GOULDSBORO — When Gregory Young went to a group interview for Carnival Cruise Line, the Gouldsboro native wore a plaid button-down shirt and khaki pants.
“As I walked in, I’m looking around and all these people are in suits and ties,” he said. “I said to myself, ‘I’m not going to get this job.’”
Then, the interviewer told everyone to take off the suit jackets and ties. Young was ecstatic, thinking, “I don’t have any of that. I’m going to get this job!”
He did. The 2004 Sumner Memorial High School graduate started out as a member of the cruise line’s entertainment department, emceeing events such as trivia nights. Now he manages an eight-member Playlist Productions cast with whom he performs as a singer and dancer in regular shows on board ship, a job he calls “pretty amazing.”
“Gregory is a highly talented performer who brings a level of enthusiasm and authenticity to our team that our guests cannot get enough of,” said Sharon Cornes, Carnival show supervisor. “He is also a passionate cast manager with invaluable experience and knowledge that he freely shares with his fellow performers.”
Performing was not Young’s first love, however. A standout distance runner at Sumner High, he headed that fall to the University of Maine in Orono with plans to run college cross-country and train for the Olympics.
“That was actually the first dream, when I was in fifth grade,” said Young, who attended Gouldsboro Grammar School from 1991 to 2000. His cross-country coach was Becky O’Keefe.
Instead of running cross-country in college, however, Young fell in love with the performing arts after landing a part in the school production of “Chicago.” The experience led him to pursue a career in theater and to study ballet with Keith Robinson, university faculty member and co-founder of Robinson Ballet in Bangor.
“[Young] was very talented so, as artistic director of Robinson Ballet, I invited him to join,” Robinson said.
Young danced with the Bangor troupe for about three years, appearing in numerous productions, including “The Nutcracker.”
“He was the best Rat King ever!” Robinson said. “He was very enthusiastic and worked hard to be a good dancer.”
Young said he auditioned for work at the Carnival cruise line after learning about the opportunity through the college. Carnival workers sign work contracts of varying lengths. Young’s first seven-month gig was as a member of the entertainment department, hosting events. Knowing Young had danced in college, the cruise director asked him to participate in the talent show. Afterward, Young was encouraged to audition for a future contract as a dancer.
After a successful audition, he joined Playlist Productions as a dancer, eventually becoming a singer/dancer and then cast manager.
“I’ve done so much that I would not have done if I had not been a part of this corporation,” he said.
Young’s cast members change from contract to contract. He said it is challenging to have to learn to work with many different people, who may have differing styles, but it also helps him improve his own skills.
Cast members live and rehearse together on land for a week before going aboard the ship, which becomes their home for the duration of their contracts.
At sea, the troupe typically performs twice each evening. The shows, which last 35 to 45 minutes, feature music in various styles, including Motown, country, pop and movie songs.
“You actually get to create a character,” Young said. In fact, throughout a show, each performer plays a couple of different characters. “Tell a story,” he said, describing his work. “Watch it unfold on the stage.”
Young said he enjoys all kinds of music but especially likes singing and performing to contemporary songs. Aboard the Carnival ship the Breeze, his favorite numbers include dancing to “My Heart Will Go On” from the movie “Titanic” and “Take My Breath Away” from “Top Gun.”
Young said one of the job’s challenges is living in such close quarters with co-workers. But, this makes their bond stronger because everyone must find a way to work out any disagreements.
“It forces you to jump out of your comfort zone,” he said.
Another challenge comes from being on duty literally every day, not only during performances but also whenever crew members mix with guests.
“For the most part we’re always out and about [with guests],” he said. “It’s every single day. We’re technically working all day, every single day.”
Although the pace aboard ship is fast, Young’s trips back home to Maine provide escape. Because he often cannot come back to Maine during holidays, he is grateful for his family’s understanding. This includes his mother, Melissa, who works at the Ellsworth post office; dad, Warren, who retired from the Bar Harbor post office in 2016 after 38 years of service; and brothers Maynard and Dustin.
The work does has many perks, though, including the ability to visit new places such as Puerto Rico, Aruba and San Juan when the ship docks. He also works with people from all over the world so he can find friendly accommodations and tour guides almost anywhere he wants to go.
During his next vacation, which begins July 27 after his current contract is completed, Young plans to visit Las Vegas to see friends who also are former co-workers — an opportunity he wouldn’t have had otherwise.
“It’s unbelievable,” the 33-year-old performer said. “I definitely don’t regret it.”