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Jamie Tinevez

The Freedom of Working on Cruise Ships

By Jamie Tinevez

Jamie spent much of her twenties working as a dancer on Carnival and now heads our casting department, discovering dancer and vocalist talent for the big stage. She wrote about her life-changing experience onboard, where she made lasting friendships, saved up money, and most importantly, developed the courage to make big decisions and follow her dreams.

I danced on cruise ships for almost seven years, and I owe much of who I am today to that time in my life. It was my first professional dance gig ever, and the responsibility that came with that career set me up for life. Although I haven’t danced in a few years now, the lessons I learned on board about myself — about managing money and making big decisions — are ones I’ve carried with me since leaving the stage. But beyond this, working on ships did something unexpected: it set me free. I’ll explain.


How do you know who you are? The environment onboard a ship allows you to try out different versions of yourself. I met so many different people from so many different places, that I started realizing there were qualities about other people that I knew I had inside myself

I met spontaneous and care-free Australians. South Americans who wore their hearts on their sleeves, damning anyone who might defy their love. Amazingly strong-willed Eastern Europeans, who stood for what they believed to be right. And incredibly curious Americans, who were having their eyes opened by their experiences, much like I was, and were hungry for more and more knowledge about the people around them.

I decided to try on all these hats and see which combination was right for me. The result is an ever-evolving me. I’m still recognizing my struggles and remembering traits in others that might help me. If I’m having trouble with my three-year-old son, I often think of some of my Aussie friends, who would let some of this stuff roll like water off a duck’s back. There are tons of aspects throughout my life now that I continuously compare with my life on ships. All those qualities, those characteristics of the people who became my family, even if it was just for a few months, still help me. They continue to shape me. I don’t believe I would have had this opportunity if I hadn’t been on ships. Where else would I have met such an incredible mix of people?


One of the many things I wasn’t prepared for when I embarked on my cruise ship career was the income combined with the lack of expenses. I had managed my own money for a while, but I had a car at home, which I needed to budget for. I had a cell phone, social life, tuition, and other expenses. Now all of a sudden, I found myself earning cash with nowhere to put it. My earnings didn’t have a budget to follow. How awesome for a 20-year-old to have (what feels like) unlimited cash! I could do whatever I wanted! Which is great, and it’s precisely what I did. It’s what I should have done. 

Halfway through my first contract, I realized that the money I was earning could be used for better things than a round of drinks in Cozumel or another new dress from Macy’s. I was surrounded by people from other countries, countries I had never dreamed of seeing. It was my chance! So, I started saving. After my first contract, I visited Argentina and Uruguay. I don’t think I could have even found Uruguay on a map before that. I had an incredible experience — it was the trip of a lifetime. And I was hooked. I realized this job was going to give me the freedom to do anything I wanted, to go anywhere I wanted!

In the following six years, I was able to visit tons of places in America. I even managed to live in NYC for four months and dance at the Broadway Dance Center. I went to England, France, Italy, Belgium, Hungary, Romania, and Greece. I went to the famous Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. I visited family in Berlin and stayed with ship friends in many of the other countries. Cruise lines will take you to these places, and you’ll be able to explore Rome for a day. But the real perk is the opportunity you can give yourself to stay in these places. You can immerse yourself in other cultures, the cultures you grew close to onboard.


After dancing, traveling, dancing some more, meeting more and more people, you start to think about what you’re going to do after. What happens when you feel you’re finished with your life on board? How do you rejoin the “real world”? The answer for me came in the form of a soulmate. I met a guy, and not just any guy, but The One. He was hilarious and fun, and he thought I was the cat’s meow, I’m telling you. Over the next year, I came to understand why it felt like I needed to leave my life on ships. I needed to create a new life with him. I owed this relationship a shot. We knew we both wanted more together, rather than just sharing a tiny ship cabin. So, we took a leap of faith and left. The confidence in myself that working on cruise ships helped me find is a huge reason that I felt comfortable making this decision. I knew who I was, I knew I would continue to evolve, and I knew this guy was going to love my evolution. He has his own story as to how ships helped him, but both of our stories brought us to each other. We both found certainty in ourselves on ships, a determination to continue to strive for more. And, to this day, we both still see that quality in one another.

It’s been almost six years since Mike and I left our life on cruise ships. I went back to school and finished my degree in dance. And, thanks to my career on ships, I only had to take out a very small loan to do so. We got engaged and got married. Mike successfully auditioned for the United States Navy Bands, and we currently live just outside of Seattle, Washington. We have a three-year-old son, Arlen, and a baby girl due any day now. We’re also set to move to Boston in the summer, so Mike can take a break from the Navy and get his masters degree from the New England Conservatory of Music. Over the years, I’ve taught and choreographed for a few studios and even won an award for my choreography! Pre-COVID, I was teaching dance at a local studio here in Washington. I also work for the greatest company in the world, Lime Entertainment, which has allowed me to stay connected not only to dance but to a job I truly loved— performing on ships. Now, when I look back through this list of what we’ve done in the past six years, I see that Mike and I have stuck to our goal of striving for more and more challenges.


This is the greatest lesson I took from my time on ships: there is always something more, and you’re worth it to try to reach whatever it is. Maybe it’s figuring out who you are or who you want to be. Maybe it’s grand experiences, like traveling the world. Learning to budget and travel wisely is key! Or maybe making a life-changing decision is the first step to your goal of a new life, a second start, or just the next chapter. Whatever it is, the confidence and sure-footedness that working on ships can give you are absolutely worth it. It is pure freedom. 


  • American saxophonist Keith McKelley has spent a lot of time on the big stage, where he’s also made a name for himself with the Aerophone, Roland’s model of the EWI.  Originally from Ohio, he moved to Los Angeles in 2013, where he’s worked as a live and session musician, as well as a producer.

    Keith has shared the stage and the studio with an assortment of artists that includes Usher, Phillip Bailey, Mary J. Blige, Rapper Logic, Jhene Aiko, John Lindahl, Gin Wigmore, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, David Foster, Tyrese, Larry Dunn, Bob James, Harvey Mason, Raphael Saadiq, Andrew Gouche, Solange Knowles, Bill “The Buddha” Dickens, Micki Howard, Angela Bofill, Marcus Johnson, Marc de Clive-Lowe, and others.  He’s also performed on Carnival Cruise Lines and released three original albums.

    Keith continues to be an integral part of the LA music scene, always striving to create music that is at a high level, that will last, and that is absolutely heartfelt.

  • Portuguese guitarist Nuno Monteiro’s varied career includes musicals, tours, cruising, conservatory teaching, a degree in Flamenco guitar, and projects ranging from jazz to blues, pop to rock, and funk to Latin.

    He has enjoyed collaborations with Steve Larkins, Kim Purling, Paul Baker, Mark Anthony, Glenn McNamara, Nijel Rawlins, John Bressler, the Corleone Big Band, and four years of touring with the international vocalist Jose Alberto Reis.  He also toured as the lead guitarist for Mamma Mia! for two years, performing over one thousand shows for over two million people.

    Nuno has also spent multiple contracts performing with Princess Cruises and traveling much of the world.  He currently resides in Porto, where he continues to play, teach, and consistently produce tasty lines on his guitar.

  • Lewis Sutch is a British pianist who has performed all over the world, both solo and with various renowned acts. Conservatory-trained in both jazz and classical piano, he’s since broadened his scope with gigs ranging from pop to blues to rock, through everything from ships to tours to the circus.

    Over the course of two seasons on tour with Giffords Circus in London, he performed to 80,000+ people across the UK, including notable celebrities such as Adele, Helena Bonham Carter, Mark Knopfler, Jennifer Saunders, Jamie Cullum, Hugh Grant and Vivianne Westwood. He’s also had the privilege of playing some of the top venues across England, including Blenheim Palace and Ronnie Scott’s.

    Subsequently, Lewis has traveled to 6 continents as a pianist and musical director for Holland America Line and Royal Caribbean, most recently finishing a year-long run with Postmodern Jukebox on Deck. He currently splits time between the UK and the US, continuing to perform and hone his craft.

  • Oscar Cordero is a trumpet player with a wealth of professional experience, in styles ranging from classical to pop to jazz, and across three continents.  He won the position of Associated Soloist at the National Philharmonic of Venezuela at the age of 17, and would eventually move to Europe for various performance opportunities.

    Among the musicals he’s played are Les Miserables, Chicago, Saturday Night Fever, Beauty and the Beast, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Spamalot, and On Your Feet.  And his performance and touring credits include international artists such as Ray Barreto, Cheo Feliciano, Adalberto Santiago, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Isaac Delgado, Paloma San Basilio, Malu, Luisito y Robert Quintero, and many others.

    As has been the case in his native Venezuela as well as Spain, Oscar has become a top-call musician in the Netherlands, where he currently resides, performs, and continues to blast high notes for days.

  • Omer Idan is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and arranger from Eilat, Israel, and there are few places on the planet he hasn’t visited with a guitar or bass in hand.  While studying jazz at the Rimon School in Ramat Hashasron, he formed the fusion ensemble The Boogie Knight, and would go on to tour with other groups such as Los Omres and the Groove Ambassadors.

    Starting in 2015, Omer took his talents to the sea and spent several contracts as a musician and musical director with Holland America Line and Seabourn Cruises, during which time he performed on all seven continents, with hundreds of artists from all over the world, to audiences all around the world.  He’s also had the pleasure of collaborating with Tararam, Laila Malcus, and many other artists.

    Omer has settled back in Tel Aviv, where he continues to perform, produce, and create groovy, innovative music at an alarmingly high level.

  • Hailing from Texas, Mike Brehm is a trumpet player, arranger and composer whose wealth of gig experience ranges from cruise ships to the US Navy.  After graduating from Texas State with a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies, he went on to play lead trumpet for Carnival Cruise Lines and Princess Cruises for several years.

    In 2016, he joined the ranks of the US Navy Fleet Bands, and has spent the past three years stationed outside of Seattle, Washington, performing and arranging for the Navy Band Northwest.  Through his performing career he has played alongside Tony Vega, Rufus Reid, Bob Mintzer, Michael Philip Mossman, Bob Shephard, and Marvin Stamm.

    Mike has recently accepted a scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, and will move cross-country with his rad family later this year to begin his Master’s degree in Jazz Performance and light up the northeast with his playing.

  • Argentinian-born Leandro Garcia is a pianist, arranger and composer who has performed on the stages of major cities all over the world, including Barcelona, Rome, Paris, London, Boston, and New York City, in addition to extensive touring and festivals in his native country.  

    He’s also familiar with much of the world’s waterways, having served as a bandleader for Holland America Line and Carnival Cruise Lines over the course of several years.  His writing and composing during this time led to his recognition at the Fondo Nacional de las Artes, in the jazz category, for his solo album Despierta, in 2017.

    Leandro also spent time in the Buenos Aires musical theater scene, where he has performed shows such as Chicago and Les Miserables; he’s also been featured as a pianist and vocalist in top jazz clubs around the city, and currently continues to teach, perform, and craft sweet lines on his piano.

  • Hailing from the country of Colombia, Mario Criales is a bassist, vocalist, composer and author who, after winning several awards for bass performance in his youth, has enjoyed a career of touring and performing that has taken him from Honduras to Kenya to Italy.  He has also sailed much of the globe as a bandleader for Holland America Line, and is endorsed by Aguilar amps.

    Much of Mario’s career has been spent as an ambassador of joropo, a hybrid style of music originating in his native Colombia.  To this end, he has given masterclasses at prestigious institutions such as the Berklee School of Music, released an original album entitled Influencias, and published a book, El Bajo y el Joropo Llanero, in 2017.  

    That said, Mario’s passion for joropo has never compromised his love and dedication to other styles, from jazz to pop to classical.  He currently resides in Amsterdam, where he continues to perform, teach, compose, and churn out intoxicatingly groovy bass lines.


  • Carl Mörner Ringström is a Swedish guitarist, arranger and composer.  Since graduating with a masters from the Rhythmic Music Conservatory in Copenhagen, Carl has offered up his musical wisdom through clinics, workshops and masterclasses, and has performed everywhere from tours to cruise ships to various other big stages around the world.

    Notable collaborations include Henrik Linder of Dirty Loops fame, Louis Cole, Virgil Donati, David Binney, Wayne Krantz, Claudia Campagnol, Sidsel Storm, Malene Mortensen, Marius Neset, Snorre Kirk and Vivian Buczek.  He was also nominated for a BMW World Jazz Award in 2015, and is endorsed by Yamaha and Line6.

    After stints in Copenhagen and New York, Carl is currently based in Stockholm, where he continues to write, teach, perform, and transfix listeners with everything from adult chords to thrash metal solos.


  • Multi-instrumentalist Giacomo Riggi’s career has taken him all over the map, literally.  He’s won many awards in his native Italy for both composition and performance in piano and classical percussion; toured Europe, Asia and the Americas with orchestras and jazz ensembles; and sailed around the world as a bandleader and musical director on cruise ships and with Cirque du Soleil.

    He’s collaborated with a long list of artists that includes Danilo Rea, Mauro Grossi, Tony Scott, Garrison Fewell, Marlene VerPlanck, Paul McCandless, and others, and he’s sung with Bobby McFerrin multiple times.  He’s also performed his show Sonic Odyssey as a headliner on Royal Caribbean cruises.  And he’s released three albums as a leader, including Izevarm and Into My Life.

    Giacomo is currently based in Tuscany, where he organizes concerts, explores the musical boundaries of everything from the vibraphone to the harpejji, and continues to learn, experiment, share, and stay curious.

  • Latin Grammy-nominated Felipe Castro is a saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist whose 26-year career spans performing, recording and arranging in a variety of styles — from jazz, bossa, merengue, and salsa, to pop, funk, gospel, and house music — for countless Spanish and international artists. 

    His touring credits include names like Tony Succar, Carlinhos Brown, Bonnie Tyler, Matthew Herbert, David Bisbal, Inna, Chino and Nacho, Mónica Naranjo, Ana Torroja, David Civera, Natalia Jiménez, Merche, Malú, and many others, and he has also performed his headlining show on P&O and Princess Cruises.  

    Felipe currently resides in Holland, where he continues to arrange, tour, and crank out earth-shattering solo after solo.

  • Ben Todd is a drummer, percussionist, composer and bandleader from Adelaide in South Australia.  Over the past 10 years, he’s been touring the world with Cirque du Soleil as a featured drummer, percussionist and now-bandleader with 3 of their shows, Corteo, Kooza, and most recently, Volta. During this time, Ben has performed in Japan, Russia, the US, Spain, Canada, France, Belgium and England for a total of over 1500 shows. 

    Prior to joining Cirque, Ben performed with a wide range of artists back in Australia including Kate Cebrano, Paulini, Ben Folds, Doug Parkinson, Rhonda Burchmore, James Morrison, David Campbell, Barry Humphries and Glen Shorrok, as well as pit orchestra work for many musical theater shows including the Australia / New Zealand tour of Cats, Miss Saigon, Grease, Metro Street and The Candyman.

    In 2007, Ben was selected as a James Morrison Jazz Scholarship finalist.  The following year, he was a featured artist at Ultimate Drummers Weekend in Melbourne, Australia, and he would be asked back to perform again in 2015, this time in a duo format with multi-instrumentalist Adam Page.  He’s also released three albums as a leader, including 20Ten and The Ben Todd Quintet.  He continues to tour, perform, and do awesome things behind the drum kit.

  • Originally from central Michigan, Jim Lutz has appeared on stages, in recording studios, and in broadcast media across dozens of major cities around the world, with credits that include Cirque du Soleil, Disney, and the TONY® and EMMY® award-winning production Blast!” 

    From 2010-2015, Jim was the music director and played trombones, keyboards, sequences, and effects on Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza.   More recently, Jim was the associate conductor and trombonist for Cirque du Soleil’s Paramour in New York, served as associate music supervisor for Cirque du Soleil’s Paramour das Musical in Hamburg, Germany, and was the Ableton designer for Cirque du Soleil’s Twas The Night Before.

    Jim currently resides in the greater NYC area and continues to perform, compose, produce and, as he sees it, tell stories, stir emotions, and help to bring a little bit more beauty into our world through music.