When my sister asked me to write about what it’s like to dance on a cruise ship in Alaska the first word I thought of was surreal. It is surreal that I get to wake up every morning and do what I love and see breathtakingly beautiful places. It’s also surreal that when I wake up I’m in a bunk bed in a 6 x 10 room, half underwater, with no windows and there’s another person living with me.
Needless to say there are many quirks about living your life on a cruise ship, but the positive always outweighs the negative. My life’s passion has remained dance for as long as I can remember. Except for a short stint where I wanted to be a killer whale trainer I have always aspired to make dance my career. Now after many years of blood sweat and tears I can confidently say I am living my dream.
First I’d like to tell you a little bit about myself. Like my resume says my name is Megan Elizabeth Melville, I’m 22 years old, I’m 5’4”, I have red hair, blue eyes and I have been dancing since I was three. I studied at a competitive dance school in St. Louis for fifteen years and continued my dance education at a Liberal Arts college in Pittsburgh, PA.
After college graduation I moved to Chicago to pursue a career as a contemporary dancer, but after a disheartening year of auditions I had all but given up on dancing.
I continued to serve at two restaurants and live a “normal” life. Teaching yoga seemed like a good way to stay in shape while I figured out my life and three days before I started the yoga teacher training I heard about a last minute cruise ship audition.
I arrived at the audition only to find out that it was for showgirls, heights 5’7” to 6’. Since I am 5’4” you can imagine my disappointment. After some pleading with the staff I was allowed to audition and by a miracle that day they offered me a job. I can so clearly remember my heart stopping when the casting director asked me if I wanted to sail Alaska and the Caribbean for the next five months. After accepting the contract I then had two weeks to sublet my apartment, pack up my life and move to Los Angeles for rehearsals.
When I arrived in Los Angeles I met my thirteen cast mates and the whirlwind month of rehearsals began. This is where the surreal life of a cruise ship performer began to set in.
The thirteen of us were living in two neighboring two bedroom apartments where we quickly learned that an apartment sized fridge is not meant to hold food for eight girls. Each day we walked a mile to rehearsal where we learned copious amounts of choreography and music.
There were many nights where I sat with the other girls and a bottle of wine trying to remember all the dance steps we learned that day, or calling my mom crying because I wasn’t sure I could hack it. It was a surreal experience which tested my physical skills as well as my mental and emotional strength.
After performing all four of our freshly learned shows for our bosses and no one getting fired we headed to the airport and boarded our
flight to Vancouver, Canada.
There was something about everyone standing together, each of us with our lives packed in 2 large suitcases and a carry on, waiting to go through customs that made me realize we were about to embark on an great adventure.
It also made me realize that for the next five months we were all going to be a family.
Boarding the ship for the first time was overwhelming to say the least. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that this was my new home. After the first few weeks of adjusting to cafeteria hours, dress codes and show schedules I quickly felt like I was in college again or at a summer program. Now after living on the ship for 47 days I’m at home in my little bottom bunk adorned with Christmas lights because I know that living here allows me to experience so much more of the world.
When someone asks me how I like working on a cruise ship I tell them that I honestly couldn’t ask for a better job. I perform 7 shows a week, teach dance classes and the rest of my time is my own.
If you would have asked me a year ago where I thought I would be right now I can almost certainly say it wouldn’t have been Alaska, but this experience has been more then I could have ever asked for. I am able to dance, travel and enjoy the company of all the amazing people I work with.
Although I miss my family and friends more everyday and sometimes find myself wishing I was spending summer in Chicago, I know that everything happens for a reason. This will be a chapter in my life that I will never forget and I believe will help me become the person I’m meant to be.
I was recently in The Red Onion Saloon in Skagway, AK and I found something written on the bathroom wall that made me pause. “Traveling is about getting unstranded. It’s about going to the ends of the earth and the edges of experience in order to see one’s self for the first time.” This surreal life I’m living has its ups and downs but no matter what it is a great adventure.