Different Types of Cruise Ship Entertainment

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My name is Michael Landau and I’m the President of Landau Music, an Entertainment booking agency specializing in Cruise Line placement. We’re based in San Diego, CA and currently work with 7 major cruise lines around the world. We’ve been in business since 2003 and our company is composed of musicians that have previous cruise ship experience. We understand what life is like as a Cruise Ship Musician as well as what its like to go through the hiring process. We take pride in constant communication with our artists and make sure they are prepared and informed about each job prior to joining. This industry is all about creating and maintaining relationships…and we’ve made some great friends over the past 7 years!

If you’re interested in working as a musician on a cruise ship, the first thing to know is the different types of entertainment offered. Each cruise line has their own entertainment on board, however; generally these positions are very similar industry-wide.

Most Lines have an Orchestra (aka Show Band) on board. This 5-10 piece band plays the Production Shows, Headliner Shows and Big Band or Top 40 Sets on board. Bass, Drums, Guitar, Keys, Sax, Trombone & Trumpet are the most common instrumentation. The most important requirement in landing one of these jobs is strong sight reading ability (both jazz charts & notation). Working on board a ship as an Orchestra Musician, you’ll find yourself playing new shows daily in front of thousands, and having little to no time at all to prepare. In order to assure that you’ll be comfortable in that setting, we want to see/hear you sight read similar charts prior to hiring. We do live auditions around the country as well as auditions over the phone and via video. In each case, you’ll be handed several charts and be asked to read them without any preparation. These charts will range from Big Band to Top 40 to Broadway selections. Depending on the audition, you might also be asked to play a jazz head and solo over it in order to get a feel for your improvisational skills. Needless to say, at the end of an Orchestra Musician contract, you’re sight reading and chops in general will definitely be strong as ever.

If sight reading isn’t your thing, you can also be hired as an Entertainer on board. Lines hire the following entertainers to perform on their ships: Solo Pianist/Vocalist (aka Piano Bar Entertainer) , Cocktail Pianist (aka Intermissionist), Solo Guitarist/Vocalist (aka Pub Guitarist), Classical Guitarist, Duo, Standards Trio/Quartet & Party Band. These entertainers perform 4-5 45 minute sets a night in lounges on board. Entertainers must Entertain! You would think this would be a given, however; I’m always surprised at how many people don’t get this concept. Connecting with guests is key… taking requests, sing-a-longs, theme nights, talking to guests before and after sets, etc. are essential in a) being hired and b) being a successful entertainer on board. In order to be hired as an Entertainer on board a ship, you must have the following…PROMO VIDEO, Song List, Performance History & Availability to do a contract. My next blog entry will talk about the Top 10 Things We Look For in a Promo Video.

Some Cruise Lines hire Specialty or Variety Acts such as Comedians, Steel Pan Musicians or A Cappella Quartets. The actual job description for these musicians varies, however a PROMO VIDEO is required for all in order to secure employment.

Finally, Each Cruise Ship has their own Production Cast on board. This Cast is composed of singers and dancers often hired by a separate production company. The Production Cast performs Broadway Review, Top 40 and Classical Shows on board and sometimes even have aerialists or flyers included. These positions are usually secured at live auditions held by the different production companies around the world.

No matter what the position, cruise ship musician contracts are generally 3-8 months long in length. These are continuous contracts where you live on board the ship for the entirety of the contract. Often Food, Room, Travel and Health Coverage are included, so there’s definitely an opportunity to save money. It’s a great way to travel the world, play music and get paid for it!

If you have any questions or would like further information about working on board, feel free to email us at [email protected] or visit our website at There are several pages which answer FAQ as well as pics & videos of life at sea.

Thanks for reading and I hope it helped you better understand the different options for working as a musician on board a cruise ship. Expect another blog entry next month!