9 Insider Tips To Landing A Job As A Cruise Ship DJ

Cruise ship in Circular Quay at night

These ships are full of partying holidaymakers, and there are plenty of venues on board – bars, poolside, clubs – that need DJs. Here’s how to become one…

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:

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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:

Cruise ship DJ

You need to be adaptable, presentable and a team player – no cocky DJ would ever get past ‘go’ in this environment.

  1. 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…
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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…

Finally…

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.

Comments

  1. Alex Shaffer says:

    Sounds cool! Might look into it during a summer break! Thanks

  2. Doing something like this clearly requires a large library. I’ve got a lot of electronic music, but how did you obtain such a large variety? Can you really predict what someone will want?

    • The playlists are mainly Top 40, but you’d be surprised on how much music outside of the U.S. you have to keep up with – ex. New Latin music (Salsa, Bachata, Merengue, Reggaeton, Cumbia)/Soca, Zouk, Bollywood, etc. I try to keep up with all of the music through speaking w/ the crew staff, guests and the onboard DJ. Once I get those tracks, I download them at the next port day at the nearest Internet Cafe, so that way I can have it for the rest of the Cruise, because the Internet out at sea is too slow to download anything… it’s like having a 56k modem connection in the early 90′s…

  3. I am a Cruise Ship DJ with P&O Cruise Lines that sails out of Australia, (Im from Fiji) but am very interested in moving onto other companies, especially The Royal Carribean, the Norwegian as well…do you have any advice/links/addresses I could apply to? I do not have an agency, and was hired directly by P&O, and they refuse to let us tranship to the other affiliated Cruise Liners, unfortunately, so Im stuck here in the Pacific, which is already familiar to me….any advice?

    • Hey DJ Christonite, I was employed by Scratch Academy based here in NYC, but since you’re in the Pacific, your best bet is to apply at the Los Angeles, CA office… Are you based in Australia? Send me some links to your DJ resume, music, vids, etc… I’ll try my best to get you on…

      Peace,

      Ollie

  4. Hi guys, First off great tips. My name is Rob Nadigel AKA DJ EMotion I was a DJ from 2004 – 2011 for Princess Cruises. Like any job there are pros and cons. My website is filled with info http://www.djconsultation.com

    You could also reach me at https://www.facebook.com/rnadigel

    Cheers Rob

  5. Daniel Saiza says:

    Hello I am DJ HardknocK thank you for the tips. It really gave me a heads up to what i like to do in the future! I am 19, i was wondering if age would effect my look on being a DJ on a cruise ship? Also was wondering if you could take a look on my resume and mix on sound cloud?! I just want to take the next step as being a DJ.

  6. I am a mobile DJ in Northern California and i DJ a lot of International Weddings in Bay Area. I use my DJ software to match beats but i dont actually know how to beat match by myself.
    Im smooth with the software, and well established mobile DJ.

    Am looking to DJ on Cruise Ships in around 5 years in usa or international, Maybe ollie knows but is this enough experience to play on cruise ships and where do you apply too.

    Australia sounded good as my wife is thai and would like to be closer to there one day. But also LA etc. Open to ideas.Thank you.

  7. Hi guys, thank you for the long lasting tips, they really help at a point, and would like to be kept up to date with @ all times.

    I am a DJ focused on playing Deep house to downtempo, techno grooves to mention a few, music that is perfect for a cruise mood, I go by the name of HouseJazz and currently residing in Cape Town South Africa, Iv’e been a student DJ from Africas largest independant record label (SCIM),and was taught with pioneer CDJ’s 2000s then a DJM 800 mixer.

    I am enthusiastically looking out on an opportunity to become a cruise ship DJ having the relevant skill I ensure a smooth blend of seamless mixing and music, I’d like to thank the platform given for an open communication line. Carp’e Diem

Leave a Comment