To most cruisegoers, what goes on below deck is a mystery – but one cruise ship musician is lifting the veil on the experience.
Jack Nolan, a performer on Virgin Voyages’ Valiant Lady, is amassing an impressive TikTok following by sharing eye-opening videos about his life at sea, doing what he believes is ‘one of the best jobs in the world’.
Taking his audience behind the scenes on the ship, the 32-year-old’s videos show him meeting Virgin Voyages’ boss Richard Branson, relaxing in his ‘teeny tiny’ windowless cabin and experiencing dramatic weather on a transatlantic crossing, with footage showing a huge waterspout whirling beside the vessel.
Speaking to MailOnline Travel, the British singer and musician reveals he has been working on cruise ships for the past seven years and was pleasantly surprised by ‘how fun they can be if you’re an outgoing person’.
In one video, the musician – who has garnered more than 54,000 TikTok followers to date – reveals how the ship’s performers rehearse for two weeks in a studio in Orlando before boarding the ship for a six-month season.
Jack Nolan, a performer with Virgin Voyages, is amassing a huge TikTok following by sharing eye-opening videos about his life at sea
‘It’s so small that I can touch almost every wall at the same time,’ Jack says of his cabin. The 32-year-old says he has ‘one of the best jobs in the world’
‘By far the best part is they put you up in a really sweet hotel,’ Jack says, filming the hotel’s hot tub and basketball courts. He adds: ‘It’s all paid for by the company. They even gave us a car to get around in.’
The performer says that the crew get ‘so much’ downtime in Orlando when they’re not rehearsing, giving them the opportunity to explore the city and check out its bars and restaurants.
On board Valiant Lady, Jack gives a tour of his single cabin, noting: ‘When you live in a tiny cabin with no porthole, there’s no natural sunlight, obviously, and it can really mess with your head if you spend too much time in there… it’s so small that I can touch almost every wall at the same time.’
He has a nifty trick for making the most of the space, using magnetic hooks – which stick when they’re thrown at the cabin’s metal walls – to hold up his belongings.
Jack also turns the camera on some of the areas where the crew spend their downtime, capturing the crew dining area and buffet, the laundry room and the crew gym, which is open twenty-four-seven and is free to use. ‘If you’ve tried lifting heavy weights on a moving ship, that part is not fun,’ he remarks.
Jack performs on Valiant Lady, Virgin Voyages’ second cruise ship (pictured)
Pictured left are the basketball courts in a hotel that Jack stayed in while rehearsing with his band before a recent cruising season. ‘It’s all paid for by the company,’ he says. Jack has a nifty trick for making the most of the space in his cabin, using magnetic hooks (right) to hold up his belongings
Jack says he felt ‘lucky’ to get a video selfie with Virgin Voyages boss Richard Branson. Pictured right is the pool for guests on the ship
Jack films the ‘secret’ sunbathing spot (left) for the crew on the top deck of the ship. Pictured right is Jack getting his hair cut by Shandy, the crew barber
The ‘secret’ sunbathing spot on the top deck that’s reserved for the crew is also captured, with Jack noting: ‘You can see most of the ship and you [get] some great views around you.’
The crew’s barber, Shandy, is shown cutting Jack’s hair in the crew stairwell. Jack also shows how the crew receive Amazon packages, getting them delivered to the ship’s home port so they can pick them up each weekend. ‘You can order pretty much whatever you want,’ he says. One of his recent purchases was a set of darts so he could play rounds of darts with his crewmates.
The TikToker was surprised to see billionaire Branson mingling with the crew when he boarded the 2,770-passenger ship, which made its maiden voyage last year. He says in a video: ‘I’ve heard about his philosophies on “employees come first” but I was not expecting that one day he’d walk into the crew areas and into the crew mess. I felt lucky enough to get a two-second video selfie with him.’
Other clips capture the ‘eight straight rocky sea days’ of a transatlantic journey aboard Valiant Lady. Jack films ‘the wreckage’ left in the wake of the waterspout – tornadoes that travel over water – as it passed over the ship, leaving sun loungers upturned across the pool deck. ‘No one was injured,’ Jack notes.
Jack breaks down how he spends his time at sea, explaining that as a musician, he only performs at night, so his days are free to disembark the ship and go exploring.
One clip shows him enjoying Virgin Voyages’ privately owned beach club in the Bahamas while another captures him swimming in the sea in the South of France. ‘We’re really lucky to have that time off in port,’ he says, adding: ‘I feel very fortunate that as a musician on board, the hours are very favourable.’
As a musician, ‘getting to play music every day is a joy’, Jack admits
Pictured left is the crew gym, which is open twenty-four-seven and is free to use. Jack shows how the crew can receive Amazon packages (right) during their time on the ship
One video shows dramatic weather on a transatlantic crossing, with a huge waterspout whirling beside the vessel. Pictured right, Jack shows ‘the wreckage’ left in the wake of the waterspout as it passed over the ship
Jack says he ‘can easily save thousands each month because two of life’s biggest outgoings – rent and food – are totally free’. Above are desserts in the crew mess
Jack, who works on a cruise ship for 10 months of the year, reveals there’s a major financial incentive to working on a cruise ship – he ‘can easily save thousands each month because two of life’s biggest outgoings – rent and food – are totally free’.
Other top perks, he reveals, include travel opportunities and the chance to meet people from all over the world. On top of that, as a musician, ‘getting to play music every day is a joy’, Jack admits.
Reflecting on the low points to working in the cruising industry, he remarks: ‘The food on ships is of course free but can also be quite repetitive and boring.’
Another drawback is the Wi-Fi, which can be ‘slow’, though Jack notes that since Virgin Voyages installed Elon Musk’s Starlink, ‘it’s a little faster than it was’.
One of the most unusual things about his job, he reveals, is waking up in a new place each day. He also says that living where you work can take adjusting to. He says: ‘You’ll see managers in suits at work in the day but at night chilling with a beer at crew bar with everyone else.’
Being away at sea for such extended periods of time, there are lots of things that Jack misses, including his girlfriend, ‘good Wi-Fi’, his dog, home-cooked food and his family. He notes that he also misses ‘the freedom of not having to be back on board [the ship] at a specific time’.
And the reaction to his videos? It’s been ‘mostly positive’, Jack reveals, adding: ‘Many people [are] curious and interested about it… also many [have been] asking how to get a job on a ship!’
For more videos from Jack, follow him on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.