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Matt Kessinger

Ice Captain

Matt Kessinger
If you think our ice-skating rinks are a phenomenon, meet professional skater Matt Kessinger. He spins, he skates and he loves his job. Get a glimpse of a typical day for this dedicated Ice Captain.
How did you become a professional ice-skater?
I started skating at 8 and training at 13. After 10 years, I competed for the U.S. internationally, including the Olympic trials in 1998. I did everything I could amateur-wise. Then I turned professional about five years ago. My first contract was with an amusement park in California, and then I was off to Royal Caribbean.
So, what exactly does an Ice Captain do?
My main responsibility is to make sure the show remains as it was originally choreographed. Along with that, I supervise nine members of the staff and create schedules for the rehearsals and the free-skate sessions. And I perform as well. It's a 24-hour-a-day job, but I really enjoy it!
Did you have to train differently to perform onboard a ship?
As you can imagine, I was very excited to perform on the first ship that featured an ice-skating rink. But there really wasn't any way to prepare. The biggest hurdle was the size of the rink. It's smaller than standard rinks on land. As for the movement on the ship, it's sort of trial and error. You just get used to it.
Are you the lead skater?
The way it works onboard Royal Caribbean is that everyone is a principal-level skater. There is no lead. Which means, you're always doing quality performances with extremely talented people. It's one of the greatest benefits of working here.
Is there a Zamboni?
Well, we have an ice resurfacer that resembles a miniature Zamboni. It's not technically a Zamboni. It's much smaller but of the same quality as the full-size. It's actually designed as a train that runs along the rink and it's very popular. A lot of people ask to see it.
Why all the buzz about the new show, "Ice Under the Big Top"?
It's sort of like a circus, but so much more. The big idea is that each performer represents a different nation and they come together to show their talent. There's a Russian classic number, a clown number - where we ride the kids around the ice on a train - and three types of flying. It's got a bit of everything and the costumes are incredible!
Will this show be specific to Mariner of the Seas?
Yes, it will only be performed on Mariner of the Seas for five years unless it's extended. That's the general length of time per ice show, per ship. Because of the unique sets developed, the shows need to stay on the same ship.
How many shows are there per cruise?
Usually four to five, depending on the number of guests. We want to make it available to everyone.
How does it feel to receive a standing ovation?
I've been in shows where we don't receive them all the time. But we always do here. There's nothing like it. When a crowd responds like that, it always reminds me that this is why I do what I do.
What do you do onboard during your off time?
I'm on my computer constantly. My hobby is DJing and collecting music. I pretty much surround myself with that. Or I just go to the beach and relax.
What's your favorite island or destination?
St. Maarten and Cozumel. St. Maarten because there's so much to do there, and Cozumel because it's just so beautiful.
Do you have much contact with the guests?
Yes, we get to mingle with the guests. And they love meeting us. It's great that we have free-skating. It gives them a sense for what we do. Some people come and skate for only a few minutes so they can say they ice-skated in the Caribbean on a cruise ship.
What's the most popular question?
Guests always ask if I've been in the Olympics and if the ice is real. Yes, it's definitely real!
What's the most rewarding part of your job?
Getting to do what I love and sailing around the Caribbean. There just isn't a better job in the world. The shows are very challenging, but the schedules are not grueling, which allows us to really enjoy it. I get to do quality performances and be in this environment. Believe me, I'm lovin' it!

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