2020-12-13 15:41:00  2390897

The good, the bad and the ugly of singing on cruise ship


Vanessa Phang, a resident singer on a cruise ship for eight years, says she would take requests from passengers, but there is one particular song that must not be sung onboard a ship.

"My Heart Will Go On from 'The Titanic' is a no-no because it has very bad implications for a ships ailing in the high seas."

So, is singing on a cruise ship an easy job as many would like to believe?

Not really, Phang says, as one needs to learn to stand still even when the sea is choppy.

"Even a seasoned captain and cockpit crew can throw up when the sea gets really rough. It's downright terrifying!

"And the crew member's cabins are located at the basement. If you look out of the window you could sit waves higher than the ship itself bashing the body of the ship. Everything drops on the floor, and you can't sleep the whole night!"

Phang loves to sing, and has taken part in singing contests here and in Taiwan, where she was pursuing a beauty and styling course.

Upon returning to Malaysia, she did not go into the beauty industry but continued to pursue her singing hobby, becoming a resident singer at Genting Highlands before joining a cruise ship at the recommendation of a friend in 2012.

She confides that a singing contract on cruise ship is normally half-yearly.

The downside

There was a time the ship experienced an engine failure in the sea, and Phang and the rest of people onboard had to drift aimlessly in the open sea for three days until the ship was towed to the nearest port by a rescue boat.

"As the engine was unable to function, the ship had to be towed slowly to the port so that the passengers could disembark before it was towed to the dock for repair.

"All the crew must remain onboard during those three days of repair. No water and electricity. We only had dried food and milk for food. No water for shower!

"It happened during my first time working on the ship. I was thinking I couldn't have been more unfortunate.

"At least I wouldn't get panic when the ship were to encounter another problem over the next half a year."

There was another occasion when some 800passengers, all men, were aboard the ship on company incentive trip. The captain advised the female crew to take extra caution especially during a performance, as there had been instances of harassment by guests before.

"That evening we performed in front of the guests as usual, but the way several men stared at me made me feel really uncomfortable.

"Actually the captain had arranged some security officers there, and seeing that things didn't go quite right, the manager told us to stop after singing only for two hours. On the way back to my cabin, a male passenger asked me whether I provided 'special service'. I ignored him and walked away, but did not dare to walk back to my cabin. I had to stay inside a friend's cabin for some time before heading back to my own cabin.

"We felt relieved only after this group of guests disembarked at the end of their three-day itinerary."

Another problem that Phang has come across is drunk passengers.

"If anyone commits drunken mischief on the ship, the captain can put him in confinement or expel him from the vessel when it docks at the harbor."

While most passengers board a cruise ship for vacation, Phang says she has seen passengers boarding the ship "with a purpose", including suicide or trying to sneak into a docked city to look for job illegally.

Phang has so far worked on two ships,the last being Costa Asia which boasts three or four resident bands performing at different time slots.


Working onboard a ship could be a lonely thing, and the only entertainment is probably gathering with colleagues at the crew canteen or pub.

Job contract is normally half yearly, renewable after a two-month hiatus.

She admits that working on the ship can indeed help her save on transportation, room and boarding costs. The only expenses are probably made on land when the ship docks at the port.

"There are perks working on a ship. I have traveled to plenty of cities these few years.

"A resident singer has less limitation and can go out when the ship docks at the harbor so long as we come back on time to work."

There are nevertheless general restrictions for the crew onboard the ship. For instance, they are not allowed to use the facilities in public areas, must be decently dressed and should not get drunk in public.

"As we are all confined within a closed space, life could be difficult if we get into trouble and cultural clash with any of the colleagues. Some even suffer depression on the ship."

While there are people who get tired working on the ship, others are fearful of their future once they leave the ship. As such, there are people who would opt to work on the ship the whole life.

Time to quit

After working on the ship for six years, Phang felt it was time to leave. She said it took her a lot of courage to make the decision after her contract expired in2018.

Due to her age, and the fact that her aging parents needed her company, she felt that if she did not makeup her mind now, it would be even more difficult for her to make a decision much later.

"When I first went home, I felt completely lost, not knowing what kind of job I should look for. I was struggling inside whether I should go back to the ship again.

"But I told myself I needed to settle down first. So I went to India to get a yoga trainer cert.

"Looking back at the decision I made, I now feel that it is utterly important to be firm in our decisions."

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