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Cruise Ship Bass Playing / Bassists

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by 'JC', Apr 5, 2005.

  1. 'JC'


    Mar 14, 2000
    As I sit here typing this, I just got some more monotonous duties added to my cost analyst gig which reeks of boredom and mediocrity.

    "It's not that I'm lazy, it's that I just don't care."

    What's stuck in my mind though is a website I found for recruiting cruise ship musicians and I've had that idea of trying out running through my mind all morning.

    I know we have to have some cruise ship bassists here.
    Can you guys tell me about the pros and cons?

    What kind of income does the average cruise ship bassist bring in?
    How long are you typically out at sea?
    Is this a contractual position?
  2. The first thing to remember is that you are considered part of the crew. That means you wear a name tag and are not allowed to fraternize with the passengers. You will generally be given a less than desirable place to bunk (way down (well, up with the ship floor naming convention...) if not steerage). They will expect you to do more shows than you may think, and the pay isn't great. It may be different on non-Princess lines, but expect all this there.

    Some people do well under those conditions, others do not.
  3. DaftCat


    Jul 26, 2004
    Medicine Hat
    Our drummer did this for years and he was allowed to mingle with passengers, and the bar let them rehearse during the day within reason.

    I learned not all cruise liners are the same(as the last poster implied).
  4. QORC


    Aug 22, 2003
    Elberon, New Jersey
    be prepared to play really cheesey standards over and over...and over and over
  5. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    Cruise ships? Man, I did 4 years on various lines. There is a lot of variation, and some things in common.

    Usually, you are not "crew", you are "staff". You will still be subject to the rules & such, but staff generally have more liberties (can drink in lounges, talk with passengers, etc.) than actual crew. You are subject to maritime law. You will have cabin inspections (usually bright & early), can't have long hair, earrings, will have to do boat drills, coast guard drills, perhaps some meet & greet. If you are booked as an "act", generally the appearance rules are more relaxed, but you are still staff. RARELY, you can arrange as an act to get passenger status...if you can, grab it.

    Chances are very good you will have a roomate in a small cabin. I managed to get a gig on Premier where the band got their own cabins, but that's exceptional. Pay is also very diverse; I've made anywhere from $225/week to $750/week. If you go long term, you can save much $...no bills to pay really. If you are gone 330 days out of a year, you can get all your taxes back...Foreign Earned Income exclusion up to $72,000.

    There's more, but that's just a brief overview from a guy who lived in Florida for 15 years and did a lot of ships.
  6. BassBrace James

    BassBrace James JBH Enterprises / www.BassBrace.com

    Jan 17, 2005
    Cookstown, Ontario
    I've been doing the ships for 15 years now, most recently on Princess, but many other lines and ships over the years. You definitely need to have a particular attitude to make it work for you. Know why you're out here, get along with others easily, don't get too ruffled by all the dumb rules. Yes, you are staff, and usually have access to most passenger facilities and areas (usually not the pax pools, though). The cabins I've seen on Princess are about the best I've come across. Yes, they're usually small, but livable. You have to know how to live with a roommate. You will be required for the various safety meetings and drills, as already mentioned.

    If you're in the showband/orchestra, it's a reading gig. Know lots of styles. It's not all cheesy standards. As a pro bassist, you should know a ton of tunes anyways. It's definitely more about craft than artistic expression, but personally, I'ld rather play Misty than sell valve oil for a living. And you do get to play out here and there. If you're into arranging, there's lots of opportunity to do that, too.

    Assuming you have the requisite skills for this kind of gig, don't take anything less than $2000/month. If you're a less experienced player, maybe take a bit less $$ while you cut your teeth. Try to arrange to not be paying rent back home. The key to making the bucks is not having to pay for rent, food, transportation.

    Get a flight case for your bass. Take some sound processing gear - the amps provided are usually kind of ick. I seem to have decent luck taking my Navigator preamp and plugging it into the effects return, bypassing the ship amp's preamp section.

    Take some other projects to work on - there's a fair bit of time to fill up. You're usually playing 2-4 hours a day, but that can vary anywhere from a day off to playing 6 hrs in a given day (both of which are unusual).

    Best lines I've seen are Crystal and Princess. NCL is cool. Never worked for Royal Caribbean or Holland America, though I haven't heard great things about Holland America. Carnival is the non-stop party ship, from what I understand. I hear Cunard is OK, too. Oh yea, the Disney ships are a real trip. No showband work though; I think the only bass position there currently is in a top 40 band. Celebrity isn't all that great either, from what I understand.

    Eating arrangements are a big deal too. If you're restricted to the staff or crew mess, that's kind of a drag. Princess has the 24 hr passenger buffet available to you, which RULES! Most ships I've been on have some limited passenger food you can partake of - lunch buffets, burger bars, midnight buffets, etc. Take your vitamins.

    Hope that helps....bbj
  7. BassBrace James

    BassBrace James JBH Enterprises / www.BassBrace.com

    Jan 17, 2005
    Cookstown, Ontario
    By the way, I should mention that there are a lot worse things than having someone house you, feed you, pay you to do what it is you love (play music) and take you around to see the world.

    Oh yea, in answer to your question about contract lengths, 4 months is average.

  8. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    The first ship I ever did took me along the southern coast of South America, throughout the Caribbean, and into the Spanish Med. It was a great opportunity to travel while getting paid. Cruise ships CAN be great, but choose wisely. You can also save a good amount of cash if you go on with a plan, but discipline is paramount.