Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Cashman, D 2012, 'Repertoire, performance, implementation and standardisation in music for formal dance performance on cruise ships', in L Giuffre & P Spirou (eds), Proceedings of Routes/Roots/Routines: 2011 IASPM-ANZ Conference, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, 23-25 November, International Association for the Study of Popular Music, Wellington, New Zealand.


One of the many forms of musical performance aboard cruise ships is that accompanying formal dance, or “Strict Tempo Ballroom” performance. Formal dance is an important aspect of the traditional cruise ship tourism product, with links to the “glory days” of passenger shipping, media images that are used to create desire for cruise ship consumption. Such performance occurs using a compact version of a traditional big band at some stage on nearly every cruise ship. Repertoire ranges from standard 1930s big band hits to 1960s and 70s film music and 70s funk. The cruise industry realises formal dance music in two different modes: aboard ships that have a dedicated ensemble for formal dance performance and aboard those that do not. Repertoire is all but indistinguishable among the cruise lines, often created by the same arrangers, such as Dave Wolpe, Dan Higgins, London Arrangements and Sean Evans. Some of this similarity can be attributed to an implementation of Rizter’s Macdonaldisation theory, which observes similarity among competing multinational companies in an attempt to create efficiency and an expected and recognisable product. This similarity is also a technique cruise ships use to cocoon guests from the cultures they may be passing through. Taking the collection of arrangements popularly known among cruise musicians as the “Princess Book” (due to its origin aboard Princess Cruises) as a starting point, this paper examines repertoire, sources, arranging and performance practices, demands of musicians and audience and implementation aboard cruise ships. The implications of both cross-company homogenisation and the creation of a hyperreal environment is examined and contextualised within the cruise shipping industry.