How To Play Guitar On A Cruise Ship

Do you want to get paid to play creative, original music to appreciative audiences all over the world? Well, playing guitar on a cruise ship probably isn’t for you.  To find out if it is, read on.

The Cruise Ship Guitarist

Can you sight read music well? Good!

Do you enjoy drinking drink beer? Great!

Want to get paid to see the world and make some great friends? Awesome!

Are you able to play all styles of music pretty well (including jazz)? Perfect!

You are the perfect cruise ship musician: musically competent, beer-drinking and down for a good time.

A Life In A Day Of A Cruise Ship Musician

This is a short documentary I filmed while out on a contract, check it out to get a real feeling for the gig.

My Cruise Ship Story

I graduated from a jazz program in New Zealand in December 2011 and scored my first cruise ship gig January 2012. I worked on ships on and off for 2.5 years, a total of 6 contracts each around 2-4 months each in length. I met many great musicians, made heaps of life-long friends, and improved musically.

cruise ship guitarist
I have had the opportunity to visit Alaska, Hawaii, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Panama Canal, Central America and plenty of Pacific and Atlantic Ocean.

In between ships I backpacked, travelled and stayed with friends throughout America and Europe. I toured, gigged and continued to hone my craft in between contracts and worked towards my current goal of graduate study in NYC.

Let me lay out the positives and negatives for you so you can decide if this is something you want to check out.

Cruise Ship Positives

  • Free food
  • Free accommodation
  • Get paid to play your instrument
  • Regular pay check
  • Travel the world
  • Meet many amazing musicians
  • Make friends with people from all over the world
  • Develop you musical styles and sightreading chops
  • Free access to gym facilities

Cruise Ship Gig Negatives

  • Sleeping in a tiny bunk bed/ room
  • You play the same music constantly
  • Dealing with the heirachy of officers and administrators above you
  • You have at least 3 bosses
  • Some musicians aren’t the best
  • Your roommate might snore
  • Living in such a small microcosm of society gets to your head (if you aren’t careful)
  • Cruise ships aren’t real life
  • Saying goodbye to friends at the end of contracts
  • Working constantly for months at a time isn’t fun
  • Internet is expensive (hey, at least they have it!)

Are Cruise Ships For You?

The cruise ship gig is ever evolving. What it was 4 years ago is very different to what it is today. My experience will be very different to yours. I really do recommend giving it a go, especially if you are right out of your undergraduate degree. For older musicans with family I would say you have better options but then again, what other stable jobs are there out there for musicians?

So how do I get the Gig?

You have two options: direct or with an agent. Both require an audition, so make sure your sight reading chops are up to scratch. Agents are probably easier to get in contact with but they do take a cut.

Further questions

I am sure you might have more questions about the gig, use the comment form below to ask away!

cruise-ship-pic
New Years Eve, somewhere between Australia and New Zealand

*Update 1/6/2015 I am now the Band Leader. This means: counting in songs, managing the band, my own room, responsibility and (slightly) more pay.

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