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Cruise Ship Salaries
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Whether you are enjoying a cruise vacation or considering a job in the cruise industry, you may be asking the question; How much do cruise ship workers make?

Cruise ship worker salaries tend to be quite low, but they have minimal living expenses, and some cruise lines include benefits for their workers.

Typically, cruise ship employees make between sixteen thousand and twenty thousand U.S. dollars a year. However, some top positions may make up to thirty thousand or over a hundred thousand U.S. dollars a year.

Cruise ship worker salaries also tend to differ depending on the cruise line. For example, the average salary for a worker on the Norwegian cruise line is around twenty thousand U.S. dollars a year, while the average annual salary for a Carnival cruise line worker is around sixteen thousand U.S. dollars. Royal Caribbean International cruise ship employees make around nineteen thousand USD per year.

Even though these are the three largest cruise companies, these salaries are still far less than the median annual earnings of workers in the United States, at just over thirty thousand U.S. dollars. Additionally, most cruise ship workers make even less, at around ten or fifteen thousand USD a year, because they are low-end workers.

It is also important to remember that working on a cruise ship is not like a vacation, and will require a lot of dedication, hard work, and long working hours. You will also be living at sea.

There are some benefits to working on a cruise, such as being able to travel the world, visiting exotic destinations, and meeting interesting passengers or coworkers.

Read our article below to discover everything you need to know about cruise ship jobs, the average cruise ship worker salary, and living on a cruise ship.

How Much Do Cruise Ship Workers Make?

Salaries of Different Cruise Ship Employees

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As is the case for other companies and organizations, cruise ship worker salaries differ according to their position on the ship. Their level of skill and experience may also make a difference in their earnings.

Here are some of the most common cruise ship positions and their annual earnings.

Cruise Ship Captain

As the highest-ranking officer on the cruise ship, a ship’s captain is responsible for the control, operations, and navigation of the ship. They are also responsible for ensuring the safety of their passengers and crew members.

The salary of a cruise ship captain can be affected by the size of the ship or the level of experience of its captain.

Cruise ship captains can make anything between forty-four thousand to one-hundred-and-seventy-seven thousand U.S. dollars annually. The average salary for captains on cruise ships is ninety-six thousand USD.

Cruise Director

As the head of entertainment, all onboard activities and events are the responsibility of the cruise director. They can often be seen around the ship, introducing shows, hosting activities, or kicking off theatre productions in the evenings.

They are also responsible for members of the crew, such as musicians and performers, youth staff, entertainment/stage staff, activities staff, or technicians for the sound and lighting.

More experienced cruise directors can easily make over one hundred thousand USD a year, while someone more inexperienced may make around forty-five thousand USD. The typical, average salary for a cruise director is sixty-five thousand USD annually.

Officer for Environmental Health and Safety

Cruise ship safety procedures are the responsibility of the Environmental Health and Safety officer on the ship. If necessary, the Environmental Health and Safety officer needs to coordinate and dispose of hazardous components, implement safety procedures and protocols, create safety reports, generate safety plans, and perform regular safety audits.

On average, these officers make around eighty-seven thousand USD a year.

Hotel Managers

Guest accommodation fall in the hands of managers. The hotel manager is responsible for hotel services such as ensuring a positive experience with guests, timely and satisfactory room service, and the supervision of department employees. They also coordinate hotel services.

Cruise ship hotel managers make around fifty thousand USD annually, as well as any tips received by passengers.

Cabin Stewards

Some of the lowest-paid workers on cruise ships are cabin stewards. Stewards are responsible for duties such as servicing and cleaning the passenger cabins and bathrooms, often under the direction of a supervisor.

The average base salary for cabin stewards is just under eleven thousand USD, but because of tips, they may walk away with as much as twenty-four thousand USD.

Ship Engineers

The maintenance, operation, and repair of the ship’s technical and mechanical systems are the responsibility of the engineering department. Their responsibilities include everything from the engine propulsion systems to the cabin HVAC systems.

The average annual salary for an engineer is around thirty thousand USD, whereas the chief engineer may make up to eighty-five thousand USD a year.

Executive Chef

It is the responsibility of the executive chef to plan and prepare meals for the passengers of the cruise ship. The executive chef is also responsible for managing the kitchen staff and operations, taking inventory, and ordering supplies.

On average, an executive chef makes about sixty-four thousand USD annually.

Assistant Chef/Sous Chef

The preparation of passenger and crew meals is the responsibility of the assistant chef or sous chef. The sous chef also assists in planning menus, budgeting, and limiting food waste.

The average annual salary for sous chefs is around forty-seven thousand USD.

Cruise Ship Waiters

Most cruise ship employees have long hours, but some of the workers with the longest workdays are cruise ship servers. It is their responsibility to serve meals.

The average annual salary for a cruise ship server is around twenty-two thousand USD, and head waiters can make up to fifty thousand USD a year. Their salaries are also supplemented by tips from customers.

Cruise Ship Bartenders

As with servers, cruise ship bartenders work long hours, with very few days of leave. A typical annual salary for a bartender on a cruise ship is between twenty and thirty thousand USD but it may be even more if gratuities are included.

Cruise Ship Performers

Cruise ship performers have varying salaries, which depend on the cruise line, their experience, and which performance they deliver.

Musicians typically have an annual salary of around twenty-nine thousand USD, while guest entertainers can easily make up to seventy-two thousand USD a year or more. Dancers fall somewhere in between, with an average annual salary of just over thirty-seven thousand USD.

Cruise Ship Nurses

It is the responsibility of cruise ship nurses to respond to medical emergencies, treat illnesses and injuries, and provide medical care to the many crew members and passengers onboard the ship.

Due to the demanding and important nature of their job, nurses have some of the higher salaries on the ship and can make around seventy-one thousand USD annually.

Benefits and downfalls for Cruise Ship Workers

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While many cruise ship workers work long hours and earn less than the average American employee, there are some benefits to working on a cruise ship.

Living costs tend to be low, and working on a cruise can include:

  • Free Food and Accommodation
  • Free Medical Care
  • Training and Laundry services
  • Discounts for Family Members (when they go on a cruise)
  • Contributions to Retirement Plans
  • Health Insurance
  • Dental Insurance
  • Round-trip airfare (to and from the ship)

Accommodation for crew members is free, and most crew ship employees live on the vessel for most of their contract duration. The crew cabins aren’t as luxurious as guest accommodations, and crew members are expected to clean their own rooms.

Crew members also often share cabins with one or two other employees, depending on their position. Higher-ranking staff members may have cabins to themselves and cabins with portholes. 

Crew and staff members can’t make use of room service, but are provided with three meals a day, as well as snacks and hot drinks in between. They can also make use of a drink allowance at the bar reserved for members of the crew.

Another benefit of working on a cruise ship is being able to save most of your salary. And if you’ve been a crew member on a ship for several years, the savings can become quite substantial.

Additional Expenses for Cruise Ship Employees

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Depending on the cruise liner, living expenses for cruise ship workers may be minimal or nearly non-existent. Any additional costs, such as laundry services, are usually quite nominal and crew members often have discounts. Other services, like the salon and spa, may also come at discounted rates for cruise staff.

However, crew members are responsible for their own phone and internet bills. There are internet cafés where the crew or staff members can access the internet for a small fee, or they may purchase phone and Wi-Fi packages to use while on the ship.

It is important to note that most crew lines don’t allow staff members to use the internet connection in guest-only areas.

Working on a Cruise Ship FAQs

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How long is the average work day for cruise ship employees?

The average workday for cruise ship workers often depends on their position, with Cruise Directors working up to fourteen hours and entertainment staff working only around three hours a day.

Most cruise ship workers have workdays of around ten to twelve hours long. It is also important to note that most crew members don’t get days off.

Where do cruise ship crew members live?

Most cruise ship employees live on the ship itself, in dedicated areas called the crew decks.

These decks can be found below or just above sea level, which is why most crew cabins don’t have windows. Crew cabins tend to be small and many staff members have to share their rooms.

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