HUNDREDS of live entertainers and performing artists who depended on cruising for much of their livelihoods have been hit hard by the pandemic as they now hope for the early restart of cruise tourism. 

With cruising brought to a halt by the pandemic, many have taken up alternative work driving hire vehicles, landscape gardening, stacking supermarket shelves or reinventing their careers. 

President of Carnival Australia and P&O Cruises Australia, Sture Myrmell, said the heavy impact on the performing arts was another indication of the loss of the extensive cruising value chain. 

“There are so many areas of activity that have been affected including producers of fresh produce, hotels, restaurants, transport operators and tourist attractions, which together support thousands of jobs,” Mr Myrmell said. “It is also clear that the arts community has been hit hard and the entertainers who help make cruising so special are among those most keenly affected.” 

Gold Coast-based comedy hypnotist Anthony Laffan is emblematic of the pandemic’s impact on Australia’s entertainers and their efforts to overcome its challenges. Anthony and his wife Kasey have used their life savings to open a pizza shop at Labrador on the Broadwater – the Cara Mia Pizzeria – after a six-month crash course in pizza baking. 

Their bold move followed the devastation of seeing six months of cruise work “disappear in an instant. I was an entertainer for 35 years -- that is all I knew,” Anthony said. “Basically, I was away 26 weeks each year entertaining on cruise ships. I had six months of bookings and they disappeared instantly. 

“One moment I was an illusionist performing on cruise ships in a massive industry of growth to then all of a sudden learning how to make a pizza. What else could we do? A mate with a couple of pizza shops in Brisbane offered to teach us. For six months we trained with him. 

“People thought we were mad to open a pizzeria in the middle of covid but a financial adviser told us deliveries were up 200 per cent in the pandemic and he thought a pizzeria might work for us.” 

The massive impact on the performing arts is not confined to artists alone. Graeme Gillies, who devoted 28 years to building his highly respected Grayboy Entertainment organisation, managing onboard artists and creating major production shows, has also been affected. Grayboy had to close its Sydney office and lay off staff to concentrate ongoing non-cruise related creative activities from its Burleigh Heads office. 

“The arts have been hit hard and for us it is a perfect storm, a double whammy involving live entertainment and the cruise industry,” Graeme said. “I have had some dark moments but, strangely, I feel more confident about the future because I made the hard decisions. The way it has played out it is just as well that I did. However, I am not pretending it is anything other than bleak at the moment for cruise entertainers.” 

Mr Myrmell said he was looking forward to the day when Australia’s live entertainers and other performing artists are once again on board to make cruise holidays so special for guests. 

“This has been a traumatic time for the arts community and we know that the restart of cruising will also represent the restart of careers for our entertainers who can’t wait to again be doing what they know and love most.”