• TRAVEL NOTICE: Learn more about COVID-19
  • Newsletter
  • Write a Review
  • Boards
  • Find a Cruise
  • Reviews
  • Cruise Tips
  • News
  • Deals
You may also like
Dismiss
Star Trek Cruise: What You Need to Know
Star Trek Cruise: What You Need to Know
Q&A with a Cruise Ship Entertainment Director
Carnival's Epic Rock Group (Photo: Carnival)

Q&A with a Cruise Ship Entertainment Director

Q&A with a Cruise Ship Entertainment Director
Carnival's Epic Rock Group (Photo: Carnival)
Caroline Gladstone
Contributor
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • Twitter

What really happens backstage on a cruise ship? We put this question to a cruise entertainment director, Erica Amber Parsons, who is in charge of the Carnival Cruise Line performers and department staff, as well as scheduling all the productions and live music onboard Carnival Spirit.

Q: How many staff make up the entertainment department on a cruise ship?

A: The department is made up of five sub-departments: youth staff, musicians, technicians, fun squad and the Playlist cast. Depending on the size of the ship, that can mean anywhere from 50 to 90 team members, sometimes even more on the largest ships.

Q: That's a lot of people. What is it like backstage?

A: Backstage is a combination of the most serious place and the goofiest place all at the same time. The techs and cast are incredibly focused on delivering the best possible product and putting on the best show every single time they perform, but in between shows we always have a good laugh and team bonding time, as well as last minute costume, makeup and hair fixes.

Q: How many singers and dancers make up the ship's own troupe, and what is the average length of a contract?

A: Each cast has eight team members. On a few ships in the fleet there are 12, but on Spirit we have eight. The cast is generally onboard for between six and seven months, and they also have a rehearsal period ashore at our Carnival Studios facility before they come onboard.

Featured Videos

See all videos
Carnival Mardi Gras: Free Dining on the Lido Deck

Carnival Mardi Gras: Free Dining on the Lido Deck

Carnival Mardi Gras: RedFrog Tiki Bar & Summer Landing

Carnival Mardi Gras: RedFrog Tiki Bar & Summer Landing

Carnival Mardi Gras' Excel Suite and Loft 19

Carnival Mardi Gras' Excel Suite and Loft 19

Live From Carnival's Mardi Gras: The French Quarter

Live From Carnival's Mardi Gras: The French Quarter

BOLT: We Try Carnival Mardi Gras' Roller Coaster at Sea

BOLT: We Try Carnival Mardi Gras' Roller Coaster at Sea

Cruise Critic and JJ Cruise : Our Experience Onboard Celebrity Edge (June 2021)

Cruise Critic and JJ Cruise : Our Experience Onboard Celebrity Edge (June 2021)

LIVE Q&A: Cruise Critic and Emma Cruises Chat About All Things Cruise

LIVE Q&A: Cruise Critic and Emma Cruises Chat About All Things Cruise

Freedom of the Seas: What's It Like Onboard a Test Cruise? (Cruise Critic & Royal Caribbean Blog

Freedom of the Seas: What's It Like Onboard a Test Cruise? (Cruise Critic & Royal Caribbean Blog

Q&A with Celebrity Cruises' Captain Kate McCue (2021)

Q&A with Celebrity Cruises' Captain Kate McCue (2021)

Q&A with Celebrity Apex's Cruise Director

Q&A with Celebrity Apex's Cruise Director

LIVE Interview with Frank Del Rio, NCLH President and CEO, About Company's "Safe to Sail" Campaign

LIVE Interview with Frank Del Rio, NCLH President and CEO, About Company's "Safe to Sail" Campaign

Video Q&A With MSC Grandiosa's Hotel Director, Giuseppe Pane

Video Q&A With MSC Grandiosa's Hotel Director, Giuseppe Pane

How to Make a Towel Animals Swans, Dogs and Elephants

How to Make a Towel Animals Swans, Dogs and Elephants

Towel Animals with Carnival Cruise Line and Cruise Critic: How to Make Towel Swans

Towel Animals with Carnival Cruise Line and Cruise Critic: How to Make Towel Swans

Towel Animals with Carnival Cruise Line and Cruise Critic: How to Make a Towel Dog

Towel Animals with Carnival Cruise Line and Cruise Critic: How to Make a Towel Dog

Towel Animals with Carnival Cruise Line and Cruise Critic: How to Make a Towel Elephant

Towel Animals with Carnival Cruise Line and Cruise Critic: How to Make a Towel Elephant

Bolt - Top Deck Roller-Coaster at Sea on Carnival Mardi Gras

Bolt - Top Deck Roller-Coaster at Sea on Carnival Mardi Gras

How To Make Carnival Cruise Line's Famous Warm Chocolate Melting Cake - Video

How To Make Carnival Cruise Line's Famous Warm Chocolate Melting Cake - Video

Shaquille "Shaq" O'neal Named Chief Fun Officer Of Carnival Cruise Line

Shaquille "Shaq" O'neal Named Chief Fun Officer Of Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Cruise Line's "Choose Fun" Commercial

Carnival Cruise Line's "Choose Fun" Commercial

Carnival Splendor Photo Tour

Carnival Splendor Photo Tour

Carnival Conquest Photo Tour

Carnival Conquest Photo Tour

Carnival Pride Photo Tour

Carnival Pride Photo Tour

Carnival Dream Photo Tour

Carnival Dream Photo Tour

Carnival Sunshine Photo Tour

Carnival Sunshine Photo Tour

Carnival Breeze Photo Tour

Carnival Breeze Photo Tour

Photo Tour of Carnival Liberty

Photo Tour of Carnival Liberty

5 Best Restaurants for Free Eats on Carnival Sunshine

5 Best Restaurants for Free Eats on Carnival Sunshine

SkyRide On Carnival Vista: Cruise Critic Tries It

SkyRide On Carnival Vista: Cruise Critic Tries It

Carnival Vista Top Deck Attractions

Carnival Vista Top Deck Attractions

Behind the Scenes at CSMART - Carnival's Arison Maritime Training Center

Behind the Scenes at CSMART - Carnival's Arison Maritime Training Center

Cruise Pier Runners In Cozumel -- Carnival Liberty

Cruise Pier Runners In Cozumel -- Carnival Liberty

Cruise Critic Quick Chat With Carnival CEO Arnold Donald

Cruise Critic Quick Chat With Carnival CEO Arnold Donald

Gavin Macleod - Capt. Stubing On "The Love Boat" -- Cruise Critic Interview (2013)

Gavin Macleod - Capt. Stubing On "The Love Boat" -- Cruise Critic Interview (2013)

Q: Are the production shows created and cast at the Playlist Productions Centre in Miami?

A: All of our production shows are created by directors that are hired by Carnival. Once they have been created, they are cast and taught by our fabulous team of cast supervisors in the Carnival Studios in Florida. Our goal is always to maintain the integrity of the original product so there is no alteration of the shows onboard. 

Q: Have cruise ship performers worked on Broadway and the West End, or are some straight out of dancing or acting school?

A: We have a wide variety of backgrounds in our casts, so I would have to say yes to both. Some also take time off in between ship contracts to perform in shows on land as well.

Carnival's Playlist Production (Photo: Carnival)

Q: Are performers required to keep in shape?

A: Performers are definitely expected to take care of themselves, however they aren't bound by rules per se. The Playlist cast has 'show-prep' time built into their schedule every day, but they are not obligated to follow a certain program. Everyone is different -- some people need extra time to stretch or warm up their voices, some need to get in a gym session -- and so we always give them that time to make sure they're as prepared as possible to perform. Of course, everyone also needs downtime so they will spend time out and about socialising when they are off; however, for the most part the performers always want to deliver the best possible performances for our guests so they always ensure they're getting the optimum amount of rest, as well as proper nutrition.

Q: What have been the highlights of your job – the best acts and shows you've managed?

A: It's always incredible to see a new cast come onboard and find their unique dynamic as a team. I've seen some of these shows many times over the years, and with many different casts, but each new cast I see perform brings something new and different to the show and I always feel like I'm seeing it for the first time. I also absolutely love the Miss Houdini show which is only on the Carnival Spirit. I could watch that show every day and never get tired of it.

Q: What are some of the challenges of your job? 

A: I think one of the biggest challenges is programming a schedule that keeps everyone entertained all the time. We have such a wide variety of guests from all different walks of life and my goal is always to have events and music happening that will keep the entire family entertained. The entertainment program is like a real-life game of Tetris, trying to fit as many things in as possible while also satisfying all the other variables of schedules and time off.

Q: Any funny backstage bloopers you'd like to share?

A: Most recently one of the cast members got completely dressed and was in the wings ready at the five-minute places call, getting in the zone for the show and he suddenly realised something was missing but couldn't figure out what. He had completely forgotten to put on his microphone and battery pack! He hustled to the dressing room and got it all sorted with two minutes to spare, and the show went on without a hitch.

Q: What will passengers experience on the ship's behind-the-scenes tour?

A: The Behind the Fun tour is a unique opportunity to see backstage and hear about how it all works. They'll get a chance to speak with our Playlist cast manager who will take them back to the dressing rooms and show them the costumes and talk about the show process from the cast side. They'll also speak to one of our backstage technicians who will give them the inside scoop on how exactly we make the stages move, spin, raise and lower.

Updated January 08, 2020

How was this article?

Featured News

1
Disney Cruise Line To Have Float In Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
5
While Scenic Continues its Small Ocean Cruise Ship Expansion, Line is Working on New Designs
Want to cruise smarter?
Get expert advice, insider tips and more.
By proceeding, you agree to Cruise Critic’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.