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Life as an Entertainer Aboard Veendam: Part 2

Aside from the gorgeous backdrop, my job is wonderful. It’s like appearing in a rotating repertory company because we perform different shows nightly. I’m in the cast of the Showroom at Sea. We have an opening night show called Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now. This is when the Cruise Director welcomes everyone onboard and my solo is “Respect.” The second night (my biggest vocal workout) is in Bob Mackie’s Broadway in which we wear genuine Bob Mackie costumes! My 3 big songs are “If They Could See Me Now,” “Don’t Rain On My Parade” and “Maybe This Time.” I also have featured solos in “Seasons of Love” and “Aquarius” and 7 costume changes! The last night of the cruise is a show called Stardust Lounge. The setting is like a Vegas/ Rat Pack type revue and my solos are “At Last,” “Over The Rainbow” and “Touch Me In The Morning.”

Living on a ship is like living on a floating resort hotel. I eat, work out and go to my job all in the same “building,” which is quite funny. We don’t have nearly as rigorous a schedule as I am familiar with, so it was hard to get used to “vacation mode” as my working environment. Eventually, I realized that the down time gives me plenty of opportunity to focus on other aspects of my creative self. I’m reading a lot more than I ever would in the city and I’m also developing a book with a friend (and fellow youngARTS alum).

I’ve had time to work on other music than the material I perform on a regular basis. Playing around with friends at the piano while belting out show tunes takes me back to my college days of finding a vacant black box or practice room and goofing around for hours. With this job, traveling has made me grateful for all the skills I’ve developed throughout the years. Oddly enough, in my spare time, I’ve realized more than ever that it takes incredible self-motivation to be an artist. The opportunities are endless. There’s an inner hunger of always wanting to know more, do more, be more! This type of desire is empowering but also very daunting and it makes me wonder, “will I ever be satisfied with my self-imposed standard of “enough?” I remind myself to take it one day at a time. If I make mini goals for myself, I can stay on track. There’s no more report card or teacher to please when it comes to achieving those artistic hurdles. Just me, myself and I.

As my skin continues to tan, my ethnicity becomes more ambiguous. “Are you Italian? Greek? Spanish? Israeli? Indian?” I kid you not, these are the questions I’ve been asked recently. Maybe it’s time for me to actually learn those foreign accents so I can apply them to my acting career.

And of course everyone back home wants to know how have I dealt with the motion of the ocean! It was an adjustment, that’s for sure. I’ve felt sea sick here and there but nothing that was so debilitating that I couldn’t function or do my job. The funniest part about it is when we are involuntarily thrown off balance mid-performance and you find yourself in an entirely new spot instead of the mark you’ve rehearsed over and over again.

Traveling has taken me out of my comfort zone, which is a balancing act of frustration and exhilaration. I want to try new things and meet new people because I don’t know when I’ll get to experience them again. A Bon Fire at Chaplin Bay, looking westward on the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean, making S’mores over the open pit, drinking and blasting music until 5 in the morning was one exciting beach party experience I’ll never forget!

The newness of travel actually keeps me grounded. Whether it’s reading a street sign twice or collecting unique beach glass, I make sure to process the world around me and appreciate Bermuda for all its culture and beauty. Known to some as “Dora, the Explorer,” I plan to document all my adventures, with my journal, video and still camera in tow.

To work regionally or on tour is a way of life for many young performers and while it gives me a sense of success and independence, it also can feel like a gypsy lifestyle that is just “for now.” There’s a chance that one day I will settle down, but not before I’ve had “enough” of pursuing my passion.

Mara Jill Herman is a cast member aboard Veendam.

  • Cary A

    Great article Mara. How did you get this job? Did you go through an agent or contact HAL directly?

  • Mara Jill Herman

    Hi Cary,
    Thanks for your response! I auditioned for a company called Stiletto Entertainment. They serve as the Casting Office for Holland America in terms of “Showroom at Sea.” I didn’t use an agent but instead found the notice in For upcoming audition info, check their website at

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