So You Want to Dance on the High Seas?

We are happy to have Danielle Gauer here at our firm. Danielle has firsthand knowledge of the inner workings of the cruise industry performing as a dancer for several years prior to embarking on her university studies. She is currently completing her Juris Doctor at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law and will be sitting for the Ontario, Canada Bar admission examinations this June.

Prior to law school, Danielle was the recipient of the Ryerson University Gold Medal and H.H. Kerr Memorial Scholarship for high academic standing throughout her program of study (Criminal Justice and Criminology) and extensive participation in co-curricular activities. Danielle is very interested Danielle Gauerin pursuing a career in maritime law and is a strong advocate of crew member and cruise ship passenger rights!

It seems that things have really changed since my days of performing on the high seas. Yes, I was a dancer on board a number of different cruise lines prior to embarking on my current journey of becoming an attorney. Interning with Jim Walker and Lisa O’Neill I have made a number of interesting observations regarding working as a performer on board a cruise ship.

In general, getting a “land-based” gig as a dancer and/or singer in the US is a grueling process, and for a Canadian, being successful in the industry meant breaking into the U.S. market. The thought of being hired as a performer on a cruise ship was a way to work for a US company, with American performers, performing high quality shows. Back in 2002 when I was auditioning to work in the cruise industry, the majority of cruise ship production companies hired only American performers and it was very rare for them to stop in Canada on their audition tours. I remember calling one production company situated in California, asking them if they hired Canadians. Their response at the time, “we have never been asked that before!” When I was hired through PGT Entertainment, based out of Florida, to work on-board Radisson Seven Seas’ M/S Mariner, I was ecstatic. Arriving for rehearsals to find out I was the only Canadian in a cast that was 90% American was even more amazing. But it seems a lot has changed since then.

It seems from my observations and contacts with performers who are still sailing on the high seas that the number of American performers has declined significantly. Cruise ship entertainers are being recruited from countries from Eastern Europe and Russia. The question is, why such a drastic Danielle Gauerchange? The simple answer, high quality entertainment at a low cost!

Finding cheap labor has become more prevalent on cruise ships across most staff positions, and this includes on board performers. It has become an easy way for cruise companies to take advantage of foreign workers, who don’t expect the same salary or working conditions than a comparable performer from North America. This allows cruise ships to benefit from paying drastically reduced salaries, while also limiting liability and costs to maintain their overall workforce. And they do all of this while paying almost no taxes, by registering the company in foreign countries.

The issue goes much farther than simply salary. North American performers have a different expectation of what is acceptable practice and what is not. There is also usually no language barrier to overcome while working on a major cruise ship. But performers from Eastern Europe, for example, are less likely to know their rights, and also have the disadvantage of dealing with employers that operate in a different language.

Although the beautiful ports of call can be quite enticing, a declining quality in crew living arrangements, mandatory longer working hours, reduced benefits, and lower salaries, have enabled cruise companies to excel in taking advantage of recruiting non-American performers.

 

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Comments (11) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Julius Sermonia - January 18, 2013 12:46 AM

It is comforting to know that someone like Danielle - a fellow Canadian entertainer, with knowledgeable first hand experience in the industry, is in a position to help advocate crew member and passenger rights on cruise ships. A fantastic read.

Tamara - January 18, 2013 11:25 AM

This column provides a nice perspective, one that I'd like to hear more about. Thanks.

Mona - January 18, 2013 2:15 PM

Well-written article. It's good to know that people like Ms. Gauer are out there advocating for the rights of workers/performers on cruise ships like these!

Lyndsey Gourley - January 19, 2013 10:46 AM

Great article! The rights of workers/performers on cruise ships are so flawed and embedded in inequality, which goes unknown to majority of the population. It's nice to see Danielle advocating these rights to better the cruise ship industry! Thank you!

AJ - January 19, 2013 3:48 PM

Interesting, and well written, article!!!

camelia cooper - January 20, 2013 10:07 AM

Finally, someone with first hand experience working on cruise ships who knows what they are talking about and is outspoken and guttsy! Thank you Ms. Gauer, we need more people like you to take on the cruise industry, help change legislation, and make it better both for passengers and crew members!

Andrew Rogers - January 20, 2013 11:52 PM

Great article! Looking forward to reading more from you Danielle.

Mitch - January 21, 2013 12:13 AM

Great inside information into the underworld of the cruise industry. Your experience working on ships certainly gives you a pretty unique perspective. Keep em' coming Danielle.

Lucas Mthenjane - January 24, 2013 4:14 PM

Danielle is a hard worker and she'll represent the company to her best of aility..... go get em girl!!

Amrita - February 12, 2013 9:10 PM

Great piece. Keep the writing coming!

nomoore - March 21, 2013 7:12 PM

I've been reading quite a bit about the cruise industry and find the ethics of these corporations disheartening. I'm just a regular American who once in awhile is able to spend time as a passenger. I'm not one of those obnoxious loudmouth types, just someone who enjoys looking out at the sea. I'm so concerned about the well being of those crew members in the lowest ranks who are clearly exploited. Is there any thing that I, as a passenger can do to influence change?

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