Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Alabama dancer gets paid to sail the seas

Jesse Calvert at Thessaloniki, Greece

If you’ve ever taken a cruise, you’ve no doubt noticed that most of the crew members are from all over the world. It’s rare to meet a ship’s crew or staff member from the USA. Imagine my surprise, then, during my Greece and Turkey voyage last month, to hear the ship’s captain introduce a staff member from Brushy Pond, Alabama. I just had to meet this gal and find out how she got where she is today.
As it turns out, 25-year-old Jesse Calvert, cruise sales manager, danced her way onto the ship. After graduating from Birmingham-Southern College with a degree in dance, she left Brushy Pond, a small community near Cullman, for the bright lights of Atlanta. “I danced with a small company there,” she says. “I’ve been dancing since I was five.”
In 2012, she auditioned for the cast of Royal Caribbean Productions, which provides entertainment for the entire cruise line. The audition lasted three hours, but a week later, she had a job on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas. The cast of 12  rehearsed together seven to eight hours per day, seven days per week, for six weeks, in Hollywood, Florida. She spent six months on the ship, sailing in the Baltic region, to Iceland and to Eastern Canada. “It  was my first time on a ship, and it took two weeks to get my body to adjust to the ship and stage always moving,” she says. “It was very different from anything I had done before, and I loved it.”
  A summer spent studying art and literature in Paris proved useful when she started helping the ship’s art auctioneer keep up with the bids. “It became a side job, and I earned a little in commissions,” she says. When her contract was up in January 2013, she did a couple of shows with her old dance company in Atlanta. She was scheduled for another ship that June, but got a call in March about an opening for a dancer on the Azamara Quest. After eight weeks of rehearsals, she signed on to the Azamara in late May as part of the crew, staff and entertainment. That first tour was from May-December of 2013, and she got home to Alabama two days before Christmas. 
“Contracts usually are for six to eight months, but a lot of entertainers do repeat contracts because they get addicted,” she says. With the Azamara, she works four months on, two months off, sometimes spending those off months  in Atlanta. Her experience with the auctioneer on the Brilliance of the Seas helped her land her current job as cruise sales manager. “It was a big jump going from dancing to speaking in public, and it took a lot of preparation,” she says. “This this job is detail oriented.”
        When she's not on duty, she likes to explore foreign ports-of-call. Her favorites are Iceland, because of the geo-thermal hot springs at its Blue Lagoon, and Sorrento, Italy,
because it feeds her cameo collection. "In Sorrento, they carve cameos out of the conch shells they collect," she explains. "You can watch them carve one, then buy it."
      One of the first things I noticed about Jesse was her lack of a Southern accent. “I worked at that,” she explains. “When doing boat drills, for example, people from other countries don't understand a Southern twang. But when I go home, in two days, my twang is back.”
Eventually she’ll want to settle in one place, but not for a while. “You’re always  visible on a ship this size,” she says of the Azamara, which houses up to  694 passengers and a crew of 407. “You do crew duties, too. You meet people, and you make friends. I like what I’m doing.”
It has to be more exciting than life in Brushy Pond!

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