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.