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  #1  
Old 06-28-2007, 05:17 AM
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Default cruise ship drumming?

Hi all, I was wondering if anybody had any experience with playing cruise ship gigs? I just graduated from college and am looking for a job, but I figured I might take some time and do something else before I hunker down and get a "real" job.

Anywho, just wanted to poll the community and see if anybody has or knows somebody who has done something like this. Thanks!
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Old 06-28-2007, 06:54 AM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

If you don't think a cruise ship is a "real job," maybe you should think twice about applying. I've done ships. Going on stage with little to no rehearsal and sightreading a show the first night on the ship is a "real job" as far as I'm concerned.

You NEED TO BE READY before you go on a ship. A ship is not a place to learn styles and chart reading. Most musicians on ships have a lot more experience than someone coming out of college. There are people who will take you under their wing, but like I said, my first night on a cruise ship I was sight-reading a production show. It's trial under fire. That being said, here is some friendly advice.

1. Be an excellent (chart) sightreader. This is the #1 most important thing. You must be able to not only read charts, but interpret them as well. Get Houghton's Drum Set Reading Anthology. This is a great book to prepare you for chart reading.

2. Know your styles. Be prepared to play anything. Just a few styles I played on ships have been - 2 Beat, marches, dixieland, second line, polkas, small group jazz, big band jazz, waltzes- all kinds, reggae (including filling in with the all Jamacian Reggae band on the ship), soca, songos, mambo, cha-cha, hip-hop, rock, country, etc...

3. If you do land a gig, bring a mini-disc recorder or other portable recording device. I did not get the liberty of rehearsing much on a ship. If a fly-on act came in, we may run beginnings and ends of tunes, trouble spots, etc. The rehearsals were over so quickly that I needed to have the mini-disc to review before the show.

I don't want to burst anyone's bubble, but I'd rather see someone overly prepared. It's much better than being replaced after one cruise.

Jeff
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Old 06-28-2007, 08:18 AM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

Although I've never done a cruise ship job, I've known some cats who have and from what they've told me, it doesn't sound pretty. Basically, they said they had to play with some not-so-great (in some cases, downright awful) musicians, and in their spare time, drank too much.
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Old 06-28-2007, 03:21 PM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

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Originally Posted by KCDrummer View Post
Although I've never done a cruise ship job, I've known some cats who have and from what they've told me, it doesn't sound pretty. Basically, they said they had to play with some not-so-great (in some cases, downright awful) musicians, and in their spare time, drank too much.
I've played with some great musicians. I had a great time, lived rent free, ate free food, and saw some amazing places. But, I just wanted to make it clear that it is a "real job." Because the music is so diverse, you need to be ready for anything that's thrown at you. There is work involved.

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Old 06-28-2007, 05:08 PM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

I talked to the band on the cruise I took to Cozumel and it may look like fun, and what you do make you can bank most of it away, but these dudes were making beds and vaccuuming rooms during the day and playing at night. You may want to call some Liners or ship Lines and do some more research.
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Old 06-28-2007, 05:50 PM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

I did a cruise ship gig for a summer during college, then again for 6 weeks after graduating. I got paid $250/week and worked every day. Even in '89 that was crap bread, but I did enjoy it. It can be a good gig for someone just out of college with no apartment or relationship. I would agree with everything jeffwj said. I would add that keeping steady time on a moving boat can be a difficult adjustment. The biggest challenge, like touring, is dealing with boredom. You could be tempted to drink/eat too much. The first week can be chaotic, learning several new shows at the same time, but then it's easier, because you just repeat them each week, and you can relax. So yeah, I recomend it. Bring some good reading and try to save as much money as you can.
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Old 06-28-2007, 06:25 PM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

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Originally Posted by GRUNTERSDAD View Post
I talked to the band on the cruise I took to Cozumel and it may look like fun, and what you do make you can bank most of it away, but these dudes were making beds and vaccuuming rooms during the day and playing at night. You may want to call some Liners or ship Lines and do some more research.
I don't know what line you vacationed on, but I had my room and bathroom cleaned for me, my bed made, and I ate in the staff mess where there were waiters and waitresses serving me food. The people I play with in my big band had similar experiences.

Maybe the band members you talked to were having a little fun with you. Like Eric said, it can get a little boring. Those guys were probably just having a few laughs at your expense.

Jeff
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Old 06-28-2007, 07:10 PM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

This was a 4 day cruise from Tampa to Key West to Cozumel to Tampa on Carnival.

They were making up rooms on my floor,or deck, viewed by me. They were not part of the band that played in the main auditorium at night for the variety shows. This was a Reggae band that played at night out on the deck during the parties etc. That is why I am suggesting to check with the Cruise Line to see exactly what he is getting into before thinking he will be laying back getting a tan and getting rich.
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Old 06-28-2007, 08:31 PM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

Thanks for the input, guys.

The "real job" comment was not so as to insinuate that drumming can't be a viable profession, but I was more referring to the common 9 to 5 office-type gig. Non-drumming. I've just been looking into a cruise ship gig right now as I'm between college and finding a job in the marketing/PR field. I have plenty of experience behind a kit and reading music (marching band, pep bands, concert bands, studio, combo, big band, etc.), so I thought I might do this gig and stash away some money to help put a dent in my loans while indulging in a different kind of experience.

So it sounds like it may not be all glitz and glamor, but not a bad gig. Guess it depends on the cruise line and the people you play with.
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Old 06-29-2007, 12:06 AM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

There are some cruise ship pics on my website.

http://johnsondruminstruction.googlepages.com/photos

Jeff
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Old 06-29-2007, 12:10 AM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

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There are some cruise ship pics on my website.

http://johnsondruminstruction.googlepages.com/photos

Jeff
You had a lesson with the master, I am so jealous.
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Old 06-29-2007, 12:16 AM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

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You had a lesson with the master, I am so jealous.
Yes. I studied with Morello when I lived in PA. It was about a 2hr drive to see him, but it was worth the drive. I studied on and off with Joe for a few years (it was quite expensive so I couldn't afford to go every week.) I credit my natural technique to Morello and Steve Fidyk - they are pure geniuses. I haven't seen Joe in a few years. That pic on my website is a few years old. I'd really like to get up there and take a few more lessons. Maybe when I go back north and visit my family.

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Old 06-29-2007, 12:43 AM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

I'd be happy to have one, but there is no way I could afford it.

And about your masterclass, I don't think I can even afford that!
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Old 06-29-2007, 07:29 AM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

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Originally Posted by jeffwj View Post
I don't know what line you vacationed on, but I had my room and bathroom cleaned for me, my bed made, and I ate in the staff mess where there were waiters and waitresses serving me food. The people I play with in my big band had similar experiences.

Maybe the band members you talked to were having a little fun with you. Like Eric said, it can get a little boring. Those guys were probably just having a few laughs at your expense.

Jeff

Jeff,

I played on cruiseships as well. Was the whole show pre-recorded and played along to on your ship as well?

I didn't have to do any cleaning or vacuuming either! I scratched my head on that part from the other post.

Cruiseships aren't easy jobs - I guess that they can be - anything is what you make it. But life at sea isn't for everyone and it definitely isn't like being out on a lake during fishing season. The waves crest alot higher! Also, as a member of the crew, you automatically get to sleep/live(?) in a cabin BELOW the waterline, which will be shared by you and some other bloke.

My advice - disregard the pay. And think hard about the negatives!


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Old 06-29-2007, 07:54 AM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

Just curious, how much is the pay on a cruise ship? Did you have any time off to visit the locations the ship stopped at? How long did the cruise(s) last? Did the cruise company give you offers to play future cruise gigs? How did you approach the cruiseline to get the gig in the first place? What kind of music did they usually have you playing? Last (and certainly not least), the drinks are free, right :)?

This seems like a good way too see more of the world and expand one's drumming skills. I might be interested in this a few years down the line.
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Old 06-29-2007, 08:41 AM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

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Just curious, how much is the pay on a cruise ship?

When I was on the ships, and that was 12 years ago - it was $350/week. To save money, eat in crew galley.

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Did you have any time off to visit the locations the ship stopped at?
Yes, but anything can get old! The passengers are on vacation and they are going to places they most likely have never been. You aren't on vacation and you will also need to know about in-port manning. This is the duty of the cruiselines to leave a certain amount of cruiseship employees on the ship when in port in case anything happens like a fire on the ship. You are there to get people off the ship in such an event! Oh...and lifeboats are for the passengers....you get to ride in a life raft, you stinking bastard, you! And that is after you have made sure that you have completed your duty of warning the passengers on your alert area that they need to get to the lifeboats and guide them there, if necessary!

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How long did the cruise(s) last?
Usually 3 days out then back and then 4 days out and then back. Unless you were on Carnival in 1995 when the engine control panel blew up and the ship was stranded at sea with no power. Or the ship that ran around outside San Juan, Puerto Rico. You might be out there for who knows how long.

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Did the cruise company give you offers to play future cruise gigs?
No...the only thing that guarantees you future employment is being able to follow the rules:
  1. You aren't allowed in ANY passenger's cabin for ANY reason at ANY time.
  2. NO passenger is allow in your cabin ANY time for ANY reason.
  3. You are not allowed to gamble in the ship's casino.
  4. You are not allowed to sit on barstools (passengers might think that you are one of them!)

However, in the crewbar are posters for employment for cruises all over the world. Finish your first job without getting fired and you could get to see the world!

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How did you approach the cruiseline to get the gig in the first place?
I had a friend who was the bandleader on the ship I was on! When I got there, he had been reassigned and the new bandleader was a total D$%K! No wonder I didn’t stay too long!


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What kind of music did they usually have you playing?
Lots of big band stuff but there were some modern tunes and dance numbers for the showdancers to dance and lipsync to - oh don't forget - you will playing for both, the passenger talent show and the crew talent show! Learn how to play Me and Bobby McGee!


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Originally Posted by Velimor View Post
Last (and certainly not least), the drinks are free, right :)?Uh, no. You will drink only in the crew bar which I forgot to list as one of the rules outlined above.
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This seems like a good way too see more of the world and expand one's drumming skills. I might be interested in this a few years down the line.
As long as you understand that at sea on a cruiseship rank means everything! You are going to be on an endless frat party! The crew purser (remember gopher on “The Love Boat – he was the dorky guy?) has the power to fire anyone for any reason at any time.


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Old 06-29-2007, 11:04 AM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

Wow so Skitch pretty much sealed the deal. Crap money on a boat playing crappy music. No thanks.
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Old 06-30-2007, 08:16 AM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

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Wow so Skitch pretty much sealed the deal. Crap money on a boat playing crappy music. No thanks.

Sorry - I just don't want you guys to find out the hard way that it isn't all you may think it is cracked up to be! Some guys go one a ship and never come back. Also, as we all know, when musicians start lining up for the next big thing (cruiseships, Branson and the like) the employers start making up all sorts of rules. And I was kind of suprised to find out that the whole show was on DAT and being played through the mains while I played along.

For the cruiseships, you have to understand that they don't want some woman, who regretted something or got angry, getting on TV and claiming that she was raped while on a cruise. This would be bad for business. That is why they want the separation form the passengers.


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Old 10-09-2007, 12:58 AM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

I would say to anyone that's looking to work on a ship to get your facts straight before you judge.
Salaries for orchestra drummers range from $1,900 to $3,100 per month not to mention that you can move into a Musical Director position if you're the right guy, which would put you in a whole new pay scale.

Quality of music ranges from bad to great and don't forget that if the music sucks you're most likely a part of the problem. There are some phenomenal musicians on ships simply because great musicians need money too! Compare land gigs to ship gigs and you'll see pretty quickly that there's a lot worse music going on on land.

I absolutely agree with Jeffwj that you have to be ready to do this kind of gig. Lots of guys get fired the first week they're on the ship, and a cruise line is not likely to take you back once they've fired you.
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Old 10-09-2007, 05:20 AM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

Hi,

I play on a cruise ship once a year. It's from Boston to Bermuda. It's my own band so I am not working for the cruise line. First let me say that I do NOT enjoy it. The first year was enough. They used to pay us the first couple of years $2500.00 for a 5 piece band, they also gave us a cabin and we could bring our wives. Now there is no pay but we can still bring our wives. I won't go into details about why we keep playing this gig for no dough lets just say I am out voted.

In our case we have to bring all our own equipment on the ship. The equipment needs to be sniffed by bomb/ narcotic dogs before being put through the xray machine. One night I'm playing in the lounge the next night I'm on the pool deck, the next night I'm playing on the island of Bermuda and going through their customs agents. Not to mention the salt air on my kit (use my smaller cheaper kit)

Then if your lucky you won't have rough seas. That's always fun. Bring your Bonine (motion sickness medicine)

In my case it's playing 6 jobs in 7 day's, lot's of moving my drums all over the ship. Big bar bill at the end of the week (my wife :-)

Last edited by 2bsticks; 10-09-2007 at 05:29 AM. Reason: spelling
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Old 10-09-2007, 08:43 AM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

Somewhat interesting I hope. A couple weeks ago I was on a ship for a seven night Hawaiian cruise. Going through drum withdrawls so I contacted the Butler, and told her that I would pay very generously for a drum lesson at the convenience of the the ship drummer. They had a huge theater with a nice kit on stage that was closed most of the day, so this was certainly possible. I also told her I would pay just to practice on his kit if he was interested. She contacted the Musical Director who contacted the drummer on the ship. The message got back to me that he passed. I was miserable. Like any obsessed new drummer, I was thinking about, and missing my drums the entire cruise. Joey
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Old 10-09-2007, 11:53 AM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

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Hi,

I play on a cruise ship once a year. It's from Boston to Bermuda. It's my own band so I am not working for the cruise line. First let me say that I do NOT enjoy it. The first year was enough. They used to pay us the first couple of years $2500.00 for a 5 piece band, they also gave us a cabin and we could bring our wives. Now there is no pay but we can still bring our wives. I won't go into details about why we keep playing this gig for no dough lets just say I am out voted.

In our case we have to bring all our own equipment on the ship. The equipment needs to be sniffed by bomb/ narcotic dogs before being put through the xray machine. One night I'm playing in the lounge the next night I'm on the pool deck, the next night I'm playing on the island of Bermuda and going through their customs agents. Not to mention the salt air on my kit (use my smaller cheaper kit)

Then if your lucky you won't have rough seas. That's always fun. Bring your Bonine (motion sickness medicine)

In my case it's playing 6 jobs in 7 day's, lot's of moving my drums all over the ship. Big bar bill at the end of the week (my wife :-)

You don't enjoy it, adn you only do it because you're outvoted?? That's not right. It's one thing playing hotel lobbies to pay the bills, but being made to play on a cruise ship for no pay is insane. There's always a public sector job out there somewhere. Think of the pension.
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Old 10-09-2007, 09:24 PM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

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Originally Posted by joeybeats View Post
Somewhat interesting I hope. A couple weeks ago I was on a ship for a seven night Hawaiian cruise. Going through drum withdrawls so I contacted the Butler, and told her that I would pay very generously for a drum lesson at the convenience of the the ship drummer. They had a huge theater with a nice kit on stage that was closed most of the day, so this was certainly possible. I also told her I would pay just to practice on his kit if he was interested. She contacted the Musical Director who contacted the drummer on the ship. The message got back to me that he passed. I was miserable. Like any obsessed new drummer, I was thinking about, and missing my drums the entire cruise. Joey
Some drummers are excellent performers, but do not know how to teach. Others teach beginning and intermediate students, but feel awkward teaching adults. Maybe that was the case.

I had a drummer come up to me on the Lido deck once and ask me questions about his Chaffee book. I was happy to talk with him and if he asked for a lesson, I would have obliged. Please remember that a cruise ship is part of a large corporation with rules and regulations regarding staff affiliations with passengers. The drummer may have been trying to not get in trouble by taking money from a guest in exchange for services. If you had been on my ship, we would have talked drums for free.

Jeff
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Old 10-10-2007, 12:22 AM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

oh man i lasted a week and got fired! i had to audition over the phone and sight read charts..i did bad but they hired me anyway and when i started it was sight and big band chops that i just didn't have and for 6 months! im glad im back on land..live and learn!
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Old 04-05-2014, 06:26 PM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

Here is a video that I think it can be helpful for those who are interested in working on ships, I've been performing this lately.
Best,
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pj52...ature=youtu.be
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Old 04-05-2014, 06:45 PM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

When I was in my 20's I did the Costa Riviera out of Vancouver to the Inside Passage of Alaska. What a great time.

It was a learning experience for me as I had to learn to play very quiet. But as a single guy in my 20's... "I was not there for the music" but rather the rotating smorgasbord of single women who were cruising solo. :D

Our stage was over the crew bar and at 2am I was free to practice as loud and long as I wanted...until 5am when the passengers started circulating.

It was that boat's final voyage and the crew was beyond caring about anything so there I was, longhair hippie kid walking around in jean cutoffs, barefoot and usually slightly buzzed. Haha that'd never fly today!
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Old 04-05-2014, 07:26 PM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

I'm practicing my sight reading now so that I can get a gig on a cruise ship but this thread is a bit scary!

I've got a contact (a friend of a friend) who works on a liner, she's going to send me the charts for one of the acts and put in a good word to the manager. I don't know any big band, jazz, Latin or polka stuff though.

I was gonna get tommy igoes groove books to at least look at a few different styles.

Do you always take your own kit? I was gonna take my stage customs. Should they be in cases or does that get really tedious? I don't care about nicks and scratches much.

And how often will I get to practice outside of band stuff?
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Old 04-05-2014, 08:46 PM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

For the amount of pay vs what is required of the musician it hardly seems worth it.
Basically, it seems that you have to simply like living on a ship.
It would be more fun to play in a local theater pit where you would be doing the same kind of thing and you could go home when the show was over with a few bucks in your pocket.
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Old 04-07-2014, 01:59 AM
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Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

I drummed in a Bee Gees Tribute show. We were at sea for a week and it was one of the best weeks of my life! We only had to play three shows and we could go where we wanted for the week and had a decent cabin. $55 a day got you unlimited alcohol and boy did we smash it...we averaged 4 hours a day sleep!

Plus no one cared if we were seen coming out of passengers cabins ; - )

Heard horror stories though. Another band told us they went on a ship. Shown to amazing rooms. Some guy came along an hour later shouting at them to get down below where they were shown bunk beds and then told they could only leave bottom deck (bottom of the ship with no windows) to play shows and that was it. They had two weeks of hell. Worst than prison ha ha.........
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  #30  
Old 05-18-2014, 06:29 PM
Martinlatindrummer Martinlatindrummer is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2014
Posts: 2
Default Re: cruise ship drumming?

Hi everyone:
These are links of videos that I think can be helpful to get an idea of what the cruise gig is like.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pj52B2KocYc
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=surgPaeTX_s
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIyq3tzTWNk
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