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Find Out How Much Cruise Ship Employees Make: A Detailed Guide



Find Out How Much Cruise Ship Employees Make: A Detailed Guide

The travel and tourism industry offers ample opportunity for people to earn an income while working nontraditional hours and traveling the world. Specifically, working on a cruise ship provides these benefits along with the chance to meet diverse populations and gain a unique working experience. What’s more, while at sea, employees often have minimal living expenses, which allows them to save a large percentage of their earnings as a result.

In this article, we discuss the different types of cruise ship workers and the average salaries for some of the most common cruise ship jobs.

Types of cruise ship workers

Cruise ship workers include all staff members aboard a cruise ship. Depending on the cruise line and type of ship, cruises may require hundreds of employees in different departments, such as:

  • Deck: The deck staff ensures the overall safety of cruise ships and their passengers. Deck personnel includes officers, such as the ship captain, and ratings, such as deckhands.

  • Engine: The engine department is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the ship’s propulsion, mechanical and technical systems, including engines, HVAC systems and firefighting systems.

  • Hotel: Hotel staff members are responsible for guest accommodations and meal and beverage departments.

  • Medical: The medical staff treats any injuries or illnesses and responds to emergencies on a cruise ship.


How much do cruise ship workers make?

Due to the wide variety of jobs available on a cruise ship, there is no specific salary a cruise ship worker should expect to make. For example, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for all captains, mates and pilots of water vessels is $98,330 per year, but the salary for specific roles within that category can vary.


Cruise ship worker salaries can depend on several factors, including:

  • Tips and gratuities: Many service workers onboard cruise ships earn tips and gratuities in addition to their salaries.

  • Type of position: Those in leadership roles, such as cruise director and chief engineer, earn more than entry-level positions.

  • Experience: Cruise ship workers with more experience tend to make more and can be considered for promotions.

  • Special skills: Highly skilled technical positions, like IT specialists and electrical engineers usually earn a higher salary than employees in less skilled roles.

  • Size and type of ship: Larger ships that transport more passengers require employees to take on more responsibilities and typically provide higher wages than smaller ships.

  • Cruise liner: Each cruise liner has a different set of standard wages for employees.

Cruise ship workers receive additional benefits apart from their salary, including room and board, medical care and meals. This reduces living expenses while employees are on board a scheduled cruise.

Further, cruise ship workers typically work longer hours, which adds up to more income for hourly employees. They also usually receive highly discounted cruise rates for themselves and family members.


Types of cruise ships jobs

Following is a list of common cruise ship jobs and their average salaries


1. Food service worker

National average salary: $31,798 per year

Primary duties: Food service workers are in charge of food and beverage preparation, storage and service. They should enjoy working with people and have basic math skills. They report to restaurant managers and usually work nontraditional hours, especially for opening shifts.

2. Cleaning manager

National average salary: $38,239 per year plus tips

Primary duties: Housekeeping managers are in charge of housekeeping services, such as preparing and cleaning guest rooms and common areas and creating schedules for the housekeeping staff. They oversee housekeepers and ensure they are meeting cleanliness and quality standards.

3. Deckhand

National average salary: $44,020 per year

Primary duties: Deckhands assist with preparing and maintaining a ship, operating equipment and repairing machinery. They must be capable of performing intense manual labor and able to work long hours with extensive travel. Deckhands report to a ship’s captain.

4. Receptionist

National average salary: $47,145 per year

Primary duties: Receptionists greet guests, perform check-in and check-out procedures, collect payment and serve as an informational resource for guests. They should have strong interpersonal and communication skills and patience to resolve guests’ issues.


5. Entertainment manager

National average salary: $47,482 per year

Primary duties: Entertainment managers recruit and schedule performances for cruise ships. They also oversee the lighting, production and sound crews.

6. Paramedic

National average salary: $49,073 per year

Primary duties: Paramedics provide medical care and treatment to guests, crew and staff on cruise ships. A basic paramedic designation requires training, which usually takes approximately two years, and a state license.


7. Boatswain’s mate

National average salary: $49,828 per year

Primary duties: Boatswain’s mates train and supervise crew members to inspect, repair and maintain deck equipment and machinery. They may also complete these tasks themselves and are knowledgeable of all non-engine ship maintenance operations, including cargo, lines and anchors.

8. Entertainer

National average salary: $50,541 per year 

Primary duties: Entertainers perform for guests on cruise ships. They rehearse, perform and interact with guests. Acts may include musicians, singers, magicians and comedians.

9. Food service director

National average salary: $55,317 per year

Primary duties: Food service directors oversee food and beverage ordering, storage, preparation and service. They manage waitstaff and bartenders, create staff schedules and address any guest concerns.

10. Fitter

National average salary: $57,006 per year

Primary duties: Fitters work to repair and maintain the metal components of the cruise ship and related machinery. They are skilled workers able to grind, shape and mill metal into the necessary shapes.

11. Hotel manager

National average salary: $57,337 per year plus tips

Primary duties: Hotel managers supervise hotel department employees, create staff schedules, ensure positive guest experiences and coordinate hotel services, such as room service. They should have strong interpersonal, communication and problem-solving skills.


12. HVAC technician

National average salary: $57,595 per year

Primary duties: HVAC technicians repair and maintain the ship’s climate control systems, including heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. They generally complete a training course, which can be six to 24 months long, followed by an apprenticeship.

13. Plumber

National average salary: $59,434 per year

Primary duties: Plumbers repair and maintain the plumbing system on a cruise ship. They typically hold a state license, which may require a certain number of hours in a vocational training program.


14. Security officer

National average salary: $59,933 per year

Primary duties: Security officers oversee ship safety, respond to security or safety issues and assist with ship emergencies. They must undergo training, which may include firearm tactical training. Security officers may also be required to obtain a license from a recognized organization.

15. Chief engineer

National average salary: $61,408 per year

Primary duties: Chief engineers are responsible for maintaining the ship’s systems, including engines, hydraulics and controls. They maintain inventory and work closely with the ship’s captain. Chief engineers on cruise ships must be certified as a marine chief engineer.

16. Executive chef

National average salary: $65,334 per year

Primary duties: Executive chefs plan and prepare meals for cruise ship passengers. They order supplies, take inventory and manage kitchen staff.

17. Maintenance manager

National average salary: $70,899 per year

Primary duties: Maintenance managers oversee the maintenance, repair and cleaning of a cruise ship’s primary guest and staff areas. They also maintain repair mechanical components in these areas, such as elevators and lighting.

18. Nurse

National average salary: $84,144 per year

Primary duties: Nurses on cruise ships provide medical care and treatment to passengers, staff and crew members. They attend to illnesses, injuries and any medical emergencies.

19. Director of operations or cruise director

National average salary: $86,242 per year

Primary duties: Directors of operations plan and oversee all activities and events onboard a cruise ship. They coordinate communication between departments, serve as the cruise’s representative and respond to guest concerns.

20. Electrical engineer

National average salary: $87,174 per year

Primary duties: Electrical engineers oversee the maintenance and repair of the electrical systems on a cruise ship. They usually hold at least a bachelor’s degree from an institution accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, and many have an advanced degree.

21. Recreation coordinator

National average salary: $88,047 per year

Primary duties: Recreation coordinators plan, direct and oversee the ship’s recreational activities, such as exercise classes, dance instruction and children’s activity programs. They may also plan special events, such as theme parties. Recreational coordinators do not have to hold a bachelor’s degree but may have a degree in recreation and leisure studies or a related field.

22. Captain

National average salary: $94,016 per year

Primary duties: The ship captain is the highest-ranking officer on the ship. They control the ship and make executive decisions concerning navigation and operations. Captains must maintain all U.S. Coast Guard license requirements and hold an FCC radio operations license and radar certification.

23. Environmental health and safety officer

National average salary: $97,767 per year

Primary duties: Environmental health and safety officers create safety plans, implement safety procedures and protocols, analyze health and safety reports and coordinate the handling and disposal of hazardous materials. They record and store their evaluations and conduct safety audits.

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