Booking a gig on a cruise ship can feel like you're diving into the unknown—dropping everything to live in the middle of the ocean without family, friends or cell service. But cruise jobs can also offer incredible rewards, like traveling the world for free and delving into a new style.

Is ship life the right fit for you? Here are some elements to consider.


Travel for Free

Marsh dancing in Kalokolevu Village, Fiji.

Who doesn't want to travel around the world for free? Dancers who book a gig with a cruise line get to explore destinations on land during their downtime. "I traveled to Fiji, Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii!" says Kareem Marsh, who worked on a Holland America Line. Plus, your rent, food and classes are paid for—so you'll return to land with some extra cash for classes and auditions.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Jones took a break from her modern dance career with Eleone Dance Theatre (pictured) to perform on a cruise line. Photo by Ellen Rosenberg.

Cruise ship performances are more theatrical than most concert or commercial work. They tend to involve singing, acting and aerial elements. "We performed a combination of Broadway, jazz and modern numbers," says Tunai Jones, who worked on a Disney Cruise Line. "Although the shows were a lot of physical and mental work, there was less focus on technique and more focus on performance."

Up Your Strength Training

Training for cruise ships begins about 8 weeks before the ship sets sail. A lot of it involves preparation for aerial work, which requires a tremendous amount of strength. "We had to climb a rope all the way up to the ceiling every morning!" Marsh says. "Since we had to perform at least twice every day, the strength training was extremely cardio-heavy," says Jones. "We ran, jumped rope and did a lot of push-ups!" And don't expect to get a traditional daily ballet class: "In my nine months on the ship, we never really took a full ballet class," says Marsh. "Every day I gave myself a barre so I didn't lose my technique."

Don't Rock the Boat!

Living at sea means dealing with the unpredictable ocean waves. "Every night before a performance, I prayed, 'Please don't let the boat rock too much,' " Jones says. "I never had to worry about the stage moving under me before."