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My Life Performing On A Cruise Ship

Performing On A Cruise Ship
By Laetitia Bouffard Roupe

Believe it or not, I started working on cruise ships by mistake. I attended a dance audition in Paris just because a friend of mine wanted to apply for the position and needed a ride to Paris. At the time I thought, if I’m in Paris already, why not take a free class?  Long story short, I got the job as an acrobat a few weeks later.

I received a contract before I even knew how to do most of the tricks that were required for the position. My dad was furious when I accepted the offer. He said to me, “after all these years of ballet, you go to work on a cruise ship!” Well, he is fine with my decision now!

I have been working on cruise ships for 14 years now and have been on 22 different ships.  I can proudly say that I have performed on all five Oceans!  I’ve worked on very small ships with only 100 crew and 200 passengers and on the “giants” with up to 1300 crew and 4000 passengers.  I’ve slept in rooms ranging from a bunk-bed cabin without a window, to a guest suite with a balcony and a bathtub. I’ve experienced being on guest and crew manifest.

I’ve performed both as a guest entertainer and also as part of the production cast and I’ve signed contracts varying in length from three days up to 9 months!

Cruise Ship Performance Venues

From an artist’s perspective, the most important part of the ship is the theater. It goes without saying that the size and technology of cruise ship theaters vary depending on the age and size of the ship. As an aerial artist, I need to adjust my act depending on the height and the rigging capabilities of each venue. You would be amazed by the amount of technology on the giant ships. I remember on one of them, the venue had 12 flying winches – that would make many land-based theaters jealous! Multi-million-dollar production shows with huge sets, video walls and hundreds of costumes, create the unforgettable entertainment onboard. It’s truly impressive.  

Performing On A Cruise Ship

The Unique Complications of Performing at Sea

One of the downsides of performing acrobatics on a ship is that the ship is moving. You very rarely perform while the ship is in port, 99% of the shows are performed at sea. Luckily, I don’t get seasick! Slowly, you get used to performing on a rocky stage, or as they call it at sea, “working on your sea legs.” I was injured once from performing on rough seas. I over-stretched my Achilles tendon when, while I was landing a split jump, the floor arrived later than I expected. It took me two months to recover.

Rough seas can make performing difficult and unsafe. Some cruise directors understand the risks of performing in rough conditions and will postpone a show to a calmer night but some just think, “the show must go on!”  They will look at you with a cheeky smile and tell you to “be safe!”  

The largest waves I’ve performed on were about 30 feet tall. During that performance, we were in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean during the winter and the audience was puking through the entire show.

It was so rough that night, the bridge windows broke!

Performing On A Cruise Ship

Interaction With The Audience

One particularly interesting aspect of performing on a cruise ship is that you get to meet your audience. The day after your show, people stop you in corridors, chat with you in elevators and even disturb you while you are eating or working out! People want to get to know you and share everything they thought about the show. I am often asked strange questions like: “how much do you weigh? do you eat?” or “do you have bones?”. I do sometimes meet really nice and interesting people and end up having fascinating conversations. I have to admit, I’ve become close friends with one guest and we are still in touch to this day.

 

Also by Laetitia:

8 Morning Habits To Work Into Your Daily Routine

Performance: 6 Tips To Deal With Muscle Pain

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