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How to Prepare for the Job of Cruise Ship Musician

Updated on August 31, 2016

Looking at a career as a musician?

In this article we will look at working as a musician on a cruise ship and the type of preparation needed to land the job.

Please note, if you don't like to play jazz don't apply.

Ok, you’ve been playing in bands for a number of years and possibly graduated with a degree from one of the excellent music academies around the world. So you have decided that you want a career as a musician, so what is your next step?

Well, one of the options you might consider is a Orchestra or Solo musician on a cruise ship. Large cruise ships operate all year long and are very popular with tourists and travelers. There is still something enchanting about sailing across the ocean to stop in exotic ports, explore ancient cities and soak up the atmosphere of busy seaside restaurants. Sounds fun, doesn't it?I I am sure you want to sign up right now and set sail.

Well, before you do there are a few things you need to know.

  • There is a lot of competition out there, cruise lines tend to hold auditions on skype, so they can recruit from a global talent pool. Speaking English might give you a slight edge but it's the music that counts in the end.
  • The orchestra musician is the main work horse. This roll entails you playing as a member of the main show band, normally playing on the big stage. Occasionally you may have to accompany a guest singer brought in for special events. Band members can also be utilized entertaining guests during daytime events. This can take the form of a more traditional four price party band.
  • The role of solo musician will certainly require you being able to sing and play your instrument.
  • Contracts or normally for a limited period especially if you are new to the job. Your first contract might only be for 3 – 6 months. The typical contract is usually for 6 months. So remember you are not set for life once you pass the audition. You still have to keep working hard to stay in the job.
  • You are required to pass a medical. As well as being a musician you will be expected to be part of the crew, so you must be in good physical health. So ease up on the pizza and drinking yourself under the table every night.
  • Before you worry about any of the above, please find out if you suffer from seasickness!

Ok, you have tested your sea legs, so now let's find a job. Well, that part is fairly straightforward, just google "music jobs on a cruise ship" and you will find plenty of links. Some companies like Carnival Cruise Line, advertise directly, others use talent agencies. Application is straight forward and typical for any music related profession. If you are applying as a solo act you will be asked to supply recorded video of you singing and performing. If you are applying for the orchestra a video is not as important, but it's always a good idea to have something recorded that demonstrates what you can do. Remember, this is a cruise ship so no point submitting your best Yngwie Malmsteen licks. Try some smooth jazz or top 40 hits with a Blues feel to it.

Now, this is the point where the two jobs differ. As a solo artist you will need to have a large repertoire of music. You need to be able to cover music from the 50’s right through to current top 40 hits. You will be probably entertaining the same group of passengers for 5 – 10 days, so you will need to have at least 80 – 90 songs ready to perform and rotate.

For the orchestra player you have a different challenge, your sight reading skills must be proficient enough to read a chart quickly and also be able to improvise smoothly and with confidence.
I would recommend learning as many jazz standards as possible and study your chord changes and inversion. At the last minute a guest singer might decide to add a song to his/her scheduled set and you have to be capable of playing it.

It does take time to get prepared but it is worth the hard work.

If you are selected for an audition the company will set up a time and date. They will contact you normally 10 – 15 minutes before your audition to email your song charts allowing you the same amount of time to review, a similar situation as you might have on a ship.

Once they call you back then it's all down to you.

If you are successful, then the company will make all the arrangements including medical, contracts and flights to get you aboard ship.

If you would like to see a sample of an audition sheet, send me an email and I will send you a copy of my original audition sheet.

Just another point to note, if you are employed through an agency then their commission will be deducted from your salary. The good side of working for an agent is that once you are on their books, they will probably keep you in work for as long as you want to work on the ships.

I hope this helps anyone looking for a career on the cruise ships.

Article by Geoff Sinker


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    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev G 

      2 years ago from Wales, UK

      A really good article, Geoff. I'm sure many potential cruise ship musicians will find it incredibly useful.


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