Aerial studios. Vocal rooms. A 20,000-square-foot costume-making facility. Royal Caribbean performers can be found training behind the doors of a glass-walled building located on the Florida International University campus in North Miami.
The cruise line building’s main purpose, according to its website, is for work related to performances on the Celebrity, Azamara and Royal Caribbean branded-ships.
While on their daily walk to class, FIU students may not be aware that the largest production studio in the United States is on their campus. The 132,500-square-foot building was unveiled in March of 2015 at a cost of $32 million.
“The building is leased for 40 years,” said Katiuska Barrero, a facilities supervisor for Royal Caribbean International. “After the 40 years is over, then they negotiate again a contract or a lease to see if we continue with this building or we outgrow it.”
The building consists of 14 full-size rehearsal studios, 15 vocal rooms, two aerial training studios, a costume-making facility, a recording studio, dormitories and a gym.
Each rehearsal studio’s flooring is outlined with tape to represent the stage on board of each ship.
The aerial studio allows singers and dancers to condition themselves for aerial performances as high as 80 feet up in the air.
“If they’re anytime on a wire, and they’re up in the air, they need to come here anywhere from two weeks ahead of time just to condition and train,” said Henry Nunez, a facilities coordinator and housing manager.
All the shows on the ships last eight years, but the cast changes every six months. As a result, costumes need to be adjusted twice a year. The costume facility is directed by Brenda “Miss B” Bonterre, who said she handles over 300,000 yards of fabric.
An estimated 1,500 performers are hired every year from all over the world, each on an eight-month contract.
“The cast members spend two months in rehearsal, and they spend six months on board the ship” said Barrero.
The Royal Caribbean International Entertainment Suites, where the cast members reside, are located within the Bay Vista dorms at BBC. There are 231 rooms for the approximately 500 cast members who are at the facility at any one time.
Even with dorms located right on campus, performers still rarely have time to rest. They train six days a week, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“At 9 a.m. or 9:30 a.m. we’ll start a warmup, a physical warmup, for about half an hour. And then, we’ll start learning choreography,” said dancer Jenna Thompson. “If we’ve already learned the show, then we’ll clean sections. That’s how we spend our hours during the day, or just running the shows, piecing it together.”
After training, Thompson will embark on the Constellation ship with her cast-mates until April of next year. A new cast will then take on their place and start the training process all over again.