Casting Talent in the Cruise Industry

The Cruise Industry contributes over $150 Billion in economic activity every year and is expected to grow at a rate of 11.5% between 2024 and 2032!

In 2024, 30 million passengers will take a cruise, served by approximately 360,000 crew members with 10% of all crew being directly employed in entertainment services.

Over the years, cruise entertainment has expanded significantly as the industry shifts toward providing an entertainment and destination service, rather than focusing solely on being destination-oriented.
In this article, we explore the significant challenges cruise companies encounter in casting for entertainment shows and events on cruise liners.

From Broadway hits like CHICAGO the Musical, Wizard of Oz, Mamma Mia, SIX, Jersey Boys, Hairspray, and CATS, to name a few, the cruise industry has really stepped up their game when it comes to entertainment. Stand up comedy, aqua shows, ice shows, live bands and everything in between, live entertainment onboard cruise liners is a complex business with very unique and difficult challenges.

Whether a cruise line handles casting in-house, or hires an outside casting agency to manage and book talent for them, the amount of work is significant and not for the faint of heart!

Outlined below are some of the unique challenges:

Diversity of Roles:

Cruise ships are giant floating cities that require a vast array of talent who fill a variety of roles onboard.

On each ship, there are multiple venues, a variety of shows and dozens of entertainment offerings that require casting performers of all kinds. For one cruise ship, casting teams will have to audition 1000’s and hire 100’s of performers ranging from singers, dancers, acrobats, comics, divers, ice skaters, live musicians, mascots, guest entertainers, actors, and hosts to staff the wide array of entertainment offerings onboard. In addition to the contracted entertainers who work onboard, each role not only demands specific skills but also a personality that can adapt to the close quarters, limited resources, demanding schedules and constant movement of a life at sea. Now multiply that by 10-30 ships in each fleet. How can anyone handle that kind of volume and nuance themselves without help? The short answer is, it is extremely difficult!

Quality and Consistency:

Maintaining a high standard of entertainment and service is crucial for cruise lines to ensure guest satisfaction. This requires casting teams to identify talent who not only meet the high standards of the show producers, but also find well-rounded, adventurous individuals who will perform consistently under the unique pressures of cruise ship life.

The ability to perform while being away from home, living aboard a moving ship in sometimes rough seas and often restricted environments, add to the challenges performers face. Personal soft skills become extremely important. Finding world-class entertainers who have the ability to work under pressure, think outside the box, and constantly adapt to the onboard lifestyle come into play. Talent needs to be great at what they do, while also being able to work with minimal resources while onboard. However, the challenges of entertaining on a ship brings additional pressures that some talent don’t expect or have the ability to handle under these extra unique environmental challenges.

Cultural Sensitivity and Language Skills:

Given the global reach of the cruise industry and diverse clientele from around the world, there is a need for talent that are not only culturally sensitive but oftentimes multilingual. Casting directors need to align entertainment with the audience expectations. There are hundreds of cruise ships docked at ports around the globe, and the entertainment offerings often reflect the itinerary of each vessel. A ship sailing out of Barcelona, for example, will most likely offer shows that cater to Spanish speaking guests and Europeans. The same thing applies to Asia, South America, Scandinavia, Canada, Hawaii, etc. This allows for a more inclusive, engaging, and customized experience for passengers from around the world which adds another layer of complexity to the casting process.

Audiences are diverse and they need to feel represented in order to provide a sense of familiarity and belonging. This challenges the norms of traditional casting and default stereotypes. Productions must appeal to a wide array of cruisers. Theater goers as well as first timers make up the diverse audience, and expectations of those audiences have risen significantly. It takes a well planned international stage with international expectations to meet cultural standards.

Logistical Complexity:

The logistics of auditioning, hiring and onboarding talent from across the globe pose significant challenges. Coordinating auditions, managing visa and work permit requirements, and handling travel logistics are all critical components that can be resource-intensive and extremely time-consuming. Not to mention coordinating cabin and room assignments, both during rehearsals and onboard the ship, handling all onboard replacements due to injuries and illnesses, or if a performer decides to leave the contract for personal reasons. Keeping track of things like this is extremely difficult without a tool that can keep track for you! Back up options and tracking talent availability is essential.

Contract Flexibility and Turnover:

The transient nature of cruise ship contracts and the industry’s seasonal fluctuations, demand a casting process that can efficiently manage high turnover rates and the need for flexible contract terms.

“Having worked and performed onboard cruise ships for over 15 years, I am acutely aware of the complexity of casting for a fleet of ships. Scheduling auditions and rehearsals around the itineraries of the fleet of ships is a daunting task.

I intimately know the challenges of Cruise Ship casting from a performer and casting director perspective”
Angela Calo – Co Founder – JamarGig

At JamarGig we recognise these challenges and one of the driving principles in building our platform was to address these challenges and support the amazing teams that work in this industry. We strive to make it easier for casting teams around the globe to achieve their mission while focusing on what they do best, creating the best casts.


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