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  #1  
Old 01-27-2009, 08:54 PM
ilanten ilanten is offline
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Default Working on a cruise ship

Hey everybody,

Lately I have been thinking a lot on the idea of working on one of those cruise ships, some of them pay very well and the conditions Semmes fair.

Is there anyone here who has been on a cruise ship? (As a drummer  )
What are your tought's about it?

And also what are the demands? I know u HAVE to be a good reader, and ofcurse a basic knowlge of styles , but other the that what do you think is needed?

Thanks for you time
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Old 01-27-2009, 09:27 PM
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Default Re: Working on a cruise ship

A well-rounded knowledge of all genres, and an open attitude to play anything presented to you.

And VERY good people skills! A lot of times, when on break or off duty, a cruise ship passenger will notice you and want to strike up a conversation about ANYTHING. You may be complimented on your playing, or the band's ability to play their favorite song - literally ANYTHING. You HAVE to be pleasant to speak with, engaging, and friendly. And you gotta be able to tolerate ALL age groups: very young children, kids, teenagers, twenty somthings, single adults, older adults, retirees, etc.

Often times the band will be playing and a passenger will slip the leader a request. You gotta play it the best you can. Remember, the passengers are paying A LOT of money to take a cruise and they expect to be treated accordingly. As far as they are concerned, you ARE the cruise line, so present yourself as if you were on a job interview.

The benefits? Many!! It depends on the length of the cruise, but in almost all cases, there will be an ample supply of singles of the opposite sex to mix and mingle with.

Have Fun!!
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Old 01-27-2009, 09:28 PM
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Default Re: Working on a cruise ship

Quote:
Originally Posted by ilanten View Post
Hey everybody,

Lately I have been thinking a lot on the idea of working on one of those cruise ships, some of them pay very well and the conditions Semmes fair.

Is there anyone here who has been on a cruise ship? (As a drummer  )
What are your tought's about it?

And also what are the demands? I know u HAVE to be a good reader, and ofcurse a basic knowlge of styles , but other the that what do you think is needed?

Thanks for you time
I don't have direct knowledge, but I did have a college band director who did this every summer (albeit as a trumpet player). Thus, my comments are all based on his and my own observations as I watched the crew very carefully on my own cruise (with this very thought in mind).

First, I have no idea how to get your foot in the door. I'm landlocked and have to travel 1000 miles to the nearest cruise port. That part, you're on your own.

You will likely have to board with the crew. That means small quarters on a very low deck, and you'll probably have to share with 1-3 other guys. You'll eat what they eat and have more responsibilities than playing one gig. When my wife and I went on our honeymoon cruise, we saw the same cats playing in the early evening show, the (different) big evening show, then doing an hour of jazz in the afternoon, and I even saw one of them cleaning one of the dining rooms after lunch!

You'll also be facing a long time "on the clock," as it were. You won't get to go home, and there's really no "off work". After all, guests are on the cruise ship all day. You can't just go relax in the hot tub or sit on the top deck or anything like that- those are guest privileges. Crew are usually onboard for several weeks, 24-7. I'm not sure about special arrangements for musicians.

I did get to talk with the house rock band about their situation, and they spent 9 months on the ship with only a few breaks here and there. For some reason, they didn't have other responsibilities on board (I never really understood why), but would only play their two hour set once a night and call it good. Not sure if that is normal, as it's the first time I've heard of such a thing.

Now, I know I've outlined some of the negative aspects, but I figure you probably don't need to be talked INTO it if you're already asking. :-) Needless to say, my director enjoyed it well enough to continue doing it for many years- he'd often get the chance to explore the ports and got to know them rather well (most ships make the same trip back and forth over and over and over again). I'd assume the pay is also worthwhile.

It's something that I would have tried once had I been given the opportunity, but I don't think I'd do it now that I'm married... unless my wife got a musical position as well.

Hope this helped!
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Old 01-27-2009, 09:31 PM
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Default Re: Working on a cruise ship

If you're going to be a "show" drummer, then yes, you DO need to have great reading and interpreting skills. If you're going to play in a lounge, then you'll have to be knowledgeable about the songs you'll be performing and be ready to have some quick rehearsals (not much time to learn/rehearse 80 or so tunes). Or, if you are applying for a cruise ship with your own band, then you have all the time you can muster to prepare before you apply. It just depends on how quick of a learner you are OR want to be...
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Old 01-27-2009, 09:34 PM
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Default Re: Working on a cruise ship

Off topic. A typical cruise ship has got like what, anywhere between 20 and 100 bars on it? Why was Isaac the only bartender we ever saw and he was like at every single bar on the dang love boat?

And of course, Love Boat: TNG
http://www.clipupload.com/clip/showp...o/9611/si/SNL:
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Old 01-27-2009, 09:35 PM
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Default Re: Working on a cruise ship

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Originally Posted by diosdude View Post
Off topic. A typical cruise ship has got like what, anywhere between 20 and 100 bars on it? Why was Isaac the only bartender we ever saw and he was like at every single bar on the dang love boat?

And of course, Love Boat: TNG
http://www.clipupload.com/clip/showp...o/9611/si/SNL:
We were on a smaller Carnival ship, and there were probably a dozen bars, including the two dining room bars.
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Old 01-27-2009, 10:01 PM
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Default Re: Working on a cruise ship

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Originally Posted by diosdude View Post
Off topic. A typical cruise ship has got like what, anywhere between 20 and 100 bars on it? Why was Isaac the only bartender we ever saw and he was like at every single bar on the dang love boat?

And of course, Love Boat: TNG
http://www.clipupload.com/clip/showp...o/9611/si/SNL:
Clearly the answer is: Cloning. Isaac is the original Mr. Smith.
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  #8  
Old 01-27-2009, 10:35 PM
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Default Re: Working on a cruise ship

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Originally Posted by dkerwood View Post
I don't have direct knowledge, but I did have a college band director who did this every summer (albeit as a trumpet player). Thus, my comments are all based on his and my own observations as I watched the crew very carefully on my own cruise (with this very thought in mind).
No offense, but you stated that you have no direct knowledge. I have played on cruise ships and can say that a good amount of your statements are just plain wrong!!!


Quote:
First, I have no idea how to get your foot in the door. I'm landlocked and have to travel 1000 miles to the nearest cruise port. That part, you're on your own.
You can often audition by phone or videotape.


Quote:
You will likely have to board with the crew. That means small quarters on a very low deck, and you'll probably have to share with 1-3 other guys.
I don't know of any cruise ship musicians who share rooms with two or three people. The common setup is two people per room unless you are the musical director/band leader. In that case, you will usually get your own cabin.


Quote:
You'll eat what they (the crew) eat
As musicians, you will usually have staff privileges which are higher that crew privledges. I ate in the staff mess with waiters and waitresses serving me breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If I did not like what they had, I would go to the guest area, where I could eat from almost any restaurant (with a few that were off limits such as the grand dining room.)

Quote:
...we saw the same cats playing in the early evening show, the (different) big evening show, then doing an hour of jazz in the afternoon,
You may have to play more than one show, but I still worked less than 20 hrs. per week. Not bad for a full time paycheck. Drummers and other rhythm section players usually work more than horn players, but we also get paid more. This is because they need the rhythm section for talent shows and jazz sets.


Quote:
and I even saw one of them cleaning one of the dining rooms after lunch!
I have heard so many rumors such as this, but never, ever, ever, met a cruise ship musician who needed to clean, wait tables, etc...

Dancers on the ship sometimes will do other activities such as bingo or sell raffle tickets, but they only dance a few hours a week in the production show. They also usually make a commission on raffle ticket sales.

You are, as far as the Coast Guard is concerned, you are an employee of a sea vessel so you will need to help direct passengers in the boat drill. This is something that is required of almost everyone on the ship.

As far as cleaning, I did not even clean my own room! There is a cabin steward who cleans, changes sheets, etc... You do need to tip him/her.


Quote:
You won't get to go home... You'll also be facing a long time "on the clock," as it were.
That is correct. You will be living on the ship, so you will not have the opportunity to go back home for a day, then come back etc... But you also will not need to buy gas for the car, pay rent, etc...


Quote:
...and there's really no "off work".
I had one day off a week. My day off was usually when the ship was in port in the Bahamas, Cozumel, etc...


Quote:
You can't just go relax in the hot tub or sit on the top deck or anything like that- those are guest privileges. Crew are usually onboard for several weeks, 24-7. I'm not sure about special arrangements for musicians.
On the ships that I worked on, musicians can use some of the guest areas such as the gym. The pool was off limits though. Not a big deal since there are beaches close by when you are in port. You could not sit on the lounge chairs on the top deck, but you could sit at the tables and eat, or just relax by the rails and watch the water.

Remember that they are the guests. If you are sitting in a guest area and it starts to get busy, get up so the guests can sit down. They are the ones paying. If it weren't for them, where would your paycheck come from?

Some lines require that you wear an officer's style uniform in guest areas. I only had to wear a name badge on my shirt. Other than that, I blended right in with the guests.



Quote:
I did get to talk with the house rock band about their situation, and they spent 9 months on the ship with only a few breaks here and there. For some reason, they didn't have other responsibilities on board (I never really understood why), but would only play their two hour set once a night and call it good. Not sure if that is normal, as it's the first time I've heard of such a thing.
Why would the band have any other responsibilities? That what they are hired for - to play.


Is life on a cruise ship always fun? No. There are times when the weather is bad and the ship is rocking. It is a military style form of govt., so sometimes officers like to push their weight around. But with all the musicians that I've worked with, I wonder why (if these rumors above are true) I have not met another cruise ship musician who cleans rooms or waits tables in his off time.

Jeff
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Last edited by jeffwj; 01-28-2009 at 08:53 AM.
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  #9  
Old 01-27-2009, 10:48 PM
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Default Re: Working on a cruise ship

Now that I dispelled some rumors, let me answer the main question.


You NEED TO BE READY before you go on a ship. A ship is not a place to learn styles and chart reading. There are people who will take you under their wing, but like I said in other posts, on my first night on a cruise ship I was sight-reading a production show. It's trial under fire. That being said, here is some friendly advice.

1. Be an excellent (chart) sightreader. This is the #1 most important thing. You must be able to not only read charts, but interpret them as well. Get Houghton's Drum Set Reading Anthology. This is a great book to prepare you for chart reading.

2. Know your styles. Be prepared to play anything. Just a few styles I played on ships have been - 2 Beat, marches, dixieland, second line, polkas, small group jazz, big band jazz, waltzes- all kinds, reggae (including filling in with the all Jamacian Reggae band on the ship), soca, songos, mambo, cha-cha, hip-hop, rock, country, etc...

3. If you do land a gig, bring a mini-disc recorder or other portable recording device. I did not get the liberty of rehearsing much on a ship. If a fly-on act came in, we may run beginnings and ends of tunes, trouble spots, etc. The rehearsals were over so quickly that I needed to have the mini-disc to review before the show.

I don't want to burst anyone's bubble, but I'd rather see someone overly prepared. It's much better than being replaced after one cruise.

Please call me if and we could talk a bit about it. PM me and I will give you my number. I have had a few people call already and I think I helped them to better understand the gig, living situations, etc.

There are some cruise ship pics on my website.

http://johnsondruminstruction.googlepages.com/photos

Jeff
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Old 01-27-2009, 10:58 PM
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Default Re: Working on a cruise ship

I can only say from my one cruise experience that the Reggae band that played every time we hit port, and left port was changing bed linens during the day. So make sure you get into what you want. If it a show band that will be different as jeff can attest.
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  #11  
Old 01-28-2009, 01:15 AM
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Default Re: Working on a cruise ship

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffwj View Post
No offense, but you stated that you have no direct knowledge. I have played on cruise ships and can say that a good amount of your statements are just plain wrong!!!
Jeff, thanks for clearing some things up. My director was also one who would exaggerate a bit to make himself look bigger, stronger, better, etc. He was a killer player, but he made claims like his show band wrote "The Harlem Shuffle" (when in reality they just covered it, although it was their "signature" tune and the one they were well known for). Doesn't surprise me that he would blow his cruise experience out of proportion.

Last I heard, he was bragging about playing on the boat that used to be "The Love Boat". :-)

As to the band cleaning tables, I remembered that I saw the one band member doing something else besides playing. I don't recall if it was cleaning tables, running bingo, taking a shift at the information desk, or what... Heck, he could have simply been cleaning his own table after his own lunch. I wish I could remember exactly what he was doing, but I don't. Pretty cool, though, to only have to play.

That same band director was also always bragging about how he managed to NOT have other responsibilities besides playing. I guess it's easier than he made it seem! :-P
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Old 01-28-2009, 01:26 AM
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Default Re: Working on a cruise ship

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Originally Posted by jeffwj View Post
There are some cruise ship pics on my website.

http://johnsondruminstruction.googlepages.com/photos

Jeff
Cool. I just got back on Saturday from a 5-night cruise on the Carnival Ecstasy. I got to talk to the house drummer. They also played a jazz set that was cool. He was nice. He even offered me the chance to play on his set for a few minutes. I only saw one other drummer/kit on the ship and it was in the China Town bar.
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Old 01-28-2009, 08:08 AM
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Default Re: Working on a cruise ship

Hi all, I ran my own 4 piece band on cruise ships and also did some fill in spots with other acts.

If you put your own thing together(4 piece) be ready to have Rock, Disco, 50's and 60's, and Country sets ready to go, the latter 2 being really important since your band MUST host a Country night and a 50's and 60's night with the cruise staff. A lot of bands get on ships not knowing they must have this material together.

You're first week will be busy with all the induction and safety meetings that you have to attend( in the mornings of course), Royal Caribbean has an insane amount of classes that you must complete in the first couple of weeks, obviously you don't want the added stress of trying to learn songs or charts if you came on unprepared.

Be ready to pretty much give up you're privacy, you'll have a roomate for the whole time you work on ships, the only way around that is to become the Musical Director, they are the only musicians on the ship apart from Guest Entertainers to get their own cabins.

If a musician in one of the other band gets sick or fired you may be called upon to fill in for a few days. I had to play the show in the orchestra when the drummer came down with Norwalk. The charts were teribble, 11 pages long with no repeat signs, second endings, codas etc. it had tons of notes scribbled on it from making the rounds of all the other ships. I had to play that gig as well as my own for no extra pay.

You'll get to meet a lot of people from all over the world working on ships. I always found the crew very personable and fun to party with, the officers can sometimes be dicks but they don't hang out in the crew bar too much.

If you go through an agent to book a gig on ships, beware, they're first priority is to fill vacant spots so sometimes they can be very vague about what is expected of you and you're band banking on the fact you can pull it together once you get on.

Average length of contracts

4 piece band- 4 months (Don't have to do boat drills on Princess Cruise Lines THIS IS A BONUS BELIEVE ME!!)
Trio- 4-6 months
Deck Band- 6 months( These bands are usually from the Caribbean and are paid less than the other musicians on the Ship)
Orchestra- 6 months
Intermissionists(Piano and Guitar)-6 months

Hope this helps
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Old 01-28-2009, 08:47 AM
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Default Re: Working on a cruise ship

Quote:
Originally Posted by mrthirsty
If a musician in one of the other band gets sick or fired you may be called upon to fill in for a few days. I had to play the show in the orchestra when the drummer came down with Norwalk... I had to play that gig as well as my own for no extra pay.
I feel bad for you. I had to fill in with the Reggae band, but they paid me for the extra work. You should have been compensated for your time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mrthirsty View Post
I had to play the show in the orchestra when the drummer came down with Norwalk. The charts were teribble, 11 pages long with no repeat signs, second endings, codas etc. it had tons of notes scribbled on it from making the rounds of all the other ships.
Don't forget about the charts that are so old that they have holes in them. It's a fun game of "I wonder what should be there."


Jeff
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Old 01-28-2009, 02:48 PM
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Default Re: Working on a cruise ship

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Originally Posted by jeffwj View Post
I feel bad for you. I had to fill in with the Reggae band, but they paid me for the extra work. You should have been compensated for your time.



Don't forget about the charts that are so old that they have holes in them. It's a fun game of "I wonder what should be there."


Jeff
I once encountered a chart that told me to SLOW DOWN!!!! in Tagalog and SPEED UP!!!! in Polish in the same bar. No kidding. I damn near fell off my throne laughing during rehearsal.

Only on a ship.
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Old 01-28-2009, 03:02 PM
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Default Re: Working on a cruise ship

Thanks for your great comments!

Jeff i will be in touch with you.

Thanks again

Ilan
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Old 01-28-2009, 03:04 PM
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Default Re: Working on a cruise ship

Oh and one more thing, what is the deal with equimpent? do i need to bring my own kit cymbals hardware etc?
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Old 01-28-2009, 03:21 PM
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Default Re: Working on a cruise ship

Hi,

My experience differs a bit. Every year my band plays a cruise from Boston to Bermuda so we are actually hired by the travel agent and not the cruise line. (Norwegian) On one of the other posts I did see it mentioned that in some cases you may be doing more than playing drums, there may be other duties not music related that you may be required to do?

I have to bring my own gear on the boat so if that's the case with you make sure you have spare heads, plenty of sticks and cases for your kit. I also have a cart that will carry my kit and a hardware bag for my stands or rack. Keep your setup simple. I only take a 4 piece kit, ride, 2 crashes and the hi-hat. We play the pool deck and the pools are normally salt water, also the air is heavy with salt while your at sea and it will do a number on your kit, keep some polish with you. I use Counter Top Magic. It's great, you can use it on drums and hardware. You can find it at Home Depot. Have some cymbal cleaner with you as well. One other thing is don't forget to take Dramamine or I prefer Bonine for motion sickness. I have been on some rough seas and so far I didn't need the bucket! I take on pill before I get on the ship and one every morning during the cruise, even while docked, just to keep it in my system. I prefer the Bonine because it does not make you drowsy.

Good luck
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Old 01-28-2009, 04:01 PM
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Default Re: Working on a cruise ship

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Oh and one more thing, what is the deal with equimpent? do i need to bring my own kit cymbals hardware etc?
If you play with a lounge band, you will usually have to bring your own set. If you play with the showband, the set should be provided. You usually just have to bring sticks, cymbals, pedal, and a cowbell. You will also need to bring headphones for playing with the click/track on production shows.
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Old 01-29-2009, 08:24 AM
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Default Re: Working on a cruise ship

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Originally Posted by GRUNTERSDAD View Post
I can only say from my one cruise experience that the Reggae band that played every time we hit port, and left port was changing bed linens during the day. So make sure you get into what you want. If it a show band that will be different as jeff can attest.
I guess it's entirely possible that someone in a cruise ship band can voluntarily take a 2nd job on the ship, so long as they don't interfere with each other, eh?
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Old 01-29-2009, 09:27 AM
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Default Re: Working on a cruise ship

ALOT of old people! But hey - free travel - see the world!
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Old 01-29-2009, 06:28 PM
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Default Re: Working on a cruise ship

Is it okay to , hmmm, how should i say this.....fraternize with the lovely female guests on a cruise ship if you're part of the cruise staff?
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Old 01-29-2009, 07:21 PM
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Default Re: Working on a cruise ship

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Is it okay to , hmmm, how should i say this.....fraternize with the lovely female guests on a cruise ship if you're part of the cruise staff?
No, it is strictly forbidden to fraternise with guests.

Don't get me wrong, it does happen, and sometimes even with a wink and a nudge for officers and well-connected staff, but official policy is that it is forbidden. It's one of a list of things that will usually see you disembarking and flying home at the first convenient port.
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Old 01-29-2009, 07:27 PM
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I guess it's entirely possible that someone in a cruise ship band can voluntarily take a 2nd job on the ship, so long as they don't interfere with each other, eh?
Yes, but usually those jobs aren't working in restaurants, galleys, dining areas or in guest cabins. The entertainment staff isn't supposed to be seen doing that kind of thing. It is usually reserved for people at a much lower pay grade, with fewer privileges, and with less public profile. There is a very clear - and sometimes very ugly - class divide on cruise ships and in contrast to many other places in the world, musicians fall on the upper side of that divide on ships.

There are some odd jobs available for staff to make some extra pocket cash - e.g. assisting the photographers, assisting the art auctioneer (a lot of musos did this on Holland America Line) but most required jobs have an assigned function and a person filling that function.

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Old 01-29-2009, 07:57 PM
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Yes, but usually those jobs aren't working in restaurants, galleys, dining areas or in guest cabins. The entertainment staff isn't supposed to be seen doing that kind of thing. It is usually reserved for people at a much lower pay grade, with fewer privileges, and with less public profile. There is a very clear - and sometimes very ugly - class divide on cruise ships and in contrast to many other places in the world, musicians fall on the upper side of that divide on ships.

There are some odd jobs available for staff to make some extra pocket cash - e.g. assisting the photographers, assisting the art auctioneer (a lot of musos did this on Holland America Line) but most required jobs have an assigned function and a person filling that function.
That is correct. My roommate used to help in the art auctions for extra cash. But cleaning or waiting tables is a job that consists of long, long hours. And to wait tables, you would need to go to a ship that trains for that before going to your regular ship. That is why you will not see musicians doing these jobs.

And sometimes they have a hard enough time getting talented musicians that can read charts. There are many people out there who can't sightread well enough. Do you really think that they would lose talent by making them clean tables?

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Originally Posted by Boomka View Post
No, it is strictly forbidden to fraternise with guests.

Don't get me wrong, it does happen, and sometimes even with a wink and a nudge for officers and well-connected staff, but official policy is that it is forbidden. It's one of a list of things that will usually see you disembarking and flying home at the first convenient port.
Yes, that is something that can get you fired. You are usually allowed to date other workers on the ship though.

Jeff
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Last edited by jeffwj; 01-29-2009 at 08:07 PM.
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  #26  
Old 01-29-2009, 11:06 PM
Boomka Boomka is offline
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Default Re: Working on a cruise ship

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Yes, that is something that can get you fired. You are usually allowed to date other workers on the ship though.

Jeff
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Old 01-30-2009, 02:15 AM
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Default Re: Working on a cruise ship

I just spoke to my Dad who was at one time a musical director for one of the major cruise lines. He says everything explained by jeffwj was dead on correct.

Now he did say that some lines will make you play a little more than others, while others will let you get by with a little less. But most of that has little to do with the cruise line and more about the attitudes and behaviors of different cruise directors, some of whom apparently never sleep.He recalled once getting a call from a cruise director at 4 in the morning complaining that there was no background music in one of the bars. Dad told the guy that no one was in the bar because it was 4 in the morning, but the guy still insisted music start cranking. So he put a CD in the house system and turned it way down, and that apparently satisfied the guy. Supposedly, the coolest fights go on between bandmasters and cruise directors, and the other musicians never know what happened. Still there were other times he says when the cruise director was great.
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Old 01-30-2009, 02:42 AM
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Default Re: Working on a cruise ship

I've played on many ships when I was younger and unless you are a headliner doing th ebig show, I would have to say it was the worst experience ever. Not only will you share a cabin with at least one other person, if you like to party, and most great musicians do, you are SOL! You can't take the hottie you met to her room and go at it either, as that is off limits and you are pretty much treated like crap. Now I have done gigs on there with a much bigger, headlining band where you only play a few shows and then you were treated like kings. The good thing is, once you are at sea, especially one that won't dock for a few days, you can do what you want and just say screw it, as the worst thing that can happen is they fire you, which if you are really, really, good, won't happen.
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