Last week, I shared with you what it’s like to be a cruise ship DJ - how it differs from other types of DJing, and the particular challenges of playing to a disparate yet fixed audience for each seven-day holiday cycle in a (typically) month-long contract on board.
This week I’m going to share with you some hard-won advice, tips and tricks both for landing a cruise ship job as a DJ, and for making the most of it once you have.
3 tips for getting your first DJ cruise ship job
Before you do anything, you’ve got to land that position! Who to apply to and how is going to vary depending where you are in the world and the company you want to work for, but it’s usually done thorough agencies. This is what you need to do to convince such a company or agency to take you seriously:
- Show your experience - To get introduced to a ship as a “celebrity guest DJ” by the agencies the ships use, you have to show a wealth of experience. That means proof of venues you’ve played at, gigs you’ve done, artists you’ve worked with, and so on. You need to be able to showcase your mixing/scratching skills too
- Be likeable and a team player - It’s essential to demonstrate a likeable personality and a willingness to work well with others. You’re pitching to do a job that positions you representing the cruise line. Cruise lines stake their reputations on providing great entertainment, hospitality and customer service, and you’re applying to be part of that
- Be humble - Whatever their particular marketing pitch, all cruise companies have at least one thing in common: putting the guest first. If you're the “cocky” type of DJ, the company you’re applying to to get a job on a cruise ship most definitely will not hire you. They know that this is a long-term contract and will always rather go with someone who is more humble
5 tips for your first cruise ship job
Great! You’re all set to take up your role as a cruise ship DJ. These tips should help you to make a great job of your first assignment, and enjoy it to the max:
- Before you leave, cover your gigs at home - I highly recommend that DJs who have residencies at home provide back-up DJs who are up to handling their jobs. After all, you want to come back to your job after the cruise, and this shows your venue that you're not leaving them high and dry. By DJing on a cruise ship for a month, you can sometimes even help promote your “land” club/venue too...
- Make friends with the cruise director, equipment/sound crew, entertainment staff, bar staff and maids - Once you get the contract and land on board, this should be your top priority. These are the people who have the power to make your who experience so much more enjoyable. Remember, these people they know exactly where to go on “port days”, and the best spots for entertainment, food, parties for crew, etc when you’re on land
- Hook the crew up with CDs / music on USB sticks - An informal barter system is in operation within cruise ship staff. As they're used to being on the ship for many months and have no real connection to the outside world when it comes to current music, they'll love you for this - and trade you with food, drinks, movies and so on
- Be productive and stay creative - Bring your Midi controllers, software, etc.
My contract is for four weeks at a time and I find it’s easy to get bored, so I usually bring my Maschine/Ableton and make an effort to use my downtime productively, making beats/CDs
- Take advantage of family/friend guest passes - A perk I didn't know about until my last cruise is that you can usually obtain guest passes for any port to bring on your friends/family for free for one day - until you sail away, of course! This just has to be approved in advance by the captain. I've done this in NYC, Port Canaveral, and Puerto Rico for some friends and family, and we had a blast eating for free, touring the boat, swimming and so on
- Don’t get caught hooking up with the guests - Just keep in mind that you're there to work and represent your company... so don't get caught hooking up with the drunk girls (or boys) on board! It could ruin your reputation as well as that of your company/agency... and trust me it’s really not worth it to lose that kind of contract/money/experience for some drunk chick that you could hook up with onland instead...
Overall, I believe cruise ship DJing is a rare experience that most established DJs will never do, either because they won't, or actually can't (maybe they have a wife and kid back home and can't leave for four weeks). For me, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity - one that I’ve managed to do four times already!
So if you're lucky enough to get an opportunity to DJ on a cruise line, I would say definitely do it. I was actually recently signed to Disney Cruiselines and asked to comeback on the Norwegian Jewel and Gem cruise ships where I worked before - but like the majority of DJs I mentioned above, in this case for me due to my booked schedule, it's not going to be possible to take off for four weeks. Maybe next time...
• DJ Ollie aka Oliver Santa Maria has been DJing for over 15 years, first as a battle DJ, and later for for Scratch Academy, Scratch Events, Scratch Weddings, Norwegian Cruiselines and Disney Cruiselines. Visit his website, or catch him on Twitter, YouTube and SoundCloud.
Have you managed to get yourself a job as a cruise ship DJ? How did you land it? Got any tips or advice to add to DJ Ollie's? Please share your thoughts in the comments.