Here’s the deal. Put on a 7 day jazz festival. 30+ artists and musicians. 40+ performances on 3 stages with sound/lights and backline.  Include an Atrium venue, comedian performance, DJ, workshops and meet and greets.  Now put all of this on a moving, rocking 1000 ft. cruise liner traveling the open sea with 2000 passengers.

This was the challenge presented to production manager Brian Foisy, and his production team recently on Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas. The process started months in advance with a site survey of the ship and its venues.


One of the most important parts of the concert cruise production process is the site survey.  Because the cruise ships are constantly on the move, scheduling time for an adequate look around can be difficult.  On the cruise ships I have worked on we have had to schedule a 6 or 8 hour tour of the ship between one group of vacationers disembarking and another group boarding.

There are usually three or four primary performance venues; the main showroom, a secondary showroom, the pool deck, and some smaller atrium or lobby bar sized venue.

Due to the limited time, the first order of business was to scope out the crew boarding and load-in process while we waited to board.  The first day of cruising is a complete load in, soundcheck and show day.  

It will be important to get our crew and gear on early. Getting familiar with the dock master and union steward helps get moving fast. Once on the ship we walked the routes that the gear will take to the various venues. Doorways and elevators can be narrow. We kept a tape measure handy to make sure all cases will fit.

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I don’t think that’s what they meant by flying the PA…

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One of many baskets of gear.

The next priority was power.  Ship power can be tricky.  The ship’s hull is ground. Voltages must be stepped down and feeder cables may have to be run through bulkheads by the ships engineers.  Tie-ins can be made before the cruise starts to make stage distro tie in quick and safe. It is very important to get as much information about the power as possible.  This must be advanced carefully, as there is no time for second chances when it comes to powering the rigs.

Next we checked out the rooms.

Most cruise ship sound systems are not meant to amplify at the levels that a concert experience provides.  Taking into consideration the types of music that will be presented; this is the time to decide on how to augment the showroom PA in the various venues.  It is also a good time to take measurements of the stage, monitor and FOH positions.  Snake runs need to be checked out as well.

In choosing speaker systems, point source arrays were preferred. This is due to the fact that the PA will be stacked.  Flying line array systems will rarely, if ever, be allowed.


On the Rhapsody we had four primary music venues:

Broadway Theater – this is the ship’s main showroom. It seats about 1000 people. The stage is small, about 35 feet wide and 40 feet deep from the center of the thrust.


Shall We Dance– this is a smaller venue of about 600 capacity with a very narrow stage.


Pool – this venue is actually the forward pool deck and bar. A 16’ by 24’ by 2’ high stage is brought in and set up at one end of the pool.


Centrum – this is the “atrium” venue, a small stage on the lobby deck of the ship where a small system is set up.


At the site survey it was determined that the main PA in the Broadway Theater and Shall We Dance needed to be supplemented with left and right FOH stacks.  A full on- stage monitor rig was also needed in the main room as well.

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Monitor Engineer Mike Klowas at his Profile mixing for Chris Botti on the Broadway main stage.

A full system was needed for the pool venue and Shall We Dance.  All monitors at the pool and Shall We Dance were handled by FOH.

We brought in Carlson Audio from Seattle, WA as our vendor. Mark Carlson sent out a top notch crew:

Matthew Collins – Crew Chief and Main Showroom Tech

Vincent Agne – Small Showroom Tech and Mix Engineer

Toshi Sugitani – Pool deck and Atrium Tech and Mix Engineer

Mike Klowas and I handled the Main Showroom mix responsibilities, with Mike running the monitors and me handling FOH chores.

For the Main Showroom we used a d&b C4, C4 Sub and B2 Sub speaker system with their D12 amp racks and processors.

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