By Jon Bruce
MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) -- While the debate over what kind of economic impact the cruise industry has on the Charleston area continues, one thing we know for sure is that it's bringing jobs.
Employment opportunities range from ticket takers and baggage handlers at the port to several jobs you might not consider.
On a recent five day cruise to the Bahamas, Charleston native Matt Seagle stood on stage in front of a packed auditorium.
Seagle isn't a passenger simply enjoying his vacation. He is working hard and working the room well with a bright smile and classically trained voice.
Seagle is a singer by trade and entertains throngs of eager vacationers while sailing the oceans for Carnival Cruise lines.
A few nights a week, Seagle helps headline and entertain the ship's entertainment shows, delighting crowds to the staples of Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble and others.
"It's a great feeling to be here tonight." he said during a recent performance on board.
Crew members like Seagle live aboard the ship for six to nine months at a time with six weeks off. On a typical cruise, the boat is stocked with about 900 crew members that range in everything from maintenance workers, to engineers to the captain himself.
But for Seagle, and the other members of the cruise entertainment staff, it's mostly high-life on the high seas.
For those like Seagle it is the best of both worlds. While many of his counterparts are away from their homes and families for months at a time on the Carnival Fantasy, which departs and returns to Charleston each week, Seagle gets to get off in his hometown and sleep in his own bed at least a few times each month.
Cruise Director Risa Barnes is also a South Carolina native. When she's not emceeing the entertainment and keeping passengers abreast of all the wonderful activities on board, Barnes is a simple South Carolina girl with the gift of gab.
"I can't sing, and I can't dance, but if you know me or see me in one of our spectacular shows, you know I can talk," she said during a recent interview with the SC Ports Authority.
The Lexington, South Carolina native always knew she had a gift for making others feel comfortable.
After graduating from the University of South Carolina, Barnes' mother went on a cruise and told her daughter that she just had to get on board and picked up an application.
Fifteen years later, she now has the job she's always wanted, ensuring that everyone on board has fun.
"I love entertaining people, meeting people and having fun," she said.
After a cruise, Barnes and her staff say they love being able to hit the beaches of Sullivan's Island and IOP and taking in a little shopping on King Street.
They say cruising from Charleston couldn't be easier. The ship leaves from downtown, so there's no hectic or expensive extra travel. Amenities, food, service, and entertainment are quite good and getting on and off the boat, they say, is a breeze.