The Future of Cruising... Entertainment

Seatrade Cruise Global 2021 will dive deep into everything your cruising contemporaries are doing to overcome challenges and keep their onboard entertainment top notch.

It’s your place to discover best practices and what others are doing to solve staffing and recruiting issues, as well as the latest trends in creating authentic and interactive experiences, both onstage and throughout the entire ship.

We’ll welcome cruising entertainment specialists, experts, and executives with titles like Creative Producer; Entertainment & Enrichment Director; Casting & Booking Manger; Sourcing Director; Manager of Entertainment Operations & Guest Experience; VP of Entertainment & Port Adventures, and many more.

Seatrade Cruise Global Entertainment Program Highlights Include: 

-       Diversity, Equity and Inclusion with Onboard Entertainment
-       Entertainment is BACK at Sea...Now What?
-       Cruising Innovations Theatre
-       Entertainment and IT Reception
-       Expo Hall with dozens of top cruising entertainment suppliers



Cruise entertainment has entered a new era of sophistication and immersion. Onboard and ashore, today’s guest experience is all about bringing authentic experiences to life. Gone are the days of cut-rate karaoke and hackneyed lounge singers topping a cruisegoer’s bill of fare. Today’s cruise lines are sparing no expense when it comes to wowing passengers with spellbinding experiences. In recent years we’ve seen things like: 

Drag queens at sea courtesy of U River Cruises…. 
Carnival’s audience-participation “Hasbro The Game Show”... 
Broadway musicals like "Mamma Mia!,"and "Grease,” delighting passengers aboard Royal Caribbean ships... 

Race tracks, go-karts, video game inspired laser tag, and the ultimate sea coaster.... Even a tattoo parlor onboard Virgin Voyages' Scarlet Lady for those with the sudden urge to get inked up on the high seas. That’s entertainment! And it’s just a small sample of all the highly-interactive ways cruise lines are ensuring passengers won’t soon forget their experience. 

BUT… Now that a global pandemic has changed everything, cruise lines are finding themselves having to integrate stringent health and safety protocols without sacrificing the quality of the experience.



"Eighty percent of customers choose to leave a brand due to poor customer experience. Entertainment today means more than just a stage show, instead it lies in the breadth of experience –from start to finish."

Ryan Stana
Founder & CEO
RWS Entertainment Group
Seatrade Cruise Global Entertainment Ambassador

So says Ryan Stana, Seatrade Cruise Global’s Entertainment Ambassador and Founder & CEO of RWS Entertainment Group. And according to Ryan, cruise lines now face a pivotal moment in trying to maintain that level of customer experience with some big challenges in onboarding, casting, and recruiting cruise ship entertainment talent. 

Onboarding has become much more difficult than it was before COVID. It’s now meticulously process oriented and often bogged down by evolving international travel restrictions, vaccine protocols, and the continued risk of onboard quarantines. It becomes even more nuanced to navigate when considering the differing and ever-changing guidelines depending on locations and onboard management. 

What does that all have to do with cruising entertainment? Well, it makes recruiting top talent far more arduous. Aside from all the extra steps involved to simply get back to work in the cruise entertainment sector, the continued uncertainty makes flying, boarding, and living on a ship more risky--vaccinated or not. So many potential entertainment employees are wondering if it’s worth the risk. With the hesitation comes a reduced talent pool that is leaving many cruise lines to find and hire musicians who are more generalist, able to play more sets due to reduced par levels, and overall talent that’s able to hold down more roles.

“There’s been a shift in culture regarding working on ships,” says Ryan. “Compensation has narrowed in range and even lowered at times, and many performers have found other jobs with better benefits and more regular pay. With all the health risks, performers are more hesitant to take contracts.” 

“And on top of all that, the turnaround time for visas and passports makes the pool of people we’re picking from even smaller,” adds Ryan.

Will Passengers Even Notice?

Despite all the changes and challenges, the goal for cruise lines must remain hyper-focused on the guest perspective. “I think the tricky part about guest perspective is that the goal would be that they hardly notice some of the ‘new normal’ alterations to their experience,” says Ryan. 

The staffing shortages, changes in food service and buffets, blocked off seating in theatres and lounges, reduced audience participation, and an overall increasingly “touchless” experience are all things that will be a new reality in cruising for quite some time. 

Different venues in the Music Walk area of the Holland America ships, for example, are enforcing strict social distancing with crowd stanchions around venues where passengers can find nightly entertainment--like Billboard Onboard and BB Kings. 

Ultimately, the most successful cruise lines will be the ones who capitalize on the required modifications and continue to dazzle passengers with a visceral and memorable experience, regardless of potentially disruptive factors.