Angela is about to finish music school and asks:
I’m curious how old entertainers tend to be?
Great question Angela, and congrats on getting to the end of your music program. The age of musicians on cruise ships varies greatly, but in my experience, there are a lot of younger players on ships.
On my first ship most of the show band musicians were in their early 20s. The majority of us had just gotten out of college and, not finding any performing jobs on land, taken cruise jobs to make some money and see the world. In fact, the majority of the crew was somewhere in their twenties. The crew bar was probably the best impromptu singles bar that I’ve ever found.
Of course there were exceptions to this. On that first ship our sax player and bassist had each been on ships for 14 years straight. Both of these guys had divorced somewhere in their 30’s, lost their house and kids and left soon after for cruise ships. It was a pretty good deal for them – no mortgage, no cooking, an initial escape from troubles. And if you stayed with the company long enough you were sometimes able to reap the benefits of seniority. For instance, if there were 5 guys in the band and 3 rooms to house them, the musician with the most seniority usually got the single room. Also, musicians that stay with the company are often able to pick which ships and itineraries they would like take contracts on.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that many cruise ship gigs are supplied with musicians from one of these two categories – the older divorcee and the recent music school grad.
On my second ship, the whole band was older divorcees and certified bachelors. This particular ship paid health benefits and pension to it’s employees, so it was an even better deal for these guys and they’d been around for a long time.
Outside of the show band, the lounge acts tend to be a more mature bunch. The lounge gigs pay better and usually have better accomodations, and perhaps for that reason, experienced performers are still willing to take those gigs. Also, I would argue that the lounge gigs are more demanding and require a large repertoire and very young players often don’t have the stamina or experience to fill the spots. Certainly I know I wouldn’t have been able to hack it right out of college.
In her question Angela also asked if musicians needed to be over 21 to work on ships.
I actually don’t remember exactly what the rule on that is – but if it helps – I at least don’t remember ever working with anyone under 21. *See Ryan and Steve comments below – you can work on a ship you are under 21 and I remember now working with a few cast members under 21.