What documentation will I need?
All cruise lines require a valid passport, background check and a medical exam from all employees. Depending on your citizenship, a visa may also be required. Once hired, you'll receive a Letter of Employment which you can take to a designated Embassy in order to obtain the necessary visa. Depending on your destination, some countries will require an entrance visa as well. We will assist you in obtaining all the necessary documents you need. There may be other requirements based on the cruise line and its itinerary. Once a contract has been secured, we will inform you of the specifics and will help you take care of all the paperwork.
How long will my contract be?
Cruise lines require you to be available for 4-6 months on your first contract, however, sometimes it's negotiable. These are continuos contracts which means you'll be assigned to a ship and spend the entire duration on that particular vessel. This also means 4-6 months of traveling and steady paychecks!
What language is required for the cruise lines?
English is the universal language spoken. You will be expected to understand general safety instructions as well as directions from your Musical Director, fellow Staff and Crew on board.
As part of our audition process, all prospective candidates (U.S. and Non-U.S. Citizens), are required to take a mandatory English Fluency Interview (EFI) by video call. The English Fluency Interview has been implemented to ensure every candidate can understand and communicate the English language clearly and effectively.
What are the auditions like for Showband Musicians?
Our auditions are designed to make sure you can comfortably play the types of music you will encounter on board. They consist of production show material, big band charts, and sample guest entertainer charts. We need to be confident that you are able to perform at the level the cruise lines demand. For more information on auditions for Showband Musicians, click here.
What are the submission requirements for other cruise ship positions?
All other applicants (not for the Showband) will need to submit a Video, Song List, and Bio/Resume to be considered. Be sure to check out our article 'Essentials for Promo Submissions' in the Musicians Resources page to find more detials on what we're looking for in the ideal submission.
Do I need to pass a drug test / medical exam?
Yes. All hired musicians and entertainers must pass a pre-employment medial exam prior to employment. This includes a physical, drug test, blood test & chest x-ray. Medicals are paid out-of-pocket and results are good for two years from the date they're administered.
Do I have medical coverage while on board?
Absolutely. All ships have a medical facility staffed by excellent doctors and nurses. If you fall ill, your treatment will be covered. If the on board medical facility feels you need to see a different specialist shoreside, your treatment and accommodations will be covered at no cost to you.
Do I have to buy my own flight and set up accommodations?
No. We will make all your travel arrangements and the cost is fully covered by the cruise line of hire. If you are staying overnight before joining the ship, the hotel and transportation will be taken care. And for your return, travel from the ship to your home airport is covered as well. We coordiante all your travel details and always do our best to make it as seamless as possible.
How do I get paid on board?
As an employee on board, you will be paid twice a month in U.S. currency, either by cash or via direct deposit. Many cruise lines use 'Salary At Sea' cards which are basically debit cards that the cruise lines will directly deposit your salary to. If direct deposit is unavailable, you can elect to send a wire transfer or exchange the cash for a money order.
Will I have to pay taxes?
Federal taxes are deducted for US Citizens, however; state taxes are not. If you are a non-US Citizen, it is your responsibility to declare your income made on board.
Is there internet on board?
Yes. You will have 24/7 access to Wi-Fi which you can use in most areas of the ship. However, you will need to purchase an internet card on board to log onto the ship's Wi-Fi. In addition to purchasing internet cards, many crew members visit internet cafes/restaurants in port, where access to Wi-Fi is available and in most cases, free!
Where will I live on board?
You will be living in the designated crew area. Cabins vary a bit depending on the position you’re hired for. However, most of the time, if you work in the theater showband or one of the lounge bands around the ship, you will most likely share a cabin with one other person from your band. If you are hired as a soloist, you will typically have a single cabin. Bandmasters / Musicial Directors are usually a member of the showband and will have a single cabin. To get a better idea of life on board, be sure to check out our article 'A Look at Cruise Ship Musician Life' in the Musicians Resources page.
If I'm a sax player, do I need to play flute and clarinet?
Yes. All the major cruise lines require alto and tenor players to be proficient on flute and clarinet.
Will I need to bring my own musical equipment?
Yes, but just the basics: Sax players must bring at least one sax, a flute and clarinet. Trumpet and trombone players need to bring their horns and mutes. Guitarists are required to bring at least one guitar, a pedalboard and 1/4 cables. Bassists must bring their bass and 1/4 cables. All guitar and bass amps are provided on board. Drummers must bring their own cymbals as well as sticks, mallets, brushes, etc. Pianists are not required to bring their instrument, however, if you'd like to bring your own keyboard, thats fine. Vocalists should bring one or two mics that their comfortable with. We always reccommend to bring a metronome and headphones with a 1/4 adapter.
Can I sell my CD's on board?
Yes. However, you will need to get the CD approved by the Cruise Line's corporate office prior to selling it on board.
Am I allowed to accept tips from guests?
Yes. you can accept tips from guests. However, whether verbally or by prop, only specific positions are allowed to promote the act of tipping. Piano Bar Entertainers are typically allowed to do so. However, perrmission for other musicians and entertainers will depend on the policies of each specific cruise line.
Will I be able to get off the ship when in port?
Absolutely! One of the great benefits of perfroming on a cruise ship is free travel to many of the world’s most incredible locations. As a musician on board, you will have ample time to enjoy the ports of call.
Will I be expected to perform any duties other than performing music?
Yes, but very few. At the beginning of each cruise, all guests and crew must participate in a 30 - 45 min. mandatory lifeboat drill. Your duty during the drill will most likely be to usher passengers to the areas of the ship designated for emergency situations. As well, there are crew lifeboat drills (not involving guests) required by every cruise line. The frequency of these crew drills depends on the cruise line and the itinerary.
Will I have to pay Flagship Entertainment for their services?
Yes. However, we have an industry low commission rate of 10%. Our audition process is absolutely free, and Flagship will not charge a musician anything until he or she arrives and starts working on a ship. We audition, place musicians, set up future contracts, and provide all the necessary information prior to boarding– free of charge.
Will Flagship be available if I have questions on board.
Absolutely. Our musicians are our top priority. We're here for you! Most minor issues can be resolved on board, however, we're always a phone call or email away if you need us. We take great pride at being by your side, every contract, every time.
What is the average salary for the different music positions on board?
Salaries vary greatly based on the cruise line, your position, your instrument and the number of years you've worked with a certain line. Please keep in mind that the cruise line sets your salary, not us. Here is a general average of what you should expect to earn on board.
Showband Musicians (Trumpet, Sax, Trombone, Keys, Guitar, Bass, Drums) share cabins and start between $2,200 - $3,000 /month (USD)
Bandmasters / MD are usually a member of the showband, have their own cabin and start at about $2,800/month (USD)
Solo Musicians (Piano Bar Entertainers & Guitar / Vocalists) have their own cabin and start between $3,000 - $3,300/month (USD)
Duos & Trios (Classical & Contemporary) share a cabin and start at around $2500/month per person (USD)
Ensembles (Jazz Groups & Party Bands) share a cabin and range between $2400 – $2800/month per person (USD)
Be sure to check out our article 'Cruise Ship Musician Salaries and Perks' in the Musicians Resources page to find more detials including all the perks.
Can I make phone calls while on board?
Yes. You can make phone calls to both landlines and cell phones while on board. However, similar to the on board internet, you'll need to purchase a phone card. Phone cards cost $10 - $20 and the per-minute cost of a call is dependent upon the country you're calling.
Am I allowed in guest areas as a cruise ship musician?
Yes. Musicians have access to most guest areas on board. One of the great perks of the gig! There are some exceptions when crew members are allowed in guest buffet / guest gym areas only for specific hours, however, in general you can go anywhere you'd like on the ship. If you're thinking of entering a guest cabin though, don't…the cruise lines have a Zero-Tolerance Policy and trust us…it's the quickest way to receive a one-way ticket home.
What is the advantage of applying through a recruitment service like Flagship vs applying directly to the cruise lines?
Applying through a recruitment agency like Flagship Entertainment, offers 3 major perks:
PERK #1 - Multiple Job Opportunities
Flagship Entertainment provides multiple job opportunities to musicians and entertainers by working with several major cruise lines. When you apply with us, you're applying to multiple cruise lines at the same time.
Deciding to apply direct may be a good option if you are certain you want to pursue your career with a specific cruise line. However, you will find that working with multiple cruise lines can give you more options to the find the absolute perfect fit gig. Flagship can open up those opportunities and secure a spot (and future gigs) that is best suited for both you and the cruise line of hire.
PERK #2 - Personal attention
A recruitment agency can provide the personal attention needed for musicians and entertainers to be successful in the cruise entertainment industry. From the start of a candidates audition to developing one’s talent and coordinating future contracts on various lines, we're there for you, side-by-side.
In some cases, musicians will choose to approach a cruise line directly. After time, they often feel as if they become a number in their system or simply just lose any sense of contact. Applying direct will save you a small percentage of your salary, but in the end, an agency like us will give you the kind of personal attention and time that you will need to be successful.
PERK #3 - Easy To Apply
Our online application is simple and takes a relatively short amount of time to complete. Most important, our team gets back to you in within 1-5 business days. Also, we offer on-site auditions held in major cities around the world which can be very convenient for those who are slightly less tech savvy and want to apply for a cruise ship position. In contrast, when you apply through a cruise line directly, in can often takes months to hear back, if at all.
Does Flagship look for any certain training or education when hiring musicians?
Most definitely. We like to see that you’ve been studying your craft for many years. As cruise ship jobs are very competitive, you need to be technically sound on your instrument. Cruise ship jobs can be very demanding so if you’ve only been playing for a couple years, then this gig is not for you.
What can aspiring cruise ship musicians do to make themselves competitive candidates for these roles? What do you specifically look for when screening applicants for these positions?
For prospective showband candidates, our best advice is to READ, READ, and READ! Consistently challenge yourself in different settings and read as much music as possible prior to your cruise ship audition. If you feel your reading is up to the cruise lines' standards, then work on fine-tuning your improvisation as it can also play a crucial roll in being hired. These positions are highly competitive (and highly rewarding) therefore, we are looking for candidates that have the full package; advanced sight-reading skills, improvisational skills, and a wide knowledge of a variety of styles. It also helps to show great enthusiasm and a positive outlook on the gig to!
For prospective Entertainers, the importance of your promotional package (video, song list, resume) cannot be overstated. Cruise ship entertainers are hired based on a 7-10 minute video and your supplemental materials! We suggest following these 5 important tips to give you a nice start at preparing your promotional package.
1) Video Song Selection – Generally speaking, keep song selections up-beat and enthusiastic. All song selections should be covers as entertainers will not be playing original music on board. so your promotional video should reflect that. Live footage isn't required, however, any home footage should simulate a live performance environment.
2) Video Song Length – You should always avoid submitting full songs versus excerpts. An effective submission should be about 15, short – 45 second, clips demonstrating a wide variety in style and era.
3) Members In Video – For band submissions, the members in the promo video must be the members who can commit to performing on the ship. Having an engaging and energetic attitude is essential on board and thus is essential to display in your promo as well.
4) Song List – You should submit, preferably in PDF form, at least 200 songs in your list. The selections in your song list will depend on position, however, the list should be well-organized by name, artist and genre. This repertoire list should show that you can perform an impressive range of styles and eras.
5) Performance Resume – This document should include all previous relevant experience. Do include: Any past cruise ship employment, list of venues/dates in which you’ve performed and music education. Do not include: Irrelevant information such as non-music related day-job, education or non-music employment. We get this a lot and have to think twice when we see a non-performance based resume.
Be sure to check out our article 'Essentials for Promo Submissions' in the Musicians Resources page to find more detials on what we're looking for in the ideal submission.
Is there anything people really need to consider before doing this work?
Cruise lines have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to drugs, alcohol, or any sort of harassment. They take this very seriously…and so do we! Also, we always mention that if any musician has a pre-existing health condition to always notify us ahead of time to avoid any potential processing issues. Employment is conditional upon passing a mandatory pre-employment medical exam (PEME). Processing can take some time (1-2 months) so be prepared to get some paperwork done! However, here at Flagship, we make the process as seamless as possible by assisting our musicians step-by-step.
What are the perks of the job? Any downsides?
Some of the perks of being a cruise ship musician include first and foremost, TRAVELING AROUND THE WORLD; but also things like the use of the guest facilities - guest buffet, gym, shops, bars, lounges, and even the specialty restaurants on board. One of the best perks is probably the fact that you literally have the most time amongst all crew members to enjoy the port of call, and see the world! It may be a few hours here and there,however, you’ll step foot in more places than you can imagine. If there are any downsides to the job, it would be that you are away from family and friends for up to 6 months at a time and live in a dorm-style cabin. However, you’ll soon find that the ship becomes a second family and in most cases, you’ll make friendships that can last a lifetime.
What’s the work schedule of a cruise ship musician like? What’s a day on board like?
If you’re in the theatre showband (hired individually) you’ll be playing different shows every night with quite limited rehearsal time. You’ll typically have about an hour rehearsal in the afternoon followed by two evening shows, perhaps at 8pm and 10pm. So reading is absolutely essential.
If you’re working in one of the bands around the ship, you’ll be playing 4-5 45 minute sets for the same group of guests for up to 14 nights in a row, or even more. Now, obviously we don’t expect you to have 4 different sets for 14 nights, but you will need a large repertoire covering a lot of styles. And…be clever about repeating tunes.
Depending on your daily schedule, most musicians have lots of free time to explore the port of call or simply hang out on board. A day may go like this; wake up around 9am, grab a bite to eat and some coffee in the guest buffet. (One of the best perks of being a musician on board is that you are a featured crew member, therefore you have the ability to use most the guest facilities). After breakfast, one might spend a few hours out in port to explore, or in many cases, find a nice place with free wifi to catch up with family and friends. Then, head back to the ship for rehearsal, have a dinner in the guest or crew buffet (your choice) and perform your designated shows in the evening. After your night of music is done, many musicians like to hang out in the crew recreational areas or simply wind down with a free movie available in the cabin.
What type of person would thrive in a cruise ship musician role?
As well as advanced technical skills and professional experience, you need to be an easy going person and able to get along well with others in a close environment. You’ll be working and living closely with your colleagues for up to 6 months at a time so it really helps to be a people person. The cruise ship musicians you work with will be from different parts of the globe so it’s key to be open-minded and have a positiove outlook on the gig!
Are there certain regular routes or destinations that are most frequently traveled? Where can cruise ship musicians expect to go and are they able to explore the destinations?
Italy, Spain, Greece, Caribbean, Hawaii, Asia, Antartica…you name it. If you plan to perform on cruise ships for a few contracts, chances are you’re going to step foot in more places than you could possibly imagine. It's literally getting paid to travel the world and play music everyday. You'll be amazed at the amount of time you have to go ashore and explore these incredible destinations. Also, most cruise lines offer shore excursions to not only guests, but to crew as well, so this can allow you to really soak up the experience. Guests pay thousands of dollars for these cruises and as a cruise ship musician, you get to enjoy all the benefits too.