What is the salary of a cruise ship captain?

Salary of a cruise ship captain: The captain of a cruise ship is in charge of running the entire ship. Their job is hard; it takes years of experience, specialized training, and long hours.

The pay for a cruise ship captain is $98,000. The size of the ship, years of experience, and cruise line all affect a captain’s pay.

Benefits like cabin rooms, meals, airfare, beverages, housekeeping, and more are also provided to cruise ship captains.

To find out more about the Salary of a cruise ship captain, continue reading.

Imagine navigating a massive ship, such as the soon-to-be Icon of the Seas, over the wide ocean while making sure that thousands of passengers are safe and have a great time. The life of a cruise ship captain is as follows. However, have you ever wondered what cruise ship captains get paid?

What qualifications are necessary to work as a ship captain for the big cruise lines? What about the pay for cruise ship captains, which seems to be a hot topic, particularly for people thinking about working in the cruise business?

Salary of a Cruise Ship Captain

Alaska Cruise
(Credit: AdventureSmith Exploration)

Indeed, recruitment professionals state that a cruise captain should expect to make between $92,000 and $190,000 per year. But this number varies depending on several variables, including experience, credentials, the company, and more. While some captains may make as little as $48,000 annually, others may make close to $200,000 or more.

Even with the generous compensation, being a cruise ship captain is not an easy profession. They are available 24/7 and prepared to handle any emergency, including harsh weather and medical situations. They must also effectively oversee a sizable workforce to guarantee the ship sails without a hitch.

The Elements That Affect a Cruise Ship Captain’s Compensation
The pay for a cruise ship captain varies and depends on many factors. Set sail to investigate these:


The number of years a captain spends at sea affects their pay a lot. Higher experience usually means higher compensation. The highest-paid cruise ship captains can make up to $190,000 a year; the lowest-paid captains may only make $48,000.

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The level of schooling a captain has may also have an impact on their pay. Higher pay may be expected of those with specialized training or an advanced master’s degree in maritime studies. But in this field, experience frequently takes precedence over education.

The Cruise Ship Matters Icon of the Seas during sea testing at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Turku, Finland, where it is currently during construction. The size, number of passengers, and prestige of the cruise ship all play a role in the captain’s pay.

The salary of a cruise ship captain is higher than those of smaller cruise ships, such as Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas. Larger ships have additional duties since the captain has to oversee a larger number of crew members and passengers.

Not to add, bigger boats are harder to navigate, particularly while moored.

Before a captain can command one of the biggest cruise ships in the world, they must have decades of expertise.

Certain cruise ships exude a distinct aura of status. For example, the Queen Mary 2, the final ocean liner in the world, exudes an air of elegance in the eyes of her visitors. The QM2’s skipper receives a higher salary than they would on a ship of comparable size because of the ship’s prestige.

Not Every Cruise Line Offers The Same Pay

Can you bring guns on a cruise ship, gun rules on cruises, can you bring gun on cruise ship
(Credit: sapko – enchev)

Different cruise lines have different theories on how much should be paid to their fleet captains. Because they can afford it, larger cruise lines—like Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity Cruises—pay their captains more.

The world’s largest cruise lines desire to have the best captains operating their ships. Therefore, to draw in the most seasoned captains, more well-known cruise lines provide greater compensation.

Location Is Important

Cruise ship captains are international individuals, just like the rest of the crew. North American and European captains earn more since their living standards are greater.

Few people are fit to lead a cruise ship as captain. Therefore, to find the most qualified and experienced captains, cruise lines must hire people abroad.

Benefits and Perquisites of Joining a Cruise Ship Among the many privileges and pleasures that come with being a cruise ship captain at sea is Captain Kate McCue posing for a picture on the Celebrity Beyond Life bridge. A detailed look at several advantages and benefits of being a cruise ship captain is provided below:

What Requirements Must One Fulfill to Become a Cruise Ship Captain?

A cruise ship captain must complete years of schooling, training, and experience to become one. navigating a massive ship across uncharted territory while maintaining the security of the passengers, crew, and ship.

Approximately 15 to 20 years are required to become a cruise ship captain.

An accredited maritime academy or university serves as the starting point for a captain’s education. Candidates are looking for a bachelor’s degree in nautical science or maritime science. Shipbuilding, navigation, maritime safety, and naval law are all covered in formal education.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) requires aspiring captains to get several certifications after graduation. A Master Mariner Certificate and the Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW) are frequently necessary.

From deck cadet to captain is a long professional path. To become a captain, one must accumulate 15 to 20 years of experience and ascend through the ranks of Chief Officer, Second Officer, and Third Officer. With every role comes more responsibility and the opportunity to gain the knowledge and abilities needed to operate a vessel.

Creating a network of seasoned seafarers and learning from industry mentors is priceless. An aspiring captain can increase their opportunities and knowledge by networking at nautical events and participating in industry associations.

Seafaring is not the only thing a captain does. Cruise ship captains need to be able to oversee a diverse crew and make sure that thousands of passengers are safe. A successful career as a cruise ship captain requires a combination of strong communication and crisis management abilities, as well as experience in leadership roles.

What Is the Average Hourly Wage for a Cruise Ship Captain?

MSC Cruises
(Credit: Skift)

A person can train to become a captain in as little as 20 or 22 years. Captains of cruise ships need to be extremely knowledgeable in organization, management, federal and maritime legislation, logistics, and navigation.
In the cruise business, being a captain demands a lifetime of effort, education, and commitment. Here’s how to become a captain of a cruise ship.
Cruise ship captains typically put in 12 hours a day at work, but depending on the size of the ship and the itinerary, this might go up to 16 hours. The precise amount of working hours varies depending on the kind of cruise line, the size of the vessel, and the itinerary of the trip.

The 2006 Maritime Labour Convention governs cruise ship captains’ working hours. According to the agreement, the most number of hours worked in a day cannot be more than 14 in 24 hours or 72 in seven days.

The usual working hours are not consistent. The captain’s attention is required at different hours of the day and night depending on weather conditions, voyage plans, and unforeseen crises. Thus, a captain takes a nap anytime they have free time.

The contracts for cruise ship captains are shorter than those of other crew members. Captains can prevent burnout from their onerous duties thanks to the shorter contracts.

A two- to three-month contract is normal for the captain. Captains take two or three months off once their contract expires.

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The roles and responsibilities of a cruise captain

(Credit: Cruise Hive)

The responsibility of a cruise ship captain is to guarantee the crew and guests’ safety and well-being in addition to the efficient and safe running of the ship. These are the main duties they have:

Navigation for Cruise Ships

The primary duty of the captain is to steer the ship safely to its destination. He or she is required to be knowledgeable with the ship’s technological systems, the waterways they will be traveling through, and how to modify the ship’s path in response to weather conditions.

Cruise ship security and safety

In the end, the captain is in charge of ensuring the security of the entire crew, passengers, and ship. The captain is responsible for making sure the ship is ready for any emergency and that all safety protocols are being followed. They also take precautions against dangers from terrorism and security.

Crew Supervision

As the leaders of the crew on board, captains make sure that everyone is properly trained and that all safety protocols set forth by maritime law are followed. The captain of a major cruise ship is responsible for attending to any requirements or complaints raised by the crew, even though many of them have an HR representative on board.

Operation and Maintenance of Cruise Ships

Additionally, captains will be in charge of the ship’s daily upkeep and operations. He or she will make sure that everything is in functioning order, that the equipment is maintained properly, and that the cargo is loaded securely through their department heads.

Operational Documentation and Protocols

Captains are responsible for managing all documentation relating to the ship’s operations, even though it may appear routine, and making sure it is completed and filed on time.

How to Join a Big Cruise Line as a Cruise Ship Captain

Years of experience and devotion are needed to become a cruise ship captain. The majority of jobs that need a bachelor’s degree in marine engineering or nautical science require one to become a captain. The abilities needed to succeed in this position are taught in specialized academies.

The key is experience. The majority of cruise lines, including Disney Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line, want at least 10 years of experience in the marine sector, five of those years as a top officer. This guarantees that the captain is equipped with the know-how to manage a crew and steer a ship safely.

A captain needs to be qualified not just by education and experience but also by a current license and certification from agencies such as the US Coast Guard. It’s also crucial to be knowledgeable with customs, immigration, and international maritime law, as well as other federal marine authority requirements.

As captains collaborate closely with other professionals on board, including the chief engineer, security officer, and crew members, they need to possess strong communication and leadership abilities.

Benefits Received by Cruise Ship Captains

A cruise ship’s captain works long hours. Being a cruise ship captain has several advantages in addition to the hard labor that goes into it. Let’s examine a few benefits associated with the position:

Free Lunches and Lodging

You are aware of your love for cruise cuisine, right? Well, the restaurants and cafés on board provide a variety of food alternatives, and cruise ship captains are entitled to complimentary meals at these establishments. They also have opulent, roomy individual cabins of their own.

Entry to Exclusive Occasions

Captains are granted entry to private social events, such as dinners for captains and cocktail parties. Additionally, networking opportunities with industry leaders will be offered via these events.

Hotel Manager Responsibilities

The captains are in charge of overseeing the ship’s hotel operations, which include housekeeping, food and beverage service, and guest services. This enables them to handle a variety of jobs and collaborate with a group of experts.

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Nuptials and Unique Occasions

Couples can have unforgettable experiences when their captain officiates their weddings and other special ceremonies on board.

Opportunities for Travel

Being a cruise ship captain gives you the chance to see stunning and unique places all over the world. Captains have the opportunity to travel and discover various cultures.

How Much Cruise Ship Captains Get Paid by Elite and Well-Known Cruise Lines

P&O Cruises
(Credit: CruiseMapper)

Luxury Cruise Lines

Higher pay is to be expected for captains working for luxury cruise lines like Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, and Crystal Cruises. A luxury cruise ship captain typically makes approximately $150,000 annually, plus extras like upgraded cabins, extended vacation time, and access to premium onboard amenities.

Popular Cruise Lines

Cruise ship captains at well-known cruise lines earn highly competitive salaries in the business, while not serving the upper-class passengers that luxury cruise lines do. Here are a few instances:

Royal Caribbean

The average Salary of a cruise ship captain is $153,379 on Royal Caribbean, along with perks including complimentary meals, lodging, and health insurance.

Celebrity Cruise Line

Celebrity Cruises offers comparable benefits to Royal Caribbean, including an average annual Salary of a cruise ship captain of $150,000.

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