Cruise ship worker salary: How much do they make?

Cruise ship worker salary: You may be wondering how much cruise ship employees make if you’re thinking about working on one or if you’re just a curious guest. There aren’t many living expenses while you’re on contract, despite the low pay. Many cruise ship employees can save a significant portion of their pay.

The cruise ship industry reports that the median yearly salary for employees is between $16,000 and $20,000. However, top jobs might pay more than $100,000 annually.

Even though it could seem like the dream foreign holiday, a lot of work goes into the planning. Every position matters, from captain to cabin attendant.

This article will explain how much cruise ship employees make and give you details on some of the jobs that are available on board.

Cruise Ship Employee Salaries: Exploring the Pay Rates for Cruise Ship Workers

According to Business Insider, cruise ship employees typically make between $16,000 and $20,000 a year. Salary ranges for leadership roles can be significantly higher, ranging from $30,000 to over $100,000 annually.

Cruise ship employees earn significantly less than the $31,561 median yearly wage in the United States (as of 2017). There are many advantages to working on a cruise ship, even though the typical annual salary of cruise ship employees is modest when compared to the US:

  • Free food and accommodations while working.
  • The chance to see the world.
  • Onboard discounts.
  • Minimal living expenses.
  • Flights to the vessel.
  • Discounts for you and your family.

It’s crucial to keep in mind that the majority of cruise ship employees make salaries that are on the lower end of the scale. Before gratuities, most cruise ship employees make between $10,000 and $15,000. At the top, depending on the size of the ship and years of experience, a cruise ship captain can make over $177,000 a year.

It’s critical to keep in mind that the yearly compensation figures do not account for the number of hours spent. Seven days a week, crew workers put in lengthy work—up to 14 hours a day.

Certain jobs, like those of the ship’s entertainment, might only need a few hours of work per day.

Employee contracts on cruise ships often span four to eight months, with two or three months off in between. Contract lengths range from two to eleven months.

Employees on cruise ships frequently spend extended periods away from their families.

Employee compensation on cruise ships is position-, experience-, and skill-specific, just like in any other business.

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Cruise ship captain

salary of a cruise ship captain, salary of a cruise ship captain in 2024, salary of a cruise captain, cruise captain salary
(Credit: Conde Nast Traveler)

Average salary: $98,000

responsibilities: A captain’s responsibilities include the general operation and safety of the ship, necessitating a combination of leadership skills and maritime knowledge.

Captains of cruise ships are in charge of:

  • Navigating the ship
  • Overseeing the distribution and use of food, fuel, and water
  • Ensuring passenger safety and satisfaction
  • Maintaining efficient operations throughout the ship

The main duty of a cruise ship captain is to navigate the vessel, which includes charting courses, analyzing weather trends, and making critical choices regarding speeds and itineraries. Together with managing maintenance tasks and making sure that cargo is stowed properly under maritime regulations, the captain also makes sure that the ship is maintained and that safety requirements are followed.

To ensure smooth sailing and adherence to numerous rules, the skipper communicates with port officials. Captains have to be prepared to take command in an emergency since they are always on call.

Additionally, they are essential in improving the whole experience of passengers by interacting with them, greeting them, handling complaints from them, and providing excellent customer service. A captain’s varied responsibilities necessitate effective problem-solving, great communication, and the capacity to maintain composure under pressure, making it a demanding yet rewarding role.

Cruise Director

Average Salary: $93,000

responsibilities: The cruise director plays a key role in determining the quality of the passenger experience as a senior officer on a cruise ship. All aspects of onboard hospitality, entertainment, and social events fall under the purview of the cruise director.

A cruise director’s duties include supervising the entertainment staff, planning and arranging a variety of activities and events, and guaranteeing the security and happiness of the passengers. As the public face of the cruise line, the cruise director also has a big part to play in public relations, making announcements.

Strong organizational, communication, and leadership abilities are required for this position as they oversee a varied workforce in several areas and uphold high service standards.

Entertainment Staff

Average Salary: $40,000

Entertainment workers on cruise ships are in charge of organizing and carrying out a variety of passenger-entertaining activities. This include interacting with others, directing activities, organizing gatherings such as game nights and karaoke, instructing workshops, providing live music, and participating in the ship’s entertainment programs as an entertainer (singer, dancer, comedian, etc.).

Security Officer

security on cruise ships
(Credit: Cruise Hive)

Average Salary: $35,000

Security officers aboard cruise ships are in charge of ensuring the crew and passengers’ safety and security. They are responsible for managing baggage screening, collaborating with local port security, conducting safety inspections, supervising entry points, and enforcing ship laws and regulations. Security personnel must complete security training, typically have a police or military background, have outstanding communication skills, and be able to function in a multicultural workplace with linguistic and cultural variances.

Chief Engineer (Engine Crew)

Salary: $85,000

Chief engineers are responsible for supervising the engineering, electrical, and mechanical departments as well as all other technical operations aboard a cruise ship. Their primary duties include upkeep and repairs of the ship’s equipment.

From air conditioning and life-saving equipment to propulsion systems and fresh water, the head engineer makes sure everything works as it should and complies with safety regulations. In addition, overseeing a group of engineers, making sure work is done quickly, and keeping the ship operationally ready for inspections are also part of this duty.

Apart from their technical responsibilities, Chief Engineers need to have excellent communication skills to interact with other ship departments and outside vendors. They offer technical assistance and organize alterations and enhancements to the ship’s equipment.

Safety is the top priority, and the chief engineer needs to be knowledgeable with maritime safety rules and regulations, particularly fire safety procedures. Strong leadership, technical proficiency, and the capacity to lead a diverse team in a variety of settings—including emergencies—are requirements for this position.

Deck Hand

Average Salary: $37,000

Deckhands aboard cruise ships have a vital role in the upkeep and security of the ship. They are in charge of maintaining the common areas, decks, and exterior of the ship.

Jobs for a deckhand consist of:

  • Patrolling the decks
  • Ensuring passenger safety
  • Assisting with ship loading and securing
  • Performing maintenance tasks such as cleaning, painting, and repairing damage

Physical stamina, rope and rigging skills, and endurance are requirements for the role. Working in various weather conditions and handling heavy equipment are part of the job description. Deckhands are required to follow safety procedures and put in lengthy hours of work.

Hotel Manager

crew members on cruise ships
(Credit: Cruiseline)


The Hotel manager is in charge of the Hotel Division on a cruise ship, which includes Housekeeping, Entertainment, Food and Beverage, and the Purser’s Office.

The main duties of a hotel manager include

  • Ensuring that these departments operate at high levels
  • Overseeing hotel employees,
  • Overseeing customer service
  • Collaborating with different ship departments
  • Overseeing the ship’s financial operations

They are in charge of onboard sales, maintenance, and administrative duties in addition to responding to inquiries and grievances from visitors. The hotel manager is a key player in determining how guests are treated and in preserving the caliber and popularity of the cruise services.

Cabin Steward

Salary: $18,000

responsibilities: Passenger cabin maintenance and cleaning are the duties of cabin stewards. The main duty of a stateroom attendant is to make sure that visitors have a comfortable stay. In addition to cleaning, they also store supplies, arrange bedding, and serve room service.


Salary: $40,000

Duties: The front desk person in charge of guaranteeing a satisfactory visitor experience is the guest services receptionist. In addition to handling requests and questions, receptionists help with the embarkation and disembarkation procedures and offer details on ship facilities.

Executive Chef

Pay: $62,000

An executive chef’s duties include supervising the entire galley team, guaranteeing the safety and quality of the food, and managing the preparation of meals for both visitors and crew. In addition, the executive chef is in charge of budget management, ordering and inventory control, and making sure that health codes are followed.


Salary: $18,000

The primary duty of servers is to ensure that patrons have a first-rate dining experience. Among the roles of a server are:

  • Taking and delivering orders
  • Maintaining a clean and organized dining area
  • Adhering to safety and hygiene standards

Serving thousands of passengers each night is not an easy task. Cruise ship servers are in charge of many tables and guarantee prompt, top-notch customer service.


Bar on a cruise
(Credit: Orbitz)

Salary for bartenders: $17,000

Bartenders are in charge of creating and serving cocktails, giving customers outstanding service, keeping the bar area tidy, and controlling the pricing and inventory of beverages.

Cruise Ship Doctor

Salary: $80,000

Cruise ship doctors are in charge of overseeing the ship’s medical facilities, addressing medical crises, and providing medical care to both passengers and staff. They normally require at least three years of post-graduate clinical experience in addition to a concentration in family medicine or emergency medicine.


Salary: $70,000

Cruise ship nurses are responsible for responding to emergencies, treating passengers and crew members, and providing medical care. They require an ACLS certification, a minimum of three years of pertinent clinical experience, and a nursing license.

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Benefits for Cruise Ship Employees

Compared to regular land-based occupations, working aboard a cruise ship offers certain benefits that suit a distinct lifestyle. Not everyone can handle the long hours and time away from home.

It is difficult to resist the sea’s charm, despite its drawbacks. Thousands of people seek out exciting careers in the cruise industry.

The following are some advantages of working on a cruise ship:

  • Financial Aspects: Although cruise ship workers make less money than the typical American, their living expenses are drastically lower. Nearly all of the everyday costs that crew members incur while at sea are paid for the cruise lines. Members of the crew can therefore save the majority of their wages.
  • Extensive Benefits for Employees: Cruise ship employees are entitled to a range of benefits, such as lodging, meals, instruction, laundry facilities, health insurance, drink coupons, and transportation to and from the ship. In addition, a lot of employers who work for cruise lines provide their family members with access to cruise discounts, retirement plan contributions, and health and dental insurance.
  • Details of Accommodations: Onboard the ship, lodging is provided at no cost to crew members. Deck 0’s majority of crew quarters are below sea level and are designed to be more utilitarian than opulent. Facilities like portholes are absent from crew cabins. Staff employees with higher positions have larger staterooms and private cabins.
  • Dining & Refreshments: Free food and soft drinks are served to staff members by cruise lines. Additionally, crew lines provide discounted alcohol packages and drink coupons.
  • Deals & Discounts: Employees on cruise ships are entitled to some benefits, including family member cruise fares at a discounted rate.
  • Opportunities for Travel and Cultural Immersion: Working aboard a cruise ship still provides the chance to see new places and get a taste of other cultures. On their days off, crew members are free to explore the ports of call on foot.

Working aboard a cruise ship is an appealing alternative for individuals looking for an unusual career path because of the combination of cost savings, special advantages, and the chance to explore the world. Prospective workers should consider these advantages in light of the particular difficulties presented by this workplace, which include long hours, stringent rules, and little personal space.

Is there a cost associated with working on a cruise ship?


Even though there are many financial benefits to working on a cruise ship, such as free meals and lodging, crew members may still incur additional costs while on duty. Here’s a closer look at the potential costs for these:

  • Laundry Services: For worker uniforms, cruise liners offer free laundry services. Personal apparel items, however, might cost a little more to clean. Staff employees can also get discounts on necessities like laundry soap and ironing services.
  • Internet access and communication: Keeping in touch with others is one of the major expenses for crew members. Although crew members have access to “internet cafes” on cruise ships, the cost of use is not free. Compared to visitors, crew members receive a discount on internet packages.
  • Personal Grooming and Relaxation Services: Staff members receive a discounted fee for using the ship’s salon and spa services, which include massages, manicures, pedicures, and haircuts. Some cruise ships encourage their employees to make use of these amenities, particularly while the vessel is docked and the majority of guests have disembarked.

Additional Possible Costs: While on leave or in between contracts, crew members may have to pay for personal travel, alcoholic beverages, and shore excursions.

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