Here’s how to travel for free on a cruise vacation — and get paid.
I get asked by DJs all the time — “get me on a cruise!” Apparently that’s on a lot of bucket lists.
Here’s what happened to me: In 2018, a travel agent contacted me after seeing me at an event that required a lot of interaction with guests. The agent said I reminded her of a cruise director. She wanted to put a group cruise together that featured onboard performances and private parties — with me as the entertainment.
She worked alongside Carnival to make it happen. Carnival vetted me and offered me access to the nightclubs for parties and other locations throughout their ship (The Pride). I agreed to do it and was offered an all-expense-paid cruise with my wife, and my rate was covered. The only way I accepted it was if my fee and proceeds from ticket sales went to a charity of my choice. The first cruise sold 40 cabins.
From the sales, I was able to donate $1,000 to Big Brothers Big Sisters.
It’s basically this: a travel agent puts a group cruise together, advertises the DJ cruise with the group, the DJ’s popularity attracts cabin sales, increasing the group’s benefits and the DJ’s payout.
Here’s how you can do it too:
1. Locate a travel agency, one that specializes in group travel would be best. Perhaps someone you already know might do home based travel planning, and would be perfect (or contact me to use my agency).
2. Pitch them this way: “I’d like to put together a group cruise and DJ a few parties during the cruise, and I can get a corporate (perhaps a non-profit) partner to help advertise it.” From there the agent will more than likely lay out how many cabins would have to be sold in order to cover your fee and expenses.
3. Pick a date, a cruise line and port to cruise from. The agent will take care of the logistics of your performances with the cruise line (I’ve only done Carnival, but the agency has partnerships with all cruise lines).
4. Know how you’ll advertise, and who you’ll advertise to. My first cruise in 2018 I used a non-profit client of mine, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Zanesville, Ohio, with a promised donation of the sales. They in return, advertised it to their mailing list.
Here’s what my travel agent suggested:
But it gets a lot deeper…
While on the ship, I was considered a guest DJ so I was treated to a private balcony cabin, and able to partake of any guest activities. My wife dared me to enter Carnival’s Lip Sync Battle (#LSB) auditions. The 2 finalist were voted by audience applause and of course, as an event DJ who could do the worm, I soared through and won auditions, this the first day at sea.
The goal of the #LSB is to politic during the 7-day cruise and get people to vote for you by applause during the main show, last night at sea. Once Carnival started adverting on board “Guest DJ Kurtus in our lip sync battle championship…”, guests would come to Beauties nightclub on the ship to see me DJ the group parties.
Throughout the week, people would ask for business cards and if I would come to Canada, Pennsylvania, Maryland to DJ weddings and other parties.
Along with getting requests to DJ in other states from simply being a guest DJ on a cruise, I also now have following from North America who take the “Cruise with DJ Kurtus.”
If the DJ has a following, very little work on the DJ’s part is needed.
I don’t have a quota to meet for my expenses, but I believe it’s an average of 8 cabins that have to be sold for the DJ to get an expense-paid, working vacation. After 8 cabins, you have options such as profiting from sales, adding to the group’s incentives, along with other DJ goodies (drink packages, WiFi service, shore excursions…)
One takeaway: the agency puts a group cruise together based on your popularity. The more cabins your popularity sells, the more you, the agent and cruise line profits.
If the DJ takes the commission from sales, it can be easily over $1,000 on a 7 day cruise with three 2- hour DJ sets. But the sky’s the limit.
As for equipment, Carnival sends a Technical Requirement prior requesting what they’ll have to provide. I keep it simple by providing my own controller, NS7ii here, and plug in to their sound systems.
I’ve now switched to a Pioneer SR2 for obvious reasons, and I must say the lighter the gear is, the more enjoyable your working vacation is!
Kurtus Nichols is a two-time reigning champion on Carnival Cruise Lines lip-sync competition (He won both times with Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary”).
To check out more business tips, click here.