My name is Alex Harden and I’m the Acrobatic Captain on Oasis of the Seas. I’m from a small town in California, where I began doing gymnastics at the age of seven and competed on the national level throughout my career. You may be surprised to know that, even with that experience, getting my job with Royal Caribbean International was very competitive. I submitted videos along with my resume, which may have helped me secure the position. When I was offered a contract with Royal Caribbean I had no idea what I was in for.
First stop was Royal Caribbean International’s production and rehearsal studios in Hollywood, Florida. We spent about 10 days learning the choreography for the show “Come Fly with Me” prior to boarding the ship. Once onboard Oasis, I continued to learn the show with the dancers and singers during night rehearsals, which are held from midnight until 8 in the morning. These rehearsals are extremely tiring; you’d be surprised at how hard it is to adjust your sleep schedule to learn a new show. After two weeks we finally finished night rehearsals, and it was time for the opening performance.
If you’ve seen the show, you know the cast does a fair amount of “flying,” which was new to me. The show uses bungees, lifting performers up in a hand loop above the stage. I’m not afraid of heights, but I must admit that, the first time I sat on a small trapeze bar 35 feet off the ground, I was scared. Once I strapped myself into the bungees, I proceeded to hang there for another 10 minutes, trying to build up the courage to let go. Originally I was an understudy for a bungee role, but of course I never thought I’d need to actually perform. Now I have a permanent position as a flyer, and I can’t get enough of it.
In addition to “Come Fly With Me,” we also perform the “Oasis of Dreams” Aqua show. I am an experienced acrobat, but I had never trained in water. Luckily diving came easy to me because I’ve been flipping my entire life. Water landings are much easier on my body than tumbling on the stage (unless you belly flop, of course). Tumbling in a few inches of water feels different than on the hard stage and takes a bit of adjusting to.
People always ask me what it’s like to work and live on a cruise ship. I really enjoy “ship life” and being able to perform in such great shows. At the age of 21 I can’t imagine having any other job in the world. We perform nine shows per week and have a one hour warm up before each show. We also have one hour of open dive in the AquaTheater and a weekly fly rehearsal in the Opal and AquaTheaters. As an acrobat I am required to work out in the in the gym five days per week in order to remain in shape and flexible.
When I’m not performing, I like to get off the ship at the ports of call. I would have to say St. Maarten is my favorite port. It’s nice to spend my days off work relaxing on the beach. Also, the food is incredible on board, and I eat at specialty restaurants a few times a week. My favorite is Giovanni’s Table. The HR department organizes parties for the crew at least once a month in Studio B, which is a great way to meet crew members from other departments.
I’ve been hooked on performing since the first time I walked on stage. It’s such a rewarding feeling to see the looks on people’s faces when I perform. I still can’t believe how submitting a video has completely changed my life. Performing on Oasis of the Seas has given me the opportunity to turn my gymnastics background into a career. I have really enjoyed my time here and look forward to my future contracts with Royal Caribbean.