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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hey Guys-- I regret not being more active lately, but I wanted to start this thread, since this is still where I go to for most of my information. Firstly, I got the idea of keeping a cruise blog from Merlin, so I recommend checking that out here: Merlin's Cruise ship gig thread. If you're familiar with this thread, you may be wondering why I'm starting another one:

1) Our playing experiences and ages are very different: I'm just graduating from a Music Ed/Jazz program, and my doubling is very limited. I took one semester of Clarinet lessons 6 months ago, and one semester of Flute lessons about 2 years ago. I've only played these in public on a HANDFUL of gigs.
2) This will be my very first time doing a cruise gig. I want to log this experience and compare my preconceived notions with my impressions on board.
3) I want to include the details, the questions, and the preparation before I get on the ship.

Audition Preparation: I knew going into this that this would be a reading audition. I setup a time with the Agent ahead of time and worked on my doubling as music as I could (mainly working on scales, arpeggios, evenness, and 12-keys). I got the music for the audition thirty minutes ahead of meeting, printed, and spent about 5 minutes circling and highlighting what I could before the skype call. In addition to the call, I recorded the audition on my phone and sent him the results. After the call, I sent him some brief recordings of me improvising over standards on Alto AND Tenor. It actually didn't go very well, and I didn't get the initial gig. He later set up an online audition/INTERVIEW with the people at Carnival Cruise Lines, and I got THAT gig.

The Cruise: I start in late-October playing Alto, Tenor, Flute, and Clarinet for 8 months. [Edit: This ended up not being completely accurate, 6 weeks of rehearsal in Miami, plus 6 1/2 months onboard. Which got cancelled, and I went directly to the ship to replace a fired sax player] This was considerably longer than I hoped, but they also offered more money than I anticipated. In contrast to Merlin's cruise experiences, my ship will be going from New Orleans -> Progresso, Mexico -> Cozumel, Mexico. The same circuit for 8-months.
Pros: more money than expected Cons: A single, less exotic cruise. [Edit: I ended up alternating week-long cruises to East/West Caribbean. East is better.]

[An interesting aside... I'm told by my agent that Carnival is the only cruise line right now that actually rehearses. Apparently they've built a massive rehearsal facility in Miami, Florida where I'll go for 2+ weeks before the cruise to work with the band I'll be in. This is in stark contrast to what I've heard about other cruises being a motley crew/sink or swim situation.]

Current Preparation: There's a number of things going on right now... 1) Medical stuff: I'm working on a very specific set of medical things they need like vaccination and drug testing. Most of it is pretty standard, but there's a very specific process (I could elaborate?). 2) Reducing costs on land... I'm working on ending my current apartment lease, selling things I don't need, taking care of errands, and ending any spending that's not necessary (Car insurance, subscriptions, etc) 3) Music Preparation... This mainly has to do with getting my doubles together, getting equipment I might need, learning horn lines I've been meaning to learn, etc.

Even as I finish writing this I'm thinking of so many details that I left out, but I'd hate to bog down the post any more than I need to. Please ask any questions! I'm looking forward to logging this experience as it happens.

-Bubba-
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Good point on the instrument insurance!
Thanks for the Miami tips, I would love some more; I'm only familiar with South Beach.

Hey, wait a minute, the rehearsal facility's in Davie. That's adjacent to Ft. Lauderdale, a bit of a drive from where I'm from off of Calle Ocho in Miami.
Yeah, that seems to be where google says it is. I'm really excited about that part; they're taking care of transportation, pay, etc while I'm there. I'm wondering what groups other than the horn band.

Judging from the ports it sounds like the Carnival Triumph, too bad you won't be on there this month as I'll be on that cruise at the end of the month. Looking forward to your updates.
What a near miss! Do some recon for me, please!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Any updates?
I've gotten a bit hung up on the medical examination process, so I've been waiting. I'll go ahead and post a little about their requirements.

In the U.S., we're required to get a "Seafarers Medical Fitness Examination," performed by a Doctor CANNOT be a Nurse/Practitioner...
There's pretty specific requirements for my cruise line. I needed to use either a "Carnival Approved" doctor, which didn't accept insurance, or I have to pay $160 to have a company called "All Sea Medical" approve my documents, including a copy of the doctors license, etc.

There's a 5-page examination...
The examination asks all kinds of things... an extensive medical history: "Have you ever been diagnosed with..." asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, eye glasses, sleep apnea, tuberculosis, trouble breathing, chest pain, stroke, dizziness or vertigo, memory loss, HIV, Malaria, Rheumatic Fever, Crohn's Disease, Hermorrhoids, Arthritis, Gout, Lupus, Anxiety, Depression, etc? Hospitalized in the last 10 years? Then there's a full body examination with Height, Weight, BMI, Blood pressure, heart exam, blood vessels, hernias, "general appearance" of head, eyes, ears, skin, breast, thyroid, lungs, kidneys, nervous system, abdomen, anus, genitalia, spine, musculoskeletal, an eye exam...

My current question is... Which of these things are deal breakers?
The vaccinations are: Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Varicella (chickenpox) and they drug test for: Amphetamines, Cocaine, Opiates, Phencyclidine, and THC.

If I can, I'll post a blank examination sheet.

-Bubba-
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I've heard that some lines are making you take all kinds of courses like fire fighting, captaining the life boat, etc..
You pay out of pocket and they reimburse you. It adds up to around a grand.
The only thing like that for me is the safety training in the event of an emergency. Apparently at the beginning of each cruise I'll have some responsibility like a flight attendant teaching you about the lifeboats, etc.

For me the deal breaker would be that they expect you to foot the bill for the exam. Bad writing on the wall.
Most lines reimburse for the medical.

My Maritime Medical in Canada was $150 Cdn. Pretty straightforward; good enough that Carnival UK accepted it. The medical for Regent was crazy.
Interesting! As far as I know, the bill is on me. I have good insurance, but the $160 for them to "review" my documents really sucks.

-Bubba-
 

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Discussion Starter · #22 ·
Well, got in yesterday morning to do my SMFE (Medical). One of the irritating things is it is supposed to completely completed by either a MD or DO, so the doctor got REALLY annoyed by having to spend his time filling out a 6-page examination. He even left the room at some point, got a nurse, told her it was pissing him off, and asked her to do a few things so he could get back on schedule. He said he'll probably "refuse" to do those in the future because it took so much time. (Imagine if it was not a healthy 23 year old?)

-Bubba-
 

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Discussion Starter · #24 ·
Wish I had more to update, maybe I started this prematurely, but I wanted to include the whole process.
Just waiting on my paperwork, working on my playing, and checking things of my shopping list (waterproof phone case, repair gear, new cases...)

I'll try to post a sample SMFE (Seafarer Medical Fitness Examination) when I get back from the lake (Read: vacation).

-Bubba-
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
Went back in to the doctor to pick up my paperwork and get my last vaccination and and they forgot to do a chest x-ray and a long list of blood tests. The head nurse lady was very nice and got me setup to do the x-ray later today, and the blood tests later this week.

Here's what the document my doctor had to fill out... IT'S 7 PAGES.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4s5qCUGtDmmMFN0Y2w2blNqb1E/view?usp=sharing

Just spent 5 days listening to the band on the Carnival Triumph, a great group. Fantastic horn charts for the side show in the casino and their Motown shows.
Great! Since I haven't finished my Medical, I haven't gotten any information yet. Do you have any insight into the productions? What about the size of the groups? I'm sure it could all change, but I'm still itching for information.

-Bubba-
 

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Discussion Starter · #29 ·
Blood and drug testing tomorrow...

I'll reply later with some more details but here is a video of the band during one of the casino shows, I regret I didn't get more but my phone malfunctioned the next day.
Much bigger horn section than I was picturing! I wonder if that's what I'll be playing in. I wasn't expecting them to be reading either.

Hey Bubba, hope you're safe from Irma. All the best.
Thanks Merlin, you too! No worries, I'm safely in the Midwest until October.

-Bubba-
 

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Discussion Starter · #30 ·
Blood and drug testing tomorrow...
Well, submitted my paperwork and they got back to me that my doctor didn't run all the tests he was supposed to run.
So basically there's another week delay before I can get more information, or Carnival can book my travel.

-Bubba-
 

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Discussion Starter · #32 ·
FINALLY cleared "Fit for Duty" this weekend! Looking forward to getting the details from the line now.

So I heard Carnival is ditching the regular thing where a musician signs on and does a six month run and doesn't come on at the same time as everyone else. Musicians normally come on staggered.... But yeah, you will do rehearsals just like the production cast does (in Miami I think) ...
If you ever need any ship advice, feel free to message me. (I spent just over two years physically on ships working)
That seems consistent with what I was told, but I'm looking forward to get more details. I appreciate the offer, I'll let you know if there's anything that comes up!

-Bubba-
 

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Discussion Starter · #34 ·
Just got my ship changed to a 6 month contract out of Miami. Same pay. No rehearsal period.

Two different routes:
Miami -> Georgetown (Grand Cayman) -> Mahogany Bay (Honduras) -> Belize City -> Cozumel
Miami -> Half Moon Cay (Bahamas) -> Charlotte Amalie (St. Thomas) -> San Juan -> Grand Turk

That's a much better selection as far as I'm concerned.

-Bubba-
 

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Discussion Starter · #38 ·
Your schedule change does sound like a good thing! More variety in ports, and a shorter initial commitment.
Not bad, but you'll get bored of the ports pretty fast...
You're both correct; I was not looking forward to the thought of going back and forth to Mexico for 8 months.

...The last one I did in 2005 was with a six piece and I was the only horn (2 keyboards). Apparently things have changed and they're hiring more horns now.
Just got word of what types of groups I'll be playing in... A Rock Band, Latin Band (which is different from the last ship!), A 3-horn Instrumental/Jazz group, and a Musical/Pit type group.

Have fun, but be careful with the booze. I've seen a lot of musicians abuse it. Sometimes their entire pay would get eaten up by the bar bill. Try to have a routine (practising, exercising etc...)
I've heard that before, so it's definitely something to keep in mind. Good advice.

-Bubba-
 

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Discussion Starter · #40 ·
Starting to get things together...
I'm just received a Dropbox link with a big library of tunes. Looks like they do specific style nights: Motown, Classical Rock, 70s, Disco, etc. They also said there's an iPad onboard with all the sax parts pre-loaded.

-Bubba-
 

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Discussion Starter · #41 ·
Waiting for in my flight to Miami now! Based on the music they sent me, it doesn’t look like I’ll be playing clarinet, but I have it just in case.

-Bubba-
 

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Discussion Starter · #42 ·
Sitting in a Mexican hospital waiting for an MMR shot. Apparently the doctor didn’t check the box on my paperwork and my childhood shots probably wore off. :(

The bands killer— especially at the pop stuff. We do different shows each night: “Boogie Nights,” “Motown,” “80s,” etc.

-Bubba-
 

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Discussion Starter · #50 ·
Finally wrapping up trainings this week and looking forward to getting off in the Bahamas, Turks/Caicos, etc.

Grumps.... do you mind sharing which Cruise Line used canned music for their shows? I would be horrified to pay for a cruise & have this happen to me!!!!
Carnival, out of Baltimore.
Yeah, I can actually confirm this. We only play one of the mini-productions per week, with tracks, and in ears, but plenty for micing. It's all tenor- I could play flute on the first song, but they would have to cut the track or I'd have to learn the improvised solo, so it's not really worth it to me.

-Bubba-
 

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Discussion Starter · #51 ·
I want to tell you about the groups I’m playing in here...
1) Showband (“Glorious Bandsters”). This is on the main stage/Lobby bar most nights of the cruise. We do themed nights... “boogie nights,” “Motown,” “80s night,” “all jams on deck,” as well as two instrumental set of standards. Drums, Bass, Guitar, Piano, Three Horns, And Two singers. (Male/female)

2) Trio (“Horn Hub”). This is a series of medleys, each about 30 minutes with tracks. Each has a different theme: Horn Bands, Motown, Latin, 80s, etc. It’s not the most enjoyable sets, but sometimes the audience really gets into it.

3) Amor Cubano: We play/move during one of the production shows. It’s done with tracks on the parts we aren’t playing, wireless mics, and in ear monitors.

4) Latin Band (“Latin Connection”). They play mostly salsa, mambos, popular Latin tunes, some Latin jazz, etc. The Horn Hub has just begun to play with them HOPEFULLY to replace some of our trio sets. I’ve also been sitting in with them to do Standards in a Latin style. They’re all Colombian: Piano, Bass, two percussionists, and they all sing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #52 ·
Been two months now, which is the halfway point. We have a new pair of singers from Mississipi and Trinidad in the last couple weeks; they both sound nice, it's just getting together some of the forms with the band without rehearsing. We also lost our trombonist today, and we're waiting for a replacement. Not sure what's going to be happening to the horn trio sets until then.

-Bubba-
 

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Discussion Starter · #56 ·
Hey Bubba, I'm on the P&O Britannia starting Jan 9. We're in the Eastern Caribbean.
Merlin! We're there every other week. I'm in St. Thomas right now, San Juan tomorrow, and Grand Turk the following day. Where are you headed?

Enjoy your weather! The Cincinnati area is not so weather-pleasant right now!
I love it! My family sends me pictures of frozen cars, and I respond with pictures on the beach.

-Bubba-
 

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Discussion Starter · #60 ·
Thanks guys, I did enjoy it. I've now been back on land for about 5 days, so I want to try to post some final impressions of my first cruise gig...

So, all in all, I did 4 months basically 10/27/17-3/3/18. The normal contract would have been roughly 6 months, with 2 weeks of rehearsals (4 weeks for the rhythm section/singers). The ship had two different routes that, typically, alternated by the week. So I saw: Miami, Grand Cayman, Mahogany Bay (Honduras), Belize City, Cozumel, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Nassau (Bahamas), Half Moon Cay (Bahamas), St. Thomas, and Puerto Rico. I got off the ship in each of these ports at least once, and really enjoyed each one differently.

Without a doubt, the best part of the gig is the ability to save money. Prior to leaving for the ship, I got rid of my apartment (moved everything into a small storage, or my families place) and reduced my car insurance to the minimum. While on the ship, your expenses are minimal: free lodging and free food being the main two things. If you're not a drinker, you can save nearly all of your money. Putting this together with your salary, I'm really surprised there aren't more young post-college students taking a chunk out of their University debt. If I were to nearly back to back contracts (which is possible), I could pay the entirety of my student debt ($35,000) in less than a year and a half.

The strangest part about this gig from my perspective was not doubling at all. Carnivals says they require flute and clarinet chops, but that wasn't present at all on my ship. I played Tenor the entire time, and played flute on a few jazz sets for myself. While there I played 6 nights a week in the main Pop Band (Motown, Disco, 80s), the Horn Trio (Sax, Trumpet, Trombone), the Latin Band (Latin Jazz, Salsa, Merengue, etc), and played on Latin show with the cast (Amor Cubano).

Right now, I'm figuring out when I'll be going out on my next ship. They wanted me to go out immediately, but I turned the offer down so I could have a little time with friends/family, and play some land gigs. Not sure if I'll be going back in two weeks or 4 months at this point.

-Bubba-
 
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