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Cruise Ships

Performing on Cruise ShipsMarket Overview – Cruise Ships

Always somewhere in the daydreams of magicians and other variety performers is the thought that perhaps a life on the ocean blue would solve all their problems.

Food and accommodation all paid for, glamorous passengers and fellow staff, sunshine, exotic ports, performances in the glittering showrooms, time to read and study.

The reality is a bit different. Cruise ships don’t suit everyone.

There are some major difficulties that you may not have thought about. I hope the following tips and ideas may make you at least aware of these areas and avoid some blunders that could ruin your chances of ever working cruise ships.

Note. I have only skimmed but not read the recent “Cruise Ship Magicians Handbook” by Fred Becker. But, I’ve just had as a house guest one of Australia’s best magicians, Raymond Crowe (World’s Greatest Magic 4 and big MagicCoach fan).

He recently did his first cruise ship ever, (on the QE2 !).

He studied the book before he went and said it was invaluable. He gave it his highest recommendation. If you are seriously considering chasing this market

then you should get it.

Ideas and Tips on Cruise Ships.


Don’t try and work the market until you are ready. If you launch yourself at the Cruise Lines and fail to make the grade, then you can ruin the opportunity for yourself for a long long time.

If you do poorly in the shows, fail to dress properly around the ship or in anyway antagonise the passengers or Cruise Staff, then you get a big black mark. A mark that could remain for years.

Do your research. Talk to others about appropriate dress and behaviour.


Don’t think you can practice up several new routines during the day in your cabin and put them into the show to make up time.

Cruise ship audiences can be very sophisticated.

They’ve seen a lot of acts and know when you’re bluffing.

So how much time/material do you need?

This is difficult to answer. The only real answer is “as much time as you are asked to do”.


And don’t just rely on the word of the agent or bureau that puts you on the ship. The Cruise director is King and will ask for whatever he needs. That’s the amount of time you will have to do.

On some ships it may only be 2 different 30 minute spots. Other ships may need two different 45 minute sets, plus a 15 here and could you do another 5 in the closing show. These times start to add up!

If you have an hour and a half of solid material, or better, two hours, then you are probably safe.


Solid material that’s squeeky clean.

Some ships do have late night “comedy club” sessions and some cruises are designated 18 – 35’s where risky material is OK, but generally it’s not.


Not all your audiences will speak English.

Important to find out about the typical audience. Especially if you are doing a segment of a longer cruise. (I worked a segment of a world cruise on what turned out to be a French ship with a French speaking audience. Wow, that cut into my material.)


A lot of showrooms are not that great for magic.

They are getting bigger and better, but tend to be designed for the Vegas Revue style shows. Audiences can be wrapped well around on three sides. Backstage space can be minimal. Sight lines can be very revealing. One Russian ship I worked had a balcony with seating, behind and above the stage.


The stage moves up and down! Sometimes a lot. If you are bringing boxes make sure they have locking castors. If you are getting people up, realise that getting someone to stand for a while on a rocking open stage may be very difficult. You may not even be allowed to do it. This could chop out another bunch of material.

A chair for them to sit in could help (and give you something to steady yourself).

(Juggling during very rough conditions can also be extremely tricky. Especially clubs, where full rotation can be interrupted by the floor rising or falling. I once had to perform during the early stages of a typhoon in the South China Sea. My act then had a segment that included 5 ball juggling followed by a fast 3 club routine. The balls went fine.

The clubs went into the audience.)


It is hard to keep in touch with clients and work opportunities at home. Once people hear that you are working ships, they tend to think you are unavailable where in reality you may just be doing sporadic cruises.


An information sheet or newsletter going out regularly could help here. Internet Cafes have improved this situation a lot and some ships now even have Computer access onboard so you can stay in touch.


Meet as many people on board as you possibly can before you work. This always works. Here’s a great tip that was passed on to me.

As soon as possible, visit the beauty parlour, introduce yourself and perhaps perform something appropriate for the staff.

The steady stream of clients that passes through after that, will all get told about “the charming magician, you must see his show.”

On some big ships there will be a lot of activities on at the same time as you perform. Movies, bingo, casino and other performers etc. A full house of people keen to see your show will help your reception and your ratings.


Don’t get involved in onboard politics.

There is always something going on. You are wise to steer well clear. Ships are a hot bed of gossip & rumours. Danger lurks at every turn!


Hey, but it’s not all bad. You will meet some fabulous people and get to work with some incredible acts. The market is booming and more and more ships are getting built. The call for entertainers is stronger than ever. Children’s Entertainers are also in demand, as some ships are specifically built for the family market or do holiday cruises.


And it certainly is a way to see the world, or at least parts of it. Without pursuing that market, I probably never would have made it to India (Goa, Bombay, Madras, The Andaman’s) Hong Kong, Singapore the Philippines or the exotic Maldives. Or any of those scattered small outcrops in the South Pacific such as, Bali, Vanuatu. New

Caledonia or Fiji. Or seen the historic World War Two battlefields of Guadalcanal, Iron Bottom Sound, Bloody Ridge and the back streets of Port Moresby.


3 Powerful Close Up Strategies!

closeup3 Powerful Close Up Strategies

Here are three tips to think about if you are booked for a large corporate event doing closeup.


Whenever a function has a registration desk I make sure I do some magic for them. Don’t interrupt what they’re doing but if they are all set up and waiting for the guests to arrive, show them a few simple things.

They will often then mention you to the guests arriving which will help “set – up” your performances later. “Oh, you must see the magician, he’s great.”

The other factor about this, is that these people are often the “gate-keepers” in the office. They may not have made the actual decision to book you, but they may have done the phone around and collected quotes info etc.

The more of these people on your side, the better. If they go back to the office raving about you that’s great. They will also act as a contact point if guests want to find out how to contact you or if you approach the company for a testimonial or for further work.

Five minutes of your time, perhaps before you are scheduled to start, could turn into multiple bookings.


I always check if they are having an official photographer.

If they are, I always seek him out and introduce myself to him. Explain why you’re there and ask if he would like to set up a shot with some guests early on.

Take the initiative here. Don’t just let him find you later and hopefully get you with a good group.

If he doesn’t want to set anything up, here’s two ideas. Tell him what time you’re leaving. Perhaps you are just doing pre dinner drinks. If he assumes you are there all night, you could miss out on a great photo. Also mention what you feel is a good shot.

You know the moments that are “hot”. If he’s ready then the chances are increased you will get a great shot.

Getting your face in the photo records is a good strategy. The bookers and organisers may not get to see you work. At a big function you can be working your heart out, but if the right people don’t see you, then they may think later it was a waste of money.

If when they go through the photo files and your face keeps popping up, this solves the problem.

Good photos get used in Company newsletters, websites, local papers etc and do lead to further work.

Also, of course, if you have got the photographers contact details, you may be able to have access to the photos. You will have to check with the company that booked you, but this is usually never a problem.


One thing that many beginner walkaround performers seem to feel, is that they have to be performing all the time at a function. Non stop Trick after Trick.
Don’t be afraid to chat. Remember, you are there as a host entertainer. Your role is to make sure the guests have a good time.

If they want to chat, tell you a story, ask about your background, let them. If you interrupt their story about this fabulous magician they saw in their childhood just to show them your latest effect you may be missing the whole point of you being there.

(If you’ve listened to the Michael Ammar tape on memorable magic, he tells you to be on full alert when people are telling stories about magicians they have seen. What do they remember? What impresses the audience. This is valuable feedback)


Bonus Tip

Once you have done Tip 1, go back to the registration desk later and ask if it’s OK to leave a small pile of business cards. Most events recycle name badges, people are used to returning to the Rego desk as they leave and returning their badges. A nice display of your cards next to the collection bowl can be very popular.



Need a new poster or advertising piece?

Really pleased with the new promotional flyer I had done last week. You can click the image for a closer view.

Mentalist Australia Timothy Hyde

This was done for me by a graphic designer via DesignCrowd. Very reasonable price, very quick and lots of designs I could have picked.



Magic Show Gift Vouchers!

Magician ShowMagic Show Gift Voucher

I was reminded of this idea when reading another maillist. I had heard of it before, but asked the writer Jack Disbrow if I could share it with you guys. I’ve added a few other ideas as well.

The basic concept is that you market a Gift Voucher to the value of one of your shows. So what’s the difference here. One show is one show. Well, there are a lot of angles to this.

# For Children’s Entertainers

Target your advertising in Seniors Newspapers.

“Buy a Children’s Show for your grandchildren.”

# Offer then at a discount at some times of the year! “Normally $150 – this month $125”

0  Buy One Show get a voucher for a second show at half price”

0  Offer them to Party planners or Party Supply Shops. They sell them at face value to their customers and then pay you an agreed percentage.

0  Offer them to Charity events / Fun Raisers etc as a item for Raffles/Auctions etc.

Remember, you want to have an expiry date on the Voucher. Be realistic otherwise no one will buy it, but you probably don’t want someone getting onto you a couple of years down the track.

If you pursued the “buy one as a gift” idea I’m sure you would find a certain number would actually never be taken up. You could factor this in to your pricing. Have a lower price that would encourage more sales, but knowing you may not have to do some of them.

Hope it helps line a few pockets!



Agents – An Insider’s View Part 2

agents 2AGENTS   - An Insiders View Part 2

Guest Post by Dick Christian


Perhaps because I consider myself first and foremost a performer, I try to bend over backwards in favor of the performer and do things as an agent that none of the other agencies for which I work have ever done for me. These include: 1) providing every performer I send to a job with their own personalized business cards – - bearing THEIR name, but my companies address, phone number and web site, 2) providing each performer with a map showing the location of, and route to, each local job (a convenience to the performer and, just as important, deprives the performer of any excuse for late arrival because they couldn’t find the location), 3) in all but rare occasions getting payment to the performer in a timely manner after the job even if we have not yet received payment from the client (whenever possible I try to arrange it so the performer is paid on the job and then remits the commission to my company) and 4) in those rare cases where we have a problem getting paid by the client, I see to it that the performer gets paid as soon as our cash flow permits and then I try to go after the client for the monies owed (in one case it took 3 years of legal hassles before I finally recovered over $3,500 owed by a client – - but the performers were all paid less than 2 weeks after the job). In the rare instance when a client has given a performer a bad check, I have always paid the performer even though there have been times when I was never able to recover the money from the client. I also always let the performer know how much the client is paying for the job. (At least one agency that I work for on occasion has told me that what they charge the client is none of my business; however, because they have always paid me the fee I have asked for I still do business with them.)


In cases where I think that I can get the performer a higher fee than they have asked for, I will try to do so. And I have no reluctance at all to turn down a client and often do so when their budget is too small to get a performer of the quality that the occasion demands. If they are going to get a substandard performer because they can’t afford one who will do the job right I would far rather have them unhappy with another agency than with mine. The odds are good that they will increase their budget and call me the next time they need entertainment.

The things that I ask of the performers I represent include: -

giving me the best price they can for their services and, if possible TWO prices – - the one they’d like to get if possible and the one they would be willing to accept if necessary to get the job – - if there is to be any negotiating room (other than reducing my commission) I need to know that up front in order to be able to negotiate with the client if necessary,

that they conduct themselves in the most professional manner on the job so as to give the client the quality of service that reflects favorably on them as the performer and on my company as agent,

that any work deriving from a job booked through my company within 1 year of the engagement be booked through my company (this is standard within the industry and the only thing that will get a performer on an agency’s shit list quicker than not showing up for a job is using a job booked through the agency to solicit work directly with the same client or others in attendance at the event or giving out one’s own cards instead of the booking agency’s cards on the job).

I should also add that if a client calls me for magician or a mentalist and IF I think that I am qualified to do the job myself and am available to do so, I will try to book one of my own shows (hey, I never said I was stupid). If, however, I feel that another performer who I represent is better qualified for the job (i.e., if it is a trade show or other situation for which I have others better suited for the event), if I am not available, or if the client has hired me in the past and now wants a different performer, I am more than happy to put someone else on the job.

Those of us who operate and manage reputable and conscientious agencies are embarrassed by the few bad apples that give the industry a bad name – - just as we who perform are embarrassed by those who reflect unfavorably upon our craft.

If you are in doubt about an agency’s integrity it is always a good idea to check with other performers they represent. Any reputable agency should be happy to provide you with a list of performer references.

Dick Christian