How to Get a Job on a Cruise Ship

Getting paid to travel the world sounds like a dream come true, especially aboard one of the most luxurious cruise ships around the globe. For many members and employees working on a cruise ship, this is just one of the many perks that come with the job.

With numerous people taking cruise vacations every year to relax and see the world, it is no wonder that the industry generates thousands of jobs. These fantastic opportunities alone make many people want to work and discover how to apply for cruise ship jobs.


For those who want to see the world from a different perspective or those who just want a change of pace and lifestyle, working on a cruise ship might be a great idea. Below are some topics that will further provide information on the industry and how to get the job.

  • Different Types of Jobs Available on a Cruise Ship
  • Life on Board – The Reality of Working at Sea
  • Get to Know the Major Cruise Ship Employers
  • Employment Application Process
  • Visa and Work Permits

Roles Available on a Cruise Ship

Working on a cruise ship offers a wide array of roles, each essential to the smooth operation and enjoyable experience of passengers.


These roles are typically grouped into several main departments:

  1. Deck Department: This includes the Captain, who is responsible for the overall operation of the ship, and other officers and crew responsible for navigating and maintaining the ship. It also includes staff responsible for safety and security.
  2. Engine Department: The engineers and maintenance crew who ensure the mechanical aspects of the ship, such as engines, electrical systems, and plumbing, are running smoothly.
  3. Hotel Department: This is one of the largest departments on a cruise ship. It includes roles related to guest accommodations and comfort, such as housekeeping, front desk services, and guest relations.
  4. Food and Beverage Department: This team includes chefs, cooks, wait staff, bartenders, and other personnel involved in preparing and serving meals and drinks to passengers. It’s a crucial department as dining is a significant part of the cruise experience.
  5. Entertainment Department: These roles are focused on providing entertainment and activities for passengers. This includes performers like musicians, dancers, and comedians, as well as activity coordinators who organize events and activities on board.
  6. Health and Wellness Department: This includes medical staff such as doctors and nurses to take care of passengers’ health needs, as well as fitness and spa professionals.
  7. Retail and Photography: These roles involve managing the various retail outlets on the ship and providing photography services to capture passengers’ memories.
  8. Information Technology: With the increasing reliance on technology for operations and guest services, IT professionals are crucial for maintaining the ship’s computer systems.
  9. Human Resources and Training: Responsible for staff welfare, training, and compliance with labor laws and regulations.

Each of these departments offers a range of positions, from entry-level to highly specialized roles. Working on a cruise ship can be a unique and exciting career choice, often involving travel to various destinations and the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. However, it’s also important to note that these roles can be demanding, with long hours and extended periods away from home.

Duties and Responsibilities that Come with the Job

Just as the jobs on cruise ships vary, the duties and responsibilities of these individuals and departments change as well. For those in the service and hospitality department, they are usually tasked to provide service to passengers. These can include cleaning cabins, doing laundry, as well as serving food and beverages.


Those in personal care and medical care departments, on the other hand, are mainly tasked with providing holistic and personal care to passengers, especially when related to their health. Meanwhile, those working in the deck and engine rooms are typically responsible for running and maintaining the ship as smoothly as possible.

Those who work corporate jobs on cruise ships also interact with passengers, particularly those who work in sales, bookings, and reservations.

Life on Board – The Reality of Working at Sea

As mentioned, one of the main perks of working on a cruise ship is traveling and seeing different parts of the world. Many are allowed to go ashore and enjoy different ports.


It also goes without saying that meeting new people and forging professional relationships, as well as earning good pay, comes with the job. Usually, members on cruise ships also get to enjoy similar perks as passengers, with almost everything being free except for when they go ashore and explore.

How to Get a Job on a Cruise Ship
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However, life on board can be quite demanding as well, especially when people are required to work long hours, usually around eight to 20 hours a day depending on the task. Most cruise ship employees work seven days a week for the duration of their contract, which could be around two to 11 months depending on the trip and the company.

Bear in mind that since cruise ships are at sea for months at a time, employees and crew members will have to deal with different kinds of weather. The lodgings are also in close quarters with other members, so be sure to take this into consideration.

Salaries for Working on Cruise Ships

Salaries for cruise ship employees can vary widely depending on the position, experience, cruise line, and even the specific ship. Here’s a general overview:

  1. Entry-Level Positions: These positions typically include jobs like housekeeping staff, junior wait staff, or retail assistants. Salaries in these roles can start from around $1,000 to $2,000 per month. Tips and gratuities can significantly increase earnings, especially for positions in direct contact with passengers.
  2. Specialized Staff: Chefs, entertainers, fitness instructors, and beauty therapists often earn higher salaries due to their specialized skills. These roles can pay anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 per month, with experienced or highly skilled individuals earning more.
  3. Senior Staff and Officers: Positions like head chef, senior entertainment officer, or engineering officer come with higher pay, often ranging from $3,500 to $6,000 per month. The highest salaries in this group are typically earned by those with significant experience and responsibility.
  4. Captain and Senior Officers: The captain of a cruise ship is among the highest-paid crew members, with salaries ranging from $6,000 to over $10,000 per month, depending on the cruise line and the size of the ship. Other senior officers, such as chief engineers or hotel managers, also command high salaries.
  5. Medical Staff: Onboard doctors and nurses are compensated well for their expertise, with doctors earning between $7,000 and $10,000 per month, while nurses can earn around $4,500 to $6,000.

It’s important to note that working on a cruise ship involves long hours and often a seven-day workweek. However, many positions include room and board, which can offset living expenses. Additionally, contracts typically last for several months, followed by a break period, which can be an attractive arrangement for those seeking a non-traditional work schedule.

Furthermore, salary can be impacted by the cruise line’s clientele, the size and luxury level of the ship, and the itinerary. For instance, luxury cruise lines may offer higher salaries due to a higher level of service expected by their passengers.

Get to Know the Major Cruise Ship Employers

Some of the largest cruise ship operators and companies in the world include the likes of Carnival Corporation, with many brands and companies operating under it, as well as Royal Caribbean Cruises which has two major brands under its name, the Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises.

How to Get a Job on a Cruise Ship
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The Holland America Cruise Line is also one of the major players in the industry, alongside Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Disney also has its own cruise ship known as the Disney Cruise Line. Princess Cruises is also widely known in the cruise industry.

These major operators are some of the best companies to work for today primarily because they command some of the highest numbers of employees, ensuring prospective job applicants that they have a more permanent place to work in.

Choosing the Right Company

Choosing the right cruise company is essential as this determines the permanence and job safety for applicants. Individuals who are interested in working on a cruise ship should first identify employment and career opportunities that can further their growth.

To do this, applicants should take the time to consider the role they intend to apply for, the duties that come with the job, and of course, the progression opportunities. They should also consider the pay and if it is commensurate with the position.

Moreover, cruise ship applicants should also determine if the cruise line culture is right for them, especially as each company may have a different culture.

Employment Application Process

To apply for cruise ship jobs, individuals should visit the different web pages of cruise ship companies. Each of the respective cruise lines has its own corporate website that comes with a careers page that individuals can easily explore and apply for online.

How to Get a Job on a Cruise Ship
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Applying for a cruise ship position involves several key steps, regardless of the company. Here’s a general guide:

  1. Research: Start by researching different cruise lines and the types of jobs available. Each cruise line has its own unique brand and style, so it’s important to find a company that aligns with your interests and values. Consider the destinations, type of passengers (luxury, family-oriented, adventure, etc.), and the company culture.
  2. Check Eligibility and Requirements: Ensure you meet the minimum age requirement, which is typically 21 years. Also, check if there are specific qualifications or certifications required for the role you are interested in. For example, a position in healthcare will require medical certifications, while entertainment roles may require a portfolio or demo reel.
  3. Prepare Your Resume and Cover Letter: Tailor your resume and cover letter to the cruise industry. Highlight relevant experience, such as customer service, hospitality, or any specialized skills pertinent to the position you’re applying for. Remember, cruise ships value versatility, so showcasing a broad skill set can be beneficial.
  4. Apply Online: Most cruise lines have a careers section on their website where you can find current job openings and apply online. Complete the application forms thoroughly and submit your resume and cover letter. Some companies may also require you to create a profile on their careers portal.
  5. Attend Interviews: If your application is shortlisted, you’ll be invited for an interview. This could be in person, over the phone, or via video call. Be prepared to answer questions about your experience, why you want to work on a cruise ship, and how you handle various situations, especially those involving customer service.
  6. Complete Any Additional Assessments: Depending on the role, you might be required to complete additional assessments or trials. For example, chefs might have a cooking trial, while entertainers could be asked to audition.
  7. Undergo Medical Examination: Cruise ship employees must pass a medical examination to ensure they’re fit for sea service. This is a crucial step in the hiring process.
  8. Obtain Necessary Documents: If hired, you’ll need to obtain relevant documents such as a passport, seaman’s book, and any required visas or work permits.
  9. Participate in Training: Most cruise lines provide training for new hires. This may include safety training, customer service training, and specific job-related training.
  10. Join the Ship: Once all the steps are completed, you’ll be assigned to a ship and given details about when and where to join.

You can also check out cruise ship-focused job search platforms such as CruiseJobFinder and AllCruiseJobs.

Remember, working on a cruise ship is a unique experience that requires flexibility, adaptability, and a strong work ethic. It’s a great opportunity to travel and meet people from all over the world, but it also involves long hours and being away from home for extended periods.

Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications

To successfully work on a cruise ship, applicants must either be at least 21 years of age, have a valid passport, and a working visa. At times, individuals aged 18 and over might be accepted for certain positions.

For those interested in working on a cruise ship, the usual requirements would be to speak at least two languages, such as English and another language like Spanish, German, Scandinavian, Japanese, French, and the like, particularly for those in passenger-facing positions.

In addition, applicants must also have a valid basic safety training certificate in order for them to qualify. They must also pass a medical examination as well as the required criminal background check to gauge if they are fit for the targeted position.

Visa and Work Permits

For individuals to successfully work on a cruise ship, they must first be eligible to work where the company is registered. At the same time, given that these cruises go from one port and place to another, all members must obtain visas for these respective countries.

How to Get a Job on a Cruise Ship
Image Source: Herald Weekly

As a general rule of thumb, cruises based and registered in the United States only allow U.S. citizens and green card holders to work for them. Meanwhile, cruise lines that typically traverse European waters opt for European citizens to work under them.

Those who work in cruise ships departing from a United States port will need to have a C-1/D visa. This needs to be applied for after obtaining the job offer from the particular cruise line individuals have applied for.

Tips for Getting a Job on a Cruise Ship

Looking at the cruise line’s careers page is not the only way to get a job directly with the company. Those who want to broaden their horizons, also have the option of working with recruitment agencies.

For those who are still preparing for their applications, now may be the best time to learn a new language. Not only does this give an edge against other competitors, but this also serves as an advantage when talking to other people and widening networks.

The Takeaway

Many people certainly dream of working on a cruise ship as it is said to be a very fun job. With this guide, visiting new places, having enriching experiences, and getting paid well can now be possible in no time.

Versión en Español: Aprende a Conseguir Trabajo en Cruceros