We talk to Erica Amber Parsons, Entertainment Director on board Carnival Spirit, about how she creates an onboard program that caters for everyone in the family.
How did you get into the entertainment business?
I did a lot of musical theatre growing up and ventured into television acting. But I could never really get my head around being a starving artist, so I went into hotel operations. Being an Entertainment director is really the best of both worlds: I get to work with and manage entertainers while still doing the hotel organisational aspect.
When did you start working with Carnival?
I started in Guest Services about six years ago and I transferred from there to entertainment. I became a host and worked my way up from there.
Could you describe what an entertainment director does on a Carnival cruise?
I’m in charge of scheduling all the events and activities on board the entire ship and managing all the entertainment departments. There are five sub-departments: the music manager and musicians; the technical manager and technicians; the cast manager and cast; the cruise director and their hosts; the youth director, camp counsellors and Camp Ocean (Kids Club) team. I have the best team ever. The whole entertainment department is amazing!
You’ve got so many different age groups and different kinds of people on a cruise… how to you cater to all tastes?
Keeping all of the variables in mind is a challenge for sure. We have so many different guests from different walks of life and backgrounds and you would be surprised how much it changes depending on where people are from and where the ship is based. So, I always look at the demographics of the passengers before the cruise … whether it’s an older demographic or if there are a lot of kids. We will tailor the programming based on that. Then, I spend a lot of time on the floor with my team during the cruise, and with the guests, listening to feedback and seeing what activities are well-attended.
So you need to be flexible?
Yes, flexibility is huge. It’s probably one of the most important things. If we find that, for example, Harry Potter trivia is far more popular than general knowledge, we’ll switch it out. It’s a lot of playing with the demographics and the guest demands and listening to my team about what is working best.
People might be surprised to learn just how many activities happen on board every day.
There are a lot of activities, especially on a sea day … up to 50 activities. And we want to make sure we have something going on for each member of the family. So, if the style of music in the atrium isn’t what you were looking for, you could go and catch a movie under the stars on the Lido deck. No matter what you’re doing or what time of day, there’s something for the whole family.
Do you get lots of feedback from guests?
I do, yes, and I love feedback. My favourite thing is for a guest to stop me during a cruise and tell me what we’re doing well or what we can improve on because often I can improve on it while they’re still on board and they can see that response.
You must have seen a lot of acts and shows on board Carnival ships. Any particular favourites?
I think anything that holds my attention and makes me go ‘Wow’, like our Broadway-style Playlist Productions shows. But one favourite? A show called Miss Houdini, where we fly in an aerialist and she does amazing illusions with the cast. It’s got glittery costumes and feathers. I love it!