What It Takes To Be A Cruise Ship Performer

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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 comments

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

  2. 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!

  3. 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

  4. 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…

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. @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?

  13. 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

  14. 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

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

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

  17. 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!

  18. 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

  19. As someone who had the option to work on a ship, you'd be sharing a small interior/lower deck cabin ie. no windows and small with 3-5 other people. Shared bathrooms. You'd only be allowed to use crew stairways and hallways, crew cafeteria etc. I didn't hear anyone say that you could mix and mingle with guests or even think about eating in their buffets. For the backstage crew, it seemed like you had to be invisible while on board. You could get off the ship when you were in port when not working which would be rare with 8 shows a week, and you were paid roughly $500/week. Same as on land at the time which was the early 2000s.

  20. Arriving in a new country every other day, unlimited buffet food and drinks, warm weather, etc. It may seem like slave-type work, but since they’re already athletes and have experience, the job doesn’t seem that bad 💯💯

  21. There are a lot of people scared to go on a cruise ship after the coronavirus on the Diamond Princess (or scared of the ship sinking like the Titanic) but cruises are more safe than an airplane and you get unlimited food from all over the world, drinks, entertainment, casinos, pools, water slides, etc 😂

  22. Rather than saying it's as hard to get into as a Broadway or West End show, I would think it's more comparable to a National Tour of a show. I don't think cruise line work is quite at that level, though Royal Caribbean might be more difficult to get a job as a performer with than the average cruise line.

  23. Just like every other business The performers get paid as little as they will accept and just as much as management has to pay them and nothing more…The entertainment business is over supplied on the supply and demand balance….so as always a very few top folks are paid a lot and most very little…also in this industry these people are not working in the US…All of these ships are foreign flag…so they are not under US labor laws…. They are working for an in some other country of convenience….Like Liberia..Panama most of the rest of the crew are from starving third world countries and routinely cheated and exploited with impunity…

    These performers are getting the best of it in the industry!

  24. i saw the ice skating show since I do it. (the pfp is not me its my friend when she was a smol kid) they were amazing in such a small ice. i told myself that I should do that until I found out they don't get paid as much as they should be.

  25. I work for a performance company. performers are mostly in their 20s working for passion and “travel benefits”. And it’s a grueling industry. If ur not in it for why you want to be there (for me it’s been passion), it’s “get out, because ten other people want ur job.”

  26. "Get paid to travel"? Navy seamen have more time during a tour of duty see the world, then these poor folks. With 8 performances a day + "so many other duties" + sleep + workouts, when do they get "to travel"?

  27. Work alot haha, I havent met a performer in my 10 years on passenger ships who works alot. Numerous days off a week and a few hours work a day when you do work. One of the best lives onboard..

  28. At least I wasnt the only one that thought that the fact they wouldn't disclose how much they pay, even an average salary, highlighted insurance as a benefit when it would be legally required, and wouldn't show their living space, was super sketch.

  29. I have watched all the shows and the ship a week ago and got home 2 days ago and all of them we OUTSTANDING, some were nail biting and others just make you smile or your heart burst. People work very hard to entertain us, so I appreciate them,

  30. When I went on royal Caribbean I remember seeing there amazing show at night time and the next day I sat there seeing them practice it was so amazing

  31. This is the exact show I saw on Royal Caribbean a few years ago!!!
    Edit: omg I’m in this video…AHHHHHH

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