It is impossible to work a contract aboard a cruise ship and not be exposed to tons of new music. The constant interaction between musicians from different cultures and backgrounds, coupled with the nature of the job itself, results in the continual broadening of one’s musical horizons. And even if there are a few songs here and there which you don’t particularly like, this repertoire expansion will, without fail, make you a more well-rounded and knowledgeable musician.

Members of lounge groups and soloists will all find that their audiences on any particular ship, cruise in and cruise out, prefer certain genres and artists. At the risk of generalizing, cruisers out of Miami will be looking to Salsa dance; audiences out of Texas will likely request country; New Yorkers will likely appreciate jazz, and Europeans may be especially receptive to classical (as well as pop artists virtually unknown in the States). All this translates to the adaptation of groups and soloists to their respective environments by learning new material in order to best satisfy their respective audiences.

The situation is slightly different for orchestra musicians, who generally have considerably less interaction with guests, but who are subjected to a musical smorgasbord of genres, artists and songs as a result of the orchestra schedule. With a minimum of two production shows per cruise, each chock-full of songs in various styles, as well as a collection of jazz, rock, pop and funk sets, every orchestra musician will be exposed to new musical material, no matter how well-rounded and knowledgeable he or she is.

But the real musical osmosis takes place off the bandstands — that is, the exchange of music off hard drives and computers by various musicians throughout the department. There is such an inherent diversity, with respect to culture as well as musical upbringing, that any one person onboard will have something new and exciting to share with anyone else. By the time a first-contract musician walks off the ship to head back home, he will likely be amazed at the amount of new music he’ll have listened to, learned, and received.

And then it’s time to pay it forward — show musicians on your next ship your favorite bands you were exposed to on your last ship! And on, and on, and on …