Cruise Ship Entertainment Pt. 2 – An Interview with DJ Dawkness

June 5, 2017 by Michael Cordeiro

In the first installment of Mobile Beat Magazine’s expose on cruise ship entertainment I spoke with Music Operations Supervisor Alex Dena about what it takes to become a Carnival Cruise ship DJ. For this edition I will take you behind the scenes on board the Carnival Magic as I shadow DJ Dawkness (real name Sean), one of Carnival’s premier ship DJ’s. The life of a cruise ship DJ is equal parts relaxation and craziness. DJ Dawkness helps me beak it all down.
MikeC: Sean, my first question is how did you come up with the name “Dawkness”? It’s gotta be a good story.
Dawkness: I get asked that a lot, which I guess is a good thing because it gets people interested in me. I’m a big fan of the old Chappelle show. He had a skit on there and He and Charlie Murphy would be like,”Dawkness, dawkness, dawkness”! That stuck in my head and I thought it would be unique DJ name.
MikeC: When did you first start doing gigs as a DJ?
Dawkness: In college back in 2006. I was working college radio and I was in a dance troupe. I started doing frat parties and launched my mobile company after graduation.
MikeC: When did you start with Carnival?
Dawkness: I’m from Miami and a friend had told me about Spiniversity and cruise ship DJs. It sounded cool, so in 2013 I applied and have been going strong since.
MikeC: Alex had mentioned that the DJ’s do a 3 or 6 month contract. Do you do both?
Dawkness: I like to stick with the 3 month contract. Gives me time at home to get things done and see my girl.
MikeC: Is it tough on your relationship being away for 3 months?
Dawkness: Sometimes. I was already working on the ships when we met, so she knew what I did. Like any relationship, you gotta work at it. Trust is a big part.
MikeC: Do you want to get married, have kids? Will you still work on the ships if you do?
Dawkness: Yeah, definitely, someday. I don’t know if I’d still do the ships. I love doing this, but having a family might be a game changer.
MikeC: I guess it would be like military folks who get deployed for months at a time. Are there married couples on board?
Dawkness: I don’t think on this ship, but I have seen married couples on other ships that sail and work together.
MikeC: That sounds cool. I think my wife and I could get into that. So let’s talk about a typical day on the ship for the house DJ. What’s your schedule like?
Dawkness: Some days it is real long and others pretty easy. The busiest days are when we first leave port and the days at sea.
MikeC: How many shows a day do you do?
Dawkness: It varies from day to day. On the first day we leave I’ll DJ a deck party around sunset, then head to the club around 10 pm and spin until around 2 am. Get some sleep then do a mid morning pool party until lunch. After that relax for a while and get ready for another deck party on the rear of the ship and back to the club around 11 pm and spin until 2 am again.
MikeC: Wow, busy! Is it like that every day?
Dawkness: Only the days at sea. While we are in port I have some time off. When the ship leaves port I usually do a deck or atrium party, then the club at night.
MikeC: so you have to set up and breakdown several times a day?
Dawkness: Yeah, it’s crazy. I have a cart and I’m pushing equipment from one end of the ship to the other. The good thing is the club has a full booth. I just bring in my laptop.
MikeC: Alex said the laptops are issued from Carnival. Does that make it harder to program and get used too?
Dawkness: At first. I had to learn Serato and build complete music crates with cue points in the laptop. Once it is all set up I just add the new music when Alex sends it.
MikeC: I watched you doing the deck party with the Cruise Director Rev Doc E. He is pretty crazy! Do you rehearse and put shows together or is everything kind of improv?
Dawkness: Doc E. is a trip. He has so much energy. We don’t really rehearse routines or anything, but we do talk and have built a cool relationship. I know his style and how he likes to do things, so I play off that energy.
MikeC: You guys seem to have a tight fit. Do you do the same show each time?
Dawkness: Yes and no. Carnival kind of has a script. You know, the send off party is supposed to be this way and the grand finale party should have this in it. It’s more about what Carnival wants the guest experience to be. Besides that we have free reign to play to the crowd and make it fun. Every week it is a totally different group with a whole new dynamic.
MikeC: What’s the dress code on the ship? Do you have to wear a suit or tux ever?
Dawkness: It’s pretty casual. You’re in the Caribbean so, it’s hot on deck. Mostly Polo shirts and shorts. You gotta be neat and clean. Sometimes in the club if it is a theme night I have different outfits. I like to change it up, have fun.
MikeC: how is it sharing a cabin?
Dawkness: It’s like college. You have a room mate and you make it work. Respect each other’s privacy and try to be neat.
MikeC: Unlike the crew you can relax anywhere on board , right?
Dawkness: The DJ’s have it a little different than other crew members. I can eat in public dining, use the gym, go for a swim or sit on deck and read.
MikeC: Everything is free, right?
Dawkness: Yeah, except alcohol and souvenirs.
MikeC: Nice, that’s a great deal. Do you visit ports?
Dawkness: Every chance I get. I just have to keep track of my schedule and be back early enough for any parties.
MikeC; How do you manage you mobile DJ business while at sea?
Dawkness: I have all my stuff online. I use the internet on board to communicate with clients and make bookings. Thank God for social media and stuff. Makes booking a whole lot easier.
MikeC: So how do you schedule gigs?
Dawkness: If I get calls for a gig while I’m going to be at sea I just refer them to some DJ’s I know. I have it worked out that all of my weddings are booked for when I’m home. You just have to get in a groove and have a good routine for managing your business.
MikeC: Has being a cruise ship DJ helped your business or hurt it?
Dawkness: Definitely helped. You can’t beat the exposure. Clients see me posting party pictures from all over the world and then I’m home to do their wedding. They feel like they’re getting a celebrity DJ.
MikeC: What’s the most difficult part of your job on board?
Dawkness: I would say learning the crowd quickly. Every week it’s day one with a whole new group of people. No two send off parties are ever the same. Even the hairy chest contest is always crazy, but different.
MikeC: That hairy chest contest is just something that can’t be unseen!
Dawkness: (laughing) Yeah, I know man.
MikeC: So what are your goals as a DJ for Carnival?
Dawkness: My biggest goal is to DJ on board all 26 ships. Travel the world and hit every port.
MikeC: Sounds awesome and expensive. Does Carnival take care of the transportation?
Dawkness: That’s the beauty of it. If they want me in Alaska or Australia, Carnival will pay to get me there. You can’t beat it.
MikeC: What’s the next big thing you have coming up?
Dawkness: In May I’m off to Europe.
MikeC: To DJ or vacation?
Dawkness: To spin. Can’t wait.
MikeC: That sounds pretty cool. How can people get in touch with you or learn more about you?
Dawkness: You can follow me on Twitter at @djDawkness or find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/djdawkness

Big thank you to Sean for letting me shadow some of his gigs on board and hang in the club booth. Most us of tend not to like another DJ in our “space” when we spin. Sean was a true professional. With his help I was able to see first hand all that a cruise ship DJ does. The schedule can be hectic at times. Pushing equipment around a huge ship can be taxing. Trust me, you definitely have to be in good shape.

Working on board can be very rewarding and fun. You get to see the world and have someone else pay for it. If you are young and single this can be a great career opportunity. I would also say that if the kids are grown up, you might consider having the wife apply on board and go together for 3 months at a time. In New England where I live January through March are cold and slow. Personally, I wouldn’t mind spinning on board in the Caribbean myself. Hhmm, now to convince the wife……

Michael Cordeiro Michael Cordeiro (48 Posts)

Mike Cordeiro is the owner of M.C. Entertainment. A small RI multi-op. Mike got his start in the entertainment field while stationed in Frankfurt Germany in 1990. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Entertainment & Event Management from Johnson & Wales University and has appeared on TLC’s Four Weddings, hosted an episode of Toddler’s & Tiaras, and does background acting for movies.


Filed Under: Digital DJing, Mobile DJ Business, Mobile DJ Misc