working on a cruise ship

jake_larson

Senior Member
Hey everyone, I want to play on a cruise ship this summer and I wanted to know some things:
1) What types of gigs are their?
2) What is the schedule like and what free time do you have?
3) What is the pay?
4) Audition tips
5) What are good drummers and bands to listen to?
6) Anything else worth mentioning

Thanks everyone
 

mind_drummer

Platinum Member
Dude all your questions are answered in the december issue of Modern Drummer with their "Make Money At Sea" article.
 

jeffwj

Platinum Member
From working on ships, I can answer most of your questions, although feel free to call me to get the complete rundown.

1) What types of gigs are there?
There is the show band - this is what I played. Show band musicians are usually hired through the company directly. They play the main stage shows such as the Vegas and Broadway style shows as well as variety acts and jazz sets. For this position, you will need to sightread - you will most likely be sightreading live shows the first night. There is little rehearsals. You will also need to know a large range of styles and be comfortable playing with a click.

2) What is the schedule like and what free time do you have?
You will probably be playing some type of show every day. Some days you may only have 2 production shows - one hour each. Other days, you may need to do some other shows. Usually 4 hrs. of playing per day maximum.

3) What is the pay?
The pay varies, but since room and food is free, you will be able to save most of the money.

4) Audition tips
Most auditions are over the phone. They will email you the charts. You will print them out as soon as they are emailed and sightread them down. You will also be asked to play a number of different styles. For an idea of what the charts are like, check out Steve Houghten's Drum Chart Reading Anthology http://www.steveweissmusic.com/product/1215/drum-set-methods-cd

5) What are good drummers and bands to listen to?

Everything - from big band to latin to hip hop, R&B, country, tangos, bossa novas, Broadway show tunes, etc...

6) Anything else worth mentioning

As I mentioned, call me for more information

Jeff
 
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Do a search on Youtube- you might find some actual auditions. I saw one where the drummer showed himself opening a sealed packet of music, started the click, and read through the chart.
 

nocTurnal

Senior Member
Dude all your questions are answered in the december issue of Modern Drummer with their "Make Money At Sea" article.
Thanks for the heads up, mind_drummer. I will have to grab a copy of that when I'm back up near Barnes & Noble way. It used to be a driving force in me... that if I really practiced a lot one day I'd be able to work on a cruise ship playing drums. I had this fairytale view that it would be a great job. But as I read more and more about it, it is not so great.. or doesn't sound like it is unless you are the band leader. I'm not sure I could go six months at a time sharing a tiny room with someone else. I mean, no escape at all. At least in a dormitory, you get to go home at holidays. The pay isn't that great, but as Jeff says, you do save a lot. So what is it about it that's good then? There's got to be a plus side. Is it the experience that musicians want from it?
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
Thanks for the heads up, mind_drummer. I will have to grab a copy of that when I'm back up near Barnes & Noble way. It used to be a driving force in me... that if I really practiced a lot one day I'd be able to work on a cruise ship playing drums. I had this fairytale view that it would be a great job. But as I read more and more about it, it is not so great.. or doesn't sound like it is unless you are the band leader. I'm not sure I could go six months at a time sharing a tiny room with someone else. I mean, no escape at all. At least in a dormitory, you get to go home at holidays. The pay isn't that great, but as Jeff says, you do save a lot. So what is it about it that's good then? There's got to be a plus side. Is it the experience that musicians want from it?
The notion that there is "no escape" for six months isn't entirely true. It's not as though you are confined to your cabin every moment of the day outside of working time. I essentially used my cabin as a place to sleep, shower, get dressed and periodically watch TV. The rest of the time I was using other facilities on the ship. Privileges vary from company to company and even ship to ship in the same fleet, but I usually had library, computer/internet, gym, limited practice, bar and other facilities available for my use. Moreover, on most itineraries you are going to be able to get off of the ship more days than not. Granted, life can get a little trying at times if you have an inconsiderate roommate or try to carry on a relationship with a partner (lack of privacy) but waking up in places where other people go on vacation can really make up for it. If nothing else, the lack of privacy can help force you out of the sack and into action. A lot of young (and old) musicians seem to loathe such an idea, but I found the amount of free time I had to be very liberating. For those who were inclined to while their free hours away in their lightless bunks, life always seemed more depressing.

And, yes, the experience was a big part of why I did it. There is no better place to learn how to play music than on the job. All of our woodshedding can only prepare us so much for the challenges of holding down a real gig. Couple that with the travel, and the gig has some perks. I managed to set foot on 6 of 7 continents (and I was within snowball chucking distance of Antarctica, but not allowed to land, of course) and over 50 countries. I also met my wife on board, so it is not impossible to find and maintain a lasting relationship at sea, though it can be difficult.
 
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Boomka

Platinum Member
Hey everyone, I want to play on a cruise ship this summer and I wanted to know some things:
1) What types of gigs are their?
2) What is the schedule like and what free time do you have?
3) What is the pay?
4) Audition tips
5) What are good drummers and bands to listen to?
6) Anything else worth mentioning

Thanks everyone
Jeff has hit most of these nails on the head. I worked on ships off an on for 5 or 6 years, including several stints as Musical Director. if you want a complete low-down, get in touch with him, or PM me.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Wow Bart what a priceless post. Thank you for sharing all that knowledge. What a great resource!
 

TheGroceryman

Silver Member
ah mannn, i wish you didn't have to go for so darn long...4 months minimum? agh, im a student, i cant skip a semester for this.
 

Swiss Matthias

Platinum Member
And, yes, the experience was a big part of why I did it. There is no better place to learn how to play music than on the job. All of our woodshedding can only prepare us so much for the challenges of holding down a real gig. Couple that with the travel, and the gig has some perks. I managed to set foot on 6 of 7 continents (and I was within snowball chucking distance of Antarctica, but not allowed to land, of course) and over 50 countries. I also met my wife on board, so it is not impossible to find and maintain a lasting relationship at sea, though it can be difficult.
Wow that sounds awesome! Would you do it again now? (Being married now, especially)
 

michael h

Member
I did one 3 month contract on Carnival, I think it was supposed to be 4 but the leader agreed to bring his group out for only 3, I'm not clear on that but it was 3 months and I knew it was 3 from the start..I was in the Jazz trio and it was a blast..I was with the right people for the most part and we played all kinds of adventurous stuff from all kinds of Bop tunes to Post Bop 60's stuff, lots of up tempo stuff, odd time signature stuff (usually standards in odd times) I was a lot of fun..We worked 4 hrs a night 6 nights a week with breaks within that time..We were on a far end of the ship in a hall way kind of location right outside the dining main dining room so we were pretty much left alone.. We would do 1 solid hr set while folks were in line out side the dining area and in our lounge area having cocktails, then we would take like a 1 hr break and play from 9 till 11 or later if we felt like it..It was 500 a week for me and after a while they asked me to do double duty playing some of the show band hits which I really didn't want to do and then at one point they asked me to take off a half a night then more and that's when I put my foot down because I rearranged my whole life home so I could go play Jazz for 3 months, not play the Captains Cocktail and all that other crap...Btw, I got extra pay for all the show band stuff.. There WAS reading with the show band and I have never been a great reader but I got by...I used my ears and the charts as a guide...Playing/learning piano has helped my ears a lot in the last 10 yrs so that was a big help..Also I wasn't given any real difficult stuff to read..I am working on reading now just doing shows and getting that kind of work in the last yr..The Musical Director was really cool and I got along with everyone on the ship..The only person I had a problem with was the Bass Player in my trio..Now check this out, he was only 26, cocky, arrogant and even was almost replaced on the gig by the leader because he wasn't cutting it at times..The reason I mention him is because a lot of guys in the music department didn't like the guy..Attitude is real important too on any gig really...I ended up practicing piano every night late for 1 to 2 hrs a night, going to the gym, losing 15 pds by the end of the contract and got a great review...They stopped having Jazz trios shortly after that..I did this about 3 yrs ago..I may do it again one day....The musicians on these things can be at all different levels so that can really make a difference in if you'll have fun playing or not...It's funny, some guys were really killing readers but not great improvisers, some guys the opposite..The cruise lines are getting more and more hard up for musicians I believe so the bar sometimes gets lowered...I mean they couldn't get a show band drummer for 6 weeks so I had to fill in...I say go for a 4 month contract 1 st if you can, if you don't like it you can just not go back...I would try to make use of the time by working out, learning a 2nd language( (they had free use of Rosetta Stone) practicing of course and staying out of the bar...Some guys just live that life and are hard core alcoholics..I am a recovering one for 20 yrs now and it was fine as the desire just ain't there anymore so far...Good luck..
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
Wow that sounds awesome! Would you do it again now? (Being married now, especially)
Only for brief stints - perhaps up to 6 weeks. I like my wife and being married, after all. We decided after several years of having to work really hard to keep our relationship together that it was time to move on to dry land. I also think that working on a cruise ship has a certain shelf life and at some point you have to make a choice whether you're going to make it your long term thing or move on to other pastures. We decided that we'd had our fill, though we both still miss the travel and the lifestyle sometimes. The weather in the UK leaves much to be desired, and sometimes it would be nice to have someone else to tidy up and make the bed...

If you're young and single, or you think your relationship can handle that much time apart, it's a great way to earn some dough and make a living playing. Which is the goal for many of us, afterall.
 

jeffwj

Platinum Member
Another question for the cruise ship guys

Who usually "leads" the band. Is there a program director, or does the most senior musician take control?

I was reading this thread as well: http://drummerworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=57025&highlight=cruise&page=2

I guess it's not like a high school jazz band where the instructor might call you out for not playing the notes on the page, as long as everything clicks, everyone's happy?
For the showband, there is an MD (musical director) who leads the band.

As for the charts - even in a high school jazz band, you should be interpreting the charts - not reading everything verbatim. I haven't seen a high school jazz chart that was to be played note for note. Maybe your band director doesn't understand how drum charts work? For some click track shows, the MD will want specific fills that are on the main track.

Jeff
 

Skitch

Pioneer Member
Hey everyone, I want to play on a cruise ship this summer and I wanted to know some things:
1) What types of gigs are their?
2) What is the schedule like and what free time do you have?
3) What is the pay?
4) Audition tips
5) What are good drummers and bands to listen to?
6) Anything else worth mentioning

Thanks everyone
Given the latest problems with cruiseships being damaged and stuck out at sea, I will never do it again. They seem to be very mismanaged, run cheaply and when something goes bad, the people are on board are very lucky to arrive back in port safely! The Carnival ship stuck out off the coast of Mexico is the latest example. Good thing there wasn't a storm coming onshore (the ships do go out in those by the way - they just try to go around them)!

Mike

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careerdrummer

Junior Member
"Drummer's Guide For Cruise Ship Gigs" now available on Amazon.

This 40 page book assists drummers in obtaining or maintaining a quality ship gig. Contains advice, notations, pictures, interviews, FAQs, a list of suggested agents and cruise line contacts.
 

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