From Application to Embarkation - Becoming A Cruise Ship Musician Skip to main content
May 22, 2018  • 

From Application to Embarkation: Becoming A Cruise Ship Musician

What is the first step towards becoming a cruise ship musician? What comes after that? And if you get a gig offer, what happens then? A large part of our team consists of former cruise musicians, so we know how important it is to understand every step of the process. That’s why we’ve put together this article explaining the complete timeline you can expect from the time you submit an online application, to the moment you step on board your first ship.

Before Applying

Even if you feel ready to click the “apply” button,it is important you take time to ponder what it would be like to work and live on a cruise ship and whether you honestly think you’d be up for it. Consult our FAQ section, read about the pros and cons of working on ships and any or all of these other useful articles. Tune into our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for sneak peeks of what to expect.


When you are ready to complete the application, select the category that best applies to your strongest musical talent and begin. Be ready to attach links to your EPK , song lists, videos of you playing live (not dubbed, please!), and bio or musical C.V. Once you’ve hit the “submit” button, wait for the confirmation email with a copy of your application, which confirms you’ve successfully applied. One of our agents will receive and review all of your information, but please be patient! This may take a few days. If the agent thinks you could qualify for cruise gigs, he or she will give you a call to talk more about your skills and our opportunities, ask you basic questions that everybody must answer. If everything is in line with our standard requirements, the agent will schedule an audition.

The Audition

We audition every candidate for showband and orchestra positions to ensure that each entertainer we hire meets the performance caliber we require. Our audition process is designed with all of our clients' (cruise ships, hotels, casinos, theme parks) needs in mind so we can determine for which cruise lines a candidate is suitable, without the need for more than one audition. Auditions happen over the phone from anywhere in the world. Your agent will give you details regarding technical requirements and what you will need to do during the audition itself, but as a general guide, keep in mind you’ll need:

  • Your instrument

  • A digital recording device like a laptop or desktop computer with a webcam, a video camera, or a smartphone or tablet with a recording capacity/memory of 90 minutes of video.

  • A playback device, like an iPod or a computer with loudspeakers (this device must be different than the one used to record the video).

  • Since the audition will be held over the phone, a landline is better for sound quality. Cell phones are permitted but not ideal. Skype may also be possible but it cannot be used on the same device as the playback tracks.

  • A printer.

  • A music stand.

  • A pencil.

  • Professional clothing.

Once your audition is complete we will evaluate your performance and determine if you’d be suitable for the opportunities we have and what options are available to you. On your end, be sure to keep your agent updated on your availability and contact information.

Getting your first cruise gig

Because of our vast network and experience, we are your best connection to the cruise and hospitality industries. We have thousands of job opportunities every year, hundreds monthly. In fact, in the past 30 years we’ve booked over 20,000 contracts! That said, many factors may impact how fast you get your first gig: your particular skills and requirements, current opportunities, emergencies requiring new musicians to join a ship, your availability, how fast visas can get processed if needed, etc. However, once you’ve passed an audition you are on your agent’s radar and an active member of our centralized (and private) musicians database, so when a suitable opportunity comes up your agent will get in touch right away.

We expect you to always reply as soon as possible: if you want to get a gig, it is important that you are easy to reach because many musicians are after opportunities such as these. Your agent will go over the opportunity with you and if you accept, he/she will present your profile to the cruise line. Once they give us the “ok” you will hear from us and our contracting department. Together, we’ll help you complete whatever paperwork you might need, book tickets, and coordinate your arrival with the cruise ship’s management.

On a regular contract, you will usually have four to eight weeks notice to prepare for your departure. The contract’s length itself may vary. Normally our clients prefer to hire people for longer periods of time, the average cruise gig being 4 to 6 months. Short contracts may come from time to time and when they do, there will be little notice—sometimes only 24 hours!

Starting salaries vary and range from approximately $2,000 to $3,000 USD/month for sidemen. Higher salaries can sometimes be negotiated for musicians with lots of ship experience or an outstanding professional career. Either way, remember that other than the expenses you will incur while doing your sightseeing and shopping in port, you will be able to save most of your income. You may have to pay for your internet, phone cards, drinks and store snacks aboard the ship but they come at discounted rates for crew members and your airfare, accommodations, food and laundry will be free of charge.

In addition, you should know that our entertainers don’t pay us anything. Our clients (cruise lines, resorts, casinos, hotels) pay us directly so we can operate on a no-commission and no up-front charges basis with the artists we represent.

Life on board

Most likely, your hours will be long. You can expect to work seven days a week, usually about 5 hours a day as a musician, less as an entertainer, more as a technician. Your schedule will vary from day to day so some days you may not work at all, others you may work a lot! It all depends on your position and you can discuss this with your agent when he or she makes you an offer. As a general rule, when the ship is in port you often have free time to go enjoy attractions and sights, but you may have a late afternoon rehearsal to attend or a lunchtime set to play. When the ship stays in port overnight, it is not uncommon for a third of the ship’s crew to remain onboard in case of emergency. We call this “in-port manning” and it is a duty rotated between all crew so it remains fair. It is paramount that you always return to the vessel before the stated time, which is usually one hour prior to the ship's departure.   

In terms of accommodations, crew members are assigned a crew cabin as soon as they board their vessel. A sideman usually shares a cabin with another musician, while a bandleader, musical director or guest entertainer will usually have a single person cabin. Space on ships is a valuable commodity so cabins are usually small and may take a bit of getting used to. You may also be barred from accessing certain passenger areas, like the casino, passenger cabins, and pools. But most importantly, you will be able to play music for a living and see the world while you are at it!


Now that you’ve considered becoming a cruise musician from every angle and you feel even more convinced that this is the ideal gig for you, go ahead and click on apply!