Gig Business

How to Get a Gig on a Cruise Ship

By Matt Holland

Cruise ship businesses understand that there’s nothing as exciting and intriguing as live entertainment. That’s why they’re continuously in search of a wide range of performers to entertain their guests. Musicians, singers, dancers, DJs, comedians, magicians, and many other performers are sought after for cruise lines, which opens up a lot of opportunity for you. While freelancing has a lot of flexibility and freedom, cruise gigs offer numerous perks. A steady job and thousands of audience members are only an audition away. If you have your sea legs and you’re open for an adventure, a gig on a cruise ship may be perfect for you!

Getting the gig

Many cruise lines will contact specific entertainers they want, reaching out to them directly or through a service like GigSalad. However, you can also take the initiative and chase down the gig yourself. You can apply directly to the cruise ship lines or work with an agency to guarantee a place on a ship.

Applying: The first step to getting a cruise ship gig is to apply. The two major cruise lines are Carnival and Royal Caribbean. With Carnival, you can apply through the Carnival website or by reaching out through social media. For Royal Caribbean, apply directly through their website by submitting a talent form.

If you’d like personalized help finding the perfect cruise gig, there are entertainment agencies like Proship and Lime Entertainment whose sole purpose is to help talent find jobs on cruise ships. These agencies require that you apply and audition with them rather than with the cruise line. If you’re accepted, the agency contacts the cruise ships on your behalf. For the service, you pay a registration fee up front or a small commission fee that’s taken out of your salary once hired.

Auditioning: After you apply, as with all gigs, there’s an audition process. Because many cruises will be in another location than where you’re based, you’re likely going to audition through video calls or submissions rather than in person, which can really work to your advantage if you deal with nerves. Typically, they’re looking for a 4-5 minute video that displays your various talents. To best display your skills, show a few different clips within your submission. If possible, also include a few live clips to show off your stagecraft.

As with any audition process, once your submission is in, you just have to wait to hear back. Cruise lines generally run on a pretty tight schedule, so you can often expect a quick turnaround.

Life at sea

Accommodations and day-to-day activities will vary depending on the cruise line employing you as well as the type of performer you are. However, cruise lines are often very similar. No matter which line you set sail with, you’ll encounter much of the same requirements and practices.

Work schedule: Typically, you’ll perform for 3-5 hours a day with one day off per week. Ships usually give performers a few extra tasks as well, like assisting guests around the ship during embarkment and disembarkment. However, the majority of your working time will be sharing your talent with the many guests!

Free time: Aside from your performance time and occasionally assigned duties, you’re free to enjoy your time as you please. While a few areas are off limits for performers, the majority of the ship is open to you. You can soak up the sun on the deck, take time to practice, or just relax in your room. Remember, you’re not all alone out at sea either. Cruises employ over a thousand people, so you have plenty of chances to make new friends and connections.

Room and board: Your living situation will depend on the ship’s policies and the type of entertainment you offer. Soloists often have their own private cabin, but you may also share a cabin with another entertainer. Most shared cabins consist of two bunk beds and a desk, as well as closet and cabinet space.

The cruise line generally covers all of your meals. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and usually a late night snack will be available to you. Along with a cabin and food, laundry services will also be free and available to use.

Pay: Salaries vary widely but the standard pay is anywhere between $1,800 to $3,000 per month. Depending on the cruise line, you may also have the option of accepting cash tips. Remember, since you won’t be paying rent or buying food on the ship, it’s actually quite possible to go multiple days without spending any of your own money! Because of the low cost of living, it can be a great way to make it through the off season.

Perks

  • A consistent gig – Most entertainers are generally contracted for anywhere from 1 to 6 months. So you’re looking at a minimum of 4 weeks of work. Not too bad!
  • Free cruise! – You’re there to work of course, but you won’t be performing nonstop. You’ll have plenty of chances to relax and enjoy the exotic locales when the ship ports.
  • Performance experience – With thousands of guests and numerous stages, you’ll return home with professional expertise that would have normally taken years to accrue. Crowds of all sizes and types, as well as varying environments, will challenge you and help you grow.
  • Connections – Living with numerous other performers is a great way to make connections for referrals and partnerships as well as long-lasting friends.

Working on a cruise ship is definitely a unique and fun gig opportunity. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience you won’t get anywhere else, so we say go for it! You’ll gain experience, maybe even see some new places, and make some money all while doing what you love. What could be better?

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29 Comments
  1. Dr. Ronald G. Shapiro January 18, 2018

    Interesting reading. Thank you for gathering this information. Ron

    Reply
    • Tessie Barnett January 18, 2018

      We’re happy to do it, Ron! Thanks for reading :)

      Reply
  2. Keegan January 18, 2018

    This is great, thank you!

    Reply
    • Matt Holland January 18, 2018

      Thanks, Keegan! I am glad you found the post helpful. :)

      Reply
  3. Jack Molan January 18, 2018

    I work for a cruise line bound for Alaska. I’m contracted for sixteen trips (presentations) this summer season. The theater is eight-hundred seats, as nice as anything in Vegas.

    Reply
    • Matt Holland January 18, 2018

      Wow, congratulations! That sounds like quite the gig with a great destination. I hope you have a fantastic trip!

      Reply
  4. Scott King (Sings) January 18, 2018

    Thanks for the tips! I’d love to work aboard a cruise ship, personally!

    Reply
    • Matt Holland January 18, 2018

      I am happy to help, Scott! I hope you get an opportunity to set sail soon. :)

      Reply
  5. Ronald Garber January 18, 2018

    Most DJ’s on cruise ships always seem to be having a good time. I have been a DJ for 37 years and have been on 40 cruises. I will be on the “Freedom of the Seas” from April 14 to April 28, 2018. I’ll be out on the dance floor showing the working DJ’s how to dance. I think that if you’re single you can have a really good time djing on a cruise ship.
    I’m personally too old to DJ on a cruise ship, but I love the Caribbean.

    DJ Ron Garber

    Reply
    • Matt Holland January 18, 2018

      You can’t beat good music in a beautiful location. I hope you have a great cruise, Ron!

      Reply
  6. Ron Lighty January 18, 2018

    I have tried to get a job as a balloon twister on a ship and I understand Royal Caribbean may be a possibility.

    Reply
    • Tessie Barnett January 18, 2018

      Go for it, Ron!

      Reply
  7. Kim January 18, 2018

    Nice article, but unfortunately, not helpful for my type of music-calypso & reggae. I have been trying since the late 90’s to get a cruise ship gig. Every single time without even progressing past the initial conversation, I am asked if I am from the Caribbean. When I say, “No,” I am told they are looking for someone who is “authentic-looking”, meaning they are looking for a person of color. Sad that there are still stereotypes about what a steel band should “look like.”

    Reply
    • Tessie Barnett January 18, 2018

      That’s unfortunate. I’m sorry, Kim. I don’t want that to stop you from performing elsewhere. I think there are some great opportunities out there for calypso and reggae bands. We see all kinds of events requesting your style of music: Artwalks, festivals, community fairs, cultural events, college events, and private parties. Have you tried connecting with restaurant owners in your area? You could add to the ambience of a local dining spot and potentially acquire an ongoing/regular gig.

      Reply
  8. Brian (Red Skelton) Hoffman January 18, 2018

    Thanks for giving us a heads up!

    Reply
  9. Charles Strachan January 18, 2018

    I have done a few cruise lines in the past, but to be honest, it is uprooting your life and doing lots of traveling for not the greatest amount of money. However, if you are single or they allow you to bring your husband or partner, it can be a fun thing to do from time to time.

    Reply
    • Tessie Barnett January 18, 2018

      That’s really good to know. I imagine you’d have to have a pretty open schedule to leave for a gig that could last up to 3 months. Thanks for your perspective!

      Reply
  10. Robert McArthur January 18, 2018

    Wow, $3000 a month is highly disappointing. I thought cruise ships payed much more than that. And you have to perform 3 times a day and possibly share a bunk? And perform other duties?

    Reply
    • Matt Holland January 19, 2018

      The pay varies tremendously but the average salary is between $1800-$3000 a month. Some performers collect cash tips as well and enjoy the perks of a cruise ship gig, but it certainly doesn’t work for everyone. Just an option for those who are interested!

      Reply
  11. Joey Zsa Zsa January 18, 2018

    This info was so helpful. I have been trying to understand the procedure of auditioning or at least submitting my work for the possibility of getting booked on a cruise ship, and I’ll tell ya that just searching on the internet does not help at all.

    Reply
    • Matt Holland January 19, 2018

      I’m glad to hear we could help! There certainly is a lot of information out there to look through. If you want some more general information, many of the agency and cruise ship sites have great FAQ sections with a ton of practical answers.

      Reply
  12. Ian Halman January 18, 2018

    I can’t read music but have been performing live since the age of 17. Do the cruise lines ever book entire rock bands? Ian

    Reply
    • Matt Holland January 19, 2018

      Great question, Ian! Many of the auditions will ask you to sight read. However, many cruise lines love to simply book a polished band that has a lot of experience (specifically cover bands). You’ll want to develop as much material as possible to show you can keep the show fresh throughout the cruise.

      Reply
  13. Konrad Kayne January 18, 2018

    What about SANTA? He wouldn’t be opposed to a cruise now and again.

    Reply
    • Matt Holland January 19, 2018

      Many cruise lines have holiday-themed trips with various Christmas themed characters! A position as Santa would be a position for which you would want to apply directly to the specific cruise line. You can look at their job openings throughout the year online.

      Reply
  14. Santa Jim Daly January 19, 2018

    I’d love to work as Santa during the month of December. I’ll have to look into it.

    Reply
    • Matt Holland January 19, 2018

      That would be great, Santa Jim! You can check out the various job openings for cruise lines throughout the year online. If you land a December cruise gig, we’d love to hear how it goes!

      Reply
  15. Tony Bennett January 22, 2018

    The Other Tony Bennett, recent 4 Time America’s Got Talent Contestant – All Genres – All Events! Can Anyone help Me Gig Gig Leads?

    Reply
    • Tessie Barnett January 23, 2018

      Hi Tony! We’d be happy to help! We can give you customized tips with a free profile consultation, if you’re interested? If so, give us a call at 417-889-9909.

      Reply

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