Cruise Ship Entertainment – An Exclusive Mobile Beat Expose

May 18, 2017 by Michael Cordeiro

Are you going through MBLV  convention withdrawals? Do you wish there was another one before March 2018? The staff at Mobile Beat listened and have responded in a big way! This November (25-30) we are taking the show from the deserts of Nevada to the high seas of the Caribbean. A fun filled cruise from sunny Miami to the Dominican Republic and Turks & Caicos Islands on board the Carnival Sensation. Five days of family fun, sun, seminars and networking.

In conjunction with the November cruise, Mobile Beat wanted to know everything about ship entertainment and being a cruise ship DJ. We reached out to Alex Dena (Carnival Cruise Line Supervisor Music Operations) and Vance (Public Relations Manager) to help set up some interviews and break down entertainment life on a cruise ship. This past April I boarded the Carnival Magic for a week of fun, interviews and investigating with my family. What an amazing experience!

Through the direction of Alex I was able to interview and shadow DJ Dawkness (one of Carnival’s premier DJs), Cruise Director Reverend Doc E and Entertainment Director Ryan Laviolette. There is no way for me to put all that I learned into one article. To give you the full scoop on ship entertainment, we’ve broken the info up into four articles starting with the boss – Alex Dena. I asked Alex to breakdown the process of becoming a cruise ship DJ for Carnival and all the corporate requirements.

MikeC: Hi Alex, how long have you been with Carnival?

AlexD: Since 2006. I was a ship DJ until 2016 then took over as the Supervisor of Music Operations.

MikeC: What does your job entail?

AlexD: As the Supervisor for all the ships I handle music programming, scheduling and assigning DJs, hiring and training.

MikeC: How many ships do you oversee?

AlexD: All of them. Like 26 with a few more coming online by 2020.

MikeC: These ships are all over the world, right? How the heck do you keep track?

AlexD: The fleet is worldwide, not just in the Caribbean. I have to deal with many different time zones and solve problems on a global scale. It’s not easy, but I love it.

MikeC: What’s the process for becoming a DJ for Carnival?

AlexD: Well first I should explain how the program started. Carnival really wanted to take it’s on board entertainment to the next level. Every part of the guest’s time on board was looked at and Carnival came up with the “2.0 Experience”. Parts of the ships were redesigned and every facet of on board entertainment was retooled. This included the shows, bands, comics and DJs. Carnival partnered with DJ Irie of the Miami Heat to create “Spiniversity”. Anyone who wants to become a Carnival DJ has to complete this program. (

MikeC: Why is this program so important? If a DJ applies that already has years of experience, why go through the training?

AlexD: To make sure their skills, attitude and work ethic fit in with Carnival’s culture. Working on a cruise ship is unlike anything most people have done before. We need our DJs to be of  a certain caliber and posses the ability to rock people from all over the world.

MikeC: Good point. What are some of the requirements for the hiring process?

AlexD: Everyone is required to undergo a background check and physical. Fill out the online application and provide us with a sample of their work. ( Here is the link:

MikeC: What are some of the skills you look for?

AlexD: Strong Mic skills and a stronger work ethic. The ability to spin in an open format and be very interactive. They must be personality driven and willing to be at sea for 3-6 months working every day.

MikeC: Three to six months seems like a long time. Do you have shorter contracts?

AlexD: Three months is the shortest. You might not stay on the same ship for all 3 months but it just makes scheduling and continuity easier.

MikeC: Do the DJs bring their own equipment on board?

AlexD: No, every DJ is issued a Mac Book Pro with a full music library. Each ship is equipped with Pioneer DDJ-SX controller running Serato. We use EV speakers for deck parties and the clubs have built in sound systems controlled from the DJ booth. I send out updates with new music every few weeks.

MikeC: How did you settle on Serato and the Pioneer controller?

AlexD: We talked to a lot of industry experts and DJs. Serato seems to be the top choice for club DJs and the Pioneer controller lasts the longest at sea. The salt air just eats through equipment.

MikeC: So what is life like for a DJ on the ship? How many days a week do you work? Where do you eat, live, etc..?

AlexD: On the ship you work every day. While most of the crew works 12 hours, the DJ does a couple of sets. Maybe an afternoon deck party then a few hours at night in the club. Everyone lives in the crew cabin area and shares a room. Unlike other crew members, the DJs can eat in public dining and are allowed access to common areas to relax when they are off.

MikeC: Do the DJs have a boss at sea?

AlexD: Yes, they report to the Cruise Director and / or the Entertainment Director depending on the ship.

MikeC: Are you allowed to leave the ship at a port?

AlexD: Yes, you can visit a port. You just have to be back in time to for your shift.

MikeC: How many D’s on each ship?

AlexD: Usually two. The headliner or premier DJ and a back up or warm up DJ. On Bigger ships we may have several parties happening at the same time and need someone spinning in multiple locations. Plus we usually assign newer DJ’s to a ship with a veteran to help them break in easier.

MikeC: Do you have to pay for anything on board?

AlexD: Not really. Just alcohol and souvenirs. Your room, laundry, food, the ship doctor are all included.

MikeC: Do you have fill in DJ’s? Suppose I just wanted to do a cruise here and there, is that possible?

AlexD: Yes and no. We have a roster of all our certified, trained DJs. If there is an emergency and we have to switch someone off a ship, we pull from that list. The only way to get on that list is to complete the training and have completed a 3 or 6 month contract.

MikeC: One last question and it’s a big one. How much do you pay the DJs?

AlexD: Well, I can’t really disclose the amount here, but I will say we pay better and offer more opportunities than most other cruise lines. If you are young and single this is a perfect way to see the world, have fun and get paid for it. Remember, we are giving you free room and board. Free food and medical on the ship and we take care of all transfers and transportation between ships. It really is a great deal.

MikeC: Sounds like a pirate’s life to me.

Footnote: Alex Dena is scheduled to join the DJ cruise this November. He will be on board to answer questions and make sure we have a great time. Here is the link again to find out more about working as a DJ for Carnival:

Reserve and book the DJ Cruise for November, here:

In part two of this series I shadow and interview DJ Dawkness on board the Carnival Magic.






Michael Cordeiro Michael Cordeiro (56 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: Event DJ Tips, Mobile DJ Business, Mobile DJ Misc