working as a guitar player
on a cruise ship

how to become a guitar player
on a cruise ship

Here, you can take a look at my practical guide to becoming a cruise ship orchestra guitarist.


It is a manual to improve the most important thing:

your sight-reading.


It also gives you lots of useful information on how to get a job and keep it, as well as tips and ideas for life on board.

trabajar de guitarrista en barcos de crucero libro


Get your Kindle book here

work on a cruise ship as a guitar player


Get in touch to receive the pdf book

what it is like to be a musician on a cruise ship?

i'll let you know my experiencie working as a guitarrist on a cruise ship

During my years as a cruise musician, I realized that we are one of the crew groups that attract the most interest among passengers.


Since music is a topic of conversation and a deeply rooted hobby in all cultures, guests often approached us with questions or wanted to chat about tastes, bands, or instruments.


I liked that a lot since I could talk to people of all nationalities (many of them American), and I realized that our lives as musicians and crew aroused curiosity.

crew life and music onboard cruise ships

If you’ve ever worked on a cruise ship, you’ll know all too well the ins and outs of crew life, as we call it. This lifestyle of choice is, without a doubt, a very interesting phenomenon that brings together a series of unique situations and characteristics in the world.


As musicians, we have the advantage of not working as many hours as crew members in other departments such as room service or catering, who can work 14+ hour shifts for months without a single day off.

I consider myself lucky to have that job option available to me because, unlike many other jobs in the music world, being a cruise ship musician pays well.


That does not mean that we have won the lottery or the «good life», as many times we are accused by other members of the crew. We have worked, studied and invested enough in our training to be rewarded accordingly. I think I can say that it was the only time in my life that I saw my effort as a musician and as a professional duly rewarded.


There are different types of cruise musicians. Depending on the company and especially the size of the boat, we will find more or less number of musicians. In general, they are divided according to the classification mentioned below.


types of musicians working on cruise ships

Usually, at the more conventional lines like Royal Caribbean, Carnival, or NCL, the musicians are divided into three generic groups.


Lounge musicians or venue musicians: formations of two to 5 musicians in charge of entertaining parties and quiet evenings.


We talk about jazz combos, dance music, intimate duets, Caribbean band, etc. They usually bring a repertoire of songs rehearsed from home and suitable for a wide range of audiences: classics and top hits from every genre of commercial music.


In general, they perform throughout the ship’s venues such as bars, halls, swimming pools or small stages.


These musicians come «rehearsed from home». In other words, they will not have the need to practice their repertoire once they board, unless they want to.


His working day usually consists of three 45 min sets a day and one day off a week, approximately.


Orchestra Musicians: These musicians typically embark solo and join the ship’s existing orchestra. In other words, each musician starts and ends his contract on different dates, unlike venue musicians.


Their most common work space is the ship’s theater, and they are in charge of running the production shows, with the cast.


The production shows are shows composed and designed on purpose for each ship and are repeated on each new cruise. The «cast» is a group of professionals that includes dancers, singers and acrobats, who have previously been rehearsing the shows explained above on land.


The orchestra musicians are also in charge of accompanying solo artists, who board punctually to offer a single show per cruise. For these shows, which are usually the most frequent, it is essential to have a high level of musical reading.


The working day for orchestra musicians generally consists of a one-hour rehearsal and then two performances of the same show, about 45 minutes each. They will also have one day off per cruise or per week, approximately.


Solo musicians: These musicians are usually solo pianists or singer-songwriters who bring a repertoire prepared from home.


They perform in the rooms or bars of the ship, providing atmosphere and entertainment for the most romantic and intimate encounters.


They usually have working hours very similar to the venue musicians.


Unlike the other two types of musicians mentioned above, solo musicians enjoy better conditions: they do not share a cabin and usually have better salaries.

would you like to become a guitar player on a cruise ship?

I will share with you a link to a very special article.


It consists of a summary of what is my practical guide to obtaining and keeping the job of orchestra guitarist on cruise ships.


This book, or this guide, is a musical method for sight-reading and a perfect «everything I wish I knew» read before embarking on my first cruise.


I leave you the link below and as I always say, if you prefer to write to me to clarify any questions, do not hesitate to contact me, I will be happy to help.

teatro a bordo de un crucero con músicos

musicians' work contracts onboard cruise ships

It’s important to distinguish between a cruise and a contract when talking to a crew member. For a crew member, the contract assigned to him corresponds to the duration of his work on board the same ship.


For musicians, the duration usually ranges from 2 to 8 months aboard the same ship and contains numerous cruises.


Cruises are the routes that the ship makes, from the moment a group of passengers embarks for the first time until they disembark and return home. Then one cruise ends and another begins.


That is to say, the crew members do not make cruises on the ships, we make contracts, and these contain some or many cruises.


Increasingly, companies such as Royal Caribbean or NCL prepare about 10 days of rehearsals on land for the entire orchestra before embarking. That means having to fly to Miami, in the case of Royal Caribbean, or Tampa, in the case of NCL, to prepare the shows together.


That can be good, as you get to know the partners you’re going to have for the next 6-8 months, but it can also be inconvenient.


Imagine that you live in Australia and your ship sets sail, in the same way, from Australia. Well then, you are going to have to spend more than one day travelling to get to Florida and, after about 10 days, when you have overcome your jet lag, fly back to Australia.

Coexistence when working onboard cruise ships

One of the worst aspects of working as a musician on cruise ships is having to share a cabin or stateroom.


Often these are tiny spaces, with a bunk bed that you will share with a partner, a tiny bathroom, a small desk and a closet. That is, privacy is going to be practically non-existent.


I will never forget, my first contract, when I saw the cabin where I was going to live for the next few months of my life. It seemed like a joke to me.

músicos de crucero duermen en literas

However, I have to admit that, often as the weeks went by, thanks to the company and the good experiences, this space grew larger, until reaching a point where I no longer cared.

a day as a working cruise ship guitar player

There are several types of routines depending on the «type of day» you are in. I would divide them into 3 groups: sea day, port day or crossing. Let’s go see them.


Sea day: the ship is sailing all day:


Normally, these days are not highly appreciated by the musicians, since you cannot do the crew member’s favorite activity: leaving the ship. We spend 6 months or more inside the boat, it is normal for us to feel the urgent need to get out on dry land.


For me, as an orchestra musician, a sailing day would be something like this:

  • 9AM: breakfast in the MESS or crew dining room. Or rather just coffee because breakfast for the crew usually ends at 8am. Study, read, go to the gym, socialize.


  • 12PM: Lunch at the MESS


  • 4PM: 1h rehearsal. Study, read, watch a movie, socialize.


  • 7PM: 45 min show


  • 8PM: Dinner at the passenger buffet. Windjammer for Royal Caribbean, OceanView for Celebrity, etc.


  • 9PM show


  • 10PM: socialize

Port day:

  • 8AM: if the ship has already docked, breakfast at the passenger buffet


  • 9AM: explore the destination port


  • 3PM: It’s usually time to come back. I usually come back a little earlier to get something to eat before rehearsal.

The rest of the day the same as a SEA DAY

Crossing day: the crossing is when a cruise changes season or ocean. The most common is from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean or the Baltic and vice versa. The cruise will spend about 6 or 7 days sailing, without stopping on dry land.

Since there will be no activities off the ship for a week, the entertainment offered on board has to be intensified. A crossing day, for an orchestra musician, would normally be something like this:

  • 9AM: coffee
  • 12PM: 1h rehearal
  • 2PM: matinee show
  • 3PM: lunch
  • 4PM: 1h rehearsal
  • 7PM: show
  • 8PM: dinner at the buffet
  • 9PM: show
  • 10PM: socialise, rest

For venue musicians, party-bands or solo musicians, the schedule will be more or less the same but without the scheduled rehearsals. Obviously, the routine will also vary depending on the tastes and lifestyles of each person.


As you can see, the days of crossing can be quite exhausting for a musician. It is about learning two new shows in one day, with a single hour of rehearsal for each one. This is where you are really going to test your sight-reading skills.


In addition, for about a week, until the ship arrives at a port, every day will be like this.


The worst thing about crossing is that the rehearsal and show times coincide with the opening hours of the dinners, buffets and the MESS, so sometimes you have to find your way to eat something in conditions.

lectura a vista para un músico de cruceros

pros of working on a cruise ship as a guitar player

For most musicians and other crew members, free use of guest spaces is limited to the all-you-can-eat buffet and gym. There is a buffet and a gym for the exclusive use of the crew, but those reserved for clients are much nicer.


That is, in general terms, depending on the policy of each company. Celebrity, Norwegian or Carnival allow musicians free entry to their buffet under a few rules. However, at Royal Caribbean, the Bandmaster, your immediate boss, will be the only one allowed. At Royal Caribbean, the use of the buffet for clients costs about 3 dollars per crew member.


In general, the rule that governs the use of customer facilities by crew members is occupancy. If the cruise is fully occupied, you may be denied entry to such services, in order to protect the passenger’s “uncrowded” experience.


During crossing days and by way of exception, musicians were sometimes allowed to enter the passenger buffet for lunch or dinner.


So, in companies where musicians can eat at the buffet, when can they?

  • when it’s not very busy
  • for breakfast, lunch and dinner if the ship is docked
  • for dinner when the ship sails
  • excepctional times
buffet libre en un crucero para músicos musico

working on cruise ships: more options for the musicians

In any case, you will never go hungry, because you will always find some kind of food in the dining rooms such as pastries or hamburgers, or you can buy some noodles in the store for the crew, etc.


Musicians, on most ships, can use paying customer services at a very similar price. By these services I mean:


  • pubs
  • restaurants
  • beauty salon
  • stores

La tripulación, en su tiempo libre, también puede asistir a la mayoría de conciertos y espectáculos, mientras no requieran de reserva previa y no haya mucha aglomeración. Los servicios que cualquier tripulante tiene prohibido usar, bajo ningún concepto, son por ejemplo el casino o las piscinas. 

what does the orchestra guitarrist do with his/her time off?

By the way, I almost forgot about the best day for an orchestra musician: the day off!


The free day or the «day off», normally one per week or per cruise, except for the crossings is my favorite day.


It’s not that I don’t like my job, but love exploring new places.


What you do when you don’t have to work is a totally personal choice.


When the ship is on land, the most common is:

  • exploring the port of call
  • go out on a shore excursion
  • find free Wi-Fi to talk to your family and friends 

what do the musicians do when the ship is sailing and they don't have to work?

  • read, whatch movies, stay in your cabin
  • practise
  • go to the gym
  • go to the bar, hang out

Cruise ship musicians are prone to not spending their free time in the most productive way possible. Again, without wanting to generalize. It is very important that we know how to manage all that free time well and that we do not end up spending all our salary on ways to end our boredom. It happens, I have seen it with my own eyes.

oceania pixa bay

how to work as a
cruise ship guitar player?

Here, you can take a look at my practical guide to a successful career as a cruise ship orchestra guitarist.


It is a manual to improve the most important thing to get the job done: your sight-reading.


It also gives you lots of useful information on how to get the job and keep it, as well as tips and ideas for the life on board.

I am going to write more articles about the cruise musicians and the crew in general. I find it most fun and informative.


If you are interested in embarking on a journey as a cruise musician and have questions about how to start, do not hesitate to contact me, it will be my pleasure to try to help you.


What about you, would you consider becoming a cruise musician? Leave your opinion in the comments, as well as any questions that may have remained unresolved.


This is all for now, greetings!

¡Muy buenas! Me llamo Edu, soy de Barcelona y he sido tripulante de cruceros durante muchos años.
Ahora escribo sobre todo lo que aprendí.

Edu Giro


    August 1, 2023

    Quisiera dejar mi curriculum artístico para trabajar en cruceros

      August 11, 2023

      Hola Franco. Te recomendaría que, si quieres trabajar como músico en barcos de crucero, contactaras con las agencias de reclutamiento para hacer una audición. Agencias: Suman Entertainment, Proship, Landau, Lime Music. Gracias por tu comentario!

Deja tu comentario