How to Get Work as a Guest Entertainer on a Cruise Ship Part III

This is part 3 on How to Get Work … and Keep it! … by working as a Guest
Entertainer on a cruise shipCue Sheets
Always have your cue sheets ready to give the production manager. These will
include any music cues and lighting cues. You will always get time to rehearse and
this will be the time to go over any cues. The stages on the ships today are
incredible and have everything.
Prepare cue sheets for light and sound technicians. Early upon your arrival on the
ship the stage manager will contact you. He or she will want to know what special
requirements you need and how much rehearsal time to schedule. You should be
familiar with your technical requirements. Talk to him about the kind of lighting and
sound you need and any backstage help you will require. At rehearsal you should be
able to supply written cue sheets that explain how and when all the technical things
happen during your act. For recorded music I use a programmable mini-disc unit. If
you use recorded music I recommend that you put it on the highest quality playback
method you can. If you use extensive and complex lighting, I recommend you bring
videotape of your act to show the lighting technician how you’d like it to look. Light
fixtures change from place to place, but the same mood and affect can be created
from various sources.Live animals
Some acts do use live animals on ships, to do this you need to get pre-approved by
head office of the cruise line you are working for so they can sort out the paper
work well in advance. To travel with livestock is the responsibility of the Guest
Entertainer.Theatre Conduct
It is important that you are familiar with stage deportment; how to enter, exit, and
take a curtain call. This is all part of professionalism, simple theatre 101. First
impressions matter, but never more than when you are on stage. During the first 30
seconds, your audience will size you up. They make judgments about you that will
color their attitudes about what you do. The first moments are critical. You need to
strategically decide how you will present yourself immediately upon your
introduction.Likewise you should give careful consideration to the end of your act. How will you
finish? How will you exit the stage? Cruise ship shows all have emcees, so you will
be called back to the stage for a bow.Usually, an act will finish their last routine and take a bow as the M.C. announces
the act’s name. The band will play a quick and bouncy piece of music as the
performer walks off stage. The emcee will then ask the audience to “call the
performer back,” with another round of applause. At this point the entertainer walks
back to the stage to receive the applause.The theatres on cruise ships today are more equipped than most theatres on land,
with the latest sound equipment, lighting and video equipment. Try and view your
act as theatre and make use of all the technology available to you. In my act I use a
video montage to introduce my Chaplin act. I have also performed close-up magic
on the main stage and had it projected behind me on a large video screen. On a
cruise you will be expected to know how conduct yourself and your act in a real
theater setting. This is not always something a magician that is used to working
solo is familiar with. You will deal with other professionals like the an emcee, stage
manager, sound engineer, light technician, orchestra leader and other professional
entertainers that you will share the stage and dressing room with. You should know
stage terminology, blocking and what light designs you will need. If all this is
foreign to you, get some experience before trying the ship market.CONTRACT
A Guest Entertainer Independent Contractor Agreement will be issued each time a
Guest Entertainer is contracted to work on board. The contract should be reviewed
carefully and signed accordingly. The contract will say how much money you are
being paid on a weekly basis and your travel dates.
You will also get a boarding letter. This letter will come in useful when going
through immigration as they may ask to see it. Quite often when traveling through
US immigration I am taken in to another room while they confirm with the cruise line
that I will be joining the ship. This agreement will also give your flight details, the
port agents details of the country you will be flying to and often your return flight.
There are times where you don’t get your return flight until you are onboard. Always
have a copy of your contract and boarding agreement with you. You will need to
show the boarding agreement to the security officer when you get to the gangway
on the ship.CONTRACT PAYMENT
Each company differs on their pay system. There was a time when I would be paid
on the ship on a bi-monthly basis, but this is no longer the case. In my case my
agent gets my money on the 15th and 30th of each month and she then transfers it
to my account. I prefer this because then she can take out her commission and it
saves me having to send her the money. I know there are still ships where they act
gets paid onboard and also some acts who have the money deposited directly in to
their bank accounts.During a ship’s drydock, refit. Or maintenance period that falls within the duration
of a contract, it is at the company’s discretion to either pay the Guest Entertainer on
a pro-rata basis or provide a round trip airfare to the Guest Entertainer’s “home”
airport and back to the ship. When I finish this contract next week the company is
accommodating me for two nights in Gibralter before I transship to another ship for
a week. They will pay for my hotel, food and any travel while I am staying in port.Guest Entertainers are paid for the day they embark the ship, but not for the day
they disembark the ship. Travel days are not usually reimbursed unless otherwise
agreed.For US citizens the company must report all earnings and a 1099 form will be issued
at year end. All Guest Entertainers are responsible to payment of government taxes
and so forth.
In my situation I am a non-resident of any country having left New Zealand almost
five years ago on a full time basis and so I am in the fortunate position of not paying
tax. I have set up a US bank account so that I can have a US visa which I find very
handy when paying onboard accounts.Cruise Director
While onboard the ship, it is the Cruise Director who looks after the Guest
Entertainers and is the person in charge of scheduling performers and putting
together the daily ‘newspaper’ on what the days activities will be. More often than
not, it is the CD that will be introducing you, so have a very short and precise
introduction prepared so that s/he can use it to bring you onstage. They don’t like
to read long winded introductions so my advice is to keep it short and simple. The
cruise director is also the person who will be reporting back to head office about
your act and how it was received. You will never really know what the CD is thinking
and in my time on ships I think I have seen it all.
You get the cruise directors who are very professional and care about their guest
entertainers, yet on the other hand you get those that don’t care at all. In one case, I
had a CD who didn’t even bother to turn up and introduce me, so I had to do it
myself AND take myself off stage. The next night he never showed up and so
another guest entertainer introduced the act. Without a doubt the worst CD I have
ever worked for, just plain lazy and didn’t care. When I approached him on the
matter his comment was “I could get more money working at McDonalds” … I told
him maybe he should go there and work instead. This same CD I made a noise
complaint because there were parties next door in the cabins every night going on
until 3am, this went on for almost 2 weeks until I complained. We had the dancers
in the hallway and none of the guest acts could sleep. When I complained the CD
told me not to hassle his dancers, then I found out that he was the one holding the
parties!!! Sometimes you can’t win.
I try to keep out of the CDs way, just go on, do my job, be polite and that is it. They
do have a very busy life on a ship and they run a large department so as little hassle
from guest entertainers makes their lives that much easier.

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