Cruise Ships Changed my Life!

It sounds like the start of a bad infomercial.  Cheesy.  Overly dramatic.  Most likely hyperbole – a complete exaggeration of the truth, if there’s any truth there at all.

The funny thing, being a skeptic myself, is that I’d be hard-pressed to find a statement describing my life which is more accurate.

The funny thing, being a skeptic myself, is that I’d be hard-pressed to find a statement describing my life which is more accurate.

I’ll explain.

First off, cruise ships taught me how to be a musician.  I had the technique and theoretical knowledge to call myself a pianist, but it wasn’t until I joined the Carnival Victory in 2006 that I began to learn the intangibles: how to make music from notes on a page; how to embrace different styles; how to contribute to the sound of a group without sounding stiff, lame, or overbearing.  Every contract taught me something different – how to play jazz better, how to play pop better, how to use appropriate sound patches on my keyboards, and so on.  And though I believe I’ve continued to grow musically since leaving ships, none of what I do now, as a professional musician, would be possible without the foundation that cruise ships gave me.

While on board, I met some musicians who introduced me to a large New England-based organization that hires for private parties, corporate functions, and all sorts of other gigs, called the Sultans.  On my subsequent vacation between cruise contracts, I played a wedding with them; the following year, I played most of a full season with them; a full decade later, I’m still performing thirty dates each summer with different bands within the Sultans organization.  Aside from the income, which was especially crucial when I was starting Lime, performing with the group has allowed me to network with tons of other musicians, leading to new gig opportunities for myself; an intersection with Lime for sourcing and recruitment; and gig-related travel which led me to find Martha’s Vineyard, currently my favorite place to spend time on the planet.  Yes, it’s a bit more indirect, but cruise ships are at the root of all of this.

And finally, there’s Lime itself.  Ever since its inception, Lime has given my life purpose and direction.  It’s been the one constant in an otherwise transient and nomadic life I’ve led for the past several years.  And Lime would have never come to exist without a) my years on ships that gave me the understanding of this industry, and b) my business partner, Fede Rios, who, at this point, is more like family to me than a friend.  Fede and I were roommates and bandmates on the Carnival Miracle, and it would be several years before he’d approach me with the idea of starting an agency, but it’s without question that none of this – none of all this! – would have happened had we not met on that ship.

And if you think my “Cruise ships changed my life” case is compelling, Fede’s is even better.  Of course, there’s the storyline of Lime, similar to mine, which has given him both purpose and fulfillment.  Working on ships also provided Fede the opportunity – through his honed musicianship, but also the English skills, the confidence, the financial independence – to move from Argentina to England before settling in Barcelona, Spain.  Oh, and he also met his wife, Yana – on board the same ship he met me, no less – who’s been an incredible source of inspiration for him, as well as for me.  Maybe Fede will write a similar piece himself at some point and elaborate on the amazing journey propelled by his experiences on board ships.

Yes, you can make the argument that any one choice or event can alter your life’s trajectory.  Certainly one particular job or employment opportunity can lead to others.  But my point is that cruise ships are more than that.  They’re the gamma rays to The Hulk, Planet Zero to the Fantastic Four, the radioactive spider to Spider Man.  You never know what will come of your time performing at sea, but if you embrace the environment and open yourself up to new people, places, and experiences, it might send you off in a direction you never expected, or thought possible, or even knew existed!  If you told me thirteen years ago that I’d be running a talent agency with an Argentinian business partner, I would have looked at you like you had three heads.  But here we are, and here I am.

So when we say that cruise ships changed our lives, we truly mean it.  As for me, I could not be more grateful, and everything I do at Lime is about paying that gratitude forward to each and every musician we represent and support.

If you’ve worked on ships, then you already understand.  And if you haven’t: take the leap, sail out to sea, and give it the chance to change yours.

Sam Rothberg
Co-founder, Lime Entertainment

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