This is an entry just for dancers about to go on a working cruise. A FAQ if you like.
Since HAL cruise line have been using bellydancers for their European tours, and Tracey at Taste of Cairo dance agency has managed to get so many British dancers opportunities to dance on these cruise I thought I would put together this blog entry for all the dancers who are about to go on a cruise. (If this inspires you work a cruise- have a chat with Tracey! Www.tasteofcairo.com ) I have been asked all these questions, now I have done two, and I in turn, when I went on my first one, remember having soooo many questions about what would be expected of me!
It's just a note of all the things I worried about actually, and my experiences!
- travel details. These will be sent to you, but don't panic about not getting them early- I received mine 2 days before I travelled! They send it in email and via TripCase, which is an app which you can download on iPhone etc. if you can print this info out all the better. Taxi's between airport/hotel and ship will be covered by ship. Either paid for in advance by them, or as was the case last time I went I got a normal taxi at airport, and a receipt and the ships purser reimbursed me the cash (this is when that print out will be useful!)
- if you only have the dates, and perhaps ship name from the agency, then go onto http://www.hollandamerica.com and you will be able to track more info about your ship port schedule, plus any other info.
-on arrival, just present yourself at the gangway to the ship and then check in at reception. They will let you know who the entertainment manager is and may well have a letter for you from her/him and then you can make arrangements to meet them. I had very different experiences in both ships. One manager took me around the ship on a guided tour and discussed the program with me one day one. The other ship, maybe cos they knew i had done one before, kinda left me to my own devices from the beginning.
- you should get a room key, and also a staff crew card which has your photo on it (they take your pic at check in!) they take your passport from you. When you leave the ship at any European port the card is enough to show port officials. They don't need your passport. My first ship stopped at Egypt, and that was the only port where we had to collect our passports from front desk.
- with regards how much 'work' you have to do; i have done two cruises now, one 12 day and one 5 day. I think it really is up to each entertainment manager to set the program. I have never felt I was being asked to do too much (in fact, would have happily done more!). Just as a rough guideline I did the following;
12 day cruise; 7 classes, 3 performances, 1 Arabic class.
5 day cruise; 2 classes, 1 performance, 1 talk about Egypt, 1 photo shoot on gangway (1hr)
All classes and performances were half an hour. I used my iPad for all of it. They have all the appropriate leads etc for that. head mics available too if you want them.
Level is complete beginners. They just want to have fun! In 1 st cruise I have some women who came to all 7 classes, so best to vary your classes just in case! I also had a few ladies who had done classes in their own countries so I would throw them extra little challenges to try while the others were getting to grips with the basics.
Each performance is only one costume, so best to take about 3/4 costumes with you depending on number of days you have for shows and photo shoots. Also I did an element of audience interaction and participation in each show and they loved this! I kept to oriental style mostly, but no reason why you couldn't add in a little of folk styles etc.. Best to stick with oriental style costume though rather than folk or tribal!
- rooms. If you are lucky you will get a guest statesroom. These are lovely. I got one in my 1st cruise. If less lucky you will be in crew room which is still more than adequate and you have room to yourself with ensuite shower room. Power sockets are the round two pin plug you find in Europe and in Egypt. Towels included and there is a fridge in the staterooms but not in the crew rooms. TV has a channel you can watch out of front and back of ship- and you can even check these out online so your friends/ family back home can see where you are each day too!
-money. All drinks on board are added to your bill. I just put my credit card in at start as security but triple check the bill at the end just in case (mine was very wrong! But they were fine about sorting it) all prices on ship are in US dollars. Obviously euros are useful for European ports and accepted in turkey too, although actual currency there is the Turkish lira. On ship you get staff discount on everything. (All your meals are included anyway)
- phone/Internet. Make sure your phone is on airplane setting when you are at sea. The ships signal is super expensive! You can use their Internet cards, but they are expensive and not very reliable. Make sure you get a staff card for this rather than guests one! Much cheaper. I basically just went on phone and internet when we were at port, not at sea. On my own roaming package. This was the best option.
- the motion of the ocean. If you are prone to sea sickness, don't worry. The ships are HUGE floating hotels. You hardly feel any motion at all. Take drugs with you if you are prone to it though obviously! I only felt slight rocking one day which was a little difficult to teach with but we all got on with it.
- On a health note. Ships are very prone to the Norovirus bug. There is units with antibacterial gel all over the ship. Use them. I do maybe 10 times a day. It is not worth getting sick on ship since you get isolated in your room if you do so you don't spread it!!!
- free time-what to do? I ate, used library and gym and Pool and jacuzzi. Want to the shows each night and generally sat chatting with guests, who were always interested to hear about how a British woman became a bellydancer! Guests are usually older, and American, Australian, British and Dutch. Business cards are good too if you have any, since many people want to become your friend on fb etc or ask about information about dance classes in their hometowns.
- at port. Unlikely you will have any work scheduled while you are at port, apart from if you are on the gangway to do a photo op either when guests are leaving ship or arriving, and that's usually only an hour or so. At each port you can wander off and do your own thing, or go on an organized tour. If you go to excursions desk on arrival they will give you the program and you can do any of the tours free, if you apply in advance and there are spaces available. Your entertainment manager will explain how to go about applying for this, ask them if they don't! It means while on the tour you may need to count heads of fill in a health and safety form or something but otherwise enjoy tour as the guests do, except free! This is good if it is somewhere that requires a drive from ship! I did one organized tour and the rest of the time I wandered about just directly from ship, or used the hop on hop off buses. iPhone maps was great cos it meant I could drop a pin in at the dock and always find my way back to ship if I wandered off. Also crew are due on ship 30mins prior to the time they say last embarkation is for guests- so keep an eye on time. The ship does leave without people!!!!
I think that is everything. Any dancers who have been on the ships who feel there is something else useful to add please let me know. And any other questions too- fire away!
Happy cruising!!! Hope you have as much fun as I did!