They get WiFi on the ship so they could call home. It’s a contract if they didn’t want to do this they wouldn’t have signed

  13. 11-month work contract, no vacation days, can only go home in case of an emergency and performs 8 shows a week and I bet they get paid less than minimum wage for all the hard work they do.

  14. No sane or smart person goes on a cruise on ships like these. Health risks are high but hidden to the public, the legal protection virtually non-existent at sea. Not to mention the ruthless owners/employers behind the facade of these companies. No thanks… If U have to at least cruise on a real ocean liner and company with better morals.

  15. The fact that there are so many things they're not sharing and letting us see is really indicative of how shitty the conditions must actually be. Not sharing wages, even a salary range is a huge red flag. Emphasizing that they get housing and get to travel is simply insane. They're on a ship that moves! Where else would they sleep!?! Of course they're gonna travel! And they mentioned a grocery store, which means meals are almost certainly not free. They mentioned "other safety duties," which means that in addition to dangerous performances, these people are forced to do some other type of labor, likely for no extra pay. No letting us see the equipment is probably less because it's "proprietary" and more because it's shoddy and possibly dangerous. And finally worst of all was the mention that no other ship employees can use the passenger gym or eat at the special restaurants. None of those Filipino laborers earning pennies a day are given those opportunities! Not that they could afford to take them anyway, with the slave wages they earn. What a sham. You guys should've snuck a hidden camera in there and gotten a real story instead of this fluff piece with some paid off company shill who talks about how bad her body is bruised every night, then insists she loves her job. She probably didn't get that private cabin till she agreed to spread that propaganda.

  16. Not only do they get treated like slaves, they have to also pay for WiFi, and that shit is $100 a week. Royale Caribbean over prices a LOT of stuff

  17. Every benefit they listed out but not talking about pay proves that there’s some sort of slave labor going on. not to mention you’re not allowed to leave that’s kind of terrifying

  18. Me and my family love taking royal Caribbean cruises and on say I wanna work for a royal Caribbean cruise ship one day

  19. I know a guy who was a performer for disney cruises
    Supposedly disney treats them pretty well, at least on the ship he was on
    He said one scary thing though was that he started off playing one character, but then became the new Jack Sparrow after the original actor got hurt doing a stunt
    He was like yeah obviously I loved playing that role, but it’s not as cool being told that you get to play the part some other guy almost died doing lol
    but he said otherwise it was great

  20. I know a few former competitive dancers got hired straight out of high school. Nice for them to get to travel for a bit but definitely not good for long term.

  21. I went on this ship in the summer and was talking to a staff member in the teen club. She told me she lived on the ship for 7 months. She doesn't get to eat the food at the free restaurants and only gets the food made by the chefs and has scheduled meals. The teens got her a bunch of pizza from the free pizza restaurant.

  22. Holy crap this is the exact show I saw on this ship lmao. We stayed in one of the rooms right by the stage (you can see the balcony’s of the rooms at 2:37) got to watch straight from the balcony, the show was great!

  23. Guys, y’all are saying that this is “Slave labor” first of all, non performers on the ship still choose to have the job. When there were slaves, they didn’t apply or quit, they were born into it and were bought and sold, and they weren’t paid AT ALL!! Thats the difference, choice and free will, cruise ship workers CHOOSE to work there and GET PAID!! 🙄

  24. When i was on this ship back in November of 2019 i had a blast and this show was my favorite. It blew me and my family away.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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

  29. 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.

  30. 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

  31. 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *