Imagine getting to travel the world, meet new and interesting people, and DJ for hundreds of guests every night? Being a DJ on a cruise ship is a once in a lifetime opportunity, but it is certainly not for everyone. I was one of those people wondering if I should be a cruise DJ, and after countless hours of research, I ultimately decided against it. In this article, I want to break down all of the notes from my research so you can learn how to get a cruise DJ job and what to expect if you decide to do it.
So, how do you become a cruise ship DJ? There are 2 main ways: 1) submit an application directly to a cruise company’s website 2) get an agent with good relationships to manage the application process for you. If you cannot find or get an agent, you still have a great chance to get the job on your own with persistence.
Even though I decided not to pursue being a cruise ship DJ, there are a lot of awesome to consider going for it. The point of this article is not to bash the idea of this job, but rather to make sure your expectations are in the right place.
How to Submit a Great Application to a Cruise Ship
The age demographic of guests on a cruise ship is a lot different than a normal club. When you are on a cruise ship, there can be teenagers and 70 year olds in the same club, so cruise directors want DJs to appeal to a wide variety of people. This means that you have to be well versed in all genres of music from different time periods, and that’s something not a lot of DJs are used to. Somehow you have to play music that appeals to everyone, and that’s no easy task considering how different music is today.
With that in mind, when you apply to be a cruise DJ, you need to have mixes from all different genres to showcase your abilities. If you submit an application with just EDM music, you probably will not get hired. Also there is a strict rule that you must be 21 or over to apply to these gigs.
Be Persistent! This is the number on piece of advice I can give you. Cruise ships get hundreds (even thousands) of applications every year, and submitting to a job application only once probably won’t get you very far! You need to keep submitting your application until you hear back from someone. This persistence will be seen by the company, and it also shows you actually care about that job and you’re not just submitting once to every company you can find.
Bonus: A great way to stand out in your application is to have a relationship with a cruise ship director. There are many awesome forums online such as the Serato forums where you can meet other DJs who might be able to put you in contact with directors.
Cruise Ship DJ: Expectations vs. Reality
Traveling the world on a cruise ship while doing what you love sounds like a blast, but often times it is not exactly the lifestyle you envisioned. Let me give you some examples:
- You’re away from all friends and family: Contracts range anywhere from a few weeks to several months, and that means being away from home. If you are single and have no commitments, this might not be an issue, but if you have a family, this can be extremely tough.
- You might be working other jobs besides DJing: Before you submit your application, make sure that you find out if being a DJ will be your sole responsibility, or if you will be required to work other jobs. Several DJs that I spoke to said that when they did not DJ, they had to do other odd jobs around the ship. If that’s not something you are prepared for, it can be a big shock.
- You aren’t playing music that you love: As I mentioned earlier, cruise ship DJs are supposed to appeal to a wide audience, and many times that means playing music you do not like. If you play music you do not like night after night, it can certainly take a toll on you. Guests are not afraid to request songs, so be prepared for that as well. They probably don’t want to listen to your newest electro mix.
- Get ready for sea sickness: A cruise ship goes up and down constantly, and if you aren’t ready for that, it can make for a very unpleasant experience. Before you decide on this job, make sure you keep this mind. I have read countless stories of the boat moving back and forth while trying to DJ, which means equipment can be sliding all over the place.
- Guests can be rude and difficult: Being on a cruise ship lets you meet tons of new people, which can be a great thing, but some guests can be extremely rude. Be prepared for drunk guests who did not hear their favorite songs to let you know about it. You have to have thick skin as a DJ and not let one person’s opinion mess with your confidence.
What is the Pay Like on a Cruise Ship?
This is a big question that gets asked a lot (and rightfully so). Although the number can depend on many factors, it usually is around $1,000 per week. This is not amazing pay, but keep in mind that all of your expenses are paid for. This means no gas, no groceries, no anything! If you save your money the right way, the pay is not terrible.
I would like to add that if you want to be a cruise DJ, it’s probably not something you are doing for the money. There are more opportunities on land that might be more profitable, but being a cruise ship DJ is about the experience. Being able to travel the world and explore new places is something most people will never do in their lifetime. That was the most attractive part of being a cruise ship DJ for me!
How to Have a Great Experience as a Cruise Ship DJ
After reading this, if you have decided that this job is right for you, here’s some advice on how to make sure you have the best experience:
- Make sure everything is good at home: If you have DJ gigs that you will miss because of your time on the cruise ship, make sure you find a backup who can cover the gig for you. You do not want to burn any bridges while you are gone because eventually you will have to come back home and find jobs again.
- Network with other guests: Cruise ships attract all types of people, and some of these people could potentially lead to your next job! Be as friendly as possible to guests and do not be afraid to start conversations. These conversations can lead to something really special, and you will never have a time in your life where you can meet so many people. Be confident and remember, if you don’t hit it off with someone, you will probably never see them again if you do not want to.
- Make friends with all staff of the ship: In addition to starting conversations with guests, it is important to make relationships with fellow employees. These employees will tell you where to go when you stop at different ports and they might even hook you up with free drinks or special service. Every website, video and person I consulted said this was a huge factor in how pleasant their overall experience was.
- Be productive during off-time: If you are a cruise ship DJ, you will most likely have a ton of downtime. This can be fun at first, but after awhile you will become bored and this is not a fun feeling. Bring some equipment with you so you can continue to make music. Or if you do not want to DJ during breaks, bring books that you have always wanted to read. Or maybe you always wanted to learn how to code, so download online tutorials that teach you how to do this. If you can feel productive during your breaks, you feel much better overall.
- Do not sleep with guests: Some cruise ship directors are more relaxed than others, but being caught sleeping with other guests can mean big trouble for you and the agency that represents you if you have one. I read a story of a DJ who got caught and literally had to get off at the next port and find his way home. That’s brutal!
How to Broaden Your Music Knowledge
So as I’ve mentioned in this post several times, it’s important that you are able to play music that grandma likes and that her teenage grandson likes. This means you probably need to start listening to new music and get a feel for what songs might resonate with multiple audiences.
The way I like to start doing this is to search for playlists on Spotify, Apple Music or Youtube. I try to search terms like “classic 90’s hits or classic songs” and there are literally thousands of compiled playlists that you can listen to.
Your guests will love you if you can play old classics like “Sweet Caroline,” “Don’t Stop Believing,” “Tiny Dancer”, etc. These are songs everyone can sing along to, and when people are singing and dancing, they are happy.
I keep a list of 100 or so songs that always get the crowd going. I can always have these in my back pocket just in case people are not reacting well to a certain a song.
Developing this knowledge base is so critical because you will be getting hit with dozens of requests every single night. People want to hear their favorite songs from the era they grew up in, and you have to quickly search these songs as they are getting requested. You simply do not have time to ask follow up questions to every single person giving you a request.
The Best Part About Being a Cruise Ship DJ
If you can handle the downsides, there is a ton of upside to being on a cruise ship, the main one for me being that you get to see the world. Take advantage of this experience and research places before you get there. If you like hiking, find out the best spots beforehand so you do not have to spend time researching when you get there.
Usually the best way to get to know a city is by finding locals. The best way to do this is to be more kind and less obnoxious than the other guests on the cruise ship. Many guests on these ships are loud and rude when they get off the ship. If you can be kind to locals around the city, they might just give you hidden spots around the city that everyone misses or make sure you’re getting the best prices on food.
Should you be a Cruise Ship DJ?
Overall, the answer is it depends. After weighing all the factors that go into this decision, I decided that the time away from my family and career was not worth it to me. There are not many jobs that let you go off for a few weeks/months like this, so I simply did not have the capacity to do it. I would imagine a school teacher might be able to do this, as they usually get summers off.
Even though I made this decision, I am still tempted to this day to pursue an opportunity like this. With the right company and people, it can truly be life changing for your career and personal growth. If a good opportunity comes your way, take a chance and do something you have always wanted to do. Being able to discover new places around the world sounds incredible.
Questions? Comments? Leave any below and I will try to get back to you!