A Day in the Life of a Cruise Ship Performer

It’s summer time, so grab a cocktail (or mocktail) and come along for the ride as Matilda Moran take us through a day in the life of a cruise ship performer.

This week, I decided it was time to do a big clean-up and get rid of all the childhood clutter in my room. I spent the day sifting through shelves of old theatre programs and lost high school permission slips, and came across the journal I kept in 2012 whilst working on a cruise ship. I was 17 and had just finished my HSC when I auditioned and scored an 8 month contract as the lead production singer on a ship based in Italy, doing 12 night cycles of the Mediterranean coast.

Matilda Moran and cast mates on a cruise ship
Matilda Moran and cast mates on a cruise ship

After peeling off my eyelashes each night, there was nothing I wanted to do more than eat some greasy food at the crew mess and sleep, but I forced myself to document my day; a gruelling task I knew I would one day be grateful for. 4 years later, it seems that day has arrived! I flipped to a random page, and fate has chosen the ‘14th of July 2012’ to be my journey to the past.

Watching Anything Goes doesn’t quite cover on-board life, so I present:

PORT: Haifa (Israel)

8am: Woken by Mariah Carey blasting through the cabin’s announcement speakers. This lasts a full half hour and results in 200 passenger complaints before sweet silence is returned. (Apparently an Officer made a mistake and didn’t realise his tunes were being broadcast past the Bridge)

8.30am: Up early enough for scrambled eggs at the Staff Mess (A crew area buffet where officers and entertainment staff can eat, which closes at 8.45am). Thanks Mariah! Back to my cabin to grab supplies and switch my wallet from Euro to Shekel.

9.15am: Arrive at the gangway to catch the first port shuttle and travel by train to Tel Aviv to meet an Aussie friend. Security stops me before I set my foot on the gangplank; my shore-pass for Israel has been lost. I watch longingly from the ship as the first shuttle leaves.

9.30am: A security officer returns with my shore- pass, phew! I hastily disembark and make my way to Haifa train station…only to find there is no public transport on the Sabbath. I explore the Bahai Gardens next to the port and wait for the dancers to disembark for a beach day instead.

11am: We walk together to Bat Galim beach and enjoy the scorching Haifa heat.

2.30pm: One of the girls and I wander back to the shopping mall near the Port for wifi and air- conditioning. I buy a small bag (yes, I did say ‘bag’) of chocolate milk for the walk.

3.15pm: Skype time!

5.30pm: Back to the ship to make the 6pm curfew (It’s my week for ‘In Port Manning’).

6pm: Interview with the ships’ French Host (for my Media and Comm. Course assignment). While I’m there, he corrects some of my French pronunciations he noted from this Cruise’s “Oui J’adore” show. Oops! No wonder the French guests seem to enjoy the Edith Piaf medley so much, they must be laughing at my gibberish.

Cruisin' : Matilda Moran's cruise ship life
Cruisin’ : Matilda Moran’s cruise ship life

6.45pm: Back to my cabin to change into my standard formal wear for dinner at the passenger buffet.

7pm: One of the ships’ opera singers and I have dinner together whilst listening to the band on the open deck. We amuse ourselves picking out all the exhausted guests returning from tours.

8pm: Back to my cabin for a chill with the dancers and an episode of True Blood.

9.30pm: Time for the daily routine of stage makeup, hair curling and warming up. (Tonight’s production is called the “Tropical Show” and is performed on the back deck by the pool rather than the stage. This is our 7th show in the 12 day cycle, and occurs at a later hour than the other shows as the ship is docked overnight in Israel, so passengers often return later from tours.)

10.30pm: Call time at the dressing room. I ditch the lift and run up the crew stairs to Deck 9 (part of my pre-show warmup). Add some last minute sit ups so my food baby doesn’t upstage me, and I’m good to go. Scratchy costume goes on and I wait until the last minute to add the heavy headpiece (who knew feathers could weigh so much!)

10.45pm: Hands on hips with big smiles on, we walk through reception and up to the back deck together. Passengers take photos as we pass and a few follow in anticipation of the “Tropical Show”.

10.55pm: The stage manager hands me my trusty mic as the cruise director does his usual spiel, and we wait for the cue to take our positions on the windy deck for the opening number.

11.45pm: Apart from some hair blowing into my mouth during ‘Rhythm of the Night’, the show goes well. The usual seating doesn’t fit our unexpectedly large audience, and lots of people stand around the edge of the deck and sit right in front of us. We collect our costume changes from the bathrooms and head back down to the dressing rooms.

12am: Trackies on, snacks in hand and day journal completed, I’m heading to the cabin next door to watch Harry Potter 4 with the cast. I’m excited to wake up early tomorrow and visit Israel Maccas for hotcakes and wifi before we leave port and rehearse for the “Children’s Show”. HP calls, so chow for now!

(Turns out Israel McDonalds’ did not have a breakfast menu. I was heartbroken. And hungry.)

Matilda Moran

Raised as a musician from a young age, Matilda received her LTCL on clarinet and has enjoyed singing Jazz with James Morrison at many festivals. A Sydney-sider, Matilda grew up performing in the State Schools Spectacular and graduated the acclaimed Talent Development Project before moving overseas to work as a Lead Production Vocalist with MSC Cruises. She is a graduate of WAAPA's Bachelor of Music Theatre course 2015 and joins the AussieTheatre team as a regular columnist.

Matilda Moran

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