Working as a Cruise Ship Musician – What It’s Really Like

Working as a Cruise Ship musician is not as easy as it sounds. Although the experience is worthwhile and amazing, there are certain skills you should possess. In a nutshell, cruise ship musicians need to be extremely proficient musicians and well-rounded as well.

The chance of having a steady job in a setting as peculiar (and luxurious) as a cruise ship attracts thousands of musicians, who apply to become part of a ship crew. However, as glamorous and exciting as this opportunity sounds, not everyone has the right skills and personality to embark on such a journey.

In this article, we’ll see what requirements you should have to apply for this kind of job and what you should expect when that job is yours.

  • Working as a cruise ship musician has its perks like a steady paycheck, playing for large audiences, and you get a lot of practice playing live.
  • It also has its cons like being away from your family for months on end, following a very demanding schedule, sharing quarters, and playing already overplayed popular sets and music (multiple times a day).
  • Being a cruise ship musician is not for everyone as it also requires a certain mental focus. It can be isolating, overwhelming, or even depressing.
  • The dynamics of living and working as a cruise ship musician can be odd, as the ship passengers change regularly.
  • The biggest benefit is probably having the option to travel while doing what you love which is music.
  • To be a cruise ship musician, you’ll need great instrumental, sight reading, improvisational, and people skills. Additionally, you should be flexible regarding genres and style, have the stamina, and know a vast repertoire of music.

The Cruise Ship Musician Lifestyle

Life on a cruise ship can be exciting, but also quite peculiar. You will meet many interesting people and work closely with other talented artists. You’ll have the opportunity to travel around the world and see new places.

However, some companies have strict rules concerning the behavior of their staff. Employees often have areas, such as bars and gyms, reserved for them and cannot hang out where the clients are. Rooms are often shared with other workers, almost always strangers and usually talking a different language than yours.

Working hours are often long but flexible, depending on your position and shifts. You may also be required to attend safety drills and you should comply with safety rules at all times.

Overall, the job is good but not as glamorous and ‘easy’ as everyone seems to think. There are certain rules to abide by, work can be tiresome, but, the experience surely makes up for everything.

The Pros and Cons of working as a Cruise Ship Musician


  • Regular and good paychecks
  • The option to travel while doing what you love (playing music)
  • Low expenses (accommodation and food taken care of)
  • Meeting new and exciting people
  • Health insurance covered
  • Further sharpening your musical skills


  • A long time away from family
  • Demanding schedule (playing multiple sets a day)
  • Living in close quarters with other people
  • Can be isolating, overwhelming, or even depressing at some point (for some)
  • Only one night off per week

Are you the right fit?

When considering applying for a cruise job you have to be realistic and honestly assess your skills. First of all, on cruise ships, there are many different gigs available for musicians. A classic option is joining the house orchestra or showband, but soloists, acoustic duos and trios, and even party bands are often requested for different kinds of shows in different settings.

Cruise ships often have bars, restaurants, halls, and a house theatre, places where music is constantly requested to entertain the clients.

Due to this variety of positions, the requirements can vary a lot. Generally, you should be able to improvise and take any requests from customers, no matter if you’re the first violin in the house orchestra or a soloist pianist in a restaurant.

If you are applying for orchestral jobs, in particular, you must be able to sight-read as new tunes can be added to the repertoire with virtually no notice.

Formal education is usually not required, but you must be very good at your instrument and have sharp musicianship skills. On top of excellent musical qualities, you will also need very good people skills as you will have to deal with many customers and many other workers on your team.

You should always look and act professional, be available and responsive, and be flexible and ready to face sudden changes.

Skills and Things Required

Overall, as mentioned above, there are certain skills and things a cruise ship musician is required to have.

  • Great instrumental skills
  • Flexible regarding genres and style
  • Sight reading (music theory)
  • Improvisational skills
  • Stamina (one very important trait!)
  • People skills (communication)
  • Vast repertoire of music

How long will I be Embarked?

Contracts can vary a lot in terms of length. Depending on the kind of show you are assigned to, you could be booked for as little as a few weeks or as long as six months.

For even more information, the YouTube channel DavidColaDrums has a good video posted about the subject and answers various kinds of questions about what it’s like working as a cruise ship musician.

How much will I get Paid?

Cruise jobs usually pay well. You can earn a few thousand bucks a month (on average between $1800-$2700) and you won’t have many expenses because food, accommodation, and transfers from your home to the port will be covered by the company.

Tips and Tricks

The cruise entertainment industry is quite hectic. After applying for a job, you might receive an offer with very little notice. This means you should always be available, respond quickly, and be prepared to leave as soon as the company needs you.

For this reason, this kind of job may be more suitable for single people. Also, it might be better not to apply if you are working on another project (such as an album or a tour).

If you get a job as a cruise ship musician but still need to get back home within a certain amount of time, make sure to check how long the contract will last before accepting the offer. Life onboard can be difficult, but working as a musician on a cruise ship can be a one-of-a-kind experience.

You might even improve your musicianship skills and grow as an artist, as you’ll have to face challenges and learn how to think and act quickly.

For more information about this kind of job, you can visit useful websites and blogs, such as CruiseJobFinder.

For other tips and more details about the requirements needed to work on a cruise ship, simply visit the “Work With Us” section of any cruise company you can think of.

You might also want to consider joining an agency specialized in this kind of work. They will be able to assist you at every stage of your application.


Cruise ship musicians have a good thing going for them (for the most part), but life on a cruise ship for a musician is not as easy as it might seem though. They work long hours, need to be extremely proficient in many areas, have excellent people skills, and more. However, the pay is decent, there are no extra expenses, and the experience is definitely worthwhile.

Brian Clark

Brian Clark

I’ve been a writer with Musician Wave for six years, turning my 17-year journey as a multi-instrumentalist and music producer into insightful news, tutorials, reviews, and features.

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