How to work with a cruise ship band by Musical Director Hamish Revell


Cruise ships offer incredible opportunities for musicians and entertainers. In this Podcast, recorded on board Cunard’s Queen Victoria with Musical Director Hamish Revell, we discuss what a new artiste needs to know before taking their act to sea.

Invest money in your musical arrangements

It’s no surprise that the main concern musicians have with acts on ships is the quality of their musical arrangements. I talk to Hamish about the importance of good charts and how a new act with no charts and no money can get started. There’s some great advice here. I wish I’d had this conversation when I was starting out, it would have saved me a lot of money and stress.

Choosing the right arranger

Some cruise lines use just one horn some two, three, four or five. It’s hard to know how to have your music scored to deal with these different line ups. It’s also hard to choose the right arranger. I’ve written a lot out this in chapter 7 of Cabaret Secrets “Love Your Musicians”. There I lay out in exact detail the method I use to cover all eventualities. 

Hamish’s tips

  • Invest money in your arrangements.
  • If you have a small budget don’t waste money on poor charts. Spend what you have on your key songs (e.g. the opener, closer and maybe two or three more in the show) and include a few standards where you can use basic lead sheets (for free) just for the rhythm section. They’ll sound small, but good. Build your pad as your budget allows.
  • Look at the length of the cruise. If it’s a short cruise stick to well known material. If it’s a world cruise where the guests are onboard for four months, they will appreciate more varied and interesting material.
  • Look at where the ship is sailing from so you know the nationality of the guests on board. Cunard now sails out of Hamburg so on those cruises you’d be wise to say a few words or sing something in German.

Recorded on board the Queen Victoria, July 2013

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