This is part TWO of a series of articles I have written to help entertainers get work as
Guest Entertainers on cruise ships.
This varies from cruise line to cruise line, so again, either ask your agent or check
the Guest Entertainer Manual of the cruise line you are working for the discounts
you are allowed as a guest entertainer. The general rule for most ships is that there
is a 25% bar discount for guest entertainers and a 20% discount in the boutique
shops on board. At the end of each cruise when you get your bill, make sure that
the discounts have been taken off the final account. It has happened on so many
occasions where the final discount was wrong or not taken off. For whatever reason
these days, the bills are always wrong and most guest entertainers have to end up
going down at the end of a cruise and sorting the problems out. I often believe the
problems on ships are due to simple lack of communication between departments!
There are the top end cruise lines where you do not have to pay for any drinks at the
bar, but that is the minority. There is also a 21-year minimum age requirement for
purchasing alcohol on most cruise lines.
Everything you purchase is put on to your account so ships are a cashless society,
however I always take a few dollar bills and leave them as tips.
Note: – As of re-reading this book the company I work for has now taken off any
discounts in the shops on board for guest entertainers.
Requirement of Shows
Each cruise line will have different requirements from their Guest Entertainers, what
I offer is simply a guideline –
Length and number of shows
I checked the guidelines in the manual for the cruise line I work on and they state
that a minimum repertoire of two 30-minute and one 15-minute show is required.
On longer cruises it may be necessary to perform three of four 30 minute shows. On
the ships I work I have never done two different 30 minute shows, rather one full
show and a split show with another act or two different 45 minute shows. On the
cruise I am on at the moment, as of writing this book, I am performing two 45
minute shows and a close-up show. The close-up show is at my suggestion to the
cruise director as it gives me another chance to push my DVDs plus I thoroughly
enjoy close-up magic.
How many shows you are required to perform depends entirely on the length of
cruise. If you are doing the short seven day cruises then more often that not you will
only be required to do one full show, possibly maybe another show sharing the bill
with another act. On the longer cruises of say twenty four days you can be assured
you will need to do two different full shows. This requires a lot of work and it is
important that your second show is as strong as the first.
Speaking from experience I prefer just to do my one main show as it contains all my
number one material, rather than try and split it up between two shows. After
experimenting with my act I realized how important it is to make sure your first
show is very strong, that way people will talk about you, get to know you and come
back for the second. You will hear other entertainers say they have an A and a B
show, in my opinion if you want a long career in Cruising make sure both your
shows are A material. If you can do a close-up show then by all means mention it to
the cruise director as it all helps in the long run keeping your name in front of the
passengers when they fill in the comment cards.
The general rule of thumb is that you will do your main show twice in one night.
Your schedule will vary from ship to ship and cruise to cruise. Generally speaking,
on a seven day cruise you will be required to work one night with your main 45-50
minute act. This you will do twice, once at the early show, usually 8.30pm and the
other at 10.30pm for two different audiences. On the larger ships they are now
getting us to work more, so we will work one night with the two shows, then repeat
the show again the next night for the crowds who missed it. The large ships now
carry up to 2800 passengers so you are required to do an extra show. On the seven
day cruise you may also be asked to do an extra ten to fifteen minute spot on the
last night, along with other guest entertainers.
Because I have two different full 45 minute acts plus the close-up show, I tend to
get the longer runs which also means the better contracts where the ships travel to
more exotic locations around the world. It makes sense to keep me on a ship longer
as I can do two different nights of entertainment and the close-up show on a sea
day. However, having said that next week I will be leaving the ship I have been on
for three months and transshipping to another ship for a little over a week where I
will be on the last part of the cruise and the beginning of a new one, then fly to join
another ship for a little over a week, then fly to another ship for only one night
before flying home. There is no set rule for how many times you will perform and
you usually only find out when you join. My advice is to make sure you are prepared
before starting your cruise ship career, otherwise it will be short lived and chances
of getting re-booked are very slim.
There somehow seems to be an invisible network among the entertainment
Department in the cruise industry and word travels fast. Remember that Carnival
cruises owners about 70% of the cruise industry including; Carnival Cruise Lines,
Windstar Cruises, Cunard Lines, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Costa
Cruises and The Yachts of Seabourn. That is a huge market and Entertainment is
now overlapping with these companies as they all come under one umbrella.
I have always made sure my material was never 'adult' orientated or 'blue', otherwise
asked to do the midnight show – in which case you can do routines that are a little
more on the edge. Make sure you find out the demographics of the cruise line you
will be working for. Because of my Charlie Chaplin act, they tend to put me on
longer cruises, which suits me fine because they have the better itineraries. There is a
joke amidst entertainers when asked the average age of the passengers they say,
"between dead and deceased!" I am currently on a 24 day cruise as I write this and
the average age would be sixty plus. On the shore cruises, such as those in the
Caribbean, you will find the average age much lower with children traveling. One of
my good friends works for a cruise line where he is required to do a 30 minute
family orientated show and a 30 minute midnight adult show, so he obviously has
His material suited for those audiences.
According to marketing the cruise ship contracts a vacationing crowd from a cross-
section of North America, the UK and sprinkles of other nationalities so your
material will need to be international. I have appeared on cruise ships where the
majority of passengers did not speak English, magicians at least have a sleight
advantage over comedians in that we have the visual aspect of our shows to help in
My advice is very simple, chose material for your act that is suitable for all ages.
Music for the act
You have the ability to work with a live band on the ship. If you plan on working on
ships a great deal you may wish to utilize this lost resource despite the way things
are changing the idea of having a 'live' band is becoming less and less. There was a
time when working on ships that my advice would have been if you currently use no
music at all, consider the use of the band on the ship, however, with cut backs and
so on do not rely on having a back up band! Most Cruise Director's will expect "play
on and play off "music for you and if the band is available then they often have
stock 'tabs' that can be used. As a backup I would have all my music on CD or mini
There are bands on board the ships, but the way things are changing cruise lines
now prefer guest entertainers to have their own backing tracks, either on CD or
minidisk. Some of the music acts explicitly require the 'band' or 'orchestra' to back
them and they bring their own musical arrangements. The more self reliant you are
in your act, the more you will keep working. There was a time when there were two
different orchestras on ships, one for the main show lounge and the other for the
smaller lounges where most Variety acts worked. However, with cutbacks ships are
using all backing tracks for the larger shows and a much smaller orchestra for the
other rooms having only one orchestra on ships now. I always take back up music
and make sure I have my music in a variety of formats. When I give the Production
manager my music, s / he gets a mini-disk and a CD of it, just in case something
happens during the show and a machine breaks down. This I tell you from
experience because it HAS happened!
I travel with my laptop, which makes life so much easier for me. If I need to change
the show in any way, I can easily record a new audio CD of my show and everything
is in order so the production manager is not skipping from one music track to
another. I like to make everything as easy as possible so I can concentrate on my
performance rather than worry about technical aspects of the show going wrong.
Remember also that you may be transshipping, ie. going from one ship to another
and have little rehearsal time, so having cue sheets and your music all in order will
make life that much easier.