Frequently Asked Questions
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All cruise lines require a valid passport and a medical exam; other potential requirements include visas, background checks, English proficiency tests, and more. First things first: let’s get you a contract, and then we’ll help you take care of all the paperwork.
Probably not, as English is the universal language spoken on almost all cruise lines, and you will be expected to understand general safety instructions as well as communicate with your bosses, fellow crew members, and guests on board. However, we make sure to test your English during our audition process — let us be the judge of whether you’re qualified!
Yes, proof of COVID vaccination is mandatory for all crew members; most lines also require a booster. You can apply and audition with us if you’re not vaccinated, but if you pass our audition, you should be prepared to get the vaccine immediately so as to become eligible for contract offers.
Before I arrive
Most contracts last for 4 to 6 months, but it varies based on your position, the particular cruise line, and other factors. It is important to note that a contract is one continuous length of time, without any sort of vacation or work break in the middle. It’s often possible to extend your contract, should you wish to work for longer than your assigned finish date, but you can decide that for yourself once you’ve spent some time on board.
Yes, most musicians will need to bring gear. Guitarists are required to bring at least one guitar, their pedalboard, and cables; bassists must bring their bass and cables. Neither position is required to bring an amp. Depending on the cruise line, sax players must bring at least one sax, a flute and a clarinet; trumpets need to bring their flugelhorns and mutes, as do trombonists. Drummers aren’t required to bring a kit, but must bring their own cymbals as well as a hi-hat clutch, sticks, mallets, rods, brushes, etc. Pianists aren’t required to bring any gear, although taking along your own small keyboard might come in handy. Vocalists are welcome to bring their own mic, but it’s not required. We’ll be sure to go over all this with you, specific to your instrument, before you join any ship.
The basics? All relevant musical gear, ship-related paperwork, and clothes. What you end up packing will vary based on the cruise line, specific itinerary of the ship, and of course, your personal preferences. Bring only small, travel-sized toiletries (shampoo, body soap, toothpaste, etc) because they weigh down your suitcase and you can easily buy those items in large volume once you arrive in your home port city. No need to bring towels. Books, electronics, and other entertainment are recommended for leisure purposes, but again, can be purchased in ports once you arrive on board. Do bring some money, as you might not get paid for two or three weeks after arriving on board. We can advise more specifically once you have a contract confirmed.
In short: a suit, some nicer clothes, some comfortable clothes, and probably some beach clothes. If the ship’s run is in a warm-weather climate (the Caribbean, Mediterranean, etc), t-shirts, shorts, swim trunks, flip flops, and sunglasses are recommended; a colder run (Alaska, the Baltic, etc) might necessitate sweaters and a jacket. In either case, definitely bring some comfortable clothes for yourself (shirts, jeans, etc) and some nicer clothing (collared shirts, khakis, dresses) to wear in guest areas. You will almost always need to bring at least one suit and at least one button-down shirt and tie, or at least one formal dress.
Nope! The cruise line will provide transportation and cover those expenses, and if it is necessary for you to stay in a hotel as part of your transit to the ship, the cruise line will pay for that, as well. Likewise, travel from the cruise ship to your home city at the end of your contract will be arranged and paid for.
Simply continue to practice as you normally do, and we will let you know if there’s anything specific we believe you should focus on before leaving for the ship. Musical preparation will depend largely on the position for which you are hired. For houseband musicians, we always try to pass along sheet music and tracks for the specific shows you’ll be playing, and for soloists and groups, we’ll try to get a hold of a weekly schedule, themed sets, and other useful info.
Usually 3 or 4. This depends on many things, from the run of the ship and the clientele of the ship to your boss, that boss’s boss, and the cruise line itself. The maximum number of working hours is generally 5, including small breaks in between sets, but on most lines, 3-hour nights are more common. As well, individuals and groups usually get one day off per week, though not every line guarantees regular days off.
Yes, but not many. At the beginning of each cruise, all guests and crew must participate in a 30-minute safety drill. Your role during that drill will most likely be to usher passengers to the areas of the ship designated for emergency situations and then supervise the guests until the completion of the drill. There are also crew drills (not involving guests) to practice in the case of an actual emergency. Aside from these drills, extra duties depend on the cruise line; some lines will use musicians for small tasks like assisting guests during embarkation or debarkation.
Your boss’s title is ‘musical director’, ‘music manager’, or ‘bandleader’; they’re usually in charge of all musical entertainment on the ship. If you are a houseband musician, you will work directly with your musical director (MD), who runs the houseband; all other groups will report to the MD for shipboard-related issues (schedule changes, equipment problems, guest interaction, etc). Your MD will be the one informing you about safety trainings, department meetings and ship rules and regulations, and should be able to answer any questions and help you with any minor concerns or problems. (Of course, Lime can help you with questions, concerns, problems, etc, as well!)
Short answer: yes (and we encourage you to do so!), though it does depend on the layout of the ship and what instrument you play. Pianists can usually use one of the baby grand pianos in different lounges around the ship, as long as there isn’t a function going on in that particular room. Bassists and guitarists can practice in their cabins with headphones, use one of the 2 or 3 lounges with an amp (again, as long as the room isn’t being used), or move the amp to a dark lounge and then return the amp when finished. Horn players can usually find a small room adjacent to the main stage or, again, an unused lounge. Drummers are generally restricted to the two or three lounges with drum sets, so bringing a practice pad is recommended; sometimes there are electronic drum kits which can be used for practice, as well. In general, the best times to practice are when the ship is in port, as most guests will be off the ship and there will therefore be a much smaller chance of disturbing anyone with your playing.
Some — but not all — lines allow this. On ships which do permit the selling of your CD or digital media, it must be approved by the specific cruise line’s head office before you’re allowed to do so (to ensure that it is of professional quality). Once approved, your media will then be sold in the gift shop; that said, you will not be allowed to sell it before / during / after your sets directly to the guests.
Absolutely! The vast majority of guests get off the ship in the various ports, and since your job is to entertain guests, the lack of guests on board means that you get most of that time off, too. Often, you will be allowed off the ship for the full duration of time that the ship is in a certain port. Houseband musicians may have a rehearsal that would require them to come back to the ship early, and soloists and bands may be scheduled for afternoon or early evening sets if the ship stays in a port until late at night, but these circumstances are less common. The only major exception — when you will need to stay on board — is when you are assigned “port manning”. Port manning is the result of the industry-wide safety regulation that a certain number of crew members must always be on board the ship at any given time. Every musician will thus be part of a port manning rotation which will require you to remain on the ship for one port day or a series of port days every month or two. The good news is that you’ll probably only have to do port manning a handful of times during your contract, and sometimes it’s nice to have a reason to relax on board and save money you’d otherwise spend out in port.
Yes. Musicians generally have access to all lounges and areas of the ship, provided they are dressed appropriately. There are occasional exceptions, such as a small relaxation area for guests that is designated as off-limits for all crew members, or certain hours when crew members are prohibited from the guest buffet area or the guest gym, but these limitations are minimal; on most lines and in most situations, you can go anywhere you like on the ship. Except guests’ private cabins, though — those are strictly off-limits, and that policy is taken with the utmost seriousness.
Mostly anything you want! There are certainly many options to keep yourself busy. You can practice. You can stay in shape by going to the gym. You can lay outside in the sunshine and read a book or listen to music. You can learn a new language at the crew training center. Or you can lay in your bed and watch movies all day until you have to get dressed for work. One of the best aspects of shipboard life as a musician is the large amount of free time you’ll have, and you can choose to spend it just about any way you like.
Most musicians share a cabin with another member of the entertainment department. Shared cabins include bunk beds, a desk, and a closet and cabinets for both you and your roommate. It is most likely that your roommate will be another musician, but occasionally a dancer, technician, or other member of the entertainment department will be placed with you, based on the department’s accommodation setup. Musical directors get their own cabin, and soloists will often have their own room, as well.
Most often, you will eat your meals in a buffet-style cafeteria with the rest of the entertainment department, as well as a few other departments from the ship (casino, gift shop, security, etc). Generally, breakfast is served from 7-9 am, lunch from 11:30 am-1:30 pm, dinner from 6-9 pm, and late-night food is often available sometime between 10 pm and 2 am. The buffet meals generally include multiple meats, rice, pasta and at least one vegetarian option. In addition to the staff cafeteria, it may be possible to eat at the guest buffets at certain times of day; this privilege depends largely on the cruise line but can also vary amongst different ships within the same cruise line.
Indeed, there is. You will have access to WiFi which you can use in most areas of the ship. That said, it isn’t free; you’ll need to purchase an internet plan. Costs vary depending on the line and the WiFi package — some plans are by the minute (say, $20 for 4 hours), and others are per day or week for a set cost. In addition to purchasing internet plans on board the ship, many crew members frequent restaurants and cafes in port with WiFi, where access is free with the purchase of food or drink and the connection is often faster than on the ship.
Sure, you can make phone calls to landlines and cell phone numbers using the ship’s satellite system, but similar to the on-board internet, you’ll need to purchase a phone card. Phone cards cost roughly $10 and the per-minute cost of a call is dependent upon the country you’re calling; for example, a single phone card spent calling the U.S. will yield roughly an hour of talking time. We recommend this option only for important calls; all other communication can be done via internet using WhatsApp, Zoom, etc.
Yes, your family and friends are welcome to come cruise, although it is rarely possible for any family member to come live with you on board. Cruise lines have varying policies on friends and family cruising, but they often require you to work on board for a total of 6 months before you become eligible for a crew family discount (up until that time, they can come cruise as standard passengers). Crew discounts vary based on the cruise line, the specific dates of the requested cruise, and the availability of cabins in both guest and crew areas, and can vary from 15 or 20% off the normal passenger price to $7 per day in unique circumstances where certain crew cabins can be used.
100%. Drunkenness, drugs, fighting, stealing, harassment and intimate relations with a guest are all grounds for immediate termination of one’s contract on board, and can result in your being sent home. There is a zero-tolerance policy for any drug use (enforced by random drugs tests), physically fighting with a guest or crew member, stealing from a guest or crew member, and harassment of guest or crew. Drinking alcohol is not allowed while working, and only a small amount of alcohol can be consumed when off-duty.
At this point, thankfully, just about all restrictions and limitations that were implemented due to COVID have been lifted, and crew life is back to normal. That said, if COVID cases on board do arise, the ship still has the authority to re-enact restrictions, for the safety of crew and guests, until the situation is resolved.
Salaries vary greatly based on several factors: cruise line, on-board position, instrument, experience, and seniority, among others. As an approximate guide, houseband musicians typically earn $2200 to $2800/month; duo, trio, and party band musicians between $2400 and $3000/month; and soloists from $3000 to $4000/month.
You will get paid once or twice per month. For most positions on most lines, the cruise line pays you via direct deposit. You’ll set up your account once on board, which can be accessed online, and then your paychecks are automatically deposited to that account; you’ll also receive an international debit card. There are ATMs on the ship for you to withdraw cash, and the online access makes money transfers and the managing of your account straightforward and easy. There are a handful of positions where we pay your salary; in these cases, we’ll transfer your salary directly to your bank account of choice. All of our partner cruise lines pay in US dollars.
Your costs will be minimal compared to a normal life on land, but will vary according to your lifestyle on the ship. Accommodation is completely free — no rent payments! As well, all services in crew areas (food, laundry, etc) are free, with the exception of discounted alcohol, soda, and bottled water sold specifically for crew members. Goods and services for passengers are usually also offered to crew members at discount prices, including items from the gift shop (jewelry, suntan lotion, cigarettes, etc), coffee and pastries from the coffee shop (you can make coffee in the crew cafeteria for free), massages and haircuts from the spa, and alcohol from the bars. However, if you choose to simply eat three meals from the crew cafeteria and stay away from the bar at night, you’ll spend approximately $0 on a daily basis.
It depends on your nationality and the country in which the cruise line conducts business. U.S. citizens working on U.S.-based cruise lines will usually have a percentage of their salary automatically deducted from each paycheck; most other nationalities will not, but may be required to pay taxes by their respective governments as long as they must declare their income. Non-U.S. citizens should check with an accountant from his or her own country for more information.
Yes. If a guest is enjoying your performance and wishes to give you cash to show his or her appreciation, you can accept it. However, only certain positions are allowed to promote the act of tipping either verbally or by the use of a tip jar. Piano bar entertainers are usually allowed to promote tipping; permission for other soloists and bands to do so will depend on the policies of the cruise line.
Yes. If you have valuables and feel uncomfortable about leaving them in your cabin, you can bring them to the staff administration office, where they will be placed in a lockbox. You will be provided a key to the lockbox and can access your valuables any time the office is open. As well, you can bring or buy small locks to attach to your backpacks and bags if you’re concerned about the safety of certain items but don’t wish to use the staff administration’s services. If anything, secure storage of your valuables will be almost entirely for your own peace of mind, as incidents of theft on board are very rare.
Of course! Our biggest priority is the happiness and well-being of our performers, and we will do anything we can to ensure that you’re enjoying your time at sea. Small matters can usually be resolved on board without our involvement, but if you feel that an issue is important enough to contact us, we will offer advice and, when appropriate, reach out to the cruise line’s head office in order to care of the matter quickly and in the way that is most beneficial to you.
Absolutely! Once you been on board a ship long enough to decide that you’d like to do a second contract, simply let us know how much vacation time you’d like following the completion of your first contract, as well as any other preferences you might have, and we’ll take care of the rest!
It depends! Lime has many cruise line partners, and arrangements vary from line to line. Whenever possible, we don’t charge our performers, but sometimes, we do charge commission (a small percentage of one’s salary on board). In these cases, we do our best to increase our performers’ starting salaries to offset any commission owed. It’s also worth noting that we audition, confirm contracts, assist with all required documentation, and provide all pre-boarding information before our performers are required to pay a cent.
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