Pop Up Entertainment's Amy Morris was a singer and dancer onboard cruise ships. Credit: Pop Up Entertainment

Showtime at sea

Author: Vicky Mayer

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Amy Morris, managing director of Pop Up Entertainment, sees a fabulous future for cruise-ship entertainment – and for young performers who choose it as a career.

What does Pop Up Entertainment do?
We’re an entertainment production company that specialises in developing stage productions for cruise ships. Working closely with many of the leading cruise lines, including Fred Olsen and MSC, our mission is to create exceptional shows, developed and perfected by great talent. We’re also an organisation built by performers, which gives us a unique edge, allowing us to offer never-before-seen entertainment tailored to specific audiences.

How did you get started in this business?

I began my professional performing career on board cruise ships back in 2012 as a singer and dancer. During my time at sea I saw a huge gap in the market for a company that looks after performers’ welfare as well as landing them a job.

What are your best memories from your time at sea?
I loved performing on stage every day and making lots of friends but my best memories are of the amazing destinationsI visited. The Norwegian fjords is one place I will never forget.

Norway's fjordland is Amy's all-time cruising highlight.

Tell us a bit about the kind of shows you create...
We work closely with the cruise lines to understand their clientele and then create our shows with that audience in mind. One of my favourites is Magical Mystery Tour, a show we’ve produced for Fred Olsen ships that tells the story of a travelling circus through 1960s popular music. It has fast become one of the passengers’ favourite shows and we’re very proud of it.

Cruising is a fast-changing market, so what’s coming next for onboard entertainment?

I think the key trend is for productions that are unique and make passengers feel they are experiencing something genuinely new. So we’re looking at shows that turn the traditional on its head and perform familiar entertainment in a new way.

Immersive entertainment– where the audience gets involved in the show – will be huge, and technology-led shows will be a big thing too. From LED screens to video mapping, choreographed drones to holograms, there are all kinds of exciting developments in the pipeline.

Cruise lines give up-and-coming (as well as established) acts a platform to perform on. Credit: Pop Up Entertainment

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How do you recruit the performers for your shows?
It’s no secret how competitive the market is, so we have to work hard to recruit the best talent. Social media isa great way of tracking down performers and we also work with international talent agencies so we can recruit great people from all round the world.

How do you keep your performers happy at sea?
It’s tough being away from home for six to eight months at a time, but we are a company run by performers so we really understand the pressures. I think we’ve all faced some sort of mental health issue in our time at sea, and that’s why we’ve made it our mission to spread awareness of mental health and to support performers throughout the cruise entertainment industry.

We offer a free and anonymous counsellor to all of our staff so they can discuss whatever is on their mind and keep their mental health on track. We even have a Chief Happiness Officer to help out with any wobbles.

Pop Up Entertainment has developed stage productions for cruise lines including Fred Olsen and MSC Cruises. Credit: Pop Up Entertainment

What advice would you give to someone with ambitions to perform on a cruise ship?
Just do it! Say yes to every opportunity, travel the world and enjoy your art and your time at sea. But make sure you have personal boundaries in place, in terms of how you are treated within the entertainment industry, and never accept anything that values you at less than your worth.

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About Vicky Mayer

Vicky began her career working on young women’s magazines before moving on to TV and entertainment titles. Her passion, though, has always been travel, so as Editor of World of Cruising, she combines her love of magazines with the chance to shout about cruise holidays around the world.