Life On A Cruise Ship – An Interview with a Cruise Ship Dance Captain

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In the wide world of entertainment, cruise ships offer some of the best jobs in the biz. From lighting technicians to figure skaters, world-class entertainment is being offered on the seven seas. 

Companies like Royal Caribbean, Disney Cruise Line, and Norwegian have really upped their game and now offer one of a kind performances. 

Aqua shows that feature high divers that have competed around the world. Ice shows that showcase Olympic athletes. Broadway shows with many cast members that have both West End and Broadway credits

CHICAGO on the Allure of the Seas
CHICAGO on the Allure of the Seas

In this article, we had a chance to sit down with Kayla Radam. Kayla is the current dance captain aboard Royal Carribean’s Harmony of the Seas, one of the largest Cruise Ships in the world. 

Kayla was awarded Employee of the Year in 2017 with Royal Carribean International. We thought she would be the perfect person to give us the inside scoop. 

More About Kayla

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia but my mother was born in England and my father is from the Philippines, so I’m a mix.

What is your background and training?

I started dancing, doing jazz, ballet, and tap when I was 4 years old. During my teenage years, I started to branch out with my styles and also started taking musical theatre classes. When I finished high school, I attended Patrick Studios Australia, completing a full-time professional development program in Performing Arts. During this time I trained in all disciplines of dance, attended musical theatre master classes, attended regular vocal assessments and studied basic acrobats.

When did you start your journey with Royal Caribbean?

I attended my first audition for Royal Caribbean late 2011. This was for CHICAGO the musical onboard Allure of the Seas. Early 2012, I set off to Miami to start my first professional contract.

What is the audition process like for Royal Caribbean?

Long and hard. The audition process for the musicals typically lasts for a whole week in big cities like London and New York. You are called in for your first round, a technical across the floor routine that allows the judging panel to cut down numbers. Then you repeat this process again and are filmed. If you are lucky enough to remain, you will continue on to learn a routine from the specific show you are auditioning for.

After this round, you will be asked to sing a song in the style of the show. This is then followed by more dancing rounds and more vocal rounds and possibly reading sides for a character. And at the end of a long exhausting week, there is a handful of lucky performers that fill out paperwork and are put on file for the job. That’s when the waiting game begins until you open your email and see an offer for your dream job!

How long do you typically rehearse?

For the musicals, a typical rehearsal length is 2 months. There is always a production show paired with the musical you are doing, so you spend around 4 weeks on each project. The rehearsals are held in a beautiful, well-equipped facility in North Miami.

What are your responsibilities as Dance Captain?

My role as dance captain onboard a cruise ship is quite different to land. I guess the title should really be Dance Captain/Company Manager as I am not only maintaining the integrity of the shows, planning show re-blocks and holding rehearsals, etc. I also manage the entire cast of 23 performers. This includes scheduling, admin, salaries, end of contract appraisals and most importantly, being their support network.

What’s a typical week like onboard?

We do 7-day Caribbean itineraries. My most recent show schedule consists of one evening showing of GREASE the musical Day 1 and Day 2, Day 3 and 4 were evenings off from shows but the cast performs in cabarets and also assists the other theatres with dressing and spots-lights. Back to performing COLUMBUS the Musical Day 5 and a double performance Day 6. Finishing the week with a matinee performance of Grease Day 7. We also perform in the 20 minute ‘Let’s Celebrate’ parade twice a week, which features different holidays of the year.

Kayla as Cha Cha in Grease on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas 2019 cast

Do you ever feel the rocking of the ship during a show?

I have only ever worked on Royal Caribbean’s biggest cruise ships Allure and Harmony. I hear that there is minimal rocking compared to the smaller vessels but sometimes we do feel the movement which affects certain elements of our shows, most importantly the aerial acts.

Your favorite part performing in the shows?

Other than being able to perform in world-class shows and call it my job, my favorite part would be the standing ovations at the end of each night. A roaring audience always leaves you feeling exhilarated.

What do you like most about working on a cruise ship?

Meeting my cast members! You form such a close bond when working in a ship environment and these co-workers really become family.

What’s next?

Hopefully some new and exciting adventures!

Grease cast picture Harmony of the Seas 2019

Crew Curiosity 

We learned that most performers have their days free to explore the ports of call. Getting a chance to see the world and also do what they love. 

We were curious about the range of salaries while performing at Sea. While there are an array of positions in entertainment most performers are offered a monthly wage. We found that this wage can range anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 a month. Depending on the size of the ship and position. Contracts range anywhere from a month onboard to a year. 

Performers are provided with meals and lodging. Some performers are offered single share cabins and some are offered shared bunk cabins. 

Cruise Conclusions 

We had no idea the wide range of positions offered aboard these one of a kind vessels. What a competitive industry it is and the perks of being on a ship. Though being at sea may not be for everyone, it sounds like a one of a kind adventure. 

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