Many graduates from the WMU Music Theatre Performance (MTP) program have graced the stages of Broadway, Chicago, National Tours and major regional theatres. It is always exciting to graduate and to have your theatre dreams come true. In addition to these opportunities, many music theatre students have taken their talents to the high seas. Performing as a cast member on one of the numerous cruise line has become a very lucrative and exciting way for young music theatre graduates to see the world and jumpstart their careers. While life on a cruise ship may not be for everyone, it is certainly an experience worth exploring.
Recent WMU Music Theatre Performance alumni working on cruise lines include: Nick Petrelli (Aida Cruises), Mike Perlongo (Norwegian Cruise Line), Colton Steele (Carnival Cruise Line), Elliott Litherland (Disney Cruise Lines), Andrea Arvanigian (Disney Cruise Lines), Elijah Curry (Carnival Cruise Lines), Shari Mocheit (Norwegian Cruise Lines), Bello Pizzimenti (Viking Cruise Line), and Zach Bezdziecki (Crystal Cruise Lines).
Some of our ocean-bound alums have shared their experiences:
Working on Crystal Cruises definitely pushed me to become a better and more professional performer. Learning five one-hour shows and two thirty-minute shows in 4 weeks was a grueling task, but it definitely helped me be able to pick up choreography faster and easier for auditions in the future. Cruise ships opened my eyes to experiences and sights that I never would have dreamed of. Being able to travel the world and to be able to perform while doing it was a fantastic experience that I would recommend to anyone who is wanting a lifestyle like that.
In addition to my experience at sea, I have found professional theme park work is very rewarding. I've done five different contracts with Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Through Busch Gardens, I've been able to work with the likes of Karma Camp (Signature Theatre) and Jennifer Jancuska (Broadway's Hamilton). Show days consist of usually five to six shows a day. I've built so much stamina from doing a schedule like that, helping me get through a two-hour book show with ease. You make so many wonderful connections with directors, choreographers, and performers. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a fun experience that will reach out to thousands of people a day.
Working for Norwegian Cruise Line has been a dream come true. I’ve been on contract for 6 months and have met some of the best people and traveled to some of the most beautiful counties in the world! Working for a cruise ship is the perfect way to network, meet people from all over the world, and get to perform every single day. I always said I wanted to travel the world while I was young...and getting paid to do so makes it so much better. The audition process was tough but I stayed persistent and forced myself in the room every chance I got. I auditioned for NCL five times before my first offer and took all their notes and criticism to heart to ensure that I was setting myself up to be exactly what they were looking for. Now, I’m set up to start another contract later this year and have gained so much performance and life experience from this opportunity. I’m currently performing as the West Coast Swing Feature in Swing! The Musical. I was able to work with the original Broadway director/choreographer, Miss Lynn Taylor Corbett, and it was such a joy bringing her original choreography back to the stage!
From this job, I ended up booking my next gig, which only goes to show you how important networking and getting your face out there really is. I’ll be traveling to North Carolina 6 days after disembarking the ship to be in a production of Beauty and the Beast at the Temple Theatre!
Every performance opportunity is a door to another. I urge everyone to always put your best foot forward and to create some sort of relationship with everyone you meet. You never know who will be in the audience to offer you your next gig.
I’m writing this from onboard the Viking Sea, a cruise ship currently sailing the Caribbean and headed to the Baltic Sea this spring. It is my first time being successfully hired to work on a ship, after being medically declared unfit in the past due to some unforeseen health complications. My recently diagnosed diabetes is under control now and I’m finally sailing, so this is an exciting and triumphant time for me. The job is wonderful. On top of getting to sing for “work”, I’m finally getting to travel internationally, which was basically a nonexistent concept in my life before. My expenses are very low onboard (Viking even offers free WIFI!) and the workload is super reasonable. Also, Viking caters to an older, more laid-back clientele, and I think the atmosphere is a good fit for me. I’m early to bed and early to rise these days, and the regularity of my lifestyle onboard has made tracking and managing my diabetes very easy. I’m having a great time so far in my first cruise job. The audition process was straightforward. I had an audition, dance call, and callback over the course of two days in March, and was officially offered a contract a few months later. Rehearsal was three weeks in Orlando and my time onboard will be just over six months.
I also have had a very positive experience working with theme parks in the time since leaving WMU. My first job out of school was at Cedar Point and that was a great introduction to my professional life, but where I’ve really made a “home” of sorts is at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia. I initially auditioned and worked for them for their Christmas season in 2014, then made my return in the summer of 2015 when they needed a replacement on short notice. After that, the rest as they say is “history”. They’ve been kind enough to invite me back time and again, and I’ve been lucky to have not only a reliable job to go back to, but a wonderful community of artists and patrons in Williamsburg who I’m always happy to see and who I stay in touch with in the off season. I’ve also had the pleasure of sharing multiple contracts at Busch with both WMU MTP alum Zach Bez and WMU Dance alum Kate Peters. Busch is a place I’ll never forget.
I honestly have mixed feelings about working on cruise ships. Obviously, I'm doing it again so there are more positive than negatives for me, but I could see where it wouldn't be an ideal job for everyone. I can definitely say that it is nothing like working on land for multiple reasons, and I thought I knew it was going to be different, but after finishing my last six-month contract I realized that it was far more different than anything I had imagined.
I think depending on the personality of the performer cruise life can be either amazing or terrible. It definitely helps to have an outgoing personality and a positive/happy disposition, which really applies anywhere, but even more so on a ship because you are stuck with literally the same people for months and months at a time. The crew is your social, work, and family environment.
I definitely learned a lot about myself and professionalism after my last contract, and I'm excited to go into this next contract wiser and more prepared for what's ahead, but I will say working for cruises is not at all what I expected. Again, that being said I met some absolutely incredible people and got to go some amazing places and I was getting paid to do what I love to do, so I suppose like anything else it's a bit of a balancing act and you take the good with the bad. I've only worked for Norwegian and some cruise lines might be more or less strict about certain things.
I booked my cruise ship job through my agent in New York. I went to the initial audition, and then a dance call, and one
more callback to work with a music director. I got hired by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings to work on the Regent Seven Seas Explorer. (Regent Seven Seas is an ultra-luxury Cruise Line owned by the umbrella company NCLH.) From New York City I went to Tampa where I rehearsed for 6 weeks, and then flew to Lisbon, Portugal where the cast boarded the ship to do the tech process which ship people call “install.”The ship crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Lisbon to Miami during our install, so not only did we have to tech and open 5 shows and adjust to living on a boat, but we also had to get our sea legs and deal with the extreme rocking of the ship. We’ve been in the Caribbean ever since and it’s been smooth sailing from there! I’m meeting amazing people and seeing beautiful places! Not to mention I get to spend the winter in the Caribbean!
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