Living on a ship can offer anything. When I told my family that I was coming out to work on a cruise ship as a musician, they told me it sounded more like a "work-cation" than actual work. They were somewhat right because although it takes a considerable amount of work to play everything as it needs to be played, I get to watch the sun go down on the ocean every single day, and I'm in at least three different countries every single week. It truly is an adventure. My favorite aspect of working on ships is that you can make your time into whatever you want it to be, and you have a lot of it. Personally, I've gone through three phases of how to spend my time: partying, practicing and fitness. Living on a ship can be very social; there's usually just one bar for the crew members, so if you want to drink and party it's likely that you'll make friends from all over the world. As an example, I'm traveling to Bali and the Philippines within the next year and I'll be staying for free at the houses of friends I made in the crew bar that I didn't even work with directly. After I had my fill of socializing I became very ambitious about practicing, which I was told would be a difficult avenue to pursue on ships. Whoever said that to me was completely wrong. As a musician you find that time is your greatest commodity, and you can make anything you like out of your time. Generally speaking, a musician on a ship will never have to do anything before noon, and will usually not have to perform until the evening. Some musicians can manage to practice during the day, before they have to perform. I've never been one of those people, so I started going into the main lounge after midnight with my headphones and committing myself to four-hour, uninterrupted practice sessions. I could never have guessed at what considerable improvements I was able to make by utilizing just part of my time practicing whatever I pleased. On a ship you'll play all kinds of music, so practicing doesn't feel as dogmatic as it did when you were learning in school; I would practice anything from walking bass lines to pinch harmonics to figuring out new voicings in a single session. In the end I was able to greatly better myself as a musician, go to sleep at four in the morning and wake up at noon, feeling fantastic, then go outside to watch the sun on the ocean. Although the practicing has persisted, exercise has become a part of my daily routine. On land I never exercised because gym memberships are expensive, and finding the time to travel to and from the gym is usually a hassle. On a ship the gym membership is completely free, and it takes less than a minute to get there. With even just an hour of free time it is incredibly easy to get in a day's worth of exercise.
CREW MEMBER SPEAK
I worked on the Carnival Conquest as a Showband Vocalist for almost 8 months. I made amazing friends from all over the world, not to mention get an awesome tan from going to the beach every week. I went on crazy adventures in beautiful ports, and got to work with some great musicians who challenged me and made me a better player. Come to think of it, I never really even considered myself a "musician" before I came, but with this job I got to be one. My sight reading got better, my ear, my ability to adapt on stage, work the crowd, and improve my voice in all the different venues and styles that we played in. I got to be creative with my delivery, and with 4 different music directors and about a dozen different band members, I increased my repertoire by a ton. I essentially played with about 8 different bands -- some were better than others, but you learn from the 'meh' just as much as the great. And above all, I got to do what I love as a job, and not have to worry about anything else while I did it. I paid off credit cards, saved money, collected way too many souvenirs and pictures, and also met my amazing fiancee, who proposed in the middle of a set in front of hundreds of cheering guests. Needless to say, I made some of my favorite memories playing on ships, and I'm lucky enough to keep making more because of it.
While ship life can (and does) vary wildly from ship to ship and line to line, I would say the number one thing you gain is the same in every situation: life experience. There's nothing like living and working on a ship to teach you about patience and flexibility. In the space of six months, you could play the same music with 30 people (depending on the size of your band and the exact job you have). It's a great lesson in working with other musicians as well as people from a HUGE variety of countries. Another thing you'll get from working on a cruise ship that you won't get anywhere else is the enormous travel experience. What other job would put you in a different country practically every day? I can remember days where we'd spend all day laying on the beach, getting Indian food, walking around St. Maarten, getting drunk and then heading back to the ship to spend sailaway drinking on the back deck with the entertainment staff. And that was all before dinner.
Working on a cruise ship offers many opportunities and unique experiences. I did two, three-month contracts on Carnival Cruise ships between my Sophomore/Junior, and Junior/Senior years at college. This was the best job experience I had had to date as it was an actual, professional music job that helped prepare me for working in the real world. I had plenty of time to practice as well as time to work on my original music. Although we did not perform any of it on the ship, I was ready with new things once I got back home. Playing the production and fly-on shows helped keep up my reading chops while multiple jazz sets a week kept up my solo chops. Cruise ship work also helps introduce you to people from all over the world. Because of the close quarters you are living in, you are able to get real friendly and close with them. Being in a tropical paradise every day isn't so bad either. All in all, I would recommend working on a cruise ship if you have the opportunity. As with any job, there are pros and cons; however I think that the pros completely outweigh the cons.
If you're thinking about working out on a cruise ship, do it! I worked as a drummer in the show band, jazz trios, and lounge bands for more than five years, and I can say without a doubt that being a musician on a cruise ship is hands down one of the best jobs in the world. There are days when you are sitting on the world's most beautiful islands and the only work you have to do is on your tan. And when you get back on the ship you get to do what you love for a living. You get to do nothing but play music everyday. This works wonders for your chops and your skills. The cruise ship played such a vital role in my development as a drummer. There is no better practice than performing for 4 hours a day. All of this is great, but I will be honest, the best part of working on a cruise ship is the fact that you don't have to cook, clean, pay rent, buy food, or drive for months at a time. You have your own room steward that makes your bed everyday. You won't be getting towel animals though, and that sucks, but it's the price you have to pay to travel the world for free, play music everyday, eat as much free food as you can handle, and get the cheapest drinks on the planet in the crew bar. Working on a cruise ship is a blast. Do it! You'll have the time of your life.
Anyone up for a changing adventure should do this. No matter what your background or status in life this gig can be a starting block, stepping stone or a great career change for you. It has always been my desire to meet many new people, while still being around like-minded individuals, and this job has fulfilled that. Fun and very challenging, playing music onboard a ship is rewarding and never dull. you never know how each day will unfold or who you will meet. See the world and make your passion a reality. And ultimately, working on a ship is best described through first hand experience.
Joining Carnival as a musician and singer/songwriter was the best move i could have made to further my music career. The gig has provided me many new opportunities in many areas of my life. I highly recommend performing on the ships, It really has helped me grow as an individual and a musician.
Being a musician on ships introduced me to lots of types of music that I never would have played otherwise. I also really liked the opportunity to visit places that I never would have visited without working on ships. My favourite thing was the social life. I met lots of really great people and made some really good friends.