Photo by TONY KRISTOFFERSEN
Photo by TONY KRISTOFFERSEN

There are many situations in which you may find yourself behind the decks making people dance. From weddings to clubs, resorts and casinos; each scenario is bound to be a bit different. This article is going to focus on the fast growing industry of cruise ships and provide you with some tips on how to effectively make everyone feel included in your floating night club. Please keep in mind that every cruise line caters to a slightly different clientele and everyone’s experience should be based on the clientele they have on board.

Some cruise lines are very high end and luxurious so you shouldn’t expect to have very many spring breakers that can barely pay for tuition. In that case you will probably play more Frank Sinatra than Drake. You will also find more family friendly cruise lines that will have a wide range of ages. Now you won’t see any toddlers in the club, but you will see them during your pool sets and possibly if you do any kids only sets. Having the latest Disney sing-a-long or pop hits will be important to please the kids and most importantly their parents. Happy kids, happy parents, right? All of this information about passengers will be available to you as people book cruises months in advance typically. Ask your cruise or entertainment director for the demographics of your next sailing before you take off so you can be prepared.

Photo by Ash Dowie
Photo by Ash Dowie

The climate of clientele can change from cruise to cruise depending on special promotions, itineraries and more. You may have a large group of “Bears” (hairy gay men) buy out a cruise ship block for a special sailing one week and then have a Christrian group buy out the next week. It’s safe to say you probably won’t play the same sets on these cruises. If you are unfamiliar with Christian hits thats okay, simply ask around. Cruise ships are the most diverse environment you can work in so its likely you will find someone with some insight. Literally any curve ball can be thrown at you so it is best to be prepared with a diverse library because once you are out at sea it can be a bit tricky retrieving songs.

We recommend using charts to check what the top 10 songs are in each respective genre. Outside of the mainstream hits, if you sprinkle in 10 or so country tracks for that big Texas family reunion thats onboard you should be able to get through the night. Having the 10 latest Soca hits will ease stare downs from the Caribbean partygoers and keep your dance floor moving. Don’t think you can get away with 10 “Latin” tracks though because Latin America is very big and each region has a different style of music that gets them moving. North/Central Americas and the Caribbean latin community will be more keen to Reggaeton, Bachata and Salsa, whereas South Americans may enjoy anything from Cumbia, Samba, Cuarteto and more depending on what part they are from. Do your research!

Photo by Kyle Glenn
Photo by Kyle Glenn

Working on a cruise ship you have to understand that you can literally end up anywhere in the world. For those who work a 6 month contract you can very well come across various regions that span dozens of countries and cultures. Can you imagine having to please crowds from Spain to Japan and everywhere in between? Don’t worry, no one expects you to have a full library of K-Pop, however having a few songs from the places you will be traveling to will always look great in reviews and good reviews typically bring you higher pay.

With the general rules above you should be prepared and ready to rock almost any crowd that comes your way and most importantly make nearly everyone feel included in the nights festivities. Now there are always some cheat codes and we have those for you too! Motown, Rock and Roll and Disco are eras and genre’s of music that sit in a sweet spot right now. All of this music derives from the 60s and 70s, when most of grandparents and/or parents were listening to their new favorite jams. Children always develop some of their music taste from what they are exposed to from their parents. So this music safely spans three generations of head nodding and dance floor jugging. This music was also widely popular on a global scale. Michael Jackson, Elvis and The Bee Gees are all household names almost anywhere in the world you go. This doesn’t mean only play the oldies but goodies all night, it’s more of a “how to find a crowd pleaser”.

Photo by Ardian Lumi
Photo by Ardian Lumi

Dance music from the 90s and 2000s seems to be another era of music that is universally appreciated from the West to the East as everything from What Is Love by Haddaway and Low by Flo Rida. Newer dance music by the likes of Calvin Harris, Sigala and more seem to be pretty popular across most of the Americas, Europe and Asia for several generations of party-goers. Depending on where you are, newer Hip Hop will either be a big hit or a big flop. Some artists such as Drake and Beyonce are typically a safe bet but it is important to remember that hip hop represents pop culture of a given region because it is what those people can typically relate to. It’s why people from the southern states of the U.S have a style of hip hop they like while the west and east coasts each have their own respective sounds. You have to keep that in mind when you are playing to a crowd that may be regionally from another part of the world, how are they suppose to know the latest YG record if they live in Brazil?

So you know you can rely on Motown, Rock, Disco and Dance music and should tread lightly with Hip Hop in most scenarios. This is just a skeleton and you should use crowd reading ability to test out songs. Not every song will be a hit but whats great about a cruise is that you get an opportunity to really learn your audience as you will have them onboard for usually at least 3 days and sometimes much longer. Get to know your passengers personally, ask where everyone is from early on in the cruise to get a good idea of the direction you should head musically. Have fun and switch up your sets to give yourself a challenge and your passengers a unique experience each night. Have you DJ’d on a cruise ship before or want to? Make sure to check out the Traveling DJs Facebook page for more insight on the world of DJing on cruise ships.

DJ Whitt Taylor Princess Cruises