How Much Do Cruise Ship Workers Make?

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Ever wonder how much cruise ship workers make? If you are considering a career in this field, you may find the statistics alluring. What draws most people to this profession is a desire to see the world, travel to exotic destinations, and deepen their love of the sea.

While it sounds like an exciting adventure, there is a great deal of work that goes on behind the scenes to make things happen.

According to Business Insider, a cruise ship crew member for Carnival, Royal Caribbean or Norwegian Cruise Line can earn an annual average between $16,000 to $20,000. For leadership staff on board cruise ships, the annual salary can be much higher from $30,000 to $100,000.

Working on cruise ships allows individuals an opportunity to gain experience in a multitude of industries and the ability to encounter diverse cultures. Living expenses are minimal, which allows many workers to save a high percentage of their income.

What Departments Are Typically Found on a Cruise Line?

Members include all staff who are employed by the cruise line. The number of staff required depends on the type of ship and cruise line. Some may need hundreds of staff in various departments, while others may have a more scaled-back crew.

The different departments aboard a ship include:

  • Medical – The medical staff treats illnesses and injuries that are reported on the ship. They will also respond to any and all emergencies.
  • Hotel – These people take care of guest accommodations along with beverage and meal departments.
  • Engine – The crew in the engine department looks after the maintenance and operation of a ship’s technical and mechanical systems, along with the propulsion. This includes dealing with the HVAC systems, engines, and firefighting systems onboard.
  • Deck – They make sure that everyone on board is completely safe. This area includes the ship captain (officers), and deckhands (ratings).

What Do People Working on Cruise Ships Make?

Since there is a variety of employment found on a cruise ship, there isn’t a specific salary expectation. Workers’ salaries will depend on the following variables:

  • Size/Type of Ship – Large ships with more passengers need people to take additional responsibilities. They generally have higher opportunities for income over smaller lines.
  • Unique Skills – Highly skilled technicians (electrical engineers, IT specialists) earn higher wages over less skilled positions.
  • Experience – Those with more experience can expect to earn more and are more likely to be considered when promotions become available.
  • Position – Leadership roles earn a higher salary than entry-level roles.
  • Gratuities/Tips – Many workers earn gratuities or tips along with a base salary. The salaries might be lower, but the tips/gratuities tend to make up for the difference.

As mentioned, there are additional benefits that workers receive over their salary. Free room and board, meals, and medical care allow individuals to save money while working.

Additionally, they work longer hours, which means more income if your wage is hourly. Highly discounted cruise ship rates are also available for workers and their families.

Cruise Ship Worker Salary (No Gratuities)

This category addresses the crew members that do not receive gratuities. These are the cruise industry’s average salaries, which can vary among different cruise lines. It should be noted that all salaries are according to the national average as listed on PayScale, and are recorded in USD.

Leadership Staff

Cruise Ship Officers
Cruise Ship Officers (Photo Credit: Tony Skerl / Shutterstock)

Captain: Average of $96,624

Responsibilities: Captains on large cruise ships oversee 5,000-plus passengers and crew. They work two months on board, followed by two months at home.

Read Also: What’s a Typical Cruise Ship Captain Salary?

As the highest-ranking officer on a ship, they control the vessel and make executive decisions regarding operations and navigation. They maintain all U.S. Coast Guard requirements for licensing and must have an FCC radio operations license with radar certifications.

Hotel Manager: Annual Salary of $50,555, plus tips

Responsibilities: Hotel managers supervise department employees, ensure great guest experiences, generate staff schedules, and coordinate hotel services. Successful managers possess strong communication skills, interpersonal talents, and problem-solving abilities.

Director Of Operations/Cruise Director: Annual Salary of $93,693

Responsibilities: This job oversees and plans activities and events on the ship. Communication is coordinated among departments. They respond to guest issues and are the cruise ship’s ambassadors. We delve further into the cruise director’s salary right here.

Deck Crew

Photo Credit: Valerie Johnson / Shutterstock

Deckhands: Annual Salary of $42,916

Responsibilities: Deckhands assist with maintaining and preparing the ship, repairing machines, and operating equipment. Workers will complete hard manual labor and are required to work exceptionally long hours. The travel is quite extensive, and you report to the ship’s captain.


Chief Engineer: Annual Salary of $85,138

Responsibilities: Responsible for maintaining the cruise ship’s systems, engines, controls, and hydraulics, a chief engineer has many tasks. They work in tandem with the ship’s captain and maintain inventory. To obtain this position, chief engineers need to be certified with a marine chief engineer designation.

Electrical Engineer: Annual Salary of $77,657

Responsibilities: This individual oversees the repair and maintenance of all electrical systems on the ship. A bachelor’s degree from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology is required, with many employees holding advanced degrees in engineering.

Maintenance Manager: Annual Salary of $75,935

Responsibilities: This position oversees repairs, maintenance issues, and cleaning of the primary guest and staff areas onboard. They are responsible for repairing mechanical components like lighting and elevators.

Boatswain’s Mate: Average Salary of $30,434

Responsibilities: Boatswain’s mates supervise and train crew to repair, maintain, and inspect deck equipment using machinery. They may also do these tasks themselves. Boatswain’s mates must be experts in non-engine maintenance of ship operations, which includes lines, cargo, and anchors.

Fitter: Average Salary of $46,570

Responsibilities: Fitters maintain and repair metal components found on the ship and on related machines. Fitters are highly skilled workers who can mill, shape, and grind metal into necessary shapes.

HVAC Technician: Average Salary of $49,933

Responsibilities: The HVAC technician maintains and repairs a cruise ship’s climate control system, which includes ventilation, heat, and air conditioning systems. A training course needs to be completed. This includes a 6-month to 2-year course along with an apprenticeship.

Plumber: Average Salary of $55,173

Responsibilities: Plumbers are in charge of maintaining and repairing the plumbing system. They must hold a state license, which requires a specific number of hours completed in an accredited vocational program.


Guest Services Desk
Guest Services Desk (Photo Credit: Turn_Mug / Shutterstock)

Receptionists: Annual Salary of $41,185

Responsibilities: Receptionists perform check-in and check-out for all guests. They are there to greet people, receive payment, and provide information for passengers. Successful candidates have superior communication and interpersonal skills, along with patience when resolving guests’ concerns.

Recreation Coordinator: Annual Salary of $41,117

Responsibilities: This is the person responsible for directing, planning, and overseeing recreational activities aboard the ship. These activities include dance instruction, exercise classes, and activities for children.

You may be required to plan events such as themed parties. While recreation workers are not required to have a bachelor’s degree, a degree in Recreation and Leisure Studies or a related field certainly helps.


Cruise Ship Galley
Cruise Ship Galley (Photo Credit: Darryl Brooks / Shutterstock)

Executive Chef: Annual Salary of $63,328

Responsibilities: The chef is responsible for planning and preparing cruise ship meals for guests. Executive chefs take inventory, order supplies, and manage the kitchen staff.

Chef de Partie: Annual Salary of $37,237

Responsibilities: As the third-ranking chef in the kitchen, they oversee people that prepare special menu components. They also ensure the final product meets the high standards set by the ship regarding presentation and preparation.

Assistant Chef/Sous Chef: Annual Salary of $45,797

Responsibilities: The sous chef helps maintain the highest quality of food for passengers and crew. Part of the responsibility is managing the galley crew, aiding with menu planning, and helping the kitchen stay on budget while eliminating waste. They help things run efficiently. Certification or culinary school degree is necessary for this position.

Food Service Director: Annual Salary of $56,424

Responsibilities: This position oversees beverage and food ordering, preparation, service, and storage. They are responsible for managing bartenders, waitstaff, scheduling, and addressing guest concerns.


Cruise Ship Show
Photo Credit: Tony Moran / Shutterstock

Entertainment Manager: Annual Salary of $54,902

Responsibilities: People in this position schedule and recruit quality talent for performers. Entertainment managers oversee production, lighting, and sound crews.

Entertainment Staff: Annual Salary of $40,606

Responsibilities: These individuals perform for guests. Their job includes interacting with guests, performing, and rehearsing. Entertainers include singers, magicians, comedians, and musicians.


Security Officer: Annual Salary of $41,796

Responsibilities: Tasked with overseeing the ship’s safety, security officers respond to safety and security issues while assisting with emergencies aboard the ship. Officers must receive training which may include firearm tactical training. A license from a recognized institution may also be required.


Cruise Ship Medical Center
Photo Credit: Turn_Mug / Shutterstock

Nurse: Annual Salary of $71,000

Responsibilities: Nurses are responsible for providing treatment and medical care to the staff, crew, and passengers. They take care of injuries, sickness, and medical emergencies.

Paramedic: Annual Salary of $50,814

Responsibilities: Paramedics give treatment and medical care to passengers, staff, and crew that are aboard the cruise ship. A basic paramedic designation is required. This requires two years of study, in addition to a state license.

Environmental Health & Safety Officer: Annual Salary: $85,864

Responsibilities: They are responsible for safety aboard the ship. Environmental health and safety officers implement safety procedures/protocols, generate safety plans, create safety reports, analyze health, and coordinate disposal of many hazardous components. These individuals store and record evaluations. They are also responsible for regular safety audits.

Typical Crew Member’s Salaries (Earning Gratuities)

This is the area of a cruise ship that specifically deals with passenger requests. It is their job to always uphold the cruise ship’s level of excellence. Their commitment to a job well done is reflected in the tips these positions receive. The tips are designed to incentivize people in these positions to maintain a high level of excellence if they expect to be properly compensated.


Front of the House Staff/Food Service Workers: Annual Salary of $21,884

Responsibilities: This position oversees beverage and food prep, service, and storage. People who excel in this position enjoy working with others and have good math skills. Reporting to restaurant managers, they tend to work non-traditional hours. This is most notable when it comes to opening shifts.

Entry-level kitchen positions usually have the lowest wages found on cruise ships. However, on the plus side, they have the highest opportunities for advancement. Furthermore, wages may be low in this area, but the tips and gratuities make up for 95% of the difference.

For example, if you include gratuities, an assistant waiter could range from $900-$2,220 monthly. Experienced dining room servers can generate $3,200 per month, with the assistant maître d’ earning $4,000-plus in pay. Maître d’s tend to be part of the tip pool. Good bartenders can earn $1,800-$2,500 with wait staff receiving $1,200-$2,200 per month.


Housekeeping (Photo Copyright: Cruise Hive)

Housekeeping Manager: Annual Salary of $30,041, plus gratuities/tips

Responsibilities: The housekeeping manager supervises housekeeping services like cleaning and preparing guest rooms and common areas. They also coordinate housekeeping schedules for staff. Housekeeping managers oversee staff and make sure cleanliness standards are met along with the qualities expected by the cruise ship.

Floor Supervisor: Annual Salary of $45,788

Responsibilities: The person that serves as floor supervisor is responsible for assigning and supervising the stateroom and cabin steward attendants. They must ensure orderly, clean, attractive, and immaculately maintained rooms, service areas, corridors, etc. on their assigned floor.

Cabin Stewards: Average Salary of $650-$1,150 monthly, including gratuities. If they work on a luxury cruise line, they may receive over $2,000 each month with tips.

Final Thoughts

Employment found on ships is not typically glamourous, as one might expect. Additionally, some of the salaries aren’t that high. Members can expect to work 10-12-hour days, and up to seven days a week.

However, your room and board are completely covered. Plus, sailing costs and (once the contract is completed) round-trip airfare are covered by the cruise line. This allows crew members to increase their savings while working.

Worth Reading: Living on a Cruise Ship – What You Need to Know

Some take the skills they learned at sea and apply them to their own businesses or service. Free medical care is provided for any illnesses or injuries sustained onboard, as well as the opportunity to transfer to a hospital on land if needed.

How much cruise ship workers make is determined by the size of the vessel, the cruise line, and the level of experience the individual has. Some jobs require a degree or special skills. Many people enjoy the experience of working on a cruise ship because they can see the world, advance quickly, and save money due to minimal living expenses.

FAQ on Cruise Staff Salary

How much do cruise ship workers make?

A cruise ship crew member for Carnival, Royal Caribbean, or Norwegian Cruise Line can earn an annual average between $16,000 to $20,000. For leadership staff onboard cruise ships, the annual salary can be much higher from $30,000 to $100,000.

Who can earn the most money working on a cruise ship?

It comes as no surprise that the ship’s captain has the biggest salary from working on a cruise ship. The master of the vessel has a huge responsibility for ship safety for crew and passengers along with navigation. The captain can earn almost $100,000 manually depending on the cruise line and experience.

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