Ahoy! This way to your Muster Station

The majority of this work was written at sea. Over the course of three years and in all areas of the globe (this paragraph penned in Spain), we would jot down our thoughts and experiences. Nearly every section was crafted in a different part of the world. Therefore, it is rather eclectic at times, with references to the particular ship we happened to be on when pen met paper or more likely when fingers met keyboard. This is only fitting and proper, matching the vagabond lifestyle of a cruising entertainer!

We chose to put this course out for three reasons:

1. We already had the ground work. Many years ago Fred wrote a lengthy book on the subject. It was recognized as being the most comprehensive guide to getting a job as an entertainer on a cruise ship. Over the years we’ve received many calls and emails from people that used the book to get work and how it positively changed their lives. Hearing these success stories is both humbling and rewarding.

Fred’s cruise book is long out of print. Over the years we have been pressured to reprint it. However, so much in the cruise industry had changed that to simply reprint it would be a disservice. That is too lazy and you the consumer deserve better. The book needed to be totally overhauled.

With that in mind we have created a multimedia learning experience, leaving print behind. We have interviewed some of the most important people in the cruise entertainment world. You will get to hear them in their own voices explain what makes an entertainer successful. We will ask the theatre staff what they need from you to get your show to look and sound amazing. Technology now allows us to take you virtually on the ship with us and see the process as it unfolds. We will do just that in upcoming lessons.

2. We believe that a high tide floats all boats. We are committed to the idea that helping you also helps us.

Because of economic pressures, the cruise lines are often squeezed to make a profit; the costs of food, fuel, taxes and port charges may go up. Due to competition cruise lines aren’t able to just raise their prices. Unlike air travel cruising is exclusively a luxury item. People don’t cruise for business; only pleasure. If the cruise companies raise their prices, they may find their ships empty. So what can they do? They have to cut costs.

A decade or so ago, we watched the number of guest entertainers on a given cruise shrink substantially. Overall we are powerless to stop this. As a single act, we can only control our own performance. Yet, we figure IF we can help all guest entertainers do their jobs so well and so effectively that we become as important to the cruise experience as the destinations and the food; then we are doing our part to make sure our positions in the industry are indispensable. By passing along any wisdom we have gained through experience we can help elevate the importance of the guest entertainer.

3. We also created Gigs on Ships™ because of demand. We constantly receive calls from people who wish to work in the cruise industry. There is just no way in a single conversation to learn all there is to know.

“My experience of ships is that on them one makes an interesting discovery about the world. One finds one can do without it completely.”

–Malcolm Bradbury

We cannot stress enough that cruising is a very different way to live and work than what you have experienced before. There is a lot of information you need before you go and not a lot of places to turn for that information, especially if you are new to the job. To overwork a metaphor; in the following weeks we will give you the whole enchilada, a basket of chips, the salsa, a side of beans, rice and a beverage or two. We also have some amazing desserts.

Working in the cruise industry is certainly not for everybody. We have seen experienced professionals die a death of deaths on a cruise ship stage. It is not simply working in a showroom that floats where all things are the same as on land. There are several key factors and dynamics you must be aware of to be successful. The best way to illustrate this difference is by using a comedian as an example. The average comedy club act will leave the audience cold as an iceberg on a cruise. There is a whole different mentality to the vacationing cruiser versus a nightclub patron. Likewise, the successful ‘‘ship only comic,’’ might be a fish out of water at the average comedy club. I suppose that is why some people make careers on ships and others don’t. It depends to some degree how specialized you want to work.

I am not saying that you can’t do both. It is true that a great performer is a great performer is a great performer. Plus, the cruise industry has graduated many professionals to loftier venues; in my industry many Las Vegas magicians and other variety performers started by working ships.

The key is to understand the difference in the mindset of the cruise passenger. In a nightclub situation, people have sought out and paid $25-$100 for an adult oriented, alcohol abundant, cutting edge kind of evening out. The audience is all demographically similar.They come from the same city, they know what to expect.

People of all walks of life, from all over the world, gather to watch the show.

On a cruise, you are dealing with a real cross section of the population. They might range in age from elementary school children to the elderly; each with a different taste in music and sense of humor. Furthermore, these people are on vacation, they have paid thousands of dollars for a cruise and are not there just to see a show. If you have an insulting style, are vulgar, dull or not prepared they will turn on you in a second! People will stand up and walk right out on you. There are plenty of other things to do on the ship! You are competing for their attention with the piano bar, the casino, exotic scenery, first run movies, buffets and even fatigue from sightseeing all day. To complicate things further, more and more nationalities are cruising; many do not speak English as a first language. All this adds up to unique performing conditions. Not everybody can do the job.

It will be unlike anything you have dealt with before. Most likely, whatever the person in an office told you to get you there is nothing close to the reality of life at sea. We are here to tell you the truth.

Many of those asking our advice are young and inexperienced. We always tell them they should look to other venues first to cut their teeth. Once on the ship you are expected to be a real professional. You must know every aspect of your act. We’ll tell you about cruising here, but get some real world experience before you head out to sea. Our course will help you know what kind of experience you should seek.

We have said it before, but this is the unvarnished truth; if you blow it the first time, you likely will not get a second chance!

For the seasoned professional, you too will run into some challenging new situations. We will teach you how to be prepared. Again, don’t believe everything the office or your agent tells you, these people may have never even been on the ship! No seriously! At least they have never looked at it from your perspective. Often the ship’s officers and staff have their own way of doing things, and the shore side personnel just don’t know much about it. Here is language in one of the contracts we are asked to sign, “Any verbal or written orders given to you by the Master, General Manager, Cruise Director, Staff Captain or Chief Engineer are to supersede information given to you in this document.” In other words, we have to agree to the term, that the terms of this agreement don’t mean anything once we are on the ship!

But don’t be too alarmed. Seldom do you have to deal with such things; life on the ship is pretty great. Most of the time as guest entertainers we are left alone to do our jobs on those big beautiful stages. And we are here to tell you just how to do that!